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Meet The Kendrick Brothers: God’s Faithful Filmmakers

Meet The Kendrick Brothers: God’s Faithful Filmmakers

Bill Berkowitz
October 6, 2011

"It's been a good year for faith-based films,' writes film critic Roger Moore: Given the pre-opening weekend outreach to churches across the country, the Kendrick brothers' new movie, Courageous, had an extraordinary opening weekend.

It was a fabulous opening weekend for Courageous, the Kendrick brothers' new "action-dramedy" movie. While Dolphin Tale, Brad Pitts' Moneyball, and Lion King 3D battled it out for the top three spots nationally, Courageous and 50/50 were basically tied for fourth and fifth place. The opening of Courageous, which was shown in half the theaters as the cancer dramedy 50/50, and brought in $8.8 million, and "ranks fifth all-time for a Christian movie, and only trails [Mel Gibson's]The Passion of the Christ and the three Narnia movies," according to Box Office Mojo.

In fact, the Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore pointed out, the pre-premiere outreach "aimed at churches" paid off. As fandango.com reported, Courageous led in the "pre-sales race" for this past "weekend's new openings," selling more than $2 million in tickets.

And, in Kinston, North Carolina, where the Kendrick brothers' marketing strategy worked like a charm, the Bethel Free Will Baptist Church bought over 1,000 tickets, guaranteeing 5 sell-outs for the film.

Prior to its Friday, September 30, premiere, the Associated Press reported that producer and co-writer Stephen Kendrick "says God has done more with the films [that he's produced] than they could ask or imagine."

Stephen Kendrick, whose brother Alex co-wrote, directed and plays a lead role in the film, told AP that "we've come to him and said, 'God, what is your storyline? Would you help us? Would you guide the production? Would you help us in the editing? Would you connect the movie to the audience?'"

With Courageous (http://www.courageousthemovie.com/), Stephen Kendrick said that he hopes to "rock the nations" and convince men to "become the providers, the protectors that their kids need."

Kendrick told AP that "We're going after the issue of fatherhood. [In] this movie you follow four sheriff's deputies in Albany, Georgia, and then an Hispanic man who is a construction worker, and they are tackling the issue of trying to figure out what it means to be a great dad."?

The Kendricks' also have a new companion book, called "The Resolution for Men," which provides "a vision of fatherhood from birth to death," Stephen Kendrick told The Funhog Family blog. "We talk about breaking the chains of the past ... .and then we talk about manhood, what does God's word say about what it means to be a man.... In Chapter 4 ... we break out in scripture; between puberty and twenty you have a seven year window ... [to claim] the attributes of man." The book also talks about fathers "winning the hearts of your kids, blessing them and discipling them."

Courageous, rated PG-13 for violence and drug content, was made for $1 million, largely used volunteers, and is the fourth film from Sherwood Pictures, a ministry of Albany, Georgia's Sherwood Baptist Church, where the Kendrick brothers are Assistant Pastors.

"With volunteers no one is watching the clock and we're all in it together," Alex Kendrick told Time magazine.

According to OneNewsNow, a news service of Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, "Sherwood has shared sneak peeks of Courageous with churches and community leaders across America."

"What we're hearing from people who've seen some of the early screenings is that this is a strong challenge that's very much needed in our culture," Executive Producer Jim McBride said. "That's what we've been praying for -- not just a movie that people would walk out and say, 'Boy, that was a great movie,' but a movie that would impact the culture, that would challenge men to step up and make a bold and courageous step toward being the godly leaders that they should be."

There's a "Take Action" link on the film's webpage, which asks several burning questions: Who in your community will work to get Courageous distributed? Who will "step up and buy out a show time, providing 200-250 tickets for your congregation and the people they influence?" Which churches or businesses will "purchase 50-150 tickets to hand to people you reach out to every day?" And "will you personally purchase 25 tickets for the people in your neighborhood, Sunday school class, or couples small group?"

The movie is based on the novel, which, OneNewsNow guest columnist Randall Murphree reported, hit the Christian Booksellers October best-sellers list. It is accompanied by two curriculums, "an eight-week and a four-week -- that are follow-ups for the movie to help men see how to implement what they've seen in the movie," McBride pointed out.

Previous Sherwood releases, which have included Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Flywheel have done unexpectedly well at the box office. According to BoxOffice.com, Facing the Giants, which had a total budget of $3 million, grossed $10 million; and, Fireproof, made with a $500,000 budget, grossed over $33 million, becoming the highest grossing independent film in 2008.

"Christian entertainment is a big, increasingly mainstream business," Time magazine recently pointed out (http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2090429-2,00.html). "'The Shack,' a self-published 2007 novel about a man who meets God in a cabin in the woods, became a bestseller; the postapocalyptic Left Behind series [co-authored by Tim LaHaye, a longtime religious right leader] has sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. Major Christian recording artists such as rapper Toby Mac move millions of albums and anchor massive concerts like the four-day Creation Music Festival, held twice a year in Pennsylvania and Washington.

"But with the exception of Mel Gibson's $370 million hit The Passion of the Christ, films with overt Christian themes haven't been significant players at the box office. Meyer Gottlieb, president of Samuel Goldwyn films, which helped distribute Fireproof, calls the faith-based audience 'huge and underserved.'"

According to Time, Sherwood Baptist Church has used some of the proceeds from the films to build "a two-story prayer tower where volunteers pray for the movie studio and the region 24 hours a day. For the city of Albany (one of the poorest cities of its size in the country, with a per capita income of just $21,300), the church has constructed an 82-acre sports park complete with an equestrian center. It also stocks food shelters throughout southwestern Georgia, supports a local drug and alcohol treatment facility and is launching new churches nationwide, including two in Baltimore and one in San Francisco."

The Kendrick brothers - especially in the interviews I saw featuring Stephen Kendrick -- appear to be generous with their time and skills: According to Murphree, "Stephen Kendrick says they are eager to assist and encourage aspiring filmmakers and churches by using their experience to teach in seminars and mentor others." In an interview, Kendrick told Murphree that, "Christian films are going to get better and Alex and I are trying to help teach the next generation of filmmakers what we're learning -- by speaking at events and conferences."

Box Office Mojo's Ray Subers pointed out that while Courageous was "Made outside of Hollywood without any major stars, [it] managed to fly under most radars ... until very recently. It's unfair to ignore the vast majority of church-going Americans for whom typical Hollywood fare isn't of great interest, though, and Sherwood Pictures has impressively found a way to mobilize this subset of the population.

"It will be interesting to see if Courageous can hold as well as Fireproof did when it went on to earn $33.46 million, or nearly five times its opening weekend, in 2008."

The Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore found that while the film showed "more polish," the "writing, save for a scene here and there, is nothing a major studio would green light to put on the screen." The cast, which features Alex Kendrick, lacked "people with that movie or TV star's spark."

Nevertheless, Courageous has definitely struck a chord with its targeted audience.

For those unfamiliar with Christian-themed films, Courageous just might be the right one to wade into. And, while it isn't a reason not to see the film, keep in mind that when the editor of the AFA Journal, a wholly owned project of the virulently anti-gay American Family Association, whole-heartedly endorses a film, that might be a signal to tread lightly.

ENDS

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