An Ocoee filmmaker delights in seeing his Christian-based movie played at the local West Oaks Mall.
A high school basketball coach is fired after praying with one of his players. The lawyer he hires is an agnostic and a gambler.
This is the premise of “Prayer Never Fails,” a legal drama written and directed by Ocoee resident Wes Miller and featuring actors Eric Roberts, Lorenzo Lamas, Corbin Bernsen, Lynn Whitfield, Clifton Davis and Nick Lashaway.
“Prayer” is Miller’s third feature film, and he said he got the idea for the story after hearing about Orange County Public Schools’ 2014 decision to replace football chaplains with “life coaches” and to ban local pastors from praying with the teams at the games.
“It’s a film that explores the issue of prayer in schools and also explores the issue of exploring when you feel like everyone is against you,” Miller said. The main character is Aiden Paul, and he’s a coach, and he gets fired for praying with one of his basketball players. In the course of figuring out what he should do, he hires an attorney who is an agnostic but needs a second chance in life. A life for him and a life for Aiden as they fight to get his job back.”
He said he hopes viewers walked away with several messages from the film.
“I want people to be inspired that no matter what is happening in your life, if there’s something you want to accomplish in your life, you fight hard no matter what. And you want people thinking about oppression in schools.”
Miller was ecstatic to see his film shown nine times earlier this month at the AMC movie theater at West Oaks Mall, in Ocoee. Scenes were filmed mostly in the north Florida city of Madison, but downtown Winter Garden makes a cameo appearance, as does the West Orange Times & Observer community newspaper.
Because he played football in college, it was easy to look at the film from the athlete’s perspective.
An Ocoee resident since 2010, Miller is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, and a graduate of Lambuth University and Washburn University School of Law.
The filmmaker has honed his narrative voice through multiple short films, several screenplays and two feature films. He co-produced his first screenplay, “Throwdown,” and has since directed a psychological thriller, “Her Name is Lily Grace.”
“Prayer Never Fails” is no longer at the local theater, but organizations, churches and schools can make a request online for it to be shown as a fundraiser through Cinema On Demand or Tugg. There are currently more than 30 requests from around the country, Miller said.
“It’s getting response,” he said. “For my first film as a writer, it’s great.”
He is starting work soon on his next film and is looking for investors. His goal is simple — to make good films with a responsible budget.
Miller said it’s easy to get top actors to commit to his films.
“One thing I’ve learned is good actors want to work on good films and on good material,” he said. “We’ve had great reviews of their performances (in ‘Prayer Never Fails.’)”