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A return to God: Leesburg filmmakers to debut first movie Nov. 10

photoPhotos courtesy/Stephen Pappas “Treasure In Heaven” follows small town pastor John Christensen, played by Ron Planting as he struggles to once again find God.

It’s a problem in modern day Christianity – pastors preaching to increase congregation numbers rather than to simply worship God.

With that in mind, Leesburg residents Stephen and Susan Pappas set out to send a message with their film “Treasure In Heaven.”

Even pastors can lose their faith – and the struggle to regain that belief can sometimes lead to extraordinary intertwined stories.

“Treasure In Heaven,” the first full-length film for the Pappases, will premiere Nov. 10 at Cobb Village 12 Theaters in the Village at Leesburg.

For the Pappases, making “Treasure In Heaven” was more about the message than making money.

“We’ve had several experiences with pastors … and one of the things we’ve noticed is that they sometimes say ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this?’” Stephen Pappas said.

“Treasure In Heaven” was shot entirely in Loudoun County with Round Hill United Methodist Church as the backdrop. It took almost two years to produce – five months in production on the weekends and a year in post production – and was shot using Canon Rebel T3i and Canon EOS 60D and DSLR cameras.

“We wanted to generate a whole new generation of Christian filmmakers and the technology was there to be be able to do that on a really low budget,” said Kevin Cassidy, associate producer. 

The actors and crew of the film are all volunteers, including sibling missionaries from Spain, and represent more than eight churches, Susan Pappas said.

She and her husband attend Destiny Church in Leesburg.

“I think it’s just amazing what God has done to bring so many Christian people together to tell this story,” she said.

The filming locations, including Dolce Coffee House and Kettermans Jewelers in Leesburg, Clyde’s in Ashburn and The Christian Shoppe in Purcellville were all offered for free.

“Everybody we talked to, they bent over backward to help us. They really opened their doors for us,” Susan Pappas said.

The idea for the film came after Susan Pappas one day asked her husband of 27 years: “Can a pastor ever really retire from serving God?”

The film, written by the couple and directed by Stephen Pappas, follows the story of John Christensen, the pastor of a small town church. Over time, Christensen, played by Ron Planting, begins to desire the things of this world. His wife, Sarah, played by Susan Pappas, tries to motive her husband back to his spiritual passion with little success.

Eventually, through a series of events, Christensen has a revelation of God’s desire, but finds his congregation is still caught up in their worldly lives as well – and he’s partly to blame.

As Christensen begins to speak from the scripture, he finds resistance from Bill Johnson, played by Bill Atkinson, the church board and his congregation.

Christensen risks everything to bring his church back to God. 

“There really wasn’t a movie out there for someone facing a middle -aged crisis, especially pastors,” said Cassidy “… It’s really about a pastor going through the motions, and his congregation is going through the motions.”

The Pappases are hoping to market the film on iTunes and Amazon.com after its Cobb Theatre premiere Nov. 10.

“Treasure In Heaven” isn’t the Pappases or Cassidy’s first venture in film making.

Both Stephen Pappas and Cassidy are IT consultants by day, but have both received training in film, working on such ventures as public access Christian ministries and “Come What May,” a film directed by George Escobar. The Pappases also had cameos in other films, including “Come What May.”

In the past few years, independent Christian films have broken into the mainstream.

In 2006 and 2008, the movies “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof,” both Sherwood Pictures productions, an Albany, Ga.-based company, surprisingly skyrocketed as contenders with Hollywood big budget pictures.

“Fireproof,” starring Kirk Cameron earned more than $33 million and became the highest grossing film independent film of 2008.

Sherwood Pictures is a pioneer in Christian films, Stephen Pappas said, but he doesn’t see “Treasure in Heaven” earning “Fireproof” status.

“It would be nice to be able to say there would be a good return in our investment and I could quit my job,” he said. “But this was more about the message than making a money.”

“We made this movie on God’s budget … and two maxed out credit cards,” Susan Pappas said.

If you go:
“Treasure In Heaven” premieres Nov. 10 at the Cobb Village 12 Theatres in the Village at Leesburg.
Tickets are $5. Cash only.
Doors open at 9 a.m. The movie begins at 10 a.m.
To view the movie’s trailer, visit http://www.tihthemovie.com/index.html.



Please update the article and advise your readers that “Come what may” is an anti-choice film that was filmed at Patrick Henry College, debuted at PHC and included a cameo by Michael Farris who played himself.

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