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Works in progress

"Works in progress" Continued...

Issue: "Broken beyond repair?," Sept. 25, 2010

Part room mother, part crew therapist, part short-order cook, Mary filled every gap the movie­making crew had. "Giving birth was easier," she says. From writing the script to the final edits, co-producing as a couple took its toll. The Pruitts say the single most difficult part of making a movie together was working through issues as husband and wife in full view of their cast and crew, most of whom were single. "Paul and Barnabas thought they had it tough preaching," says Steve. "They should have tried making a movie together."

Problems-from actors leaving town and going back to school, to explaining to the neighbors the trailer in their driveway and nightly unloading of equipment-plagued production. Although the cliché in the moviemaking world is that "all mistakes are made in pre-production," the Pruitts found that potentially fatal mistakes could happen at any point in the process. While observers may think of moviemaking as standing behind a camera, Steve says that shooting great scenes was the least of their worries. A film with a great script, great actors, and great camera work is easily botched with bad sound or bad editing. According to him, "You're really never out of the woods until you're finished."

Working with a skeleton crew of about a dozen people, the Pruitts were forced, during certain scenes, to use Sam Kane (who plays the movie's villain, Frederick Kane, and is also a friend from Sunday school) to man the boom. Crises were the norm. It was so hot outside as they shot a scene in which the lead and his friend are saying goodbye to each other that they left cars running and reimbursed the actors for gas so they could sit in an air-conditioning between takes. "It was our low-rent version of a trailer," says Mary. She said she also put ice bags on the cameras to keep them cool enough to work.

Christ Community Church, the Pruitts' home church in Leawood, Kan., played an integral part in the movie. Several cast and crew members, including many extras, were friends from church. Half of the film company's outside funding came from church friends. Most of the music used in the movie was created by their church's worship leaders, Randy Bonidield, Patrick Largen, and Tim Seeley. Sara Groves, a Christian artist, allowed them to use two of her songs after they met her at a concert at their church. It was "the body of Christ at work," Mary says. Both Pruitts love the gallery scenes in the movie because most of the people milling around are extras from their church. Each scene was shot on a different night. Each person had to show up each time. "Imagine walking around in circles and not drinking your faux glass of wine for four hours," says Mary. "There's a special place in heaven for those folks."

The leads in Works in Progress had never appeared in a movie before. Greg Brostrom, the male lead who plays John Weatherford, was recommended by one of the Pruitts' daughters who knew him at Wheaton College. They found the female lead, Christina Blodgett, who plays Abbey Sanderson, through a local audition. Ben Jeffery plays Patrick O'Reilly, "the heart and soul" of the film. He was not what the Pruitts initially had in mind for the lead's best friend, but, after hearing him read for the part, they found him perfect for the role. Kate Bartholomew, who plays Abbey's best friend, also didn't fit the Pruitts' initial concept of the character, but soon won them over with her comedic portrayal of Margo. Seasoned filmmakers told them to go with the best actors they could find, so even though they picked actors and actresses who sometimes challenged their expectations, the Pruitts don't regret their decisions.

With no thinly veiled sermon, Works in Progress parts ways with Christian films like Fireproof or Facing the Giants. Steve says he feels that film is not an effective evangelistic medium, referring to a book by Paul Marshall (Heaven is Not My Home), which notes that most people who watch Christian movies are, well, Christians. Those who aren't, are either unaware these movies exist or hate them. According to Marshall, a good film is "always allusive, suggestive, and alluring; it hints, it frames, and it touches. It does not come right out and state the case; it does not argue."

Christian movies often follow an evangelistic formula because, as Marshall says, "We are impatient with the allusion, the gesture, the suggested, and latent. We want the straightforward sermon, not the implied question."

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