Watch this exclusive TV News video report about Where There Is Darkness, featuring filmmakers Sean Bloomfield and Cimela Kidonakis, and the actor who plays Fr. Rene. Also, be sure to read the report below the video.
GOD-INCIDENCE OR COINCIDENCE?
by Sean Bloomfield
Today, May 19, is my birthday. It also happens to be my wife's birthday.
Life is full of coincidences like these, and most of them can be easily explained.
But perhaps not all of them.
My co-filmmakers and I have experienced a number of uncanny coincidences through the making of Where There Is Darkness.
To us, they are little signs from God that we're on the right path in making this film. God-incidences, we like to call them.
Earlier this week, we were in St. Augustine, Florida shooting some of our last re-enactments for Where There Is Darkness when a local news reporter asked to interview us.
Anthony Austin of ABC and NBC affiliate First Coast News has been following the story of Fr. Rene Robert's murder since the beloved priest was first reported missing two years ago.
Bobbie Jean Murray—sister of Steven Murray, the young man who killed Fr. Rene—told Anthony about our documentary when he interviewed her for a related news story. Anthony was so impressed by the trailer that he reached out to us.
After our shoot, we met Anthony and his cameraman at San Sebastian Church, the same St. Augustine church where Fr. Rene used to be stationed, and where his prayer vigil, funeral Mass, and memorial services were held.
Accompanying me were co-filmmakers Cimela Kidonakis and Jessi Hannapel, and our guest producer Emily Black.
Emily, whose family runs Craig Lodge and Mary's Meals—both of which will be featured in our other upcoming film, Cross Mountain—came all the way from Scotland to help us this month on the films. Aside from her encounters with some of Florida's biting critters like mosquitoes and sharks, Emily has had a wonderful time working with us, and we with her.
Dick McMahon, the actor we cast to play Fr. Rene, also came to the news interview with us since we were in the midst of filming re-enactments with him in the historic parts of St. Augustine. We had just finished filming at the Sisters of St. Joseph convent, where Fr. Rene used to visit often, before meeting Anthony at San Sebastian.
During the interview, actor Dick McMahon shared how he had actually prayed to Fr. Rene during filming and asked for his guidance in playing the part.
Dick then recounted two God-incidences from the making of the movie.
Months ago, when trying to find an actor to play Fr. Rene in the film, we put out a casting call and began sorting through submissions. We finally decided that Dick seemed like the ideal candidate and we cast him. He flew from his home in Oregon all the way to Florida for our first re-enactment shoot.
Upon meeting him for the first time, we realized something amazing: Dick's first and last name was Richard Wayne. Incidentally, Fr. Rene Robert's real name, before becoming a priest, was also Richard Wayne!
Later that day, another amazing thing happened. Our actor Dick received a phone call from his wife's cousin. She had heard about the part he was playing in the film, and she had phoned Dick to tell him that she had actually been a parishioner of Fr. Rene Robert when she lived in Florida!
In fact, she had known him well and was able to describe Fr. Rene's mannerisms and personality to Dick, helping him play the role more effectively.
The day before the news interview, we had experienced another wonderful coincidence. This time it was one that helped us get the shots we needed.
Fr. Rene used to volunteer at the St. Francis House in St. Augustine, a non-profit organization that provides free meals to the homeless and hungry. Although we really wanted to reenactment Fr. Rene feeding the homeless, we didn't have time to set that up and get permission before our shoot.
So, we decided to just get a quick shot of our actor, Dick, walking in front of the St. Francis House as Fr. Rene. As we drove up, however, we saw a crowd of homeless people being fed. We didn't want to film them without permission, so we began to drive away, but then we noticed a familiar face.
"That's Fr. Gillespie!" I said.
Fr. John Gillespie, pastor of San Sebastian Church and a friend of Fr. Rene's, has been extremely supportive of our film. Cimela hopped out of the car to speak with him.
He told her that different parishes take turns as volunteers to dispense meals to the homeless at St. Francis House, with each parish doing it on a different day of each month, and it turned out that Fr. Gillespie and the parishioners of San Sebastian Church were in charge of doing it on the third Tuesday of each month—the exact day we happened to come!
Furthermore, the meal event only lasts for an hour, and we happened to arrive at just the right time. Because we knew Fr. John, he gave us permission and announced to all the people there that we were going to film, and he invited our actor, dressed as Fr. Rene, to join the volunteers.
Needless to say, we captured beautiful footage!
These are just some of the many strange and beautiful coincidences we've experienced in making Where There Is Darkness, and we can't help but think of them as little signs from above to assure us that our instinct about the life-changing potential in this story is correct.
At this point in time, however, our faith is being tested somewhat...
As always, however, we remain hopeful that those who believe in our mission will come to our aide.
As we mentioned in the news interview, we began making this film with no budget to speak of. Why? Because we knew that this was a story that had to be told, and to do it properly, we had to document it from the very beginning.
You've probably heard about our crowdfunding campaign—and if you've already supported it, THANK YOU. And for those who have made multiple donations, a DOUBLE THANK YOU!
We're so very excited about this movie. Our goal is to submit it to mainstream film festivals like Sundance, screen it in theaters, and release it through digital streaming and DVD. But we're getting a little nervous...
This is a story with enormous potential to plant the seeds of faith in the hearts of secular audiences all over the world, but we only have days left to raise the funds necessary to complete and release Where There Is Darkness.
If we don't reach our goal, we won't be able to finish the film or release it in the way we hope to.
We now humbly ask you: please consider supporting the movie through our crowdfunding campaign.
You may also mail a check or money in support of the film to our office. Checks payable to Stella Mar Films can be sent to:
Stella Mar Films
317 Riveredge Blvd, Ste 102
Cocoa, FL 32922
WATCH THE TRAILER
FREE GIFTS FOR YOUR SUPPORT
We have so many wonderful gifts available that we're ready to send to our supporters, and you can see some below. Our film is very much about St. Francis of Assisi in a subtle way, so many of our gifts involve him!
Please claim your perks today by making a donation to Where There Is Darkness on IndieGoGo.