ALBANY, Ga. (BP)–The two brothers who directed “Facing the Giants” now are working on another cinematic release — “Fireproof,” starring Kirk Cameron — about saving a failing marriage.
Stephen Kendrick, co-writer and director for the newest movie from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., along with his brother Alex, wrapped up five weeks of filming their latest Christian drama in December.
Earlier releases “Flywheel, The Movie” in 2003 and Facing the Giants in 2006 received strong reviews and calls for another installment in the feel-good, faith-based, family values vein. Facing the Giants drew $10 million in box office receipts and remains a best-selling DVD.
Fireproof is scheduled to hit theaters in August; like Facing the Giants, it will be distributed through Provident Films, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures.
The storyline focuses on a young couple, Caleb and Catherine Holt, whose seven-year marriage is on the rocks. Caleb is played by Cameron; Erin Bethea, a member of Sherwood Baptist and a graduate of the Baptist-affiliated University of Mobile in Alabama, plays Catherine.
Caleb’s father tries to persuade his firefighter son to delay divorce for 40 days while secretly going through a process he calls the “love dare.” Although reluctant and skeptical of his parents’ newfound faith, Caleb agrees and embarks on a spiritual journey that redefines what love means to him.
As he takes the day-by-day dare with suggestions of how to unconditionally love his wife, he eventually comes to realize that he doesn’t know the Giver of love. As he slowly becomes changed from within, he seeks to win back the heart of his wife who is suspicious of his motives.
The movie does not sugarcoat the real-world conflict between couples who have drifted apart and then begin the struggle to rebuild trust. Shunning sentimental clichés and sermonizing, Fireproof seeks to show that true faith, when placed in a crucible, will triumph.
The movie is set in Albany and has widespread community support, Jim McBride, executive pastor of Sherwood Baptist, said.
“We could not be more pleased with our relationship with Albany. The police and fire departments offered their services and equipment and some officers volunteered their time and others received credit for training exercises,” McBride, who was cast as the fire chief in the movie, said during a break in filming.
“The fire department even burned down an old house for us that is a pivotal role in the movie and gives Kirk’s character the opportunity to rethink life’s priorities,” McBride added. “Phoebe Putney Hospital let us film on site as well as provided some doctor’s offices as a set for some scenes. More than 20 sets and a production office were provided by local businesses.”
Cameron, best known for his role in the popular 1980s television series “Growing Pains,” bumped into Alex Kendrick and Sherwood pastor Michael Catt in an airport last year, and the three began discussing the next venture. Cameron, who had supported Sherwood’s efforts in the past and attended the Hollywood screening of Facing the Giants, auditioned “just like anyone else,” he said in an interview in late December.
“I just wanted to be part of something exciting that a church was doing on the quality level that Sherwood has brought to the screen,” Cameron said. “I wanted to be sure that my casting, if it occurred, would be of the Lord and not just because I had more experience than others.”
The Kendrick brothers credit Catt with being the visionary who allowed them to make the first movie when they didn’t think a church would be willing to take on a risky project. The church already had a successful media ministry and the brothers were unsure if Sherwood would want to venture into movie production. Now, thanks to Catt’s leadership, the church’s vision to change the world from Albany has expanded even more.
“Marriage touches almost every life,” Catt said. “In my lifetime the divorce rate has climbed to one out of two marriages, and the marriage rate has dropped 30 percent. What if we can make a dent in those statistics?”
More than 500 church members, on the set and behind the scenes, are personalizing the pain behind those numbers and introducing the hope that is found in the storyline, the pastor said. As with the church’s first two films, the production is driven by volunteers while one professional film crew of eight people is working at a discounted rate.
“The foundation of marriage has been attacked, devalued and redefined by many in our culture,” Alex Kendrick said. “It is our desire to tell a story that would allow the audience to relate to common marital issues and then to take them down a path toward understanding principles for unconditional love through the roles of husband and wife.
“Our hope would be that after viewing the film, couples and singles hoping to marry would be challenged and exhorted to pursue God-honoring relationships that reinforce the foundations of marriage in light of a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “We want people to realize that fireproof does not mean the absence of fire, but the ability to withstand it.”
Stephen Kendrick explained why Sherwood Baptist Church opted for a third movie.
“If we go back to the idea of redeeming the time because the days are evil, this is the best use of our ministry time,” he said. “We each have fulltime responsibilities at the church, but this is just something else that we feel needs to be done and is worked into our schedule.
“When was the last time you worked on something that directly impacted 3 million people in 56 countries around the world? Since the release of Facing the Giants in September 2006, we have received 10,000 e-mails and reports of more than 5,000 professions of faith, and we feel Fireproof has that same potential,” Stephen Kendrick added.
“That’s why you see all of these volunteers out here … taking vacation and personal time away from their jobs to help make this movie. We are preaching a two-hour sermon in the format of a Hollywood movie and will be able to reach people who would never set foot inside a church.
“They are doing this for more than here, more than now,” he said. “They have a sense that long after they have left this world, this movie will still be telling a story of redemption and will represent what they feel is important in life.”
Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index in Georgia, online at www.christianindex.org.