Michael Robert Wolf: Bridge Builder of Faith

by Edwin L. Carpenter, Film Review Editor

Michael Robert WolfMichael Robert Wolf, the writer and director of The Sound of the Spirit (a Dove “Family-Approved” movie) recently was interviewed by us and had some interesting comments for our Dove readers. His film, about a young Messianic Jew who is taken in by her Jewish uncle, is a fascinating story which attempts to “build bridges” between faiths according to Wolf.

Dove: How did this story originate?

Michael: “I had written a script that was semi-autobiographical about my life that was for a higher budget, a period-piece from the sixties and so I basically was working with the producer, Guy (pronounced “Gee”) Camara from Kingdom Pictures, and he asked me if I would think about writing something that would be more inline with a budget that we might be able to raise. I really told our story, in the Messianic Jewish community; tried to tell it with some objectivity if possible and some balance and compassion on all sides. There isn’t really anything in the movie that couldn’t happen…it’s a story that relates to forgiveness as so many faith-based movies do. It’s not an ‘in your face’ situation. It builds bridges, opens hearts and pushes down walls. The Jewish people who have seen it understand it shows who we are and the stereotypes that can exist.”

Dove: The movie does build a bridge between the Jewish community and Messianic Jews, and the actress who plays Rivka, Anna Lasbury, is terriffic!

Michael: “Fortunately Anna Lasbury is one of the most talented young actresses we’ve met.”

Dove: This movie not only deals with the Jewish and Messianic faith, but is a terrific story of one’s faith being tested. To your credit, this story which could be a powder keg, is told in such a way that it brings trust and integrity to the issues which we feel is a compliment to your power as a director.

Michael: “I appreciate that very much. We really tried to tell the story with sensitivity and speaking to the situations as they really are and it’s a story that’s never been told before. That makes it interesting from that point of view and a lot of people don’t know about these things and so the subject matter is territory that’s never really been looked at. A lot of Christians and people from the Jewish community ask, ‘Well, what did your family think when you turned and believed that Jesus is the messiah?’ These are top questions we get asked. How did the Rabbis and the synagogues respond, things of this sort. We address a lot of that in the movie…the movie seems to be doing very well, on the internet and in Christian book stores.”

Dove: Tell us about the filming of the movie.

Michael: “We shot the whole thing in the Indianapolis area over twenty days. I think one of the things that gave it as good of a look as it has is our Lighting Director, Tom Pielemeyer. Tom was amazing. There were so many amazing people. Guy is very good at bringing together a team and we raised the funds through a 501(C)3 not-for-profit in our city, Cincinnati. We raised the funds for the movie and we came in on budget.  Kingdom Films owns the film along with Bridgestone Multimedia Group.  There are so many miracles that happened with this film. We had a tight budget, twenty days; one hundred sixteen pages. We had a situation where a huge storm was coming in. Guy had the idea to use this one shot with the three coming back from synagogue. It was storming but we just prayed about it and got out there and did it. We looked at our phones and there were storms all around us and it was like God put his hand on top of the area where we were and we could shoot what we needed and just get out of there. It was like a hedge of protection. We had a team of intercessors praying for this film on a daily basis. We worked five days a week and we were all exhausted. We had an incredible Assistant Director, Jerry Nichols, just amazing and so many wonderful people.”

Dove: Yet it was all about the story in the end.

Michael: “The one thing about the movie—we weren’t just trying to think up a story, scratch our heads and try to think of a scenario to make a nice faith-based or Christian movie and sort of vent so that we could say something.  We were actually speaking with conviction about a story which is very close to our hearts. I think that sincerity, that conviction, that poignancy, really comes in. We weren’t just trying to think of a plot device.”

Michael spoke of an actor who wasn’t available to do a scene with the Rabbis so they did the scene on the phone and Michael feels this spontaneous moment made it even better. In another moment of invention, an actor who played the bat mitzvah teacher forgot to bring his uniform and so he was put in a scene when Rivka’s character was upset, and he was wearing a sweater.  Michael laughed about the “ridiculous sweater” but said “we know why we did it!”

Michael went on to say that a rewarding moment was when an older gentleman spoke to Anna Lasbury at a screening and “he bent her ear for about fifteen minutes and he really believed she was Rivka. Anna isn’t Jewish, she’s an actress, but he poured his heart to her like she was Rivka and she stood there with such compassion.” Michael said people from every screening have been touched and they understand what the story is trying to say and the reconciliation. “Those things touch people’s hearts.”

Dove: What are your future plans?

Michael: “We’re focused on promoting this movie. I’m writing a screenplay based on a book I wrote for Destiny Image called The Upper Zoo so somebody’s interested in my doing that; we made sure we had motion picture rights. I do these things on my day off! I lead a congregation and on Mondays I write. I wrote this screenplay over a two year period.”

Michael said the book and screenplay is about a Jewish kid in the sixties in the eighth grade who befriends an autistic Christian boy. He’s in the middle of the screenplay now and he says it is meticulous work and he has to do some polishing on it.

Read Dove’s Review of “The Sound of the Sprit: