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)–If this was a Hollywood film, they would already be advertising it as “bigger” and “better.”
But this is a church-made film, and the makers of “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants” say their next movie, “Courageous” — being filmed in and around Albany, Ga. — will only be better if God blesses it.
It will, though, be bigger, and in many ways. The budget of (at least) $1 million is twice the size of Fireproof’s $500,000 budget. There will be action scenes — car chases and shootouts, a first for a film from Albany’s Sherwood Baptist Church. It will be filmed on nearly twice as many locations as was Fireproof, will have about twice as many cast members, and will be filmed on a new and more-advanced camera, known as the Red digital camera, that will produce a higher-resolution picture and allow more freedom during the editing process.
It will also have a significant number of professional actors, which is a big leap for Sherwood, being that its first three movies had a mostly all-volunteer cast and a total of one fulltime actor — Kirk Cameron, who starred in Fireproof. About half of the cast in Courageous are professional actors who had to meet the same requirements that actors in the past movies have had to meet: committed Christians who are passionate about the project. Some of them are getting paid.
And, like the other movies, Courageous will implement dozens of volunteers — either on screen or off screen — whose work is integral to the project. They make sandwiches and cookies, work in the makeup or wardrobe departments, help set up and take down sets — tasks that are essential to making a big screen film but that often go unnoticed.
Filming is scheduled to finish the week of June 21 and it will be released sometime in 2011.
“I hope it will look like a $5 to $10 million movie,” Courageous producer Stephen Kendrick said.
But Sherwood’s films are known for their storytelling, and Kendrick hopes that’s where the movie’s biggest impact is made. Courageous will tell the story of four police officers and their journey to be better fathers. It will show the consequences of fatherless homes, partially through a storyline involving gang members, and it also will show what a home with a God-fearing father can look like.
Too many dads in the current generation “have fallen asleep at the wheel” and have left the mom “trying to keep the family alive and going,” Kendrick said. The film, he said, will call fathers to responsibility and leadership.
The Courageous script is one that has 33-year-old Robert Amaya, who plays “Javier” in the movie, excited. The father of a 1-year-old daughter in real life, Amaya is one of the professional actors on the set.
“I know specifically within my culture, there’s definitely a need for people, for men, to hear that message [about fatherhood],” said Amaya, who is Latino and normally does theater in Miami, Fla. He said he was a “huge” Sherwood Pictures fan before even learning of the new movie. “If I know that at least one man can watch this film, turn back and come to his family and stay there, I’d be a happy man.”
According to Census data, one in every three children in America lives apart from his or her biological father. Children in fatherless homes are four times more likely to live in poverty and twice as likely to drop out of school, according to government data. Such children also are significantly more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and end up in prison, according to the government data.
Sherwood Pictures and its film partners are working with family and fatherhood organizations not only to get the message out about the film but also to work in tandem to underscore the need for fathers to fulfill their role. A host of likeminded organizations and individuals — including police officers — have visited the set, offering their unique take on the need for fathers. Four current or retired New York Police Department employees visited the set in mid-May.
“The reason kids are committing these crimes is because they don’t know that they have to be responsible for their actions and they’re not taught that at home,” said Ed Pinero, an officer in east Harlem who also is president of the New York chapter of Police Officers for Christ. “It’s going to be too late then when they’re in jail. It all boils down to discipline and having a father figure in their lives.”
Pinero said young children and teens are like a “bucket of wet cement” needing to be guided and molded. “Once it hardens up, it’s going to be difficult” to change them, he said.
Donald Sanchez, a retired detective with the NYPD, said gangs serve as the family for teens and young men from broken homes.
“It gives them a sense of purpose — no matter what criminal enterprise they’re involved with, whether it’s selling drugs, stealing cars, doing robberies or burglaries, kids have a sense of ‘This is my role in this gang,'” Sanchez said. “So all those needs are being met, but they’re being met in a dysfunctional way. I’m hoping that this movie sends a message that fathers are really important.”
Craig J. Dodd, chief investigator for the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Department in Georgia, agreed.
“Generally speaking, most of the gang members we deal with, most of the criminals, do not have a good family structure,” he said. “… Very few of them have a father in the home or ever had a father in the home. And a large percentage of them, frankly, don’t know who their father is. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s just a fact of life in America today.”
Boys, Dodd said, “need a father figure in the home. They can be raised without one — and some of them are very successful without a father — but that takes a very strong mother figure or grandmother involved in it,” he said.
But the movie’s storyline doesn’t focus simply on gangs and crime — far from it. The film’s goal, Kendrick said, is to convict any father who has not been following the biblical commands for responsibility and leadership. He points to Fireproof and the climactic scene where a tearful Caleb gets on his knees and apologizes to his wife for his past actions. A lot of men, Kendrick said, left the theater thinking, “That’s what I need to go home and do with my wife. I need to ask her to forgive me.
“In this movie, we do not downplay or undermine the importance of moms,” Kendrick said. “… We want to go back to, ‘What does God’s Word say needs to be going on here? God calls men to spiritual leadership in their homes. We’re just lifting up the biblical standard. There will be some men getting very convicted when they watch this movie.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about Courageous, visit CourageousTheMovie.com.