Rev. Dr. Trevor Brisbin’s path to film producing took an unusual course: raised nominally Roman Catholic in the suburbs of Toronto, turned conservative evangelical bible college graduate, turned Baptist pastor, turned husband and father, turned CST seminarian, turned Hollywood film producer.
He said, “I don’t think anyone ever expected me to gravitate toward vocational ministry. However, as a teenager, I had a profound ‘conversion’ experience that led me into evangelicalism. Straight from high school I went to Bible college, and on to seminary. I was hired at 23 (in 2000) to be the teaching pastor of an experimental/arts focused conservative Baptist congregation. I remained at the same church until 2015.
“Leading up to my departure from the church, I was in a process of radical faith deconstruction. I was reimagining everything, particularly atonement theory and LGBQT+ inclusion. When the chasm between my emerging faith and my tradition became too great, the only option was to resign from my role. This is when I decided to fully lean into progressive faith and pursue a doctorate at CST.
“My amazingly supportive wife, Marisol, our 3 kids, and dog, Rafiki, piled into the two cars and made the cross-continent trip from Toronto to Los Angeles.”
As their lives settled in Claremont, and the family began to make new friends, Trevor met film maker, Sean Hanish, at a class pool party. “We both loved BBQing and hockey, and Sean is from Wisconsin – and that’s practically Canada!”
As their friendship deepened, Trevor learned of some of Sean’s previous films (Return to Zero & Sister Cities), and about his next project: Saint Judy. He says, “As Sean described the large contours of Saint Judy’s story about a strong female lawyer, and an equally empowered female Muslim refugee who is also a sexual assault survivor, I could not help but see the stark contrast between these women and the rhetoric of the then newly-elected Donald Trump. That coupled with my own existential angst and feeling more voiceless than I once had in pulpit ministry; I saw this film as an important counter-narrative to the American political climate. My good friend’s passion to tell this brave story left Marisol and me wondering how we could be involved.”
Trevor had spent the previous 15 years preaching to a medium-sized white evangelical and privileged church, where he had a voice and a platform. He says, “I was (cautiously) able to talk about what I thought mattered most. With that platform gone, the preacher/pastor in me longed to find spaces to speak justice, equality and hope.”
So, over Thai food in Pasadena, Trevor, an unemployed doctoral student, and Marisol, not permitted to work in the USA, decided to take the largest financial risk of their lives. Trevor explains, “With some of the money we had parked from the sale of our house in Canada, we leaped into the film business with both feet. When in LA for two years, why not help produce a film?! When you live in America for two years why not speak against the very systemic injustice unfolding before you? When you’re a student at CST, why not tell the story of a fierce Muslim woman who fights for justice?”
Trevor and Marisol are Associate Producers on the film Saint Judy – a film he says “drips with a CST ethos” and one that the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles called “the movie of our decade.”
Saint Judy debuted March 1 and stars Michelle Monaghan as the real-life immigration attorney Judy Wood. In her first case, Judy represents a woman (Leem Lubany) forced to flee her home country after being persecuted by the Taliban for opening a school for girls. While juggling her life as a single mother, Judy fights tenacious battles in and out of court, not only saving her client’s life, but changing the Law of Asylum in the United States. This case has saved the lives of thousands of other persecuted women around the world. The film also stars Alfre Woodard, Common, and Alfred Molina.