A Hardin County native has written and directed a faith-based Christmas movie just in time for the holiday season.
“Miracle on Christmas” is set to be released Tuesday. This is the first feature-length film directed and written by Thomas Bonifield, who currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
The movie plot focuses on a woman who is wavering in her Christian faith after a loved one dies. It takes place on Christmas day except for one flashback, and the character is hosting a family holiday get-together.
She also is keeping secrets that the family is trying to learn about, but then there is an unexpected visitor who refocuses the attention of everyone on the reason for the season, hope and the birth of Jesus Christ.
Born in Fort Knox in 1967, his parents graduated from Fort Knox High School. He said he spent about the first seven or eights years of his life in the Hardin County area, primarily in Elizabethtown.
His father attended the University of Kentucky, and still to this day Bonifield considers himself a “die hard” Wildcats basketball fan. He said he still visits the Louisville area once a year since he still has an uncle that lives in the area.
He said he remembers attending Rineyville Elementary School and Parkway Elementary School in Radcliff, since that is where his father taught.
In Elizabethtown, he said it ended up being a great, small-town America experience growing up, and remembers it being a place where kids could run around and play all day and be safe. He said he remembers bike riding, skateboarding, climbing trees and swimming in ponds around the area.
He said he also has fond memories of the Patton Museum and being able to climb around the tanks and artillery.
“It was a great place to grow up. I feel blessed to have lived there,” Bonifield said.
Bonifield said he also remembers attending the Christ Episcopal Church in Elizabethtown, although he is a Christian.
His family then moved to the Washington D.C. area and he graduated high school in Maryland. He then went to Arizona State University.
Bonifield has worked almost 30 years in television news, starting out working at a local news station in Phoenix, and then primarily working with bigger networks including ABC, NBC and Fox News.
While in this field, he has spent most of his time overseas. He worked for about 10 years as a producer and then bureau chief at NBC News in Moscow, and was then the deputy foreign editor in New York for NBC for a couple of years.
Bonifield said he has interviewed former President Ronald Reagan, former President George Bush Sr., former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, current President of Russia Vladimir Putin, covered Pope John Paul II, and has covered conflict in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine.
“Great things came my way. It was a blessing, I see it as such from God. Absolutely a blessing,” Bonifield said.
His last job in journalism was running a news agency in Istanbul, Turkey for nine years as CEO. While he did enjoy his work on the business end as CEO, he said he began to miss the writing aspect of journalism toward the end of his job.
After thinking and praying about it, Bonifield said he decided he did not want to pursue conflict journalism any longer, and so he turned to screenwriting.
“I felt like kind of I’ve done everything I could do in journalism,” Bonifield said.
Bonifield said screenwriting is similar to news writing in many ways and that they’re also both visual storytelling, although they’re not necessarily identical. He said it was either screenwriting or writing history books, and said he didn’t have the time to focus on that.
Since 2016, Bonifield said he has written eight screenplays. His early screenplays were inspired by some of his favorite movies which were epic period piece films such as Ben-Hur and Gladiator. He said it took him about three or four screenplays before he felt comfortable with the new style.
He said he then began to start thinking more seriously about the kind of movie he wanted to write and have made. Bonifield returned to Phoenix in 2017, and after that, he had discovered the phenomenon of the Christmas movie and the popularity it really had in the United States, including on streaming services and the Hallmark channel.
However, at the same time, Bonifield said as a Christian, he also noticed there weren’t very many faith-based Christmas movies on the market. “This is one of our two biggest holidays as Christians, and where are we as Christian filmmakers? We’re not even in the game,” Bonifield said.
Bonifield said he also was inspired by real events in his own life. Before moving back to the U.S., he and his wife had a difficult year toward the end of their time in Istanbul. He said his wife’s father had died and she had a serious health scare.
He also said his job had come to an end after more than eight years unexpectedly after a management change in the Turkish holding company that owned his news agency.
Bonifield has a blog called christianfilmblog.com. In it, he wrote a piece about a movie shot in Indiana involving a famous a Christian singer named Michael W. Smith. After finishing the script in October 2019, he reached out to the company who made the movie in the post called Graham Family Films.
He was then connected to the proprietor of the company Ben Graham, whose grandfather is first cousins with famous pastor Billy Graham. Graham then put him in touch with Kevan Otto, a director and producer who would go on to produce Bonifield’s movie.
“I need to find people who know how to do this right because I’ve been around the block enough to know if you’re going to do something serious, you got to have the right people around you,” Bonifield said.
He said Otto then pulled the production team together and went over who Bonifield thought would be best to cast as the characters.
The movie was filmed in Michigan over two weeks in February and March. He said he remembers the first day as particularly memorable, seeing all the different monitors as they shot the film and seeing all the moving parts in action as it was produced. He said there would be 60 to 200 people working on the set at a time.
After the first week of filming, Bonifield said there was a heat wave that weekend which ended up melting a lot of the snow they needed for the film.
“I was in an absolute panic. And being a praying man I was praying hard over that weekend,” Bonifield said.
However, he said they were able to salvage the situation by moving things around in the story and set which allowed for consistency. He said the editing process then took about three months.
Bonifield said he thinks the movie has the potential to draw outside of the typical faith-based audience since it covers more serious subjects outside of the typical Hallmark movie, although he said the movie does have that feel and he did write in humor and entertainment value to the story.
For the future, depending on how well the movie is received, he said he would like to do a sequel and will continue to do screenwriting.
The movie also is partly produced by his own production company, Horse is Ready Productions, which takes its name from one of his favorite scriptures, Proverbs 21:31.
“‘The horse is made ready for the day of battle that victory rest for the Lord,’” Bonifield said. “And that’s kind of how I live my life.”
“Miracle on Christmas” comes out Nov. 3 and is available for pre-order on DVD at Amazon, Walmart and Target. It also will be available for digital purchase along with some streaming platforms, which Bonifield said are still being worked out.
He said he also intends to show the movie at three dozen churches around the country. More information on the movie and its availability can be found at miracleonchristmas.com.