Anderson Family Ties Reflected in Christian Film
A new movie about two United States Marines’ difficult return home from war is set to release in 2019.
And behind the movie’s suspenseful official trailer lies an impactful hip-hop song featuring two Anderson University graduates.
The movie, “Submission,” follows the Marines back in the U.S. navigating the effects of their capture and subsequent interrogation by ISIS terrorists. According to the film’s website, “One struggles to survive while the other fights his way back into the mixed martial arts world that he left behind years ago – looking for a fight worth dying for.”
“Submission” is directed by J.M. Berrios, an award-winning filmmaker based out of Greenville, South Carolina, with family ties to Anderson University. His father, Joe Wehunt, is a professor of worship leadership at Anderson University and his brother is a recent graduate of Anderson. Berrios holds a degree in cinematography from Full Sail University, and he founded Lingo Films in Greenville.
While working on “Submission” last year, Berrios contemplated a transition between a bagpipe infused funeral scene and the accompanying footage. He decided he needed a song that was not only tailored to the specific scene, but also thematically coherent overall.
Berrios presented his idea to his brother, Josef Wehunt, who was a senior in Anderson University’s commercial music program at the time.
“I’d heard a few hip-hop tracks that Josef had produced and recorded contemporaneously to the time I was working through this part of the movie,” Berrios said. “I commissioned Josef to come up with a piece based off of some rough notes about the movie and the technical details involved in the transition and he came back to me with ‘Empty Words,’ which we edited into the movie.”
Wehunt wrote and composed “Empty Words,” a thematic hip-hop song that captured the essence of the movie. He recruited Christian rapper Luis Delgado to perform the spoken portion of the song, and recorded with him in Georgia.
Still, Wehunt needed someone to cover the vocals. He knew his peer, Katie Soto Macyke, had a voice that would be perfect for the song.
“Katie has been given a unique talent in that she has the ability to hear music and be able to harmonize with the melody. Not every singer is able to do that. It’s a God-given talent,” said Kelley Norwine, co-director with her husband of campus music group AUthenticity, in which Macyke performed.
Macyke said that she and Wehunt had been friends for a long time, and she was excited when he asked her to be a part of the song. They recorded her vocals for “Empty Words” at her home.
“It only took about 10 minutes. We were in and out,” Wehunt said.
Wehunt polished the master track and sent it back to Berrios. A couple of months later, right after Wehunt and Macyke graduated, the movie’s producer informed Wehunt that they selected his song to be the theme of the movie.
“It couldn’t have a been better fit—the driving beat, gritty, defiant lyrics by Luis Delgado, and haunting vocals by Katie Soto Macyke,” Berrios said. “Based on the content and energy of the track, the producing unit, Foretress Films, later independently selected ‘Empty Words’ as the them for the first official trailer release.”
The song will accompany other music featured in the film, including songs by Christian rap artist NF, select tracks by Keaton Simons and work by the film’s credited composer, Brandon Higganbotham.
As some of the first commercial music graduates of Anderson University, Wehunt and Macyke’s contributions to “Empty Words” reflect the type of work that graduates of the new commercial music program will be prepared to create.
Wehunt is now teaching guitar classes in schools and continues to do some do some recording work for Anderson University. He admits that “Empty Words” has been his most exciting project so far.
“I never thought I would be singing for a movie. That’s just crazy to think about. The people you grew up watching on television, you’re working with,” Wehunt said.
As part of the founding group of AUthenticity, Macyke said that her most of her studies at Anderson were hands-on.
“Eighty percent of what I learned was through experience,” she said.
Macyke works as a worship leader at Thrive Church in downtown Greenville. “I’m more confident in my worship leading because I have well-rounded knowledge,” she said of her education at Anderson University.
She said she felt like Anderson University prepared her for her career and has provided her with exciting opportunities.
“Katie and Josef were very dedicated in their endeavors to become ‘first call’ commercial musicians. I am not surprised that they have had success so quickly after graduating from AU. We look for many more big things from each of them as they are both extremely talented,” said Doug Norwine, a professor of music at Anderson University and Director of AUthenticity.
See the official trailer for the movie "Submission" below.