Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seattle Director Creates Local Movie from the Ground Up

Adam Lubanski is the director of the upcoming film "Rogue Saints."

Adam Lubanski is one the most famous people you have never heard of but are familiar with his work. For 20 plus years, Lubanski has had a hand in creating motion graphics for some of the biggest movies on the big screen including “Battleship,” the upcoming “The Amazing Spiderman” and “G.I. Joe 2.” Before that, he was one of the original creators of the DVD “Scene It” games. But it is his most recent project that really warms his heart. Lubanski has taken the director’s seat for the new local, independent Christian-theme movie, “Rogue Saints.”

“Rogue Saint,” billed as “The greatest church diamond heist, romance, comedy, drama, adventure you've ever seen,” is Lubanski’s first full-length feature film. Not long ago, he got his feet wet creating a short film that poked fun about Christians and how they try to “recruit” others. His friends suggested that he enter the short into a film festival. He did and it was well received.

“The thing that I was really surprised about was that both Christians and non-Christians related to what we were doing,” says Lubanski. “That led to doing a feature length where I found a partner, [writer] Dave Brunk. Both of us were excited about the medium – not necessarily to do a Christian film per se, but just doing film.”

“Rogue Saints” was created on the shoe-stringiest of budgets with local actors. Over 300 people, professional and non-professional, showed up for the auditions. Since this would be a film where none of them could plan on quitting their day jobs, Lubanski was quite surprised by the quality of the actors. There was no requirement to a be a Christian to work on the film but, department leaders had to have an understanding of what it meant to be respectful of other human beings in a Christ-like way.

“The film really became about community within a body of believers,” adds Lubanski, “If you see people reaching out in a Christ-like way, you’re going to experience community in a way you’ve never experienced it before.”

“Rogue Saints” is about a disgruntled former church member and his out of work friend who set out to steal a diamond that just happens to be buried underneath the baptism tank of a small church. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but that is just part of the fun. It stars local actors, some who are familiar to Seattle theatre audiences, John Wu, Jason Pead and Deanna Sarkar in the lead roles.

With Lubanski’s graphics background, the film appears to have been more expensive than it really was and will certainly give him a leg up on the competition. If he had to hire out for those graphics, the costs to make the film would have been much higher. “I’ve heard it said, and I don’t know where the source of it is, there’s two guaranteed ways to lose money in business. One of them is restaurants and the other one is making a film.”

Even though “Saints” is a faith-based film, Lubanski is cautious about calling it a “Christian” film. “I think that there are different kinds of Christian films,” he tells me. “There’s a large portion of people that realize that they have this limited opportunity to say something. They think, ‘Since there are not a lot of Christian-based films out there, we really, really need to get the audience to the sinner’s prayer.’  We avoided that and I think we came up with a compelling story from a Christian standpoint. In fact, there was a point in the production where we went, ‘let’s stop wrestling if this is a Christian film or not and just embrace that fact that this is about this [church] culture."

Although the storylines couldn’t be more different, “Saints” has some similar qualities to another faith-based film that just made the rounds – “Blue like Jazz.” “[That film] didn’t set out to change the world of Christian filmmaking. They just did what they knew. I love that there are people who are exploring this idea of a main character who views the world from those glasses.”

Playing the devil’s advocate, I ask about the lack of a salvation message. “Because it takes place within a church, you’re going to get Christianity coming through on it. I think everyone in the United States has been introduced to Jesus. We are seeing a lot of people understand the ‘insider’s’ view point. I don’t know if many people in mainstream Hollywood understand what it looks like from within the church or to know that we think a [lot of our quirky behavior] is funny too.” He adds, “It would be very hard for me to do a movie about skateboarding and about the people who are passionate about it. I could do something that was based on clich├ęs about it and most people would say, ‘Oh that’s cool.’ But the [skateboarder] insiders would go, ‘You’re a hack!’”

When I ask when all said and done if the project has been worth putting together, he replies, “It absolutely has been worth it and I hope to get out of debt enough to do it again. We had people who would never set foot in a church and would have very specific negative impressions about the church and take part in making the film and go, ‘You know what? This is different from what I expected.’”

“Rogue Saints” is planning on making its debut this fall. It could be produced straight to DVD, but the opportunity to get the movie shown to the public is there for those who want to help make that happen.

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