Lights, Camera, Gospel!

A look inside the grandiose cinematic dreams -- and genuine transcendent joy -- at Voice of Pentecost Church

When the singing is over an hour and 45 minutes later, Gazowsky takes the mike and gives the congregation an update on the movie.

"This week was our first filming day, and we practiced having 150 actors here, to see if our staff could handle it," he says. "Now we'll take you behind the scenes ...." WYSIWYG has put together a short video on the progress of filming thus far, and it's played for the congregation on a screen pulled down over the stage.

There's Rocki Starr, with fake snow in her eyebrows, for a scene that's going to be set in a digitally rendered ice castle. ("We've already located a walk-in freezer to shoot in," Rossetti told me that week.) There's Sunny and the fight scene. A dramatic symphonic score, composed by Rocki Starr, plays in the background. Enthusiastic clapping and a few whoops follow the close of the video.

Sunny and Richard Gazowsky.
Paul Trapani
Sunny and Richard Gazowsky.
The Gazowsky Family: Richard, Misty Dejavu, Rocki 
Starr, Sandy, and Sunny.
Paul Trapani
The Gazowsky Family: Richard, Misty Dejavu, Rocki Starr, Sandy, and Sunny.

Then Gazowsky asks for tithes, donations to the church that are traditionally supposed to represent 10 percent of one's income. People hand over their money.

Gazowsky's sermon that day is about viewing your life positively, even if you've had past hardships, because "just like the name of our ministry, WYSIWYG Filmworks, what you see in life is what you're gonna get outta life." Afterward, he asks for additional donations, not only for the films but also for structural renovations to the church and to help the homeless. The congregation seems eager to give. Checks are written and stuffed into envelopes.

Marc Senasac, an independent producer and engineer, has donated generously to WYSIWYG's film projects. Three and a half years ago he got a call from Gazowsky, who wanted to hire him to help a young member of VOP's congregation, Buddy Raspberry, make a hip hop CD. When Senasac got to the church, Gazowsky's beautiful daughters were practicing dance routines in the foyer, and their looks and talent impressed him.

"I remember telling my wife, 'It's like the set of Famein there!'" says Senasac. He ended up staying late into the evening, forging a friendship with the affable Raspberry and deciding to contribute his services for free. Then he came back, and came back again, and ended up joining VOP with his wife.

"I've given them money for x, y, and z, and I've never been disappointed," says Senasac. "One time I donated over $1,000, because I felt it was really significant. It was for some part of the final push on The Roman Trilogy, I can't remember what for. ... The fact that that movie even got completed was sort of a miracle. It was made on a wing and a prayer! ... But why not? Why not have a little fun? The films keep things dynamic."

Raspberry, who is now interning at WYSIWYG, enthuses, "The vision and everything is so raw. You can see where your money is going. It's going to a crane. The crane's right there."

The three Gazowsky kids -- all of whom have looks, talent, and intelligence -- chose, first, to live at home, and now they live with their grandmother. They've volunteered to take part in a risky film operation rather than go to college or get a job. They seem oblivious to the lure of the secular world.

On her 24th birthday in December, Rocki Starr takes a break from the set to get a coffee with me. She's so overly thankful when I offer to buy her a latte that it makes me remember how much financial hardship the family has faced in pursuing its off-the-wall vision.

"It's been fun," she says with a smile. "God's been good to us."

WYSIWYG's mission, it is apparent, consumes her as much as it does her father. And though she could be doing a million other things, WYSIWYG is the one thing she knows she wants to be part of. She speaks of how God led people to take big risks, insisting that you'll never achieve greatness if you don't try for it. "I want to live an extraordinary existence," she says.

We are interrupted by Misty Dejavu Gazowsky and another young film company employee, Abigail Hamre. They've been sent to bring Rocki Starr back to blow out the candles on her birthday cake.

"When we're together, we have bigger dreams than other people," Rocki Starr says, smiling lovingly at her compatriots.

The three comely young ladies begin scurrying down the sidewalk toward VOP. They are a more-than-pretty sight, and a passing man makes a low noise of lustful appreciation. The girls, busy living an extraordinary existence, don't seem to hear a thing.

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