By Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
MOORE — Exploring ideas of faith and hope, an Oklahoma faith-based documentary on the May 20, 2013, EF-5 Moore tornado is scheduled to premiere at the Moore Warren Theatre May 16.
Titled “Where Was God? Stories of Hope After the Storm,” the film follows the lives of those impacted by the tornado throughout the community. The movie will screen for a week, or more, depending on ticket sales. Exact show times will be released at a later date.
“The goal is to give people the idea that no matter what life storm they’re going through we all experience death, we all experience sickness, we all experience a bankruptcy or divorce or whatever it is — no matter what life storm you’re going through God is always near,” said Steven Earp, executive producer and lead
pastor at Elevate Church in Moore.
About two weeks after the tornado hit, Earp said he was approached by a friend, a movie producer, about the possibility of creating a documentary about the event. In just a few months they were interviewing families in the community looking for stories of hope and overcoming.
“By the fall, we had local, area filmmakers that are all professionals come on board. Some of them volunteering, some of them very part time just doing what they could,” he said. “The quality, the production, everything just increased exponentially and it’s grown and gotten a lot of momentum and we feel really good about it.”
The movie tells the stories of many individuals Earp described as “heroic.” Among them, Plaza Towers Elementary school teacher Karen Marinelli who shattered her tail bone protecting her students, as well as Plaza Towers Principal Amy Simpson who courageously continues to lead the school.
Stacey and Scott McCabe, parents of 9-year-old Plaza Towers student Nicholas who died in the collapsed elementary school building, share their experience of healing.
Also in the film is Kayla Carmona, 15-year-old survivor of the 2011 Joplin, Mo., tornado, who lost her father and sister in the Joplin tornado. Carmona moved to Moore with her mother shortly after the Moore tornado to help counsel victims.
Cleveland County Undersheriff Rhett Burnett, Meteorologist Gary England and Storm Chaser Val Castor appear in the film as experts. Earp also appears in the movie in his role as a pastor.
Earp said all participants in the movie were carefully selected. He worked alongside counselors to ensure all individuals were ready to share their stories.
“These are people who, for the benefit of others, have opened up their hearts and said, ‘Here’s what we’ve experienced and here’s what we’ve felt. And even in the midst of this great disaster, God is still good and you can still trust him,’” he said.
And with the film premiering near the first anniversary of the tornado, Earp said there’s no way around it: The end product is emotional.
“And it’ll be more emotional here than anywhere else, but when you walk out you will be smiling,” he said. “You will have tears, but you will be smiling.”
The documentary — filmed, directed, produced and edited in Oklahoma — was a labor of love by many volunteers, Earp said, and cost an approximate $200,000 to produce. Funding was provided by Elevate Church, faith-based groups and companies. It is a Behold Motion Pictures film in association with Elevate Faith Productions, and was produced by Brian Cates and Chris Forbes and directed by Travis Palmer.
Earp said he would love to see the movie screened across the nation, but his target audience is Moore residents. His biggest dream would be raising enough money to provide copies of the movie to anyone impacted by the tornado. Any funds generated from ticket sales will go back into ministry at Elevate Church.
The film trailer is being shown at the Moore Warren Theatre and can be viewed at wherewasgod.com. Individuals who wish to host a screening of the film in their area can visit the website to request a showing.
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