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After meeting Fred Phelps, he thought that he had finally found the truth. For Luci, that meant moving to Topeka. She marched to the doorway of the bedroom in their Bradenton, Florida, home where her husband was on the bed studying Scripture. Luci blocked the doorway with her arms.
"If you think we're moving to Topeka, you're out of your fucking mind," she told him.
Drain laughed. He hadn't mentioned moving, but he thought, Yeah, we are.
Steve and Luci Drain say it was their eldest daughter, Lauren, who made them realize that they needed to move. At 14, she began to show interest in what the couple call "heathen boys." This didn't fit with their newfound religion. As turmoil increased in their home, Luci warmed to the idea of moving. Steve and Luci were starting to think that they had been raising Lauren and Taylor wrong.
"We didn't teach them what the Lord our God requires of them," Steve says. "It weighed very heavy on my heart, and I knew that I had to right that ship as much as I could by basically cutting loose all of the things that I'd taught them before and teaching them right, good stuff and knowing how that lands on their heart is God's business. I'm not trying to convince anybody of anything. I'm trying to tell them what the Bible says."
Drain instituted a "godly standard" in his house. His family stopped celebrating holidays — no Christmas, no Halloween, no Thanksgiving. No more rock bands. (He had played in a band called Boneyard while at KU and he once helped Lauren start one.) No more long hair for Steve. No more haircuts for Luci and the girls. (Women aren't supposed to take blades to their hair, goes one reading of the Bible.) Steve banned Luci's mother, a Catholic whom he calls a "big-time false religionist," from talking about religion with their children. No more chocolate bunnies or "What would Jesus do?" bracelets from Grandma.
"I was the cool dad before that," Drain says. "These are not just rational decisions that people make. These are supernatural decisions. We believe this."
Drain finished Hatemongers in June 2001. He calls it "the best documentary film ever made."
"The subject matter is so easy to manipulate and malign, and the world begs for you to manipulate and malign the subject matter, and I didn't," Drain explains. "I just let these people talk for themselves."
Phelps was right about one thing: Drain's documentary-film career ended with Hatemongers. Drain says he was tight with the organizers of the Telluride Film Festival. When he was at KU, he was chosen to take part in its student symposium, and he says he volunteered five or six weeks at a time to help set up the festival. He was "a favorite son of the festival," he says, and people there affectionately called him "Draino."
When the festival's organizers heard that he'd completed a film, they encouraged him to submit it, Drain says. He sent Hatemongers to festival director Jim Bedford.
"Radio silence," Drain says. "Never heard from the guy again. Wouldn't take my call."
Bedford says he never received Hatemongers, and he has never chosen the event's films. But he and other organizers remember Drain. "He was never more than a laborer, and he was never anyone's favorite son," says Brandt Garber, Telluride's production manager. The volunteer production assistant "alienated the other workers," Garber adds.
Bedford and Garber say Drain worked for them only twice — an unusually short tenure for a festival known for its close-knit community. "He did not live up to our standards and he was not invited back," Bedford says. (Such an invitation would have been for festival work rather than film submission. The acceptance of Hatemongers would have been up to Telluride's selection committee, which would have acknowledged Drain's submission.)