Skip to content

Award-winning Southern Adventist University Student Documentary Blends Craft and Faith


“I Will Not Fear,” a short documentary film by three Southern Adventist University students, seeks to inspire viewers through captivating cinematography and the testimony of one athlete who found God’s strength during the Ironman Chattanooga triathlon.

Nick Lindsay, the documentary's director, said hearing the testimony of Ed Rusk, the film's central character, came as an answer to a summer of praying for the right story for a senior thesis project. Lindsay knew he'd found a compelling story when he heard Rusk, CFO of Chattem Chemicals in Chattanooga, Tennessee and a current member of the Big Sexy Racing triathlon team, describe and the challenges he faced during his Ironman event. In an email exchange for this story, Lindsay said he found in Rusk's race story a fitting parallel to the Christian journey.

The film's title was inspired by a song that resonated with Rusk as he fought against the thought of giving up, when during the swim portion of the race, he began throwing up. The song gave Rusk new courage to push through the challenges and complete the event.

Ironman finisher Ed Rusk tells the story of almost quitting the race.

The film, which tell's Rusk's story of overcoming, and which elicited praise and earned three awards during its debut at SONscreen Film Festival, was a collaborative effort between Nick Lindsay, Producer Mark Comberiate, and Cinematographer Dillan Forsey. For the three seniors, being able to use creativity to both improve their craft and share and grow in their spiritual journeys ranks among the most valuable aspects of studying film at a Christian institution. 

“Southern has facilitated many conversations about what it means for me to be a Christian filmmaker: to tell stories with a Christian worldview,” Lindsay said. Comberiate wants the film to show “the relevance of artistic expression within the Christian community.” His hope is that Ed’s story will illustrate faith in action.

Rusk runs on roads outside Chattanooga, TN.

In a field of study like film, cutting edge technology is often the key to realizing student filmmakers' vision and creativity. Lindsay says access to Southern’s film program technology and the professional contacts from Southern’s School of Visual Art and Design (SVAD) production company made the documentary project possible. The student filmmakers collaborated with SVAD to capture Rusk’s participation in the 2014 Chattanooga Ironman while many of the wide shots that appear in the film are accomplished with drone technology.

The value of being able to work on projects like “I Will Not Fear” for budding filmmakers like Lindsay, Comberiate and Forsey is immeasurable.  Southern alum Daniel Wahlen attests to the value of hands on training for his current freelance directing and editing work “One of the best things about the film program at Southern is how it is an environment that fosters creativity," Wahlen said. "Students work on each other's films and so they are able to gain experience while still finding their creative voice.” For Wahlen, access to professional-caliber industry equipment like a RED Dragon camera, HMI lighting, dollies, and cranes also proved very beneficial upon entering the workforce.  Lindsay agrees: “Southern has given me the opportunity to practice the filmmaking craft in a low stakes environment with industry leading technology.”

For Dillan Forsey, who directed the cinematography on "I Will Not Fear,” teammwork made the project. “The process of collaboration was very important to me, as I’ve wanted to work on a major project with Mark and Nick for some time,” said Forsey. “I chose to pursue the project so I could have the chance to merge my passion for cycling and running with my passion for filmmaking.” Forsey expressed his hopes that this project will prove his ability to capture extreme sports in an exciting way, while still conveying important story details. Forsey says the project has given him the confidence to pursue his goals in this particular line of work.

Reflecting on the results of the film Forsey concludes, “I think that “I Will Not Fear” has the potential to reach an otherwise ignored audience of Christian athletes who see their endeavors as a form of communing with God.”

Comberiate added, “Christian athletes show endless dedication in order to perform at peak physical condition and we wanted to highlight their story. Ed’s narrative was unique in that it deals with how a Christian athlete can find a deeper spiritual relationship within their passion.”

“I Will Not Fear” had its first showing at SONScreen Film Festival April 2nd 2015 in Riverside, California. It took home three awards for Best Documentary Short, Best Cinematography, and Audience Choice. Following the successful debut, “I Will Not Fear” screened at the Broad Street Film Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee where it won “Best Picture” award. 


For more information including future screenings of the film:


This article is part of a series on film programs at Adventist colleges and universities.

See also:
"La Sierra's Film Prgram Trains the Next Generation of Adventist Storytellers
Documentary Film at Andrews University Brings Social Consciousness to Adventism,"  
"PUC Film Prof: 'Give Young Adventist Artists Space to Speak Their Language.'"


Brenda Delfino is a student intern for and an English Major (writing emphasis) at La Sierra University.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.