David Evans is Extending "The Grace Card"
Making a movie is hard. But when you combine it with running a thriving optometry practice and doing research for the FDA, like Dr. David Evans did while he was directing THE GRACE CARD, it can be a huge challenge.
In Training for 15 Years
The Grace Card
When I met David, we were both visiting the set of COURAGEOUS, Sherwood Pictures' film coming in theaters this September. I had heard of THE GRACE CARD and was excited to meet this new director who had been inspired by FIREPROOF. David worked with his own church, Calvary Church in Cordova, TN, and volunteers from 50 other churches in the Memphis area to make his film.
In Training for 15 Years
"It felt like we had been in training for 15 years to make this movie," David said when we talked about his film. "I directed a Passion play at my church in Memphis for 15 years, and every year I would tie in a modern day story with the story of Jesus' life. It was very different from any other Passion play done in the United States.
"Every year, that gave me the freedom to come up with a new storyline and a new plot. I had already been thinking about this story about Memphis police officers, and walked out of FIREPROOF thinking, 'Wow, God has just opened up a door to something I never thought possible.'"
Because David directed Passion plays at his church for 15 years, he already had hair and makeup department, wardrobe and costume, lighting, sound, etc. So he took that base of volunteers and worked closely with some professionals, just like they do at Sherwood behind the scenes. "We didn't know how to work a Red Camera, or all the different sound and lighting gear you have to have. We partnered our Hollywood team with our volunteers from the various churches and had a great team who really helped us raise the bar in many areas as it relates to faith-based filmmaking.
"I think Passion plays are a great stepping stone for churches, especially once they experience the hours of dedicated work that go into it. For our church, it was a natural transition for our production team at Calvary Church to go into filmmaking."
The message of THE GRACE CARD is universal: Don't let anger destroy us. Memphis, Tennessee, which has really been a hub of civil rights activities, sets the stage for a story rife with racial and family tensions. "No matter what city, state or country you live in, we're all prone to things like anger, hate and resentment. That's why I think it's easy for people to get drawn into the story.
"It's real life. It's gritty. We don't paint a rosy picture of the things that are happening in the movie, and I think it grips people as they go through the first act and begin to understand who these people are. They see the dilemmas they're facing and how they sort through things with God's grace as we move through the final acts of the movie."
David admits that making a movie that revolves around race and reconciliation is difficult, especially when it's challenging for most pastors to address that topic. "We're finding that it opens the conversation about reconciliation, and we're hoping that can start in the church and expand from there into surrounding communities in a city where the movie will be playing.
"It's turned out to be reassuring to see the responses we've been getting from the screenings from different pastors and church leaders. People are saying, 'Thank you for bringing a story like this to us that we can share with our churches and communities.'"
The Grace Card
Like the movie FIREPROOF, THE GRACE CARD has a plot device that is really a ministry tool: the grace card. Introduced by Lou Gossett, Jr.'s character Grandpa George, it's something we can use to extend grace to others. "We hope people take that physical Grace Card and put it to use to make changes in relationships that are broken.
"[In the final act], you see the acts of reconciliation and forgiveness take place, making use of the Grace Card, and giving people examples of how to live out grace in your own lives. "
One of the reasons Academy Award®-winning actor Lou Gossett, Jr., was attracted to the project was the theme of racial reconciliation and grace. When David was searching for a well-known older actor to play the role of Grandpa George, he learned that Mr. Gossett has a foundation called "Eracism," which parallels the themes of the film.
"I contacted his agent who, after a little bit of arm-twisting, agreed to take a look at the screenplay. He then let me know he felt Lou might be interested in reading the script. Within a few days, [Lou] said he felt great about the story and would love to come to Memphis and be a part of it.
"We were able to negotiate some terms that made it possible for him to join us, and I think it's one of his best performances. He did a tremendous job, and it is a blessing to be able to work with an Academy®-Award winning actor with so many great projects under his belt."
With a feature film and 15 years of Passion plays under his own belt, David is ready to learn what God has in store for the next film from this production company. "I have another couple of ideas that I'm praying about right now. There are so many messages that can be powerfully delivered through this medium, so many themes that haven't been explored yet. I'm seeking God's will on what He would have us do on our next project. I'm seeking His direction because if it weren't for His hand on this project, we wouldn't have a theatrical release today, and especially not one that is going to so many cities."
One of David's favorite verses says, "Commit your plans to God and your plans will succeed," and he gives God all the glory for the success THE GRACE CARD has enjoyed so far. "Close to 10,000 people have already seen the movie around the country, and we thank God for that."
Though the film was a struggle for he and his wife [they provided the majority of the funding for the film], they are excited about doing another project. "I can't wait to get this team back together – I enjoyed every minute we were working together, and can't wait for that sense of belonging that we had. It's such a joy to sit back and see it on screen and see what can be accomplished with people with a common goal."
THE GRACE CARD opens in theaters nationwide on February 25, 2011. Find a theater near you and take all your friends. Maybe even take some people you need to extend a grace card to.