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Double Life

by University Relations

On a typical Wednesday evening, Officer David Hedges ’88 of the Santa Barbara Police Department returns home after a long day of work as a detective and burglary investigator. He pulls into his driveway, enjoys dinner with his family, then sits at his desk . . . to work on his screenplay.

­­­In his 23 years on the police force, Hedges has worked as a field training officer, SWAT team leader, and K-9 unit handler, but his role as a writer has remained a constant since he discovered screenwriting as an APU student. Hedges’ screenwriting professor, David Esselstrom, Ph.D., now chair of the Department of English, recognized exceptional talent and collaborated with Hedges on a number of screenwriting projects. “I count David among the most gifted student writers I have encountered during my time at APU,” he said.

“I credit my APU professors with my passion for writing and the ability to pursue it with integrity,” said Hedges, who carries on the academic legacy of his father, James Hedges, Ph.D., professor emeritus, former chair of the Department of English, and an influential force in expanding the department during his 31 years at APU.

Hedges’ talent and dedication to the art of screenwriting paid off last November when he and his cowriter, Frank DeJohn, were named 2013 Nicholl Fellows by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for their screenplay Legion. Hedges and DeJohn received national recognition and one of only five $35,000 prizes to fund production and other screenwriting expenses. The two writers based their screenplay on the remarkable true story of a 53-year-old Roman soldier who died in battle after holding a fort secure against 100,000 enemy troops for three days. “In our screenplay, we capture the life of a man who had the choice to leave but decides to stay, because if he leaves his post during the greatest hour of crisis, his whole life will have been in vain,” said Hedges.

According to Hedges, human nature at its core has not changed over the years. “I love drawing connections between people today and those who lived centuries ago,” he said. “Stories center around people. Legion draws from an age-old tale that is still relevant today—loyalty and courage among a community encountering a crisis.” Hedges’ experiences in law enforcement inspire his writing. “My role as a police officer allows me to interact with people on a very honest level—I witness all sides of them. My day job makes me a more honest writer.”

In addition to Legion, Hedges has taken on another task: telling one of the world’s most important stories through a new project by A&E Television—a TV film called The One about the early life of Jesus Christ. A&E producers searched for a screenwriter who would capture Jesus’ divinity as the Son of God and the everyday reality of childhood and youth where He dealt with the same struggles all people encounter. “If Jesus was truly a human being, He felt the same emotions, impulses, and temptations that we all feel,” said Hedges. “The difference is how He acted on them. The One will show His holiness and humanness, highlighting the choices He would have made that we should emulate.”

As both Legion and The One embark on the long process of becoming finished films, Hedges looks forward to collaborating with talented producers, directors, and other major figures in the film industry, as well as continuing his own writing projects.

Originally published in the Summer '14 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).