After working for sixteen years as a church planter, Richard Rossi says that he has heard a “high calling to Hollywood” to use his creativity to share the gospel, and journeyed three thousand miles from Pennsylvania to Hollywood, California.
He’s currently shooting his second feature film as a writer-director about Christian baseball player Roberto Clemente, and recently released his controversial coming-of-age novel “Stick Man” on www.Amazon.com
“I heard the Holy Spirit say, ‘You’re a missionary to Hollywood,’” Rossi said.
His first feature film “Sister Aimee: The Aimee Semple McPherson Story” was nominated for best film in Milan, Italy, and a prior short film he made on McPherson, a female evangelist, was Academy Award-considered in the short film category.
Rossi’s creative work emerges out of Eternal Grace, the Hollywood house church network that he and his wife of twenty-seven years, Sherrie, founded to “reach artists and actors with the gospel and also heal the wounds artists often experience from the church.”
He explained, “The theme of our work and lives is grace. It’s grace that saves us and gives us hope.”
Rossi’s new novel “Stick Man” tells the story of a young man’s journey from legalism to love. Though Rossi won’t say what percentage of the novel is semi-autobiographical, he admits his own odyssey from his alma mater (Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University) to his current grace-orientation was a basis of the character’s journey.
“I had to recover from aspects of rigid religion that were abusive,” Rossi said. “I think my novel ‘Stick Man’ is embraced by believers and unbelievers alike because of the honesty about the toxic teachings sometimes found in fundamentalist churches that supplant the saving gospel of grace.”
Like “Stick Man”, the audience for his films have transcended Christian categorization. “Sister Aimee” set attendance records at New Beverly Cinema, a Los Angeles theater owned by Hollywood heavyweight director Quentin Tarentino, and screenings at the prestigious Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in Hollywood sold out within twenty-four hours.
“There were some in the church who wanted me to edit out of ‘Sister Aimee’ some of the trials Aimee McPherson went through, like her divorce, breakdown, and overdose,” Rossi said. “Again, because the film showed that God’s grace worked in her life despite her weaknesses, it reached many outside the church who are tired of preachers presenting a facade that Christians are perfect.
|Newcomer Mimi Michaels (pictured above in a hands-on healing prayer scene that moves theatre audiences) is Oscar-worthy in her portrayal of “Sister Aimee” from her teenage years through her controversial death at age fifty-four. Mimi went to LaGuardia High school, the “FAME” high school for the top young actors in the country, where she excelled as Best Actress|
“Like my characters in ‘Stick Man’ and ‘Sister Aimee’, I’ve found through my personal participation in twelve step programs and therapy, that God’s grace is perfected in our weakness,” Rossi added.
“If we’re going to reach the world for Christ in the twenty-first century, we must embrace the arts and our own humanity and share the gospel because we need grace as much as the person we’re preaching to.”
Paul Levy, an advisor to Rossi, said, “Based on Blockbuster and Netflix rentals, Amazon sales, theatrical screenings, and those who contacted us through the film’s website (www.aimeesemplemcphersonmovie.com), which has a visible counter, ‘Sister Aimee’ reached over seventy-five thousand people who opened their hearts to the gospel the first year.
“The film is a work of genius shot on a shoe-string for less than five thousand dollars, the lowest budgeted film to be bought and stocked in all the Blockbuster stores; so in essence, Richard has shared the gospel worldwide on Blockbuster’s nickel.”
Production is now under way on Rossi’s new baseball film, “Baseball’s Last Hero: The Roberto Clemente Story.”
Eternal Grace church has raised half of the budget and they are believing the resources will continue to come.
“The Spirit has been speaking to people I don’t even know from different parts of the world to send gifts to help us share the gospel,” Rossi said.
Media Note and Links:
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