By Dawn Megli-Thuna
Just ask the Apostle Paul. The road to Damascus is more than a route to Syria.
Damascus Road Productions, named after the location of Paul’s conversion to the Christian faith, is a Westlake Village-based film production studio that produces inspirational and family-friendly entertainment alongside more secular selections.
Their latest faith-based project, a film called “Motorvation” based on themes from the Book of Ecclesiastes, is slated to film at locations in and around the Conejo Valley this December. The film tells the story of a man who inherits a motivational speaking company after his brother dies and sees that his brother’s prosperity never brought him happiness.
Actor Angus Benfield was cast in the lead role in the film, which is scheduled to shoot over four weeks in December and January at locations in Thousand Oaks, Agoura and Fillmore.
The 46-year-old father of one said the theme of the movie is about finding joy and meaning in what really matters rather than material success.
“It’s about learning to live life now and not ‘when,’ which is when I lose weight or when I get a different job. The world is designed is to keep us chasing after all that stuff. The idea is to challenge our preconceived ideas about what life is really about.”
Benfield has been involved in the entertainment industry since he was a teen. His most recent project to be released is “Trust,” a film based on the life of Job.
The Australian native moved with his wife and kids to the Conejo Valley last year and Benfield said the move put him in proximity to other Christian actors and producers.
Ryan O’Quinn is the president of Damascus Road Productions. Two years ago, O’Quinn, who is a film and television actor who has appeared in shows such as “Beverly Hills, 90210” and movies like “Starship Troopers,” got tired of commuting between the Conejo Valley and Sony Studios in Los Angeles.
So he set up shop in an office that occupies the former home of DTS Sound on Via Colinas.
He said the production studio does both secular and faith-based media, working on everything from horror movies to inspirational family films.
Far from being a creative backwater, O’Quinn said, the Conejo Valley has a robust Christian filmmaking community that supplies talent to nearby companies including PureFlix, a Christian film production and distribution firm with offices in Calabasas known for films like “God’s Not Dead” and “The Case for Christ.”
He said local writers, actors and producers are putting out “good clean content” that’s inspirational to help people refocus on what’s important. He said uplifting media is needed now more than ever.
“I dread turning on the television, especially in the last week,” he said.
The 46-year-old father of three said many Christian filmmakers also congregate around the Westlake Village-based Christian Entertainment Guild. The organization’s website says Christians in entertainment have the opportunity to use their gifts and talents to be part of “portraying the true nature of Christ to the world.”
That’s a role actress Cammy Brickell takes seriously. The Agoura Hills mother of two was cast to play the female lead in “Motorvation.” Her character, Lisa, runs a weight-loss company based on being your personal best, at least according to external standards of beauty and success.
The 37-year-old said the movie highlights the fact that while people get caught up in trying to better their lives through a new car, a better house or a thinner body, true happiness comes from being present in the moment, showing kindness and loving people well.
Brickell also performs as a stand-up comedian and has done television and commercial work. She said that as a Christian, she has one foot in each world. “We need to be in both,” she said. “For me as a churchgoer and someone who believes in God, I love being with the church community to get spirit-filled and focused. I also love being in Hollywood and bringing a good message.”
She said her biggest passion is to make people laugh and bring joy wherever she can.
“God is good,” she said. “All the time.”