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By David Powers. Photos by Barbara Mait and David Powers.

When the film “SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL” begins production in June, Richmond’s First Baptist Church will play several major roles: birthplace of the concept, incubator of the film’s development, major financial supporter, location of the production company office, and “home church” to many of the film’s volunteers, cast and crew.

Shooting the ProdigalThe idea for the film began to take shape in 2010, when I served as the church’s Associate Pastor, Ministry of Communication. It grew out of the success of two major Christmas TV specials we produced in 1998 and 2003, and a desire to tell a great story with a positive influence in our increasingly secular culture. That idea was nurtured and encouraged by Jim Somerville, friends, staff colleagues, and the church’s Communication Team.

Over many months of thinking, praying and writing, FBC members Matthew Brown, Deborah Hocutt and I began to develop the concept and eventually a screenplay. But that script was far from what eventually emerged after Dr. Somerville’s brother, Gray, made a suggestion: “You should make a movie about a church making a movie about the parable of the prodigal son!” That sparked our imaginations. Deborah and I continued working and writing a new screenplay, which became the comedy we’ll begin shooting June 22.

Belltower Pictures board

Belltower Pictures board members

With the leadership of the FBC Communication Team, we set up an independent, non-profit production company, Belltower Pictures. Six of the company’s seven board members are FBC members (Paul Bickford, Kim Boys, Elizabeth Norton, Jerry Cardwell, Steve Martin, and myself). Our vision is to “entertain and inspire… telling great stories that reveal spiritual truth.” We hope this film will be the first of many.

The production of a motion picture is an expensive undertaking. So we turned our attention to fundraising. The FBC Endowment Fund was the first to commit funding. So far, there have been 28 financial backers, 15 of them are FBC members. We’ve raised enough money to begin production. We need more to pay for editing, marketing and distribution, so we’ll continue fundraising efforts as we move into production.

In addition to making a great film, we hope to accomplish two other goals: provide a way for folks from many different congregations to work together on a meaningful project; and provide a hands-on training experience for people who want to join the growing film industry workforce in Virginia.

So we’re reaching out to other churches to join us in all aspects of production.
We’re also offering volunteer and internship opportunities to high school and college students.

office space

Preparing office space

We’re setting up an office in the unused space on the third floor of the Pusey House. Now we’re recruiting volunteers, finding locations for the film, and assembling the cast and crew. And, of course, raising the rest of the money.

There is plenty of room for more FBC members to appear in the credits. Obviously, we need actors, extras and crew members. But we also need volunteers in a wide range of areas: office and administrative, website and social media, food service, security, transportation, props, wardrobe, hair and makeup. We need people who can work all or part of the 18 days of principal photography beginning June 22. And we need folks who can help during preproduction between now and then.

BTP-logo-black-CMYKWant to join the party? Email me at dpowers@Belltowerpictures.com. Or visit the website to see a fun promotional video, get more details and sign up for regular email updates: http://www.Belltowerpictures.com.

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