Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith and media: To Sir with Love meets Northern Exposure. That plot from one of my all-time favorite films mixed with a dash of a classic TV show sort of describes the plot to The Grizzlies (opening wide in theaters next month). Except The Grizzlies is based on […]
Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
An answer to a young woman’s prayer. As the long and the big box office Thanksgiving weekend gets underway, the film version of Max Lucado‘s book The Christmas Candle is entering its second weekend of release. And, if its story of angels and miracles seems like so much yuletide fluff to you, then you haven’t spoken with Candace Lee. As co-screenwriter and associate producer of the film, her own participation in the movie is, itself, a genuine miracle.
JWK: So, how’s it feel to see your movie out there?
CANDACE LEE: Oh, my goodness! It’s just been so rewarding! From start to finish it’s been an answer to prayer of sorts. I remember the very first time I read Max’s story…I was still a student at NYU and I remember finishing the book and I was so moved by the story. I just thought it was such a charming premise, just a great Christmas tale. And I remember praying a little prayer that I would get to work on a project like that one day. So, to be a part of it all these years later is just so exciting and it’s one of kind of really affirming things that God really hears those little whispers. So, it’s great.
JWK: That’s a little miracle in itself — not only are working on a film like The Christmas Candle but it actually is The Christmas Candle.
CL: Exactly — the first of many miracles!
JWK: You work with Impact Productions. Can you tell me something about the company — and how you came to it?
CL: Sure. Impact Productions has been around for over 30 years. It’s founded by Tom Newman who is the producer of The Christmas Candle. They have always operated under kind of mission statement of reaching a sight-and-sound generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, (with) all the projects that we work on, we really are trying to entertain and inspire and do it in a way that…captures people’s imaginations (and) that people will actually want to see. So, that is the mission of the company.
I started working here shortly after I graduated from NYU. I interned at Impact when I was in high school…I really wanted to be a part of a company that was telling stories that would make a difference and affirm life and draw people and encourage people to take steps of faith. So, I was really excited to join the team at Impact. I’ve really become part of the core here with Tom and Eric Newman who I wrote the script with.
JWK: How long have you been with the company?
CL: I started working here in 2009.
JWK: Can you tell me some of the other films the company and you have worked on?
CL: Sure. Before I began working here Tom produced a film called The End of the Spear. That was a theatrical release and did quite well — a great story about missionaries that were martyred in the Amazon. It’s just a really inspiring story.
CL: And then when I came to work at Impact we were doing a lot of television programming with people like Max Lucado, David Barton (and) Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty. Shortly after I started working here, Eric and I began to work together on a story called Home Run which was the next film that Impact did.
CL: And Impact had, in years past, worked with Max Lucado on some feature films for television — Christmas Child and Resurrection.
CL: So, The End of the Spear was their first step into the theatrical space. They released Home Run theatrically in April of 2013.
JWK: Are you guys based in California?
CL: No, we’re actually based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma — so we joke it’s the filmmaking capital of the world. But it’s really great. We can all be near our families. Our core team is here so we begin all our projects in Tulsa and then we basically go wherever the story requires. I spent the last nine months in England. We set up shop and built our team out there with a really amazing British cast and crew.
JWK: What kind of audience reaction have you been getting to The Christmas Candle, so far?
CL: The audience response has been overwhelming. I mean our Facebook page and emails and comments (have been extremely positive). Even on places like Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, the ratings are incredibly high and the little testimonials and the feedback we’re getting is really great. There are people who have seen the movie four and five times already. We have people who planning to go back again this weekend with more people. We have a few fans who have sent in photos of themselves going to see the film dressed in period costume which is really fun! It seems that people are really embracing the film and starting to create even their own little holiday traditions around the movie. It’s so exciting to see people not only being touched by the movie but also having fun with it.
JWK: As one of the scriptwriters it must feel great to see people reacting to it in that way.
CL: Absolutely! You know, from the very beginning this team has just had in our hearts the people who would see the movie. We’ve thought of them all the time and prayed for them often — and so to see the faces and the comments that are going with that is just really exciting.
JWK: How are the box office results?
CL: You know, The Hunger Games opened last weekend along with us. Hunger Games actually set a record for box office in November…We had an okay turnout. Our thought is that as we get closer to the Christmas season — because our initial audience response has been so positive — we’re anticipating continued growth as people discover (the film) and get into that Christmas spirit. Remarkably, in a few markets The Christmas Candle beat The Hunger Games (in terms of per-screen average)…which is really a funny and interesting thing. So, there were a few places (where people really sought us out).
One other thing that was kind of great is that, in spite of all the buzz with a lot of big movies and things coming up, our fans really rallied together on opening day. We were the Number 3 trend on Twitter for about half an hour…which is also kind of a really fun thing…The biggest challenge is just spreading the work. So, we’re really grateful for all the fans who have kind of lent their support on support on Facebook and are helping us spread the word with the traditional media.
JWK: Have you found a difference in the reaction of faith-based media, as opposed to the secular critics?
CL: Oh, absolutely! The message that’s woven through the movie I think is something that any person of faith can relate to — and so with people who (relate to) the Christian story and the Christmas story, it’s been pretty collectively a positive response — which is great. It’s something that most anybody who’s had faith and doubt can kind of spot themselves within the film. So, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback in that regard — which is different from some of the mainstream criticism. But, you know, we got a really great response in the LA Times and there have been a few places where people have been a little softer and more sensitive to the message.
JWK: What was it like working with Max Lucado?
CL: Oh, it was great! You know, I had the privilege of working with Max on some of his television series — writing and directing those with him. So, we have a wonderful working relationship. Eric and I both think Max is just great. We hope to be like him someday.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11