Footy and faith star in new Aussie film

NRL’s Jason Stevens shares his story on screen

With footy finals just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to pose the quintessential Aussie question: NRL or AFL?

This debate is at the heart of new movie Chasing Comets, written by retired NRL star Jason Stevens. This homegrown comedy – released in cinemas on August 23 – features three former Home and Away stars: Dan Ewing (also known for Occupation), Isabel Lucas (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) and Katrina Risteska (Dance Academy).

Set in the sport-loving town of Wagga Wagga in NSW, the backdrop of the narrative is the divided loyalties to rival footy codes. But there’s much more to this film than footy.

Essentially, Chasing Comets is the story of Stevens’ own life – his struggle to keep his footy career on track in the midst of a party-hard culture and, most importantly, his journey to faith.

Just as happened to Stevens, the lead character Chase Daylight (played by Ewing) meets a chaplain who helps turn his life around by introducing him to Jesus Christ.

“Jason has a really strong sense that God is involved in this film.” – Jason Perini

Significantly for Christian audiences, Chasing Comets doesn’t shy away from the “churchy” details of this conversion experience. Part of the reason for this is director Jason Perini also happens to be a Christian.

This fact was unknown to Stevens when he hired Perini, based on a recommendation from a mutual contact. “Jason Stevens just rang me out of the blue one day and asked me to read this script of his,” Perini explains to Eternity. “I sat down to read and one of the early scenes is of a bible study group.

“I called him back and said, ‘Just so you know, I’m a committed Christian.’ It really blew his mind!” says Perini. He adds: “Jason has a really strong sense that God is involved in this film.”

Jason Perini director of Chasing Comets

Director Jason Perini (centre) on set for Chasing Comets.

Perini is fairly new to the directing game, having spent ten years previously in acting roles. But he has written and directed a couple of major short films, most notably The New Empress which starred Maggie Gyllenhaal and was produced by Kevin Spacey.

While Perini describes the process of bringing Chasing Comets to life as two years of hard slog, he says it was made much more bearable by working with Stevens. This is due largely to their shared faith.

“Creatively, we think differently about a lot of things … But we’ve been able to relate to each other in a really nice way because it’s based around our relationship with God,” says Perini.

“As a collaborator, Jason is very humble, forgiving and gracious … Working with him has been a privilege and a pleasure, and something I will treasure for a long time.”

“We’re dealing with rugby league change rooms and we’re dealing with bible study groups.” – Jason Perini

While Christianity plays a significant role in the film, both Perini and Stevens were careful not to “ram it down people’s throats”. They drew on comedy to make Christian themes palatable for a broad audience.

“We’re dealing with rugby league change rooms and we’re dealing with bible study groups. These can quite often seem like very different environments,” says Perini.

“So we tried to get some lightness and humour into the way the Christian theme is done.

“We tried to do it without jargon and without taking ourselves too seriously, whilst we take the message seriously.”

While the film deftly smooths over potential debate about its Christian themes, it may leave another contentious issue unresolved for some: NRL or AFL?

It’s a hot potato that Perini wisely avoids. “I grew up being much more interested in rugby union,” he says, while admitting there was little support for this alternative view on the set of Chasing Comets: “[Rugby union] gets paid out and given a hard time in the film.”

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