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Redemption of the Commons

By: David Lyda (From: Volume 2 - Issue 1)

What makes a movie Christian? We all know that a piece of art does not have a soul. Does the story make a film Christian? If a tale of redemption would be the basis, many could argue that “It’s A Wonderful Life” is part of Christian cinema. Although there may not be a clear cut answer, calling a movie Christian brings a preconceived notion of what the film will be.

We base many of our opinions on labels. If someone claims to be a Republican or a Democrat, we often jump to an automatic conclusion about who they are. After getting to know that person, we might find most of the opinions or prejudices we had about them fade away. A Christian film can bring a lot of different thoughts to mind. Maybe it is a cheesy movie, maybe it is a preachy movie, maybe it has bad actors, maybe it is badly produced, or maybe it is just too cliché.

Writer, director, and preacher KT Terry is very aware of these labels. He can even be hesitant to call his first feature film, “Redemption of The Commons,” a Christian film, but that is exactly what it is. It carries the story of redemption that is able to connect with anybody in any walk of life, and it looks at the question of “What is my purpose?” From teenagers to the elderly, our whole culture finds itself searching for that often elusive reason for our lives. KT Terry searched for that purpose and often felt himself being pulled in two different directions.

Growing up in a Christian home, KT felt the call to ministry very early on. He even preached his first sermon when he was in 8th or 9th grade. While spending most of his early years in Charlotte, he eventually found himself pursuing a film degree at the University of North Carolina. After graduating, KT Terry spent a season in Greenville, SC as a Youth Leader. Sometime later, he relocated to his original hometown of Los Angeles, where he received a Masters degree in Divinity at Fuller Theology Seminary. This was the beginning of a crossroads, where he felt one part of his purpose pulling him towards ministry and one part of his purpose pulling him towards entertainment.

After much prayer and soul searching, KT and his wife decided that he would focus one year on pursuing entertainment. Acting and hosting opportunities opened up, and eventually he was able to be work with more production. This included a time being involved with the Discovery Channel show “Stunt Junkies.” Getting a better grasp of what it took to bring a project together, KT became inspired to write a script. This movie was to be based on the real life fortress of Masada, where a great battle took place in 73 AD between Jewish Zealots and the Romans. Twelve drafts later, the script was put under contract. Quite a feat for a first time writer in California!

KT found, after a year of pursuing entertainment, that he really missed being involved in ministry. God subsequently brought KT and his family back to South Carolina, and he became the pastor of Downtown Community Fellowship in Clemson. The stage was soon set for ministry and entertainment to collide. KT Terry began to write the first draft of his new script, “Redemption of the Commons.”

For a film based in South Carolina, most would probably be surprised that much of “Redemption of the Commons” was based on situations that KT and his wife experienced while living in the Los Angeles projects. A mix of different ethnicities and social economic classes brought a unique chance to practice “loving your neighbor.” The Terry family was able to help the kids in the neighborhood with education, and KT also had the chance to lead Bible studies. Other families would assist by simply inviting their neighbors for dinner, and the whole neighborhood rallied around an older man that was dying of cancer. They all came together for the greater good and brought lots of life and blessings.

This firsthand experience in an underprivileged community was reflected in the trailer park setting for “Redemption of the Commons.” After the main character, Victor Clay, finds himself broke and without a job, he returns from L.A. to his family home in South Carolina. As mentioned, the timeless message of searching for a purpose is explored, and the story is very honest about faith. It deals with times that God seems close and times when God seems distant. KT, the writer and director, states that he wants people to be encouraged by the film and see that there truly is a purpose for our lives.

In dealing with the labels that so often fall upon Christian films, KT Terry set out to put together a movie that wouldn’t lose the audience with too much dialogue or even bad acting. Films are meant to be more of a “show me” rather than “tell me” medium, and it can sometimes be tough to show spiritual wrestling or articulate faith elements. This issue remained on the forefront of KT’s mind as each scene was constructed and played out.

To make sure that he had the best actors for the project, an open casting call was put forth. The cream of the crop rose to the top, and it brought a wide variety of actors mainly from the Southeast, including Greenville, SC. Just like in the world at large, there were many different faith backgrounds among the cast. Some of the actors were Christians, some were not, some did not see faith as that important in their lives, and others were just still searching. A Christian story was being told with the best actors for the project.

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