Indie film features SVSU students

‘Greater’ fulfills local youth pastor’s dream of having Christian superhero movie

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Two current SVSU students and several alumni are featured in the film “Greater,” which was written and directed by local youth pastor Jesse Karls from Ames United Methodist Church.

Sophomores Rick Schell and Allicia Russell both appear in the film and assisted the production in various other ways.

“I played a jogger who witnesses the main character almost getting hit by a car and yells at him to get out of the way,” Russell said. “At first, I wasn’t sure about how well the project would go. A full-length Christian movie made by just one church in Saginaw in a short amount of time was crazy to think about.”

According to the “Greater” website, the film is a superhero story about a high school student named Eli who can literally see demons. Eli believes he is crazy, and so does everyone else.

Slowly, with the help of a friend, a mentor and a pastor, Eli learns how to use his God-given gift to bring about healing and success in the lives of the people who are around him.

Karl’s main message behind the film was to show that God was given the glory and shown to be the real superhero.

Despite her initial worries, Russell ended up extremely pleased with the final product.

“I ended up super impressed by how professional the whole process was,” she said. “Everything has gone so well; you can tell how blessed the church was and that God’s hand was on the project.”

Schell, a general studies major and theatre minor, played a demon and a thug in the film.

He has performed in plays since he was in fourth grade and worked an internship with Ames last year.

“I worked with (Karls) in the office, and he found out I had been doing plays for a long time, and he asked if I wanted to help,” Schell said.

Schell also shared a positive experience with the film production as a whole.

“I thought it was really cool,” he said. “Not only were there other people to talk to, go through your lines with and what not, but there were people to pray with and talk with behind the scenes.”

Additionally, SVSU alum Lisa Bader served as production manager for the film. Several other alums were involved as well.

While the production process didn’t take up an overly long period of time, the entire process of generating an idea, writing a script and then producing the film took Karls much longer.

Karls said that he’s always enjoyed superhero movies, but wished there was a superhero film that honored God.

Ultimately, he took it upon himself to accomplish the task.

“It was a work-in-progress for a long time,” Karls said. “It probably took me a year, and then once I had it done and felt I had a finished product, I still modified it time after time.”

Once the writing process was complete, it took about two additional years for several other administrative tasks to be completed. Auditions, then, were held for positions in the film. From there, the actual production began.

“There was a part of me that wished we could just take one month and just be done with it,” Karls said. “That’s not how it worked out at all. We worked with volunteers, and they all have their own lives. We did a lot of filming on a lot of Saturdays.”

The cast and crew began filming in Dec. 2015 and completed the film in May 2016. Karls was especially complimentary of Schell and Russell, along with the entire team involved with creating the film.

“It was great to use my role as youth pastor to empower the youth,” Karls said. “They played a huge role in doing it.”

Currently, Karls is in contact with regional theaters where they would like to show the movie first.

Afterward, “Greater” will be released on DVD and streamed online. Those interested in seeing the film can visit the movie’s website or by following the “Greater” page on Facebook @GreaterSuperhero or Instagram @greatersuperheromovie.

Specific showing dates will be posted once they are selected.