Filmmakers Say God Was Their Co-Producer
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
ALBANY, Ga. -- Of the people who praise Jesus every Sunday at Sherwood Baptist Church here, none is what you would call a Hollywood type.
Folks have real jobs. "God bless," they say when parting. Outside of church productions, no one in the congregation had acting or writing or directing credits.
Yet three summers ago, a small group of churchgoers in this city of pecan groves and industrial plants believed that God wanted them to make a movie. They prayed every day to create a drama truer to the Gospels than the usual multiplex trash.
Now, "Facing the Giants," the low-budget feature film about faith and high school football they made with church donations and Bible-inspired moxie, is playing at more than 400 theaters around the country -- a gigantic release for any independent movie, let alone one created by near-novices.
The movie has made $2.7 million in 10 days, and ticket sales were good enough last weekend to place it 13th in the box office rankings, one notch below "Flyboys," a war movie with a $60 million budget and starring James Franco.
The "Giants" box office tally doesn't even include some of the nation's largest metropolitan markets, which distributors skipped over in recognition of the cultural divide in this country. For now, the movie is not playing anywhere near Washington (unless you consider Richmond nearby). According to Julie Fairchild, a spokeswoman for Provident Films, "There's a sort of imaginary line where Christian films don't play." Where it is showing, she says, is the "flyover country that Hollywood has been ignoring."
A world removed from the realm of most indie filmmakers, the cast and crew were for the most part completely lacking in experience, and in Hollywood terms, this makes for an appealing back story.
The female lead is a homemaker with no acting credits aside from being "part of the crowd" in a church production; the male lead is a balding associate pastor with a passing resemblance to Dan Aykroyd. One of the screenwriters sums up his artistic experience this way: "I wrote a poem in fifth grade."
"Every one of us felt overwhelmed in every role," says Stephen Kendrick, the co-writer.
Homespun innovation was their hallmark. Working within a $100,000 budget, the filmmakers could afford only one camera. For long tracking shots, they built their own track and dolly from PVC pipe and skateboard wheels. For crowd shots, they called for volunteers on a local Christian radio station. When they needed wind, they brought out a leaf blower.
A cadre of home-schooled kids, stay-at-home moms and senior citizens helped out behind the scenes, running errands, toting equipment, making lunch.
"This guy and this guy and this guy told us, 'You can't do it -- the movie business just doesn't work this way," recalls Alex Kendrick, an associate pastor at the church who wrote the movie with his brother and starred in it. "But we asked God to bless it and look with favor on it, and He did."