Doing the work of God through filmmaking

The film festival wasn't the only gathering place in town for moviemakers last week. A local church also served as the set for two Los Angeles producers shooting their debut film.

Ayvee Verzonilla and her cousin Radha Nilia, who attended Ashland High School, filmed the first of their Hope Caf&

233; trilogy at Ashland Christian Fellowship last week.

"We thank them so much for how kind they've been to us to open their doors," Nilia said.

The movie tells the tale of a single mother from Chicago who moves to Ashland seeking a simpler life and a fresh start. She finds a job at a caf&

233;, where she meets a man who invites her to Bible study and introduces her to Jesus.

The church saw the film as an opportunity to extend its own mission.

"We figured it was a ministry," said Luke Frechette, an associate pastor at the church who played Pastor James in the film. "Being a Christian movie, we wanted to make ourselves available if it was what they needed."

The church let them use the space for free and recruited extras for church scenes.

Verzonilla and Nilia also see their work in filmmaking as an expression of their faith.

"We wanted to open people's minds and be able to inspire them," Verzonilla said.

She and Nilia worked with the faith-based Black Christian Movies to get their start in L.A. and hope to continue producing inspirational titles through their own company, Urban Faith Films.

The girls, both in their 20s, are funding the venture themselves with support from the nonprofit Minority Women in Films.

"My faith is everything as far as just trusting that we've done this before and it's all going to fall into place," Nilia said.

If the venture is successful, they would like to continue working in Los Angeles and Ashland, a town Nilia considers home.

In this production, they relied on local talent from the church and the Shakespeare festival to round out their cast, which stars Noel G, a Hollywood actor who has played supporting roles in films such as "The Fast and the Furious" and "Street Kings."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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