Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
A Courageous change of pace. Following up on my conversations with Patricia Heaton, Kevin Downes and Robert Amaya, I continue now with additional notes from the Birmingham, Alabama set of the upcoming Erwin Brothers family comedy Moms’ Night Out, here’s Alex Kendrick, known of course for his work both in before and behind the camera in hit faith-based films like Courageous and Fireproof, talking about working strictly as an actor in the film in which he plays a minister.
JWK: Moms’ Night Out can be described as the flip side of Courageous — whereas focused on fathers, Mom’s Night Out is about the importance of motherhood.
ALEX KENDRICK: It was funny. There’s a scene in this film where I’m addressing moms. It’s Mother’s Day. In my role as pastor I’m preaching. We were laughing about the fact that at the end of Courageous, from a pulpit, I’m addressing men and this movie, from a pulpit, I’m addressing women. So, there’s some unintended irony there. But, hey, if we can do that (speak to both) then fantastic!
JWK: You’ve said that those of you working in the Christian cinema tend not to look at each other as competitors but as members of the same team. Can you elaborate?
AK: If you go to Box Office Mojo or even IMDB and you look at the genre of Christian films, I don’t even think there a hundred films listed. You go to other genres, there are many, many films listed. And so that’s evidence that, in the last 20 to 30 years, it’s still a young arena. We’ve had movies (like) The 10 Commandments, Ben-Hur and things like that throughout the last 50 to 7o years but not on an ongoing basis and so the fact that you have your Soul Surfer and October Baby and Courageous and others starting to spring up means were starting to find a path to better quality…There’s a lot of room to grow but it’s very exciting for us because stories speak to people…If you present a principle or a truth in a story form in a way that people can identify with, it speaks to them. It’s interesting that if you just preach at somebody they sit there with their arms folded in a guarded stance but if you tell a story that reaches them they open their arms and they open their heart. They say “Give me something!” And so, not to take anything away from, the preaching of the Word but there’s a power in stories that we want to utilize to reach this culture.
JWK: Is there any desire to bring this any of this energy to television?
AK: Yes. I think, at least for (now) my brother and I, we’ll probably focus primarily on features because you can tell one story. (With) television…you can have ongoing plots and ongoing stories and character development over the course of a season or seasons. That’s something we would love to do. We’ve got numerous plots and scenarios, so we’re open to going in that direction but over the course of our time in this arena we’ve been focused primarily on features.
JWK: You’ve said that you choose your film subjects by what you believe God wants you to take on. How do you know what that is?
AK: Actually, if you read Colossians 3 it walks you through — what the Peace of God is leading you to do, the Word of God is confirming you to do, counsel from wise people around you that are also praying with you and the open door. So, that’s how we (do it). If I’m emotional about this topic that may be the Peace of God but if people around you are saying “I don’t know about that” and there’s no open door then I run it by the Prayer Grid. Each time we’ve done a focus, all four of those things have lined up. The counselors around us — the people we trust, the people we know will tell us the truth — say “Guys, we don’t sense that you’re doing this because you think its popular or because you think there’s money in it, (we believe) that you’re doing this because you think that Lord’s (leading you) and we’re at peace about it as well.” (These are) people that we know that love us and are also seeking the Lord. There are open doors and then we have the Word of God and that’s confirmed in Scripture. It’s amazing when the Lord confirms something in Scripture as only He can do. You’ll be reading something and something will just like jump off the page at you. It’s hard for me to express that except to say, when you’re seeking the Lord and it happens to you, you know it. You just know it. Someone might as well be yelling it in your ear.
JWK: Do you feel you’ve changed Hollywood with the success of your films?
AK: Well, I can tell you that our distributors are happy. I think that they are still learning to understand this arena and why certain audiences will support these types of films. I think that they have shown respect to say it’s worth continuing. We have had a number of calls from Hollywood that have asked a lot of questions because I don’t know that we’re following any formula that they have followed in the past — not that we were trying to break a formula. We just didn’t know any different. We just had to figure it out on our own. And so, once we found something that worked, I think they were very curious and came asking a lot of questions but, you know, that’s another way that we can (have an) impact.
Moms’ Night Out is due to hit theaters in 2014. I’ll have more from the set over the course of the coming week.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11