Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

The Man Who Loves Movies. With the faith-themed romantic drama Forever My Girl due to hit theaters this Friday (Jan. 19) and two other inspirational dramas stacked and ready to go right behind it (I Can Only Imagine on March 16 and The Miracle Season on April 18), Pete Shilaimon of LD Entertainment has got to be counted as one of the more prolific movie producers around. His recently credits include the psychological thriller Jacob’s Ladder and World War II drama The Zookeeper’s Wife in 2017 and the 2016 biopic Jackie starring Natalie Portman in the eponymous role of the late first lady.  I recently had the opportunity to chat with him about his current slate.


JWK: How did Forever My Girl come about as a film?

PETE SHILAIMON: Forever My Girl came to us as a book first. About four and a half years ago one of our assistants gave it to me to read. I read it and fell in love with the story and the Prodigal Son angle…(So) we turned around and made it into a film about forgiveness (and) redemption…(It’s) really the Prodigal Son through the lens of the country world…That’s why that last song, Finally Home, is so incredible to me. You don’t realize what you have until you go away and find out that it’s really not all that out there. (Then) you go home and find that love, support and forgiveness all around you. So, that’s what I love about this story — that you can always come back home.


JWK: Tell me about I Can Only Imagine.

PS: The Erwin Brothers (October Baby) came to us to see if we could help with production costs and the distribution part of it. We are very fortunate to be part of the wonderful production team of I Can Only Imagine (based on) the number-one Christian song. It’s a beautiful story about (going through) abuse and coming out at the end and doing okay. It’s an incredible story of one young man’s journey. That ending of that film will have you sobbing. It’s a beautifully made film with a beautiful message.


JWK: And how about a few words about The Miracle Season with Helen Hunt and William Hurt?

PS: That is very, very dear to me. I went to Iowa to chase the story. It was the most incredibly fortunate experience I ever had as a producer. I got to meet with the (real-life) coach (Kathy Bresnahan) and the father (Ernie Found). We begged and begged them to give us this incredible story of a man losing not only his daughter but his wife within a month of each other. The story is also about an incredible volleyball team that had won the state championship the year before and were poised to win again but after their first game they lose their star player and her mother (soon after) passes away from cancer. It’s really about strong women, a strong volleyball team, coming together and basically saying we are going to rise and we are going to win for us, we’re going to win for Caroline (Found) and we’re going to win for our community. It has a beautiful faith-based element with the father’s questioning of God.

JWK: Is this an unusually busy time for you to have three films coming out so close together?

PS: We’re completely blessed…It’s an incredibly busy time but the company is growing and we keep on getting incredible films and scripts sent to us to make. We’re very fortunate to be in the position we are.

JWK: What do you look for in a film when you’re choosing what to include on your slate?

PS: Story. Absolute story. We produced Risen. I made that movie for my mom but after Risen it was one of those situations for me where I decided I really wanted to make incredible films not only for faith-based audiences but also for mainstream America. What we found out with Risen was that if you make a good film, everyone will show up…I don’t want to make films that feel like we’re putting very little money into it and giving the audience an experience that is not to my standards. I feel like if you’re going to get someone to pay and come see you movie, you should give them the best (value).  I like story and all the people I hire have incredible artistic taste. We did Jackie and The Zookeeper’s Wife. Those movies were about getting the best quality (on screen).

We’ve made some films that weren’t that great, to be honest. But, right now, we’re hitting our stride and we’re making wonderful films that I feel speak for the company and, of course, the audience.

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

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