Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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A labor of love. I previously interviewed Corbin Bernsen about 25 Hill, his ode to American tradition that is the Soap Box Derby. Like that film, his latest work Beyond the Heavens is available for DVD purchase or online streaming at HomeTheaterFilms.com, the website for his production shingle which he hopes to also build into an online interactive community for those seeking quality films that extol the virtues of faith and family.

Known for his roles in popular TV shows like LA Law and Psyche, Bernsen describes Beyond the Heavens, about a bright 12-year-old boy’s effort to square what he learns in science class with the faith passed on to him by his minister father (Bernsen), as perhaps his most personal work. That’s because the idea expressed in the film (which he also wrote) are those passed on to him by his mother, actress Jeanne Cooper (The Young and the Restless) who died this past May.  The film is, as he told me when we spoke on the phone in late October, dedicated to her.

JWK: So, tell me about Beyond the Heavens. How did the idea come to you?

CORBIN BERNSEN: It’s a movie that was inspired by my mom — not the actual story itself but the wisdom in the movie is something she passed on to me. You may or may not know, she passed away earlier this year and so I’ve actually chosen to dedicate the film to her. It’s an early wisdom she taught me that, like many aspects of my life, (relates) to my faith. (She) said don’t take anything a face value. Don’t take something (as true) because somebody’s told you too. Don’t take something because you’re afraid…Go out and learn it and see it and look at it. (She’s encourage me to) examine it from all sides and create my own personal relationship with it which really ultimately applied, at the faith level, (toward) creating my own belief system and not one that I was told that I had to have or that it had to be this way. And, more importantly, (it applied) in my own personal relationship with God — which has been very strong (for) my entire life which I think, in part, is because she encouraged me to explore as a young kid, question and doubt all the things that I think God wants us to do.

So, Beyond the Heavens suggests that we know…the definable stuff. Science tells us a lot of wonderful things and (offers some) solutions but Beyond the Heavens (says) there is a place (where) we walk by faith and not by sight. That’s really a lesson the boy learns in the movie. By the end of it, he finds his faith.

JWK: The boy is played by Nathan Gamble, the same kid you worked with in 25 Hill, your recent film about the Soap Box Derby.

CB: He’s like my Robert De Niro to Martin Scorsese. He’s my go-to kid! He just fabulous!

JWK: What role to you play in the movie?

CB: I play his father. There’s a critical relationship in the film. Ultimately what happens is this boy is between 12 and 13. He’s really got some questions about faith and science. Which one’s going to be the one that helps him understand life? Which is the one that’s gonna lead him through life, if you will. One of the problems he encounters with faith — even though his father is the town minister and, pretty much, faith has been a part of his life — is that his mother and father have suffered this great tragedy before he was born. They had a child who just disappeared one day, vanished. They never have been able to reconcile it…It all but destroyed his mother (and his parents’) relationship. The boy looks at this and says “Look, you talk about faith, everybody here talks about faith but you have none! Where’s your faith that he’s in a better place?! Where’s your faith that he’s with God?! If you have all this faith, why are you so torn up?! If there’s a God, why would (He) let my mother be torn up?!”

And, on the other hand, in school he’s learning some scientific principles that seem to make a lot of sense. They may not be the end-all but, at least, there are conclusions and there are things that make sense — and there’s some logic — that he’s not finding in his faith. It’s that journey and discovering the relationship between the two (science and faith) that he’s on.

He comes in contact with a local in town — a stranger actually — who suggests to him to walk by faith and not by sight. He does as I did as a young boy. He looks at things from all sides and finds a different way to look at faith that ultimately makes his relationship with God more real. And, when he does that, he actually — for himself — solves the disappearance of his brother or resolves it for himself, believing that (his brother) is with God.

JWK: So, I guess you’re telling me that this film reflects your personal view on the balance between faith and science in life.

CB: Well, my personal view is, first of all, they do not, as we live our lives, have to act in spheres alone. I think there’s a place for both…But (if) the question (is) “What do I look to (as I) walk through my day?” I would have to say “Walk by faith, not by sight.” Not that sight and science don’t offer solutions and wonderful things — cures to cancer, technology that makes us able to talk like we are and share our story, share God’s story. There are wonderful things that science and technology have brought us.  For me, personally, ahead of all of that — the horse pulling that wagon, if you will — is faith — and God, ultimately. For every answer and solution they come up with, I’m willing to look and understand and explore but I still say before that there’s God. There’s something before that. That something is where I place God. God is this magnificence that pulls us through all that discovery. God is that…mystery of it all.

So, for me, what He’s done is created a world where, yes, I’ll look at all that. I’ll talk logic and I’ll talk science but I’m not going to stop it there. I’m like Lewis and Clark. I made it over that hill but what’s in the next valley? I think that’s God simply moving us all forward. For what purpose? Why do we have to have ups and downs, hills and valleys, pitfalls and resurrections? I’m not sure but that’s the journey for all of us…That pulls me forward more than science does. Science is just the, I don’t know, mechanics of the roller coaster, if you will. God made the roller coaster itself.

JWK: Beyond the Heavens is a production of Home Theater Films, your production company.

CB: Yes…This is our fourth film in the world of faith/family/community filmmaking and it’s probably my most personal. I’ve loved all the stories we’ve done but this is a very, very personal story. Again, it’s the wisdom that was encouraged upon me by my mother and was made all that much more rewarding by the fact it’s her birthday tomorrow (October 25) and this is the first one I’ll have without her.

JWK: It’s obvious that your mother had a great impact on your life.

CB: Yes…I mean everything I just said. She was a wonderful voice of wisdom and truth. She had a very real personal relationship with God through her faith (which was) not always textbook. I don’t know how else to put it — but that made it more real to me — because (she) was a woman in the real world dealing with real things and calling upon her faith and reaching to her faith often to make it through the day. And she did. She was an incredible survivor on many levels — personal, health and every other way. It was an unspoken faith. She didn’t preach it, talk it. She wasn’t evangelical about it in any way but she simply talked truth about things. That truth to me is God.

JWK: What’s next for Home Theater Films?

CB: We have several films in development. One that we’re getting ready to shoot in December is called Christian Mingle. It’s a little turn, a romantic comedy, something a little bit more fun…It’s a romantic comedy based around the very popular dating website Christian Mingle.

JWK: Are they involved with the film?

CB: They’re involved to the extent that we’re working with them — not in making the movie (but allowing us) to use their name. We’re using them as the base of our story. S0, yes, they’re involved in it.

JWK: Will you be in it?

CB: I’ll have a funnier role in this one. There’s one or two roles (that I could play) — depending on (the availability) of some friends that I could cast in it.

JWK: When will that be released?

CB: Probably about this time next year — possibly late spring of 2014. It’s really depending on if we get off the ground on December 3rd like we’re supposed to.

JWK: Do you have anyone cast in it yet?

CB: No. (Castings) wide open. We have to go out and look for the two young leads — the boy and the girl who ultimately meet through Christian Mingle…The girl has to be funny and charming and, at the same time, she has to be an actress who is not afraid of making a faith-based movie and talking about God and things like that.

JWK: Did you write the script for this one, as well?

CB: Yeah…I wrote it, as well.

JWK: Last time we chatted, you told me about an idea for a TV series about a Christian cop that you’re developing. Is that still moving forward?

CB: That’s another in the works and I’ve got it (before) several people who are looking to develop it with me…That’s very much in the forefront of things…It’s a little more hard-hitting. This is not a light piece. This is a very real cop living in a world that’s coming unraveled and, really, his faith is what keeps his head above water.

JWK: I checked out IMDB and saw that you have some other films in the works as well. They include one called Born to Race: Fast Track and another one called Bethlehem. Can you tell me briefly about them?

CB: Bethlehem is a script that was brought to me by a young writer-director. We’re helping him raise the money for that and will produce the movie. It’s a wonderful story. It’s got faith elements to it but it’s really more about how we come together as a community and rise above some of the problems that face us…It’s about small towns across America (and) smaller cities (that) were once the center of industry and when those industries shut down —  in the case of Bethlehem, Bethlehem Steel — leaving a vacuum. (It’s about) how towns come together in community and rise and resurrect. So, I guess in that strange way there are my faith metaphors in there.

JWK: Is that from your production company?

CB: It’ll be from Home Theater Films, as well.

JWK: How about Born to Race?

CB: Born to Race is a cool little movie that’s coming out soon. There was an original Born to Race and then they asked me to do the second one. It’s a cool story about a group of young kids who go off to a racing school. It’s action. I’m just an actor in that.

JWK: And will we see you in another season of Psyche?

CB: We’ve finished filming out eighth season. A musical (episode) is, I think, coming up on December 19th. You might want to Google it: Psyche: The Musical, a two-hour episode. And then I think sometime in January they’ll launch the eighth (season). And then where we go from there is anyone’s guess.

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JWK: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

CB: The only thing is I really would love for people to support (Beyond the Heavens) as much as they can…I really encourage people to come to our website Home Theater Films. You can buy it there. We have signed copies. We want people to see who we are and look at our mission statement and see what we’re up to and the people that work with me. You know, in the world of this small lower-budget, Very independent filmmaking — especially when you’re in the faith genre — it’s very, very hard to get your word out there. The more we can have people become familiar with us — through our newsletter and our updates — the easier it is to at least reach our core audience when the film comes out…Hopefully, people like what we do and our message and the content of our movies.

(At) HomeTheaterFilm.com we have a package of our first three movies I think at a great discount…We have a copy of a movie that I made a while ago that my mom was in. I have a few signed copies of that. It’s a place where we can be a bit more personal….and encourage people to become part of our community. If we can grow it, then we can talk about the films. We can even, down the line, put pieces of script out there to get thoughts and opinions to become a community that works together.

JWK: You mean to work with your audience/community to actually develop films?

CB: To develop films and all of that. Right. I really would love people to come and if they do want to get a copy of the movie — which would be fabulous — come to us and you’ll get a special version of it with a signed copy.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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