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Alumnus Chooses to Engage the Culture

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Alumnus Chooses to Engage the Culture

Photo courtesy of Michael Koerbel '00.

by Hohna Hartley

February 6, 2009

Michael Koerbel ’00 wasn’t headed to Hollywood — at least he didn’t think so. He’d gone to Cedarville University for a career in media, but he didn’t see himself pursuing the path of the “typical” filmmaker.

Several years after he graduated from the University, Koerbel found himself back on campus — this time as a staff member in the production services department. It was then that he worked with Cedarville president Dr. Bill Brown on the worldview study curriculum re:View. As the producer and director of the 13-part film series, Koerbel was intimately involved with the project.

In the course of his work, Koerbel took particular notice of the re:View segment about engaging the culture. As he explained it, the whole point of the segment was to tell the audience, “Jesus never said to go hide under a bush somewhere. He said, ‘Engage the world, and here’s how you do it.’” After repeated exposure to the lesson, Koerbel began to feel a call on his own heart to make a deeper impact with his life.

Ironically, it wasn’t just the content of the film that inspired Koerbel’s next course of action. Upon its completion, re:View won awards and received critical acclaim. As a result, Koerbel gained new confidence and felt for the first time he might have the talent to make movies. Led by a calling to engage culture and encouraged by the positive experience of making re:View, he applied to film school at the University of Southern California (USC) — and got in.

Establishing a Support System
Now in his fourth semester at USC, Koerbel knows the real challenge of living as a Christian in a Hollywood atmosphere. “It is never easy,” he said. “On any given day, you have the opportunity to compromise — literally almost every single minute.”

That’s why Koerbel is especially thankful for the support of his wife, Kristie (Smith) ’00, and is making the most of his friendships with other believers. He said, “The biggest thing I’ve found out here that’s been helpful to me — that I think Cedarville taught me — was the value of finding people who are like-minded, of the same faith, that you can get together with from time to time.”

Having learned the benefit of community through his time at the University, Koerbel is intentionally seeking the friendship, support, and accountability of believing friends, including other Cedarville alumni in the area.

Reaching Upward
In addition to reconnecting with friends, Koerbel is also utilizing the talents of fellow alumni in his film projects because he knows “the caliber of the training that’s going to come out of Cedarville, and I respect the faculty there.”

Consequently, when he was chosen as one of only 16 to compete in the Cisco Digital Cribs Contest, his film team included current Cedarville student Nicholas Matthews and graduate Ethan Bolvi ’05. Not only did their film win second place in the People’s Choice category, but it also took home grand prize for the entire contest.

Koerbel also earned a coveted opportunity to vie for the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker Award — a contest open to 13 schools in which only 10 finalists are chosen to compete. The film features acting talent Josh Cobb ’06, who auditioned for and won the film’s primary role. If the film wins, it will appear in 21,000 theatres this summer. To view the film, visit, click on “2009 Finalists,” and choose Butter Not Forget.

As he looks to the future, Koerbel continues to feel called to impact the world around him through a career as a director and through the relationships he develops along the way. He also anticipates incorporating the skills of more Cedarville alumni into his work. For Koerbel, Cedarville not only served as a springboard to help him engage the culture in the name of Christ, but it also provided a network of friends and colleagues to help him achieve that goal.

More Information

View David '03 and Amy Wenzel, which won the grand prize in the Cisco Digital Cribs Contest.

View Butter Not Forget, a finalist in the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker Award contest.