Local family the driving force behind Christian film

PARKERSBURG – Scheduled for premiere this month, a faith-based film called “Seven Deadly Words” was a family affair for the Bensons.

Mid-Ohio Valley residents Eric Benson, his wife Annette and sons Noble and Miles all had roles to play.

The movie will premiere at the Churches Making Movies Christian Film Festival in Rahway, N.J., scheduled for Oct. 11-13. The film was written, produced and directed by Eric “Doc” Benson, and features veteran actors from Hollywood movies, network television, and the stage.

“As a chef and culinary instructor, Annette served as our caterer and craft services coordinator. She and a student from her program prepared fantastic meals for our cast and crew each day of filming, as well as healthy snacks at the ready on set. My eldest son Avery, who is also a chef, came out to the shoot a couple days and helped out in the kitchen. Food was prepared and served at a nearby church which volunteered space for the project,” Eric said.

Son Noble was part of the sound recording team.

“He also served as the boom, the individual who stands there all day with his arms over his head, holding a long boom pole with a microphone on the end. It’s a very strenuous job,” Eric said. Noble also ran errands and helped with odd jobs on set.

For Noble, movie-making was a new experience and he said he learned a lot about recording and working on a set.

“Standing all day with the boom pole was a challenge, but fun at the same time,” Noble said.

Miles Benson played Trevor, the son of the pastor.

“He had experience as a voice talent for radio and industrial films, as well as hosting a cartoon show in New England. So being in front of the lens was not too much of a stretch for him,” Eric said.

“I wanted to be a part of this project to be able to get some acting experience. I will try to help out with future projects in any way that I can,” Miles said.

Eric wrote, produced, directed and had a cameo in the film.

Making a family-friendly movie was important to Benson. The Dove Foundation has awarded the movie its Family-Approved Seal. Benson’s past experience served as a foundation for the movie. For nearly two decades Benson served as a pastor, church planter, and restart consultant.

“I have seen both the good and bad about churches going through change. I’ve heard about and even lived through some horror stories of my own. I thought I would combine some of those ideas, stories, and debates, and put them together into a film that could tell the story of one church overcoming the conflict surrounding change, and growing in a direction that is Christ-centered and ministry focused,” Eric Benson said.

“I wrote the script to be a DocuDrama, as if the story is being filmed by two students. In this way we could break the fourth wall on occasion and draw the audience in as if they were an actual spectator to the events that take place. While future projects may be in a different style or format, they will still maintain my commitment to family-friendly and inspirational storytelling,” he said.

“I wanted to do this project because I feel there are many people out there that go to church and do not realize how the pastor and his/her family are treated. People need to understand that pastors and pastors’ families are people too. They are not perfect and they should not be judged to perfect standards that can never be obtained,” said Annette Benson. “It was really nice to be doing something that involved the whole family,” she said.

Eric said he has two more scripts in development now, one of which could easily be filmed in West Virginia.

“One of the things this state has going for it is an excellent transferable Tax Credit Program, which is a boost to the bottom line for low budget film making. If we do shoot locally, we would need folks to serve as extras and in some smaller supporting roles. We would also want to partner with area churches for host families for out of area actors, crew, meal prep sites, and other support functions. We did this on Seven Deadly Words with great success, and it was nice to see the church community coming together as a team to make this faith-based vision become a reality,” Eric Benson said. “We also would seek out local business owners and residents to financially partner with us to create a film they would be proud to take their family to see at the local theater.”

Most of Seven Deadly Words was filmed in Connersville, Indiana.

Eric Benson said he hopes audiences leave his film with a message of hope; that with the ability to come together comes the ability to overcome conflict.

Benson said he’s working with several distribution companies at this time, and once established, the film should be showing in select theaters then it will go to DVD, rentals.

“This process takes time, and won’t start until after the Premiere on Oct. 11,” Eric said.

“I’ve seen good directors and bad. Eric “Doc” Benson is the former. Many young directors either don’t know how to communicate their vision, or simply don’t have a vision to communicate. Doc is both expert communicator and inspired visionary, as can be seen in his feature Seven Deadly Words. In that film, he was able to tactfully address a risky topic, expertly nurture realistic, human performances from inexperienced actors, and artfully communicate rich truth. That’s quite a feat. Even more importantly, Doc is a man of character who keeps his head in stressful situations, treats everyone with respect, and leads by example,” said Matthew Shaw, screenwriter and consultant, Egypt Valley Pictures.

In addition to Benson’s involvement in the film, several local musical talents contributed to the soundtrack including Emmy-Award winner David Traugh and Christian recording artists Anthony Mossburg and Katelyn Read.

Some Amtrak footage was shot in southern West Virginia, and the initial, raw assembly edit was completed at Benson’s local studios. A number of churches partnered with the film in Indiana and West Virginia to help with production and post production.