OCEANSIDE — The statistic that the No. 1 influence on culture is movies and No. 17 is church, prompted New Song Community Church’s Steve Foster, executive pastor, to persuade church members to create a film with a solid Christian message.
It took three years and the work of 200 church volunteers to help produce “To Save a Life.”
The movie’s premiere at the Regal Theater on Jan. 21 was packed with church members who helped in the film. Some volunteered as support crew, others filled in as extras, and a few had speaking parts.
“People described the experience as ‘surreal’ to see yourself on film,” Foster said.
“To Save a Life” follows the story of star athlete Jake Taylor (played by Randy Wayne) as he comes of age, faces life’s challenges and finds God. Youth Pastor Jim Britts wrote the novel and screenplay. Pastors Britts and Foster worked as executive producers on the film.
Church member Jason Evans, 14, played young Jake in the movie. It was his first movie role. “It was crazy — food tents, monitors,” Jason said of the movie set.
The opening scene shows young Jake getting pushed out of the way of an oncoming car by his best friend Rodger. The car hits Rodger and leaves him crippled. The boys drift apart. Then Rodger commits suicide and Jake takes a hard look at his life.
“It was easy to feel the emotion of your best friend getting hurt,” Jason said.
The scene called for Jason to walk in front of an oncoming car. “We had a stunt driver, but it was hard not to flinch,” he said. “We ended up retaking the shot seven or eight times.”
The story is written from Britts’ real life experiences mentoring teens. Britts modeled the youth pastor in the movie after himself. “The youth pastor was the easiest character to write,” Britts said.
Britts said that his favorite scene is when the youth pastor and Jake have a conversation in the church parking lot. The dialogue is true to conversations that Britts has with teens who are looking for a sense of direction.
The pull of the film is the difficult challenges the teens face. A friend’s suicide, underage drinking, teen pregnancy, self-mutilation, and parents’ divorce are life tests the movie throws at its characters.
“It draws you in,” Councilman Jack Feller said. “This educational and inspirational movie needs to be seen by every young person 12 years and up.”
The movie is filled with local scenes. The campus of Guajome Park Academy in Vista, Oceanside Harbor shops and the lighthouse, and local beaches are the backdrops for the story. “The youth pastor’s house is my house,” Britts said.
The movie took six weeks to film and two years to edit and distribute.
“To Save a Life” will play in 440 theaters in its first week and then be released to 1,000 theaters nationwide.
The message of the movie is to reach out, help others and make a positive change. That is also the message New Song Community Church says it works to send to the community.
A follow up seven-week Bible education series for teens and parents that focuses on helping others is being held at New Song Community Church. There is also a DVD Bible lesson series available that follows the theme of “service” in the movie. “We’re working to raise the health level of families,” Hal Seed, senior pastor, said.
The next community outreach project for the church is to hold a free car wash and clean every car in Oceanside. Foster hopes to organize 200 car wash sites and 1,000 volunteers to create a mega car wash in September.