Across is the feature film story of Father Augustine Tolton, the first African American Catholic priest.  The producers of the film completed the first 30 minutes of the movie as a stand-alone short film, which tells the story of Gus's attempted escape from slavery in 1863.

Now that the short has achieved laurels at film festivals, the process of turning the project into a 2-hour film is well underway. The goal is to be in theaters by 2020 or 2021.

tolton hat.jpeg

short film synopsis

Based on an incredible true story, the short film 'Across' brings to life a pivotal moment in the boyhood of Father Augustine Tolton, the first African American priest. “Gus,” a 10-year-old Missouri field slave, is devastated when his father flees the plantation to go fight for the Union in the Civil War. With the brutal overseer George watching his every move, Gus tries to convince his mother to take the rest of the family on the dangerous journey north.

To achieve his freedom, Gus - along with his mom, brother and infant sister - must not only outrun George and the slave-catchers, but also avoid Confederate soldiers, eager to collect the lucrative bounty. Most dauntingly of all, the mighty Mississippi River stands between Gus and free land in Illinois.


Director statement

I am thrilled to be able to present our short film 'Across' to film audiences across the world. This has been a labor of love for our hard-working cast and crew. Although our budget was small, we feel we have brought an epic feel to the true boyhood story of one of America's unknown heroes, Father Augustine Tolton.

When I first heard the details of his life from Bishop Joseph Perry (who is presenting Tolton's cause for sainthood to Rome,) I knew it was a film I had to make. The movie would never have been possible without the encouragement of my wife, Executive Producer Mary Beth Anthony (who also worked on the soundtrack) and Matt Cameron (who co-produced while battling Stage IV Cancer.)

Our talented team hopes you enjoy watching 'Across' as much as we enjoyed creating it. We hope you can be a part of our team by investing in the effort to complete the full 2-hour film. Please click on TAKE ACTION on the navigation bar of this site.

-Christopher Foley


True Story

'Across' is based on the childhood of the first African-American priest, Father Augustine Tolton. Due to his great virtue, "Father Gus" is now being considered for elevation to sainthood by the Catholic Church. The producers chose Gus' dramatic 1863 attempt to escape from slavery as the topic for this short film. While he was only a boy at the time, it was an adventure that shaped the man and the hero that Tolton was to become.


Historic Nashville

The cast and crew of 'Across' were Nashville-based, and the large majority of the film was shot in Middle Tennessee. Using both the historic buildings of Oak Lawn and Rippavilla Plantations and the natural beauty of Music City's fields and waterways, the producers were able to capture an historic area of the country that is too often only heard and not seen.

Back to His Roots

Director Christopher Foley has spent many years working in commercials and television before his return to historical drama. He drew upon his History degree and thesis paper about slavery as well as his stint as a Union Civil War re-enactor to bring the true story of 'Across' to life. His first film was also set during the War Between the States and was another collaboration with Producer Matthew Cameron.

ext church.jpg

Actual Locations

'Across' had it's very first day of production in and around Hannibal, Missouri. The producers were excited to shoot in the actual places where the hero of their film - Augustine Tolton - actually walked. Not only did the film capture the sunrise on the Mississippi where Gus attempted his daring escape, but they also shot in his childhood church and in the fields he actually worked as a slave.

Photo Jul 12, 1 59 23 PM.jpg

Tried and True Partnership

Writer/Director Christopher Foley and Producer Matthew Cameron had a business and personal relationship that spanned 27 years when they re-united for 'Across.' After years apart, they decided to make the film together when Matt was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Although Matt passed away during post-production, his spirit and tireless energy are a part of every frame of the film.