Indie Film Tackles Teen Suicide, Fake Christians

DENVER, Colo. – A youth pastor for ten years, Jim Britts has seen a lot of hurting teens.

Whether their parents are going through a divorce, they're cutting their wrists or contemplating suicide, many teens – even in youth groups – are silently crying out for help.

So Britts teamed up with Outreach, Inc., to get their story out through one of the most influential communication tools today – film.

Set to release next year, "To Save A Life" is an indie movie depicting the real-life challenges of teens and their choices. Britts, who has a film degree from Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., began writing the script in January 2007 after coming across so many hurting and lonely teens.

The film opens with the funeral of Roger, a 17-year-old boy who ended his own life after years of experiencing neglect from everyone at his school, including his childhood best friend, Jake Taylor, who ditched him three years ago for popularity.

His heart wrenched over his friend's death, Taylor begins wrestling with life questions and searches for answers in places he never expected, including church.

As the film follows Taylor on his search, it addresses a host of issues, including suicide, peer pressure, divorce, teen pregnancy, abortion and the authenticity of Christians.

And although that's a lot to deal with in a less than two-hour movie, students who have already screened the film say what the movie depicts is real.

In fact, each character in the film and many of the scenes are based off of students Britts has had in his youth group at Newsong Church in Oceanside, Calif., and their experiences.

For Britts, the most moving scene in the film is the turning point of Taylor's life when he walks away from playing a game called beer pong.

"He walks away ... saying 'I can't live both worlds of checking out this God thing as well as living a way that's completely opposite of that. If I'm going to give this God a try, I need to do it completely,'" Britts told The Christian Post on Monday, before a movie screening in Denver. "That was inspirational for us."

In the film, when Taylor goes to a local church youth group, he isn't looking to be religious or just some Christian. He's searching for real transformation.

"What's the point of all this if you're not going to let this change you?" Taylor shouts, confronting all the "fakers," including potheads, in the youth group.

Shaken by his friend's suicide, Taylor is perhaps more hungry than his peers for transformation and a change in the direction of his life. He drops his popularity and star-athlete hat to start a lunch group that welcomes all, especially the outsider who was on the verge of following in Roger's suicidal steps. Taylor begins a Facebook page in Roger's name to help others struggling with suicidal thoughts.

He soon finds himself encouraging thousands of people and saving lives.

"To Save A Life" is designed to inspire teens to reach out to their peers, who are hurting and lonely. More than a parent or pastor, teens themselves have the ability and opportunity to help a fellow teen feel accepted, wanted and important and to help them make the right decisions.

Youth organizations are already buzzing about the potential of the film's impact. Outreach has created youth curriculum kits to help open up dialogue in churches and tackle real teen issues that may otherwise go unaddressed in many churches.

"To Save A Life" releases in theaters nationwide in January 2010.

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