Things are abuzz in Albany, Georgia - the “Hollywood of the South.”
If you’ve followed Sherwood Pictures’ films over the past six years, you’re likely familiar with their movies - Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof. The films are the result of the prayers, dedication, and work of Albany, Georgia-based Sherwood Baptist Church. Proving the Hollywood pundits wrong, each film has done successively better than it’s predecessor. Facing the Giants opened at number eight and grossed $10.3 million. Fireproof opened at number four and grossed $33 million.
I’m in Albany along with nearly a hundred other journalists, bloggers, and ministry partners and leaders for a “media and ministry” junket and set visit for Sherwood’s next film - Courageous. After much prayer and discernment, the church settled on a story following four men in their roles not only as police officers, but also as fathers. It’s set to open in the early fall of 2011. The filmmakers are about half-way through a 35-day shooting schedule. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of what Sherwood is doing and the potential impact that it will have on families.
Catholic organizations, such as Retrouvaille, Marriage Encounter, and Diocesan Marriage and Family Life offices partnered with, and supported, Fireproof because of its pro-marriage message. It’s expected that Catholic men’s initiatives will do the same with Courageous because of its themes of supporting the family and encouraging men to take responsibility as fathers.
Tonight, I was able to sit down with Sherwood pastor Michael Catt and the film’s writer, Stephen Kendrick to talk to them about their latest production. To view a video of my interview, visit Kenneth Henderson’s web site, True Knights. It will be posted later in the week.
Pastor Catt explained why Sherwood Church decided to embark on movie-making.
“Through surveys we could see the waning influence of the church,” said Catt. “We realized that we have a generation that is influenced more by media than by the church and its pastors. We decided that we weren’t going to give the devil our children and grandchildren by default.”
“Like the sculptures and stained glass and Cathedrals of Europe, the illiterate can be told stories through art,” said Catt. “Movies are the stained glass pictures of the 21st century.”
“Once we made the decision to make Flywheel, I made an announcement at church, and we were able to raise $20,000 to make our first film,” explained Catt. Facing the Giants cost $100,000. Fireproof had a shooting budget of $500,000, but with post-production costs ended up costing about $1 million. Courageous has a shooting budget of about $1 million.
Criticized by some as not being “high art” or as proselytizing, Catt had this to say about Sherwood’s films.
“Every movie has an agenda,” said Catt. “Why is it that people think Christians shouldn’t, but everyone else should? That’s who we are as believers. We’ve found an answer to sin and there’s a hope in our life - Jesus Christ. We portray that without preaching to the camera.”
“Christians have been characterized in movies,” added Catt. “We’re always being slammed or portrayed as sleazy. That’s not a picture of the average person living in the pew. The reason our films have been successful is that people connect with the people in these movies. They say, ‘That’s like my community.’”
“I’ll be honest,” admitted Catt. “We’re not that good, but our God is.”
Courageous focuses on the role of fatherhood. Writer Stephen Kendrick said that because of that it’s going to be controversial.
“We’re calling men to a higher standard,” said Kendrick. “Some men will get mad. For others, it will be inspiring. Fatherhood resonates with all classes and cultures. In Courageous, men will see on-screen examples of fatherhood, while also learning that God needs to be their father.”
Stay tuned… On Tuesday, I’ll get an early view of some clips from the film. Not only will we be on set for a couple of different shoots, but I also have the opportunity to appear as an extra during a funeral scene for the film./images/uploads/IMG_2631v2.jpg