Posts Tagged ‘Prodigal Son’

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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By Nancy Mairs

“Lights, camera, action!” wasn’t exactly the phrase David Powers expected to come to mind as he sat in a restaurant having breakfast during his sabbatical in January 2010. In fact, he was more focused on wondering calloutwhat was next, and planned to use his sabbatical to seek God’s direction. For some time David had been reflecting on how the media ministry at First Baptist had grown, and David found himself praying, “Is this all, God? Are we doing everything you want us to with all the media resources you’ve provided for us?”

During the sabbatical, and continuing over the next few months, David’s thoughts began to formulate into an idea for a movie that would communicate the gospel in a fresh way. A film that would speak of Jesus’ love, especially to 20-30-year-olds who were not involved in church. David was drawn to Luke 15 where Jesus told three parables: the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son. It was the story of the prodigal son that drew his attention.

The Return of the Prodigal Son

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

“If you think about it, the parable of the prodigal son speaks to all of us. You have the younger son who completely turns his back on his father and his father’s way of life, just like so many of us have done with our heavenly Father.

Then you have the other son, who lives his life by the rules, being careful to do everything exactly as required, which is much like the religious folks of Jesus’ day who were only concerned with the external rule-keeping. Not so much different from the way many folks outside of the church perceive those who are church-goers.

And, throughout the parable, Jesus teaches that God loves both – they are His children.” He decided to take the parable, with the theme of unconditional love and God’s grace, and put it into a modern setting.

In early 2012, Deb Hocutt and Matthew Brown, both members of First Baptist, joined David to begin writing a script. By mid-summer, the script had developed to the point that they began sending it to folks to read and review. The comments that they received weren’t exactly what they expected. “The consensus was that we had written a typical Christian movie. Not necessarily that it was bad, but it was completely predictable. Lots of drama, characters listen to a moving sermon, someone walks down the aisle, and everything works out fine.

But we knew that a movie like this would never appeal to a person who wasn’t already involved in a church,” David explained. “And, we were looking for something that was full of spiritual truth and depth, and would appeal to those folks who would have the tendency to not give a ‘typical’ Christian movie a second thought.”

It wasn’t long before they began to realize that the movie needed to be a different genre. It was during a conversation with Jim Somerville that the idea of a comedy started taking shape, and they began rewriting in earnest. By late 2012, the script had developed to the point they needed to get an objective, professional “script doctor” to review it. Through a series of contacts David describes as “a God-thing,” they found such a person in Greg Womble of Birmingham, Alabama. Greg joined the writing team and led the drafting of the final script.

The script is now finished and the team has moved into the next phase: raising production money. “We need $750,000, but the value of the production is much larger since so many of the people are working without compensation and many of the goods and services are being donated or deeply discounted,” David explained. “If we had to pay for everything, the value of this film would most likely far exceed $2 million.”

The church’s Communication Team initiated the establishment of an independent production company, Belltower Pictures, to produce and distribute the film, Shooting the Prodigal. This company is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit entity, enabling the acceptance of tax-deductible gifts. Already, they have gathered 72% of their needed production budget which includes gifts from the FBC Endowment Fund and several individuals, both within and beyond the FBC family.

David Powers

David Powers

Along the way, David has gained an amazing knowledge of all the hard work it takes to write a script, get funding, and start work on the actual process of filming. “And,” David said, “I know the story of the Prodigal Son in a more intimate way than I ever imagined. It’s an amazing story of God’s love and a story the whole world needs to hear.”

Editor’s Note: There are many ways to be involved in the production, including prayer support, participating as a member of the cast or crew, helping with the production office, providing goods and services, and making a financial contribution. Visit www.Belltowerpictures.com for details. You may also follow David’s blog for updates on the film.

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