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Faith, Media & Culture

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

Gray matter. Seasons of Gray: A Modern Day Joseph Story, which enjoyed positive reviews from the Dove Foundation, the Dallas Morning News, and the Christian Post during its limited theatrical release last October, has just been released on DVD.  I enjoyed it. You might want to check it out.

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I recently had the opportunity to talk about the film with its co-producer and director of photography Chris Mano.

JWK: What brought you to this film?

CHRIS MANO: Initially, the director and screenwriter — Paul and Sarah Sterhlik. Paul was the first creative director at Watermark Community Church about ten years ago or so. When he came on staff he had a dream of bringing the stories of the Scripture to the cinema in a modern-day context…He came to Todd Wagner, the head pastor, and kind of shared the dream. Todd said “Well, that looks great (but) I don’t know what that looks like.” Paul said “Well, I don’t either.” So, he and Sarah went away and talked about it. They decided there were going to pursue (writing) a film. They thought the story of Joseph would be the perfect one to start out with because it’s such a beloved story. It’s also such a dramatic story. It has lots of twists and turns in it. They began writing that just about nine years ago. I heard about the film shortly after that because I was one of their friends. I kind of came along for the ride just to give them advice because I was also in the film industry. I kind of came on as a partner about three years into them working out a screenplay. So, we (plowed) on for another five or so years until we were able to actually kick out the film.

JWK: So, are you one of the writers, as well?

CM: No, I was a producer, a DP on the film, as well as an editor. But, as it went along, I would just kind of make notes. Sarah got lots of industry feedback which was great. . They (Paul and Sarah) actually went out to LA for about a year and a half or so to work on (the) screenplay and develop relationships there…They got great script feedback and continued to work on it.

JWK: What is your industry background?

CM: Everything except for feature films.  This is my first feature film. Before this, I had stuff on television. I was working on a PBS show called Small Business School, then Small Business 2000. After doing those, I did a lot of stuff, kind of in the corporate and nonprofit communications area. I was doing kind of newscasts for corporations, then doing fundraisers…for nonprofits and arts organizations.

JWK: So Seasons of Gray is a real departure for you.

CM: Yeah. Of course, (for) most people when they get into film (making) movies is why they get into it. It was something I always wanted to and I also wanted to do something that was going to be God-honoring. Most of the work I did was for good causes but it wasn’t a feature film and it wasn’t a chance to be overtly God honoring. This was something that I was excited to finally get a chance to do.

JWK: Where was this movie shot?

CM: It was shot all in Texas. It was shot in St. Jo, Texas which is just north of Muenster. (That’s) where we shot our ranch scenes. It was shot in downtown Dallas, in the arts district. That’s where we have a lot of stuff happen in the office buildings. And it was shot in Waco, Texas. That’s where we shot our prison locations. There was an unused jail that was being turned into a woman’s facility.

JWK: How long did the filming take?

CM: We shot for about six weeks. There were different kind of pickup shots along the way. That was after the film was in development for, I guess, about seven years before that point in time. We (began) pre-production in late 2009 before we got to actually shoot it. Officially, Paul and I left our careers and came on staff at Watermark and jumped into pre-production. And then it was a few months later that we jumped into actually shooting the film.

JWK: What was your previous career?

CM: I was on staff at Quin Mathews Films. I worked with Quin for almost eleven and a half years before leaving to do this. It was (no) small decision to do.

JWK: What do you hope people take from Seasons of Gray?

CM: Well, the biggest thing is I think is realizing that there’s one verse…that kind of keeps coming up in the film. It’s at the beginning and at the end and it reminds us that we love because Christ first loved us. First and foremost what we want people to remember is that we’re loved — and that there is a purpose in our life here. A big key part of that is that we’re supposed to love others like Christ loved us. So, forgiveness is a huge part of the film. So, if someone can watch this film and be led first to know that God loves them and secondly that He’s forgiven them and that we’re supposed to forgive others, I mean, that’s a huge win. I guess that’s the overall spiritual thing I’d love for people to take away.

The other thing that we’d love for people to do is watch this story, realize it’s from the Bible and kind of get a fresh context for the Bible when they go back and read it.

Note: On-demand screenings of Seasons of Gray (at a theater near you) can be arranged via TUGG.

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

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