“ACTS OF GOD” Movie Debuts
From the blog of Bob Russell
A couple of years ago Shane Sooter, President of City on a Hill Productions, asked me if I would consider participating in a film project the company was planning for 2013. City on a Hill had been asked by Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) to produce a film for television on the theme of coping with pain – how do God’s people react when terrible things happen to them? That is a relevant question and a frequent source of doubt and bitterness.
Shane and the Louisville based production company have produced a number of excellent teaching films featuring Kyle Idleman such as “Not A Fan“, “The Easter Experience“, and “H2O“. But the plan for this new movie, entitled “Acts of God“, was for a full-length motion picture espousing Christian principles that would not be as overtly evangelistic as past projects.
Shane asked me if I would do a companion piece to the movie by taping six small group Bible study videos on the subject of suffering, using clips from the movie as examples. Knowing that film is a powerful means of reaching people in today’s culture, I was eager to participate. We decided from the beginning to base the topics on the life of Joseph- an Old Testament character who went through nearly two decades of undeserved suffering and discouragement before being promoted to Vice President of Egypt.
Then Shane challenged me, “Since you’re teaching on Joseph in the small group videos, it would make the transition smoother if you played the part of the preacher (a minor role) in the movie. Would you be willing to do that?” I immediately protested, “I’ve never acted in my life – not even in a high school play!” Shane assured me, “All I want is for you to do is just be yourself.”
My son, Phil, who is also an actor and has worked on several films with City On A Hill Productions, encouraged me to seriously consider giving it a try. Although this was WAY out of my comfort zone, I agreed – with the assurance if my acting was “hokey” Shane would be honest with me and get a replacement with no questions asked. When we started filming, I was somewhat uneasy. The main actors are talented, experienced professionals. And I soon discovered that “just being myself” wasn’t good enough. “Let’s try that again”, Shane would say, “and this time….”
I have to admit that, with a little encouragement, I soon felt comfortable in the role and actually enjoyed the experience. I especially liked working with the City On A Hill staff – a gifted and dedicated group of Christian people.
The movie is now 99% completed and is scheduled to be released this fall. You can view the 2 minute trailer of the film at the beginning of this post or click here. Three weeks ago “Acts of God” was previewed at the International Christian Visual Media Conference and won two Crown awards as Best Drama and Best Picture in the over $250,000 category. That’s encouraging!
The director’s cut was previewed this past week at the North American Christian Convention and City on a Hill personnel have to be really pleased with the reaction. About 150 people attended and the comments afterward were overwhelmingly positive. One man told me, “My seventeen year old son was killed a few years ago and I really identified with the characters in the film. I shed some tears but this really helped me. Thanks.” Greg Fish, who reviews movies for Christian Media Magazine, recently stated in a Facebook post: “Last night I attended the premier of City on a Hill’s new movie, “Acts of God”- an emotional masterpiece”.
I hope you’ll plan to see the movie when it’s released this fall. Admittedly, it is a heavy film. It will stick with you – and may take a while to process. It moves me to tears because the various struggles portrayed are so real-to-life. There is no immediate relief to pain and the answers provided are not surface, or melodramatic. Rather than suggesting simple solutions, the movie demonstrates how suffering is often prolonged and forgiveness is a process that takes time. Life is seldom neatly packaged and often doesn’t make sense. The book of Job illustrates that – so does this movie.
It’s my observation that people in pain don’t need intellectual answers as much as they need emotional identification. They need the inspiration of seeing others who have gone through similar difficulties, asked the same tough questions, cried the same tears and yet somehow emerged on the other side with their faith in God still intact – or maybe even strengthened because of their scars. In the end, “Acts of God” provides that emotional support and spiritual inspiration..
In addition to the small group Bible study, I’m providing a six week sermon series for preachers based on Joseph’s struggles. Joseph overcame a dysfunctional family, prolonged disappointment, intense temptation, deep discouragement, instant prosperity and an opportunity for revenge against his brothers. The sermon series includes brief clips from the movie at certain segments.
I’ve also authored a book, “Acts of God – Trusting God in Tragedy” which is scheduled for printing this fall in conjunction with the movie. As you can see, this is a huge project and we covet your prayers and support.
For years Christians have complained about the vile content of Hollywood films and wondered why there aren’t many wholesome movies anymore. That’s one of the primary reasons there has been a big increase recently in the production of faith-based, family-friendly movies. Production companies and organizations like Sherwood Pictures (“Courageous” and “Fireproof), American Family Studios (“I Am Potential”), Rebel Pilgrim (which will release “A Strange Brand Of Happy” in theaters Sept 13), The Erwin Brothers (“October Baby”), Provident Films (“Unconditional“), City on a Hill and a few other Christian production studios are providing movies that reinforce faith and traditional values. The quality of these productions continue to improve, and these films entertain and inspire.
Now it’s up to Christian people to support the movies that are wholesome and uplifting. Attend the movies and tell others about them. Invite unchurched people to view them with you. By doing so, you plant seeds of the gospel and provide the resources for additional films in the future. Ephesians 5:15 urges us to, “… make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”
City on A Hill Productions and many other Christians are making the most of the opportunity to produce faith-based and family-friendly films. It’s up to the rest of us who share common convictions to support their efforts so that the faith of Christians can be reaffirmed and unbelievers will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. That, after all, is our common goal.