It is with great excitement that I prepare for the NRB convention this weekend. You see, it was at NRB last year that the idea for Faith Flix was conceived. We were there working for an impressive webzine which gave us a perfect opportunity to get a glimpse into the exciting world of networking that goes on at the convention. We interviewed all sorts of industry celebrities and it was great getting to meet them and hear their stories. But I couldn’t help but think about the little people who were there. The filmmakers like us whose movies weren’t in theaters and didn’t have big stars headlining. The ones that got pushed aside by the press in their eagerness to snag the “important” people. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a voice for the little filmmakers, the ones whose stories were just as important but who weren’t being heard.
We immediately went home and began work on creating the website/blog. Fred had purchased the domain for Faith Flix years ago and now we finally had a use for it. The response to Faith Flix has been great from the very beginning. Turns out I’m not the only one who likes to hear behind the scenes stories about lesser known folks and films. Funny thing is, it’s grown and now those “important” people come to us. Which is pretty cool. Because they have great stories, too. I love one day writing about unknown actors just starting out, then the next interviewing household names. It makes for interesting reading.
God has used Faith Flix in amazing ways that I never envisioned. Thanks to Faith Flix I got to interview Jenn Gotzon, which led to us getting to know each other, which led to her starring in our The Good Book movie, which led to us becoming friends, and which led to us getting a lot of amazing other actors and crew who came on board when they found out Jenn was in the movie, which led to more friendships… It’s no wonder Jenn is such a popular actress. Not only is she ultra talented, but she’s also the sweetest, most sincere, caring young woman you could ever meet.
I enjoy corresponding with the various actors and filmmakers and discovering who, like Jenn, have a heart for ministry. I’m constantly amazed by the letters I get from people wanting to tell me how their lives were changed by one of Jefferson Moore’s movies. And I think the reason his movies affect people so profoundly is because he has such a gentle compassion and a desire to help others. When he found out we were starting work on The Good Book, he sent us a message and said to let him know if there was any way he could be of help. Now how nice was that?
When I interviewed Dave Woodruff (a major supporter and cheerleader for Christian films) about Bedias, Texas Christian Film Festival, I discovered a wonderful story about Bruce Marchiano. He offered to come at his own expense to share with the church folks about his movies and filmmaking.He spent two days visiting with them. I later had the opportunity to interview Mr Marchiano, and I must say just e-mailing him, you can feel the calming presence he has that makes him such a wonderful actor to play Jesus. He truly strives to live what he portrays.
I guess the common thread in each of the three is a humility and willingness to be used by God. I found those same qualities in Clay Jeffries, a young actor early in his career. I know with that kind of spirit, though, God will be able to use him in amazing ways just as He is using Jenn Gotzon, Jefferson Moore, and Bruce Marchiano.
God has placed us all at different levels of the ladder. Some are at the top rung, some at the bottom, most somewhere in between. We have the choice to climb over other people to get to the top, to reach down to pull up someone from below, or to applaud those who have reached the top. My goal with Faith Flix is to applaud those at the top, support those struggling along in the middle, and encourage those who are just beginning their climb.
I’m eager to get to NRB and experience again the excitement of thousands of industry folks all mingling and networking together. I’m looking forward to interviewing many of those individuals, some of them household names like David A.R. White and Chonda Pierce and some I’d never heard of before, but whose stories I can’t wait to share. It’s going to be a good weekend and you’re going to love when we post all the interviews and you can be inspired, encouraged, and uplifted by their stories. It’s been a great first year for Faith Flix and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for our future!
I’ve been hearing wonderful things about this movie for a long time. I just couldn’t imagine how a movie that takes place basically in a restaurant with two people talking the whole time could be that interesting. I finally picked up a copy, and I’m glad I did. It truly is a fascinating movie that keeps your attention despite the lack of activity.
If you’re going to watch The Perfect Stranger (which I highly recommend you do) there are a few things you need to know. First, before starting the movie, get your favorite food to eat during the movie. This is very important because otherwise you’ll do like I did. I spent the first half of the movie drooling over all the delicious looking food they were serving. The Stranger and Nikki do a lot of eating, as does everyone else in the restaurant. The problem is that it’s hard to push the pause button to go get food once it’s started. I caved in, though, just so I could concentrate better. Once you have your food, you are all set to enjoy the movie.
The Perfect Stranger is a dinner dialogue between Nikki Cominsky (Pamela Brumley) and the Stranger (Jefferson Moore). Nikki is struggling and searching for answers in her life and questions the Stranger, who says he’s Jesus. Their theological debate is powerfully fascinating. The Stranger says a lot in a few words. Many times he just turns the questions around, forcing Nikki to answer her own questions. Sometimes he quotes scripture. Sometimes he paraphrases. In the end, he provides much food for thought for both Christians and nonChristians alike.
The Perfect Stranger is a simple movie. Yet, despite, or perhaps because, of its simplicity, it has been enthralling audiences since 2005 and continues to be a popular seller. If you’re looking for mindless comedy, elaborate special effects, or breathtaking cinematography, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a movie that will intrigue you and impact you, then this is the movie for you. And the wonderful news is that it’s part of a series. Follow up The Perfect Stranger with Another Perfect Stranger and the upcoming Nikki and the Perfect Stranger as well as related movies The Perfect Gift, The Stranger, and Clancy.
In 2003 Jefferson Moore and his wife Kelly formed Kelly’s Filmworks to write and produce movies that entertained and enlightened audiences. Since that time they’ve produced seven feature movies including “The Perfect Stranger”, “The Perfect Gift”, and the just released, “Pieces of Easter” (also known as “Backroads and Lilies”).
What led to your interest in filmmaking?
Several years of working in FRONT of the camera, mainly…seeing the process of how a script on a sheet of paper made its way to a big screen, and all that happened in between, fascinated me.
Have you had any acting or filmmaking training?
None. Zero. Nada on the formal training…I learned acting from watching Sylvester Stallone movies and filmmaking from Robert Rodriguez’ ’10 Minute Film School’.
How does your faith impact your films?
I guess the short answer is it keeps me from including things like curse words and graphic sex in my scripts – part of a greater charge I have in believing that good films can be made without these things. In a broader sense, my faith is probably responsible for being the prism all the characters I create are viewed through – how they live, how they love, how they are dealt with in terms of a perfect justice.
How many faith-based films have you produced?
We really prefer to call them ‘independent films’ rather than ‘faith-based’ or ‘Christian’ or ‘religious’…these latter labels carry a bit of a stigma as red-flags for bad acting, bad scripts, and ham-fisted religiosity; plus, I believe you automatically lose HALF your potential audience (many times the very people you are trying to reach) when these labels are attached. Kelly and I produce independent films and those films are influenced by our belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since 2005, we have produced seven feature films and a miniserial for television.
Of the movies that you’ve written, which character do you most connect with?
Definitely the character of Lincoln James from ‘Pieces of Easter’. I’m basically a shy person and a textbook example of an introvert who operates on the assumption that the best way to stay out of trouble is to just blend into the background. Also, like Lincoln, I hate talking about myself.
What is the greatest challenge of juggling the multiple roles of director, producer, and lead actor?
After doing it this way for so long, I don’t really consider them ‘multiple’ roles. When I’m on set, I’m one guy made up of all these things simultaneously…like Frankenstein’s Monster. Honestly, the greatest physical challenge I have on a movie shoot is remembering to eat (because I have so much to do) – I usually drop 10-20 pounds over the course, and by the end of filming, my costumes no longer fit.
Of the many filmmaking roles that you play, which is your favorite?
Acting is my favorite. Deep down, I’m Walter Mitty. Acting is my ticket to ‘being someone else’. A close second is the writing part…there’s a real sense of accomplishment for me to start with a blank sheet of paper and end up with a screenplay.
What is your goal as a filmmaker?
To make stuff that people care about watching. For whatever reason they might have.
Do you have any upcoming movies in the works?
Our third and final ‘Perfect Stranger’ movie is releasing sometime this year; after that, we’re seriously considering a documentary as our next project. We have lots of script ideas for other movies, but unfortunately, we have to respect the viewing market…we can’t stay in business just doing pet projects.
Christina Karis may not be a household name just yet, but she will be. With a MFA degree in acting from Regent University, and an amazing amount of talent, Ms. Karis is slowly working her way into the hearts of film audiences. A self-proclaimed dramatic actress, her performance as Alza in “Pieces of Easter” shows she’s equally adept at comedy.
Christina, when did you first discover acting?
I know many people say this, but with all that I am, I can honestly say that acting discovered ME. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money for extracurricular activities. I remember making up movies all the time and acting them out. I was the writer, star, director, EVERYBODY! My grandmother, who was raising me at the time, was an avid soap opera watcher. In turn, my 7-year-old imagination made up highly melodramatic stories with scandals, slaps (which I performed on myself, by the way), and the craziest twists and turns. I laugh looking back at this. At the time, this imaginary world was so normal to me. I thought this was normal “play” for everyone. It is my life’s journey as an actress to keep my acting in this realm of creativity and possibility. I truly feel my calling is that of a storyteller and my life’s work is to in some capacity, bring stories to life.
What was your first acting role?
Other than my first ‘living room performances’ I’ve done lots of things, but I’d like to comment on some experiences that are dear to my heart. I wrote and performed a one-woman show about Dorothy Dandridge entitled In Our Time. This was in 2008, when I was still in graduate school and blessed with great parts all the time. This was before I went into the “real” world, experienced “real” rejection, and suffered “real” suffering for my art. I understood her fight to some degree, but now, in 2013–I get it so much more. One thing she said was that she just wanted a chance. A chance, not a handout, or a gift, but a chance. There are so many things in this business that have nothing to do with one’s talent, so at the end of the day, I guess we all want just that….a chance. Also, Shelby from Steel Magnolias. I performed this role in a 99-seat Equity Theatre in LA. It is my favorite theatrical experience to date. It was the best of both worlds–a live audience in an intimate setting. It was my first professional show and I was definitely “green”, but it is one I will forever cherish in my heart.
Have you had any acting training?
I attended my first year of graduate school (theater) at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky and transferred to Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA to finish. I obtained my MFA in acting in 2009. I also spent a summer studying at Circle in the Square Theatre in NYC (2007).
What is your favorite type of character to play?
Wow! I want to do EVERYTHING!! I am a dramatic actress at heart so I’ve always pictured myself in these indie like, slice of life, Woody Allen like films… but I want to do more comedy in the future. I also would love to do action films. A dream of mine is to make a film/films in Spanish, as I’ve been trying to become fluent in the language for the past NINE years! And of course, to work with Denzel Washington…well, I could die happily:)
How did you prepare for the role of Alza in “Pieces of Easter”?
Since I’ve always considered myself more of a ‘dramatic’ actress, the main challenge was getting into that ‘comic timing’ way of doing things. A good friend once told me, “Christina, you are the greatest character you will ever play.” I’ve spent many years pondering this statement and have concluded this is true. My life is my story. Acting is a part of the story but not the story. I applied all of this into ‘creating’ Alza.
Are you anything like Alza?
Ummm….we both like to eat healthy.
What was your favorite scene in the movie?
Wow, that’s a tough one – there were so many wonderful moments. Probably the scene near the end where Lincoln and Alza finally have it out. As an actor, it’s always exciting to ‘get the juices flowing’ - especially when two adversaries are baring their souls with a lot of intensity.
What are your film goals for the future?
Well, I’ve recently moved back to Los Angeles. I’ve been living in Atlanta the past two years after spending over a year in L.A. I am ready to be back here where movies happen. I feel in my heart this is my next stop–probably not the final…but the next, definitely. My dream is to make good art that pays my bills!!!
Several years ago, while I was still in grad school, I was struggling with the idea of if I could even still be an actress since becoming a Christian (I had just recently been baptized). I didn’t know at the time if the two could truly coexist. One night, I was sitting in my apartment when a movie called ‘The Perfect Stranger’ aired. Needless to say, it moved me to tears. I had never heard questions of faith answered that way…questions I myself had. I was astonished while watching the closing credits to find that the film had been shot in Louisville Kentucky, the same city I was living in at the time. I emailed the director (Jefferson) and told him about how moved I was. I was shocked when he called me in to audition for the sequel the very next week! I’ve since worked with Jefferson and Kelly three times, the latest being ‘Pieces of Easter’, my first starring feature film role, which he wrote specifically for me.
They (Kelly and Jefferson) aren’t just friends and mentors to me, they are my family. All this happened because I was so moved by the story they told. I guess that’s why I’m so motivated to be that kind of storyteller. I know how my life changed from that moment…I think about how my storytelling carries the power to change others’ lives..it’s quite thrilling…and humbling.
An arrogant young executive must rely on the help of a grizzled, reclusive farmer to get her home in time for an upcoming gathering with her estranged family. It’s a prodigal story with a twist.
I must say initially, I wasn’t interested in this movie. I’d seen the trailer and it just didn’t look like something I’d like. But Fred checked it out of the church library and we decided to watch it Easter Sunday afternoon, since it had an Easter theme. Well, I am so glad he checked it out and really glad we watched it. “Backroads and Lilies” is one of the most entertaining Christian movies I’ve seen.
It’s a simple enough plot – Alza (Christina Karis) needs to get to her parent’s home by Easter only she runs into a series of escalating conflicts. She talks Lincoln (Jefferson Moore), a hermit, into driving her across the country. The dialogue and casting is what takes this movie to a new level. Christina Karis and Jefferson Moore are perfectly cast as opposite personalities. Christina Karis is an incredible comic actress. Her timing and delivery are spot on. Her sincerity and naturalness has us falling in love with her self-absorbed character. Jefferson Moore probably doesn’t say more than a couple of paragraphs in the whole movie, but he manages to say so much without saying a word. Then there’s the old pickup truck, a character all its own.
In the midst of all the razor sharp, witty dialogue, Biblical values of family, forgiveness, and priorities are subtly interwoven into the story so that you get a wonderful spiritual lesson without ever feeling like you’re being preached to.
If you’re looking for a fun family film that will have you in stitches, “Backroads and Lilies” is an excellent choice.