Will Bakke and Alex Carroll are Christians, something they readily admit and embrace. But they’re adamant that Believe Me is not a Christian film.
The feature debut of the two Highland Park High School graduates is a satire about blind trust and the power of platforms, told through the story of college students who create a fake religious charity as a method for generating some quick cash.
There’s a redemptive element to the story, but Bakke and co-writer Michael Allen were more interested in switching up the approach of most faith-based films that tend to be more heavy-handed with their beliefs.
“The Christian genre has always been about the message rather than the story,” Bakke said. “We didn’t set out to push any kind of agenda. We just set out to tell a really great story with redemptive characters who are dealing with struggles we dealt with in college. We hope that people will challenge what they believe and why. More than anything, we just want to get the discussion started.”
Prior to their feature debut, Bakke and Carroll made two documentaries together, each featuring some friends from HPHS and dealing with religious themes. One Nation Under God (2009) and Beware of Christians (2011) each had the filmmakers visiting various locales around the world in search of spiritual enlightenment and cultural perspectives.
The latter film received acclaim on the festival circuit, and received a limited release that included Bakke and Carroll touring the country to generate publicity.
“We knew the whole time that the end goal was to make a feature film,” Allen said, “so we knew we needed to make as much money on Beware of Christians and get it out to as many people as possible to have that opportunity.”
It was during their publicity tour that Bakke and Allen began writing the screenplay for Believe Me, and soliciting potential financiers. Most of them came from Dallas, including local company Lascaux Films (Words and Pictures). Production took place last August in Austin.
“We just spent the last two or three years of our lives really delving into the Christian culture,” Bakke said. “We realized that there was a lot of humor in the way that we act and the way that we worship and carry ourselves. As we were on the road, all of these little oddities of being a Christian started to stack up. A lot of that was inspiration. What would happen if somebody tried to take advantage of that culture for their own gain?”
Bakke and Carroll developed their friendship and their mutual interest in filmmaking at HPHS, where Carroll was a standout on the 2005 state championship football team and Bakke was one of the Scotsmen. Bakke later majored in film at Baylor, while Carroll studied at Georgetown.
They connected with Allen, another Dallas native, and discovered they shared a philosophy toward religion and filmmaking.
“We think if you want to preach, you should prepare a sermon, not a movie,” Allen said. “Will and I were pretty careful to not let our personal beliefs creep too much into the story we’re telling. We wanted the characters to be honest and truthful to themselves.”