Alex Russell and Johanna Braddy. Photo by Frankey Dey.

Alex Russell and Johanna Braddy. Photo by Frankey Dey.

Four years ago, four college kids from Dallas made a movie about their summer travels abroad, asking themselves – and the young people they encountered – about their belief in God. The film, “Beware of Christians,” was wildly successful, drawing big crowds on college campuses around the country and later receiving backing by Lascaux Films, a Dallas-based production company co-founded by former WFAA film critic, Gary Cogill.

The guys are preparing to release another movie, but this time, they’re ready for the big time. “Believe Me” was filmed in Austin’s fertile film scene and features well-known actors from prime-time television and Hollywood movies. Alex Carroll, whose parents live in Preston Hollow, is lead producer (and my favorite nephew).Michael Allen is writer and co-producer. Will Bakke is writer and director. (Matt Owen went on to a career in real estate.)

Chris McNelly, Zachary Knighton, Will Harris. Photo by Frankey Dey.

Chris McNelly, Zachary Knighton, Will Harris. Photo by Frankey Dey.

It’s the story of Sam Atwell, handsome college senior, and his three partying roommates. Sam moves the campus church crowd with his charismatic message. He moves them to open their wallets, that is. The problem? His charity is a fraud. The money rolling in? He secretly plans to use it to pay his tuition debt. But Sam really cares about Callie, the tour manager, and she actually believes what he’s saying. What will Sam do?

“I can hardly wait to share the new film with people,” Michael told me. “It’s been several years of very hard work for our little team, and now we finally get to let others experience this story.

“The first thing people should know is that this is a fictional feature film, not a documentary like BoC. This time, we’re solely behind the camera (except for one very subtle cameo). But, Believe Me is similar in the blunt, honest, and comedic way it approaches deep truths. We at Riot feel it’s an appropriate next step for us as filmmakers.”

Alex Russell. Photo by Frankey Dey.

Alex Russell. Photo by Frankey Dey.

I asked Michael how writing for other actors was different.

“It’s a special thing, particularly with our amazing cast. The talent that signed on to this film absolutely took our writing to the next level, and for that we feel really fortunate.”

Actors include Alex Russell (Chronicle, Carrie, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken), Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore…name a movie, he’s been in it), Nick Offerman (NBC’s Parks and Recreation), Zachary Knighton (ABC’s Happy Endings), Max Adler (Glee) and others.

Sinqua Walls, Max Adler, Alex Russell and Miles Fisher. Photo by Frankey Dey.

Sinqua Walls, Max Adler, Alex Russell and Miles Fisher. Photo by Frankey Dey.

And are the Beware of Christians guys any different, now that they’ve hit the Big Time?

Michael laughs.

“I honestly hope that more people seeing our work hasn’t affected me. I don’t think it has. Alex, Will and I want to work hard and make great stuff no matter who is watching. It is cool to have a big audience. It’s like planning a really fun party and having a ton of people show up.”

The guys’ film company, Riot Studios, will release “Believe Me” at the Dallas International Film Festival. The first showing is Saturday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Texas Theatre, and the second is Thursday, April 10 at 4:30 at the Angelika. You can purchase tickets online here, but don’t wait. The movie is getting lots of buzz, and a sellout is expected.


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