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Area native is in town for her indie film’s début

When Christy Riddle was growing up at Lake of the Woods in the ’70s and ’80s, she was one of the few young women on the Orange County community’s water-ski team who were brave enough to compete in the ski-jump category.

Flash forward and she’s still up for jumping out of her comfort zone.

She’s Christy McGlothlin now, a 44-year-old mother of seven and former teacher at Spotsylvania County’s Brock Road Elementary. She took a leap of faith with her husband that grew from a prayer-inspired idea into a half-million-dollar Christianity-based movie.

“A Long Way Off” stars veteran actor Robert Davi and Christian film stars Robert Amaya and Jason Burkey.

This weekend, the film opens nationally. Locations include Fredericksburg, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, Charlotte, N.C.; Montgomery, Ala.; Raleigh, N.C.; Kansas City, Kan.; Corpus Christi, Texas and, in Florida, Jacksonville, Pensacola and Vero Beach.

Christy and Jerry McGlothlin, who made the film as its executive producers, hope the film’s run will extend if ticket sales for the sponsored showings are strong.

In Fredericksburg, the film is showing for a week at the Regal Fredericksburg 14 theater. It kicked off there on Friday night, with a red-carpet première.

I caught up with McGlothlin earlier that day at the Family Christian store in Central Park, where she and Amaya were signing posters, greeting shoppers and spreading the word about the film.

The movie business newcomer—an Orange County High School and Longwood College graduate—said the past year or two has been a crazy whirlwind for her Raleigh, N.C.-based family.

She said she has worked for years with her husband in their publicity and public relations business, “Special Guest.”

He’d expressed an interest for years in producing a TV show or movie, but that notion stayed dormant until she was inspired during prayer one evening and decided that making a Christianity-themed movie was something they needed to do.

“What started out to be a small, $40,000 movie quickly grew,” said McGlothlin, first to $350,000 and then to a half-million.

Her husband raised some of the money from investors, but more than $100,000 came from product placement and an involvement of the PR firm’s clients in the film.

They even snagged Davi because the firm was handling publicity for a musical project where the star sings the hits of Frank Sinatra.

“He was very gracious in being in the movie, agreeing to work for quite a bit less than he’s used to getting,” she said.

The couple worked with a production company called Uptone Pictures to work through preparing a script for the film, a retelling of the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son.

“We went through 18 drafts,” said McGlothlin, who added that the story works as a modern-day parable about a son finding his way back home after being lured away from the right path.

Casting help came from the production company, but family kicked in when it came time to shoot the movie.

“Two of my sons took care of the craft and food services,” she said, noting that they left each morning of an 18-day shoot to restock a food truck. “My daughters helped with child care.”

McGlothlin, who looks fit enough to still tackle that ski jump, said it was only because she had the help of her whole family that the film got made.

Her sister, Debbie Saysy of Spotsylvania, who works for the PR firm from home, is helping with the film’s publicity.

And her parents, Jan and Jerry Riddle, who still live at Lake of the Woods, have helped spread the word about the film and are sponsoring its local theatrical run.

I had to confess to McGlothlin that the thing I found the most amazing about getting this movie made—and having another, called “Joseph,” well underway—is the fact that she and her husband had time to do anything at all in addition to working and raising seven children.

She noted that life is crazy sometimes, but that anything is possible if you put your mind to a goal worth working toward.

Amaya, who also stars in the current film “Mom’s Night Out,” said he was also amazed by the McGlothlin’s juggling act.

“I’m just coming to grips with having one child,” said the actor, who has his own ministry and drove all night from Miami to make the début here. “One day I was playing video games, the next I was changing diapers. Things change fast.”

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415