GCU instructor's film explores pastor burnout

Melissa Farley (left) and Jedidiah Jones depicted one of the couples in "Glass Walls."

Two weeks of scriptwriting and 10 days of filming boiled down to the 1-hour, 34-minute film "Glass Walls," which premieres Friday at the Grand Canyon University Film Festival.

Jeff Breuer, a GCU alumnus who teaches screenwriting in the College of Arts and Media, wrote and directed the film, which stars Dean Cain, Eddie McClintock and Kristi Lawrence. "Glass Walls" is a collaboration with Jason Campbell of JC Films and Dave Anderson of Shepherd's Canyon Retreat, where the movie was filmed, and GCU students Rebecca Perez and Brandon Hill-Conrad assisted with production.

The film touches on the struggles we face in relationships and how to get past them.

The film follows two pastoral couples who are experiencing trouble within their church organizations. To relieve stress, they attend a rehabilitation center for ministry leaders who are experiencing burnout.

While the film is not an actual documentary, the plot and cast represent the transformation that takes place at the retreat, which offers weeklong counseling sessions for men and women in ministry who are in the midst of various stages of burnout, stress, depression and conflicts. "Glass Walls" reveals ministry leader burnouts often seen at the retreat and normalizes the process of seeking help.

“Our goal was to speak to ministry workers and what they go through behind the scenes of their day-to-day life," Breuer said. "A sub-goal is that we wanted church goers to be more empathetic toward what their pastors are going through.”

GCU students Rebecca Perez (left) and Brandon Hill-Conrad assisted with the film's production.

Making this vision come to life required a month of extensive research, meeting with Shepherd's Canyon therapists and speaking to individuals who have been transformed by the retreat.

Fundamental questions about themes to address and the biggest problems facing ministry workers were the driving forces of the film's direction.

“We take our ministry leaders for granted sometimes and don’t realize how much they pour themselves into their roles," Breuer said. "Sometimes they get so lost tending to their flock that they forget to care for themselves, too.”

Kristi Lawrence (left) and Eddie McClintock were cast as a pastoral couple who face marital problems.

Although the film is faith-based, you don’t need to have faith to get a lot out of the film.

“It’s the raw emotional struggle of trying to get through life and trying to connect with your partner and find your own identity that might get lost in your occupation, relationships or environment," Breuer said. "These are universal characteristics that we all identify with.”

Dean Cain (left) and Sandy Kim are two of the actors in "Glass Walls."

"Glass Walls" lives up to its name as it uncovers raw topics many filmmakers hesitate to touch. For Breuer, it is just another layer of humanity.

“It is the texture of our humanity, the emotions we feel and how we connect to others,” he said. “I tell my students all the time that one of the greatest assets you can have as a writer is vulnerability because we connect through our empathy.”

The more the fan base for "Glass Walls" grows, the more Breuer is noticing the way people relate to the relational struggles the movie addresses.

“A friend of mine has a long difficult story about his faith, and he told me that he really appreciated that we touched on struggles of relationships,” he said. “There is a lot of deep diving into the blockades that we put in our relationships and the things we deal with and how to traverse that.”

The film encourages viewers to seek help when facing life's blockades and obstacles.

After writing and directing a film that uncovers the realities of ministry work, Breuer follows a new philosophy that deviates from what he would typically do as a filmmaker.

“With a movie like this you’re not focused on the end result or quality of the film,” he said. “We were more focused on what we were hoping to accomplish for ministry leaders. That created the greater drive and momentum.”

The GCU Film Festival's Alumni Night begins at 6 p.m. Friday in Ethington Theatre. "Glass Walls" is also available on Amazon Prime here.

For more information on the film, visit: https://www.glasswallsfilm.com/

Contact staff writer Lydia P. Robles at 602-639-7665 or [email protected].

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