With a background in venture capital finance, Harrison Powell does not appear to be the typical film producer. But when you see every film as a risky start up, then the film market becomes an opportunity to invest, and capitalize. As the Vice President of Development for Giving Films, Powell's mission is two parts: to tell great stories through film and to use the proceeds from those films to benefit charities around the United States.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Powell was drawn into the filmmaking business by the founder of Giving Films, Rick Jackson. Aiming to tell great stories that would be financially successful so that they could bless the families of less fortunate children, the team first produced 90 Minutes in Heaven about the life of Reverend Don Piper. In 2018, Giving Films has helped produce Paul, Apostle of Christ and the upcoming An Interview with God. They have the Sam Rockwell-headed The Best of Enemies, about the real-life story involving a civil rights activist and a Klu Klux Klan member in 1971 Durham, N.C., and Welcome to Pine Grove, a Mean Girls-meets-Golden Girls comedy, in various stages of development.
Powell attributes his success to showing up on time and "working your tail off." For those seeking to break into the film business, the actor/producer encourages treating people the right way and recognizing that many projects come through word of mouth. Now, he has seen success, and recognizes that the company can be more selective about which titles they back.
"Essentially, if we're not ready to jump on the coffee table and light our hair on fire, it's a gracious pass," Powell said. "There are various types of faith films that are finding success, but for us, we see the story as a conduit of the message, and we're not trying to put the message above the story. We don't want our films to feel like a sermon on tape."
With Ken Aguado's script for An Interview with God, Powell saw that regardless of whether the audience was Christian or not, there were questions that the discussion between the Iraqi War vet (Brenton Thwaites) and The Man (David Strathairn) that everyone could relate to in the film. "These are questions that sometimes in church, we're made to feel like we shouldn't have," he continued, "or that when we brought them up outside of church, they were left unanswered."
The Giving Films team had several theologians look at the film to make sure that it hit the right balance, staying true to Scripture. Powell admitted that the third portion of the interview related to his life: "that I need to look in the mirror and ask, 'If I died today, would I have made someone else's life better?' We're called to be there for others, and Jesus' focus on those [from the Ten Commandments] were about human interaction."
To film these interviews, Powell said that Thwaites and Straithairn shot them in unbroken shots, navigating the crumbling of the reporter's marriage and his lingering questions raised by post-traumatic stress suffered abroad. These heavy subjects were all the result of Aguado's script, and they touched the Giving Films team's mission - to tell a special story, to entertain, and to raise money for missions.
Powell named Sunshine on a Ranny Day as a favorite recipient of Giving Films' raised funds. It's a non-profit that provides home makeovers for medically fragile children. In 2017, rehabbing the home of a young man with muscular dystrophy named Kyle, the team discovered that the young man loved Florida State University football. While they renovated his home to make it handicap accessible, they also connected him with a local football team and Kyle became coach for a day.
An Interview with God truly captivates and draws the audience in, but with the added bonus that your ticket purchase would go toward helping young people like Kyle, suddenly going to the movies has a whole new meaning.
At the conclusion of An Interview with God, viewers will experience an engaging panel discussion based on the film’s inspiring themes featuring nationally syndicated radio host, Eric Metaxas, faith & culture writer Jonathan Merritt and Inside Edition correspondent, Megan Alexander.