KEENE, N.H. -- One feature at the upcoming Independent Television and Film Festival has drawn on inspiration from a pastor, who spent time in a parish in New Hampshire during the early days of his career.
Director Greg Batiansila’s "Leaving Eden" is a dramatic series in which many of the experiences were taken, in small and large part, from his father’s life as a pastor. "My dad was in Keene," said Batiansila. "Some of the stories were experienced or encountered there. Trinity Lutheran Church was his second parish. He actually moved on and took a call to Indiana, New Orleans then to Wisconsin."
The 8th Annual ITVFest will be held from Sept. 26 to 28. Tents and stages will be set up around Dover and Wilmington. Schedules for specific showings and musical performances are available on ITVFest.com.
The web series is set in Wisconsin, but that’s not the main backdrop of the film. It’s more about the experience than the location, Batiansila said. His father had died a few years ago. The idea to create a story that revolves around the life of a pastor had been in Batiansila’s mind for many years, he said. "I saw a lot of the things (my dad) went through and a lot of the situations he went through. From a storyteller’s perspective, it’s pretty compelling. There’s some nutty things going on as a pastor that people don’t think about," said Batiansila.
For Batiansila, directing "Leaving Eden" is a passion project. He spends most of his time directing and writing commercials and corporate videos for an ad agency in Wisconsin. Some of the companies he has worked with include General Electric, Pfizer and Apple. "I was able to take that experience, some of the equipment and use it for this personal project," said Batiansila.
He and his wife, Jennifer, had discussed directing an independent feature film but as they started planning, they thought a web series made more sense. Their goal was to try to build an audience over time. When speaking of "Leaving Eden" in regards to content, he likes to make a slight comparison to "Friday Night Lights." "It’s just as much as "Friday Night Lights" was about football. Some episodes you see a game or practice but it’s more about the coach and wife and the people who play on the team," said Batiansila.
"That’s pretty much the way we’ve been doing. We’re not really interested in showing a church service. It’s more about his job." Batiansila told the Reformer that pastors have contacted him about the show saying, "You nailed this. How do you know?"
"One wrote us and said, ‘I feel validated,’" he said. The Batiansilas began by filming 10 episodes, then thought they’d start thinking about their next project. But by the time the 10th episode aired, their audience expanded to 35,000 people. Blip. tv, a website that screens web series like "Leaving Eden," recommended the show as a drama to those who visited the site. When first writing the series, Batiansila made lists. The first consisted of people who speak at least once a week publicly. It included a politician, a teacher and a pastor. The next was a list of people who see at least one dead person a week, which included a mortician, a nurse, first responders and a pastor.
Then the last was people who regularly counsel others on marriage. "How do they unburden themselves with all the stuff they deal with? It’s often hard.
There’s all these things -- dealing with death, low wages. All these things make it a very lonely existence to a certain degree," said Batiansila, noting that oftentimes, pastors go to other pastors to speak of their own experiences. Batiansila isn’t too concerned about being famous or having his series run on a network.
"I think we got it," he said. "We’re telling the right stories and we have set very specific goals. Let’s tell the story really well for maybe two or three or five years and feel like we did the story a service."
Whether or not the series wins at ITVFest, receives positive reviews or gains more attention, Batiansila just wants to tell the story. For more information, visit LeavingEdenSeries.com or search IMDB.com.