Skip to Content

Storyteller

by Jessica Moe

Sarah turns 15 years old today. She looks forward to a few presents, some well-wishes from her friends at school, and maybe some birthday cake. She feels officially like a young woman, hoping for and dreaming of a promising future. But she has a 1 in 10 chance of surviving to her 35th birthday. Sarah is HIV positive. And so is 36.8 percent of her nation’s population.

So begins many of the stories filmmaker Brent Gudgel ’02 seeks to document. Through his work with his production company, Chronicle Project, he not only encounters gripping tales, but also seeks to share them with audiences who are willing and able to help. “People like good stories. Film allows stories to come alive,” said Gudgel. “With film, an audience member can live through someone else’s eyes. The story takes on a life of its own and becomes a tool that God can use however He wants.” This June, Chronicle Project plays host to one of its largest audiences yet, as Showtime Television airs the company’s feature-length documentary, Dear Francis. Before garnering the attention of Showtime, Dear Francis earned Chronicle Project the Crystal Heart honor at the Heartland Film Festival, Best Documentary at the New York AIDS Film Festival, and Official Selection at the Westwood International Film Festival. All in all, not too shabby for a guy who planned to study computers. Originally from Agoura Hills, Gudgel did not have filmmaking on his radar when he arrived as a freshman at APU. But after making a short film for fun and hosting an on-campus screening, a nonprofit organization approached him and asked if the then-19-year-old would travel to China to create a documentary. “I thought, ‘What a great opportunity,’ and went for it,” he said. “I learned that it’s a big world, that filmmaking was something I could be passionate about. The whole thing started the process of God working in me to start caring about social justice issues.” Now he wants to give current APU senior film students and recent graduates new opportunities for learning just like he had. Chronicle Project invites students to be part of a mentoring program for the summer, helping to make short films on social justice issues. “There is great talent coming out of Azusa Pacific, and it’s really growing now that more resources are available,” said Gudgel. “We would love to have some of those students bring that talent to our projects and learn hands-on.” Upon his return to campus, Gudgel changed his major to communication studies with a media studies emphasis and started working closely with his professors, with whom he still remains connected. “APU gave me a solid foundation and worldview, and taught me to ask a lot of questions. Circumstantially, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without APU and the direction God took me while I was there,” he said. Projects like Dear Francis – which meet Gudgel’s desire to inform and inspire – are an example. The film follows two college students on an AIDS prevention program to Swaziland, where close to 40 percent of the population has the disease, making it the most HIV-infected nation in the world, according to the United Nations. “We just wanted to tell a good story, but God has used this film in ways we never expected,” said Gudgel, who co-directed the film. “World Vision, 30-Hour Famine, and many churches and universities nationally and globally have done screenings of it. We want it to be a tool that can help people support their own ministries and stir others to action.” Utilizing interviews with officials and experts, the film reveals startling and complex truths about the AIDS pandemic, most importantly that it is not just about statistics, but about real people. Through the formation of relationships, the two students find glimmers of hope for the future of Swaziland. “The most fulfilling thing about this project is hearing how it has moved people to make a difference,” Gudgel said. “Whether they decided to be a volunteer doctor in Africa, create home churches or hospices in Swaziland, or just donate money to a charity, it doesn’t get better than that in a job.” Dear Francis airs on Showtime starting June 27 and runs throughout the year and into 2008. “They buy very few films that are not from big studios. It’s a miracle that they even watched it since it deals with AIDS, abstinence, and Christianity,” said Gudgel. “I think it shows that some companies do want to air these topics, but it’s just that few films like this are getting out there.” In the future, Gudgel hopes Chronicle Project can continue producing quality film projects, both large and small, about social justice and outreach ministries. He wants his films to educate and motivate people toward engagement with the issues. “God has a big plan, and we [Chronicle Project] just want to play a part in it,” he said. “We know that’s better than any plan of our own.” Jessica Moe is an editor in the Office of University Relations. jmoe@apu.edu Upon his return to campus, Gudgel changed his major to communication studies with a media studies emphasis and started working closely with his professors, with whom he still remains connected. “APU gave me a solid foundation and worldview, and taught me to ask a lot of questions. Circumstantially, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without APU and the direction God took me while I was there,” he said. Projects like Dear Francis – which meet Gudgel’s desire to inform and inspire – are an example. The film follows two college students on an AIDS prevention program to Swaziland, where close to 40 percent of the population has the disease, making it the most HIV-infected nation in the world, according to the United Nations. “We just wanted to tell a good story, but God has used this film in ways we never expected,” said Gudgel, who co-directed the film. “World Vision, 30-Hour Famine, and many churches and universities nationally and globally have done screenings of it. We want it to be a tool that can help people support their own ministries and stir others to action.” Utilizing interviews with officials and experts, the film reveals startling and complex truths about the AIDS pandemic, most importantly that it is not just about statistics, but about real people. Through the formation of relationships, the two students find glimmers of hope for the future of Swaziland. “The most fulfilling thing about this project is hearing how it has moved people to make a difference,” Gudgel said. “Whether they decided to be a volunteer doctor in Africa, create home churches or hospices in Swaziland, or just donate money to a charity, it doesn’t get better than that in a job.” Dear Francis airs on Showtime starting June 27 and runs throughout the year and into 2008. “They buy very few films that are not from big studios. It’s a miracle that they even watched it since it deals with AIDS, abstinence, and Christianity,” said Gudgel. “I think it shows that some companies do want to air these topics, but it’s just that few films like this are getting out there.” In the future, Gudgel hopes Chronicle Project can continue producing quality film projects, both large and small, about social justice and outreach ministries. He wants his films to educate and motivate people toward engagement with the issues. “God has a big plan, and we [Chronicle Project] just want to play a part in it,” he said. “We know that’s better than any plan of our own.” Jessica Moe is an editor in the Office of University Relations. jmoe@apu.edu Upon his return to campus, Gudgel changed his major to communication studies with a media studies emphasis and started working closely with his professors, with whom he still remains connected. “APU gave me a solid foundation and worldview, and taught me to ask a lot of questions. Circumstantially, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without APU and the direction God took me while I was there,” he said. Projects like Dear Francis – which meet Gudgel’s desire to inform and inspire – are an example. The film follows two college students on an AIDS prevention program to Swaziland, where close to 40 percent of the population has the disease, making it the most HIV-infected nation in the world, according to the United Nations. “We just wanted to tell a good story, but God has used this film in ways we never expected,” said Gudgel, who co-directed the film. “World Vision, 30-Hour Famine, and many churches and universities nationally and globally have done screenings of it. We want it to be a tool that can help people support their own ministries and stir others to action.” Utilizing interviews with officials and experts, the film reveals startling and complex truths about the AIDS pandemic, most importantly that it is not just about statistics, but about real people. Through the formation of relationships, the two students find glimmers of hope for the future of Swaziland. “The most fulfilling thing about this project is hearing how it has moved people to make a difference,” Gudgel said. “Whether they decided to be a volunteer doctor in Africa, create home churches or hospices in Swaziland, or just donate money to a charity, it doesn’t get better than that in a job.” Dear Francis airs on Showtime starting June 27 and runs throughout the year and into 2008. “They buy very few films that are not from big studios. It’s a miracle that they even watched it since it deals with AIDS, abstinence, and Christianity,” said Gudgel. “I think it shows that some companies do want to air these topics, but it’s just that few films like this are getting out there.” In the future, Gudgel hopes Chronicle Project can continue producing quality film projects, both large and small, about social justice and outreach ministries. He wants his films to educate and motivate people toward engagement with the issues. “God has a big plan, and we [Chronicle Project] just want to play a part in it,” he said. “We know that’s better than any plan of our own.”

Jessica Moe is an editor in the Office of University Relations. jsherer@apu.edu