Catching Up with Courageous Director Alex Kendrick
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Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. As law enforcement officers, they are confident and focused, standing up to the worst the streets have to offer. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood.
That is the premise for Courageous, the latest motion picture from the Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Like its predecessors, Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Flywheel, Courageous has captured the hearts and minds of audiences far and wide, delivering a message of hope, faith, and second chances for people to be who God intended them to be.
Now on DVD, Courageous offers more than 100 minutes of bonus features including a documentary on the making of the movie, a look into the heart of why the movie was made, and a gripping testimony of a father who turned his life over to Christ after years of abusive drinking and family torment.
CBN.com Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Courageous Director, actor, and screenwriter Alex Kendrick to discuss the importance of humor in a movie, what’s next for Sherwood Pictures, and … Tim Tebow?
This is sort of a curveball question to start, but as someone who played a football coach in a movie (Facing the Giants) I am interested to get your thoughts on the Tim Tebow phenomenon that has recently gripped America.
Well, I’ve got to tell you, I understand everything that’s said about him from both sides. He is so outspoken, he is very bold in his willingness to pray whenever he feels led to pray, but as long as he is consistent in his walk and space, because that’s what people are looking at; does he really live what he believes. He seems to have such high character; I’ve got to root for him. And yes, he’s got a lot to learn as a quarterback in the NFL at that level of play, but I think he’s going to get there. I think before too long he’s going to have great success in the NFL. And, yes, he’s unorthodox; he looks different. He throws and runs different, but I just appreciate so much his stand on never being ashamed of his faith and never being ashamed of Jesus Christ, so for that I’m just real proud of him.
Courageous has been another big hit for you and Sherwood Pictures -- $34 million dollars at the box office, four weeks in the top ten. Based on what you felt God led you and Sherwood to do, did this movie live up to your expectations for it?
Well, I think it’s still on its way. When the DVD comes out, it always has a second life, because that’s when churches use it as an outreach, prisons use it, or other organizations, and so you get kind of the second half of response from people, so I’m still waiting to see what the Lord does there. And also, what’s new this time is we’re in 20 foreign markets in theaters, we’ve never been a theatrical release in foreign markets, it’s just been released on DVD, so it’s now in foreign countries. It just came out in Singapore, it’s about to come out in South Africa, it’s already been in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, several of those places. And so, theatrically it’s still in its run in foreign markets. So it’s kind of early to answer the question, but I will say this, some of the stories we’ve gotten have just blown us away. It’s just been amazing. In Panama City, Panama, they had 400 police officers go to see the movie. They gave them Bibles at the end and they said, “This is now our standard. Its resolution is the standard of integrity to operate by, watching over our families and honoring God.” And then they sent us these pictures in this email, thanking us for the movie to illustrate a standard they need to be living at, and I was just amazed. We’ve had many, many police departments to call us and say, “Thank you for this film. We’re showing it to our men. It’s so inspirational. It’s just such a great reminder of why we’re here, what we really need to be about.” And then even women have called. This one lady called and said, “I’m in my late 40’s. My elderly father and I have never had a good relationship, and I felt like when I watched the movie that it just tore me up that I always yearned for that father relationship. So I invited him to go see Courageous with me. He agreed.” They saw the movie, and it broke him. He came back and when he dropped her off, he came inside and he said, “Can I have one dance with my daughter?” And they put on some music, and they had that dance, and she said “It was the best day of her life.” And so how can you not be moved at those kinds of stories? So we praise God for the salvations. We praise God for even those types of stories when the Lord uses his principles through a movie to soften the heart and draw people to him. So we’re grateful.
Something I’ve noticed in all of your movies is a common thread is humor. And I’ve spoken to a lot of people about Courageous since it released, and every one of them says to something to the effect of, “Wow, I didn’t realize it was going to be so funny.” How important is humor to the movies that you and Sherwood make?
As you know, humor is kind of a healing emotion. When you are laughing, it helps you overcome any grief. It’s not a completely healing aspect, but it certainly does help, and so humor brings joy to people as well. So we knew if we were going to tackle some of the very difficult issues in Courageous, not having dads or grieving over the loss of a loved one, that we needed to make sure that we balanced it out to give the audience a breath of fresh air once in a while. And so we interspersed those events with humor and at the end of the movie we want to impact them hard, but we don’t want them to come out just totally drained. So, one of the ways that we give back to those emotions is adding humor here and there. The character Javier, carries most of the humor. You know, we do have other jokes in there too. Accidentally telling the sheriff that we love him and things like that are also funny; but you have to have those moments where you just bring levity to lighten the mood, especially if it’s been a very deep emotional scene.
What have you personally learned from the making of Courageous? Now, I’m sure there are tons of things you’ve learned as a filmmaker, as an actor or as a writer, but what are some things God has spoken to you through this process?
I’m going to give you a funny thing, and I’m going to give you a serious thing. One of the funny things was that it was not as enjoyable to dress up as a police officer and drive these cars around in the June heat of Albany, Georgia, and fire and chase down people and fight with them. It was not as fun as I thought it would be. It was actually very difficult, and it made me respect officers that really put their lives on the line for others. You know, carrying 27 pounds of equipment around your waist, and you’re chasing bad guys through yards and alleyways and everything, it wore me out. And so the enjoyment wasn’t what I thought, but my respect for them went way up. But more importantly I learned a very serious thing. In my own life, I took steps to initiate more opportunities for my kids to grow spiritually, instead of just making sure we’re always in church on Sunday or Wednesday night, I began on a regular basis reading God’s word to my kids. I have six children and a wife, and so if I am home, every evening I’m reading a chapter of Scripture. We’re basically going chronologically through the Bible, and my kids have really gravitated to that, because the Bible has stories in there that are just as engaging as any movie that’s out there. Our kids are learning about Scripture, and we talk about, “Why did God do this or why did God do that,” when we finish a Scripture. We talk about when people acted honorably or dishonorably, what the results were. And so it’s so easy just to read a chapter to them and then talk about it. It doesn’t take a seminary degree.
Final question for you, Alex. I can’t let you get away without asking this. What’s next for you and Sherwood Pictures? Is there a new movie on the horizon people can look forward to?
Well, we have about 12 story ideas on the table, and we’re praying it through, you know, from a period piece to a military movie to really everything in between. And so we’re saying, “Lord, what do you want us to do?” We’ve learned to pray for God’s direction and favor before anything else, and so we’re waiting on him. He’s always allowed us to go through a season of prayer before he tells us, and we know when he tells us, because he turns all of our hearts in the same direction. And so the leadership team for Sherwood Pictures is in that season now. We’re saying, “Lord, thank you for Courageous, thank you for whatever ministry that you bring, whatever fruit you bring, and Lord, when you’re ready, you tell us which of these stories, or a new one, that you want us to do and we’ll be all over it.”
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