Making Something Real

Five years ago this month, we dared to enter our not-yet-finished movie Healing River (then titled after its setting, Cincinnati’s gritty inner-city neighborhood Over-the-Rhine) in the world’s largest Christian film festival. It was my first feature film as a writer-director-producer, and the first film festival I’d ever entered.

“Faith-based” movies were still in their toddler stage at that point, and almost all had been criticized for ringing false, with focusing on being safe and inoffensive, rather than real or believable.

We knew our film was different, edgy and intense, full of raw emotions, not “safe.” Yet somehow, we ended up being nominated for four awards, including Best Picture. We were stunned when the premiere audience stood and cheered as the end credits rolled. During the follow-up discussion, one viewer proclaimed it the best film at the festival, another called it the best faith-based film ever, period, and the audience applauded loudly. The reason, they said, was that it felt real.

To be honest, I was disappointed when we only received a Best Picture: Honorable Mention award. I’d begun to think our efforts at pushing faith-based movies to the next stage would suddenly be officially embraced.

But something far more significant happened the next morning.

My wife and I were climbing into the airport shuttle when a young woman in the back seat, Casey, shouted, “You made Over-the-Rhine!” “Yes,” I admitted. She’d just received her master’s degree from the New York Film Academy, and said, “Your film was so different from all the others. It’s the kind of movie I want to make!” We encouraged her–and she encouraged us. I silently thanked God all the way to the airport.

And then, just as we were boarding our plane, another young filmmaker fresh out of film school in Chicago said, “You made Over-the-Rhine!” “Yes,” I replied. “I cried three times,” he confessed. “It was so beautiful and so real. That’s the kind of movie I want to make!”

I knew then that I’d met the next generation of faith-based filmmakers. And trust me, they won’t be toddling…

They’ll be running.

Healing River had its World Premiere a month later, and went on to win over twenty festival nominations and awards. It premiered on Amazon Prime in 2020, and remains their top-rated independent inspirational film. It’s also available from other streaming sources, as well as DVD.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Videos and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Making Something Real

  1. Todd R says:

    I’ve always found the contrast between how gritty the Bible is at times and how clean and sanitized Christian art is, even for adults. There’s a place for a lot more variety and thank you for providing it.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Congratulations! Awards ceremonies can be flaky, but it sounds like you are really getting through to people, and THAT is a wonderful “award”! Great job, Mitch and team!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s the most hope-filled film that I’ve watched in years!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. joyroses13 says:

    Wonderful post! Thanks so much for being real. Christianity is beautiful BUT its definitely not always tied up in a pretty bow like what happens in a Hallmark movie. Though Heaven will be 100x better than any perfect Hallmark ending.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Life is raw and real and the Christian life is too. Thanks, Mitch, for making this film authentic rather than whitewashed and sanitized. I am impacted no matter how many times I watch it. Congratulations and Jehovah bless you.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. simba frank says:

    No wonder your blogs are so good you are cheating Lol!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Congratulations, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You hit a home run with Mitch magic on this movie! It is real. Just what viewers need–true messages that show how life is.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. ejstoo says:

    Congrats! Not my type of genre, but wish you all the best.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. That’s the best compliment a film-maker can get!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Tiffany W. says:

    Congratulations! And thank you for bringing reality and true emotion to Christianity! Not only are you creating something real and heart-felt, but you are inspiring others along the way to do the same. I always enjoy your posts, Mr. Teemley!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. WebbBlogs says:

    Wow congratulations! I would love to watch this!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. WebbBlogs says:

    I just found it on Amazon…..watching it this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for putting the “real” into Healing River.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Michele Lee says:

    A powerful post, Mitch. Congratulations on your achievements and for creating something that has influenced the next generation of filmmakers. Wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Badfinger (Max) says:

    I really enjoyed the movie Mitch. It was positive without being sugary and unbelievable.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Very interesting trailer, and the film looks so professional.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. murisopsis says:

    I think inspiring the next generation was a bigger award/reward than any other kind of acknowledgement!!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Gary Fultz says:

    I’m still suggesting to people they watch that film mitch as I get chances to follow up in discussion with friends way different in world view then myself…It’s a great tool in my tool chest. The honest to life approach gives us all a common denominator.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Damyanti Biswas says:

    Congratulations Mitch! Thank you for sharing this post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  21. On my watch list, looking forward to watching.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Isn’t it interesting that we put so much stock in a plaque or an award when the real reward is the responses we inspire in our audiences? That kind of ripple is much more powerful. I don’t know (or care) who won Best Picture at the Oscars 3 years ago. I just know which movie I liked and recommended to my friends.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. revruss1220 says:

    That is so AWESOME! Not only will this film change the “regular folks” (like me) who see it, but film-making itself! Many congratulations to you!

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Adelheid says:

    From the trailer alone, I can already feel that I will be crying as I continue to watch it. Congratulations! This is truly good. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 Keep doing more!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. mitchteemley says:

    Thank you, Adel. And, yes, you might want to keep the tissues within reach. ;>)


  26. Pingback: My Next Big Box-Office Hit? | Mitch Teemley

  27. 4FabFriends says:

    WOW, CONGRATULATIONS! This sounds powerful and inspiring and I can’t wait to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

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