Our team was invited to see a rough cut of the upcoming film To Save a Life (official site, IMDb listing) today courtesy of Jim Britts, the writer and producer of the film (there’s a connection to Saddleback – he was a volunteer here years ago). It was a great chance to see this promising movie way early in the process, the final version is due to arrive Fall 2009. The film is the brainchild of Jim and New Song Community Church just down the road in Oceanside, California.
First off, I have to admit – I’m usually one of those guys that thinks, “argh – a Christian movie?” but this time I was totally and pleasantly surprised. While the version of the film we saw was 2 hours long and far from complete, I was excited to see the most realistic portrayal of student life so far in Christian filmmaking. In fact, I hope the producers in the final months of post-production can even turn it up a notch further.
To Save a Life is the story of Jake Taylor, star athelete and ladies man. His life is perfect and popular, but that ideal life comes at the expense of his childhood friend Roger Dawson. Roger takes his own life in a tragic school shooting that sends Jake’s life spiraling out of control and sets the stage for his last few challenging months of high school and a journey that will change his life forever.
There are some laughs (including the senior pastor vs. youth pastor scenes, which might not make the cut in the final edit), some poignant moments and multiple powerful messages that I think will speak loudly to teens. Easily my favorite scene of the entire film was the sequence where one character narrates his MySpace poem written the night before his suicide. The film flashes moments of genuine brilliance, and the multiple storylines all lead to a satisfying ending. Youth pastors – this is a film that has some great messages and has great potential to be seen in small groups or in a service. While it has some doses of reality in it we might typically shy away from in a church setting (the film is looking PG-13 in its current form for thematic images), it is shown when story-critical and is tastefully done.
I’ll go on the record now and say while Christian film-making still hasn’t fully arrived, this is a giant leap forward from the typical fare and I’m absolutely excited about it’s potential. To think much of this came from a church is absolutely astounding. The producers should be intensely proud of their work, I hope the projects finds a distributor and the last pieces come together in the next few months.
Watch the trailer, see behind the scenes photos and maybe catch an advance screening it at the PDYM Conference (I’m passing the idea along to the Group Conference as well). Stay tuned for this film to open in theaters in Fall 2009.