Jack Sterner, a senior theatre major, will appear in a movie titled Overcomer by the filmmakers of Courageous, War Room and Fireproof that will premiere this August.
Overcomer, starring its director, Alex Kendrick, is about a high school basketball coach whose life dramatically changes when a manufacturing plant shuts down, causing him to lose his basketball team. The basketball coach then accepts a job coaching cross country and helps an unsaved runner improve her running skills while attempting to find his own identity in Christ.
Sterner, who auditioned, accepted and performed the role this past summer, plays the son of the basketball/cross country coach. Like his father, Sterner’s character struggles to find his identity in Christ rather than in his love of basketball.
Sterner said he intended to work at a camp over the summer until God changed his path. Sterner went hiking with John Gallant, a senior exercise science major, in the western U.S. before reporting to camp.
While on the hiking trip, he received a Facebook message from a casting director who got his name from a director of a church film he acted for in high school.
The casting director asked if he could send an audition tape for the next film by the Kendrick brothers, Overcomer. Sterner and Gallant quickly found a place to record and upload the video.
After flying back to his home in Georgia, Sterner got a call from the filmmaking duo, who asked him tough questions about his relationship with God. “They had offered the role to several guys,” Sterner said. “And then when they interviewed them, they found that all of them were struggling with one thing or the other.”
Two days after officially receiving the role, Sterner began rehearsals. “It was clearly God intervening into my life and dropping an opportunity in my lap when I wasn’t even looking for it,” Sterner said.
Sterner, who performed in last semester’s play King Lear, found that film acting offered different challenges.
“I’ve performed in front of a lot of people on a stage, but having people all around me and very close to me who are watching me perform is very different,” Sterner said. “It’s a much more intimate experience than being on stage in front of a lot of people [who are] all far away from me.”
One problem he had to overcome was his tendency to articulate distinctly. “I had to intentionally mess up my speech a little bit more so that I seemed more real,” Sterner said.
Sterner said he appreciated the Kendricks’ spiritual leadership on set. Each day began with devotions, and a full-time prayer team on set prayed for individuals and at the locations where they would shoot.
“Any time something went wrong, first reaction was always, ‘All right, we’re gonna pray over this situation,’” Sterner said.
On his days off, Sterner joined the crew, helping by getting people water, transporting actors and assisting Alex Kendrick. “I didn’t want to just sit in my hotel room while everybody was having fun,” Sterner said.
Although Sterner did not originally plan to pursue acting after graduating because of the challenge of receiving roles, his plans have changed.
Now, he wants to pursue it unless God guides him somewhere else. “If God ever stops blessing me on that path, then I will stop immediately and do something else,” Sterner said.
In whatever Sterner does, he wants to glorify God. “Any time for any reason God chooses to make my name known, I would use that as an opportunity to make His name known,” Sterner said.
BJU cinema faculty and staff members Christopher Zydowicz, John Murray and Steve White visited the set and were background performers in the film’s opening scene. Three BJU grads also worked on the crew.
Overcomer will be released in theaters Aug. 23 this year.