In 2002, Jeremy Camp exploded onto the Contemporary Christian Music scene with hits like “Walk by Faith” and “Understand.” But just two years earlier, the singer/songwriter had lost his best friend and wife to ovarian cancer, just months after marrying her. While Camp has gone on to release eleven studio albums (four of which are certified Gold), including songs from the pain he experienced, the romance he shared with his first wife, Melissa, stands as a testament to Christ-like love.
For nearly a decade, producer Kevin Downes has held onto a script about the Camps’ romance, longing to make it into a feature-length film. So after the success of Moms’ Night Out, and on the set of I Can Only Imagine, Downes approached his Kingdom Studios’ partners Jon and Andrew Erwin about making I Still Believe.
Now, as the team finishes post-production on the film, Downes looks forward to the widest release of his career. Keeping the world the same as I Can Only Imagine, none of the actors will be the same, but Downes believes they’ve found the best combination to play the Camps in KJ Apa (Riverdale) and Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland, A Dog’s Purpose).
“We wanted an actor with the essence of Jeremy Camp on screen,” remembered Downes. “We were looking for actors who wouldn’t just play the role, because we didn’t want to do a disservice to the stories. KJ has the exuberance of a youthful Jeremy Camp. He’s such a good kid. He and Britt believe wholeheartedly in the message of the film.”
Downes shared his excitement over seeing a love story, especially one tied to the life story of a CCM singer that audiences already love. The dialogue for the film is taken from interviews of the Camps, making it all the more lifelike. And the whole picture points toward the sacrificial love the Camps saw in Jesus Christ and tried to model themselves.
“I just love God’s perfect plan!” said Downes, with a chuckle. “It’s such a challenge because films take a long time to make. It’s not easy! But to make a great film that can compete with the big films that cost the same amount per ticket, it’s hard. Making a movie isn’t just writing some words down and grabbing a camera.”
Downes would know with credits as star, director, writer, and producer spread across close to two dozen films, like Courageous, Faith of Our Fathers, and Woodlawn (also an Erwin Brothers production). But he says he’s still learning, that every film is a learning experience.
“We want the audience to walk out of the film, touched and influenced, and hopeful. We are working to tell universally appealing stories that are faithful to our core beliefs, not sugarcoating anything about the gospel,” Downes explained. “I’ve learned patience, to realize that while as a producer I want everything laid out, it doesn’t always work out that way.”
“It’s a lot like life: you have to trust God in the choices we make and recognize that God has a plan.”
For now, it’s back to the studio for Downes, to put the finishing touches on a love story waiting to be told. On March 20, audiences everywhere will be able to see the way God worked through the romance and tragedy of the Camps to share a story, and lift up the Gospel.