Virginia Beach – God calls individuals from all fields to establish careers that glorify His name and represent Him through Christian leadership. Filmmaking is a line of work that Regent University students are exemplifying through their work on Endowed Films.
Regent film students are finalizing the fall 2023 endowed film with guidance from executive producer Jonathan Nail, an assistant professor of media and visual arts at Regent University. Endowed films allow students to experience working on a budgeted film. Through Nail’s guidance, these students learn about the art of filmmaking and how they can represent Christ through their work.
Nail mentioned, “…the goal of the endowed is to raise up a generation of Christian filmmakers that we can send into the world to make technically proficient content for an increasingly lost world.”
Each semester, Regent University faculty go through a multi-level approval process to choose a screenplay from numerous entries. They provide the chosen screenplay with a scholarship of $15,000 to create a quality film. Last semester, Mariah Young, a screenwriter and senior at Regent University, had the honor of receiving the fall 2023 endowed scholarship for her screenplay, “Aria of Ashe.”
The Screenplay in the Works
After deciding that she wanted to enter a screenplay into the competition, Young quickly landed on the story of “Aria of Ashe.”
The story follows a young woman named Amy over the course of a year, who is coping with the possibility of being the last person on earth. Her response is running a radio show. Through her radio show, Amy tries to remain cheerful in the apocalyptic world she lives in. Amy triumphs over feelings of loneliness, leading to an ending that surprises the audience and reinforces the idea of redemption.
With a story established, Young submitted the piece and waited months before receiving confirmation that the faculty had selected her screenplay. This experience has taught her to trust in herself and believe in her abilities as a screenwriter.
Young said, “It’s [the endowed scholarship] been a huge motivator… They always say you are your own worst critic, and that was like my realization… It’s all about trying, at least. Creating for the sake of creating and throwing it out there.”
Now that Young’s screenplay is being adapted into a film, the next step is choosing the right crew to bring her vision to life.
The Visual Adaptation
For “Aria of Ashe”, the process of filling all the roles was slower than normal, and took three weeks. Through this process, “Aria of Ashe” gained a dedicated crew unified under the goal of creating a quality film. Marcus Carrola was chosen as the director for “Aria of Ashe,” and is excited to help lead this project.
Carrola, a senior at Regent University, shared that when directing a film, it is essential to enact a personal vision while staying true to the screenwriter’s message.
He stated, “It’s finding your take… It’s an enhancement, or finding that pinnacle display of what that idea was meant to be.”
With this mentality, Carolla worked to create the perfect film that embraced the idea of loneliness. His work included finding an actor who embodied Amy’s character, creating a setting that opened Amy’s small world to the audience, and overseeing the post-production process to ensure the film’s message never changed.
Carrola stated, “It has a really beautiful story about the necessity of connection.”
When choosing an actress for the role of Amy, Kendall Hince, the casting director and a senior at Regent University, wanted to find someone who could express the deep emotions present in Amy. She needed to find an actress who understood how to show the middle point between loneliness and cheerfulness.
The team had over 80 actresses interested in the part, but only three captured the team’s attention. Casey McCullum ultimately landed the role.
Hince stated, “She had the range that we were looking for… Some of the actresses that we liked could show parts of Amy that we wanted, but Casey… had the range to get more excited on her [Amy’s] radio show but also really sad…”
While the film found its Amy, the team adapted the setting and sound to match the aesthetic of the post-apocalyptic world. The crew built a cabin on the film stage allowing versatility for them to film all the scenes in one place. They have also been working with a composer, Regent University student Seth Krispin, to capture the film’s mood in a musical sense.
Carrola shared that he and Krispin have discovered that the music that fits the film is “heavily experimental.”
Carrola stated, “For Amy’s story purposes… [there are] disconnected pieces that must play together as a mosaic, and I find that that emotional tone is best found through that approach…”
The next step for the team was to enter the post-production process. Through post-production, Carrola and the editors are joining the pieces to create the story Young and the team have envisioned.
Carrola said, “I think it’s really awesome how God [has]…worked to get all these people together for this project, and I’m really excited to see how it shapes out.”
The Finished Product
The team estimates the film will be complete by late January. As post-production approaches finalization, the team will use an allotted amount of the budget to enter “Aria of Ashe” into film festivals. Through these, the team can showcase the value of Regent University’s film program and each student’s ability as a filmmaker.
Carrola shared that he plans to submit their film to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Milan International Film Festival (MIFF), and The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Capital Emmys).
Regent students will also witness the team’s final product on the big screen at the Regent Student Film Showcase. With these opportunities, many audiences will witness the hard work the students and Nail have put in to ensure a film that glorifies God and His plan for redemption.
Nail said, “When you leave an endowed film that has been produced by our movie studio, you should feel uplifted.”
While the message of redemption is not standard in films and television, Regent hopes to break that mold through endowed films. “Aria of Ashe” is an endowed film that shows students embracing hard work and Biblical principles, illustrating what it takes to become a Christian leader in the film and television industry.