Half of the Kendrick brothers duo, Stephen is co-writer and producer, as well as promoter extraordinaire for Sherwood Pictures (creators of Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof). On October 13, 2008, Stephen and his wife welcomed their fourth child (the third son), John Christian Kendrick, into the family. According to Stephen, he’s doing great, they love having him in the family, and have decided to keep him.
Your three films all start with the letter “F.” They’ve kind of redeemed the use of that letter in film.
Stephen: It just kind of happened, and now we laugh about it. With each movie, it was a question of what’s a cool name that will work, and so far they have all started with “F.” We’ve joked about calling it the “F Series.”
Can you describe the past couple of years? You came right off the success of Facing the Giants into production for Fireproof. That can’t be easy.
Stephen: It was even more intense than Facing the Giants. The whole journey of Fireproof has been a whirlwind for about a year and a half. We’ve been under deadlines constantly. We made this movie very quickly. We wrote it and cast it right away, and started shooting the next week after we finalized the script.
Then from filming, we went right into editing and from there into promotion. While Alex was finishing up the editing, I was already traveling and promoting the film. When I got off my 50th plane last year, I was thinking that it used to be cool to travel a lot and go places, but now I really miss my wife and kids.
We want to be modeling the messages of the movie in our own lives, so we’re (Alex and Stephen) taking off some time this year to spend with our wife and kids before we jump into anything else.
We’ve really been experiencing God weekly as we hear answers to prayer and see what God is dong with the movie. Reading the stories on FireprooftheMovie.com, it’s hard to fight back tears because we’re seeing thousands of marriages impacted and changed, and families getting back together.
We also hear the stories firsthand just about everywhere we go. People walk up and tell us powerful, heartfelt stories of marriages and what God is doing.
I was in San Antonio, Texas, a couple of weeks ago and this man walked up choking back tears. He said, “My fourth grade daughter came home from public school and another girl in her class had to read a paper she’d written. She stood up in the front of the class and said, ‘My mommy and my daddy fight all the time and my daddy abuses my mommy. He left my mommy.
“’They went to see a movie in the theater and my daddy cried the whole time of the movie and at the end he gave his heart to Jesus. And now my parents have gotten back together and they’re working it out.’ And she said, ‘I’m so grateful for the Fire movie that helped save my parents’ marriage.’
“And all the other kids in the class were crying and the teacher was stunned.” This fourth grade girl doesn’t know anything about what went into it, she doesn’t know Sherwood, she doesn’t know about Hollywood movies, or anything else. All she knows is, her mom and dad went to see that movie and now they’re back together.
I heard another story through email. A man who was having an affair on his wife had already signed divorce papers. He moved out and took his mistress on a date. They ended up going to see Fireproof in the theater – they had no idea what it was about – marital faithfulness. His mistress turned to him while they were watching the movie and said, “I feel very awkward right now.”
He got so convicted he left her, went back home to talk to his wife, and they tore up the divorce papers. He has moved back home and now they’re trying to work it out.
One couple lived 700 miles apart and had been divorced for seven years. They wound up going to see Fireproof together in the theater, and now they’re getting remarried this year. Seven years later. Those kinds of stories are pouring in, and we’re thanking God, wondering “when is it going to end?”
We don’t want it to end. It’s like it just goes on and on and on. It’s exciting to hear what churches are doing: launching marriage ministries, going through the Love Dare book, it’s unbelievable, and we’re just praising the Lord.
One reviewer said that you and Alex have a unique insight into what it means to be a godly man in an ungodly world. What is it that provides you with that insight?
Stephen: I think we write what we know, and we grew up in a home where every day we saw a godly man living for Christ in our dad. We’ve been surrounded at Sherwood by godly men in our pastor and executive pastor, who we’re hanging around with all the time.
We’re both in the trenches with trying to be godly men with our wives and our kids. What does it mean to be a godly father and husband? We’ve been reading books and studying scriptures on that for years, so without even realizing it sometimes, I think it flows out of our world. We have so many godly examples around us.
So far, you’ve seen a strong father-figure in each of our three movies. It’s been a father who’s mentoring an adult son, and you see that because that’s what our dad has done, and continues to do, in our lives. Really there’s such a vacuum of strong fatherly or godly men movie roles until now that we feel we need to fill this gap. We’ve got to start showing people what it looks like Monday through Saturday, not just in church on Sundays.
There have been several Hollywood films with father figures in them this past year (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Bedtime Stories), but the fathers have either been absent, or abandoned their children, or taught them things that aren’t very godly.
Stephen: Scripture says children are the glory of their fathers, and everybody, whether they were abandoned by their dad and resent it, or whether they have a strong relationship with their dad, has this longing in their hearts. God put a longing for the love and approval and counsel and protection and provision of our dads into our hearts.
God calls Himself our father, and in Ephesians 3, it says that fatherhood on the earth came from fatherhood in heaven. So He created this whole role to be a picture of who He is, so He’s also put into our hearts a longing, a thirst for that. I do believe when people see that strong fatherhood role, they relate to it.
Part of the reason The Field of Dreams did so well is because grown men sat in the theater weeping. Through that movie, they experienced playing catch with their dad, whether or not they got to growing up. Men would go back and see that movie over and over again because it was really about getting to re-connect with Dad.
I think God has wired us to want that, and really, you’re touching on our heartbeat right now because we’re praying and thinking through how to make a movie that does for fatherhood what Fireproof did for marriages. We would love to really even zero in on fatherhood. The Lord hasn’t told us what the next movie is going to be about; we’re praying about it right now.
It may be a mom and daughter story, but right now it’s a private desire and longing to have a story that men could go to the theater and see how fatherhood is supposed to work, then go home and say, “I now know what I need to do with my kids.”
When you look back to Flywheel, your first movie, what growth do you see in the church and community involvement, as well as in yours and Alex’s abilities as filmmakers?
Stephen: It has been so encouraging because the church has really bought into what we’re doing. With Flywheel, we were kind of scratching our heads, looking around and saying, “Is this going to work?”
We got 30 – 50 people involved from our church of 3000, so it was almost like the youth having a special Friday night event and people not hearing about it. When Flywheel came out, there was a lot of skepticism, and rightly so. People were walking into the theater, our church members, saying, “I didn’t really want to go see it. I’m going in with my arms folded. I know my duty is for my church, but I can come up with 50 better things I could be doing with two hours of my time.”
But when they walked out of the theater, they totally got it. They were saying, “This movie is impacting me.” We had grown men walking out of the theater saying they had recommitted their marriage to the Lord, and they were asking God to help them be the dad that Jay Austin was.
After that, the church jumped on board in a huge way with Facing the Giants and with Fireproof. They said, “Whatever it takes to get this thing done, we’re supporting you.”
The other thing is that our church members have really turned the movies into tracts. They have become personal evangelists, turning around trying to strengthen the marriages in their circumference of influence.
As far as technical growth, our goal has been to pursue excellence as best as we could with what we had and with what we knew. With all three movies, it was a huge learning curve, actually a jump, for us. To go from not making movies to making one was a huge jump, then from Flywheel to Facing the Giants was a huge jump: hiring a professional crew, spending a lot more time on the production and editing; wanting to use professional artists with music; wanting to do a score that sounded more like a real orchestra, all of that stuff.
Then we added color correction and that was a big jump for us. We still go back and look at the other movies and say, “Aw, that could be better here, and we could improve there.”
Using volunteers to act is always a challenge, but the Lord has continued to bless in spite of our inadequacy. With Fireproof, our prayer was, “Lord, how can we improve as filmmakers and in every area raise the quality of the production.”
Alex and I, in our writing, tried to add more arcs to the story in Fireproof. Facing the Giants is really just one big arc. Everything heads south for the first half of the movie, and everything heads north for the second half. In Fireproof, you’re on a journey. There are twists and turns, and you think one thing is going to happen, but something else happens.
We were also much more intentional with the casting. Bringing in Kirk [Cameron] and Erin [Bethea], two professionals, really helped raise the acting level. We figured out a way to shoot digitally that would double the quality of the resolution of the footage. We hired twice as many professionals for operating equipment. We went from five to 10, and that took it to the next level.
We had a live orchestra with the Nashville String Machine who recorded our score. We tried at every level to increase the quality of the production, and it really has paid off. A lot of people made complaints about Facing the Giants that they didn’t about Fireproof, but we still see lots of areas we want to improve.
Excellence is always a moving standard. What was excellent today may not be excellent tomorrow, so we’re pursuing it. We’re on a journey to excellence, so we don’t tell anybody that we have Academy award-winning performances, or that we’ve arrived. We’re just grateful that the Lord continues to take the five loaves and two fish and continues to impact many.
What are some of the hopes and goals you have as a father and husband this year?
Stephen: My wife and I have committed to spend more time in family devotions with our kids. We’ll sit down with the Word and spend time walking through scripture with them. We take them to church and they memorize verses in Cubbies and Awanas, and we talk about the Lord often. But us sitting down with them and the Word and feeding them scriptures, helping them understand God’s Word, is something that we are seeing a greater desire and hunger and need to do.
Alex and I are both taking some time off this year because the last two years have been so many deadlines and traveling, so many late nights or all nights working: editing, shooting, writing the Love Dare, all of that stuff. It’s been a whirlwind of deadlines.
We miss our families when we’re out of town, so we’re trying to guard time with our wives and kids. My kids will only be two years old one time. They’ll only be five or six years old once. We want to be experiencing and enjoying them, discipling them and living out the messages from the movies.
Also, and always, we’ll be seeking the Lord for the next season. God operates in seasons. In scripture, everything is beautiful in its season. He’ll teach us something new tomorrow that He’s never taught us before. “New,” I think, is God’s favorite word.
He makes all things new. When we’re in Christ, we’re new. He wants us to sing a new song unto Him. So any time we’re caught in a routine, if it becomes a ritual, our walk with Him, then it’s not fresh. If we’re not getting new insights from His Word or leaning new things about his attributes and character, we’re stagnant.
Thanks for your time. We just got the DVDs in yesterday, and we know our customers are excited about getting them.
Stephen: Be sure to watch the behind the scenes stuff on the DVD. It’s awesome. I’m so excited about the special features. We love movies, but we also love all the other goodies that are on the DVD. You’ve got to see the bloopers and practical jokes that are on there that happened on the set.
Alex and I did a full commentary explaining how each scene came together and how God answered prayer and brought the whole thing together. There are ministry and Bible study resources on there. There’s a 26-minute “making of” and a 21-minute video blog, as well as some hilarious stuff with Stephen Dervan, who plays Wayne. There’s a lot of fun stuff. I’m really thrilled about the DVD, and I think people are going to be talking about all of the extras once they see it.
Be sure to watch the key scenes (when they’re yelling or crying) in Portuguese. It’s pretty fun. We want it to be a global ministry, so there’s a bunch of subtitled languages on there: Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, etc. I’m hoping it goes to Muslim countries and China, and wherever.
Fireproof comes out on DVD on Tuesday, January 27, 2009.