Judd Brannon’s Champion tells the story of two men whose lives collide thanks to a tragic dirt racing accident. Race car driver Sean Weathers (Andrew Cheney, Beyond the Mask, The Fourth World) and businessman Jack Reed (Gary Graham) must come to grips with their past and embrace forgiveness to move forward as they work and race around Woodstock, Georgia’s Dixie Speedway. On staff at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Brannon has seen the power in the church’s presentation of the gospel and the way that the church’s ministry to those in the adoption process can make a difference. Now that the film is available on digital home media, Brannon reflected on the way that the story continues to reach people across the country.
“Showing it in the theaters was exciting, as the culmination of your work,” the director remembered. “Hundreds of people were involved from church and from across the country. In the first week, I went to ten to fifteen openings in Georgia, all of the places I could get to by car. To hear the laughter and applause, to see their emotion… it was meaningful to see.”
Clear that he’s undergone what he calls “a PhD in filmmaking,” Brannon can look through the ways that he learned about storytelling, structure, fundraising, and assembling a crew. While he says he’s not more talented than the next person, he recognizes that putting his trust in God and following through regardless of the roadblocks made it possible. Getting to see audiences respond to the finished product is just icing on the cake.
Brannon recounted that at the first showing, which was thirty minutes from Woodstock, a local pastor stood up and spoke about forgiveness after the film ended. He shared the meaning of forgiveness and asked if there was anyone there who hadn’t received Christ into their hearts. A few people raised their hands and they prayed with them right there. Brannon says that “If the film is a tool, then God does the saving and used our film to save people.”
Adoption is clearly a focus of the film, one that Brannon frames through James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” It’s one of the major messages that Brannon hopes will connect with people, and helps them see adoption and foster care as multifaceted.
“I believe people can do the James 1:27 kind of ministry, and that they’ll take it away from the film,” he shared. “We feel we showed how a family can be restored and how you could care for children temporarily and see the beauty of the family restored.”
Brannon’s whole family was involved in the creation of the film, from his sons who handed out water to the cast and crew to his wife who arranged free catering from local businesses for everyone on set.
“Watching the movie, I think a lot about what was going on behind the camera,” said Brannon’s wife, Nancy. “There were so many volunteers! I really got to see all of the aspects of the film, and the challenges Judd went through. It was powerful to be working alongside him.”
As the family headed down the road for an extended camping trip, the Brannons were hopeful about God had in store, what could happen next. They were happy to see how God had used them to bridge the gap between life, art, and faith, and excited to see how Champion would bring families together, both the kinds created by biology and those created by intentional adoptive love.