When Adam Collins and Jared Belcher, two Carson-Newman juniors, were asked to travel to the Philippines to create a simple fundraising video clip for Arrowhead Church the summer of 2012, they had no idea the journey would lead them to where they are now, just days away from the premiere of their short film, “Refuge: Children of the Trash.”
The film, which morphed from the original simple fundraising video clip, is a story of Glenn, Mary-Grace and Melogin, three children living in Wesley Home for Youth in the Philippines.
However, the story begins with poverty. The children’s real home is the Cebu City dump and their existence centered around the struggles of poverty, gang violence and prostitution.
“The story shows where the kids were and where they came from in terms of poverty, where they were in terms of violence, and where they were brought to in terms of hope,” Belcher said. “Hope often tells the story of Rescue Ministries.”
Rescue Ministries, which founded and runs the WHY, began four years ago with a mission trip, but traces its roots back to 1998 when the ministry’s founder and executive director, Dustin Gent, first arrived in the city on a two-year Journeyman assignment to build churches.
Gent discovered the plight of the street children living in the city dump and knew he needed to do more. However, it would be nine years before he could return with volunteers from Jefferson City’s First United Methodist Church, which included several C-N students. This trip spurred the creation of Rescue Ministries and later, the construction of the WHY.
Gent knew the mission wasn’t over. The children dying and suffering on the streets of Cebu still had no voice.
“The film has given life and a voice to these kids of whom the world is blind to,” Gent said.
“Refuge” was shot during three weeks in July entirely by Collins and Belcher on a borrowed Cannon – EOS Rebel T3i and edited in borrowed office space. When they returned state-side, a few other students joined the crew as the project mushroomed and exploded to proportions they never dreamed possible.
It has even garnered the attention and partnership of James Hayward Brinkley, a voiceover actor who is the narrator of “Refuge.”
Brinkley may not be a household name, but many of his previous work is, including voice work on “Lemony Snicket a Series of Unfortunate Events” and narration for behind the scenes footage on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The film team consists of four C-N juniors: Belcher, Collins, Laken Kimsey, Jamison Price; and freshman, Mikey Oppizzi, who wrote and recorded much of the film’s score. Though only one is a film major, they have accomplished a 40-minute cinematic snapshot of the struggle of children half a world away.
“It is a blessing to do what you’re going to school for while you’re in school,” said Price, who is a double film and social entrepreneurship major.
“The support from Dr. [Mark] Borchert in the [Communication] Department and Dr. [Glenn] Cragwall, and everyone in that department is huge,” Price said.
According to Belcher, six or seven C-N professors have been instrumental to the filmmaking process, and the students have been able to apply many things they are learning in class during the day to their filmmaking at night.
“We’ve had so much support on every level from Carson-Newman,” Belcher said.
Belcher said the film represents over 5,500 hours of editing from 50 hours of raw footage.
“We don’t really have a huge passion for filmmaking in itself. We wouldn’t consider ourselves really filmmakers or really even storytellers — just a passion to share things that would inspire people to be the Gospel,” Belcher said.
They hope to take the film on tour and share the story with as many people as possible, and already have numerous churches and schools interested in showing the film.
The film premieres 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, in C-N’s Gentry Auditorium with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.