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‘COURAGEOUS’ NOTES: Better acting a goal

Editor’s note: This is part of a 3-story package about Sherwood Pictures’ next film, “Courageous.” Other stories are available here and here .

ALBANY, Ga. (BP)–Producer Stephen Kendrick hopes fans of “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants” are impressed with the acting in “Courageous” — the next film from Sherwood Pictures — but he’s more concerned that the movie is pleasing to the Lord.

Sherwood Baptist Church’s movie ministry, in filming its next movie, is using more professional actors than it ever has. About half of the cast are professional actors — all Christians — with the other half volunteers. The film will be released in 2011.

“We’ve tried to raise the caliber of the acting and bring in some more outside people that we thought were a better fit for the role,” Kendrick said.

He and his brother Alex, the director, realize that just as Sherwood’s movies have many fans, they also have many critics.

“We do want the movie to be excellent,” Stephen Kendrick said. “We do want the production to be strong. But ultimately, obeying the Lord is our highest priority. I hear people say, ‘Christian movies need to be better than the world,’ and I agree, and I think we’re getting there. I think the Lord is allowing us with every movie to get better and better with what we’re doing. But ultimately, the audience of One is all that counts.”

He jokes that while Hollywood films “throw money” at any problems on the set, Sherwood “throws prayer” at problems.

“If God puts His hand of blessing on this, He will help Sunday School teachers to act,” Stephen Kendrick said. “He’s going to help amateurs to act way beyond their ability. He’ll impact people when they’re sitting in their seats in the theater.”

MAKING THE MOVIE REALISTIC — Sherwood Pictures officials have worked to make the movie’s police scenes believable, partially by working with the local Dougherty County Sheriff’s Department in Albany, Ga. The movie tells the story of four police officers and their struggle to be better fathers.

“We reviewed the script and tried to take out some of the things that are just not realistic — that people see in movies and they think that’s how law enforcement officers do things, [but] they don’t,” said Craig J. Dodd, chief investigator for the sheriff’s office. “We tried to show them the proper way to do things, like carrying firearms whenever you’re making a search for a house. On TV they do it in a pretty bizarre manner that’s very dangerous but it looks cool. We do it in a totally different manner that’s … safe and yet you can still use your weapon if you need to use it.”

Sherwood officials also showed the script to an African American pastor, Michael Simmons of Albany’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, to ensure the film was not racially insensitive in any way. The film has crime and gang scenes that take place in the city, which is 65 percent black. Simmons said he was “honored” to read the script and did have some suggestions. Nothing in the script, he said, was intentionally insensitive.

“I believe that they just did not understand the culture and the context because they have not lived it and they’ve seen it through different eyes,” Simmons said. “They heard all of that. They made those changes…. They said to me, ‘We really want your opinion because we don’t want to be offensive and neither do we want to present something that’s not realistic.'”

SHOOTING WITH A BETTER CAMERA — The movie is being filmed using a high-end digital camera known as a Red camera, and it has the Kendrick brothers excited. The camera will produce a better image on the screen but it also will give them freedom during the editing process. Because its resolution is so high — about four to five times the resolution of the camera used to film “Fireproof” — the Kendricks will be able to, for instance, zoom in on a scene that’s already been shot and create a “pan” shot, even though it wasn’t filmed originally with a pan. The other movies were shot with a VariCam digital camera.

Courageous will be filmed with two cameras — both Red — which also is a change. The first three movies were filmed using only one camera.

“It’s very hard to shoot football with one camera,” Stephen Kendrick said, laughing.

PG RATING THE GOAL — Stephen Kendrick said Courageous will be rated PG, even if it has to be re-edited. There is a slight possibility that — because of the police and crime material — the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings board could slap it with a PG-13 rating, although Kendrick and his brother are filming it with a goal of it getting a PG. They have already tweaked some scenes with that in mind.

“Some men may want to go see a PG-13 movie over a PG movie nowadays,” he said. “But we want to be a friend to pastors and churches, and asking pastors to stand up in the pulpit and have to spend a lot of time explaining why our movie is PG-13 and why their church needs to go see it puts them in an awkward position. We want to honor those pastors. They have been champions for us.”

Like all Sherwood films, it will not have any language or sexuality.

NEXT GENERATION OF FILMMAKERS — Sherwood Pictures has some professionals as part of its crew — the director of photography, for instance — but it also has been intentional to bring young talent to the set to work behind the camera.

“Some of them are right out of film school but they want to become Christian filmmakers,” Stephen Kendrick said. “One thing that we want to do is we want to make movies as God leads us and grows us but we also want to help the next generation of Christian filmmakers.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about Courageous, visit CourageousTheMovie.com.

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  • Michael Foust