ROCK HILL — South Carolina now has its own Catholic film company, thanks to the vision of 18-year-old Zachery Brakefield.
Brakefield, a home-schooled student who attends St. Michael the Archangel Church in Gastonia, N.C., premiered Divine Intervention Films, based in Rock Hill. His mission is to combine his love for making movies with a desire to evangelize.
He runs the fledgling company out of an office in his family’s Rock Hill home, and holds staff meetings at St. Michael.
Much of the information about Divine Intervention is found on its Web site, which provides details about the company’s projects and goals.
Their first large-scale film is based on the life of New York native Father Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll father and military chaplain.
Capodanno was attached to the 5th Marine Division in Vietnam in September 1967 and was killed while performing last rites on dying Marines during Operation Swift. He later received the Purple Heart and Medal of Honor, and there is a campaign for his canonization.
Brakefield’s love for film started when he was 16. He also has a passion for history and decided to make a movie about the American Revolution with a group of friends who are also home-schooled.
“About 50 people ended up being involved. I used a little $100 camera from Wal-Mart, and we had a budget of about $1,000,” Brakefield said. “I really, really enjoyed working on it and in the end, I said I was pretty sure that film is what God is calling me to do.”
That first 30-minute film, “The Spirit of Freedom,” was shot on location around Rock Hill and Bethune in South Carolina, plus a few areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Brakefield and his friends came up with the story line, and his mother, Suzzanne Brakefield, wrote the script. She also helped him make costumes.
The plot centered on a group of villagers who make a stand against marauding British soldiers during the Revolution, even though they have the option of fleeing to safety.
Brakefield received permission from the Center for the Arts in Rock Hill to use a building for the movie’s premiere, and showed it to about 250 family members, friends and supporters.
“Everybody loved it, and that’s what really started me up on wanting to make more movies,” he said. “I saw that people really liked my little backyard film.”
Brakefield said he decided to start a film company that would promote Catholic faith and values, and called it Divine Intervention because he could see the hand of God working in nearly everything he did.
He wanted his next film’s subject to combine his faith and his love for military history.
“I wanted to have a hero as the focus of the story, and I was looking on the Internet one day and found out about Father Capodanno,” he said. “I read a book about him, researched more and more and decided this is the guy I want to make the movie about.”
Theresa Webster, director of faith formation at St. Michael, is writing the script for the Capodanno film. Brakefield had read some of her other writings and asked her to join the project in the summer of 2008. Since then, she has produced a script of about 90 pages that is still being revised.
“Zach is an awesome person. He has a real charismatic way about him,” Webster said. “When he is interested in a project, he just draws everybody in.”
Webster said Brakefield’s Catholic film company is just one more element of the faith-filled life he leads.
“He’s very involved in his faith at all levels here at the parish — whether it’s social, through service or especially in spiritual activities,” she said.
Glen Yellico, a member of St. Michael, has signed on to portray Father Capodanno in the film. Rock Hill resident Dave Jordan is the military technical advisor for the project.
Brakefield said he is amazed at how willing people are to get involved.
“Everybody is just very, very supportive and wants to do as much as they can to help me,” Brakefield said. “People are interested because it’s rare that you get to help work on a movie.”
The company’s other current project is a series of DVDs on the seven sacraments, narrated by Father Roger Arnsparger, pastor at St. Michael and vicar for education of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.
Brakefield and his co-workers have been traveling around the Carolinas filming at churches, cathedrals and other locations to provide background for Father Arnsparger’s narration.
Brakefield will begin his freshman year at Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte in the fall, where he hopes to major in business with a double minor in theology and philosophy.
“Since I’m making these films, I want to be able to really know my faith and effectively evangelize,” he said.
His goal is to have the Capodanno film completed within two years.
To learn more, visit www.divineinterventionfilms.com.