Days before the national release of Facing the Giants, Alex and his wife Christina welcomed their 5th child, Caleb. He joins his brother Joshua and sisters Anna, Catherine and Joy – just in time to see their dad’s newest film. This is Alex’s 53rd interview since the film gained media attention, yet he took time to talk about his film, his family, and his passion for God. His consuming goal? For God to be glorified.
Christians in Cinema: Alex Kendrick
CC.com: Alex, where did the story begin for you?
Alex: It all started with prayer. It’s one thing to believe that God can do the impossible, and it’s another thing entirely to see him do it. Our church had done another movie (Flywheel) that we did with a budget of $20,000 and totally inexperienced people.
I didn’t really know much about scriptwriting – I just used WordPerfect to type out the script. Yet we’ve sold over 36,000 DVDs, went into Blockbuster video, and stirred more than 2000 viewers to either accept Christ as their Savior or rededicate their lives to Him.
One day a while back we sat with our senior pastor (Michael Catt of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia). He asked us (my brother Stephen & I) about our vision for the video ministry. We said we want to continue making movies. We read a study that said media is more influential in our culture than the church. We need to get Godly people involved in making good movies – that’s one way we can win wars and take ground back.
The story for Facing the Giants began with our dad. He’s in a wheelchair because he’s had MS for 20 years. Yet he has always encouraged us, and told us that anything was possible. So the idea began with the father-son dynamic. Then we began thinking about the giants that everyone faces. They might be fear, failure, addictions, or loss. We all try to defeat them on our own, but we can’t. When David went to fight Goliath, he felt inferior and he had to face his fear – first he had to step onto the battlefield.
So we tried to imagine what could happen in the lives of ordinary people facing their giants and stepping onto the field. Some have accused us of making the ending too tidy, but the truth is that people in our church were facing these same situations and God did miraculous things for them. The life of the film parallels its own message.
It started as a low-budget movie made by inexperienced amateurs. Through a series of circumstances only God could orchestrate, a major motion-picture company picked it up for national distribution.
CC.com: Wow! What a great journey! You’ve been screening the movie across the country to encourage people to fill the theaters on opening weekend. What kind of response have you seen?
Alex: It’s been overwhelming. Viewers have thanked us for encouraging them to trust God more with their own giants. They have laughed, cheered, and cried along with the characters. And, most importantly, 284 people have received salvation after viewing the movie, just in the screenings!
I think it’s a realistic story with average people, so we hope that most moviegoers will see themselves in someone on the screen.
CC.com: Alex, you and your brother Stephen really spearheaded this film. What kind of training or preparation did you have for this?
Alex: Very little formal training. We didn’t go to film school or take any script-writing classes. We’ve worked pretty much by trial and error. Stephen & I both graduated from Kennesaw State University with communication degrees – focusing on public speaking and persuasion.
When we were kids we had a video camera & would shoot little movies in the backyard. We’d edit between the camera and the VCR, and developed a knack for plot and camera angles and that kind of thing.
I was a college pastor in Atlanta and Stephen was a middle school pastor when we started doing videos for various churches. We would do summer camp videos, and one summer we did one for Sherwood Baptist Church. Their pastor saw it, liked it, and invited me to come be their media pastor. (Stephen is also an associate pastor at Sherwood Baptist)
It seems that with each project we learn more. One of the most important things has always been to have the projects covered in prayer. The pillars of the films have been Sunday School classes that organized prayer groups to cover every day of the movie – 30 shooting days over 6 weeks.
With Facing the Giants, we learned about editing and scoring, and now we’re learning about the promotion phase. There have been 60 pre-screenings, and we’ve been in 2 Christian film festivals. I think I’ve been on the road for most of 2006!
CC.com: What’s next for Sherwood Pictures? Will you continue to do your own stories, or will you do stories that people send you?
Alex: So far the Lord has directed us to do our own stories. He gave us a plot for our next one and it’s in the script-writing stage. I have probably 12 scripts sitting on my desk that people want me to read and make into a movie. I think that’s someone trying to find the easy way out.
It’s easy to find someone doing what you want to do and to give them your story. That says “I don’t want to do the hard things: finding funding, managing a production. I’m not going to struggle.” Personally, some of my best growth happened in the struggle.
CC.com: Who are some of the people who have helped you in your struggle? When you find yourself stuck or needing some input?
Alex: I have the godliest father in the world, and he is someone I always ask for advice. I also go to my wife and brothers, as well as my senior pastor at church. I’ve gotten some great advice from Arkansas Senator Jim Holt.
There are some Christian filmmakers who I will call on also: Kirk Cameron, Dave & Rich Christiano, and Kevin and Bobby Downes (ChristianCinema.com). I take it all in, pray over it and give what they have to say thoughtful consideration.
CC.com: What would you say to people who are going to see Facing the Giants and be inspired to join your campaign to get into Christian media and filmmaking?
Alex: Pray it through. See what God would have you do, and then go do it. You don’t have to worry about how it will happen or how the details will come together.
When Saul was converted, God first sent Saul to Ananias. Then, God told Ananias that Saul was coming. Finally, Saul got to Ananias. God’s plan for Saul followed a logical sequence, but Saul had to obey first. As Saul took the steps God instructed, he found that God had prepared the way for him.
CC.com: It's been 6 months since the theatrical release of Facing the Giants. Can you update our readers on what's been happening since then?
Alex: Gladly. it's amazing how much further the movie reaches since it's gone to DVD. Distribution has reached 56 countries, and the film has been translated into 7 languages so far. You can see it on cable, pay-per-view and I think DirecTV, and about 5500 local churches have obtained licenses for public showings.
Sales of the DVD are approaching the 1 million unit mark, and rentals are around $12.5 million. So people are still watching it and lives are being affected. But here's the most important statistic: we know of about 2500 people who have made professions of faith after seeing the film. That's what makes us want to continue doing this work.
CC.com: So what is next for y'all? Can you give us an idea of what's in the works?
Alex: Well, Thomas Nelson Publishers asked us to write a novel about Facing the Giants, so my brother Stephen & I are working on that. We have a writer to help us, and the book will be out in August. I'm interested to see the reaction, because usually people say the book is better than the movie!
We're also in pre-production for a movie we'll film this fall. I can't tell you the name right now because we haven't totally settled on it. But I can tell you it's a drama/romance about marriage. Our goal is to reinforce God's intention for marriage.
CC.com: Alex, we look forward to seeing that. Congratulations to all y'all at Sherwood Pictures!