Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 11/16/22

Is it a sin to make a faith-based movie without Robert Amaya in it? No, it is not – but, ever since his film in debut in 2011’s Courageous. there’s just something about the guy. Audience respond to him and everyone wants to work with him. You might call it likability. This year alone, the Miami native can be seen in five films including An Unlikely Angel (seen above, currently available on Pure Flix).

JWK: I’m looking at your IMDB page and it’s looks to me like you must be the busiest actor in the entertainment industry. How do you maintain that schedule?

Robert Amaya: You know what? It’s been a blessing…God has just allowed me the opportunity to go an exalt Him through through this medium of film. A lot of people know me as being more of a comedic actor and stuff and so, with all the different roles I’ve taken, it’s been an opportunity to bring people some kind of joy, happiness and a little bit of laughter along the way. I think it’s been desperately needed, not just by people but by myself too. It’s been quite a ride. I’m very blessed.

JWK: In Unlikely Angel, I can see the progress in your career. You’ve been in supporting roles in so many successful faith-themed movies – like Courageous, October Baby and The Farmer and the Belle – but you’re the lead now! How’s that feel?

RA: Like I said, it’s been a great ride. It’s been a great blessing. You know, the idea of leads and stuff, that’s all wonderful and, of course, as an actor you care about those things to a certain degree but the truth is if you don’t have a great team of other actors and a great team behind the scenes (and) behind the cameras, you’re not gonna get a great movie. What I loved about Unlikely Angel and I desperately love about Nothing is Impossible is just that everybody came together and just played their A-game. I mean from all the performances, just everywhere, people have been just absolutely doing their best job at bringing this industry and this genre of a faith-based films (forward). It’s just been amazing. 

JWK: A lot of your movies, of course, are on Pure Flix which has sorta become the Netflix of faith-based films.

RA: It absolutely is! Pure Flix is the Christian Netflix , for sure. But, you know what? Even better, I like to say Pure Flix is the Pure Flix… They are outstanding! Great service! They’ve got a great partnership now with (Sony). They are just hitting it out of the park! It’s an outstanding service. I tell everybody about it (and) to subscribe because you get the most amazing powerful Christian content that’s available.

JWK: What do you hope people take from these films?

RA: I hope they walk away with hope, inspiration and just a new perspective. I think film has the unique ability of doing that because (it) takes you on a journey. When you see something on screen you know that it’s not real but yet you experience it as if it were real. That is the unique thing about this art form – just like theater was that, and continues to be that. I think with film, when you have Christian messaging on the driver side of this, it’s an amazing opportunity to give people hope, give them inspiration and show them a perspective that perhaps they didn’t see before, to see what God may be calling them to do.

JWK: I know your current work always tends to be your favorite but, looking over your career, which of your films stand out to you as ones that were really meaningful to you?

RA: I would lie to you if to this day I still don’t get referred to as the Snake King from Courageous. I absolutely do. I’ve kind of just embraced the moniker and I love it. You know, when I was in Mom’s Night Out, Sean Astin told me “Don’t ever let that one die down.” He was like “Hey! Look at me! Goonies and Rudy and all these things. These are my pillars – and Snake King is your pillar.” So, Courageous will always be that special place in my heart but I have just worked with some amazing people and I have had these amazing roles.

JWK: Do you get recognized often when you’re out on the street?

RA: Yeah, I do, quite often. I mean a little more in the southern Bible Belt than in other places but, certainly, it happens quite frequently. You know, it’s an opportunity. This is what I always say. You know, people don’t go to Tom Cruise and say “Hey, Mission: Impossible changed my life!” Nobody does that  – but when people recognize me, sincerely, what I love is that…it’s never about me. It’s always followed by “Let me tell you what God did through your movie. Let me tell you how God affected my dad through Courageous. Let me tell you how that affected me as a woman through Mom’s Night Out. Let me tell you how that affected (me) through Nothing is Impossible.” So, that is the opportunity and it’s very humbling.

JWK: Do you think that the so-called mainstream Hollywood media is missing something by neglecting these kinds of uplifting stories and messages?

RA: Yeah. They’re missing God for starters. I mean that’s the easy answer. I think what they’re missing is (that) everyone’s on a journey. Everyone wants to walk away inspired. Everybody wants to walk away with hope. We’ve talked about that already but I think Hollywood is trying to fabricate it from the pieces that they see around them. They’re trying to come up with stories – and a lot of times it’s fiction – but we, as believers – whether we write fiction or not – it’s all based on a truth that we know to be true and we know where that truth comes from and we know the God that we serve. So, the edge that I think Christian films or faith-based film has is that we are balanced. We are (have) a base. Our foundation is on an absolute truth that does not change regardless of culture. I mean that’s the advantage that faith-based films have. I think that’s the advantage we’ll have always over the so-called mainstream entertainment media.

JWK: One of the films you’re appearing in this year is kind of timely. It’s  called Pursuit of Freedom and deals with Ukraine.

JWK: Can you tell me about that?

RA: Yes, a wonderful film. It’s been out for a while. It was in theaters for a short while. It is available to be rented or purchased. A wonderful film. That is a true story and certainly it’s timely considering all of the things that we see happening abroad. Yeah, I highly recommend it.

JWK: What is it about that movie that attracted you?

RA: Well, first of all, the story, again, of feeling like all hope is gone and then seeing how God uses people to be able to restore that hope, how God still uses people to display His own love and His own righteousness, really…It’s the story of a young woman who had been separated from her family and, in the end, we see how God motivated His church, His people in the modern era to come together and work together and reunite her (with her loved ones).

JWK: I also see that you have a TV series in the works called Shadrach about a 12-year-old girl and her horse. Can you tell me something about that?

RA: Yeah, another (project) that will soon be seen on Pure Flix. Shadrach is just an absolutely great miniseries at the moment. It’s such a powerful story. (It has) an incredible cast (that includes) children and animals. They say you’re not supposed to do (movies with children and animals) but, boy, every child, every actor and every animal and every horse that was used in that production has been amazing. I highly recommend for people to keep their eyes open and wait for that one.

JWK: It looks to me to be almost a throwback to the old sort of Lassie TV show.

RA: It does have that old Little House on the Prairie-ish feel.

JWK: Now that you’re so in demand, what do you look for when presented with project opportunities? You’re receiving a lot of scripts now. What do you look for?

RA: I look for a good message. I’m also looking to see if it’s something that I can take my girls too. I have two daughters. I try to do work that I think that they can be proud of and that they can go and learn from – not that everything has to be a strictly biblical message, so to speak, but rather that it be something that’s entertaining, that’s based on truth, that has a good moral economy to it and then something that’s just fun.

JWK: What movies have inspired you?

RA: It’s funny. Being on this side – as an actor in film – I don’t think I’ve been nearly as motivated as I have been by being on this side. Here’s what I mean. When I did Courageous, which was my first film, and that was now 12 years ago – time flies! – I had just become a new dad and then God opened the door for me to go into the world of Courageous which was about dads. So, for me, I keep learning from every set that I go to. I always walk away with something that’s meaningful or something that I can hold onto. I think I’ve learned more being on this side and being involved in telling the story but also with people that have been so genuine. I think that’s where I’ve learned the most.

JWK: Were there any films growing up that inspired you?

RA: I mean certainly we’ve got your Gladiator which is just a story of being tossed to the side and then redemption, of being able to come back. All those comeback stories, those are my favorite types of stories for sure.

JWK: How did you get your first acting opportunity with Courageous? How did that come about?

RA: You know, it’s a funny story. If I were to try to make it as short as possible I would tell you that, basically, I had a friend of mine at my church – at the time I was in Miami – and he came up to me and he said “Hey, listen, these brothers are looking to make their next movie and they’re looking for a Latino male and, you know, well, you qualify so you should really send your stuff in and check it out.” So, I finally did. I sent my stuff in and I got a call the very next day (and was) told that they had seen so many people for the role of Javier (and) they really had to choose from those. So, they were calling me to let me know that they couldn’t consider me.

JWK: That was nice of them to call.

RA: Yeah, it was very nice of them…but, in true southern hospitality, the individual I was speaking to kept talking and talking. We were just having a great conversation. I often say it was the longest letdown I’ve ever had. About 30 minutes in, at the end she says “You know, Robert, there’s something I really like about you. If I send you a scene would you record yourself? I make no promises but I’ll show it to the brothers.” (She sent) the Snake King scene which became very famous in the movie. Ultimately, I think that’s what secured my part.

JWK: Wow! That’s a pretty amazing story – and very nice of the person who interviewed you too. Anything you’d like to say as we wrap up?

RA: Just that anyone can follow me throughout all social media at @realrobertamaya.

Moon landing. The latest Affirm Originals movie Moonrise is set premiere exclusively on Pure Flix on December 15th. 

In the movie country music artist Granger Smith makes his film debut playing Will Brown, a former country singer who has pushed away his family, fame and faith following his wife’s death. His daughter Ellie (Piper Clurman) and a talented horse trainer (Sonya Balmores) show him the strength, forgiveness and grace to live life again.
Describing the film and his character, Smith says “This is a powerful movie with a very relational message. Will is grieving his wife and unable to forgive himself for past decisions all while trying to raise and protect his kids…He’s a complicated man carrying pain and guilt. But it’s not until he’s intentional about healing that he can move forward. It’s a brilliant story about redemption and forgiveness.”
The emotional core of the film stems from a personal experience that writer and director Vickie Bronaugh had following the death of her mother.
Bronaugh recalls “The Christmas after my mother passed away, my father was lost. On Christmas Eve at my sister’s ranch, we were outside on the porch and my father wouldn’t get up and go inside to celebrate. How could he move forward when my mother couldn’t?…There was a supermoon on the horizon and it shined this white light on us. As it rose, it got brighter and brighter and we all just sat there quietly. After that happened, my father stood up and said, ‘Let’s go inside.’ He knew at that moment she had moved forward, and we should too. And that quiet moment inspired this film.”
Moonrise is produced by Sean McNamara and David Brookwell, the producing team behind Soul Surfer.

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

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

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