- By Melanie Oelrich
- Published: January 22nd, 2013
The new faith-based film premiered Jan. 19
The worship center at Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) filled to capacity Saturday, Jan. 19, as the world premiere of the new faith-based movie “Finding Faith” was introduced to a crowd of cast members, family, friends, local police and community members.
In association with TRBC and Liberty University, “Finding Faith” is a film that focuses on bringing awareness to the dangers of Internet child predators. The film stars Erik Estrada, formerly known as “Ponch” from the ‘70s show “CHiPs.” Estrada portrays Sheriff Mike Brown, the Bedford County sheriff who has been in command of the Safe Surfin’ Foundation since 2000.
“I’m so jazzed to see how far Safe Surfin’ has come,” Estrada said. “We’re just trying to make people aware of a case that actually occurred. These kids are losing their innocence before their time.”
Estrada strongly believes that this movie is a good start to not only ending such crime, but also educating this generation about Internet safety needs.
“The best way for protection is prevention, and the best way for prevention is education,” Estrada said.
According to the Safe Surfin’ website, “Finding Faith” is based on a compilation of actual events that Sheriff Brown has investigated through his Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. Jason Campbell, the Executive Producer of the film, began the screenplay for the movie after he heard the story of a victim who courageously came forward about how she was abducted by a child predator and how she remained captive for three days before being rescued by law enforcement.
“My daughter and I were eating at a restaurant in Jacksonville, Fla., and we sat down and began the screenplay for the movie,” Campbell said. “It took a few hours, but it all came together.”
Sen. Steve Newman and Delegate Scott Garrett both attended the premiere to award Brown with a flag of the commonwealth of Virginia, which was flown over the Capitol in Richmond to honor Brown’s work protecting children from such crimes.
“Sheriff Mike Brown has tremendous support in Bedford County, but when it comes to Richmond, the state police in Northern Virginia have formed an ICAC unit based on Mike’s program,” Newman said. “What an impact he’s made on lives throughout Virginia and throughout the country.”
Garrett also spoke highly of Brown, referring to him as a “great leader.”
“He has inspired men and women to do things that they may not have thought they could do,” Garrett said. “On behalf of Sen. Newman and others, we have this opportunity now to acknowledge Sheriff Mike Brown on how much his work means to the commonwealth of Virginia.”
Jonathan Phillips, who plays Internet predator Edwin Doss, credits a friend for his role in the film.
“I had a friend who wanted to audition for the movie and asked me to go along with her,” Phillips said. “I actually got a smaller part in the beginning, but a few of the casting workers knew me from before, so they upped my role to be the bad guy.”
According to Phillips, one of the biggest things about this premiere is the meaning behind the movie and knowing that it could touch and save a life.
“Obviously, it’s exciting to see all of this. We’re excited to see the movie, and it’s great to be here with my beautiful bride,” Phillips said. “You know, if we can save one child through the impacts of this movie, then we’ve done our job.”
With all of the research and time spent on studying online predators to get more into his character, Phillips, a father of five, felt the need to go home and hug his children that much more.
“This movie is real. You don’t really see films like this, and there’s no way you could come away from this movie not thinking more about how you can protect your teenagers at home.”
According to Pastor Jonathan Falwell, the film is just another tool to keep kids from the danger that the Internet brings, but he also believes that, if used properly, it can be a great asset to everyday life.
“The Internet is a great tool and is almost to the point where it’s needed for everything these days,” Falwell said. “But obviously, anytime something is that pervasive and that good, there can be a lot of bad to it. Focus on what’s good — it’s the same thing in life.”
Following the premiere, a few of the cast members, along with Campbell and Estrada, will tour the country and play the film in various venues in hopes of touching lives and spreading awareness about Internet crime.