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New film company offers students opportunity to impact culture

November 8, 2013 : Liberty University News Service

Missionary Men movie posterAs Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center continues to expand, students are receiving more opportunities to work on movie sets and gain real-life experience to supplement their classroom learning.

John Struhar, one of three founders of United Christian Films (UCF), a new film company headquartered in the Lancaster, Pa., area, plans to create feature-length films that appeal to teenagers and young adults with the help of Liberty students.

“The films will have a balance of mainstream actors, humor, and a solid Gospel message,” Struhar said. “We plan to create films that draw secular society into the theater as well as Christians looking for wholesome and funny films.”

Stephan Schultze, Liberty’s executive director of cinematic arts, said it is exciting to see filmmakers start to request Liberty students for their productions.

“Getting credits on distributable films is what it is all about. These credits help our students become more valuable and, in turn, penetrate the film industry more successfully,” Schultze said. “It will not be long before our students are leading and creating content that shapes storytelling for the next generation.”

Students will have a chance to work on the company’s first film, “Missionary Men.” The script is about three young men of faith and one non-believer who go on a road trip from Kansas City to South America to win a contest. Through the challenges they face along the way, they learn what is truly important.

Liberty University film students at a promotional event.
Students of Liberty University's Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center operate cameras during a casting call and promotional event for the program on Nov. 2. View more photos from the event on Facebook.

Struhar said UCF hopes to be able to financially invest in Liberty’s cinematic arts department in the future to assist in raising up the next generation of Christian filmmakers. The company has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for production. Once funds are established, the goal is to begin filming this summer at locations in California and Hawaii.

Struhar said the mission focus will not only be present in the film; the set will be a real mission field, too.

“We see the film in itself being a mission, thus, we want to have interns from Liberty involved, because we want our set to be a mixture of Christians and non-believers,” Struhar said. “One of our missions is to not only give Liberty students an opportunity to learn about a Hollywood set, but it will also give them the chance to work with non-Christians.”

Liberty’s cinematic arts students have already engaged in multiple opportunities to gain industry experience. In the spring, all juniors and seniors worked on the set of “Letting Go,” the center’s first full-length feature film, part of a five-year, multimillion dollar partnership with EchoLight Studios. This summer, several students assumed various roles on the sets of two feature-length movies, working with celebrities such as Billy Ray Cyrus, Sean Astin, and Patricia Heaton. Students also worked on post-production editing for the DVD special features of Kirk Cameron’s “Unstoppable,” releasing in January.

  • Liberty’s Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center officially launched last year. Students accepted as cinematic arts majors enter an immersion program their junior year, in which they are devoted solely to their filmmaking academia. Every graduate of Liberty’s cinematic arts program will graduate with a completed screenplay, a business plan to market and fund it, a short film they have written and directed, and real-world career experience, including feature-film credit and work with industry veterans.