The faith-based movie directed by Hope College alum Joel Paul Reisig was supposed to debut in theatres for a run on Thanksgiving weekend.
Then came the Nov. 17 pandemic-induced edict that closed film houses and similar venues for three consecutive weeks statewide.
"It's extremely disappointing," noted Reisig of the lost opportunity. "But it's an important movie. Please consider bringing it into your homes this season."
The film – shot entirely in southeast Michigan – stars veteran actors Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain. But the main character is a firefighter portrayed by Detroit-born actor Nick Vlassospoulos. After losing his wife to cancer and then learning of his young daughter's carcinoma diagnosis, his life descends into hopelessness until a persistent pastor reaches out to help.
"I think the main message of the film is: don't quit," said Reisig, who also co-wrote the script. "The movie can be hard to watch at times because we stuck with the reality of many peoples' situations. But something good can always come out of something bad."
Cain plays the pastor and Sorbo a doctor. Both have done numerous faith-based films - Cain most recently in "One Life At A Time," which was shot in Grand Rapids and debuted in October (see our article online).
Although unlikely to reach Michigan theatres, "Faith Under Fire" is scheduled to be released on DVD and digitally on Dec. 8 (see the trailer online ).
A DIRECTOR'S LIFE SCRIPT
Reisig's bio lists various film projects and other creative accomplishments. He had an acting bug even during his days at Hope College. "I did one or two plays at Holland Civic Theatre," he recalled.
He was a double major – English and Business – both of which have served him well in his career. "Film- making is very much a business and creative writing is crucial in writing or rewriting scripts," he said.
For "Faith Under Fire" Reisig partnered with Generation Courage, a southeast Michigan-based company dedicated to producing high-quality, entertaining Christian films.
"We actually raised our budget for this film solely through sponsorships and donors," he reported.
FILM MAKING 101
The fire-fighting scenes were one of the main challenges in making the film. "We were lucky to be working directly with the Northville (Mich.) fire department," said Reisig of all the gear and trucks lent to the project by Northville Township. "You see the guys in the background of some of those scenes; those are probably real firefighters."
In one of the dramatic scenes early in the movie, a young girl is saved from an intense house fire.
Reisig kept his own acting skills sharp for the film. He has a small role as a friend of fireman Tom Hatcher, the lead character.
Fortunately COVID-19 restrictions did not affect the filming - they "wrapped" the project before last March.
CORONAVIRUS AND THE MOVIES
But what COVID has affected is distribution and revenue on the production's back end. "I believe if it weren't for (the pandemic) we would have opened on 75 screens across the country and done four to five hundred thousand (dollars) in business. And that would have been nice for the company to build on," he said.
Since its initial scheduling, several states have shuttered theatres, including Michigan. "Faith Under Fire" lost showings at eight Michigan cinaplexes, including Rivertown and Celebration North in Grand Rapids. With a DVD and on-demand/streaming release date of Dec. 8, those theatres likely won't be rescheduled.
Also, churches can arrange to show the film and there's a promotional "campaign" guide and study/discussion curriculum. But pandemic limitations on church gatherings are affecting that market as well (more information at www.faithunderfirefilm.com).
Reisig's next film project is "Trafficked," with a script based on true stories of teenage girls who are abducted and enslaved as part of the human trafficking industry. This movie was also filmed in Michigan, including locations in Holland and Grand Rapids. It should premier early in 2021.
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