Parenting is a messy, complex arena. Filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick share their experience about making the movie "Like Arrows."
Parenting is a messy, complex arena. Filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick share their experience about making the movie "Like Arrows."
Bob: One of our jobs as parents is to try to figure out how God has shaped or bent our child and then point that son or daughter in the right direction. Here’s Alex Kendrick.
Alex: You know I have two sons and four daughters and my son is desiring to study cinematography. I didn’t make him do that, but I am training him to consider projects that honor God in the process. And so, for me, for my son, I’m imagining pulling back and grabbing an arrow out of my quiver and training my son—because he’s going to be able to do this far longer than I am—but to make sure his heart is aimed in the right direction and that his ambition is to honor the Lord.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 1st. Our host is Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk about our parenting journey today and about the story that will be in theaters all across the country tonight. Stay with us.
And welcome to a very special edition of FamilyLife Today. Tonight is a big night. This is opening night for our movie Like Arrows. It’s going to be in theaters tonight and then on Thursday night. We are with a group, a special group that has just had an exclusive sneak preview of the movie Like Arrows. What did you guys think?
We also have with us two guys who, Dennis, in a very real sense this movie would not be out and in theaters if we hadn’t received help from our guests today.
Dennis: Yes, and I want to introduce them, but I just want to interview you for a second and ask as “Cecil B. Lepine”—who helped create this movie—"What does it feel like to be showing this movie in front of live audiences?”
Bob: It’s a little surreal. This is something I never imagined I’d get to do. As we started talking about this a couple of years ago, I still didn’t imagine it. As you know, this wasn’t in the plans. We started filming a continuing story and it turned into a movie. It’s kind of like God is good. That’s the only thing I can say.
Dennis: Well more than 25 years ago—the live audience here needs to know—God led Bob and me and our paths to cross and he and I have linked arms on FamilyLife Today starting our 26th year this year. I don’t know it was probably eight to ten years ago, I looked him in the eye and I said “Bob, you are scary talented. I don’t think you have seen what God can use you to produce and do.” Of course, the Art of Marriage® has been produced; that’s been seen by over 800,000 people now.
Stepping Up® more than a quarter of a million men and young men have been through that and now this movie Like Arrows. I’m thrilled that it’s game time. It’s time for it to be shown in more than 800 theaters around the country.
Bob: Tonight, and Thursday. These are the two opportunities our listeners have to see it. It’s one showing only, each night, so you need to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and there’s information there about theaters near you where you can go see the movie tonight.
Dennis: We’re joined on our broadcast today with a pair of great friends, Alex and Stephen Kendrick. Guys, welcome back to the broadcast.
Alex: We’re happy to be here.
Dennis: You’re veterans.
Stephen: We’re honored.
Bob: You guys welcome Alex and Stephen here.
Dennis: I think what you all need to know, these men and their wives and their families—they each have six children each. So, there’s more than one way to control the world; you just produce enough children and you can take over the world.
Alex: Outnumber them.
Dennis: The Kendrick brothers are doing that. But they have not only been an encouragement and in cheering Bob on as he has done this at FamilyLife, but they have invested financially as well as with their talents and abilities. Bob, I want you to tell your side of the story of how you got them involved. And then I want them to share that as well.
Bob: We’ll see if they match up, right?
Dennis: Yes, exactly!
Bob: So, when we had been talking and praying for a long time about what should be the next video series, the teaching series that we should do, we were kicking around lots of ideas. Should we do something for pre-married couples, something for couples before they get pre-married and we talked about the Art of Parenting. We finally settled in on that and one of the ideas we had let’s tell a continuing story. With Art of Marriage we got some real-life testimonies from couples who were in the middle of stress and strain on their marriage.
With parenting it’s a little harder to get those real-life testimonies because if you’re living through it, you don’t want to talk about “Well, my 11-year-old is a delinquent right now.” You don’t tell all that. So, we had to be able to illustrate our principles with drama rather than testimony. And that was the idea of should we tell a continuing story? Could we tell a continuing story over each of the episodes?
Dennis: You really didn’t have the idea that it was going to be a movie initially when you did it.
Bob: We didn’t. I called Alex and Stephen and I said, “Here’s the idea: telling this continuing story. We’d like it done with excellence, with quality. You guys are known for that. I also knew that the two of you—part of what you want to do is mentor young film makers—
Alex: That’s right.
Stephen: That’s right
Bob: So, I said “I know you’ve got your own projects. I’m not asking you to take this on as a project, but could you point me in the direction of a talented young filmmaker and could you just make sure we don’t mess it up? Help us out and make sure that we don’t create bad video because we’ve all seen cringe worthy video.
We just didn’t want anything like that. You guys graciously agreed. You pointed us in the direction of Kevin Peeples and that began the journey.
Stephen: I remember in the summer of 2016, Bob, talking with you about this. You shared the vision of what FamilyLife wanted to do. What a great idea to partner the truth of the curriculum, when you’re doing a little bit more formal teaching, with the story that would grab their heart. Because as we all know, if we can get to an audience through their head and their heart, they’re more likely to receive truth. To play it out in this dramatic fashion is not only exciting but it’s effective. So, we began talking about how do you put these six components of this lifelong journey, this 50-year journey of parents to see the mistakes in their youth, how they grapple with it halfway through, and how they end well? And do not all of us want to end well with our kids?
Bob: Yes, right.
Alex: What a wonderful idea. So, we were grateful to jump on the train. You guys did a fantastic job. Kevin Peeples who directed this film did a fantastic job. We look forward to seeing what God does with it.
Bob: Stephen we were in your offices down in Albany kind of storyboarding what this could look like and I remember in the middle of that thinking “Wait. Could this be a movie?”
Bob: You kind of reminded us that there are a lot of people who have dreams of making movies and it’s harder to deliver one of those than people realize.
Stephen: Well and the agenda was to help people disciple their kids. So, we said “Let’s cry out to the Lord.” People talk about meeting with us and getting our counsel. Well that counsel involves us going “We don’t know what to do. Let’s pray. [Laughter] Let’s ask God to help us.” So, this entire project was bathed in prayer.
Bob: Yes, it was.
Stephen: We said Lord we need you to provide the filmmaker. He provided Kevin Peeples.
We need you to provide the storyline and He did all of those things. I’m so grateful that it works and works really well.
Alex: That’s right.
Dennis: I’m not a student of movies like you guys are. Has there ever been a movie on parenting put together like this where it shows the brokenness but at the same time the truth of scripture exalting that calling parents to disciple their kids?
Alex: Well certainly there are movies that have parenting and family components—many, but in this fashion, I can’t think of one.
Stephen: I can’t either.
Alex: Especially over this time period, a 50-year journey and for the right reasons.
Alex: This may be the first of its kind and that’s exciting.
Dennis: There’s a need for it today because we’ve got—what is it?—15 million millennials who are becoming moms and dads.
Alex: That’s right.
Dennis: And far too many of them their expert advice comes from the web. They google it and we want to get them googling the Bible.
Alex and Stephen: That’s right.
Stephen: And it’s not just millennials because this movie goes from before this couple are married all the way to their 50th anniversary and then beyond at the end.
If you have children, people are going to identify with this couple somewhere along the movie in the journey and they’re going to catch up with where you are. You’re going to see the potential of wherever I am I need to redirect my parenting, put Christ not only in the car but I need to let him be driving my parenting, let Him be Lord over the center of how I’m parenting my kids. So as my dad, as our dad has said for many years, “Start where you are and go forward as fast as you can.” That’s what people need to do.
Bob: I’ve had people ask me “Should we bring our kids to this movie?” If you’ve got a six or seven-year-old they’re going to get fidgety because it’s a dramatic story. There aren’t enough car chases in here or— [Laughter] but if you’ve got teenagers, I think this can be a movie that speaks to teenagers about where they are in the family, not just moms and dads.
Alex: It does. I love in this film how you see the heart of the children being tempted, the heart of the children starting to wane from the path the parents want them to go on. But you also see the parents figuring out how to go after the heart of their child. There’s a couple of scenes in here like when the father goes into Kate’s bedroom to sit down and grab her heart again and apologize for certain things, to remind her how much he treasures her and loves her. That is a conversation that every dad should have with his children at some point and probably multiple times. To see that played out that is one of the most powerful scenes in this film.
Dennis: I agree and the thing I like about it in what you guys did together in a collaborative sense is your giving men, dads courage. I think our country has a lot of dads who want to do the right thing. They just need the model, the blueprints, the training, and the courage to be able do it.
Bob: Most of the time people don’t want to go to a movie theater to get lectured to, right? They don’t want something that is heavily didactic. They want to go and be entertained. You guys are masters at sending messages in highly entertaining vehicles. Talk about why that works and how that does connect with folks.
Alex: My wife cooks a type of green beans that all of my kids love. You know as well as I do that we need the nutrition of vegetables, right? But if they’re presented without good seasoning
Alex: —cooked the right way. [Laughter]
Bob: A little bacon and sugar. Yes.
Alex: It’s hard to get excited about that. But when it’s presented and cooked effectively, maybe with the right seasoning on it, then it’s enjoyable and good for you.
In this setting, we want a movie that contains so much truth and examples of how to do things the right way. But you want to present it in a way that’s palatable and present it in a way that the audience enjoys watching. And again, if you can get to the heart as well as the head, it’s so much more effective. So that’s what’s exciting to do a feature film like this, especially to have the crew, the cast, the people that we did to do it so well.
Dennis: You know you guys are doing something. I just want to run a bunny trail for a moment. Coming alongside a young man named Kevin Peeples, you’re wanting to develop the next generation of film producers. There’s some moms and dads in this live audience that we have here on the Love Like You Mean It Cruise are raising—sons and daughters are pulling out this iPhone and they’re making movies of the family and they’re wanting to become producers someday. What would you say to parents of the listening audience right now just about how to cultivate that and yet not go crazy in the process of seeing their creative son or daughter produce these things?
Stephen: I would say tell your kids to start telling stories at a small level, with no budget, with their iPhone in the backyard and move people emotionally. You want to either have people laughing hard or tearing up, or intrigued, captivated, or learning something new—curious as the story unfolds. Do it in little two minute / three-minute vignettes, those kinds of things. But ultimately your kids need to fear the Lord. Because what we’ve seen is this generation they know how to use these cool graphics and these cool software and these cameras and things but if they don’t have a fear and a respect for the Lord, they’ll end up using this double-edged sword of film making and hurt themselves and other people in the process. Everything that we do there needs to be a sense of “God needs to be glorified through it, but He needs to be involved in the process as well.”
So, we’re praying through “Who should we cast? What should the topics be? What direction do you want us to go Lord?” and if there’s ever anything in our movies that we feel like is going to be a stumbling block to the next generation, we take it out because Jesus talked about the accountability associated with that. So, I’d say prayer, start small, and be teaching your children the fear of the Lord in the process.
Bob: I remember having a conversation with Greg Harris. He said that with his kids he was always looking for the delights that God had put in their hearts. “What was it that they were interested in?
Joshua, as a young man, was interested in cartooning. He said “When I saw that, I started putting fertilizer around that and saying ‘I’ll buy supplies but let’s talk about how you can do this for God’s glory. Let’s talk about how you might be able to do this to support a family someday if this is what God’s calling you to.’” He said, “I fertilized that and then he’d lose interest in that and come along and say, ‘Now I’m interested in this.’ I’d fertilize that and just trying to say what is this but all the while saying ‘This is good that you have this desire. Let’s talk about how this can be done for God’s glory.’” I think that’s a great model. If your kids go, “We love making movies.” then fertilize that a little bit but keep asking the question “How can you advance the kingdom through the passion that God has given you?”
Dennis: You know this movie is called Like Arrows. I just want to read this passage and have all three of you comment on this because this is what this movie is all about. It’s helping parents realize that children are a blessing not a burden. It’s found in Psalm 127 verses three and four. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like Arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” I want to read verse five, too.
“Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” The imagery here is of a warrior who has a quiver full of arrows an offensive weapon going forward. Comment on that if you would.
Alex: I have two sons and four daughters and my son who is 19 at this time is desiring to study cinematography. Well, that is something that is part of my world. I didn’t make him do that, but I am training him to consider projects that honor God in the process. So, for me, if the Lord wills it, I want to continue telling stories and making films long term that draw people to a closer walk with God, Stephen as well. So for my son, I’m imagining pulling back, grabbing an arrow out of my quiver and training my son—because he’s going to be able to do this far longer than I am and I want those arrows to go the distance that God wants them to go and hit the targets that God wants them to hit.
So when I see his bent, “Dad, I’m also interested in telling stories”—him more behind the camera than me but he wants to do it with a higher level of excellence than I do and I’m rooting him on but to make sure his heart is aimed in the right direction and that his ambition is to honor the Lord. By the way ambition is a terrible leader but it is a good fuel for when you have the right motives so I’m making sure his ambition is placed right. I’m making sure that his love is for God and the same things for my daughters as they get older that whatever God calls them to do if you do it in a way that honors the Lord that’s me releasing those arrows to hit the targets.
Stephen: I think about every analogy in that passage of scripture is talking about something that we want a lot of. He talks about an inheritance. Do you want a big inheritance or a little inheritance? Well, I want a big inheritance. He talks about a reward. Well, do you want a big reward? I want a big reward. He talks about fruit, the fruit of the womb. Well, does a farmer want a little harvest or a big. Well, I want a big harvest.
Then he says arrows. Do you want to go into war with a—
Alex: Sharp arrows.
Stephen: —"Barney Fife” one bullet in your gun that’s all you got or do you want to be ready? So, blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Some people can only have one child, or they can’t have any children at all. But we need to view children as a blessing from the Lord.
That entire passage is communicating this is something you should want a lot of if God allows because you will be sending them out into the world to make disciples, to bring glory to God. We are in a battle, a spiritual battle and our children will be uniquely gifted of the Lord to help advance the kingdom in ways that we cannot. Even as David could not build the temple—but he blessed and launched his son, prepared him to do it successfully—we are preparing our children to do things that we can’t do. But we with our prayer, our blessing, our counsel, our discipline, our advice—we’re launching them out to do the will of God successfully.
Bob: We’re preaching to the choir up here because there are 23 children represented among the four families.
Bob: So people will see us and they’ll say “How many kids you have? and I’ll say “We only have five” because I’ve worked for Dennis Rainey; they’ve got six. They were always one upping us on everything.
But here’s the thing. Is it harder to raise six kids than it is to raise two kids? Sure, it is. Costs more money, takes more effort, more energy. Is there more blessing in having six kids at the stage of life we’re in today? Absolutely! You look back and you go “Would we want to have two kids coming home for Christmas or five kids and a whole bunch of grandkids coming home for Christmas,” right? The burden is real, but the blessing is beyond the burden and that’s part of what we hope this film is going to communicate to moms and dads. I just have to say here because this is so key to the story. There’s a climatic scene here where the kids are honoring their parents. They are speaking words of honor.
This goes back more than two decades to what you’ve been teaching people, Dennis, about the need for adult children to speak words of honor to their moms and dads. I remember as we started work on this you and I had the conversation. You said, “You know it would be cool if there was a tribute scene in there.” I hadn’t really thought of that and that winds up being the climax of the movie, but it’s connected to a burden that’s been on your heart for decades.
Dennis: Well, this passage talks really about the beginning of a family the children that are gathered around. It also has the imagery of an olive tree and the shoots growing out around the base. That’s the beginning. I think the fifth commandment of the ten commandments where it commands us as children, regardless of our age, to honor our parents comes full circle back to honor what is right, what has been done right, what is honorable that our parents have done in our lives. I can just tell you from having done this with my mom.
My dad died before I had a chance to write a tribute to him, but I can tell you when I gave that tribute to my mom, she hung that right above her kitchen table where she had coffee every morning. She made the mailman read it. She made the telephone repairman see it, the plumber, people who’d come in there. Every once in a while, she’d comment on the phone when I’d talk to her “Is this really true? Are you really talking about your mean old mom?” Because she was well aware of her faults and her flaws and where she’d failed.
I tell you what you guys are all about, and what FamilyLife is all about, is just about celebrating how this book the Bible begins which is a marriage, the beginning of a family. We all know that the theme of family runs from the book of Genesis all the way to the wedding feast where the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, welcomes his bride, the church, and eternity is going to be celebrating in ways we can’t even imagine all that God had in store for families.
I just want to thank you two guys, and Bob, I know you want to do as well. I don’t know that this movie would have occurred.
Bob: Would not have happened without you guys partnering with us.
Dennis: It would not have occurred without you. I just appreciate your kingdom mentality and not protecting your egos and logos. I just want our listening audience to know as well as here that’s live, but also on air, this is a remarkable pair of leaders in our generation and they don’t come along all that often. I wish your tribe would increase.
Bob: So, let me just turn to the audience for a second because you guys know that we told you we would let you see a sneak preview of this as long as you went back to the theater tonight and paid the full price to watch the movie in the theater.
So you’re all on the hook. You’ve got to go either tonight, or you can go Thursday night if you want to go Thursday night.
You have to bring friends with you because we really need a crowd out for the movie tonight and on Thursday night. We think you’re going to be entertained. We think you’re going to be moved by what you see, and we hope that this will launch folks into starting to go through the Art of Parenting video series which is also available today.
You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information on how to get these resources, how you can order them for your church, or you can start going through the Art of Parenting online for free today. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and the information is available there. If you want to find out where the movie is showing tonight, in a theater near you, again go to FamilyLifeToday.com and the information is available there. We will plan to see you at the movies tonight. You’re all going to be there right?
Dennis: And I just want to say this is the beginning of a movement.
A movement of a million parents who push back against what the world is saying about children “That they’re a burden and a curse and they cost you too much” and believe what the scripture says, “They’re a blessing and a privilege.” We hope that the Christian community will take up the banner of viewing children for who they are. They are God’s blessing, reward, and a heritage for the future.
Bob: I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you at the movies tonight and we’ll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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