Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's first full-length Christian movie
Known for producing films portraying a culture of guns and violence, Jamaica is on the cusp of showing its first full-length Christian movie, titled Just Another Friday.
The movie is now being filmed in Ocho Rios, says author and playwright, Judith Falloon-Reid, who is co-producing the film with husband, veteran television producer, Michael Brown. The film is produced in partnership with the Youth for Christ Ministry and its drama group, Acts 12.
Just Another Friday is set in Easter, and will take movie goers through the conflicts between a Christian teen and her worldly brother, a husband and wife and the influences of their visiting relatives.
Falloon-Reid says, for a country that boasts so many churches and Christians, she feels that the Christian culture should be given just as much attention as the guns and violence that permeates the environment.
Aimed at providing an evangelism tool for churches and ministries to reach out to the youth, the two producers point out that, although the target market is young people, teens and young adults, "There are several themes embedded that target different people. The disillusioned mother. The careless father".
At the end of the day, they concur that it's a movie that almost anyone, male or female, Christian and non-Christian can take lessons from. The movie will be subtitled for overseas viewers.
The movie is based on a play of the same name, performed by a number of drama groups in Florida and twice by Acts 12.
The play was presented in Kingston two years ago and then recorded for television. It was aired on FLOW and Love TV and the response was overwhelming, said Brown.
According to him, as a result of the play and the prayer line phone number released at the end of the credits, a lot of lives were changed.
"The response from those whose lives were impacted was so strong that we decided to make it into a movie so that it could impact more lives worldwide."
Taking viewers deeper into the film, Falloon-Reid, who is known for involvement in the Gospel Rhythms television show, said the storyline sees lead actor, Leon Simpson, the wayward son, and his friends deciding to go partying on Good Friday. They realise that, although Friday nights are usually made for having fun, Good Friday is not Just Another Friday.
As the teens in the movie work out their conflicts, the adults also face their own dilemmas. With the underlying theme that tomorrow is promised to no one, Just Another Friday provides a stark reminder that old and young alike need God.
"Ideally, the film explores the dynamics of two families and their struggles with life and God," revealed Falloon-Reid.
The struggles faced by the families in the movie are also a reality during filming as Brown's company, BarriVision, has had to foot the bill for the production.
"Our main challenge is funds. 60 per cent of all the proceeds will go to the work of the Jamaica Youth for Christ - in perpetuity, but the organisation has no funds. BarriVision is putting up the production and Youth for Christ actors are putting up their talent, but there are still real production costs."
He added that their telephone calls, emails, letters, etc, to corporations have mostly gone unanswered.
"We need funds, but we also need donations in kind. For example, feeding cast and crew during filming days is expensive. Housing the cast and crew comfortably is a challenge."
The husband-and-wife team isn't about to give up because of the challenges. With a proven track record in the business, the two returned to Jamaica in 2009, having lived in the United States for several years.
Behind their names is Gospel Rhythms, a weekly Gospel entertainment programme airing on Flow TV, Love TV, CaribVision, and CIN in New York. The company also produces My LiKKle Food Spot and Where in JA is Dry Lan' Touris'?, both of which completed successful seasons on CVM TV.
Just Another Friday is the fulfilment of a dream and a mission to contribute to the work of the Jamaica Youth for Christ on a substantial and lasting basis.
The Jamaica Youth for Christ drama ministry, Acts 12 cast, is joined by several members of the gospel music fraternity who lend their talent to the production.
The Simpson family
Cedric Simpson is played by Omar Letford, former director of ministries for Jamaica Youth for Christ, and co-host of the television show, Gospel Rhythms.
Marcia Simpson, Cedric's wife, is played by Kayla Wilson, active dramatist with Acts 12.
Leon Simpson, the wayward son, is played by Arthur Allen, the director of Acts 12 Drama Ministry.
Sonia Simpson, the over-saved daughter, is played by University student Vanessa Clarke, a finalist in the 2012 Miss Kingston Festival Queen.
The Thompson family
Howard Thompson is the head of his family and is played by Marc Hasse, theology student and aspiring minister.
Celia Thompson, Marcia's sister, is played by Gospel artiste Deneese Wright, who also lends her music to the soundtrack.
Kelly Thompson, the recently saved daughter of the Thompson family, is played by University student Venessa Watson.
John, Leon's best friend who is determined to head down the wrong path, is played by veteran actor Andrew Jones, whose directing expertise has also touched the project.
Rev Dexter Johnson plays himself, a man of God with a heart for youth and lost souls.
Glock, the don who remains mostly in the shadows, is played by award-winning Gospel recording artiste Lubert Levy, whose music is also on the soundtrack.