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CBN and Regent University's new movie First Landing tells the story of the voyage that 105 colonists took from England to the shores of Virginia in December 1606. The Rev. Robert Hunt was specially recruited to go to the New World by the Rev. Richard Haklyut, one of the founding members of the Virginia Company which commissioned the voyage.
Ordained by the Church of England and appointed to be a vicar in Kent by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Hunt then moved to the vicarage in East Sussex. This is where he served before he made the journey to the New World. He earned the respect of the colonists and served as peacemaker to those often quarrelling men. This was especially evident when he intervened in a dispute between the aristocratic Edward-Maria Wingfield and the soldier Captain John Smith.
On April 26, 1607, before the men dispersed to stake their claim in the new land, Hunt required that each of the colonists wait on the ships for a time of personal examination and repentance. Hunt felt that if they were to consecrate the land for God, they should have contrite hearts. After the three days, on April 29, 1607, the group erected a seven-foot cross in the sand at Cape Henry, which is present day Virginia Beach. The colonists and sailors gathered around the cross and gave thanks to God for arriving in the new land safely and to dedicate the land to Him. Hunt declared that the Gospel would go from those shores to the New World and the entire world.
Though historians do not know the exact date or how Hunt died, many believe he died a few months later in the spring of 1608.
Guy Birtwhistle plays the lead role of the Rev. Robert Hunt and is proud of his work in the movie. He feels the movie honors Hunt’s life and tells his story well. It was a challenge to play Hunt because he was a real person. Guy says the five weeks of shooting the movie was a great experience. Shot in high definition, it has excellent production values with nice costumes. Several of the actors are British and the film is narrated by the British actor Edward Woodward. The interiors of the ship, like the scene where Hunt gets seasick, were shot on a sound stage. The exteriors were shot on a ship replica and out on a boat in Delaware Bay that is a floating museum. Guy says it was amazing.
Guy says that his character put himself in a dangerous situation and put his life on the line. None of the colonists knew what the New World held. Personally, it got Guy thinking – what does it mean to put your life on the line? This thought usually came at the end of each day of shooting, especially the scene where Hunt is saying a prayer for dying colonist, John Martin. Through the many hardships the colonists faced, all they had to really hold onto was their faith. Guy says that Hunt kept faith alive for all the people on board.
Hunt’s story was a tragic love story, because he never made it back to his family in England and thus they never made it to the New World.
Guy says he was picked to play the lead role when the director, Cristobal Krusen, saw Guy in a clip of a short film from his daughter’s film school and said, “This is the type of person I would like to play Hunt.” Guy sent audition on video tape and was cast.
Overall, not much is known about the real Rev. Hunt. He was portly and hand picked to go on the journey by Haklyut. A brilliant communicator, he could speak to all kinds of people, even the Native Americans (not shown in the movie). He was a peace maker, good listener, very patient, and vulnerable, all of which made him a great vicar. Guy believes Hunt was picked for his strong faith, but he also probably had questions which strengthened his faith. They tried to portray that, especially during the scene of planting the cross at Cape Henry.
REVERENCE FOR THE ROLE
The CBN production of First Landing took Guy back to his family roots as his ancestors having first traveled to America in 1670. Much of the inspiration for his portrayal of Hunt came from his sister's father-in-law, Richard Hanmer, a Church of England canon who presided over Norwich Cathedral for many years. Guy also prepared for the role by reading the Bible and Book of Common Prayer. Guy says in the Church of England the vicar makes his presence known, visits people, and keeps up with their lives. Vicars are usually humble, sincere men and their lives are dedicated to their community. They are quiet, good listeners, self-sacrificing and nothing is too much for them. This is what Hunt did during the four months of the voyage across the Atlantic. The settlers and sailors were Hunt's parish and the people on the ship respected him.
MORE ABOUT GUY
Guy was born in Northern England and raised in a family of singers, actors and artists. He began performing in high school, and after a stint as the guitar player for British pop band Rhythm Sisters, he left the rain behind and headed out for sunny California. A fan of everything Orson Welles, he also recently wrote and produced a highly acclaimed short film and a music video for the Sunday Drivers, an indie band.
After First Landing wrapped, Guy wrote a supernatural thriller, which he is now producing with partner Stacy Keanan. When he's not sailing across the ocean in search of new worlds, Guy is famous (to his friends) for making delicious chocolate truffles.
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