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The Lord's word on the big screen

Nicole Teeny's new documentary 'Bible Quiz' set in Tacoma

"BIBLE QUIZ": J.P. O'Connor, left, and Mikayla Irle memorize scripture verses for a shot at the Bible Quiz national championship. Photo credit: Nicole Teeny

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I pledge allegiance to the flag ...

Our Father, who art in Heaven ...

What else can you recite verbatim from your school days? I know that after 17 years of private and public education, not much stuck with me into adulthood. And don't ask me about the Bible - just trying to comprehend and live out its tenets is tough enough without having to memorize whole passages.

Then I heard about Mikayla Irle and Bible Quiz. Originally from Edgewood, this high-schooler accomplished what few can, or will even attempt: she learned by heart multiple books from the Good Book. By senior year she had Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon (roughly 17 pages of text according to my translation) down cold. Sweet Jesus.

Irle's efforts belonged to a nationwide evangelical sport known as Bible Quiz. She and her teammates from Tacoma's Life Center church made it all the way to the 2008 National Championship in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Their cross-country journey fuels Nicole Teeny's upcoming documentary, appropriately titled Bible Quiz, which just recently wrapped shooting.

Teeny's own journey as director and producer of this film began almost four years ago. A new graduate of New York University with degrees in film and dramatic writing, she returned home to Washington, hungry for a project. Then her younger brother, Christopher, mentioned his involvement in Bible Quiz, and introduced her to J.P. O'Connor, his best friend and team captain. O'Connor had placed second in the nationals one year prior, and wanted another go at the top spot before leaving high school.

Then the plot thickened - Irle harbored a secret crush on O'Connor throughout training. Teeny already had her movie's soul; now she had its heart too.

Beyond romance, Bible Quiz confronts a number of complex and intertwining ideas that appealed to Teeny. "Competition is a big theme, which is always captivating," she remarks. "(I like) stories about religion and faith ... I also really like coming-of-age stories, people finding their own identity ... figuring out where they fit in."  

Directing her first feature at only 22, Teeny had no trouble bonding with these unique teens. She suspects her relatively young age allowed a closer examination of her subjects.

"I was more like a peer," she notes. "(Because) the film is very intimate ... you have to have a trust of the characters to be able to open up their lives and their stories to you."

The majority of the footage comes from chronicling the 2008 championship, with scenes set in Tacoma, Seattle, Green Bay and New York. At first Irle didn't know Bible Quiz would focus so largely on her story, saying this "evolved over time" as the plot took shape. She can't wait to see the edited movie, for it's the editing - selecting certain moments of Irle's onscreen persona while omitting others - that will determine how viewers perceive and judge her character.

She reflects on this. "I am fictionalized in a way," Irle admits. "(Teeny) kind of has control over my identity in the film."

She's since moved on from her B.Q. phase and is now a college student in New York state, where Teeny also works and continues post-production on Bible Quiz. Currently the director has an online campaign in place to raise funds for editing costs. So why not help a local moviemaker bring the talents of some amazing kids to the big screen? For as the Gospels say, "Do unto others, with liberty and justice for all."

I wouldn't have made it one day in Bible Quiz.

Donate at http://www.indiegogo.com/biblequiz until April 11, or find out more ways to contribute at http://www.biblequizmovie.com/contribute.

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