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Students To Premiere Film And Spark Hope For Philippines

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Left to Right: Laken Kimsey, Adam Collins, Jared Belcher, Jamison Price and Mikey Oppizzi.

Left to Right: Laken Kimsey, Adam Collins, Jared Belcher, Jamison Price and Mikey Oppizzi.

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 this summer, 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 (WHY) in the Philippines.

The story begins with poverty, but ends in hope.

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 missions 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. Those who had not gone to the Philippines could easily ignore the faint cries for help from thousands of miles away.

However, five students from C-N, have placed a megaphone into the frail hands of the “children of the trash.” The far away city of Cebu has found its voice through “Refuge.”

“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 stateside, 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's 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.

Well, almost. They are still editing between classes and the few moments of sleep they are able to capture.

“Sleep is the first thing to go,” Price said about balancing filmmaking with a full college class load and some semblance of a social life.

Fortunately, the students say they have been able to meld college life and filmmaking, each supporting the other.

“It is a blessing to do what you’re going to school for while you’re in school,” Price, who is a double film and social entrepreneurship major, said.

"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.

“This film is really just a tool to do something greater than itself.”

Belcher said that film is simply the best way to tell a story.

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 students’ dream doesn’t end after Thursday’s premiere or after the film tour.

Glenn, Mary-Grace, and Melogin’s story is just the beginning for the Refuge Film team.

“After this we do have plans for starting an organization,” Belcher said.

The organization would be called Refuge Inc., an effort “to empower inspiration” through films highlighting inspirational stories both domestic and abroad.

For now it remains a dream, but it is a dream in the hearts of students who have already proved what they can accomplish with little more than an idea and passion.

The film premieres 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, in C-N’s Gentry Auditorium with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.

“Our biggest goal is to provoke an emotion,” Belcher said. He said booths will be set up at the premiere to provide people with multiple ways to respond.

“We want you to feel the responsibility to do something. It is not just about philanthropists and nonprofits. It is about the global community, people helping people,” said Belcher.

For more information or to find ways to get involved, visit the film’s website, www.refugefilm.org.

For media inquiries, visit the University Relations page.

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