Ten years ago, Richard Gazowsky, pastor of the Voice of Pentecost Church in San Francisco, received a ‘prophetic whisper’ from God to make movies. Michael Jacobs’ unique documentary shows Pastor Gazowsky and his congregation as they gear up to make “Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph,” a $50 million Biblical sci-fi epic. “Audience of One” is a fascinating study of magical thinking, an example of the “faith-based reality” sometimes alluded to in discussions of contemporary politics, and also a testament to those who sacrifice it all to be in the movies.
-Interview by Jon Robbins
How did you get into filmmaking?
I’m a self-taught filmmaker. I started during my senior year at the
Did being an English major help the transition?
Writing proposals and treatments, the ability to see narrative arcs and devise stories, all that is made easier by my background. And in “Audience of One,” I wanted to make the narrative as strong as possible.
How did you get access to this project?
I read about the church in a
What about you as a spectator? Are you an adherent to Pentecostalism yourself?
No, no. I was raised Jewish in
Did you really follow them to
Yes. I threw down a bunch of frequent flyer miles and followed them. And I’d been watching them for months, with all their questionable prepping tactics. In such an epic endeavor, something was bound to go wrong, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. But when they said they had to go to
Was it hard was it to toe the line between cinéma vérité and mockumentary?
Oh yes, it was a constant struggle during the editing process. Kyle Henry, my
I was worried that I’d be attacked for just ridiculing these people, and some people may feel that way. But I feel secure that I did right by my subjects. Really, they made a mockery of themselves, if anything, and I just got that on tape. I never cut the film to accentuate it.
How much cutting did you do?
We had 130 hours and it’s an 88-minute film. There’s a lot of strong personal character development that I had to cut to retain the vérité and to let the narrative be driven by it.. Maybe I could have done a better job of giving a stronger voice to other people in the church. Slowly but surely the film became about Richard. At first, I though it was a film about filmmaking and faith but by the end it was a film about this one man and his vision.
His mother makes fun of him a lot.
She’s his harshest critic. She’s a really strong woman. She’s an incredible character, and she became an incredible character device, and that provided a necessary element of reality in the film.
What are the church members up to these days?
They’ve been kicked off
What do they think of the film?
They love it. We had a screening at the church the other night, and they cheered. They prayed for me, gave me hugs and a standing ovation, and then they took up an offering for me. Last Sunday, they gave me this bag of money which I could not refuse. It makes me feel good that they found the film fair and honest, and even ‘godly,’ they called it. They’re getting a lot of mileage out of this as well. The pastor was on NPR.
So he’s getting these opportunities to speak to much greater audiences. In fact he told me on Sunday night that my film is the only thing he’s got right now. He calls me every day. In fact, he called me as the plane to NY was about to take off to tell me that we were in the New York Times. And it’s a little much to be so close to the subject of your film, but it’s sweet, too. And then I still don’t really know who Richard is. After two years of observing him I’m farther than ever from knowing him.
-Interview by Jon Robbins
Last Saturday, the pastor was invited back to NPR.