Patrick Henry College
Chancellor Michael Farris takes direction
from Advent director George Escobar
Arriving on campus as a Literature major in fall of 2005, Patrick Henry College junior Peter Forbes had no idea that two years later he would be the Production Manager for an independent Christian film. Fascinated with moviemaking but aware that PHC didn’t yet offer a film program, Forbes assumed he would dabble in small student projects at his new school. And yet he felt God calling him to this small Christian liberal-arts college in northern Virginia.
Now, two years later, Forbes found himself crowded with more than thirty other Christians from across the nation into PHC’s Nash Auditorium for the first day of filming on a full-length feature.
“Quiet on the set!” calls PHC graduate Daniel Noa. Other graduates Ben Adams and Mike Holcomb are serving here as Associate Producers, while students Mari Davis, Daniel Silver, and Abby Cossette chart scenes or await further commands. Everyone waits for the word “Action” from the film’s director, George Escobar, founder of the new Advent Film Group (AFG).
The soft-spoken Escobar, a long-time PHC friend and patron, considered the College a promising setting from which to launch an independent Christian film program. Though no formal business relationship exists between PHC and Advent, the proximity of a pool of talented students with sights on impacting the culture for Christ, many already producing videos and films, seemed like a perfect fit.
“Why is it that major ‘Christian’ films in Hollywood such as Amazing Grace and The Chronicles of Narnia are done by secular directors?” he asks. “Because no Christians are qualified to direct with $100 million budgets.”
Since the Hollywood movie culture effectively excluded Christians., Escobar sought an alternative.
“Film school right now is a failure for Christians,” he adds. “My thought has been, let’s not just talk about movies or play around with poor-quality student films. Let’s go make movies!”
And Escobar knows how. Former Producing Fellow from the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, he spent many years in the Hollywood system before deciding that the nation’s entertainment media needed something very different. Christian films in particular, he felt, needed a facelift.
“We don’t want poor-quality movies that evangelize to Christians because nobody else can tolerate them,” he explained. “We want to make authentic movies about Christians facing tough moral, real-life issues; imperfect people who happen to hold a Christian worldview.”
Along those lines, AFG’s first project, which bears the working title of Moot Courting, follows the story of Caleb, a recent transfer to PHC, caught in a moral tug of war between his parents—a newly Christian father, and a feminist Supreme Court attorney mother. As the PHC moot court team and the Supreme Court simultaneously grapple with legal cases involving abortion, Caleb clashes with his mother and his own conscience over difficult issues of truth, compromise, and success in the intense world of collegiate moot court.
Escobar plans to film and produce five such movies over the next three years in collaboration with PHC, following the model of Facing the Giants, a “microbudget” Christian feature filmed for less than $100,000. He has raised all the money for “Moot Courting” from independent investors, and he expects that it will pay for AFG’s second movie from sales inside the homeschool community alone.
“We know this model works,” he says. “We don’t want to get ahead of the Lord.” But then he leans forward, eyes bright. “I have the audacious vision that Christians can overtake and match the quality and quantity of Hollywood productions over the next few decades. And we need to.”
PHC Trustee and AFG investor Paul de Pree agrees. “It also has always been a mission of PHC to get involved in cinema and change the way that industry presents reality. Our world is so in tune with video these days, that this is a great way to reach the common person. This also begins to share the story of PHC very effectively, in a way we had not been able to explore yet and may not be able to do otherwise.”
Escobar invites any Christian interested in participating in or donating to AFG to visit www.adventfilmgroup.com for more information.