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Sherwood Pictures' Approach to Film

by Michael Foust - Church Executive

Director Alex Kendrick and his movie team at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., believe they know what the plot of their next movie is going to be, but they're keeping it to themselves for the moment.

After all, Kendrick says, God may change their mind.

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The target budget for that yet-unnamed film is $2.5 million, a price tag that may not get you far in Hollywood but could do wonders for a movie made by Kendrick, his brother Stephen and everyone else associated with Sherwood Pictures. Keep in mind that their 2006 hit "Facing the Giants" had a price tag of $100,000 but made $10.1 million at the box office, while the 2008 sensation "Fireproof" cost $500,000 to make but grossed $33.4 million. And those figures don't even include DVD sales.

Some in the movie industry are still trying to figure out how they did it.

"Our next movie will be a bigger budget [and,] God-willing, better quality," Alex Kendrick told an audience Feb. 9 during a session at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville. "We're taking what we learned from the three previous movies and applying it to the next one. ... We think we know [the plot of the next movie], but we're still in a season of prayer. And we're not going to proceed until we know."

Kendrick's approach to movie-making is incredibly refreshing. He prays for a plot. Once he has a plot, he writes the end of the movie first, envisioning how a moviegoer will be impacted when walking out of the theater. The story, he says, "is everything." Then, during casting, he and the team ask prospective actors and actresses tough spiritual questions, knowing full well that everyone seen on screen will become a semi-celebrity and recognized in public -- and that their every move will be scrutinized. The goal is not simply to cast Christians, but mature Christians.

Kendrick realizes that, historically, Christian movies haven't received good reviews. But he believes the industry -- with high-definition cameras and advanced editing software readily available -- is improving. He likens the current state of Christian films to the then-budding Christian contemporary music industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the quality of the music was lower than the quality of mainstream music.

"I feel like that's where we are with that medium.... We're taking baby steps," says Kendrick, who believes God is raising up another generation of Christian filmmakers to impact the world.

The Christian film industry, he says, is "in the early stages of what is becoming a more experienced film outreach."

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