Overcomer cast and crew. Photo used with permission by AFFIRM Films A Sony Company © 2019 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
When the Kendrick Brothers Productions movie Overcomer opens in theaters nationwide August 23, audiences will see a 119-minute polished film. What they might not realize is how many thousands of man-hours the crew put in to produce what they saw on the screen.
Some of those many hours were spent by several BJU cinema production graduates, including Stephen Dysert (2018) and Abby Cole (2017), who worked on the crew during the summer of 2018.
See Also: BJU Students Work on Overcomer
Few on the crew were more behind the scenes than Dysert, who worked as a production assistant on the locations team. The four-man team dealt with the logistics of keeping the large production running.
The locations team was responsible to see that filming locations were prepared, all permissions were obtained and that nothing delayed filming. This meant that they were often the first to arrive and the last to leave the set, and that most of their duties were distinctly unglamorous.
If something went wrong, it was often up to the locations team to fix the problem, whether it was dealing with the sound of a lawnmower four blocks away that interfered with sound recording, tracking down the owner of a location to find out how to turn something off, or setting up tents when it rained.
One of Dysert’s jobs was to get air conditioning units and misting fans to the tents used by the actors and to Video Village, where the director of photography and others worked.
Normally, crew members aren’t supposed to hang around these places. Yet, according to Dysert, “I had the privilege of watching and seeing them work and talking to some people that not everybody got to have conversations with, just because it was my job to turn the fans on and then turn them off when we were rolling and so on, especially that poor black tent that the camera team had to monitor stuff in—it was a sauna in the middle of the Georgia summer heat.”
Dysert is currently working for a video company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Assistant Directors’ Team
Cole’s role as a production assistant on the assistant directors’ team was also behind the scenes, but it too was essential to smooth filming. It was Cole’s job to check with wardrobe, hair and makeup to make sure that the actors were getting ready. She then had to get the actors to the set and wired for sound on time so that when the director was ready to shoot, all the departments were aligned and ready to go.
In addition, Cole kept the actors informed on what was going on and when they had a minute to take a short break. She spent a lot of her time problem-solving, or as Cole described it, “putting out fires.”
Since base camp (the place where actors go for wardrobe, makeup and hair) wasn’t usually near the shooting set, Cole was on the go all of the time. “It’s really cool keeping all the gears going,” she said.
She too remembers the Georgia summer heat. “We had a couple of scenes where we had a lot of volunteers as background, and they were amazing, and our assistant director working with them was amazing because people don’t realize, you’re like, in the sun, outside, for 8 to 12 hours.”
Cole is currently working as a freelance production assistant in New York City.
Making the Team
Though the Kendrick brothers work with a large crew, there are still far more applicants than there are crew positions available. However, the networking that the BJU cinema grads and their teachers (Christopher Zydowicz and John Murray) had done at the Christian World View Film Festival paid off. Several BJU cinema grads were accepted on the crew.
Dysert, in particular, had an extra connection. Sharing a background as a missionary kid from Spain with the head of the locations department, they had previously hit it off at a CWVFF event. In addition, Dysert said, “Another person involved in hiring on the production . . . just so happens to be from Michigan and goes to one of the churches that supports my family in Spain, so when I applied, he was like, ‘Oh yeah, we know Stephen; we have his prayer card on the fridge.’ ”
Difference in Set Culture
Cole and Dysert agree that the atmosphere on the Overcomer set was quite different than that of a secular set. The Kendrick brothers spent the first production day as a boot camp, preparing the actors and crew by going over the story and dedicating the project to the Lord, which set the mood for the entire shoot.
When Cole started on the project, she was overwhelmed by the amount of responsibility she had been given. But the supportive attitude she found made a huge difference.
“The Kendrick brothers are very patient and loving towards all their crew members, and they really care for people. In New York, you’re not going to get that—it’s a very dog-eat-dog world. And working on that project allowed me to learn (to) swim in the deep end . . . but also know that I had a kind of lifeguard looking out for me; if I started drowning, someone would throw out an inner tube somewhere.
“There’s very much a family and almost like a church body-like atmosphere with the Kendrick brothers.”
Dysert agreed. “The Kendricks really love the Lord and really love people, and they have a humble spirit that learns from their mistakes so that now, on their sixth film, they’re always trying to outdo themselves as they work to love their cast and crew and to serve them with the greatest servant’s heart they have. They always stressed that if the message of the film glorified God but the way you ran your set didn’t, then the whole thing was pointless.”
He also appreciated the emphasis placed on service. “The people we worked with just had a huge servant’s heart and really stepped up to do things—they never asked us to do anything they weren’t willing to do themselves and often were jumping in doing it with us, which was a really great opportunity for me to see what every single department needs and what it takes to keep a film set running smoothly,” he said.
Cole sums up the whole experience: “There were really hot days and really long days, but by the end of it, people were there not only for each other but knowing that this project was going to change lives and that was important for everybody . . . It was really cool. It makes it worth it.”