Berner directs, produces, edits first full-length movie
by Maddy Houk | Patterson Irrigator
Aug 12, 2010 | 834 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Arvin Berner, music director of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Patterson, wears many hats.

Berner is a piano teacher as well as founder and director of the local Berean School of Music.

Recently, he added movie writer, director, producer and editor to his personal list of titles with the completion of his first film, “Checkmate.”

The film will premiere at 7 p.m. Aug. 20 at the State Theatre in Modesto after two years of work for Berner.

“I started writing the script in 2008,” Berner said. “I was looking for a script that would make a good project that audiences would connect to and that would be appropriate for all ages.”

The story centers on Aaron Carson (Zachary Barnes), who dreams of becoming a great lawyer. Judge Andrews (a’Ali Salaam), impressed with Carson’s mock trial talent, offers him the opportunity to begin his studies if he wins a national chess tournament — then he would be admitted to the university of his choice. Although Carson does not even know how to play chess, he dedicates himself to learning the game. After losing again and again, he wants to give up, but he is spurred on by Judge Andrews’ belief in him.

Many of the outdoor scenes will be familiar to Patterson residents. Filming was also done in Modesto, Riverbank, Oakdale, Ripon and Sacramento.

Berner enlisted the help of friends and relatives who make up the “Checkmate” cast and crew.

“Yes, knowing people is the best route when you are working with what is — by Hollywood standards — a very low budget,” Berner said.

The Rev. Paul Johnson of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church described Berner as a talented young man.

“We have enjoyed his gift of music over the years through the choir, organ, piano and other instruments and watched the development of Berean School of Music,” Johnson said. “What a surprise to learn that as talented and devoted as he is to music, his passion is film!

“Here, as with the music, we have watched Arvin develop not only his writing skills, but also his filmmaking through the past few years. ‘Checkmate’ pulls it all together.”

Johnson said he was invited to a special screening at the State Theater, and he was impressed by what he saw.

“It is a delightful feature film with an encouraging story and message for all ages,” Johnson said. “I plan to see it again at the premier.”

Berner, a resident of Modesto, is a graduate of Ripon Christian High School. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in music in 2001 from California Sate University, Stanislaus, in Turlock. He then studied film at Academy of Art University in San Francisco

Berner, who has worked at Our Saviour’s the past 12 years, started at the local church while studying at Modesto Junior College.

“I’m certainly in it for the long run,” Berner said. “I started when I was still an MJC student and worked my way up to music director.

“I’ve had a wonderful time there. Pastor Paul and his wife, Karen, and the other people out there are the reason I’ve stayed so long.”

Berner aspires to continue with his music and plans to add more movie work to his career.

“My dream is to have the movie be the profession — the job — and to be able to pursue my music for the love of the arts and the love of leading the worship,” Berner said.

Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187 or

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