The Potential of Patrick

Filmmaker Zach Meiners’ second feature, “I Am Potential,” celebrates the life of one of Louisville’s most inspiring citizens, musician Patrick Henry Hughes. Hughes was born without eyes and unable to walk, but he rose to national fame through his performances with UofL’s marching band, having been helped by his father pushing his wheelchair on the field. The family has since appeared on several TV shows, and Hughes published his autobiography in 2008.

Patrick Henry HughesWhy did you want to have the world premiere screening in Patrick Henry’s hometown, instead of New York or L.A. where his story is lesser known?

The reason why I wanted “I Am Potential” to premiere in Louisville is because this is where the story began. Patrick Henry has inspired many from around the globe. That all started in Louisville, and I think it’s fitting that the movie spreads from here as well.

Where did you film in Louisville? Did any city leaders help you achieve this production?

We worked with city officials and LMPD to film a large driving scene on I-65 in downtown. The challenge with this scene was it takes place in 1988, so we had to intermittently stop traffic on I-65 so that only ’80s cars were seen on the highway. We also worked with UofL’s administration and Athletic Office to film some large scenes at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

You know, the name Meiners means a lot in local media.

Yes, I am Terry’s nephew. He actually was one of the first to introduce Patrick Henry on TV at “The WHAS Crusade for Children.” Patrick John Hughes – Patrick Henry’s dad – plays Terry Meiners as a cameo in the “Crusade” scene of the movie.

Did Patrick John or any other family work with you to shape the story?

We kept the Hughes family involved throughout the process of writing the script. While they weren’t physically writing anything, their input was essential to me. This is the first script that I wrote that was based on a true story. Having characters that are not only real but are alive – and you can sit and have lunch with them – that adds pressure. But it was a great process.

Is there any one part of Patrick Henry’s story that is most inspiring?

We really follow Patrick John’s story throughout the movie. Patrick John had to drop his own preconceived plans and dreams for his son so that he could see Patrick’s own potential. That journey is what attracted me to this story and that continues to inspire me.

Does Patrick Henry’s religious faith inform how you told his story?

Patrick’s faith comes across when you meet him. But he doesn’t preach to you or hit you over the head with anything. The movie is the same way. It’s just a window into their life and who they are.

How did you cast the roles, especially the lead?

Casting was tricky, especially for Patrick. Beverly Holloway was our casting director in L.A. She and her staff went through thousands of audition tapes. Jimmy Bellinger rose to the top. He just embodied and was Patrick Henry. You forgot you were watching an actor. Working with Burgess Jenkins was incredible. Jama Williamson comes from more of a comedy background, but because of that, she brought an incredible depth to the role of Patricia that was amazing. Patricia’s story has gone mostly untold, so I cannot wait for people to see her in this movie. We also had an incredible supporting cast with Lance Nichols, Judge Reinhold and so many others.

I met Judge Reinhold once, and he was a character, just like fans would assume. Did you get any good Judge stories out of this?

Judge Reinhold was awesome to work with. He is a character in real life and brings so much to his characters.

What’s next for you?

I currently run a production company based in Louisville called Chronicle Cinema. I’m always working, and there are exciting things ahead – gotta love NDAs. Overall, I just can’t wait for audiences to see “I Am Potential.” I hope that people are inspired by Patrick’s story as they see the story in a whole new way.