Anyone can make a movie. All you need is a camera, a story, actors ... and a forklift? Filmmakers Stephen and Alex Kendrick share stories of God's faithfulness as they bring a Christian worldview to the silver screen.
Anyone can make a movie. All you need is a camera, a story, actors ... and a forklift? Filmmakers Stephen and Alex Kendrick share stories of God's faithfulness as they bring a Christian worldview to the silver screen.
Bob: You saw the movie, Fireproof; right? Remember the scene in the movie where the car is stuck on the train tracks, and the train is coming? As that scene was being filmed, Alex and Stephen Kendrick got an opportunity to see that God really is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides.
Alex: Films are very expensive. We were spending $5 or $6,000, an hour, on all the rented equipment. So, we started praying. As we’re praying, we’re thinking, “How can we fix this as fast as possible because we’re burning daylight?!”
The house that was the closest to the tracks, where we were filming—this elderly gentleman is just standing on the porch, watching us. He moseys on over. He sees us struggling with this car; and he says, “You guys having problems?” We said, “Yes, sir, we have to move this car on and off the tracks; and our pulley system is not working.” He said, “What you need is a forklift.” We said, “That would be awesome, sir.” He said, “I’ll go get mine.”
Let me ask you this, “What are the odds, in a town of 2,000 people, the man closest to where we were filming has an operational forklift, and is at home, and is nice enough to let us use it for free? What are those odds?!”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll go behind the scenes with Alex and Stephen Kendrick and hear about the movies they have made on today’s program. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.
Dennis: You had fun on the Love Like You Mean It™ cruise because you got to—you had the privilege of interviewing Stephen and Alex Kendrick, who are, really, the co-producers and directors of Courageous, the movie.
Bob: The movie, Courageous, Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Flywheel.
Dennis: You’re kind of a cult figure with that whole deal. You were the one who first pointed this out to me. You’re such a movie mogul. I mean—
Bob: What it is—now that I’ve been involved in directing films—
Dennis: Art of Marriage®, yes.
Bob: —the Art of Marriage and—
Dennis: Stepping Up.
Bob: —the new Stepping Up video resource, I thought that—
Dennis: Kind of felt like you were on an equal—with Courageous? [Laughter]
Bob: —it would be good to have—
Dennis: I don’t think we’ll do a straw poll on that one on FamilyLife Today. [Laughter]
Bob: It was fun to have with us on the 2012 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who came along, just for the cruise.
Dennis: They did.
Bob: They heard about the event. They said, “We’d like to come.”
Dennis: “Bring our brides and get a little R&R.”
Bob: They needed it because this was right after Courageous had come out, and they’d been busy for a year. They just needed a little break time. So, we had them come. We said, “Would you mind doing some Q&A with the audience and just having us do some interaction?” They were gracious to do that.
So, Thursday afternoon, while we were spending a day at sea, we had a couple of sessions where I got a chance to interview them, and talk about their background, and how they got into films, in the first place, and what they are working on right now. We thought our listeners might want to hear a portion of that.
Dennis: At the same time, find out about the new Love Like You Mean It cruise in 2013.
Bob: Yes, in fact, our team was just telling me recently that we are starting to see the ship fill up. I said, “Well, I just want to make sure our FamilyLife Today listeners have an opportunity to be with us before it’s all sold out for 2013.” I said, “Is there any kind of a special offer we could make, just to give them a little nudge to sign up?” They came back and said, “Okay, we can make a special offer for one week; and this is the only time we’re making a special offer to FamilyLife Today listeners this year.”
The offer is this—when you sign up and pay the regular registration fee, your spouse comes at half-price. There are some other things they’ve added into the package, as well, but you have to be a FamilyLife Today listener to qualify. All the details are online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information. The offer expires Monday, June 25th. So, let us hear from you if you want to go with us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. Now is the time to get in touch. Go online for information at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Dennis: Well, let’s go to the three movie experts, and let’s hear them interact with one another.
Bob: Courageous came out September—what was the date?
Bob: September 30th.
Alex: Thirtieth, yes.
Bob: Opening weekend—any idea how many people came to see it opening weekend?
Alex: It did. I think we were expected to do $7 or $8 million. It did $9.1, opening weekend—ended up with $34 ½ million. It’s funny because Sony®, our distributor, still looks at us and scratches their head and says, “You know, you have no A-list stars. You’ve got no big budget. You’ve got no significant eye candy in the movie. This shouldn’t be working.”
Bob: Tell us about 75 languages. I know the distributor’s not going, “We need to get this into 75 languages.” You guys are saying that; right?
Stephen: Right. One thing we’re grateful for is the Lord led us to partner with Provident Films®, and they are owned by Sony. It’s interesting because the Gospel is in all of our movies; and then, lots of biblical truths are incorporated in that. But because Sony is the distributor, it goes to countries that are not open to Christian missionaries. It goes to Muslim countries, Communist countries, all of those countries. [Cheering]
Alex: It was funny. There was a missionary on a Muslim airline—you know, overseas. He’s sitting on this Muslim airline, and he looks around. He thinks he’s the only American on there—he’s a Christian. They start showing Fireproof, and he’s looking around wondering if these people realize what kind of movie they are watching—going, “How did this get on a Muslim airline?”
Then, he called us later to say, “I don’t know how this happened.” We don’t know how it happened either. I mean, praise God! He’s doing all this for cruise line—including this one. Cruise lines are showing it, and airlines are showing these films. The Lord has opened a door that we could not have opened.
Bob: I just, this week, had somebody send me a link to a YouTube® clip of a four-minute movie, put together by an 18-year-old in my city, that’s got some special effects—that I’m going, “How did that kid do that?”
Bob: It is amazing to see—he’s a young man. He’s a Christian young man. It’s amazing to see what’s starting to happen, in terms of film making. I know you get a lot of calls from folks all over the country saying, “Our church is thinking about this.”
Bob: What—the technical quality of the films and seeing it grow—and your films have grown in technical quality. Each one has been technically better than the last one, but that’s really secondary to what’s the story saying, how is the story, how compelling is it as a story, and then, what is it leaving folks with?
I’m sure, as you are talking to these young film makers, you are saying, “Look, get your chops down on the technical stuff; but the real issue is, as you said, ‘Do you have the fear of the Lord? Do you have the story, down right?’”—right?
Alex: That’s right. You know—and what was most important to us, when we sat there and we asked ourselves, “If we could have anything,”—more distribution, more budget, better acting, whatever it is—“what would we choose?”
We agreed that we would choose the favor of God, above everything because if you have the favor of—and this applies to everything we do, not just films—if you have the favor of God on it, and God’s able to do whatever He wants, and He gets the credit, then, it will do well or whatever He wants it to do.
So, we said, “If that’s true, we have to chase the favor of God more than anything else.” The Lord is pleased when we seek Him and wait on Him. Then, He just picks the time, and He unloads on us the direction to go. Then, He starts opening doors we could not have opened without Him.
Bob: You guys have been friends with Jon Erwin. How many of you saw October Baby on the—[Clapping]—okay. I know you had some conversation with him about that film. When you see a movie like that get made, come out, and get a chance to watch it, what’s your response to that?
Stephen: Well, we’re grateful that there are other guys who we are locking shields with. We’re not in competition with Jon. When he came on the set for Courageous, he was bringing some incredible skills in cinematography. We knew he wanted to make movies, and we started pouring into him—“Here’s how we make movies. Here’s how we pray through things. Here’s how we seek the Lord.” We’re just praising God that guys are honoring the Lord, and they are getting really good at it.
Bob: I’m guessing that the folks in Hollywood would like you to speed up the season of prayer cycle and get you churning it out a little more quickly?
Stephen: Yes, but it doesn’t work that way; does it? We’re on the Lord’s clock and His calendar; and you know the Lord knows what’s best for us, too.
He’ll say, “You spend nine months to a year pouring”—to write a script three months, to shoot it three months, to edit it three months. It seems like everything we do is in a three-month period. Then, the Lord says, “When you’re done, you spend a season—you pour back into your families, you seek Me, and you come home from war for awhile. Then, when you’re ready, I’m going to send you back.”
Bob: So, you’re in a season of prayer. Now, do you have a target in mind, like, “We think we’ll probably start working on a script about this time”?
Alex: Well, the Lord stirs our hearts about various things; you know? A military plot—a plot about senior adults becoming the patriarchs of their families—
Bob: That’s where I could come in; right? [Laughter]
Alex: Yes. A mental hospital, you know? [Laughter]
Stephen: Like a biography of George Muller, or if you know who he is—we’re going back and forth, going, “Lord, what do You want us to do?” Right now, He’s saying, “You seek Me for awhile. You seek Me for awhile. You rest in Me for awhile, pour into your wives and your kids—then, I’ll show you.” He’s always been faithful to show us what’s next.
Bob: Tell me about your interaction with the folks in Hollywood, who are mostly interested in what that gross is at the end of the film. How do they—do they understand this market? Are they starting to get it? What—
Stephen: They totally don’t get any of it. It doesn’t make sense to them. What we’ve learned is the world, oftentimes, is motivated by fear, and greed, and pride. There is so much fear in Hollywood, so much pride. There’s so much—people are worried that they’re not going to be cool tomorrow, even though they are cool today—that somebody else is going to beat them, or somebody else is going to cut their job away from them. There’s just that whole mentality in the world.
But in our situation, even on our sets, people don’t understand it. We’ll have some non-Christians, who are operating equipment on our sets. They walk on our sets; and there is prayer going on, there’s love, there’s unity, there’s Scripture. They say, “The vibe here is really, really good.” It’s just a new environment for them.
In the Hollywood world, in fact, after Fireproof—the weekend after Fireproof came out, Alex got a phone call from a Hollywood reporter. Tell them what happened, Alex.
Alex: Well, he said, “Who the *** are you?” He said, “I don’t even know you guys exist.” Then, he said, “I study and analyze every movie that comes along. We kind of know what it’s going to do, and we track them.” He said, “You guys came so far under the radar. All of a sudden, I open up the paper, and this movie is number four in the nation—that I’ve never even heard of.” He said, “Who are you?”
I said, “Well, we’re a church in south Georgia.” He said, “You’re a church!” [Laughter] I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, where’d you get your actors?” “Well, they’re church members.” He said, “They’re what?” He recognized Kirk Cameron; but everybody else he was like, “What?”
He said, “Movies aren’t supposed to do this well.” He said, “Do you know how many people, who went to film school, and are out here mentoring under Hollywood people—they’ve got millions of dollars, and they’re making movies that can’t get to the screen.” By the way, you don’t know this—but an average of 600 features are made, every year. You hear about the 20 or 30 that were blockbusters—that is what you hear about. You don’t hear about the 540 that bombed because they hardly ever come up.
They are fighting for screens. They are fighting for DVD, and pay-per-view, and they can’t get in there. So, a church in south Georgia becomes number four in the nation with Fireproof—and Courageous, for that matter—and they are looking at, “How did this happen?” That’s why we’re saying the Lord can open doors no one else can open.
Bob: Are we getting to a point where some Christian-themed movies are going to be coming out once a month, do you think?
Stephen: I think we’re moving in the direction where we’ll see more. I’m going to be going to San Antonio next week, and there are hundreds of Christian filmmakers that are going to be there. They are up and coming. This next generation is growing, and they are learning quickly. So, we’re seeing more getting produced. We’re seeing—but again, you see more good ones being produced, and you see a lot of ones that don’t need to be made being produced, too. So, it’s going to be both ends.
Alex: You still have a lot of young guys that—they even come up to us, when we go to these places, and say, “Man, I’ve studied film, I’ve got a camera, and I’m ready to do what you guys are doing.” We’re just thinking, “Wow!” You know, the technical aspect is 10 percent of this—
Alex: —and learning how to—the spiritual maturity Stephen was talking about. We get lots of counsel, guys. We get lots of counsel. We pray a long time. We take our time, let these stories marinate, and say, “Lord, would You make them what You want them?” We do re-edits. Matter of fact, the script went through four or five—six—revisions. Then, the edit of the movie went through five revisions before you see what’s on the screen.
We don’t rush it, and we do not assume we know everything. You get lots of counsel. These guys that come in, and they’ve never made a feature, and they’re over-confident. They are thinking because they know how to get good, beautiful images and run a camera, that they can make a great film.
We just think, “Guys, slow down. Slow down. Are you seeking the Lord?” “Well, yes, we prayed.” “You prayed, or you are praying?”—because there’s a difference—seeking the Lord; or, “Yes, we asked God to bless this.” By the way, we tell them, “God is not your employee. He does not work for you. You work for the Lord.”
Bob: That’s right.
Alex: So, reverse those things. You seek the Lord until you know what He’s telling you to do. Don’t assume, “God, this is what I want to do. I just need Your blessing. Here we go! Let’s go! Let’s go, God.” That’s not who He is!
Stephen: Yes, we learned that. So, we’re trying to help the next generation. There’s some talented guys coming along, but we need prayer because this is such an influential avenue. There are not enough of us out there utilizing it for the Kingdom—for the Lord. So, we’re trying to help the next generation come along.
Bob: Well, and everybody is fighting for screen space. There’s only so much of that. You can only get five or six movies a weekend that are going to come out and stick. For Hollywood to say, “We’re going to go with the Christian one instead of this one from Sundance—that tested well.”
Everybody who acts in your films—are they all believers?
Stephen: So far they have been. In fact, if you’ve seen Courageous, even the bad, gang guys are really strong believers. They’re Sunday school teachers in their churches. They love the Lord.
Javier—the guy who played Javier—have you ever heard of Ricky? You like Javier? [Clapping] If you’ve ever heard of Ricky Martin, who is this good-looking—he was really huge back in the day when he was singing. Well, Robert Amaya was the next Ricky Martin. He’d been signed by—who was the record company?
Stephen: Universal signed him, trained him up, and recorded the album. He was about to come out as this new, cool, sexy, Hispanic singer who could sing in English and Spanish. He had all the talent and everything else; but right at the same time, the Lord was doing a work in his heart, drawing him to Himself. The Lord killed that whole vision. They had the album recorded and everything.
Then, that album venture went bankrupt, or whatever, and he just got stuck. Now, what happened during that time, is the Lord killed his vision, and he began to grow in the Lord. Now, he loves Jesus with all of his heart. The Lord has placed him back, through this role—now, he’s beloved all over the world, in a sense, because of his role as Javier.
Alex: He had a scene in October Baby, and he’s got two more movies lined up now.
Alex: So, the Lord is now opening the door for him to do several features.
Bob: Tell us about the Snake King scene. [Clapping]
Alex: Well, you know what? This is what we did because Stephen and I—we know we’re not that funny. We’re sitting there thinking, “Lord, we need some humor that most people would think is funny.” We started praying, and praying, and praying. Anything that’s funny in the movie is because God blessed it because we don’t know.
We prayed for an idea that would be funny, and the Lord gave us the Snake King scene. It seemed like every time we told somebody, that they’d start laughing about it. “Okay, let’s shoot this and see if it works.” Because the good thing about editing is if something doesn’t work, you can always just take it out of the movie.
When we shot it and it worked—and partially thanks to Robert Amaya’s wonderful comedic acting—you know—it worked. We are thankful to the Lord. We pray for humor that’s not offensive but that everyone would think is funny. That’s just our prayer strategy.
Bob: The same is true with the “Who’s on first” scene that you guys put together, where he’s saying, “My name’s Javier.” “I prayed for Javier”—yes, that—
Alex: I think I wrote the Snake King scene, and he wrote that “Who’s on first” scene.
Stephen: It was funny because we had another guy—we were about to cast another guy and his wife in the role of Javier and Carmen. We were this close. Alex and I had already decided, “Yes, it’s good enough; you know?” The other person on our casting team said, “No, I don’t feel good about it. I don’t have a peace about it. Let’s cast—let’s check out this guy, Robert Amaya.” We didn’t know him. So, we fly in Robert. Tell them what happened in the casting session with you, Alex.
Alex: Well, first, when he came in and we were running lines together—we were running some of the scenes together—I could not make it through a scene without laughing. He just had me in stitches. Finally, I said, “I can’t take this.” Some people have a gift of humor, and other people don’t. Robert has it. As you know, from the movie, he can be sentimental. He can pull at your heart strings; and then, he can have you laughing so hard. It was fun to play the straight guy next to his humor. Yes, he was a blessing.
Bob: You do have some folks, behind the scenes, who are tradesmen, who don’t know Christ; but boy, they get a dose of it over six, to eight, to ten weeks; don’t they?
Stephen: Yes, in fact, there’s—our sound guy, when we shot the gang-beating scene in Courageous—when they are beating the guys—in between takes, T.C. Stallings was sharing his testimony with all those young, black, teenage boys that were in the gang and telling them, “You need to live for Christ. You need to live for Christ.” Then, they’d yell, “Action;” and he’d act mean again. But our sound guy is standing there, with a microphone over all of that. At the end of us shooting that scene, he gave his life to Christ.
Bob: Yes, isn’t that cool? [Clapping]
Okay, who else has got a question? Right down here in the middle, we’ve got one. Emily, if you’ll bring it all the way down here. There we go.
Man: Gentleman, how do you handle success; and how do you counter that?
Alex: We’re married. [Laughter] No, we have good wives, too. That is a great question. You know what? If you think about it, the Lord has reminded us of this—every famous person, every famous actor or musician—even the talented guys that have been around here—they all have a season. That season, at some point or another, will come to an end. Just because you think, “Hey, we’re on top right now.” No, we’re not going to stay there; and we know that!
So, as much fruit as the Lord gives us—however long we’re here on the stage, may we reflect the Lord and may God use us; but the minute that we say, “Hey, this is about us. We’re pretty good,” and start thinking more of ourselves than we should—what does the Lord do? He’ll knock your legs out from under you, and we don’t want to end up as a casualty, where you don’t end well. We want to end well!
We’re keeping each other accountable. We have accountability partners around us saying, “Guys, remember, God can do amazing things in your life; but at any given time, He also has the ability to pull that rug from under you if you dishonor Him,” because it’s not about us. We know we have a season. I don’t know how long that season is, but one day that season’s going to come. The Jon Erwins are coming up right behind us, and they are going to make better movies than we’re making.
Bob: I just preached, last Sunday, in the Book of Judges. Israel fell into rebellion after times of prosperity and success. It is just as spiritually dangerous—maybe more spiritually dangerous—for things to be going right in your life than it is for you to be in the middle of adversity.
Stephen: Absolutely. We tell people that the more time you spend with us, the less impressed you’ll be us and the more impressed you’ll be with the God that we serve; you know? The truth is—if you do a Bible study on pride in Scripture—it’s very eye-opening how much God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. It has helped us to do that because it says in the New Testament, “If a man thinks himself to be something when he’s nothing, he just deceives himself.” Well, we’re nothing; and the Lord is everything.
Being able to hold each other accountable, being able to have wives that speak the truth into our lives, pastors who speak the truth into our lives—but there is also a good, healthy dose of the fear of the Lord that should always accompany success—that we realize that if we get prideful, or greedy, or distracted, or let our guard down and the enemy causes us to fall morally—anything else—so many people have fallen.
If you look at David, the man after God’s own heart, he’s writing the Psalms—all this stuff—and this guy blows it. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, blows it when he let his guard down. Samson, the strongest man who ever lived, blows it when he let his guard down. We all need the Lord every day. We need to be poor in spirit before Him saying, “God, I need Thee every hour.”
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to an interaction, some Q&A, that took place onboard the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2012. Alex and Stephen Kendrick were guests with us, onboard the cruise, and great to have a chance to spend some time with them and let the audience interact with them, as well.
Dennis: At the same time, Bob, we premiered October Baby—
Bob: —onboard the cruise.
Dennis: It was shown onboard the cruise. We don’t know what movie we’ll premiere—
Bob: You think we’ll bring one with us this year?
Dennis: Well, we’ve done it two years in a row!
Bob: We’ll see what we can do.
Dennis: We premiered Courageous—
Dennis: —a year ago before it was released, and then, October Baby this year. There are always a few surprises on the Love Like You Mean It cruise—some value adds that our guests weren’t counting on—that are real treats to participate in.
Bob: As I mentioned, we just found out, recently, that the ship is starting to fill up. I was able to talk the team into making a special offer. It’s for this week only. Monday, the 25th, is the cutoff date. If you would like to join us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise for Valentine’s Week of 2013, now is the time to get in touch with us.
When you sign up for the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, and you sign up for the regular registration fee, your spouse comes at half-price. You’ll find information, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the offer expires Monday, June 25th. You do have to identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener when you get in touch with us, to be eligible for the offer. We hope you’ll take advantage and join us. We’d love to have you be a part of this year’s cruise.
Maybe you’ve got a special occasion coming up in 2013—a special anniversary year. Why not do something special and come on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise? Again, more information can be found, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”, to be a part of the Love Like You Mean It cruise in 2013.
Well, with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.
I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk to a mom who faced a dilemma. She was offered a job that was a job she’d always wanted. At the same time, her heart was starting to tug in the direction of staying at home to be with her son. We’ll hear how she wrestled through that dilemma and about the choice she eventually made—that all comes up Monday. Hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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