A Bit of Faith – Local Christian Filmmakers premiere their first feature at Arlington

Melissa Dixon, left, plays Elaine and Crister De Leon plays Alex in the film "Redemption of the Heart Road Less Traveled Pictures
Melissa Dixon, left, plays Elaine and Crister De Leon plays Alex in the film “Redemption of the Heart
Road Less Traveled Pictures

Indie filmmakers work years to see their projects through to the premiere date. They enlist friends, family and co-workers to help. They scrape together funds to start and they further scrape to finish. But it’s all worth it for the love of creativity.

“Redemption of the Heart” ‘s filmmakers, Isaac Meeks of Santa Ynez and Sandon Yahn of Oxnard, have had a similar experience with their film, but the twist here is that they’re also doing it for the love of Jesus and their church, Calvary Chapel.

And there’s a big market out there, they say, for these kinds of films. They’re hoping to fill the Arlington tomorrow night for the big premiere of this film shot in Santa Barbara, Solvang and Oxnard, with all local actors.

The story is about Alex (Crister De Leon) who is in dire financial straits because of his weak heart and medical bills. He falls in with a conman and gambling addict Daniel (David Morales), who seems to have easy answers to his problem, yet they’re all quite illegal. The FBI closes in while at the same time Alex is having a crisis of faith. A wise man appears to offer a different solution. (“And there’s a twist at the end,” hints Mr. Yahn, lest the ending seem too clear.)

“This is a strong message of forgiveness and redemption and getting a second chance at things,” Mr. Yahn says. “And what do you do with that chance?”

Filmmakers, from left, Sandon Yahn and Isaac Meeks
Filmmakers, from left, Sandon Yahn and Isaac Meeks

Mr. Yahn took film classes at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and has dabbled in screenwriting. But it’s when he joined the church in Oxnard that he met Mr. Meeks and they realized they had a common vision. That was five years ago.

Mr. Meeks graduated from Brooks Institute and his younger brother of nine years, T.S. Meeks, just had his own short film screened at SBIFF. Although this is Mr. Meeks’ first film, he has experience with actors and writing, as he produced plays for his church. (A few, including “The Perfect Gift” played at the Granada around Christmas time).

“I realized I had this pool of actors to draw from,” he says. Ninety percent of the cast of “Redemption” comes from Santa Ynez’ Calvary Church, with the rest hired from Los Angeles. (Some might recognize Joe Lambert of Teen Star in the movie.)

Mr. Meeks also had a lot of equipment to use, as he also produces videos for his church.

“We decided going into this that we’d do this fifty-fifty,” says Mr. Yahn. They are credited on the film as both producers, directors, writers, and editors.

“It worked out well,” says Mr. Meeks, “Because our crew was really small … It was very much a barebones crew. And Sandon is a pretty agreeable person.”

“We realized we were going to film with what we had and not rent anything,” Mr. Meeks continued. “And we’d spend $100 a day to feed everybody … We wanted something we could just get in and start shooting.”

They started with $2,500 but that wasn’t enough, far from it. They shot on weekends and when Mr. Meeks talks of a 22-day shoot, he doesn’t mean consecutive days. Everybody had day jobs.

The final cut came in at over two and a half hours. Editing took a long time, as did finding the right composer in Todd Maki.

Mr. Meeks and Mr. Yahn say they have a distributor lined up who wants to spend more money on getting the film ready for the marketplace. The movie might be heading for Brazil, Australia and South Africa. “I’m pretty optimistic about those deals,” Mr. Meeks says.

Both having grown up in the ’80s, Mr. Yahn says they’re inspired by filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Ron Howard, who produced great blockbuster films with great messages.

“If it’s a Christian watching our film, hopefully it will get them to spread the word that there is a greater truth out there that is life-saving,” Mr. Yahn says. “And if you’re not a Christian, then at least you can respect the human experience that our main character goes through … I feel that the film isn’t preachy. It plays out and suggests choices and leaves it up to the people to accept it or refuse it.”

FILM REVIEW
‘Redemption of the Heart’
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Arlington Theater, 1317 State St.
Cost: $5
Information: redemptionoftheheartthemovie.com

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