Facing New Giants: On the Set of Fireproof
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ALBANY, Georgia -- It is a bright, unseasonably warm November morning in Albany, Georgia. With no chance for rain in the forecast the day seems ideal for just about anything – catching up on yard work, a casual stroll through downtown’s Ray Charles Plaza, or a round of golf for those tempted by the temperate climate.
However, there is something quite different going on this day in a sleepy, bucolic neighborhood on the edge of town. The streets have been buzzing since dawn, a frenzy of bright lights, movie cameras, and more action than people will see on this street for months. It is the set for a new movie called Fireproof.
Fresh from the staggering worldwide success of Facing the Giants, filmmakers from the Sherwood Baptist Church are not content to rest on the unexpected triumph that came from that movie. Written, produced, financed, directed, and acted by members of the church, Giants was embraced by the viewing public earning nearly 100 times over their original investment of $100,000.
“I think we, to a great degree, feel like the little boy that gave his five loaves and two fish to Jesus and then stood amazed at what He did with it,” says Jim McBride, executive pastor of Sherwood Baptist. “We know wholeheartedly that this is not about us but about what the Lord has chosen to do in this place. We never say these are “our” movies or Sherwood’s movie, it is God’s movie.”
Reaching the World from Albany, Georgia
Sherwood Baptist firmly believes they can reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ from Albany, Georgia. It is hard to argue considering Facing the Giants made twice as much money overseas as it did domestically. Audiences responded overwhelmingly to the movie’s message about God’s power to change lives. In fact, Sherwood has received more than 10,000 emails from that movie with 40 percent of those glowing with reports of salvation or rededicated lives.
Does Sherwood feel any sense of added pressure to make sure their next movie has an even greater impact?
“I think that there are those who would say, ‘If Facing the Giants did this, what will the next one do?’” says Alex Kendrick, who wrote, directed, and starred in Giants. “But since I know that we have obeyed the Lord and that we are doing the movie we are supposed to be doing, the way it is supposed to be done, there is a certain sense of relief in that. If (Fireproof) does better it is because God set us up to do better. If it does not do as good, we obeyed Him and I can live with the results.”
Along with his brother Stephen, the Kendricks comprise the creative core of more than 500 church members who participate in making the movies. Alex and Stephen, both associate pastors at Sherwood Baptist, hatched the idea to make movies nearly six years ago after reading a George Barna poll that said movies influenced Americans more than the church.
“That really grieved us,” Stephen Kendrick remembers. “We said to our church, ‘We can either curse the darkness or turn on a light.’ I am a firm believer that we should not be overcome by evil but we should overcome evil with good.”
“When we proposed to the church that we go in this direction, it is crazy how many things came together,” Alex Kendrick adds. “People would walk in unannounced and say, ‘We heard you were doing a movie. What do you need?’ They would ask us if we needed money. We said yes. They gave without reservation. Other people offered to sew, cook, or let us use their house or business out of the blue. When that kind of stuff starts happening you can’t give anybody any credit but God.”
With this God-fueled sense of volunteerism firmly in place, the Kendrick brothers and company went back to work shortly before the release of Facing the Giants in the fall of 2006. Through a great deal of prayer and waiting on the Lord, the concept for Fireproof was born. While the new film certainly demonstrates the power of changed lives through a relationship with Jesus Christ, it lies in stark contrast to Facing the Giants and their first cinematic effort, Flywheel.
“The whole idea of Fireproof is that it’s not that a marriage will never go through trials or fire but when fire comes or trials come it can withstand it,” Alex Kendrick explains. “This is what we mean by being fireproof. It also has a spiritual connotation. The only way you and I can be spiritually fireproof is through Jesus Christ. The only way our marriages can be fireproof is when they are dedicated and lived out using biblical principles.”
Kirk Cameron to Star in Fireproof
Specifically, Lt. Caleb Holt, played by Hollywood veteran Kirk Cameron, lives by the old firefighter’s adage: Never leave your partner behind. Yet, after ten years of marriage Caleb and his wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea), have drifted so far apart that they are ready to move on without each other. They are on a collision course for divorce court but Caleb’s father asks him to try an experiment called “The Love Dare”. The results are life saving.
“This is such an important movie,” says Cameron, who in addition to acting, has his own ministry called Way of the Master. “Today, we live in a society where the meaning of love has almost been entirely lost. We reduce love to a quick and easy feeling, something we fall into effortlessly. When that feeling is gone we bail out and find something else to give us that feeling again. God has designed marriage to be a lifelong process of learning how to selflessly give yourself to someone else. That is where character is built. That is where faith is forged.”
Cameron is also a volunteer. Best known for his roles as Mike Seaver in 1980s sitcom Growing Pains, and more recently as Buck Williams in the Left Behind movies, Kirk was so impressed with Facing the Giants for its message of changed lives through Jesus Christ that he offered his acting services for free.
“In terms of an acting role, I think that this is probably one of the most if not the most important role I have ever played because it is not only a role that contains a presentation of the Gospel but it is a part that is going to relate to so many men and women who have really blown it in their relationships and they need some help restoring it.”
With the film set for a fall 2008 release, the cast and crew completed principal shooting in December. The Sherwood team is now in the process of editing the film, finalizing the musical score, and ramping up for a publicity blitz this summer in anticipation of its debut.
“From the very beginning we have just placed everything in God’s hands,” says McBride. “We believe He has called us to make this movie. We believe He has called us to rather than curse the darkness, to shed some light on it, and to lift up covenant marriage. We are just going to continue to bathe it in prayer and try to be obedient to what we believe is His will. Our prayer is that others would do the same.”
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