Voiceless Q & A
One of the great things about the interwebs is the fact that EVERYONE (and their brother… and their sister… and first cousin… and their first cousin’s dog…) seems has a voice these days. And yet… even in this day and age of social media super saturation… the sad truth is, not everyone in fact, does have a voice. Particularly the weak. The vulnerable. The pre-born. To that end, I had the chance to ask Pat Necerato, writer and Co-Director of the motion picture Voiceless… opening in theatres TODAY (watch the trailer here http://voicelessthemovie.com/) about the making of the movie, some of the broader themes he hopes the film gives voice to… and what he hopes it will do for its audience.
Logos Post: First of all, congratulations to Voiceless for winning several awards at the NorthEast Film Festival and California Film Awards! Looks like you picked up Best Narrative Feature, Best Feature Film, Audience Choice and Supportive Actress - all in 2015. With that being said, why did you wait until now (October 7th) to release it to the general public?
Pat Necerato: We hit the film festival circuit first, but really the deal, to be real honest, is that we were still trying to get the movie ready with pre-sale marketing. With all that, October 7th seemed like a good date! It was outside of the big summer blockbusters and before some of the other Christian film releases, because we didn’t want to conflict with those.
Logos Post: Tell us the story behind this story of Voiceless. Why this film? Why now?
Pat: For me in particular as the writer, director and co-producer, I wanted to do this film because my background is street ministry and engaging the culture, I guess you could say, with the Gospel message. My theology is that, as far as sin corrupts, the Gospel redeems and restores. I wanted to do a film that could really take what I believe to be the most egregious sin of our nation, which is abortion, and confront that sin with the Church. In other words, put the Church right in front of that sin and show how that might play out. And in doing so show the underlying message that in order that for the Church to be victorious in this day in age we need to understand it’s beyond just getting to Heaven. Our relationship with Christ is really about taking the Gospel into all areas of life, because Christ is King overall. I wanted to show and illustrate that without sermonizing, I guess you could say. That’s why we did the movie.
As far as why now… There’s never been a better time than the present to make a film like this. The Church always needs to be reformed, we always need to get more involved. Apparently there’s a lot going on in the news and in the culture with abortion, and in the election and things like that, so we’re hoping we can really motivate the Church to want to take a stand.
Logos Post: So, the story takes place in Philadelphia. What went into the decision to make that your backdrop?
Pat:The way I wanted to shoot the film was very gritty. I am from the Philadelphia area, I love the architecture, I love the scenery, the smell, everything about it I really love; It’s just got such a great background and atmosphere to shoot a film like this. And of course the fighting metaphor with Philadelphia goes hand in hand with our film, taking our stand, fighting, Rocky and all of that.
Logos Post: Though there was no mention of Kermit Gosnell’s clinic which was shut down due to horrific human rights violations a few years ago, it made me wonder if there was any symbolism in the backdrop for Voiceless, being in the same city, as if to subtley address the whole idea that these atrocities were going on in plain sight, under the noses of the whole community… and where was the Church? Is that just me reading too much into it, or am I on to something?
Pat: No, there was no intentional symbolism about that. Really, this movie is about taking a stand, so we didn’t want to make this about pro life/pro choice, or the atrocities such as the Kermit Gosnell situation. That really wasn’t our purpose in this. Our purpose was to show people that in order for us to truly live out a Biblical relationship with Jesus Christ we can’t separate the Gospel and society. We can’t separate the material world from the spiritual world. It’s all one thing that Christ is redeeming, and the vocation of believers, the reason we are saved is not to be taken from the world but to be put in the world. To be a part of that restoration project that God has.
Logos Post: There is an interesting subplot with the main character, Jesse, a recently discharged Army Ranger, who is dealing (or rather, not dealing) with some suppressed trauma from his own war experience. We also find out later there are some other suppressed issues that hit a little closer to home in his own marriage. While most people aren’t dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it seems like there’s a great deal of suppression when it comes to the pain surrounding abortion, particularly in the church. Talk about how and why you used this as a vehicle in Voiceless, and what you hope your viewer will take away with them from Jesse’s experience.
Pat: This is a very character driven film, and Jesse is in every single scene in the movie. We wanted to give him an irony. You have this soldier who is post combat, who is really, you know, killing out on the battlefield, then comes to this new job at the church and he is trying to stop the killing going on across the street. We wanted to show that struggle within him; this is a soldier who is used to physically fighting, and he will, in the right circumstances. He was called to protect life in Afghanistan when he was in combat, and we wanted to show that he’s also called to protect life when he’s back home, obviously, in different ways. And that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was just a weakness that made him want to be angry and made him want to be violent, but he held back and it just showed that protecting life is really the underlying theme of this. Killing can be warranted in certain situations, especially when you’re trying to save the life of someone else. But yet when he’s home, for him to do that he had to show extreme control and follow God’s plan.
Pain surrounding his abortion was another ghost from his past that triggered that anger to show this is how he deals with things. He gets angry and takes it out on the battlefield. All these things made up his character web, and hopefully made him an interesting character.
Logos Post: You’ve cited some pretty compelling statistics regarding abortion and the church:
94% of evangelical churches do not have a prolife presence.
200,000- # of women abortions who say they are attend an evangelical church every week
65% of women having abortions say they are Christian (38% protestant, 27% Catholic) 650,000 a year
Pat: We got the 94% statistic from a study from Students for Life. They did an extensive study on Evangelical Churches and their involvement, so this is really accurate and a recent statistic. All of the other stats you can pull from reputable websites like lifesitenews.com and others statistics sites of women who are having abortions who identify as Christian.
Logos Post: As someone who has been involved with churches who have been very connected to the pro-life community, particularly with regard to supporting pregnancy care related ministry financially and through volunteering, it was hard for me to grasp this.
Perhaps my own experience is skewed… but what gaps, if any, do you see existing between churches and local pregnancy care centers?
Pat: That’s a great question. I see a theological gap. Because a lot of churches are like “Hey our goal is just to preach the Gospel” They’ll work with the local pregnancy centers, and most will say it’s important, but unfortunately they overemphasize that evangelistic aspect of it… and believe me, I’m all for evangelism, I’m a street preacher, that’s my background, but I think it all has its own value in its own situation. Churches, I believe need to see that local pregnancy care centers are that mercy ministry, those people are out there laying down their lives so they can help these women. This is a great way for churches and Christians who aren’t necessarily called to go out on the front lines, to connect. The local pregnancy care centers are greatly needed. Last year there were over 700,000 “do it yourself” abortion searches. These pregnancy centers can really fill a gap.
Logos Post: You also seem to be making a case that the Church is afraid, or at least hesitant to take a collective stand.
Pat: Not necessarily afraid, but really not knowing what to do, and theologically not understanding what’s the Church’s role, what are we supposed to do.
Logos Post: In a promotional video for the film you make the statement: “The church of America has stopped engaging the culture…’it’s getting so bad, there’s nothing we can do about it’
Why do you think there is silence? For several characters in the movie, including Jesse’s wife Julia and Miss Elsie, there seems to be an unwillingness to take a “collective/institutional” stand and yet there is more willingness to do something on a personal level. What suggestion is the movie making, in terms of whether taking a stand should be an Either/Or, or Both/And proposition?
Pat: Collectively and institutionally, we have to realize that as a church we are called to be that prophetic voice to society. We have to be the ones, the pastors, the leaders, we have to let people know that our job is to do more than to give people the promise of a better afterlife. We are accountable to take the Gospel Christ and the Bible to impose, if you will, that theology, that standard of truth in to every area of life. Somebody’s theology, somebody’s moral standard is going to be imposed. It’s either going to be Christian or it’s going to be something else. WE have to root for the Bible there and command that the Bible be used as that standard. I think that the suggestion that the movie is making is that in every possible way that you can, you should get involved. Whatever your gifts are you should use them, not only to stand against abortion, but in all aspects of life use your gifts and talents to build for the Kingdom of God.
Logos Post: The term “pro birth” is something we’re seeing more and more in the media, as a kind of new narrative tactic in the campaign by abortion rights groups to depict the pro-life community as only being interested in babies until they are born, and not afterwards. In other words, in this narrative, those who oppose abortion do not care about supporting the mother beyond the birth of the child. What message, if any, does Voiceless have to address this narrative?
Pat:I’m not sure that I agree that the Church doesn’t want to help women after their children are born. There is a tremendous ministry done by pregnancy care centers with the support of the Church. At the same time, even if the Church absolutely did nothing to help women afterwards, it still doesn’t justify the killing of an innocent child, or anyone for that matter. I do think the message of Voiceless shows that we need to get involved wholesale in society, not just with pro life – we need to help the poor, we need to be exactly where the pain and the trials of tribulations of life are… we need to be exactly in that spot.
Logos Post: What are you hoping your audience will take away – ie. what action steps?
Pat: hope that they walk away feeling cut (no pun intended!) and feeling penetrated by this film, ie. “I need to do something”. And that people will go to their church and say “Let’s get together, let’s get behind the local pregnancy center, let’s donate, let sponsor a mother, let’s do whatever we have to do…” I hope something will be triggered and that people will get involved specifically in the prolife battle in the variety of ways that area available.
Logos Post: And finally… any interesting behind the scenes cast/crew stories?
Pat: This movie was probably one of the most exciting things I ever did in my life, from writing it all the way to filming it. So many stories, such an amazing crew, and such an amazing cast and actors.
Ok, so one story is that when we went to shoot on one street in Philadelphia, we wanted to do a scene of Jesse jogging on the street. We shot it in a really bad area, this tiny, tiny little street. When we did the location scout, I thought, I’m not sure if he should be running down here, this looks dangerous, maybe we should get on the back of the truck and roll ahead of him… but we decided it’s only a little bit of a jog, let’s just do it. So the day we go shoot we see that on one end of the street there was a guy with, like, a pitbull and a headset on, and on the other end of the street there was another guy, and it just looked like some sort of drug scene. So when we went to go shoot, as we were jogging down, the whole entire street went into disarray. They thought we were police. They thought that this was a drug raid, and so people were jumping in their cars, peeling out, coming out of their houses, yelling at us, jumping in front of the camera… it just kept getting worse, and worse, and we thought we were done… but then just in the nick of time the truck came to get us and we jumped on without anyone getting hurt or any confrontation. So yeah, that was a funny story!
For more information, and to find Voiceless in a theatre near you, visit: http://voicelessthemovie.com/