Film-Television alumni debut feature film with rave reviews

Every aspiring Spielberg, Cameron and Lucas dreams of the day their first feature film releases. For Regent University alumnus Joshua Overbay ’10 (Communication & the Arts) that day came with the 2014 release of As It Is in Heaven.

The ultra-low budget independent film follows the story of David, the newly appointed leader of a rural Kentucky religious sect who believes it’s his destiny to guide his flock through the end of the world. This provocative film was reviewed with positive remarks by The New York Times, The Chicago-Tribune, Hollywood Reporter, and RogerEbert.com, just to name a few.

But Overbay didn’t get there alone. His team of collaborators included Isaac Pletcher ’10 (MFA Directing) as cinematographer, Chris Nelson ’06 (MFA Acting) in the lead role of David, Christopher Free ’11 (MFA Producing) as an executive producer, and undergraduate alum Lauren Nicolette ’11 (Film-Television) as editor. All had worked with Overbay on Regent projects before, but this was the team’s first feature-length film.

The film’s small price tag seems to have only enhanced the rawness of a story that highlights the incredible power play between faith and doubt.

“For a lot of viewers, it’s an uncomfortable subject matter: how we believe and hear from God,” Overbay says. “I don’t think films work well when they preach. But I think when they examine and provoke questions, that’s the sweet spot for the medium.”

Overbay certainly achieved that with As It Is in Heaven, garnering praise for its deep tension, vivid characterizations and atmospheric cinematography.

“The placid setting can’t disguise the tensions cracking beneath its surface,” said The Wall Street Journal. The Hollywood Reporter called it “quietly compelling … ominous,” while The New York Times named it a “critic’s pick,” noting the film “cooks a surprising amount of tension from the barest minimum of ingredients.”

Overbay’s nano-budget didn’t leave much room for marketing, so he pounded the pavement with the film himself until the invitations turned into inquiries. As It Is in Heaven has now been shown at national film festivals, and the positive publicity helped the film land a series of limited showings in major cities from New York and Chicago to Seattle and Los Angeles.

For Nelson, it was easy to say yes even to an untested director. “As an actor, you always look for an arc in the roles you’re presented with,” he explains. “The realism of it all really intrigued me, and though it would have been very easy for a film like this to dip into cliché and stereotype, Josh took it deeper than that, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

The collaborative nature of the project highlights the strength of the bonds made amongst filmmakers in Regent’s School of Communication & the Arts as they learn and create together.

“I teamed up with Josh and Isaac on a lot of projects at Regent because I was the new guy, and I immediately wanted to work with the people who were doing the best work,” Free says. “I wanted to be better myself, so I looked for those people ahead of me that I could learn from, and in doing so, built relationships I believe will last us our whole careers.”

To learn more about As It Is in Heaven and to watch the trailer, visit asitisinheaventhemovie.com.

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