PASTOR. SAINT. BACKSLIDER.
A Feature Film
Writer & Director: Eve Spence
Producer: Liam Branagan, Executive Producer: Jonathan Page
Erin, the rising star of an evangelical church, is involved in a car accident and pronounced brain dead. Her devoted husband and their church raise her through a 'laying on of hands' and the awakening is claimed as a miracle. But Erin didn't meet God on the other side, so either she wasn't dead and there was no miracle, or there's no God.
Set in the distinctive world of a modern charismatic church, Truesong is a drama that illustrates the paradox of religion as a place of both nurture and submission. As our young pastor wakes and sees her life from a new perspective, Erin's journey from certainty to doubt is one of loss, conflict and courage, ending in a rejection of her chosen community.
The authenticity and nuance of the characters in Truesong will draw the audience into Erins's world, creating identification rather than comfortable satire. In refusing to cast the church leaders as 'soft targets', the film explores the role of all religions in dismissing evidence that contradicts beliefs.
ERIN - TRUTHSEEKER
Truesong’s rising star.
Erin grew up a ‘Third Culture Kid,’ her father’s job as a geologist taking her from far-flung mining towns to international cities, leaving her worldly but unsettled. When the family is posted to a small town nestled in a dramatic coastal hinterland, sixteen-year-old Erin finds the security and community she was craving in the local evangelical church Truesong.
Now in her mid twenties, Erin is rapidly climbing the ranks of Truesong until a car accident almost kills her. The inexplicable manner in which Erin wakes from her coma should strengthen her faith, but paradoxically it serves to test it. Struggling with questions about the afterlife, Erin is conflicted about claiming her awakening as proof of a miracle. When she voices her concerns to those she trusts most - her husband and church leader Pastor Kirk, they encourage her to submit to their judgement, ignoring Erin’s growing emotional distress. Alienated from her family and community, it is only in the ‘backslider’ Evan that Erin finds someone who will listen. Then Evan betrays her too, asking her to lie in court to save his brother, leaving her completely isolated.
Erin pushes on with the Miracle Event, desperately hoping that delivering her testimony will return the certainty she used to possess. Instead, it reveals to her the extent of her manipulation by the church, and the loss of her husband’s loyalty. When Erin is called on to testify in court she now rejects all counsel, and by listening to her inner self she finally refuses to claim what she cannot know.
ANGUS - STRATEGIC
Erin’s husband and Kirk’s understudy.
Growing up as ‘the policeman’s son’ set Angus apart. Naturally obedient, it wasn’t until he met Phil Kirk during a cell bible session that he found a way to forge his own identity without challenging his father. When Angus met Erin he instantly recognised that she had a sophistication that he lacked, one that would help him reach beyond his small town.
PASTOR KIRK - CHARISMATIC
Truesong Church founder.
Phil Kirk was a reluctant choirboy when a visiting vicar caught the boys playing soccer in the nave. Phil cheekily passed him the ball, and the vicar pulled up his cassock - revealing steel tipped cowboy boots - and joined in. Phil’s notion of what a priest could be suddenly expanded, and the vicar’s modernity became his inspiration.
EVAN - BATTLER
Local policeman, lapsed Truesong member, love interest.
Evan was fifteen when his father held up a classmate’s mother in a botched, drug-fuelled robbery. The following morning he got up, made his brother breakfast and went to school. Having survived that day he knew he was not going to support his father and he was never going to leave the farm that was his home.
SHANE - TROUBLED
Younger brother of Evan.
Unemployed, angry and depressed, Shane's decision to stay and help Erin at the scene of the accident is the moment of his life he should be most proud of. However as his white lie is exposed and the blame falls on his shoulders, his brave choice threatens to imprison him.
Truesong is set in a paradoxical landscape that provides visual and narrative power. Erin’s adopted home is in a lush hinterland, a veritable ‘garden of eden’ that serves as a metaphor for spirituality in the film. But only a few kilometers away looms a coastal developers’ paradise, where Truesong is now based. This tension in the visual landscape illustrates the changing nature of the church from a local community affair to a large public enterprise.
Music has always played a significant role in Christianity and is integral to the success of churches such as Truesong. The transcendent qualities of music will add to the cinematic quality of the film, allowing us to access something of the believers’ euphoric experience.
In 2018 Truesong was selected to Screen Tank, a development programme run by Dame Changer.
Truesong received development funding from Screen NSW in 2017 to provide consultation with past and present members of evangelical churches in order to fine-tune the script's authenticity.
Previously, the script was developed at the Binger Writers' Lab in 2014/15 in The Netherlands with the assistance of Screen Australia's Talent Escalator Program. The script editor assigned to Truesong was Franz Rodenkirchen (Lore, Wadjda).
The script was an Official Finalist of The New York Screenplay Contest, 2014.
WRITER & DIRECTOR
EVE SPENCE has an extensive industry background in film and television.
Her short film "Playground" premiered in competition at the Berlin Film Festival and went on to win six awards. The film was highly commended for the sophisticated performances of the all children cast, and screened at over forty international festivals. Her previous shorts also screened widely including Bilbao International Film Festival and at the Cinema des Antipodes at Cannes.
Eve has ten years on-set experience as a script supervisor, having worked on all drama formats including features such as Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later". Eve has worked for the BBC as a writer and lectures in screenwriting and the University of Technology, Sydney.
A more detailed bio and excerpts of her films can be found on the Cat & Dog Films website. catanddogfilms.com.au
LIAM BRANAGAN produced Eve's short films "Playground" and also "Six O'Clock Swill" which together screened at over sixty international festivals, won six awards and were sold to television. Liam has also produced documentaries and worked extensively in both the UK and Australia as a First Assistant Director. For more details see the Cat & Dog Films website.
JONATHAN PAGE is an experienced Executive Producer of many feature films including The Babadook and Mary and Max. He has worked as a Distributor for many years, more recently through his own company Bonsai Films. A more detailed list of Jonathan's work can be found on his company website.
DIRECTOR of PHOTOGRAPHY
MARK WAREHAM is one of Australia's most sought after cinematographers with a diverse list of credits to his name. His feature credits include the opera Eternity Man, Sundance hit Clubland, hit comedy The Kings of Mykonos and A Month of Sundays, starring Antony LaPaglia. Mark’s television credits include Redfern Now, Parer’s War, the award-winning Scorched, Secret City and the highly-acclaimed Cleverman. Recent feature credits include Jasper Jones, starring Hugo Weaving and Toni Collette, and Don’t Tell, starring Jack Thompson, Aden Young and Rachel Griffiths.
FELICITY ABBOTT is an exciting new production designer, working across feature film and television. Recent feature credits include Bruce Beresford's Ladies in Black, Chasing Satellites, Alex and Eve, and TV series Secret City, Redfern Now. Felicity is a long-time collaborator with Cat & Dog Films who designed both Playground and Six O'Clock Swill. Felicity is a recent recipient of a prestigious Mentor LA award, and will work with Deborah Riley (Game of Thrones). A more detailed bio can be found on her website.
DANY COOPER is a highly respected editor with an enviable body of work across film and television. She has won numerous awards, including AFI, ASE and AACTA Awards for Best Editing. Dany has significant Australian feature credits, including Breath, The Sapphires, Holding the Man, Candy, and Beneath Hill 60. She has edited international features for directors such as Jim Loach, Robert Luketic and Michael Rymer.
TOM RICE has contributed music to some of the most successful shows on Australian and International television and has composed jingles for some of Australia's leading brands. He is also a long time collaborator with Cat & Dog, having composed the music for both Playground and Six O'Clock Swill.
Set in a modern charismatic church, Truesong follows a young pastor, Erin Brooks, on her journey from certainty to doubt.
After a car accident leaves Erin brain dead, the doctors recommend turning off her life support, but her husband Angus and church founder Pastor Kirk refuse to give up hope, leading a ‘laying on of hands’ that miraculously awakens Erin.
The accident and the ‘miracle’ spark two convergent storylines. The main action explores the expansionist agenda of the church as they prepare for a ‘Miracle Event’ where Erin will deliver her testimony to an audience of thousands. However, having not ‘met’ God when clinically dead Erin now questions the afterlife. Just as she is beginning to examine what this means for her faith, a clip of her awakening goes viral on YouTube and the pressure on Erin to remain loyal to Angus and Kirk intensifies. As public momentum gathers and devotees set up camp outside her property, the besieged ‘Gold Coast Miracle Girl’ finds herself overwhelmed by expectations, and increasingly estranged from those she trusts.
In the storyline that flows from the accident, Erins’s conscience is tested by the fate of the troubled teenager Shane who the police have charged with causing the collision. Drawn into discussions with his brother, lapsed Truesong member, Evan, an intimacy develops and her marriage also comes under pressure. In both these spheres Erin tries to examine her experience critically, but when she voices dissent from the church or police explanation she finds she is pressured to suppress her doubts.
At the Miracle Event Erin stays on message, but despite translating her experience into ‘proof’ for a huge congregation, she fails to convince herself. Having hoped that the event would reignite her faith, Erin is instead forced to recognise her alienation from her husband and church. When Erin later arrives at court and is faced with having to testify against Shane, she realizes she can no longer sacrifice the truth. Taking the witness stand Erin finally scrutinises her own driving, discovering that the cause of the accident is in fact, like her awakening, unknowable.
Truesong celebrates the courage it takes to question your chosen community while recognising the deep appeal of religion as a house of belonging. Although the film positions the audience in sympathy with much of what the church has on offer, ultimately it asks the question, if you value truth can you afford faith?