As the main screening of the 2023 Oaks Christian School Film Festival, A LoVE Story focuses on three young men who travel to South Africa to continue their grandmother’s legacy working with AIDS-impacted children.
For the film’s Co-Directors, Sam Hicks and Grant Seat, it started as an opportunity to hone their filmmaking skills. Still, it quickly turned into a life-altering week of self-discovery in the summer of 2022, traveling to film with OCS Director of Film Andrew Christopher.
They partnered with LoVE USA, a nonprofit organization created to help AIDS-infected and affected children in South African communities. LoVE provides financial aid as well as service opportunities. Started by Sharon Clack in 2004, LoVE USA works with three villages in South Africa: Lily of the Valley, Ikhethelo, and Lungisisa Indlela Village, as well as a village in Zimbabwe, called the Lirhanzo Children’s Village.
The organization, which started through Conejo Valley Community Church, reached out to Oaks Christian after hearing that the film program had partnered with other nonprofit organizations in the past. Christopher had several conversations with the board of directors, leading to the documentary.
A LoVE Story follows Clack’s three grandsons, Caleb (21), Josh (19), and Jaden (17) Tucker, as they head to the villages to continue the work that their grandmother started. Caleb and Josh had traveled to Africa before, but Jaden had never been there and saw the work his family had done for the first time. For Seat and Hicks, the chance to follow the Tuckers was more than just an assignment.
“I think that it changed my heart,” said Hicks. “I think that God is loving, and I think that He has given us the opportunity to spread that love to others. Being able to go to Africa and tell these stories really allows us to spread that love. Through this story, and through the time we were able to spend out there with those kids and with the people in Africa, we were able to spread the love of Jesus.”
Seat had similar sentiments: “I was already going through a lot in the growth of my faith over summer, so being able to go on this trip to tell this story really felt like God speaking to me and telling me, ‘Look at what you have at home, and how little it would cost you to give some of that back to these people.’ So for me, this trip was a growth spurt in service and compassion, but it also reaffirmed my desire to support the people of Africa, to give them some of what I have been given.”
As he traveled with them, Christopher saw the personal and professional growth in both students throughout the trip as well:
“I absolutely saw a change in Grant and Sam,” he said. “Sam had never been out of the country before, let alone to Africa, and Grant had been out of the country before but in a limited capacity. It was just as much about their growth and change and about their worldview shifting as it was about the subjects of the documentary. It was also about showing them that their skillset as filmmakers can be used in a very powerful way.”
Logistically, the trip was not an easy one. Initially, the team flew into Durban, South Africa, on the Indian Ocean side of the continent. From there, it was a half-hour drive to two villages, Ikethello and Lily of the Valley. From there, they flew to Harare, Zimbabwe, and drove six hours south to Chikombedzim, another village associated with LoVE USA, Lirhanzo Children’s Village, is.
Seat and Hicks were chosen for this assignment for a number of reasons, and it was Christopher who saw that they were ready for the challenge.
“I handpicked these two guys for this project as seniors going into their final year at Oaks,” Christopher said. “They have proven themselves and had done enough projects to show what they are capable of both in terms of filmmaking as well as work ethic. I knew that this opportunity presented itself and that they were ready for it.”
Both students have been staples of the film department at Oaks Christian since they stepped on campus in middle school.
“I took Film 1 or Intro to Film in 7th grade with Mr. Christopher at middle school,” Hicks said of his background in filmmaking. “And I think that's when I realized that this is something that I actually wanted to do. And then, just being here at the high school, we've had such great opportunities through this program, and I've just had a wonderful time learning. Throughout my entire time here at Oaks, especially, I've learned that there are so many stories to tell.”
Seat had similar sentiments and also spoke to why this story, in particular, was so important to tell.
“I've been in this program all four years of high school, and I've grown to love it just because it's a fun way to live different lives,” he said. “I get to live through my actors and live through the stories I tell. I think that's always fun. But this documentary, specifically, I think is important to me just because this is the first time I'm telling a real story, and I think there's a lot of weight with the story, but it's something that I've grown to feel deeply about.”
The importance of the story for Seat was meeting the children in person and seeing the work LoVE USA does firsthand. The opportunity to develop a one-on-one relationship with them stirred up a feeling of duty to help them best.
Seat, Hicks, and Christopher came together to give the film an elevator pitch: “Three boys’ journey to visit their sponsor child in Africa sparks a heart change that continues a legacy.”
The film will be the headliner of this year’s Oaks Christian Film Festival, set for May 12-13 at the Agoura Regency Theatre.
Other student productions being shown are as follows:
Vita, directed by Xander Shevchenko, Akash Ercolini-Bhatia, Scott Wood
Acting Monologues, directed by Bella Astin
Last Liftoff, directed by Collin Nelson
"Frosted" by Sullivan Smith and Hannah Lowe
"Can't Get Much Better Than This" by Luke Rockney and Ellie Segal Blackburn
Ode to Joy, directed by Collin Nelson and Micah Max Polaha
Lost Angeles, directed by Olivia Medrano
Mental Game, directed by Brooklyn Stearns
The Chain That Binds, directed by Sam Hicks
The Whole Night, directed by Micah Max Polaha
"Minor Crush" by Sullivan Smith and Will Waesche
"Country Song" by Caleb Polaha, Rose Krueger, Grant Seat, Akash Ercolini-Bhatia, Lilah O'Quinn, Sam Hicks
A LoVE Story - Sam Hicks and Grant Seat
Training vs. Trying, directed by Emerson West