Nicole Teeny, a former Gig Harbor resident who studied at Tacoma School of the Arts, won the 2013 Slamdance Jury Award last January for Best Feature Documentary with “Bible Quiz.”
The Slamdance Film Festival, created in 1995, is an annual event in Utah, reserved for independent films.
Teeny will have upcoming screenings of the full-length documentary at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Tacoma Film Festival, 606 S. Fawcett, and at 3 p.m. Oct. 20 during the Gig Harbor Film Festival at the Uptown Galaxy Theater, 4649 Point Fosdick Drive.
Teeny graduated with the first class from Tacoma School of the Arts and attended New York University, where she completed a double degree in film and TV production. She received a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission and Artists Trust and began to work on the documentary in 2008.
“The documentary was filmed in locations around Gig Harbor, Tacoma and other Puget Sound areas, completed with a local cast, crew and composer,” Teeny said.
Christopher Teeny of Gig Harbor, the filmmaker’s brother, is a main character. Lead cast member Mikayla Irle is from Federal Way.
Christopher sparked the idea for the documentary with his suggestion of following the story of students who were preparing for a Bible Quiz from Life Center Church in Tacoma.
Bible Quiz is a national scholarship ministry for teens. Each year, students memorize a different book or books of the New Testament. Meets take place, and top teams advance to the national competition.
Intrigued with the idea, Teeny planned to follow the team captain, JP O’Connor, until she met Mikayla Irle.
“She had a magnetic personality,” Teeny said. “She was conflicted, searching for love and a sense of belonging.”
The documentary focuses on 17-year-old Irle as she memorizes thousands of Bible verses on her quest to win the national Bible Quiz championship and the heart of JP, her quiz team captain.
“It’s a coming-of-age teen love story about a girl who’s not yet a woman, trying to find her identity,” Teeny said. “This is a relatable story about the pangs of first love, sexuality, competitiveness and personal achievement while training for the Bible Quiz.”
Teeny wants audiences to know that the documentary, based on a Christian context, appeals to everyone. The film isn’t solely focused on the niche of studying for the Bible Quiz. Rather, it’s about the journey of growing up and the similar experiences teens have, no matter the culture, she said.
“Winning Slamdance was a tremendous honor,” Teeny said. “We have shown the film at 20 film festivals around the country and were just invited to screen it in Gig Harbor. There has been a positive audience response and great reviews from the press.”
Teeny will be at the Tacoma screening to answer filmgoers’ questions this weekend but unavailable for the Gig Harbor showing. She said Christopher may be able to attend the Gig Harbor Film Festival.
Teeny said she appreciates Emmy/Peabody winner Marco Williams, the executive producer, as well as Emmy/Academy Award winner Jason Pollard, the supervising editor. Both worked on her documentary.
The filmmaker said she’s working to get her work distributed nationally. She’s also working on other projects and is scheduled to screen at more festivals.