Director Judd Brannon was inspired by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the makers of “Fire Proof” and “War Room.” He started thinking about what he could do in his own community to encourage people through film in Woodstock, Georgia. There was a race track nearby and Brannon started praying about creating a film based on the sport. He started to meet people and talk with the owners and the film “Champion” was birthed. This is something he never saw done in a film. He thought “wouldn’t it be neat to do a film about racing.” Over the next couple of years, the script started coming together.
Brannon wanted to be sensitive to what God wanted to communicate to the film team.
“For us, it was forgiveness, which is the overarching message in the film,” he said. “I know that working in a church and even in my own family’s life there is unforgiveness. If we can get people to understand that and what Christ had done for them, they’re going to draw closer to Christ. We really went after the message of forgiveness.”
The movie is about dirt track racer Sean Weathers (Andrew Cheney) was at the top of his game with an unstoppable career. When a rivalry with another racer turns personal, the ego that propelled him to success causes a tragedy, sending his life into a tailspin. Jack Reed (Gary Graham) had prospered as a businessman but failed as a family man. In a sudden turn of events, his chances for reconciliation are ripped from his grasp. Sean and Jack’s lives collide.
When people started screening the film, Brannon realized that there was a fatherhood message and a foster kid component to be experienced as well within the plot.
“Me and my wife are foster parents, so we were walking through the process of foster care as part of our church, while we were making this film,” said Brannon. “Why can’t the church be involved and not the state [regarding foster care]. I thought that also could be part of the story.”
Weaving the Gospel into the storyline without it being over the top is something that was vital. “It is weaved in there as part of the character’s lives,” Brannon added. “And then there is that wow moment in the film of two guys working out their problems together in that Gospel message. It feels like you are watching real life and it feels very authentic.”
The art of film can shape a person. For Brannon, he wants to see barriers come down in people’s lives after they see the movie. After viewing a screener, a woman said that after viewing the movie, it helped her turn a corner in forgiving her own father after being separated for many years. The movie prompted her to take that step, maybe it can for you as well.
“Champion” will be in theaters on May 19th.