Cinematic Arts Graduates Impact the Film Industry

By Amelia Whittaker, October 11, 2017

Each story in this special feature section demonstrates a tenet of the “We The Champions” Declaration, part of a university-wide project that aims to tell the world how Liberty is fulfilling its mission of Training Champions for Christ.

We The Champions: Defy Stereotypes

Drew DeFosset (’17) helps with camera equipment on the set of “Indivisible.” (Photo courtesy of Kara Tolley)

Though Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center was only established five years ago, graduates are working their way up in the film industry, landing jobs on feature films with well-known leads.

Over the summer, graduates filled various roles on the crew of “Indivisible,” a faith-based picture with two lead actors known for their work on “Grey’s Anatomy:” Justin Bruening, who played Matthew Taylor on the show, and Sarah Drew, who has played Dr. April Kepner since 2009. After wrapping up filming in Memphis, Tenn., and Santa Clarita, Calif., some of the alumni then moved on to the set of a family sci-fi adventure, “F.R.E.D.I.,” starring Angus Macfadyen (of “Braveheart” fame) and Kelly Hu, who is known for her starring roles in “X2: X-Men United” and Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series.

The Santa Clarita portions of “Indivisible” were filmed in the same studio where tentpole projects like “Iron Man” and “American Sniper” were filmed.

Austin Stumvoll, who graduated in May, was an assistant producer for “Indivisible.” He worked both inside and outside the office, gaining a deeper understanding of what it takes to create a film, start-to-finish.

“It was really neat when I was on set and got to observe this thing that was once an idea turn into a black-and-white script and then an actual film,” Stumvoll said. “My favorite part of the project was day one when they first hit record and yelled ‘Action.’ It was amazing to see the actual movie-making process — not in theory, but the real process happening in front of you — and getting to be a part of it.”

Stumvoll said interacting with different departments on set came naturally to him because of the experience he gained at Liberty. During the first semester of the film program, students are taught what each specific department does and how to operate every piece of equipment.

“The film school at Liberty is total immersion, which is something that other film schools are not,” Stumvoll said. “Being able to understand how every department works together as a whole, and how every aspect of the filmmaking process works, is invaluable.”

Stumvoll and 2017 graduate Drew DeFosset moved straight from “Indivisible” to the set of “F.R.E.D.I.,” a story about a teenager who finds a robot recently stolen from a research facility.

As students continue to pursue their dreams in the film industry, Stumvoll believes that opportunities will continue to arise.

“To be good at anything, you have to follow the path God has set and decide that there is no Plan B,” Stumvoll said. “You have to say, ‘There is no backup,’ and you go all in. It can be scary at times, especially in the film industry because there are no guarantees. You learn to let go of control of your life and put all your faith into allowing God to direct you.”

Liberty’s cinematic arts program is a two-year immersion cohort program where students concentrate solely on filmmaking. In addition to creating their own short film and business plan, students earn at least one IMDb credit on a professional film project. Read about the program’s recent project, “Extraordinary.”

To be involved in the “We The Champions” project and read more inspiring stories from the Liberty community, visit and follow #WeTheChampions on social media.

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