John Washington Kitson
Film Producer, Author, Educator
Menning Films is an amazing film company! You may never have heard of them, but guaranteed you WILL as they grow. Remember Sherwood Films like Courageous and War Room? They started out as low-budget passion projects, just like Menning Films. And look at them now! Since Menning Films has already won awards and been nominated for one of the biggest awards in independent film, it’s safe to say that Josh and Danielle Menning are on their way to being a tremendous voice in the film industry.
Most inspiring of all, their award-winning film studio tackles topics that deeply impact our world while making the films fun. They also create for the sheer purpose of fun entertainment. In this way, Menning Films educates, inspires, entertains, and touches lives in a special way.
Filming both documentaries and dramas on subjects like human trafficking, drug addiction, and domestic violence is challenging, but Josh and Danielle Menning capture the true essence of these tragedies in the human experience. I’ve assisted with screenplays, co-produced, and even acted in some of the films. I’ve even learned some of the duties often done by the talented crew members whom I deeply respect.
Films with Passion, Purpose, and Fun
Heartwarming, Sometimes Heartwrenching, and Always Entertaining…
Gretchen’s Lock, a film about local legends in Columbiana County, Ohio, was filmed at the historic lock in late October of 2015. Filming within the huge stone walls of the lock in the dead of night was both exciting and unnerving. I assisted with the script during filming, as well as various duties with the crew.
Menning’s next film was more serious, and it is based on the tragedy of human trafficking. Unwavering is a faith-based film that takes you into the lives of five women whose faith is subjected to the hellish conditions of captivity. This action-packed drama swept nearly all categories, including Best Feature Film, at a Christian Film Festival in 2017, and it is currently in distribution through Adler and Associates Entertainment. I co-produced Unwavering, as well as acted in the film.
Gateway to Hope: Overcoming Heroin is a faith-based documentary tackling the tragedy of addiction. After approaching Josh Menning with the possibility of a documentary about heroin, which was impacting my students and destroying my community, his exceptional ideas and skills went to work. We teamed up with Josh Lytle, President of Family Care Ministries in East Liverpool, Ohio, and filming began soon afterwards.
“Gateway to Hope was also shown at the International Film and Music Festival, where Josh Menning was nominated as Best Director for a Christian Documentary.“
And Transformational…Sparking National Attention to Critical Issues
Several congressmen in Washington D.C. expressed an interest in the teaser trailer for Gateway to Hope, and during the first draft and reading of the opioid bill (from the floor of the House of Representatives), Josh Lytle and Family Care Ministries was mentioned as a model on how faith-based organizations can team up with local law enforcement agencies in order to better their communities.
Eventually, a form of that bill became law, and was signed by the President in October of 2018. Mike Lindell, from the My Pillow company, has been a huge fan of the film since before its official release. His own personal insight with addiction is also an amazing story to follow.
This documentary can be viewed through Amazon and Amazon Prime, and it was just accepted by a major distribution company, which will be revealed soon. I co-produced this film with Josh Lytle. The documentary was also shown at the International Film and Music Festival, where Josh Menning was nominated as Best Director for a Christian Documentary.
Creating Pure Entertainment
Looking for a change from the nonfiction realm, Menning Films created a thriller based on an agent sent back to his hometown to investigate the mysterious deaths of five Bigfoot enthusiasts. Beast of Our Fathers is a twisted plot full of surprises.
It was a pleasure working again with several familiar talents from other film productions, but it was also a pleasure to work with Lorenzo Beronilla, an American film, television, and voice actor, and Maria Olsen, who played Mrs. Dodds/Fury in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief; as well as an actress in Paranormal Activity 3 and dozens of other films. Once again, I was privileged to serve as a co-producer on this movie, which is due out in the fall of 2019.
Song of the Tree Frogs is in Production!
I was thrilled when Menning Films selected Song of the Tree Frogs as its next film project! Filming will begin in October of 2019. We are in the pre-production phase of the planning (see above – with Menning, actor Matthew Ketchum, and me), and we are excited to watch how the film details develop.
We are scouting various locations, selecting actors for the roles, and so much more. The screenplay was co-written between Josh Menning and me. Stay connected for details and more photos related to this important project.
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