It’s not every day the dreams of a few church youth group members turn into a feature film, but 18-year-old Richie Johns has accomplished just that with the support of the Rush Community Church of the Nazarene. RUTH: A FAITHFUL JOURNEY releases on DVD and web streaming 18 August.
The 92-minute drama is a modern day retelling of the book of Ruth. It is the first film produced by the church and was written and directed by Johns.
Ruth premiered in April with 12 showings at New Philadelphia, Ohio’s Quaker Cinema.
Shot in rural Ohio, the idea for the project came during a church trip when the group decided it would be fun to make a modernized Christian movie. Johns and his eventual associate producers, Samuel and Gabriel Brewer, thought of potential Bible stories that could be made into a modern adaptation.
“There are so many stories to be told, but I decided I would like to try the story of Ruth because of its lessons in faith,” Johns said.
Johns began writing the script in 2015, filming began in the summer of 2016, and production wrapped this past spring.
In the updated story, Ruth moves to her mother-in-law Naomi's previous home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While looking for some form of income, Ruth stumbles upon B&B Manufacturing, owned and operated by Boaz.
Johns cast his sister, Hannah Johns, in the title role, along with friends Carrie Rooks as Naomi and Kyle Henry as Boaz.
Richie and his associate producers made use of steadicam and drone resources available through Claymont High School, where Richie graduated in May.
“When we were little kids, we used to make all kinds of videos," Johns said. "Eventually I joined my teacher Chad Shoemaker in making a full-length science fiction movie. It was an after-school activity, and I liked it so much I quit basketball the following year.”
Local businesses supported the project by making their locations available and providing in-kind support. Project funding came from private and business donations, as well as a small budget from the church.
“Serving my church remains the purpose driving me forward,” Johns said.
In addition to the film, Johns created a curriculum and small group discussion guide using clips from the film for use in Bible studies or Sunday school classes. Churches in five states have already requested to host screenings.
“I am so grateful to my mentor, Douglas Downs, and my current pastor, Brett Warkentine, for their inspiration in this work,” Johns said.
Johns will attend Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio, this fall, majoring in intercultural studies and journalism/media production.
“I hope to continue making documentaries and stories that spread the gospel," he said. "Ruth will not be the last one.”
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