From the filmmaker’s chair, one of the first decisions I make when a story is found relates to my first love, music. I became a music theory and composition major completing my under graduate degree. There was no doubt in mind, music would play a huge role in a tapestry of creative journeys, where each main character would carry a thematic approach, just like we did in BEYOND THE GATES OF SPLENDOR (FOX).

In college, I met many amazing musicians at the University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma City University and beyond.  These men and women would shape musically who I was, in addition to Tim Miner when we created the Miner McAfee band earlier. Being around great artists like Sherman Andrus, David Gates, Roger Miller and powerful songwriters shaped so many of us.

One of the leading musicians, conductors and personal friends from Putnam City High School in Oklahoma City was composer, musician and performer Mark Johnson.  Mark came up through Putnam City Baptist church as a specialist in everything “music”.  His arrangements, expertise in symphony and grand master of many musical instruments is why he was always at the top of his rung.  He served across the Southwest and worked personally with me on music for Falls Creek Baptist Assembly on the theme song, “Sing The Glory Of Your Name” and was later recruited by Miley Cyrus as he directed the symphony on the Hannah Montana movie.

When we premiered the movie a few years earlier with BEYOND THE GATES OF SPLENDOR, he was living in Tennessee, and I invited him to the Franklin Theater where Steven Curtis Chapman and I were debuting our film. Mark expressed a real desire to do more in film with his music and I was hoping the film would inspire him too.  At the time, Mark was head of Symphonic Music for the Southern Baptist Convention. At the premiere, we had many musical artists and friends in the music industry from recording labels with Warner Brothers and EMI, plus the unions sent people from ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and EMI.

These moments reignited a lifelong friendship with Mark.  We stayed in touch because of a film I was asked to direct, LAST OUNCE OF COURAGE where I immediately asked for his assistance, along with Grammy award winning musician, artist and songwriter, Michael Omartian.  Michael produced Christopher Cross’s RIDE LIKE THE WIND and SAILING. He was Amy Grant’s pianists and conducter for the Gospel Music Association Dove Awards for many years. He and Mark worked hand in glove to ensure the soundtrack was amazing.

Then, we connected again when I was in Dallas and I had just begun discussing sharing the story of THE SAMARITAN.  At this point, I asked Mark if he would study everything he could about the nation of Romania since he had personally met Mr. Roush.  From cadence, chordal structures, motifs, popular anthems, and orchestrations in that part of the world.


Mark Johnson and Dr. McAfee worked on music beginning at Falls Creek, as both musicians, they co-wrote the theme song after an inspirational experience where they connected both with the story and the theme for THE SAMARITAN.

He immediately began meticulously studying Romania’s music. He wanted to know about their unique style, creative approach to structure, chordal framework in folk music and musical signatures from the gypsies.  Mark invested time, finances, resources for travel and pursued this opportunity and we both believed there was a reason for him being there.

Studying the music from the national anthem in the communist controlled government and more time would be spent was the sign for our team, the Maestro of music listening, study of structure, chordal and contrapuntal elements, which were specific and germane to the success for all the musical objectives would birth original compositions laced in Romanian nuances.

His analysis from the turn of the century up until the late nineteen eighties when the story ended was spectacular where he knew Romanian local and national artists, bought hundreds of songs, dozens of music CD’s in preparing for this monumental task.  He became proficient in areas of understanding all music from that part of the world, but he had a bigger challenge.  As the film’s director, we needed original compositions for the film and stems would be required to have custom designs by the minutes, seconds and even frames.  However, we had not even began the filming yet.

Personally, I have not been writing a lot of music, like I did during my collegiate and artist career. This time was going to be different in creating a new original piece of music. The inspiration came from being really moved by the power of the story, the sacrifice of this lawyer and the faith surrounding it’s ethos.

One evening around midnight when I was living in Texas, a musical idea began to form based on what I knew about the story.  There was no doubt the inspiration of this miraculous story soon would become manifested in this small motif as the theme song entitled, “The Samaritan”.  The melody was sad and forlorn, but it was also hopeful and leaned toward an inspirational feel.


When Mark was back in town in Texas, I could not wait to perform this musical idea in the first sixteen bars for a potential theme song.  However, my original idea needed the expertise of a co-writer in Mark who would work to fine tune a beautiful composition for orchestra he had arranged.

What I have learned about music, is that you must create music that people can remember and even sing back to you.  John Williams, the award-winning composer for motion pictures proved this musical position over and over in scoring for his films. From Indiana Jones to Superman, his gift always enchanted me. The dynamic of a memorable melody would have to be mandated for this amazing story.  Mark was the perfect combination who’d take this piece to the nest level.

Maestro Johnson connected with the melody I performed for him on a small electric piano.  He heard its cadence and felt this piece connected to the story.  Because it began as a simple creative journey, I asked him to join me in the journey and as always, he never disappointed. He heard additional elements that accented the simple structure and heard the symphonic approach beautifully. Strings and piano would be the foundation. 

I felt so blessed to be working with such a great composer, musician and friend again on the project.  Everything in our lives had come full circle as classmates in college, to when we wrote music for the choir and orchestra for the kids at Falls Creek Baptist Convention Center in Oklahoma near the Arbuckle Mountains.

What was even more impressive was the precision of Mark defined in originally writing the entire score for THE SAMARITAN. His attention to detail working with the film team was spotless.  He found wonderful orchestral musicians in Oklahoma City for the soundtrack and the hauntingly beautiful original compositions are woven together like a tapestry.

Today, Mark owns Bricktown Films LLC, a film studio in Oklahoma City where he continues to be involved in music, film, composing, arranging, and writing.  His instincts even in his own girls are extended in their talents and skills.  You will also see Mark Johnson continuing to teach on all levels as he has been a professor at OBU, at a private charter school and in public education at every level.


Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *