Fireproof: Discussing Filmmaking with Brothers, Writers, Producers, and Director Alex and Stephen Kendrick
Talking with Alex and Stephen Kendrick reminds me of spending time with my own brother and sisters. Conversation is funny, quick-witted, and can turn with just a moment’s notice to deep topics. The brothers, who began their film ministry doing videos for local camps, have written, produced and directed three films from their home church of Sherwood Baptist in Albany, Georgia.
Fireproof comes out nationally on Friday, September 26, and the Love Dare book will be available at that time. Go to fireproofthemovie.com for times and locations. If the film is not scheduled to show in your area, form an Action Squad to bring it to your town.
Ironically, our discussion about this film [about a fireman and his wife] was cut short by an unexpected fire alarm going off in our building.
The last time we talked, you were writing the script for Fireproof. Are you working on another film script now?
Alex: No. We just finished writing the Love Dare book, the Fireproof novel and editing the movies.
You have a whole media package going: book, novel, and movie. That’s a lot of work. Alex, you and your wife had just had your fifth child when we talked last. Any more children for either of you?
Stephen: My wife’s due in October. It’s number 4 for us.
This is third film you have made. How are audiences responding as they see more of your work?
Stephen: For a lot of people, Facing the Giants was the first Sherwood Picture they saw. They probably considered it a one-hit wonder, and maybe wondered if it could work again.
Alex: Flywheel, as most films, if left alone will slow down in its reach. But with each subsequent film that comes out, it gets another infusion of life.
What was in your mind
as you started working on this third one?
Stephen: There was a sense of rightness about it because the Lord had so blessed the first two. There was confirmation with our pastors when we prayed about it. But again, we went into a season asking God to confirm if we needed to make another one. Just because He lead us to make the first two doesn’t mean that we always need to be doing this.
I think about Joshua in scripture when, after they conquered Jericho, they got beat up by this Ai town. It was because they didn’t seek the Lord first. So we really began to pray again, and God began to confirm it. Yes, he wanted us to make another movie and it needed to be about marriage.
He began to send the resources that we needed, and Provident jumped onboard saying they were willing to distribute it. The storyline came together very naturally, and all the pieces began falling into place. Instead of us forcing something, it was the Lord laying tracks in front of a moving train again.
That’s where we want to be. We don’t want to be ahead of God, we don’t want to fall behind, we want to stay in step with Him and ask, “Lord, what do you want us to do?”
He has blessed that. One of our prayers is “God, keep us usable. We don’t want to get cocky, greedy, prideful, distracted. Please help us to stay usable.” We know the Lord is going to impact the nations with or without us, and we want to join Him in being a part of that.
Who keeps you grounded?
Alex: Our wives and kids!
Stephen: Spending time with the Lord. You cannot be close to God and be prideful at the same time. It’s hard to be in His presence and not want to be on your knees. Walking with the Lord is always the most important thing any one of us can do.
We also have authorities over us. Pastor Michael and Pastor Jim love us and support us, and they also speak truth into our lives. They hold us accountable, and if they think we’re getting out of line, they’ll tell us really quickly. Plus Alex and I love each other, and we shoot straight with each other. There is accountability between us as well. And we have praying parents who will tell us in a heartbeat if they think we’re getting out line.
I think every believer needs a whole network around them, a board of directors in a sense, that is speaking the truth to them in love. God has been good to surround us with some great people.
Do y’all do the scriptwriting together?
Alex: Every time. In the fall of 2005 we had finished Facing the Giants and were asking God for His next idea. We wanted a God idea, not a good idea. We asked him for an idea that would impact all of the culture, not just certain pockets. That went on for months.
Late 2005, He gave us the idea for focusing on marriage. I remember driving around the block one day and having this idea about a husband trying to win back the heart of his wife through this forty-day process.
I remember driving to Stephen’s house and telling him about this Love Dare idea, and he said, “I think that’s it.” We started praying for a plot. The title Fireproof resonated with us because fireproof doesn’t mean fire will never come, but that when it does come, you can withstand it.
That’s what we want to focus on. Trials will come to a marriage, and it will only be able to stand by Biblical principles and the grace of God. The second thing we wanted to focus on was unconditional love. Not the one getting the love, but the one choosing to love.
In other words, God loves us, even though we don’t deserve it. Husbands should love their wives even if they don’t deserve it, and vice versa. That was important to us to convey that and to focus on the attributes that were intended when God established it as an institution. So it’s very important for us to lift up and honor marriage as the Lord intended.
How do you see this film reaching the whole culture when not everyone is married?
Stephen: With Facing the Giants, we saw people wanting to go see it because football season started. But marriage is 24/7, 365 days a year. And 85-90% of our culture will eventually get married, whether it ends in divorce or they stay married.
When we look at marriage in scripture, it’s the first institution established by God upon which He builds; marriage, churches, governments. In our culture, people admit they don’t understand marriage is a covenant not a contract; that it’s based on unconditional love. When we lose sight of all that, the pop culture is right when they say “It’s just a piece of paper, and I don’t need a piece of paper to validate my feelings.”
They have missed the sacredness and the holiness of what God has designed. So we decided to go back and deal with that issue. But whether someone is single or married, we all love a good story. We all want to laugh and cry, but more importantly, God wants to be glorified through everything He’s created. And one of the things He’s created is marriage, and it does teach all of us more about His love for us. And all of us need that and need to learn what sacrificial, unconditional love looks like.
Alex: Even though this movie is centered around marriage, the principles of unconditional love apply to everybody. So if you can grasp some of the aspects of love that are seen in the movie, though primarily focused on marriage, you can be encouraged to take new steps in your relationships after seeing the movie.
So there’s the movie, then if when they walk out of the movie and want something tangible they can grab themselves, they can go get the Love Dare and actually do it in their relationships.
Stephen: It’s coming out now with the theatrical release of the film on September 26.
Who helped you develop the complete Love Dare book?
Alex: Once we established the plot of the movie, we began writing the book. First we sat down and opened up the scripture and asked, “What does scripture say about loving someone?”
I Corinthians 13 is known as the “love chapter,” and there are a lot of things in there that are aspects of love. But there are a lot of other scriptures: Ephesians talks about husbands loving wives, and Proverbs is full of references to love.
So Stephen and I went to a room in one of our houses and put “sticky notes” all over the wall for the attributes of love that are focused on in scripture. First we only started with scripture. So we prayed and asked the Lord to help us find the forty attributes and order them, then came up with a dare for each of them.
Then Stephen just jumped all over the research from scripture and all the other resources. So it was a long process, but a very fulfilling one. God has gifted Stephen to pull concepts out of scripture and make them palatable for an audience to hear either in a sermon or movie or whatever.
I’m more of a storyteller. I like to write, and I crafted the final presentation, but Stephen did the research. He did a very, very good job.
I appreciated that the wife didn’t turn right around after her husband was nice to her for three days in a row.
Stephen: Well, he’s trampled on her for seven years. Him giving her flowers is not going to just fix everything. He needed to realize, and men need to realize that if you’ve done a lot of damage in a marriage, you just can’t ignore that. There needs to be some healing and forgiving that takes place. It takes humility for a relationship to turn around where it needs to.
There’s also a very strong sub-theme about how internet relationships and pornography affect the wife in a marriage.
Stephen: Men in general know the power of lust and how visually stimulated those things can be, so it’s a strong temptation. We are red-blooded males and trying to walk with God, but the devil can tempt us in those situations.
I have worked with couples and seen how pornography has affected their relationships. It desensitizes a man to the value of his wife and causes him to belittle women in general. It brings anger into his life. James 4 says lust is connected to anger. It causes dissatisfaction in him, and causes him to seek to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. So there are a lot of consequences to it, one of which is destroying his relationship with his wife. It puts unrealistic expectations on his wife.
The Bible says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” But the opposite is also true. When a man begins to walk in lust and immorality, he begins to lose his sense of God’s existence and sovereignty over his life. He’ll begin to not see God in his life, and it’s not because God’s not there, but because he’s become blind to Him.
The Bible uses lust as a picture of idolatry in a person’s life. But scripture again says, “Where sin abounds, much more grace abounds.”
I saw God bring healing into this home and forgiveness where a guy began to tap into the contentment Christ brings rather than in lust, which is where he was. At the same time, I’m hearing this wife who is humiliated and broken. It shouts to her, “You are not good enough, you’re not beautiful to me, you’re not satisfying to me.” It demeans her every time a man looks at pornography.
We wanted to communicate that in the movie not only so that women could relate, but that also every man in the theater could look up on the screen and say, “Oh, so that’s what I’m doing to her. That’s how I’m making her feel with my little problem, or habit, or side benefit.”
It’s sin against a holy God and a fire that’s burning up marriages. Let’s call it what it is.
Alex: You know, he’s right. It’s also a parasite. It steals your time, money and affection. Anything that pulls away from your spouse, you should view as a parasite and get rid of it for the marriage to survive. Pornography is definitely a parasite. It’s never satisfied. It’s always going to want more.
This film is much more introspective than Facing the Giants. What kind of differences did you experience on the set? And how did you create the fight scenes with such intensity?
Alex: The first thing we did was get them into the mindset of the story, and explain that this represents the friction that many couples go through in their marriages. Secondly, we gave them a backstory to draw emotionally from. We make up more than what you see on the screen. We told them, “One time, she did this to him and he did this to her.”
You allow them to dwell on those things and give them time to get riled up before you shoot the scene. But obviously, we also shoot it in pieces so you can allow it to build, and if it doesn’t work, you try it over and over.
But Kirk (Cameron) and Erin (Bethea) are both very gifted actors. We also have prayer groups praying for them.
Stephen: And the set is sacred. You clear off as many distractions as you can. And sometimes there’s a long time of quiet silence and introspection on the set and you’re letting them crawl into that mode. I watched Alex directing them, and sometimes he’s gently walking them through, helping them build up and realize what’s happening here. Sometimes it’s the second, third, fourth time you shoot that it works.
Alex: It’s not easy doing those scenes, because not only is it startling emotionally, it’s tiring when you have to do them over and over again.
[We had more profound things to discuss, but at this point, a fire siren went off in the building and we were encouraged to evacuate the premises.]