Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
I just had the pleasure of talking with music industry exec-turned- movie producer/writer Galley Molina about I’m in Love With a Church Girl, his upcoming semi-autobiographical film about a drug trafficker who has his life turned around by the love and faith of a good woman.
Molina, now 42, forthrightly told me that back in the mid-1990s he was fairly high up in a major drug-trafficking ring, that imported cocaine from Costa Rica to the U.S. So, how did he go from that state of affairs to ministering (at Evergreen Valley Church in San Jose) and executive producing a faith based movie? Well, as they say, it’s the stuff of movies.
I’m in Love With a Church Girl, which was filmed in San Jose, tells the story of Miles Montego (played by rapper Ja Rule, aka Jeff Atkins), a retired high-level drug trafficker whose attempt to leave his past life behind is derailed by his refusal to completely cut ties with the dealers and gangsters who lead him astray to begin with. And then, of course, there’s Jason McDaniels (Stephen Baldwin), the dogged DEA agent intent on making Miles pay for his crimes. Miles Montego’s past is, indeed, catching up with him.
On the other side of the equation, pulling him forward toward faith is Vanessa (Adrienne Bailon), the girl of his dreams who he never would have dared dream of. The proverbial “church girl” whose faith in God rubs off on Miles and, ultimately, sees him through some very tough times filled with feelings of guilt and unworthiness.
That’s Miles’ journey which, as noted, is very close to Molina’s own. He had three years to write the story (which began in manuscript form) while serving his own jail time. Though he had no prior experience as an author, the story flowed from heart to pen rather quickly — so quickly, in fact, that he had time to churn out two other stories which may be turned into movies as well.
“Before I was indicted in 1996,” he recalls “I had retired from that life because I already had a very successful music career and I started going to church about 18 months prior to my indictment. My life is like the tag line for the film: God uses extreme measures to deal with extreme circumstances.”
Molina says the the lead character in the movie is being ministered to by the people in his life and his circumstances just as he himself was. “God,” he says, “uses a woman to help lead him down the right passage. A pretty woman. It took a pretty woman to bring me around.”
The filmmaker credits his wife with bringing him to Christ. He was born and raised a Catholic but it was her family, he says, that really taught him to make faith part of his daily life. “I was a Christmas and Easter Catholic,” he admits, “I used to joke about born-again Christians.”
So, how did he get into drug dealing in the first place?
“I was a DJ in high school,” Molina relates. “This guy moved in across the street from my house. He was involved with drugs and…one thing led to another. A lot of people have their reasoning (for why they got into trouble). In my case, I wasn’t raised in poverty. I didn’t want for anything.” He says he had a good relationship with both his mother and his stepfather (both now deceased) and that the responsibility for his choosing the wrong path lies squarely with himself.
While building a career in the music industry, he rose quickly in the drug world before finally deciding to go straight. Then, in 1996, he was indicted. “I don’t want to say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Molina says noting that his trial and prison time were very tough days for him to get through.
He admits to feelings of anger during that period — because, in his mind, he had gone straight and didn’t deserve what he was goig through. “As much as I thought I was in tune with God, I was losing things I was holding on so dear to. I was angry with God. Friends who I thought would stay with me didn’t.”
Finally, he realized that what was truly important was that he surrender completely to God.
“I learned a lot,” he says now. “I would almost say that the time I spent on bail was worse than the time I spent away.” It was, after all, in jail, that he finally had time to think and write about all he had gone through and was feeling. “The Lord was saying ‘I’m gonna have you in a place where I can really work on you.'”
Now, Molina is hoping to give back some of what he has received through his production company RGM (Reverence Gospel Media) through which he hopes to bring the concept of faith-based storytelling to a whole new level, including additional films and a possible sitcom starring Stephen Baldwin.
He raised the money for I’m in Love with a Church Girl (the company’s premiere offering) himself so that he could retain more creative control over the finished product. At least one major studio offered financing, he says, but they wanted to make a movie that more-or-less glamorized his drug-dealing days. He wasn’t interested in that. Still, he managed to bring top-notch talent to his project, both in front of and behind the camera.
“The film’s production values are top-notch,” Molina says. “Next to The Passion, it’s probably the best-looking faith-based film ever made…Every dollar is on the screen.”
Molina’s currently talking with distributors with experience promoting faith-based film and who, he says, can secure as many screens as any major studio can. He also working on promoting the film with the highly-respected Rogers and Cowan, which he describes as having “a great P.R. team,” to promote the film.
As for the future of his company, Molina believes “I see it here for a long time, making movies that Bless God’s name and his people.”
I’m in Love With a Church Girl is already one of the most anticipated faith-based movies in a long time. Movie fans can judge the finished product for themselves when the film arrives in theaters early in 2012.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11