TV pilot has familiar metro-east faces

Bryan Kreutz doesn't see much that's uplifting on television these days.

That's why he co-created "Up on High Ground," a faith-based TV series about young people. It includes comedy and drama, but also family values.

"We're trying to go against the grain of what you see on television today, and we're purposely inserting religious conversations into the dialogue," said Bryan, 36, of St. Louis.

"We're trying to be brave. We want to bring morals back to television. We're tired of the trash."

Bryan is an actor, writer and producer, in addition to his day job as an information services analyst.

He created the TV series with Brayden Patterson, 22, of Collinsville, an actor, pizza deliveryman and former Southern Illinois University Edwardsville student.

They've filmed two half-hour pilots, which are being peddled to TV networks by an agent. Several of the 30 cast and crew members are metro-east residents.

"It doesn't matter if we become famous or rich," said actress Jessica Jordan, 14, of Lenzberg, a home-schooled student. "We're doing it for fun and to teach people."

Jessica has taken dance lessons for more than 10 years and acted in student and independent films.

The plot of "Up on High Ground" is loosely based on Brayden's college experiences. He stars as one of two roommates dealing with a freeloading friend.

"It's actually more realistic now than it was when we first created it," Brayden said. "We've got someone who's living on our couch. He's supposed to be moving to St. Louis in a couple weeks."

The TV roommates are psychology majors taking college-prep classes at a fictitious St. Louis high school.

They regularly get opportunities to do the right thing (or not) and follow Christian principles, such as "love thy neighbor as thyself." Brayden's character develops a friendship with a male teen after giving him a ride home.

"The student has a young mother with three kids, and she is a widow needing all the help and positive male influences for her children that she can get," according to a synopsis.

Bryan is cast a nosy neighbor in the roommates' apartment complex. Supervising producer Joe McGettigan plays the school principal, a Buddhist working for cooperation and understanding.

Other metro-east cast members include lead actress Rylee Cravens, 16, of Belleville, a junior at Mascoutah High School; and her sister, Molly Cravens, 13, an eighth-grader at Mascoutah Middle School.

Both have appeared in school plays and public-service announcements and have taken piano lessons for eight years. Rylee plays saxophone, and Molly is a trumpeter.

"I prefer films and TV shows over plays and musicals," Molly said. "You kind of get a second chance if you mess up. With a play, if you mess up, everybody watching sees it."

Jessica and the Cravens met Bryan and Brayden on the set of the 2013 independent film "Hercules: The Brave and the Bold." Bryan was assistant director, and Brayden led the cast.

Bryan later re-assembled the group for "To Inflict," a short film he produced about road rage and anger issues.

"Up on Higher Ground" is geared toward TV viewers in their teens and early 20s.

"It's relatably funny," Rylee said. "It tells it like it is. There are real-life high-school situations - girls battling girls, competitions and peer pressure."