Christian Filmmaker Dallas Jenkins: For the Love of Story
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Filmmaker Dallas Jenkins grew up in a Christian household that loved to tell stories. His dad, popular Christian novelist Jerry Jenkins (whose Left Behind books have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide), set the stage for young Dallas to become the storyteller he is today.
His latest film, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, hit theaters in January 2017, and starred two familiar faces from television -- Brett Dalton (Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Neil Flynn (The Middle).
Recently, Dallas Jenkins shared with CBN.com about his love of stories, working on The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, and who convinced him to cast Dalton as his lead in his Christian comedy. Check out what he had to say:
What's your favorite non-faith film — one that inspired you on a spiritual level even though it's not really in the realm of religious films?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the movie that made me want to make films. It inspired me on an emotional level, not a spiritual one, but it made me want to arouse emotion through spiritual stories. It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite film by far. I'm spending my career trying to make a film half as good as that one; and I would consider that to be in the spiritual realm.
Favorite Jerry Jenkins book?
My dad's book Riven is probably the best book he's written and I'd love to make a film based on it. Discussions and efforts to that end have taken place. We'll see if we can make it work.
What stories do you want to tell?
I want to tell stories that present hope and faith in the midst of darkness and failure, whether through comedy or drama. And more specifically, the story I most want to tell is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but I don't have the rights to that, sadly. Maybe someday.
What does your latest movie, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, add to the "faith films" genre?
There are three things that I wanted to add to the faith-based film market with [The Resurrection of Gavin Stone] that I don't normally see: one, a lot of humor, particularly self-deprecating humor. Two, a movie specifically set in a church. And three, an explicitly faith-based movie told through the eyes of a total outsider.
What has the reception been like?
[The Resurrection of Gavin Stone] underperformed at the theatrical box office. But the response from those who have seen it has been overwhelming, from the first test screening that was done to those who've seen it in theaters. The "quantity" hasn't been what we wanted, but the "quality" of response has exceeded my goals. We've heard from many people who are coming to church because of it. We've heard from Christians, even pastors, who said they had a fresh look at the story of Jesus they hadn't experienced before. And of course, it's been encouraging to experience all the laughs and tears.
How was it working with/getting to know lead actor, Brett Dalton?
Brett's a terrific guy. He genuinely loved the script, so we had a great experience working together. He really did an exceptional job in the role. I'm really proud of him. We'll be friends for life, much to my son's delight -- as my son is the one who convinced me to cast him.
Dalton mentioned in a previous interview that he ad-libbed some on the set. Any great stories or moments you remember fondly of Dalton — or any of the rest of the cast?
One of my favorite scenes is when Brett's character is asked to pray by the small group he's a part of. Brett and the others said what was in the script, but also added some phrases and moments and facial expressions that just killed me. I love that the scene gets laughs, but is also a good representation of what genuine community and love should look like.
Do you watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Dalton's show on ABC)?
My son is a massive Marvel nerd and my family watches the show. I've seen a little of it. My son pushed me to consider Brett. At first, I resisted because his character on [Agents of] S.H.I.E.L.D was so serious and didn't have nearly the charisma that Gavin Stone does. But, I relented and his audition was fantastic.
How was it directing/getting to know actor Neil Flynn?
Neil's originally from Chicago, so we connected on that level. I sometimes get a little intimidated by guys like Neil who are more quiet. But, I've grown out of that and we had a great mutual respect. He's just such a natural actor and a down-to-earth guy. His presence in the film gives the film a little more legitimacy and makes it feel "real".
My family is obsessed with The Middle. We currently have about 25 episodes on our DVR, even though they've all been seen multiple times.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is rated PG for thematic elements including a crucifixion image and releases on Blu-ray/DVD on May, 2, 2017.
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