Local teens take superhero personas to new heights

Local teens take superhero personas to new heights
The cast of The Pride Part II: Reed Hanigan, Merri Jones, Lane Montgomery, Jada McGhee, Abbey Crainshaw, Pete Russell, Abigail Hunger, Karsten Hunger, Sierra Stone, Ashton Hanigan, John Wright Stanly, Andrew Russell

Coming soon to a theater near you and … in Kenya.

“The Pride Part II,” a locally produced Christian film, debuts first at the Murray Hill Theatre this month and then heads overseas for its international debut later this summer.

The superhero-themed films were produced by D-Life Ministry, a youth group at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in the Fairfax neighborhood.

Both “The Pride Part I,” which is 19 minutes long, and its 16-minute sequel will be shown back-to-back on Saturday, June 11 at the Murray Hill Theatre. After a 6 p.m. red carpet arrival of cast and crew, the film starts at 7:15 p.m.

The first film, produced primarily in downtown Jacksonville, was created in August 2014 and premiered April 2015. Two months later, Director/Producer Ashley Smith went into production with the sequel, adding two more to the cast of 10 high school actors.

The primary location for D-Life’s second film was Craig Airfield, where much of the action was filmed against a green screen, and also included sequences around some expensive private jets. Scenes were also shot in a private home and at the church, where the superheroes were filmed flying in front of the green screen.

Reed Hanigan, a seventh-grade student at The Bolles School, and the youngest cast member, celebrated his birthday on location. “He turned 13 going 80 miles per hour down a runway in an orange Corvette,” said Smith, who was driving.

Although the cast practiced for several weeks, actual rehearsals were three days and the film was shot in four days. “It felt like being in summer camp because we got to relax between scenes, joke around and had a good time,” said Lane Montgomery, a ninth grader at St. John’s Country Day School.

Love overcomes

The theme of rejection and redemption in “The Pride Part II” draws on at least two Biblical parables, “The Lost Sheep” and “The Prodigal Son.” Cast member Abigail Hunger leaves her superhero friends for a terrorist organization, betraying them and, in the process, loses her identity.

“The theme shows acceptance even though she betrayed us,” said Sierra Stone, a sophomore at Florida State College Jacksonville. “She ran away from the group, found new friends with the terrorists, and started working with them. We fought for her until she realized we were always there for her.”

For Andrew Russell, a ninth-grade student at Paxon School for Advanced Studies, the message was about remembering who you are. “In this intergenerational film, it’s just remembering who you are and even though you stray, you can return and always be with God,” he said.

“Our students have a platform to share,” said Smith, who said a Christian television station in Nairobi, Kenya, will air both films in August. “My hope is the film piques their interest and then they will be interested in hearing from the cast and crew as they share [pre-recorded] parts of their testimony and their faith in God.”

Local teens take superhero personas to new heights

Ashley Smith, director, in Film Crew shirt; John Wright Stanly poised on hood of car; Master Bill Chiodo, stunt choreographer in bed of truck, and John Harrett (with leaf blower), stunt driver and sound engineer

After spending two years in a row producing the short films, Smith and the D-Life youth will take a year off. “I think there will be a Pride Part III before this group graduates and goes off to college,” he said. “We’ve invested in the costumes and equipment to be able to make more films in the future.”

Although the superhero actors are all teenagers, the “bad guys” and crew consisted of adults, some who are parents, others who are members of the church, and others from the community, such as Tae Kwon Do masters Bill and Evan Chiodo, who coordinated stunts and fight scenes, Jeff Green, director of photography, and Tony Nasrallah, stunt driver and camera boat operator.

“Part of why we do this is that it’s an opportunity for the students to interact with other generations and form friendships even, in some cases, starting on a peer level. When you leave youth ministry behind and enter into adulthood, where do you fit in?” asked Smith. “It’s helping them make that transition, within the church and outside, so they are comfortable working with and talking with adults.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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