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Film students gain crew experience on two major upcoming Christian films

Two films expected to be among the largest faith-based releases of 2015, “War Room” and “Woodlawn,” feature numerous Liberty University Cinematic Arts Department students and graduates among their crew credits. Both films are going to be screened for free at Liberty’s annual Cinematic Arts Film Festival, which will be held Sept. 3-5. Producers for both films will hold Q&A sessions following the respective showings.

Liberty students have regularly excelled on the sets of prominent family-friendly film projects, serving in a wide range of production roles, from lighting and sound to camera work, wardrobe, and assisting directors.

“War Room,” the much-anticipated release from writer/director/producer team Stephen and Alex Kendrick — whose independent films such as “Fireproof” and “Courageous” have been box office leaders in the faith market — was filmed last summer in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area with the help of 12 students from Liberty’s Cinematic Arts Department. Scotty Curlee, an assistant professor of cinematic arts, has a speaking role in the film.

“War Room,” which hits theaters Aug. 28 in a nationwide Sony Pictures/TriStar release, seeks to affirm faith and ignite the power of prayer.

The film will be screened Friday, Sept. 4, at 9 p.m. at Regal Cinemas in the River Ridge Mall (adjacent to Liberty’s campus) as part of the Cinematic Arts Film Festival.

The brothers were very impressed with the professionalism and proficiency that Liberty’s students displayed on the set.

“Working with Liberty University’s film students was an excellent experience for us on the movie set for ‘War Room,’” Stephen Kendrick said. “They showed up well prepared, knowing the team positions and gear, and ready to dive in and work the long hours needed to pull off a feature production. They were a joy to work with and a huge asset to our crew. I definitely plan to do that again.”

The Kendricks, who seek to share biblical truth through compelling and well-made movies, have developed a strong relationship with Liberty’s Cinematic Arts Department since it launched in 2012. Two of “War Room’s” lead actors are starring in “God’s Compass,” the latest production coming out of the Cinematic Arts Department.

“Liberty’s commitment to academic excellence has translated into higher caliber students whose investment on our film set will now be seen on movie screens across the U.S. and in theaters in 19 countries around the world,” Stephen Kendrick said. “We can see, firsthand, that what has happened in the classroom is now helping us take the life-changing message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

Stephan Schultze, executive director of the Cinematic Arts Department, said that the relationships Liberty has established with the Kendrick brothers and other leaders in the film industry is a tremendous asset to the students.

“Throughout the year, our students have several opportunities to interact with professionals with notable success in the industry,” he said. “This has led to opportunities for them to work on film sets and begin establishing themselves in the industry. Because our program has a learn-by-doing focus, our students are stepping out of the classroom and onto film sets with ease, putting knowledge into action. And people like Stephen and Alex Kendrick are taking notice. Our goal is for Liberty graduates to saturate the industry and excel in all areas of filmmaking. So far, our students and graduates have done a tremendous job proving themselves, and I am excited to see what the future holds.”

“Woodlawn” is based on a true story set in 1973 Alabama. In the film, a racially divided high school football team encounters the transformative power of God’s love. Liberty had 10 students from its Cinematic Arts Department serve as interns on the set. Justin Tolley, one of the film’s producers, was also a producer for the upcoming Cinematic Arts feature “God’s Compass,” which filmed last spring.

During the festival, “Woodlawn” will be shown Thursday, Sept. 4, at Cinemark Movies 10 (in Candlers Station across from the north side of campus) at 6 p.m.

  • Liberty’s Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center is a unique, engaging program that trains the next generation of filmmakers in a Christian environment. Students who are accepted as cinematic arts majors spend their junior and senior years in an immersive cohort program dedicated solely to filmmaking, and every course leads them toward the completion of their film or group project. While enrolled, students also earn a credit on a feature film project.