Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story – Movie Review and Highest Recommendation

Gifted Hands was a made for television movie that aired in 2009. For years, I’ve heard about it and how good it was, but last night was the first time we actually took the time to watch it. I hate that we waited so long. It’s an amazing movie.

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First, I’d like to talk about the movie itself. It was nominated for four Primetime Emmys and a long list of awards. It won two Movieguide, three Image, and one NAMIC Vision award. In my opinion, it should have won more.  I was immediately drawn into the movie by.the beautiful juxtopositioning of classical music and surgery footage. From beginning to end, every shot is beautiful and the editing together is a work of art. The writing, the acting, the music, everything is top notch. I would have never dreamed it possible to take a story about a brain surgeon and make it a cinematic work of art, and yet, that is exactly what director Thomas Carter did.

Second, while the movie stands alone as a great story well told, we can’t ignore the fact that the subject of the movie is now a Presidential candidate. For that reason, anyone who is trying to make a decision between candidates should watch Gifted Hands to get a better appreciation of who Ben Carson is and what he’s already accomplished. I had no idea that he grew up poor, raised by a single mom who couldn’t read but who was determined that her boys would make something of themselves. I was inspired by her commitment to push them to excel despite the many obstacles in their way. I love that learning didn’t come naturally for Ben, but that he just worked all the harder because of it. I love the fact that he was willing to take a risk and perform a dangerous surgery when he was just an intern because there was no one else to do it. Most of all, i love that he prayed with each of his patients and looked to God for help rather than seeing himself as God.

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Gentle Hands is available on instant Netflix and on dvd in Christian bookstores.

NRB Convention – Interview with Alex and Stephen Kendrick

sharonwilharm:

Have you gone to see War Room this weekend? Get a behind the scenes glimpse into the making of the movie in this exclusive Faith Flix interview with Alex and Stephen Kendrick.

Originally posted on faithflixfilms:

Alex and Stephen Kendrick were gracious enough to allow us to interview them at NRB Convention. We were also invited to a private screening of their new movie War Room. These are godly men striving to do their best to serve God through their filmmaking. Such a blessing to  hear stories of how God worked behind the scenes of War Room.

To learn more about War Room, follow the movie on Facebook or visit the website.

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Hudson and Tucker Meek – Young Actors

I’m excited to introduce two young brothers, Hudson and Tucker Meek. I got to know them when they played the bully brothers in Providence. They were  incredibly talented, as well as extremely professional on set and just as sweet as can be.  They’ve been in Santa Con and The List, and next month they each have a big theatrical release. You can see Tucker in A Walk in the Woods playing the grandson of Robert Redford and Emma Thompson and  Hudson in 90 Minutes in Heaven playing the son of Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth.

Tucker and Hudson pose with me at the Providence set.

Tucker and Hudson pose with me at the Providence set.

When did you first discover a love of acting?  
Tucker –  When I was little I liked to repeat commercials that I heard on TV.  I went to the SHINE event (for Actors Models and Talent for Christ) in Orlando when I was 7 years old.  My favorite showcase was called Product Endorsement.  I was missing my front teeth, so I thought it would be funny to do a commercial called the Tooth Loosener.  I said “Are you tired of your little brother grinning at you with a mouth full of cash?  Then you need the tooth loosener…” and I pulled out a big wrench. Everyone started laughing.  I like to make people laugh!
I was awarded the Overall Male Child Actor Award.  AMTC is where I learned what it meant to “Make Good Bolder”.  That’s where I decided that I wanted to be a shining light when I was on set.  By the way, I have not tried “The Tooth Loosener” on my brother… yet!

Hudson Meek

Hudson Meek

How old were you when you got your first acting role?
Hudson – When I was 4, I filmed a commercial with a green screen and pretended I was falling out of the sky. I still have the teddy bear that they gave me to carry.  His name is Teddy.  I filmed my first movie when I was 6.  It’s called 90 Minutes in Heaven.
Tucker – Right after SHINE, I booked my first faith-based film called Worth Fighting For (with Alan Powell of Anthem Lights, The Song). So, I think I had just turned 7 years old.

Hudson with Melissa Joan Hart

Tucker with Melissa Joan Hart

Tucker, tell us about your role in Santa Con.
I played a little boy named Billy who asked Santa for his help with a very special wish.  In the end, Santa wasn’t the one who helped Billy with his wish.  It was an angel.

Hudson, tell us about your role in 90 Minutes in Heaven.
I play Chris Piper. In the movie, my dad had a bad car accident and got really hurt.  I had to pretend to be so so sad when I saw him hurt.  The special effects makeup looked very real so it wasn’t hard to pretend.  I also thought about how the real Chris Piper felt when he saw his dad for the first time in the hospital.  Mr. Hayden (Christiansen) and Mrs. Kate (Bosworth) were very  nice.  90 Minutes was my first movie, so I didn’t know what it would be like to have a pretend family.  But, Mrs. Kate gives a lot of hugs & golden stars.  Mr. Hayden taught me all about light sabers because I told him I am a huge fan of Star Wars.  The day we wrapped, he gave me one of his action figures with a special note to me on it.  It’s very special to me.  Mr. Don and Mrs. Eva Piper were also with us on set.  I liked sitting with them and talking about stuff when we weren’t filming.  I taught them all about mine craft.  I also loved face-timeing with the real Chris and asking him questions before my scenes.

Hudson with Kate Bosworth & Hayden Christiansen on set for 90 Minutes in Heaven.

Hudson with Kate Bosworth & Hayden Christiansen on set for 90 Minutes in Heaven.

What do you like best about film acting?
Tucker – I really like to learn about how things work. It’s cool to see how they film each scene from different angles and then what the movie looks like when it’s edited together. I learned about special effects when I was filming The Santa Con.  The movie takes place during December, but we filmed it during the Summer. So it was really hot.  But, when you use special effects, you can make it snow in July.  How amazing is that?
Hudson – I like making new friends everywhere I go.  I always say, “Hi my name is Hudson.  What’s yours?  Do you want to play with me?”  And just like that, we’re friends. I like to keep in touch with friends that I made on set.  I also really like to pretend.  So, when I am acting, I get to do a lot of pretending.

What would be your dream role?
Tucker – I would love to be in a futuristic movie about time travel or play a spy-kid who uses telekinesis and Legos to complete his missions.  I also love Disney-Pixar movies.  So, it would be a lot of fun to be a voice-actor in an animated film.  I read that there is going to be a Lego Movie 2… Being in a movie about my favorite toy would be a dream come true!
Hudson – Sometimes I pretend that I have super powers.  I wish I could be in a movie and have super-speed.  My side-kick puppy could have laser eyes.  My dad and I think it’s fun to make up bed-time stories about my puppy and our adventures as kid super-spies.  I also love to explore outside.  I think it would be awesome to be in a movie that films in the jungle and I could play a character who grew up outside like Tarzan!

Tucker co-hosting the Because This Is Auburn gala with Michael O’Neill (Transformers, Rectify) and Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers, and Heisman Trophy winner).

Tucker co-hosting the Because This Is Auburn gala with Michael O’Neill (Transformers, Rectify) and Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers, and Heisman Trophy winner).

What projects do you have coming up?
Tucker – On September 2nd, I have a film called A Walk in the Woods opening in theaters.  I play the grandson of Mr. Robert Redford and Mrs. Emma Thompson.  It was an honor to be able to work with them.  I learned a lot from working with both of them. I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  So it was fun to talk to Mrs. Thompson about her role in the Potter movies.  Worth Fighting For, directed by Joshua Sheik, will be completed this Fall.  And Providence will be released early 2016.
Hudson – 90 Minutes in Heaven opens in theaters on September 11th.  And we can’t wait to see Providence.  It’s our first silent movie and the first movie where we get to play brothers.

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Anything else?
Tucker – I feel lucky to get to work on movies & projects, especially those that teach about God’s love.  Even if the movie isn’t a faith-based film, you can still be a shining light for God on set by the way you treat others while you are filming.

Hudson and Tucker on set of Providence

Hudson and Tucker on set of Providence

Gallow’s Road – Movie Review and Recommendation

One of my favorite things about having a movie in the film festival circuit is that you get introduced to other movies. One of those movies is Gallow’s Road. It screened at the International Christian Film Festival in Orlando, and while we didn’t attend, Jenn Gotzon was there representing our movie The Good Book, and she gave the film raving reviews. She also connected me with producer Mary Jean Bentley. 

Faith Flix review of Gallow's Road

Synopsis –

Brothers Bob (Ernie Hudson) and Seth (Marcus Mauldin) are just one day away from making their dream of opening an antique store come true. This is not just any antique store, but one previously owned by the sheriff’s brother, who has two wayward sons, Snake and Matty. Trouble begins.

Jake Knight (Bill McAdams Jr) is a man searching for a purpose, unsure of his role both as a husband and a father. He has a beautiful wife and two children yet he chooses to spend most of his time with the “brotherhood”, Snake and Matty. This choice causes Jake to get off course and head down the wrong road. One of his only hopes and saving grace is his boss Frank (Kevin Sorbo) who is a good friend offering both steady work at the stables and spiritual advice. But more often than not, Jakes search seems to end at the bottom of a bottle.

In GALLOWS ROAD, an unthinkable crime, will draw these men together, changing their lives forever – turning one from the light while speeding the other towards darkness.

Gallow’s Road is a touching story about forgiveness.It’s full of small town drama, action, with touches of humor interspersed.

The acting is good all around. My favorite performances were Megan Dalby as Puck Knight and Rett Terrell as Snake Cain.

I especially enjoyed the scene where Kevin Sorbo’s character explains to Bill McAdams how he’s headed down Gallow’s Road and only he has the power change the course. I also enjoyed the scenes between young Puck and Bay.

Faith Flix review of Gallow's Road

Get your copy of Gallow’s Road at Christian bookstores, Walmart, or watch on iTunes.

Official website

Facebook page

iTunes

Walmart

Alexandra Boylan – Actress, Writer, Filmmaker

I love when rabbit trails lead to connections. I stumbled upon Ms. in the Biz quite by accident. I enjoyed exploring the site, then when I contacted Editor-in-Chief Helenna Santos, she connected me with their Outreach Coordinator Alexandra Boylan, who just happens to be writer, producer, and actress in the just released new film Catching Faith. 

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When did you first discover a love of acting?

I grew up performing in my father’s church, high school, and summer camp. It was always a part of my life and I fell in love with it. The first day my foot hit the stage, I knew I was hooked. I started auditioning for films in Boston when I was only fourteen; I had a very supportive family that encouraged me to follow my dreams. I owe a lot of my life to my upbringing. I was so blessed to have parents who nurtured my dreams, and told me I could do anything I put my mind to.

What led to your decision to start working behind the scenes writing and producing?

After many years of solely pursuing acting, I began feeling frustrated that I had no say in my own career or future. I was sick of waiting for people to choose me, and give me the opportunities that I was desperate for. And in turn, it made me feel like a desperate person all the time. So one day I decided to stop waiting for someone else to choose me, and I decided to choose myself! I got together with some friends back in 2008 and we all produced a play. I fell in love with the process of creating something from the beginning to the end. Once I put acting to the side, and allowed all the other facets of my creativity to flow, I rediscovered my love for writing. And now I write, produce, and act in my own films! And Let me tell you, I have never looked back. I strongly encourage people to choose themselves and create work for themselves, or they might just be waiting around forever!

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Alexandra and her husband John KD Graham at the premire of Catching Faith

What are some of the films you’ve been involved in?
I have done my share of independent movies, that’s for sure. I have done a lot of horror movies, and I’m happy to say I have moved on from that genre. I love a good horror movie, but there are just so many important stories to tell, like my new film Catching Faith. I want to be a part of creating stories that go out into the world and encourage and change people’s lives for the better. My next film is a faith-based family Christmas movie, and writing it has been a pure joy, it’s just so much fun to make family films. I’m very thankful that God opened a new door for me, and I am happy to be a part of his amazing work!

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Tell us about Catching Faith and your involvement in it.
Catching Faith is a faith based family football movie that follows the woman’s journey. It follows Alexa Taylor, who is extremely concerned with her appearances and wanting everyone to think that she and her family are perfect. But when her son, the star of the high school football team, is caught drinking at a party, her world begins to unravel. Through her female Bible study she comes to learn that it is ok to speak the truth, and to let others help you through the messy parts of life. The film is about integrity and doing the right thing even when no one is watching you. Every member of the family is learning integrity and how to live it out in their own lives. Catching Faith speaks to everyone, and I think the reason it is doing so well is because everyone can take something away from the story and actually apply it to his or her everyday life.

Andrea Polnaszek and Alexandra Boylan

Alexandra and her sister Andrea Polnaszek

What inspired the story?
My sister, my husband, and I co-wrote the script, and we originally started talking about the struggles women face in society and especially in the Christian community. The impossible expectations we put upon ourselves to be perfect and have it all put together. My sister and I grew up in a minister’s home, and we felt insane pressure to always appear perfect, to never let anyone know we might be struggling with something. Andrea and I really wanted to speak to women and young girls, and tell them what we wish had been told to us. That being a child of God is enough. And that God loves us no matter what, and He is always ready with open arms to embrace us.

What do you think distinguishes Catching Faith from other faith-based sports movies?
Well, we are filmmakers who are Christians; not the other way around, we understand how to tell stories. Some of the issue’s with Christian films is people think they have to tell a sermon, we wanted to tell a story and weave in the faith in a natural way, so the audience didn’t feel like they were being preached to. The quality of this film is amazing, and everyone involved are very talented filmmakers. I also think Catching Faith is different because we speak to everyday issues. The stakes are not life threatening, they are what we face as human beings everyday, and we tried to address issue’s that people can relate to. We hope this film will raise questions and prompt the audience to go home and talk about it with their spouses and families!

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The actresses from the ladies Bible study in Catching Faith

What’s been the response so far?
AMAZING! So far all of our reviews have been raving. It’s been overwhelming, actually, to see how this film is impacting people’s lives. We showed the film in a small theater in Wisconsin, and ended up selling out for fourteen straight days. It’s a very uplifting film, and I think people walk away with hope, and are excited to share this film with their friends and family. The movie released in South Africa, and a women from a village there went out of her way to find my sister’s email and tell her how this film was heart changing for her. We have had an outpour of messages to us on our Facebook page, people telling us how this film has helped them talk to their teenagers, and really spoke to their own issue’s they have been struggling with. I feel extremely humbled to be a part of God’s HUGE plan for this film.

What do you see yourself doing ten years down the road?
I hope I am still making female driven faith based films. I feel very passionate about portraying women in a positive way on screen, and I will continue bringing these stories to life. I want to be the change that I want to see in the entertainment industry. We can complain about it or we can do something about it, I am doing something about it. I hope in ten years from now we have more films with a strong well-rounded woman in the lead role. I want young girls to have heroes to look up to, to be told they can be anything they want. I am a very active member of Ms In The Biz, an online magazine and community that encourages and inspires women to take charge of their careers. I am very proud of that community, and I hope we continue to grow and change lives for the better. We are all better together, and it’s important for women to lift up and encourage each other. I think women can be very hard on one another, and I see too much tearing down, instead of lifting up. So I hope to continue to pave the way for other women in the entertainment industry. There are not many positive female driven faith based films, and it’s exciting to have people come to me after they see Catching Faith, and tell me that they are inspired to make their own. Just because we don’t see something in the market place, doesn’t mean we can’t be the first to do it! I also hope in ten years from now I have a home on the beach, I love the ocean, and it is a life dream of mine to have a house on the beach. Something about the constant movement of water is very calming and brings out my creativity.

I want to encourage everyone to see Catching Faith, to share it with their communities. This film is for everyone. Whatever you faith may be; you will enjoy the message of love that it spreads. Please feel free to “like” Catching Faith on Facebook and shoot us a message. We love to hear from everyone and communicate with people about the movie.

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Book Review – The Apologetics Study Bible for Students HCSB

When I got the request to review The Apologetics Study Bible for Students HCSB I immediately thought of my son-in-law to do the review. He’s a youth minister and passionate about helping students study scripture, so it was a perfect fit. Here’s his guest review.  

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Guest Review by Clay Herd

When my mother-in-law offered me the chance to review a Bible, I could hardly contain myself. I spent my first few days with the Bible thumbing through it. As a youth pastor, I am often looking for Bibles to recommend to my students. I decided to take the challenge and spend two weeks with this Bible as both my personal and my study Bible for sermons.

One of the first features that I enjoyed was the beginning of each book; there is an introduction to the book that ties very well into a student’s life. I also really like how there are tabs on the side of the Bible telling the students where the books of the Bible are.

I found that the more I searched the more I found in the pages of this Bible. I really enjoyed getting to use The Apologetics Study Bible for Students, and I recommend it for any Christian whether new or mature. This Bible was an excellent tool to be able to dive into God’s word and really take a look at history in a student’s perspective.

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A Few Features of The Apologetics Study Bible for Students HCSB:
– Book Introductions for each of the sixty-six books of the Bible.
– Study Notes provide evidence of the reliability and truthfulness of Scripture.
– 120 Articles written by today’s leading Christian thinkers dealing with life’s ultimate questions.
– 60 Twisted Scriptures address ways that various religious movements distort Scripture to support doctrine contrary to historic Christian teaching.

Also, this summer, the gift of Confident Faith is being celebrated with 16 brand new, but energetic and brief videos featuring Sean McDowell, free resources like Bible studies and articles as well as wonderful specials on apps and Bibles.  There are new resources every week – a full 16 weeks of resources when it is all done.  AND, if that weren’t enough, a Confident Faith Sweepstakes is being offered to give away Bibles, free mini libraries of B&H’s best apologetics resources and even a trip for two to the National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA) being held October 16-17, 2015 in Charlotte, NC where some of the world’s leading thinkers will offer insights and teaching.

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SOCIAL • C O R N E R  

Official Website:  www.apologeticsbible.com

Resource Site (Access to Videos): http://www.apologeticsbible.com/partners/


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If you would like to win your own copy of The Apologetics Study Bible for Students comment below and share your favorite book in the Bible. Drawing will take place Friday, August 21.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

About Clay Herd
Clay is a native of Springfield Missouri. Clay came to Trenton Baptist Church in May of 2015. Clay is a student of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary working on his Masters of Divinity in Pastoral Studies. Clay has a passion for youth ministry and enjoys a relational approach to ministry. Clay is joined by his wife Brittany Herd. The two work together to foster a program to grow the teenagers in the community closser to Christ. Clay’s passion lies in the Gospel and has a heart for discipleship.

Danny Jones – Composer and Musical Artist

I’m excited to share some of the musical artists whose work will be featured on our Providence movie soundtrack. One of those is Danny Jones. He comes from a long line of musicians and has been performing since he was twelve. In 2013 he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Barack Obama. 

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When did you first discover a love for music?

I discovered my love for music when I was about nine or ten years old. By the time I was twelve, I was singing and playing piano for a youth choir at our church. I could also sing harmony by that age as well. Harmony is a gift from God, especially at that tender age.

Tell about your musical heritage.

I come from a long line of musicians and composers. I am a fourth generation singer/songwriter/recording artist. Past generations performed with country artists Crystal Gayle, Steve Wariner, Barbara Mandrell etc… I was asked to perform with them in my early teens but I knew that I had a calling on my life and didn’t want to stray away from my gospel roots or compromise the message in my music.

In Gramps Shoes premiere

In Gramps Shoes premiere

When did you write your first song?

I wrote my first song when I was 16-yearsold. The name of the song was “He Will Be There”.  It was such a phenominal experience for me because the words and music came at the same time. Since that time, I have written a couple hundred songs and composed fifty music scores for motion pictures.

How did you get involved doing music for films?

I was singing at a music convention in Nashville, Tennessee back in 2005, and there were sponsors there from Hollywood, California. We all had set up our product tables and I had one of my songs playing as the people passed by. The song was “Don’t Throw It All Away”.  It was a song that I had written about teenage suicide in this country. Movie producer:Kelli Lidell heard the song and immediately started weeping! I asked her, “What is wrong?” She replied, “My father killed himself and that song really touches me.” She then told me, “We must get you into movies.” That is when it started and It has been such an open door since that time.

Danny Jones with label CEO Pattie Howard at The Sparrows premiere in Hollywood

Danny Jones with label CEO Pattie Howard at The Sparrows premiere in Hollywood

What are some of the faith-based movies you’ve been involved with?

Some of the movies that I have provided music and vocals for are:Secrets in the Snow, Homefront, Right to Believe, Vanished, In Gramp’s Shoes, Gramps Goes to College, and The Sparrows.

What do you do when you’re not working on music for films?

When I am not working on films, I am an elementary music teacher K-6. I have done that for over twenty years now. I am only teaching part time presently. I also have a music ministry. My wife:Angie and children Israel, Reba,:and Ethan travel throughout the US with me performing concerts in churches of all denominations. My boys play in The Danny Jones Band. I am on a record label out in Los Angeles Entertainment  and have recorded six full length albums. I write and sing all styles of gospel music. I am also a minister of music at a local church when I am not traveling with my music and family. We are a family ministry.

Vanished premiere

Vanished premiere

Tell us about some of the awards you’ve received.

I have been blessed in the last few years to win several awards. Back in 2011 and 2013, I was named “Contemporary Music Artist of the Year” by the USAGEM organization in Nashville, Tn. It was voted on by it’s national members. Also, I was awarded A lifetime Achievement AWARD on Feb. 8,2013 in Nashville, Tn from Pres. Barak Obama. It was presented to me by my publicist; Evie Hawkins. The President awarded me for my contribution to gospel music and film. It was such a pleasant surprise!!! I felt so humbled that he would think of me. This award means so much to me! Recently,,,,I am the recipient of ” The Movie Composer of the Year” award in Dallas, Tx. I am set to perform my signature song “Run” at the award ceremonies in Dallas on Sept. 12, 2015.

Danny Jones at record release party showing off his certificate from President Obama

Danny Jones at record release party showing off his certificate from President Obama

Anything else?

Many have ask me, how do you compose for film? I answer that very simply! I have a close relationship with God. When He was passing out gifts, He gave me music! I have gifts from the Lord and when I need a good score or vocal for a movie, I consult with Him. He always whispers the most beautiful melodies to me. God will give you a hook line or a melody but you have to cultivate that gift or song . My music comes very quickly, usually lyrics and music come at the same time. I just want to take this opportunity to give Him all the glory for the music that he gives and has given to me!”

Danny with his family at The Sparrows premiere

Danny with his family at The Sparrows premiere

Eric Slodysko – Actor

I love being able to introduce actors and filmmakers who may not be well known yet, but have such amazing talent that you just can’t wait to see all that God has in store for them. Eric Slodysko is one of those actors. His performance in Catastis is thrilling and chilling. He plays a revengeful crazed man so convincingly it’s hard to comprehend what a complete contrast the role is to Eric’s own gentle personality. 

eric
When did you first discover a love for acting?

I stood on stage after rehearsal for the hit comedy Lend Me A Tenor at my local community theater. It’s best explained as a spiritual epiphany, really. After practice was over, and everyone went home, I convinced the director to let me stay behind to go over some lines. I don’t know why I did it, but I felt the need to position myself center stage and just…remain quiet. I didn’t want to move! A wave of emotion came over me and nearly knocked me over. Everything in my life finally made sense in that one moment of stillness. I mean, I wasn’t even supposed to be doing this play! I tried out on a whim. I couldn’t even roll my tongue (which was required for “Largo al factotum” from “The Marriage of Figaro” and one of the final arias from “Otello”). And yet here I was, in front of 150 empty chairs, with the resting assurance this was what I was supposed to do all along.

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What was your first role?

My first role ever was a protean in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. I never really liked the people I performed with. I only wanted to try something new. I’d always shy away from social opportunities growing up due to heightened anxiety, so this was a way of starting anew, and I was bound and determined to change. I stoked the fire, got a background part, balled my fists up (nearly got into a fist fight backstage), and finished with the applause meter on high. It was a rush, but one I’d forget for another five years.

Tell us about your role in Catastasis.

Catastasis was an interesting journey for me. I only took three acting classes prior to receiving a call from Anthony Hackett, the director, informing me I got the part. I just started learning “emotional recall” and really had a difficult time bringing any emotion to the surface; however, I remained diligent, implemented everything I did learn, and ultimately gained favor with the man who calls the shots. I actually recorded my audition on a shoddy, shaky webcam, so the emotion I captured ultimately convinced Anthony I was right for the role, not the technique, by any stretch. I think most casting directors probably would have disqualified me.

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What was the most difficult thing about playing such an intense character?

The most intense thing I encountered while playing Thomas Riley was the amount of inner turmoil that came with the part. Without ruining too much of the movie, Thomas was racked with guilt on account of his personal loss compounded with robbing others of their happiness. His attitude toward life involved exacting vengeance and doing anything he could to make others suffer in an effort to resolve his inner pain. I was never able to fully tear that skin off me once we were dismissed from set, and as a result, would toss and turn in bed every night. At the same time, once I said my peace with God and finally put the character to rest, my empathy for others increased sevenfold. As Christians we’re taught to turn the other cheek, but can we really do that in a moment’s notice when we’re forced to confront a nightmarish scenario head-on? It was a very difficult transformation but one I’m happy I experienced overall.

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How do people who know you react after seeing you in such a role?

Almost everyone that has watched Catastasis has reported at one point they no longer see me on screen but Thomas. Thankfully I’ve never had to deal with hostility after they viewed it, since he‘s kind of a jerk, haha. Some people during the premiere told me they “hated me” and wanted to give me a piece of their mind, but I seemed like such a nice guy smiling on stage that it wasn’t possible to feel that way anymore. I clearly made my mark.

What is the greatest challenge with being a Christian actor?

The greatest challenge for me is constantly scoring “bad guy” roles! I want to play the guy that helps old ladies cross the street, not the guy that leads them into oncoming traffic and merrily skips away laughing. Even when I worked on commercial projects for different companies, I’d always be assigned the “dishonest clerk” or “shady customer” — never the upstanding and refined gentleman that wanted to pay out of his own wallet for a pack of bubblegum. I often wonder why I keep getting the villain. Maybe my eyebrows? They look angry, right? I guess the border of moral decency is what I worry about most. Am I sinning against God because I happen to be playing a psychotic murderer? A beast of rampage? How far can one stretch the threshold? In the end, I have to trust Him and believe that He is guiding me toward His light, and that is what I do. It’s a learning process.

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What would be your dream role?

I guess my greatest dream is inspiring others to attain greatness in their lives and not allow fear to deter them from doing so. My goal is to be motivational, an incendiary figure that galvanizes others toward right action. I want to be a speaker some day and really share my testimony on stage, so that others begin to see the power that truly lies within God and how it’s possible to do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Anything else?

If you liked Catastasis, stay tuned for the upcoming trailer Beast–a hybrid Kung Fu/Action/Horror flick ready to explode on screen–Co-Directed by Robert Samuels and Kaloni Davis, and written by Robert Jefferson. I worked behind-the-scenes as a PA and was promoted to actor at the last minute. One word: Serendipity. Hard work definitely pays off!

Finally, thank you for taking the time to get to know me and hearing my story.

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Acting Tips From Award Winning Actors

Last week I shared screenwriting advice. Today I’m excited to share acting advice from actors whose abilities have been confirmed by their film festival awards. 

Jenn Gotzon

Camera Tricks for the Actor by Jenn Gotzon
#1 – Your physicality can be adjusted per the camera set up. Imagine a painting of a large landscape. Now imagine a painting of a portrait of Mona Lisa, close on her face. As an actor, our job is to paint the artistic colors of the directors vision through emotion, physical movements, energy level and expressions. Think of a master shot as a big picture of landscape. Think of a closeup / over the shoulder / coverage as a portrait. The behavior you do needs to reflect the composition of the painting. In a portrait, moving your eye from one point to the next would communicate similar information as if you pointed with your hand from one point to another. Be encouraged and inspired to be more physical in those master shots and then dial those same gestures internally with same movement (match continuity), but internally to communicate with your eyes.

#2:- In a two-shot, open to camera by squaring your hips to the camera while talking to the person next to you VS squaring your hips to the person which will put you in profile on camera.

Jenn Gotzon received the “Award of Excellence & Outstanding Contribution to the Entertainment World”, Film Advisory Board  for her role in Doonby, “Best Actress” award at Pocono Mountains Film Festival for her role in God’s Country, “Rising Star Award” at Wildwood by the Sea Film Fest for her role in Chemistry, “Best Actress” at 168 Film Festival for her role in Stainedand “Best Ensemble Cast” at Bare Bones International Film Festival for The Good Book. She was also nominated for “Best Actress” at International Christian Film Festival and AFA Truth Awards for her role in The Good Book.    

 

 

courtneyheadshotAdvice for Aspiring Actors by Courtney Lee Simpson

My advice for upcoming actors is to let you know you will face rejection. Instead of letting it bring you down, let it be the fuel to your fire! You will have many auditions. Be patient, persevere, and leave it in God’s hands.

Courtney Lee Simpson received the “Best Actress” award at AFA Truth Awards for her role in Fat Boys. She was also nominated “Best Actress” for her role in Gramps Goes to College.

 

pat bare bonesAdvice for Aspiring Actors by Patricia Binkley

Be a ham all the time and go to church. That’s where I was “discovered”. It was a God-thing.

Patricia Binkley received the “Best Actress” award at Bare Bones International Film Festival for her role in Flowers for Fannie.  

 

 

rhondaKeeping Focused by Rhonda Oliver

My advice to aspiring new actors would be that if you know that this is the purpose, gifting and calling for your life, then walk in it. No matter what obstacles come to seemingly stop you…keep pushing ahead. There will be many more no’s than yes’s but keep pushing ahead. Don’t always look for money because there are some opportunities that may not pay or pay what you think it should, but it may be a priceless opportunity to develop and fine tune your skills. Pray and ask God what’s next, and I can promise you that if you allow Him to order your steps, He will open doors no man can shut. If you are pursuing acting always remember why you’re doing it. I do it for the love of the art and the love of reaching people in a way they can completely relate to. Remember to pursue the love of it and keep God first.

Rhonda Oliver received the “Best Supporting Actress” award at the AFA Truth Awards for her role in Basement.  

 

garryFinding Your Identity as an Actor by Garry Nation

There is a scene in the movie Patton in which the general thunders to his staff, “If we are not victorious, let no one return alive!” His aide quietly says to him, “General, sometimes they don’t know when you’re acting.” He replies wryly, “It’s not important that they know. It’s only important that I know.”

It is a characteristic of actors that we are empathetic mimics; that is, we not only imitate the behavior of others, but we seek also to imitate their motivations. I am always practicing, always rehearsing, always observing – whether I’m actively working on a role or not. I study the work of actors I admire and try to figure out and emulate how they make the magic, how they create the illusion that they’re not just playing a part or reading lines, but actually make me believe they are the characters they are portraying. I’ll put on different characters myself, adopting their accents and attitudes. Sometimes acting even becomes a part of the way I study the Bible, as I try to understand the stories by putting myself in the place of the character I’m reading about.

That is why as an actor I must first of all have a firm grip upon myself, my own identity – as a human being, and as a man in Christ. Romans 12:3 instructs us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly. That is not only a command to reject pride, it is an admonition to stay grounded in reality.

Peter Sellers was a brilliant actor. Best known for his comic portrayal of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies, he was an actor of amazing range who sometimes appeared in multiple roles in the same film. All agree that his finest role was that of a gentle but mentally disabled gardener who is mistaken for a genius in the satire Being There. Yet in a rare interview he once confessed that he had no idea who he himself was. An unhappy man, his identity depended on the roles he played rather than the other way around.

Heath Ledger did not appear to have that kind of identity crisis, yet many believe that he had so deeply immersed himself into the role of the psychotic criminal The Joker in The Dark Knight that he never really emerged. It profits a man nothing to gain the whole world yet lose his soul, but how tragic is it to sell one’s soul for a role!

Know yourself. Know who you are, and accept that – with all the weaknesses as well as the strengths, all the uncomely parts as well as the beautiful ones, all the awkwardness as well as the talent – as a gift from a loving Creator and as redeemed by a Savior who gave his own life for yours. Be who you are before you start being somebody else.

Garry Nation received the “Best Actor” award at International Christian Film Festival for his role in Polycarp

 

venusAdvice for New Actors by Venus Monique

There’s a lot to consider when you decide to start this acting journey, and these two golden nuggets have stuck with me more than any other.

The first is that you should never be too proud to take acting classes or feel like you’ve reached your peak of learning. You will always benefit from being in class – sometimes because of practice and other times because your fellow acting mates are creating projects and want to cast actors they already know. That’s happened to me on a few occasions. More often than not, an acting coach will let you audit their class to see if it’s a good fit for you. Definitely bounce around a bit to experience different styles of teaching and find the avenue that you feel suits you, at least for now. It’s said often, but acting training is no different than athletic training; you have to constantly be exercising in order to improve.

My second piece of advice is NEVER feel like you HAVE to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing. From the time I decided I wanted to pursue acting, I made a list of things I was not willing to do – no matter how far or fast they could advance my career. When I joined my acting classes, I also let my acting coaches know what I was willing and not willing to do. They respected my decisions and even appreciated them because rarely are there actors who have set ‘limitations’ (as some would see them) on themselves. If a coach makes you feel like you need to ‘get over it’ or stresses that you won’t get work if you don’t take risks, avoid their class. You absolutely do not have to drop your standards in order to succeed in this industry. Like an acting coach once told me, “At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to look back down your own mountain and be okay with everything you’ve done.” Keep your self-respect, and know that honoring God, your body, and your spouse may make your route a bit longer, a bit slower, or a bit less direct, but when it comes down to it, you’ll get to enjoy everything you’ve done rather than regret any of it.

Venus Monique received “Best Female Performance” at Attic Film Festival for her role in Genesis. She was also nominated for “Best Actress” at International Christian Film Festival for that same role. 

Shooting the Prodigal – With Director David Powers

With so many new movies being produced every day, it’s hard to keep up with all of them. Today I interview David Powers about his new movie Shooting the Prodigal. David is one of the co-writers (along with  Deborah Hocutt and Greg Womble) and the director. He also serves as founding president of the non-profit, 501c3 production company, Belltower Pictures.

David Powers
What is your filmmaking education and background?
My background is primarily in television. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in radio/television/film production, I worked in broadcast TV news for a couple of years. Then, sensing God’s call to serve through media in the church, I moved to Texas and enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. After graduating, I served local churches as a media minister… the last 20 of those as Associate Pastor for Communication at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. For seven years, I served the Baptist International Mission Board, traveling and working in twenty five countries on five continents and throughout the United States producing documentaries and music videos. I directed two evangelistic feature films overseas, La Solution  in Cote d’Ivoire, and Di Gaan Toobi  in Suriname. I produced more than 1,000 hours of local television programming, including 120 hours of live telecasts. I produced and directed two hour-long Christmas music specials that aired in prime time on Richmond’s ABC and NBC affiliates.

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Tell us about some of your previous film and television projects.
The Prodigal Project (as I have called it) was born in 2010 during a sabbatical while I served FBC Richmond. We had enjoyed great success with the television ministry, and especially with the documentaries and Christmas musical specials we’d produced. But I sensed God calling us to something else. I had been reading about and observing the decline of “institutional religion” in the United States. The Barna Group did some research that showed many folks view the church as hypocritical, judgmental, homophobic, too focused on money and politics, and unwilling to adapt to change. I looked around my church… and looked in the mirror… and saw that the perceptions were not entirely false. As I read the Gospels, I kept coming home to Jesus’ exhortation to “love one another.” My personal experience of God’s unfailing love resonated as I thought about how Jesus practiced love. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to tell a story that depicts God’s love and acceptance? And wouldn’t it be nice to do it in a non-preachy, approachable way that folks outside the church could enjoy… not a heavy-handed, “preaching to the choir” kind of faith-based movie. Maybe, in doing that kind of movie, we could place proper emphasis on the love imperative of the gospel, not so much on the rules and institutional baggage we seem to have accumulated over 2,000 years.

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What was your inspiration for the script for Shooting the Prodigal?
What better way to accomplish this than through a comedy? And what better story to use as the basis for the film than the best story ever told by the best storyteller who ever lived – the Parable of the Prodigal Son as told by Jesus and recorded in Luke 15:11-32? And so was born Shooting the Prodigal – a movie about a church making a movie about the prodigal son.

We established Belltower Pictures in late 2012 as an independent production company, focused on producing, promoting and distributing high quality faith-themed films, television and web projects. Our mission is to entertain and inspire, telling great stories that reveal spiritual truth. Shooting the Prodigal  is our first project. As a non-profit company, we will reinvest all revenue into future projects.

Shotting the Prodigal  is the story of Josh Blume, a brash young Jewish filmmaker from New York who tries to help Brother Bob Cross, an overly-zealous Baptist preacher in South Alabama make a movie about the Prodigal Son. In the process they both learn about the love and acceptance of the Prodigal’s father.

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Tell us about your cast and crew.
The cast is led by Paul Wilson as Brother Bob Cross, and Sterling Hurst as Josh Blume. Paul appears opposite Jenna Elfman in the Adrianna Trigiani film Big Stone Gap  which opens in theaters nationwide October 9. Tim Reid (known for his television work in Sister, Sister and WKRP in Cincinnati) and his wife Daphne Maxwell Reid (Fresh Prince of Bel Air) make cameo appearances. Other principals include Julie Moss as Esther Cross, Christie Osterhus as Emily Cross, and Joseph Gray (Princess Cut, Alone Yet Not Alone) as Noah Thatcher.

Richard Blankenship (Lincoln, Captain Phillips, Turn – Washington’s Spies, Killing Kennedy) is the Production Designer. Eric Hurt (Wish You Well, Coming Through the Rye, Field of Lost Shoes) is Director of Photography. Producers are Ken Roy and Heather Waters.

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Now that the film is shot, what are your plans for the movie?
We are currently in post-production and hope to complete the film by late fall. We are producing a parallel web series and other audience engagement strategies that we hope will build buzz for the film. We hope to successfully negotiate a theatrical distribution deal, but also plan to distribute digitally.

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Anything else?
More info about the company and the film:

http://shootingtheprodigal.com
http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/shooting-prodigal
http://belltowerpictures.com
http://www.facebook.com/ShootingTheProdigal
http://www.facebook.com/BellTowerPictures

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