'Change and inspire': Skaneateles woman hope to move believers, nonbelievers with Christian movie

Greg Evigan, left, as Pastor Rodney, Lisa Sheridan as Sara and Donna D'Errico as Coley perform a scene in the Christian film "Only God Can" that was written by Skaneateles resident Colette Harrington Schwoeri.

SKANEATELES | Colette Harrington Schwoeri said she has the Christian version of "Sex in the City" in her movie "Only God Can" — it provides a storyline about middle-aged, female friends without the sex and vulgar language.

She said she feels the "Sex in the City" franchise did so well because it centered around a group of 40-something women and focused on fashion — aspects that appeal to female viewers — but she also feels it failed its viewers at the same time with a false representation of everyday women and the view that sex and men save people.

With her Christian film, the Skaneateles resident hopes to reach women and men alike by telling a story about five women and their journey toward faith amid lives filled with struggles and hardships.

A writer her whole life, Schwoeri said she wrote a successful play, "Marble House," which takes place in the 1900s during the women's suffrage movement, and found that she had a talent for writing ensemble pieces particularly with female characters.

Also working in television and radio, she also became a Christian a few years ago and felt inspired to honor her faith by using her talent for screenwriting to tell a story about Christian women.

"(I'm) not just your Christian that goes to church on Sunday. I'm pretty serious about my faith," Schwoeri said. "I felt committed about my faith, and I decided that God was calling me to write something about his kingdom and his glory."

"Only God Can," which Schwoeri said is set to be released in October, features five friends who attended the College of Charleston together before going their separate ways and yet getting together every year for a reunion.

Sara, the film's heroine, became a Christian in college and feels conflicted about attending the reunion since the rest of her friends are not believers and ridicule her for her faith. But, after consulting her pastor, she decided to go in order to support her friend Grace, who recently became a Christian.

The rest of the friends are Coley, an alcoholic who is separated from her husband and son and uses money to stay connected to people, Patrice, a banker by day and poet by night who finds her life's meaning in social justice, and Glen, who runs a women's shelter and tries to do good for people but finds herself involved in an internet affair.

After talking to her friends about her beliefs, Gracie dies in a car crash the next day, and the four remaining friends come together again for the funeral despite conflicts with each other and in their lives.

As her friends hit rock bottom dealing with the tragedy in their own ways, Sara sees the opportunity to discuss her faith with her friends and help them through their crises to get their lives back together.

"Through the whole process, they all end up getting saved and getting baptized on the same day," Schwoeri said. "It's about faith, friendship and love and about loving people to a better place. ... Each character has their own struggle and needs the power of love to heal the things that are happening in their minds and heart."

Schwoeri even plays a role in the film she wrote — Daisy, the church secretary who she described as "the church busybody and troublemaker" — and said she included that character perhaps to send a message to those who may new to faith and church.

"I think every church has a busybody, Daisy-type in it, and I think people meet those types of people and they're turned off from the church," she said. "They say things bless your heart, but their hearts are really far from God."

When the movie is released, Schwoeri said it will be released through the box office, but that doesn't mean it will appear in every single theater across the country.

"Something that plays really well in the Bible Belt doesn't necessarily play in the heart of New York City," she said. "If you look hard enough, you'll be able to find it. It's not like it's going to be hard to find, but some places aren't going to get it. That's just the way it works."

With moves such as "Fireproof," "Courageous" and "God's Not Dead" coming out in the past few years, Schwoeri said there is "such a pent-up demand for Christian films" from believers and nonbelievers alike and are finding success from both demographics.

"They're not killing it in terms of the numbers that other films are, but if you look at the investment and what they're getting back in those films, it's unbelievable," Schwoeri said. "I think people are still looking for answers, and I also think the Christian community has decided, 'You know, we're going to rally around projects that are about us.'"

Schwoeri added that she feels "kind of groundbreaking" by creating the first Christian chick flick after seeing underwritten female roles in Christian and mainstream films alike.

"The way this whole thing came together was so miraculous just within itself. It only took four years of miracles to make this happen," she said of her film. "When God gives you a vision, you better make sure you're ready to do the work. If you're going to pray for potatoes, you better own a hoe."

Schwoeri said she hopes her movie inspires men and women alike and feels pretty confident that it will: "God's word never goes out in vain. It will change and inspire lives."

She said the online trailer already had nearly 15,000 hits in the four days since it was released, and she took that as a sign that "Only God Can" is already moving people.

"Something about it is speaking to them already from a two-and a half minute trailer," she said. "It is powerful. ... You can send them that trailer, and the message is really loud and clear — faith and the power of prayer."

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Skaneateles Journal Editor Jonathan Monfiletto can be reached at jonathan.monfiletto@lee.net or (315) 283-1615. Follow him on Twitter @Skan_Monfiletto.

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