This time last year, Belltower Pictures was finishing up principal photography for our first feature film, SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL. We completed it on time and under budget!
- The film immediately attracted the attention of the film industry for its innovative approach.
- We are finishing a limited theatrical run in select cities across the country.
- It has screened in six film festivals.
- We signed a distribution deal with Virgil Films and Entertainment in New York.
- DVD and digital release is set for August 16, 2016.
We wanted to do three things:
1. tell great stories that make a difference in the world,
2. train the next generation of filmmakers, and
3. bring together a diverse group of people to work closely on a project that makes a positive impact.
Did we tell a great story that’s making a difference?
- Audience members and critics are responding to the film with overwhelming praise… like Tony Farrell, movie critic of the Richmond Times-Dispatch who wrote, “In a time that offers so much pinched-faced cynicism wherever we turn, this warmhearted movie comes as a blessed breath of fresh air.”
- Peter Wallace, producer/host of the Day1 radio program says, “Shooting the Prodigal is ingenious. The concept of having a church make a movie of the story of the prodigal son opens up the participants into experiencing the forgiving love the story is all about. The actors are wonderful, the story is powerful, but above all the message is desperately needed in these times of increasing division and mistrust of others. I hope we see more movies like this from Belltower Pictures.”
- Across the country, groups are screening the film and engaging in meaningful discussion around the themes raised in the film.
Now we’re actively developing our next projects: including an episodic (television series). Writers and producers have begun work in earnest. And we’re developing other scripts with an eye to the future.
Did we help train the next generation of filmmakers?
Fourteen student interns earned college credit or high school service credit by working on SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL. They gained valuable experience by working and training alongside seasoned professionals, learning as they made meaningful contributions to the production.
Many of these aspiring filmmakers earned their very first IMDb credit and an important entry on their resumes.
Here’s some of what one student wrote…
“This experience was one that I would not trade for a lifetime… Everyone was very courteous and worked extremely hard, which inspired me each and every day to do my absolute best. Even as we were shooting, [the cinematographer to which I was assigned] took time to teach me certain things regarding the workflow of the department, equipment, strong work habits, etc. Each person on the crew made me feel very comfortable working alongside them and my hope is to be able to work with all of them again someday, to be able to serve and learn as much as I can. I truly thank you for this opportunity and I’m thankful to Belltower Pictures for bringing quality filmmaking to the Richmond area!”
Now we’re building on the relationships we established with high schools and universities during the production of SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL. These relationships give students continuing hands-on learning opportunities. We are mentoring aspiring young filmmakers. And we are working to establish a screenwriting competition among students with scholarships awarded to winning scripts.
Did we bring together a diverse group to work closely on a project that makes a positive impact in the world?
Two hundred volunteers from 15 congregations came together to create SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL. They served meals, drove trucks, provided first aid and security, rigged lighting equipment, and served as background actors.
The atmosphere was open and accepting for those who were not part of any congregation. One of the professional crew members commented, “I was hesitant at first to accept this job. I’ve worked on faith-based films before. It seemed the first thing they wanted to do was convert me. But on this set, I saw love and acceptance demonstrated.”
Now we’re continuing to establish and strengthen relationships that will bring even more people together on future projects. We’re building relationships with congregations, organizations and groups beyond the Richmond area.
It has been a good year. But we’re not resting on our laurels. As we look to the future, we’re hard at work developing new projects… always seeking innovative ways to entertain, inspire, and tell great stories that make a difference in the world.