Steve Schwartz '70, a prominent public relations executive and now a film producer, recently released his first major motion picture, "The Road."

Schwartz's desire to work in the creative industry started decades earlier with an interest in the arts at Bowdoin, but it was not until 2004 that he began to climb the ranks to Hollywood's creative elite.

His work with Chockstone Pictures, the film production company he co-owns with his wife Paula Mae Schwartz, culminated in the November 2009 release of "The Road." The film is based on Cormac McCarthy's novel by the same name which tells the story of a man and his son walking along a desolate road in the wake of apocalyptic destruction.

Schwartz's career has seen many different incarnations over the years. After graduating from Bowdoin in 1970 with a major in Government, a minor in English and enduring interest in the outdoors, he went on to work in a variety of sectors. Throughout the past decades, he has served as an active alumnus of Bowdoin, acting as a trustee emeritus and providing the generous support needed to establish the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center.

After graduation, Schwartz went on to receive an MFA from Columbia University's School of the Arts and then went into commercial writing.

Among other work, he spent time writing speeches for former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, which he continued until starting his own public relations firm, Schwartz Communications, in 1990. Working alongside his wife, Paula Mae, Schwartz helped grow Schwartz Communications into the world's largest public relations firm for emerging technology companies. In 2004 the Schwartzes realized their enduring interest in the arts by establishing their own film production company, Chockstone Pictures. Only in the past year, however, did the Schwartzes turn over day-to-day operations of Schwartz Communications in order to devote all of their energies to Chockstone.

"The Road" project began when Schwartz met Nick Wechsler, one of the nation's top drama producers in 2005. Shortly after meeting, the two began looking for a project on which they could collaborate. Based on his impressive work on "Requiem for A Dream," "Sex, Lies & Videotape," as well as dozens of other films, Wechsler received a copy of "The Road" six months before it was printed. The story piqued Wechsler's interest and he showed it to Schwartz. Larger studios had passed over the book because they thought the material was too "tough," as Schwartz said, but he and Wechsler saw how it had the potential to become a terrific film.

Finding themselves irresistibly drawn to McCarthy's manuscript, Schwartz said Chockstone Pictures "immediately decided to do everything it could —working with producing partner Nick Wechsler—to buy the rights to the book."

"The Road" tells the poignant and often painful story of a father and son trying to survive in the wake of a unnamed disaster that has left the world close to empty. With the exception of a few bandits and the very occasional fellow "good person", "the man" and "the boy" are alone on the screen, undoubtedly a cinematic challenge for any producer and director. As they make their way to the seemingly elusive sea, food is limited, the man becomes sick and the decimated physical landscape—which McCormack brings to life through his sparse, poetic prose—only worsens. Yet despite the pervasive tragedy and savagery of their circumstances, "the man" continues to convey to the essential need for human goodness to "the boy."

The book is thought-provoking, leading the reader to question humanity, destruction and innate goodness, one of the many reasons the College selected it as this year's first-year book. Its selection coinciding with Schwartz's involvement in the film version, however, was pure coincidence.

After successfully securing rights to the book, the producers set about looking for a director and writers who could transform the book into a screenplay. With the Schwartzes and Wechsler actively engaged in the daily decision process, John Hillcoat and Joe Penhall were chosen as director and writer respectively.

From there, Chockstone chose a cast. The decision-makers were unanimous in their choice of Viggo Mortenson, who they believed exemplified the ideal combination of physicality and gentleness that was required for the role of "the man." Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, 11 years old at the time of filming, signed on to play the role of "the boy." Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall round out the star-studded cast in smaller roles.

Most of the movie was filmed in western Pennsylvania and the Schwartzes were on set for much of the shoot and actively engaged in the creative process. Schwartz commended the actors for their hard work in what he called such a "challenging physical shoot" due to the cloudy, cold and damp climate that provided ideal filming weather.

The use of special effects is minimal in the film. Instead, the production team worked to find relics of the industrial age in the economically depressed area, including an abandoned eight-mile highway, and used the dismal winter weather to create the pervasive and depressing grayness that dominates the story.

After three years of work, "The Road," the project that launched the Schwartzes involvement in the film industry, is finally complete.

While at Bowdoin, Schwartz wrote a short novel under Professor Louis Coxe, himself a playwright, and said that he always envisioned working in the arts. Though he said the return to the arts "took longer than he thought," the role of film producer "is a capacity that really suits [him]," combining his business background and creative vision.