Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

With box office hits Soul Surfer and Courageous (to name two) 2011 has been banner year for faith-themed movies. And 2012 is already shaping up as a year that could surpass it, as more such films warm up in the bullpen. One of then is Home Run, a baseball drama being readied for a fall release.

The movie tells the story an alcoholic  pro baseball player who returns to his hometown where he is forced to confront some unresolved issues in his life — which includes a son he never knew. Interestingly, the film’s executive producers (Carol Mathews and Tom Newman) partnered with Celebrate Recovery, the real-life addiction recovery program (for all addictions, not just alcohol) that grew out to Southern California’s Saddleback Church and is now found in churches all over the U.S. and the world.

The movie, starring Scott Elrod, Vivica A. Fox and Dorian Brown and directed by David Boyd, recently completed filming in and around the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. I recently spoke with executive producer Carol Mathews about the project. Here are some highlights:

JWK: How did the project come together?

CAROL MATHEWS: Tom Newman said let’s do a low-budget film and Eric Newman, his son, had an idea about a baseball player and I felt impressed do a movie about addiction and recovery…The program Celebrate Recovery is at my church…On certain Sunday mornings a person from the Recovery program would share their story and we felt those stories were so powerful and I thought it would be an interesting way to bring the God perspective into the film without a heavy-handed kind of preaching.

JWK: Celebrate Recovery started at Saddleback Church, right?


JWK: What church do you go to?

CAROL MATHEWS: I go to a church called Believers Church in Tulsa Oklahoma and, yes, CR was founded 20 ago out of Saddleback but it’s now in 19,000 churches across the country. It’s been translated into 19 different languages and…I really don’t know how many countries it’s in but it’s in a lot of places. It’s literally all over the country. So, that’s the very short story.

JWK: What denomination is your church?

CAROL MATHEWS: I have to tell you I grew up Methodist but our church is an evangelical non-denominational church.

JWK: What turned you on to the idea of making Celebrate Recovery the subject of a baseball movie?

CAROL MATHEWS: Well, again, Eric had this concept for a baseball player who returns to his hometown where he takes a hard look at his life.  That idea, in and of itself, was the seed, but I thought give the player an addiction of any kind and then to bring healing and transformation into this player through Christ but…I just didn’t want a mentor character who preaches at this baseball player.  I wanted the baseball player to see God through these stories of Celebrate Recovery.

Celebrate Recovery stories for me, personally, as I experience them, were undeniably God at work. You hear the story of a marriage that’s recovered or an addition that’s finally broken or the loss of a child and that depression finally lifts (and) you realize that, as these people tell their stories…that God is still interested in healing us and healing our heart and that was the message that I wanted the film to have. I wanted people in the theaters to walk out considering that whatever it was in their hearts that were broken or ashamed or victimized or addicted that they would have hope,  that God would be able to heal them.

JWK: Do you have distribution for this film?

CAROL MATHEWS: No, not formally. We are very involved in discussions with the Sony Provident team. We have a small distribution deal on the DVD level with them.  They’re the same group that (distributed) Courageous and Fireproof.

JWK: I would think the success of those films would help you get theater distribution.

CAROL MATHEWS: Well, I think the reputation of those films doing so well absolutely adds to our momentum and certainly Provident seems very enthusiastic about our project. We are looking for a theatrical release. We’re expecting one really…We’re discussing it, the reality of it, with Sony now for the fall.

And, you know, it’s possible, I think. The subject matter is very, very relevant and, although this not a Sherwood Baptist (film) on any level, I think the audiences out there are going to really embrace the currency of this film.

JWK: Have you made movies before? And can you tell me about your company, Current C Creative?

CAROL MATHEWS: Well, my entire history is in production.  Current C Creative was started with a partner as part advertising and part production.  My main gig has always been film and video and, while I’ve never done a feature-length film, I’ve produced short films and documentaries with Tom Newman for 20 years.  So, it was a big step into feature (but), with Tom’s experience and surrounding myself with an experienced group of crew, it was a good step.

JWK: How long did it take to shoot the film?

CAROL MATHEWS:  24 days.

JWK: And it was shot in Tulsa?

CAROL MATHEWS: Yes. It was shot in Northeast Oklahoma. We actually shot half of it in a rural community about an hour outside of Tulsa and then the other portion was shot in Tulsa.

JWK: Who wrote the film?

CAROL MATHEWS: The original storyline was (from) Eric (Newman) and a gal named Candace Lee. They both worked for Tom Newman…Eric  and Candace Lee, along with Brian Brightly, who is a story analyst at Dreamworks, wrote the first drafts and Melanie Wistar (a writer Carol met at a Christian Film Festival) came in and helped with a wonderful polish. The characters were very developed, the ideas became really fleshed out and there was just an overall structure and pacing of the story that (was great).

JWK: How many writers were involved with this film?


JWK: What do you hope this film accomplishes?

CAROL MATHEWS: I hope, first and foremost, that it will help people have hope and realize that the decisions they’ve made, the hurts or habits of their lives can be healed.

And the second thing I would hope is that people would see God as a loving, caring Father, not a judgmental harsh God who they have to get their act together to go to and, then, last, I would really like to see the ministry of Celebrate Recovery grow in response to this movie.

I’ve gotten to know them for the last year and a half, almost two years now, and the ministry is completely God. They are doing God’s work.  People’s lives are healing, families are being restored, individual’s lives are being turned around and generations of incarceration or drug use or physical abuse or whatever, they are ending and being healed. And it’s stopping through this ministry of Celebrate Recovery.  So, I would love it if the Celebrate Recovery ministry could grow as a result of the film.

JWK: Do you plan on making additional films?

CAROL MATHEWS: Yeah, I’ve gotten the bug.

(The thing that’s great) about Celebrate Recovery is just that  there is an honesty in which  people who are going through recovery present themselves and it’s so refreshing to see it in the walls of a  church. I think when you have a (person)…stand up to a congregation and introduce himself on a regular weekly night meeting…and what rolls off the tongue is “Hello, my name is so and so and I struggle with addiction to porn and there’s no fallout. There are no gasps…The audience doesn’t shun him.  What happens is the other people in the room who are hidden or in shame or paralyzed because they’re afraid that if someone really knows the truth about them  they’ll be rejected, possibilities open for them and they’re actually invited to tell their story and not be afraid. This is a safe place to do it. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s what Jesus intended for the Body of Christ to be, a place where we can confess our sins to one another and find our healing. I don’t really see that in the church very often.

JWK:  Celebrate Recovery is for any addiction at all?

CAROL MATHEWS: Anything. And what’s really interesting. (It’s) freedom from life’s hurts, habits and hang-ups and, you know, who doesn’t have a hurt, habit or hang-up . Who doesn’t have choices they’ve made that they regret? An abortion or an affair or even parents who have somehow or another excommunicated a child. They have all this shame, brokenness (because of) the decisions they’ve made.…It’s very healing. People discover what God is doing and they get healed by talking about it with their fellow participants.  It’s very special I think

JWK:  When do you expect Home Run to be  released?

CAROL MATHEWS: We really are expecting a theatrical release in 2012, in the fall, and then if it goes well the DVD probably won’t be in release until 2013.

JWK: Good luck.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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