This past weekend was the GloryReelz Christian Film Festival in Novi, Michigan, and our movie The Good Book was one of the official selections. We had no idea what to expect as this was our first year to attend, but I could tell from the start that festival director Sheri Brooks was passionate about the festival and was doing everything in her power to make it a positive experience for everyone involved.
Due to some last minute complications, the first hour was a little hectic, but thanks to plenty of advance planning, things quickly got on schedule and everything flowed smoothly the rest of the day. The slight delay just gave us an opportunity to mingle with other filmmakers and discuss our movies with each other.
The festival was set up so that two workshops and two film screenings were always going on simultaneously. Which meant that the hardest part of the day was deciding what to attend and feeling sad about having to miss some wonderful workshops and films.
Our family began the day with a workshop called “The Literary Career: Libraries & Schools” taught by author Karen White Owens. She graciously allowed plenty of time for questions about how libraries make their selections and how to attract library buyers to your products.
Next on our schedule was First Do No Harm, a short film with a powerful message about abortion. We all loved it and apparently the judges did as well as it received the award for Best Short Film.
Following First Do No Harm was Sudden Turns. We met filmmaker Jacob Brasser in the lobby and were intrigued when he told us his was a black and white movie. The movie is a period movie set in the early sixties, and I loved the titles and credits done in appropriate sixties style with cutesy animations. I’m a stickler for period pieces having proper clothes, vehicles, and sets, and they did a very good job of keeping it period correct. The only modern item that stuck out to me was the microwave in the kitchen, but neither Fred nor Brittany noticed it, so it must not have been very obvious. I especially enjoyed the sci-fi movie scene. Very well done.
The keynote speaker for the event was bestselling author Cecil Murphey, and he was definitely a highlight. I only hate that more people didn’t get to hear him. I spent most of the hour frantically trying to jot down as many of his words of wisdom as I could catch. Here are just a few of his wise words:
“I’d rather be disliked for who I am than liked for who I’m not.”
“If God is inspiring us, it will show in the finished product. It will resonate with people.”
“It’s not always that God wants us to publish everything, but we need to just get it out.”
“People identify with my failures more than my strengths.”
“That which we did not receive in childhood, we spend the rest of our life searching for.”
“We give to others what we want to receive for ourselves.”
In the afternoon we got to watch Seven Deadly Words. I’d seen it before at International Christian Film Festival and enjoyed watching it again.
Next came The Good Book and the audience responded very favorably. Several told us how much it touched them. Everyone who saw it seemed to “get” it.
After The Good Book was Fat Boys. We were familiar with this movie as it was done by Daryl Hall, brother of Donnie Hall, one of our actors in The Good Book movie, but this was our first chance to watch it. It’s a very funny movie! It’s the story of a youth group led by four overweight workers who call themselves the “Fat Boys”. It was told in a quirky style and included romance and even drama. The acting and writing were surprisingly well done and I loved all the characters. They definitely captured what it’s like to be in a church youth group. We were very excited when we got to meet three of the young actresses in the movie. Arien Wesner played “Martha” and also served as a Producer, Second Unit Director and Editor. Callie Dowd played one of the leads named “Abbi” and Adra Cooper played “Shanda”. They each did a fabulous job and were such a delight to meet.
Perhaps the thing I appreciated the most about the GloryReelz Christian Film Festival was Sheri’s attention to detail and her love and concern for the filmmakers. Before the awards ceremony, we had a Red Carpet where she interviewed each person in attendance. It was a special time where each person got to share about their movie or if they weren’t a filmmaker, to share about their experience watching the movies and attending the workshops.
Then came the awards ceremony. The first award was for Best Director and it went to Doc Benson for his work with Seven Deadly Words. Next was Best Biblical Message in a Modern Perspective and it went to Fat Boys. Best Cinematography went to Christmas Grace, a movie that was also in International Christian Film Festival and that I keep missing. I’m looking forward to when I finally get to watch it. Best Evangelistic was a tie with Pamphlet Man and Hope Without Walls. Best Film by a Church went to Harvest Christian for their documentary Hope For Hurting Hearts. Best Documentary went to Awakened. Chloe Borai won Best Trailblazer for her short film Bullycide. Next came Best Female Director. I knew that many of the films this year were directed by women and so I was quite surprised to hear my name called. While I was admiring the beautiful trophy, they announced First Do No Harm as the winner of Best Short. Then an award for Novel Ready to be Made Into Film to Aaron Davis. Then next thing i knew, they were announcing The Good Book as the Best Feature. Totally unexpected and extremely exciting.
I would have had a wonderful time at the festival had we left empty handed. I would have had the wisdom gained from the workshops and the enjoyment gained from the films. But then to receive not just one, but two awards, I must admit, I feel very honored and humbled. When you make a movie, you put your heart and soul into it. And when people “get” it and they’re blessed by it, well, it makes you feel like maybe, just maybe, the work was not done in vain.
There are so many great Christian movies being produced right now. Each one different. Each one with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each one sharing their own message and connecting with a specific audience. I can’t wait to see how God uses each movie to speak to people and reach them in a unique way.