'I'm in Love with a Church Girl': Hollywood without Hollywood

The most un-Hollywood of Hollywood films has just hit American theaters.  Could it change faith-based filmmaking as we know it? Photo: Reverence Gospel Media

NEW YORK, October 22, 2013 - Most Hollywood screenwriters have arduous stories to tell of how they wrote their scripts and then got their films made. However, not many screenwriters did time in solitary confinement for having too many typewriter ribbons in their prison cells. Yes, typewriter ribbons. These and other obstacles stood in the way of screenwriter/Producer Galley Molina, as he tried to put together his script. His road to making “I’m in Love With a Church Girl” is an incredible tale on its own.

“Church Girl” promotional poste, courtesy Reverence Gospel Media.

“I’m in Love With a Church Girl” tells the story of Miles Montego (played by Jeff “Ja Rule” Atkins) and how Miles’ love for a special woman brings him a second chance at life through an against-the-odds relationship with a Higher Power. The semi-autobiographical film is loosely based on Molina’s own life and it is his and his producing partner Israel Houghton’s first foray into film production.

With “Church Girl” starting to hit theaters this week, we took advantage of the opportunity to speak with both Galley Molina and two of the film’s stars, Adrienne Bailon and Stephen Baldwin. All three were understandably enthusiastic about the  film.

“I had to type my story on a typewriter in the [prison] law library, Molina remembers, “and we had to buy our own typewriter ribbons in the commissary. That was a chore because you are only allowed to buy one ribbon a week. Because inmates were taking the ink and making tattoos out of them.”


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Things would get even tougher for the aspiring screenwriter and producer. One day, the guards came into his cell to do a shakedown and they found a dozen ribbons in his locker. “I had to go into ‘the hole’ (solitary),” Molina recounted, “because of all of my typewriter ribbons. Finally, the lady running the prison’s Education office said ‘this man is out here every day minding his own business. He helps guys with typing. I’ll hold the ribbons and give them to him as he needs them.’ So she kind of came in and saved the day for me.”

The result of Molina’s efforts, of course, his new film. “I’m in Love With a Church Girl” is an independent, Christian, faith-based movie that follows in the footsteps of films such as “Fireproof,” “Facing the Giants” and “Courageous.”

The road for such a film is not an easy one these days. “We raised the funds privately through investors,” says Molina. I figured that I should model this on the record business… either be a great singer who goes to a label for money or be a great singer who does their own record, shops it and gets a better deal.  So, I took the latter approach. Let me create the movie and once it is done, then maybe we’ll get a better deal and that is what we did.”

Adrienne Bailon and Jeff “Ja Rule” Atkins star as Vanessa Leon and Miles Montego in “Church Girl.” (Credit: Reverence Gospel Media)


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“Studios wanted to make this movie,” he notes, “but they would have made a different movie. Kind of like ‘Goodfellas.’ We didn’t want that.”

Molina and Houghton have done something that may be a first for a faith-based film. They were able to find well-known Hollywood actors like Michael Madsen, Vincent Pastore and Stephen Baldwin willing to star in his film. These big names were cast in addition to music rapper Jeff “Ja Rule” Atkins and actress Adrienne Bailon (who plays Vanessa Leon) as the film’s leads.

Veteran actor Stephen Baldwin, who plays agent Jason McDaniels in the film noted this as well, observing that “I’m in Love With a Church Girl” is the first mainstream Christian movie that was made with [a mainstream] sensibility. You have a film with Michael Madsen, Vincent Pastore, Adrienne Bailon and Ja Rule in a movie with me. This isn’t your normal faith-based movie.”

Stephen Baldwin portrays agent Jason McDaniels in this innovative Christian film. (Credit: Reverence Gospel Media)

Regarding her participation in the film, co-star Adrienne Bailon said, “To do a film with such an incredible message that your past doesn’t determine your future, meant so much to me. I can’t wait for people to see it and leave feeling inspired.”

Baldwin sees faith-based projects like this one to be on the upsurge right now, leading to additional work for the actor. “I was just offered my own reality show based on my family, my faith-based activities and my life. The producers said that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon because Christianity has become cool because of Mark Burnett’s The Bible series on the History Channel.”

Baldwin continued, “I think what we are about to see in the next three to five years,” Baldwin continued, “is many of the studios and networks understanding that the market of faith-based consumers are going to respond to content geared towards them — as long as it is made with excellent production values that can compete with what mainstream Hollywood has to offer.”

Competing with Hollywood was part of Molina’s plan all along. In addition, to transform his screenplay into a film required a characteristic that he says is key to making a film or to succeed at any endeavor: “Hustle. Some people may use that as a bad word, but it is all about hustle. Do you want to hustle more than the next guy? That goes for whether you are in the street, the record business or at Apple Computer. That doesn’t matter. Good, honest hustle.  Your “yes” is a “yes” and your “no” is a “no,” Molina says.

“When Galley told me that Ja Rule would be playing himself [Molina] in the film,” said Baldwin, “I knew that he ‘gets it.’” There’s that attitude again toward competition and hustle.

“We live in a digital age,” Baldwin noted, “and with the right cameras, people and talent… you can make a $1M film look like a $5M film. Galley was smart enough to say, ‘I’m not going to make a nice film just for the Christian audience. I am going make a full-blown, unapologetic Christian movie that hopefully the Christian audience will respond to, but I’m going to tell the story in a hardcore way.’”

And now audiences will have the opportunity to see the final product for themselves. “I’m in Love With a Church Girl” is screening nationwide. For more information, visit www.iminlovewithachurchgirl.com.

(Below is the official PR trailer for the film.)

 


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Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is an accomplished writer, interviewer and critical reviewer having written about or covered many subjects of interests.  Having graduated from Tulane University, La Salle University and New York University, Kevin’s career background in Politics and Civic Affairs, Public Relations, Marketing, Non-Profit Management and Filmmaking have helped inspire much of his past artistic and creative efforts.  Kevin directed and co-produced the documentary feature film, FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN.  His coming film, REBEL SONG, looks at a middle-aged American Celtic Rock band and the music inspired by the Irish Republican Army.

In addition to The Williams View, Kevin has written for Townhall, Breitbart’s Big Hollywood, Washington Post’s The Root, Liberatchik, Hip Hop Republican and appeared in/on Media outlets such as the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star, L.A. Weekly, Current TV, Christian Broadcasting Network, Huffington Post Live, Al Jazeera, BET News, National Public Radio, Voice of Russia, Mark Davis Radio Show, Chris Stigall Radio Show and many radio show.  

 

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