“Seven Deadly Words” is a DocuDrama about a new pastor and the church’s resistance to change. The Seven Deadly Words…
“We’ve never done it that way before.”
What is your filmmaking background?
I started in media as a news producer and on-air talent for a CBS news affiliate, Eventually moving to Station Manager in a small community in New England. While there, I had the opportunity to work as a background actor in “Disappearances” with Kris Kristofferson. That experience solidified in me the desire to enter the field of film production. Eventually, I studied under Dov Simmons (the same teacher of Quentin Tarantino and Will Smith among others).
What led to the idea for the movie?
For almost two decades I served as a pastor, church planter, and restart consultant. I have seen both the good and bad about churches going through change. I’ve even lived through some “horror stories” of my own. I thought I would combine some of those ideas, stories, and debates, and put them together into a film that could tell the story of one church, going through needed change. Folks may be shocked at some of the things that happen, but I am sorry to say that much of the film is inspired by actual events. In the end, however, it is a story about overcoming the conflict surrounding change, and growing in a direction that is Christ centered and ministry focused.
I wrote the script to be a DocuDrama, as if the story is being filmed by two students. In this way we could break the fourth wall on occasion and draw the audience in as if they were an actual spectator to the events that take place.
When did you begin work on the movie?
Script development began back in 2011. We assembled the cast and crew in early 2012, and began principal photography on June 9th of 2012. Three weeks later, we had the footage we needed. Post production has been going on since, and is anticipated to be completed in June.
How did you select your cast and crew?
Filming in Indiana, we secured some of our talent locally, including Miss Black USA/Indiana Kendra LaSalle and amazing sound artist Thomas A. Johnson. Some other actors traveled in from Florida, The Carolinas, and Chicago. Several of our key people had credits in feature films, television, and stage. Our Makeup/hair team came direct from LA.
My Director of Photography , SunJae Smith, is a filmmaker from the Washington DC area and a producer of his own independent faith based features. I saw his film “Ai Means Love”, and thought his unique story telling eye would be an interesting match for my DocuDrama script. His extended family are all involved in filmmaking, and so many of them came on board. We also used a number of interns in support roles. I am a big fan of internships!
Describe a typical day of filming.
As a producer and director, I believe that a good day filming is created weeks before, during preproduction. We had very detailed call sheets, shot lists, and script notes. This made the days run fairly smoothly. Typically we would start around 6 am. Crew and crafty arriving first, and cast for that day going into MU/H. After prayer, filming would start around 7:30am and would often break for lunch around 12 or 1. We had an amazing Johnson and Wales trained Chef as our catering director (who also happens to be my wife)!
We would try to get our extras out early (shoot wide, move small) and focus on our close takes with our actors as the scene shooting moved along. Because of our preparations in advance, we often finished with filming for the day by 4 or 5 pm. In many ways it did not feel like an indie set, but more like a SAG set. This gave the cast a crew time to rehearse, relax, and socialize in the evenings. And we still finished the entire film, securing all shots we needed plus some, in the 18 days scheduled (six days shooting and one for rest).
I believe that well rested actors and crew can give a much better performance in fewer takes than a crew working 16 to 18 hours a day on a mismanaged set.
By the way, All of our effects were done “in lens”, such as the car chase scene being shot backwards and then flipped in the edit. And many of our indoor night scenes were shot with black plastic taped over the outside of the windows, so we could keep our actors on a fairly consistent schedule. When we did have night shots, I also had a later call time the next day, to give everyone a chance to ease back into the morning schedule.
What is your favorite scene in the movie?
I am partial to the scene where Pastor Evan is in the diner talking with Walt the Amtrak agent and Kim the Waitress. In that 3 minutes or so of footage, you get the gist of what damage confict in a church can do to the members, and how it can affect a church’s reputation in the community. At the same time, in this scene you see how even that past negative image can be turned around and used as a witnessing tool.
Which character do you most closely identify?
While I love the performances of my acting team, I have to say I identify with Pastor Evan Bennett (played by Roy Lynam) most simply because I was there… I have been a pastor in the midst of a church change conflict. I feel for his family, I hurt for his challenges, and I celebrate in the victories.
What is your goal for the movie?
I want people who see this to walk away saying, you know, if that church can overcome in Christ even in those circumstances, well than so can we. I want to bring a message of hope in the midst of change to the church community.
Also, I want pre-Christians to see that church folk are real people… that there are good and bad moments in each person. You can’t use the failings of humanity as an excuse to avoid your own need for a relationship with God. I had a secular filmmaker who saw the edit so far say to me “This is a movie that could get an Atheist talking about faith.” To me, that is high praise.
I also want this film to be my “Flywheel”. I look forward to producing other films, and also offering my services as a director to other producers. To me, this is my calling and ministry. You can visit www.docbenson.org to connect with me.