Film ‘I AM’ Scores a 10 at Campus Screening
By Doug Carroll
It’s hard to miss the point when a film about 10 people breaking the Ten Commandments opens on Oct. 10, 2010 (that’s 10/10/10).
But wait until you hear how writer/director John Ward came up with the idea for his new film, “I AM,” which was screened in the North Gym on Tuesday evening for GCU students and staff.
After two days of coming up empty in the latter area, he was on his way home when he saw a sign for Interstate 10 — which instantly struck him as a sign that he was to wrap the stories of 10 wayward people into a film about the Ten Commandments.
“That was the genesis of it,” he told the GCU audience before the showing of the film. “It had to be a spider web of a story. That’s what happens when we ignore these commandments. Our actions can affect people we don’t even know.”
Ward partnered with former major-league baseball player Todd Zeile on the film, which took four months to write, six months to shoot and 10 months to edit. “I AM” opened in 2,500 churches nationwide a month ago and is now out on DVD.
It’s the culmination of a period of searching for Ward, who grew up in North Carolina and was raised in California. His conclusion was that he needed to stand up and be counted as a Christian working in the film industry.
“I was writing romantic comedies for Paramount but feeling like I was part of the cultural problem,” he said in an interview after the screening. “I came to the conclusion that I was a negative. I had to do something proactive.
“We’re filmmakers who are Christians and we’ve got to step up.”
“I AM,” which is set in modern-day Los Angeles and has been described as a faith-based “Crash,” wasn’t an easy sell. The movie industry was leery of Ward’s faith; the faith community was skeptical of his Hollywood resumé. The project eventually received the backing of 20th Century Fox, although the film was made for less than $500,000.
“In Hollywood, I have a lot of friends I can’t speak to about God,” Ward said. “They just shut me down. I’ve always wondered why, and I think it’s this impression on their part that God is a negative being who is looking to punish us.
“I wanted to redefine Christian film in order to redefine the popular perception of God. Your failings do not alienate you from God. He’s a God of relationship, and He sent Jesus to enhance that relationship with Him.”
An obscure African-American actor plays the character of I AM — the biblical name for God — and the film’s multiple story lines keep the audience engaged, wondering how Ward will tie it all together in the end.
Student reaction to the film was positive.
“It made me think about how my actions affect others, how the smallest action can impact someone else’s life,” senior Meg Hartmann said.
Junior Abby Frye liked the plot and said it was “not your typical faith-based movie.”
Ward said he’s just getting warmed up. Toward the end of next year, another film of his, “Heart of the Country,” will tell the story of the prodigal son — but with a female twist.
“We’re trying hard not to be cheesy or to preach at people,” Ward said of his philosophy on making Christian films.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.