By Diane Howard, Ph.D.
One of the most critical, complex challenges of our time is how to serve and restore the homeless. A role modelling solution has developed in Florida and a new movie tells the story of how this solution emerged. Based on a true story, “No Vacancy” is about a jaded reporter who finds personal hope in helping as a community finds corporate hope for the homeless. Produced by Kingstone Studios, this film features Sean Young, T.C. Stallings, and Dean Cain. It premieres nationwide in more than 700 movie theaters through Fathom Events on May 9 for One Night Only! It then is available to churches to show through Faith Content Network.
“In a time of bitter division and acrimony in our country, our creative team thought it was an appropriate time to release a movie based on the true story of a community coming together in a literally miraculous way,” said Art Ayris, CEO of Kingstone Studios. Further, he has shared that his group and the Orlando ABC affiliate had previously done eight feature stories. Plus, M6 in France and Japan’s Nippon Television had all journeyed to Florida to do stories. “We realized this was a story with appeal far beyond central Florida,” Art added, “and it needed to be told in a way that only a motion picture can communicate. Though the movie has a few fictional components and characters, it is closely based on the true story.”
Art Ayris, who wrote the screenplay for “No Vacancy” has a host of production credits and awards, which include Best TV Movie Hollywood’s Next Success contest; Best Feature Florida Film & Television; Best Feature Angel Awards, graphic adaptation, for the SONY Affirm theatrical release, “The Remaining; and over 60 comic, animation, and film credits. Ayris has served as executive editor of the Kingstone Bible, which was a finalist for Christian Book of the Year in the Children’s Category.
Art has also been interviewed by FOX News, The Guardian, American Family Radio, Christian Science Monitor, Faithwire, Publishers Weekly, WORLD magazine, Movieguide ®, Baptist Press, Orlando Sentinel and many other media outlets.
As well as serving as a CEO, writer, producer and more, Ayris serves his church and community as a trustee and Executive Pastor at First Baptist Leesburg, a church widely known for its outreach to the needy, assisting over 15,000 people annually. He has led in the acquisition of a local motel, subsequently renamed The Samaritan Inn, which now houses homeless families in central Florida and has been featured on the Orlando ABC affiliate eight times. Additionally, he was the founding Executive Director of the Community Medical Care Center, a no-cost clinic for the medically indigent, now staffed by 50 doctors and numerous volunteer health professionals serving over 6,000 people annually.
“No Vacancy” was directed by Kyle Saylors. His documentary, “Kimjongilia” was the first film ever screened at the U.S. Capitol private theater, and it led to a congressional hearing and the first sanctions against the North Korean prison camps.
In “No Vacancy,” a reporter demoted to a rural news bureau finds her cynicism melting and changing to gratitude, as she befriends a recovering addict and writes about a church struggling to purchase a motel for homeless families. The economic and housing collapse in central Florida is a metaphor for the turbulent life of news reporter Brandi Michaels’ own life. As she is facing a looming divorce and her mother’s Alzheimer condition, her journalistic dreams are crashed when she is demoted from Orlando to a rural outpost. However, when her editor sends Brandi to cover a story on a church struggling to purchase a motel for homeless families, she finds her cynicism challenged as she encounters Cecil, a winsome former drug addict, and sees for herself the selfless and epic struggle of the church as it seeks to take care of the homeless in their community. It is her coverage of the story that helps the church overcome the opposition to acquire the motel. Also, as she witnesses first-hand the stories of all those involved, the development of her journalistic story plays a role in her own personal redemption and story. Her article becomes an award-winning piece, serving as a catalytic model to helping homeless families in other communities, Further, it gives her the journalistic impact she has sought all along.
No Vacancy” is a captivating movie with engaging acting, and it is based on the true stories of First Baptist Leesburg, Cecil Johnson and the Samaritan Inn. First Baptist Leesburg’s story has been featured in several documentaries including 2018’s “Come Alive.” The Samaritan Inn is a real motel converted into use for homeless families that stays full every night of the year with No Vacancies!
Here is my exclusive interview with Art Ayris:
DH: It is delightful to interview you. As a Ph.D. in Performance Studies and having tracked, directed, produced productions in films, on stage, on radio, for TV and more for over 50 years, I think you are at the forefront of a significant and wonderful paradigm shift in these fields, as independent producers and studios bypass and even in some cases surpass legacy media. I have been promoting your work and as a host of Faith Content Network’s best movies, I look forward to hosting No Vacancy in our local historic theater, The Beltonian, for an audience of leaders from throughout Texas, as well as continuing to promote it in magazines and on social media. Do you think that new independent producers and studios are producing redemptive movies that are bypassing, surpassing legacy, mainstream studios with more profound content and excellent artistry? If so, why do you think this is happening?
AA: In general, the mainstream, legacy media has lost the hearts of America, even with classic, family media like Disney. Americans need new alternative media that corresponds with Biblical values. We want to provide this need through film, comics, and animation. We are working on a new project to tell the True story of America through Kingstone Comics.
DH: It seems that more and more redemptive movies are based on real stories. Why is it important that such good stories based on true events are told?
AA: Audiences need Hope. Many have lives of quiet desperation. The drug problem is huge. They need to see real lives transformed. They can’t argue with real experience. Christianity needs to be caught as well as taught.
DH: How do you hope this movie will inspire, motivate those who see it?
AA: We want to deliver hope for redemption on many levels and for many kinds of destructive addictions. We want to inspire audiences to do what they can in their areas to provide redemption, restoration, recovery for others for this life and eternity.
DH: What factors have led to homelessness problems?
AA: In our area, the 2007-2008 crash hit super hard. There was a lot of construction going on, but the bottom dropped out. There was a high unemployment rate. We were on the pinnacle of these issues. There are other factors which contribute to homelessnes, which may be unique to various areas but are often universal, including mental issues and addictions especially to drugs and alcohol. The factors that lead to homelessness are multi-faceted. When they unravel, the threads go in many, messy directions.
DH: How has your church provided for the homeless beyond their habitation needs?
AA: Providing the motel for families who needed homes followed our work in providing food, crisis care; children’s shelter; women’s shelter…we have also provided medical, mental services, and more.
DH: What are Biblical principles that can guide Christians in serving the homeless?
AA: We need to serve them as unto the Lord Himself. When Jesus saw challenging people, He waded in to serve them.
DH: How can Christians serve in the complicated recoveries of the homeless?
AA: There are all kinds of ways to serve the homeless with: finances, administration, counseling, medical and dental services and more. It is most important to come alongside those in trouble. There is power in caring. There are many ways to serve others in crisis.
DH: What do you look for in the homeless individuals you serve? Do they need to demonstrate a desire, willingness for recovery?
AA: Yes. Jesus asked those He healed, “Do you want to be made well?”
DH: What do you look for in those who can most effectively serve the homeless?
AA: We look for those who are willing to get in there.
Art is the founder of central Florida based entertainment group Kingstone Studios and the catalyst behind the Kingstone Bible, the most complete graphic adaptation of the Bible ever done. In his role as Executive Editor and Publisher, Ayris assembled a team of name comic artists with runs at top houses such as Marvel and DC to build Kingstone Comics and paired them with evangelical writers to compile the 2000 plus page fully-illustrated Bible trilogy which was a finalist for Christian Book of the Year 2017. He is a prolific writer of comic books including “The Last Convert of John Harper,” “Babylon,” “101 Questions about the Bible” and several others.
Art is currently co-producing a new cinematic animation series in the Kingstone Universe with LA-based Reserve Entertainment. Art’s wife, Kelly, a former television director and producer, is now part of the Kingstone creative team. They have enjoyed a 40-year marriage with two sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. They consider their family a treasured production.
For more on No Vacancy see:
Diane Howard, Ph.D. is a dialogue, dialect and voice-over coach, as well as a journalist who writes about the role of faith in movies and in the entertainment field. Her website is dianehoward.com.