On Aug. 28, I had the chance to experience a movie shot and produced here in Nebraska by Union’s own alumnus, AJ Oetman. Both a tale and a fable of con men and religion, “The Wolf’s Robe” definitely took me by surprise.
Set in a dusty, small town of rural Nebraska, full of people looking for religious guidance, we are introduced to Victor Hunt. On the run from the law and desperate for an escape he enters the town under the guise of a reverend, and is immediately roped into a wedding and becomes the new church leader.
Hunt is adopted by the Engel family and, desperate to find his way out of the country, creates schemes to collect as much money and resources as possible using his new identity.
Ruling his new domain with an iron Bible and a doomsday message, Hunt soon finds himself in a tight spot as he grows more attached to the community and people who have adopted him as their own. Interspersed with memories of his childhood at the hands of a Bible-wielding foster mother that ties in beautifully with the film’s message, we see the struggle he faces as he tries to decide what’s most important.
This film is low-budget, meaning the dialogue is occasionally lost in the audio, some of the lines feel a bit forced, and a decent amount of the effects are definitely faked. But all of that fails to take away the message at the heart of the script.
While Oetman recognizes the main message of the movie is to be cautious when entering a religious community, he hopes it will open discussions with viewers about what's healthy and what is not when it comes to religion. Overall he just wants his audience to have fun while learning.
“Life is supposed to be fun, so I hope that a story can provide a great evening for someone,” he says.
Oetman attended Union College from 2007-2011, with one of those years spent in Micronesia. He graduated in December and walked in 2012 to receive his diploma for his English education degree and religion minor.
When asked how his Union experience influenced the creation of this project, he mostly cites professors.
“My creative writing and editing teacher, Chris Blake, was astounding. Dr. Tanya Cochran and Dr. Bill Fitts were also instrumental in honing my ability [to produce],” he says gratefully.
The skills he learned and developed while in school helped him face the many challenges that came his way during filming. The heat, exhaustion and lack of deadlines kept the film from being finished more quickly, but Oetman said the process was nevertheless fairly speedy.
“Post production was hard because it's challenging to stay on top of editing when there's no executive producer setting deadlines or breathing down your back; it's all on you,” he comments. “In addition, there was a big learning curve with respect to sound and color correction that took a while simply to learn.”
As for his future aspirations, Oetman plans to move and become a full-time director— this movie being his starting point.
He shares, “While I love our fair city [of Lincoln], I plan to soon move to London to work as both a theater and film assistant director, while I work on my own directorial projects.”
View screening dates and watch the trailer for “The Wolfs Robe” by visiting
Graci Escobar is a junior studying English.