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Faith-based movie explores concepts of forgiveness

Director of the movie Forgiven, Kevan Otto with Jenn Gotzon, who plays the pastor’s daughter and Kevin Sorbo who plays the police lieutenant, while filming in the sanctuary of Epworth United Methodist Church on Arno Road in Franklin. Submitted

Paul Ernest, Second AC, sets Take 3 for Jenn Gotzon and the cameras roll on a scene of he movie Forgiven shot in the sanctuary of Epworth United Methodist Church in Franklin. Carole Robinson
For three days leading into Christmas, Epworth United Methodist Church was transformed into a movie set when producers of the faith-based movie Forgiven showed up to shoot several scenes in the church sanctuary. 
Dubbed a faith-based Die Hard, the movie Forgiven strikes at the heart of true forgiveness when after shooting is girlfriend, a young man seeks refuge in a church and holds the pastor’s daughter hostage causing the pastor to have a heart attack.
“I wanted to do a movie that talks about forgiving using a vehicle of ultimate forgiveness,” said Kevan Otto, scriptwriter and director. 
“Can you forgive someone who causes the death of your father?”
The heart of the movie is a scene shot in the Epworth sanctuary in which the pastor’s daughter, Elizabeth (Jenn Gotzon) shares her faith with the hostage-taker, James (Casey Fuller), while holding her at gunpoint.
“It’s the heart of the film,” said Gotzon. “It brings love, redemption, faith and the hope that God loves us so much. It’s a special scene that, if done the wrong way, can be cheesy, overly preachy and unauthentic.”
As Elizabeth, Gotzon said she worked on the emotional impulse of the moment while having a real conversation with a man with a gun holding her hostage. 
“I felt the passion in my gut and the lines came out of my mouth layered in the urgency of what was happening,” Gotzon added.
During the scene, “I felt like the presence of God was with us part of the time.”
Forgiven demonstrates faith can provide the strength to forgive and that is the gift of the Christmas season, Gotzon added.
Families and relationships too often are destroyed through conflict, miscommunication, choices made and life situations—and never repaired. 
What is lost is magnified over time, she said.
Gotzon discovered her penchant for movie acting at the age of 15, but she didn’t want to do just any type of film, she wanted “to inspire and impact lives through the cinema.”
“I would go to the movie theater, and if the movie was inspirational I would walk out with tears in my eyes and tingle to my toes and think, ‘I want to do that,’” she said. “I wanted to be a part of a story that would be a part of someone’s life – feed them, like food,” she said.
But she added that she did not want to portray a heavy or “preachy” manner. 
“A movie should entertain,” she said.
According to the actress, there has been a paradigm shift in faith-based movies from heavy-handed and preachy to inserting values and consequences – feeding the soul with good values in a way that can be enjoyed by aspects of everyone’s beliefs.
“It’s not about the religion, it’s about the relationships of lives—it’s like Chicken Soup for the Soul,” she said.
James, the hostage-taker, feels no purpose in life and is suicidal. He has no faith in God. He’d never even been in a church prior to the moment he sought refuge from the police lieutenant (Kevin Sorbo), who was chasing him.
Could his first time in God’s house save his life and his soul? Will he go down in a fiery blaze of bullets or will he find his purpose and his life?
“My passion is doing movies with a crossover that all audiences from all beliefs can enjoy,” said Otto, who is also working on a series that examines the Ten Commandments in modern life.
Forgiven, distributed by Bridgestone Distributors, will be released in for domestic television, DVD and On-Demand in mid-2014.
More than a dozen other projects Gotzon has been working on since 2011 will also be released in 2014. Several are designed to promote conversation and are already taking Gotzon into high school classrooms to talk to students about choices and pursuing dreams.
“I want to help them find their passion —their dream and work towards it,” she said.
Contact Carole Robinson at

Posted on: 1/6/2014


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