Pureflix Announces Date for God’s Not Dead 4

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Following the success of God’s Not Dead, which was 2014’s highest grossing independent film, God’s Not Dead 2 which was the highest grossing independent religious sequel of 2016, and God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness which is the first Christian movie of the year to have seven words in the title, Christian film studio Pure Flix has announced a May 2018 return to the God’s Not Dead cinematic universe with a fourth installment of the franchise.

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Michael Scott addresses the faith-based film reporters.

According to Pure Flix founding partner Michael Scott, Pastor Dave: A God’s Not Dead Story will serve as a prequel reboot to the wildly successful faith-based film franchise, and was secretly being filmed at the same time as God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness so that it would be ready for a summer 2018 release.

“Audiences have continued to show support and interest in the GOD’S NOT DEAD films and their relatable characters.” Scott told a roomful of excited faith-based film reporters while gesturing at a small white board. “The increasingly diminishing success of these films shows that they’re hungry for more… and to us that meant PREQUEL!”

Pure Flix released the official synopsis of the new film on Easter morning at a special sunrise press conference at Pure Flix’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. The event was hosted by Scott and Pure Flix co-founder and perennial star David A.R. (pronounced “ARGH”) White. Read it below:

Journey to an Arkansas of the early 1990’s in Pastor Dave: A God’s Not Dead Story, an all-new faith-based adventure with the most beloved pastor in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within Arkansas’ dark and dangerous university underworld, Dave meets his mighty future best friend Jude and encounters the notorious atheist Jeffrey Radisson, in a journey that will set the course of one of the God’s Not Dead saga’s most unlikely heroes.

“This movie will be full of Christian pop culture references and nostalgia,” ARGH White told reporters as light from the rising sun streamed through the Pure Flix logo-emblazoned stained glass windows. “We’ve expended great resources to be able to secure the rights to a number of hit CCM acts from the 90’s, including the complete libraries of Stryper, Twila, Petra, Sandi Patti, White Heart, and Billy Sprague. All to help give the film an authentic 90’s Christian subculture vibe.”

When asked who would play the character of the much younger Pastor Dave (played by White in the movies), White simply grinned and said that it would be someone amazing. After being pressed a tiny bit more, White admitted that Pure Flix had recently invested in state-of-the-art motion capture technology that would enable him to play a young Pastor Dave himself.

“I’ve been playing this character for almost half a decade, so really, who knows him better?” White asked, slamming his hand on the desk for emphasis. “And the technology will make me look exactly like I looked when I first broke into the business back in the 1990’s.”

When asked if Kevin Sorbo and Benjamin Onyango would also be reprising their roles, White explained that he would be using the mocap technology to also play the roles of Jude and a young professor Radisson, as well as directing the film. He would also be playing most of the supporting roles.

To emphasize his point, White revealed an exclusive video clip of the upcoming film in which he played all the actors seen on screen.

While not much else is known about the film, White documented his experience making Pastor Dave: A God’s Not Dead Story on Twitter and Instagram throughout production — with everything from set photos to shots of his morning coffee. Thimblerig’s Ark has compiled all of his updates in one post, which you can view here.

Pastor Dave: A God’s Not Dead Story is set to open in 3,492 theaters on May 25, 2018.

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A Response to Kevin Sorbo and “Let There Be Light”

Today, Kevin Sorbo made the following post to his Facebook page, in anticipation of his upcoming film, “Let There Be Light” which bows this weekend.

And although it’s doubtful that Mr. Sorbo will ever see this, I’d like to respond to some of the points that he made in his attempt to put bottoms in seats during those crucial opening days.

Mr. Sorbo writes:
“Hollywood used to make wonderful morally-steeped films, but those days are gone. Today, they seem to go out of their way specifically to show people of faith in a very negative light. The villain is often the priest, the cardinal, the pastor.”

There are two arguments here. One, that Hollywood doesn’t make “morally-steeped” films any more, and two, that Hollywood goes out of their way to show people of faith in a negative light.

I disagree with both arguments.

First, Hollywood’s movies are still often steeped in morals, which is why people are able to make lists like this http://www.imdb.com/list/ls003913565/ and this https://www.thetoptens.com/most-inspirational-movies/ and this https://afineparent.com/building-character/best-family-movies.html. Yes, Hollywood produces some pictures that you might qualify as amoral, but a glance at the box office results for last year will show you that movies that are fundamentally amoral just aren’t as profitable as stories with a moral bent. And Hollywood – in general – follows where the money leads.

Which brings us to Mr. Sorbo’s second argument. In his post, Mr. Sorbo writes that “the villain is often the priest, the cardinal, the pastor”? Granted, that does happen from time to time, and when it does, it stings. But I would argue that you can also find plenty of movies where clergy are shown in a positive light (Signs, Les Miserables, Calvary, Silence, to name just a few). Conversely, you can find many more movies where non-Christians (or people of no spoken faith) are the antagonists or the unsavory characters.

This idea that Christians in general are unfairly singled out for mocking by Hollywood just doesn’t hold water, at least not in film and television. Maybe at Hollywood cocktail parties, but not so much onscreen.

ltblMr. Sorbo wrote:
“But Hollywood forgets that the majority of Americans believe, and the great success of faith-based films is proof that people yearn for stories that give them an honest spiritual environment, that make them feel at home.”

Which is it? Has Hollywood forgotten that the majority of Americans believe, or – since The Passion of the Christ – have they been going out of their way to try and service that demographic, to a varying degree of success? It seems that this “great success” of faith based films is at least partly because Hollywood has been helping the films get made and/or distributed.

Remember? The studios follow the money.

In a strange twist, this statement also seems to indicate that faith-based films often aren’t really as evangelistic as folks would have you believe, even though filmmakers and marketers often promote them as such. After all, if faith-based films are really made for the people who want to be made to feel at home (i.e, “the choir”) – how does that reach people outside the sanctuary?

This is fine, of course. Why shouldn’t Christian audiences have movies made for them, just like any other demographic? But the people selling these films need to just be honest when talking about the film’s goals.

Now, hold the phone. Am I saying that the filmmakers don’t want their films to be effective outside the Christian subculture? No, of course not. I’m sure that many filmmakers (including the Sorbos) desperately want their films to be tools to help share the Gospel with people who haven’t heard. But the nature of the beast is that faith-based films are made and marketed with the pre-saved audience in mind. Any post-saved individuals who happen to see these films and be impacted are more like some kind of evangelical collateral damage.

Mr. Sorbo says:
“If Let There Be Light is a success, more independent financiers will be greatly encouraged to follow this path and we can have a true impact on a new wave of original faith-based stories coming to the screen. Wholesome entertainment we can all enjoy!”

Sure. If “Let There Be Light” does well, it’ll mean more potential resources for other similar movies in the future. “A rising tide raises all ships”, after all.

But this comment raises a different question for me.

Which is it – wholesome entertainment or faith-based entertaiment? Why does it have to be both? As has been said ad nauseum among people who talk about Christian filmmaking, the Bible is often not very wholesome. It’s full of murder and deceit and lust and jealousy and all kinds of human mistakes. Truly authentic movie versions of most Old Testament stories would be only viewed after the kids were put to bed.

It’s time we separate these concepts, and allow faith-based films be true-to-real-life stories that aren’t necessarily constrained by the “family friendly” label. I’m not advocating gratuitous films, but films that honestly explore the human condition in order to honestly explore our spiritual condition.

Heck, even “Let There Be Light” isn’t “wholesome entertainment we can all enjoy”… it’s rated PG-13!

Mr. Sorbo writes:
Please help us to make this film a great success. Tell all your family, bring your friends, come see this film and make a statement that you stand against the tidal wave of darkness, and films that substitute intelligence with brutality, wherein dehumanizing negativity gets glorified.

See, I don’t get this. Sure, Hollywood makes brutal, dehumanizing films. They also make beautiful, life-affirming films. How will supporting “Let There Be Light” stand against the former? It’s not like the audience for “Let There Be Light” would go see the latest slasher film otherwise.

Go see the film because you want to see the film. Go see the film because you like Kevin Sorbo and want to support his work. Go see the film because you want to see more faith-based films being made. But don’t go see the movie because you think you’re taking some sort of a stand by doing so. It’s as useless as changing your profile picture to reflect your support of the victims of the latest tragedy and even more useless than writing that your “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims.

Mr. Sorbo writes:
Hollywood wants to shut out movies like “Let There Be Light,” because it does not fit their message. Help us deliver a message to them that there is another way!

This will be a short response. Hollywood doesn’t care about message, they care about box office and bottom lines. They follow the money, remember?

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/24/business/media/hollywood-movies-christian-outreach.html

Mr. Sorbo writes:
The story told in our movie touches people so profoundly because everyone at some point says goodbye to a loved one. The eternal question this film answers is: Is it a farewell forever or just a good night, I will see you in the morning?

Now see? This is the first thing written in this entire post that comes close to making me want to see this movie. This is the heart and soul of this film and should be the entire selling point of this Facebook post, not all the us vs. them, ‘Hollywood hates us and doesn’t make anything good’ jazz that came before.

Mr. Sorbo, as you’re talking about this film, give us the heart and soul of your movie as the reason to see it. Let us see your passion for the story, for the characters, for the themes you explore. Motivate us to stand in line to see your artistic vision onscreen, and stop trying to pressure us into standing in line to support some sort of culture war cause.

If you do this, maybe more of us will turn up.

After all, lots of us loved Hercules.

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Free Names for Future Faith-Based Movies

Grace Has A Prayer
Are you a faith-based film producer or writer? Please feel free to use these suggested faith-based film titles at no cost. Just mention Thimblerig’s Ark in the credits.

Grace Has A Prayer
Redemption Corner
Once Saved
Faith’s Secret Grace
Heavenly Faith
Grace Resurrected
Amazing Faith
Saving Faithfully
Grace Away
Making Heaven
A Father’s Faith
Cherishing Grace
Faith’s Redemption

Any other suggestions?

 

 

 

Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast Episode 8 • The Faith-Based Film Label Controversy

Film Label Controversy

In the eighth episode of the Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review podcast, I give my thoughts on the recent controversy that has been swirling since producer Mark Joseph discussed the need to get rid of the “faith-based” film label in an interview with Fox News. Joseph’s comments created quite a stir, and prompted a response from a few different people in the faith-based film business, most notably filmmaker Dallas Jenkins (“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone”), who disagreed with Joseph’s arguments.

Follow this link to listen to the podcast, and then let me know what you think!

The Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review podcast is a part of the More Than One Lesson family of podcasts, and you can listen to it as well as other great film podcasts by visiting More Than One Lesson.

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And just a head’s up… Thimblerig’s Ark 2: The Ark Heist will be coming out in just a couple of months. Keep your eye out for the sequel to Thimblerig’s Ark!

Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast Episode 7 • Shadowlands

Shadowlands

In the seventh episode of the Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review Podcast, I start a new series where I examine Hollywood’s attempts to tell “our” stories, or stories that are important to Christians. To that end, this week I took a look at 1993’s Oscar nominated Shadowlands, directed by Richard Attenborough (Ghandi, Elizabeth), written by William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Misérables), and starring Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs and bunches of other movies) and Debra Winger (Officer and a Gentleman, Terms of Endearment)

Shadowlands tells the mostly true story of the unlikely relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman Gresham. Lewis, as most people know, was the writer of the Narnia Chronicles, the Space Trilogy, and dozens of other books dealing with everything from writing to Renaissance literature to Christian theology.

I chose to review this film because Lewis is the unofficial patron saint of Evangelical Christianity and I wondered how his life story would be handled by people with no faith-based agenda. The film is a masterpiece of biographical filmmaking, widely considered to be Attenborough’s finest work, with high praise for the acting of both Hopkins and Winger. But even still, it’s been criticized by Lewis devotees for not being entirely factual. I look and respond to these criticisms in the podcast.

Also, I’m very interested in what the Christian audience wants from Hollywood if they are making our films, and why the Christian audience should want Hollywood to tell our stories in the first place, and so I discuss these ideas as well.

I would be curious to know what people think of this subject, and so I’d invite you to comment after you’ve taken a listen.

The Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review podcast is a part of the More Than One Lesson family of podcasts, and you can listen to it as well as other great film podcasts by visiting the More Than One Lesson website.

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Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast – Ep. 3, A Thief in the Night (1972)

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Could there be a connection between the first end-times Christploitation film and Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Is it true that A Thief in the Night might never have been made if not for the 1958 horror sci-fi classic, The Blob?

Listen to episode 3 of the Thimblerig’s Ark Film Review Podcast to find out the answers to these questions and many more regarding the Christian-made film that obsessed Marilyn Manson, and is surprisingly listed as a seminal influence on many fans of the horror genre.

To listen, just follow this link: Thimblerig’s Ark Podcast Episode 3

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone • Thimblerig’s Review

[Note from Nate: Usually, I write the reviews for this blog. But, living in China, I’m restricted to films that have been released on DVD. However, every now and then a film will come out that I feel needs a review sooner rather than later, and so I’ll put out the word to see if someone else can watch the movie and write me a review. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is one of those films, because a comedy for the Christian audience is such a rare bird, and screenwriter Andrea Gyertson Nasfell’s last big comedy, Mom’s Night Out, was one of my favorite Christian-made films of 2014 (you can read my interview with Andrea right here). And so, I’m pleased to present guest reviewer, Lynn Moody, who saw the film and was gracious enough to write a review for Thimblerig’s Ark. Thanks, Lynn!]

“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” Film Review

20161019_ResurrectionOfGavinStone--5ebac77deb63d60662d560416998ac42.jpgThose of us who have been holding our breath waiting for some really good Christian films will breathe a little sigh of relief after watching Vertical Church Film’s The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. No cheesy stuff this, just solid storytelling with great performances by Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E. L.D.) as Gavin Stone and the rest of the cast.

The only scene missing the ring of truth plays in the first few minutes as washed-up child actor Gavin Stone is told by his lawyer (Nicole Astra) and agent (Kirk B.R. Woller) that he has been sentenced to two hundred hours of community service for his most recent intoxicated antics. His must serve them in his Illinois hometown, but he has a choice of where to serve: the sanitation department or the local mega church.

The film quickly slides past that rough spot into the believable reunion of Gavin and his estranged father, played by Neil Flynn (Scrubs), from whom Gavin must beg a place to stay, and on to the mega church where Gavin begins his service hours by mopping floors. Thankfully, the church is just holding auditions for their annual Easter production, for which Gavin pretends to be a Christian so he can be cast as the lead.

Christians will recognize and laugh out loud at our own modern religious trappings and foibles, especially if one has ever been part of an Easter production. Non-Christians will enjoy the truth of Gavin’s experience as an outsider who comes to understand who Jesus really is.

gavinstone.jpgAnjelah Johnson does a fine job as the grown-up PK (pastor’s kid), Kelly, who directs the Easter play, as does D.B. Sweeney as the Pastor. But the real standouts are the ex-con played by Shawn Michaels (former WWF superstar), and his two geeky companions, John Mark, played by Tim Frank, who is still in love with Kelly even though she has rejected his advances, and Anthony, played expertly by Patrick H. Gagnon, a star-struck church actor-wannabe who starts wearing his Gavin Stone fan club t-shirt everywhere.

The real drama comes when Gavin finishes his service hours three days before opening night and receives an offer for a TV-gig back in L.A. that could revive his career.

The editing by Kenneth Marsten is perfect, as the pacing of the film carries us right along to its heart-warming conclusion. With some nice cinematography by Lyn Moncrief, this smart script by Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has been expertly executed by director Dallas Jenkins and will make you remember what modern Christianity is all about.

With the recent release of some really great movies like Hacksaw Ridge (2016), Risen (2016), Little Boy (2015), and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, I’m hoping faith films have turned a serious corner.

Guest Reviewer Lynn Moody is a screenwriter, filmmaker and theater director living and working in northern Michigan. You may follow her work at PreciousLightPictures.com.

[This review has been edited to correct a name.]

Are Christian Filmmakers Being Tapped To Direct Future Star Wars Stand-Alone Films?

A long time ago in galaxy close, close by…

The church had abandoned Hollywood. Then, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST struck box office gold, studios created FAITH-BASED DIVISIONS, and little Christian films made BUCKETS OF MONEY. Now Christian films have earned over a BILLION DOLLARS for investors and studios over the past thirteen years.

With the recent successes of Dr. Strange, directed by Christian filmmaker SCOTT DERRICKSON and Rogue One, the first Star Wars standalone film, are the forces behind Star Wars hopping on the faith-based bandwagon? Are budding Christian filmmakers being considered as the new hope for the venerable space-based franchise?

Only time will tell….

“The Erwin brothers, Harold Cronk, Kirk Cameron, they’ve all been discussed, especially for a movie about Yoda, which would involve all kinds of spiritual mumbo-jumbo,” an anonymous source told us. But this source, who met with us in a nearby Starbucks dressed in a stormtrooper costume and calling himself “TR-3R”, went on to say that the Christian filmmakers who have risen to the top are veteran brother team, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, creators of the Christian film hits Facing the Giants, Courageous, Fireproof, and 2015’s War Room.

tr3r“The big dogs at Lucasfilm like the Kendrick’s grass-roots style of filmmaking, as well as their overt handling of spiritual issues,” TR-3R said. “They think the Kendricks could take a Yoda standalone to some really interesting places, exploring the spiritual aspects of the Force, maybe telling about how Yoda became converted to the light side in the first place. Me? I imagine it happening in a golden field with lots of sunlight. The Kendricks like to do that. It’s their lens flare.”

Considering the Kendrick’s focus on family issues such as parenting and marriage, we asked the source the odds that a Kendrick-directed standalone film would also explore something of Yoda’s homelife.

“They never tell me the odds, but this is something fans have been clamoring for,” TR-3R said enthusiastically, trying unsuccessfully to sip his coffee through his stormtrooper helmet. “They’ve seen Yoda living as a crotchety old single dude, but was he a good husband? A good dad? He helped train all those force-sensitive kids, but what about his own kids? The big dogs think that the Kendricks could really explore a domestic side of Yoda that we haven’t seen before.”

The source went on to say that a successful Kendrick-directed Star Wars film would also open the door for other filmmakers of faith to step in, as the studio hopes to release a new Star Wars film every year from now until the apocalypse.

When we pressed TR-3R for more details, he grew noticeably agitated and began muttering something about seeing the new VT-16. Then, saying he had to get back to the office, TR-3R quickly slid a folded piece of paper across the table and bolted outside without another word. He jumped into a black 1976 Corvette and drove away.

Incidentally, the Corvette’s license plate read THX-1138.

Unfolding the paper, the first thing we noticed was that it was written on Lucasfilm stationary. It had been stamped multiple times with “TOP SECRET” in bright red letters, and the paper had the heading: “Potential Future Faith-Based Star Wars Projects.”

Then, the following items were listed:

forceThe Force’s Not Dead – set between Episode 3 and 4, a young Luke Skywalker attends Mos Eisley Agricultural College only to find that his moisture farming professor doesn’t believe in the Force. Luke stands up to him, determined to prove that the Force is real. The film ends with an extended Figrin D’an and the Modal Newsboys concert in the cantina while the professor gets run over and killed by a landspeeder outside. Potential director: Harold Cronk. Potential producer: David A.R. White. Release date: December 2019.

Ben Hutt – set in the time between Episodes 3 and 4, Ben Kenobi, masquerading as a Hutt prince, is falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother (a clone soldier in the Republic Clone Army). After spending years exiled in space, Ben returns to Tatooine to seek revenge, but ultimately finds redemption. Possible roles for Ewan MacGregor and Morgan Freeman. Potential producers: Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Release date: May 2020.

I’ve Got A Bad Feeling I’ve Been Left Behind – also set in the time between Episodes 3 and 4, this film would explore the chaos and mayhem resulting when the Jedi vanish in an instant, leaving behind smoking piles of clothes and lightsabers. Possible starring role for Nicolas Cage as a force-sensitive sceptic. Potential director: Paul LaLonde. Release date May 2021.

Droid’s Night Out – set in the time between Episodes 4 and 5, R2D2 decides to take C3PO out on a night on the town, leaving Luke, Han, and Chewie to take on all of the etiquette and protocol responsibilities at the rebel base. Of course, mistaken identities and disastrously hilarious mayhem results. Potential director: The Erwin Brothers. Release Date: December 2022.

Lumpawarrump’s Saving Life Day – set in the time between Episodes 5 and 6, Lumpawarrump is enjoying the annual Life Day extravaganza thrown by his sister until he realizes he needs to help out his visiting father, Chewbacca, who blames himself for Han Solo’s abduction by Boba Fett. Lumpy’s fresh look at Life Day provides Chewbacca the chance to see that the universe is bigger than his little problems, and that he needs to pull up his Wookie panties and go save his friend from the clutches of the vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt. The film ends with an extended wookie dance-off. Potential director: Kirk Cameron. Release Date: Life Day 2023, or perhaps Festivus.

star-war-roomStar War Room – set in the time between Episodes 6 and 7, Han Solo and Princess Leia’s marriage is in trouble, and it will take the efforts of the strange, wizened old Miss Maz to help Leia learn to tap into the force and save her marriage. The film ends with an extended force-enabled jump rope competition. Possible roles for Sadie Robertson as a young Leia and Alden Ehrenreich to continue playing young Han. Potential director: The Kendrick Brothers (if the Yoda movie is a success). Release Date: December 2024.

 

Pitch for the Christian Version of “Stranger Things”

 

The Christian media response to secular rap music was DC Talk.

The Christian media response to secular horror novels was Frank Perretti.

The Christian media response to YouTube was GodTube.

It was only a matter of time before there was a Christian media response to the summer hit, Stranger Things.

Gospileaks, the Christian media version of Wikileaks, has released this secret memo that was just sent to Moses Wesley, the CEO of the Koinonia Faith and Family Media Entertainment Group. Apparently, Peculiarer People (the Christian version of Stranger Things) has been greenlit and currently in preproduction.

Read the details below.

Title:

PECULIARER PEOPLE

Premise:

A one-hour thriller/drama concerned with life in the small town of Moriah, New York and the unusual things that happen there.

Logline:

When a young boy disappears, his widowed mother, a pastor, and his homeschool friends must confront frightening spiritual forces in order to get him back.

Synopsis:

Chapter 1: The Rapturing of Mark Falwell

1984, the Moody family basement. Four homeschooled boys are sitting in the basement, listening to Petra’s “More Power To Ya” [note: there are so many opportunities to take advantage of nostalgia for early 1980’s paraphernalia with this show idea – need to schedule a meeting with Lifeway and Family Christian bookstores to figure out how to cross-promote], while playing DragonRaid. [note: A Christian role-playing game that was popular in the 1980’s. They’ll be happy to bring it back, I’m sure]

The boys, all about age 10, are MATTHEW MOODY, MARK FALWELL, LUKE WHITEFIELD, and JOHN MCGEE. They are typical 10-year-old homeschooled children: respectful to parents, polite to each other, bright but not proud. In the game, they are using Scripture memorization in adventure campaigns, and in this scene, they are encountering the wicked dragon Abaddon, which they are fighting by quoting Scripture passages.

Their game is interrupted by Matt’s mother calling him to dinner. The boys are disappointed, but immediately obey the mother and pack up the game, putting everything away nicely. The boys go to leave, and in the process, we meet Matt’s sweet and friendly sister, HOPE, who – sitting on her bed cross-stitching, waves to them as they pass her room. The boys thank Mrs. Moody for her hospitality and then get on their bikes to ride home. [note: lots of good opportunities to model appropriate behavior and healthy family life here. Cross-promotion with Focus on the Family?]

echo-bikesThe boys are laughing joyfully and singing songs together as they ride home. First, Luke peels away as he reaches home, then John, until Mark is riding by himself in the darkness. The lights on his bike start to flicker, and then suddenly a menacing, dark figure stands on the road in front of him. Shocked, Mark crashes his bike in the forest and takes off for home on foot. When Mark arrives home, he opens the door to find the house empty. He locks the door, and then glances at a note on the refrigerator to see that his mother and older brother are at a Bible study.

He’s home alone.

Mark picks up the phone as is about to call the Bible study when the barking dog draws his attention back to the door. The shadowy figure can be seen through the fogged glass window, and it uses some sort of diabolical supernatural dark magic to open the lock from the outside. [note: will have to figure out how to film this so it’s not too scary for our family audience] This sends Mark scurrying out the back door and into a little shed. He looks around desperately for anything to help him. The only things are an old dusty Bible and an old Psalty toy. He grabs them both and then falls to his knees and begins to pray. The lights start to flicker in the shed, and then with one final flicker off and then back on, the shed is empty.

Mark is gone.

[Cue Title Card]

peculiarer-people

 

The next morning, the scene opens with our first view of PASTOR ZECHARIAH TAYLOR. He’s brushing his teeth, looking at himself in the mirror, humming “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” To establish that he is the pastor, he should be shown putting on a pastor’s collar.

Next, we are back in the Falwell house, where we meet Mark’s mother, ELISABETH FALWELL, who is talking to her son, AARON FALWELL. Turns out that when they’d returned home from Bible Study, they’d both assumed the other had checked on Mark. And now, he’s not in his room. Considering that Mark never disobeys, Elisabeth calls Mrs. Moody to see if Mark had been invited for a sleepover.

article-2120538-12578041000005DC-949_634x422The Moody’s are having a nice breakfast together [none of that frustrating Spielbergian dysfunctional family going on here – the children are listening and respecting the parents, the mother is preparing a lovely breakfast, the father is leading the children in morning devotionals] and Mrs. Moody tells Elisabeth that Mark had left promptly at 6:30 as had been agreed. Elisabeth’s concern grows. She prays.

The next scene shows the homeschool boys arriving at the public library to study together. As they lock their bikes, they are approached by two young bullies, LOT and JUDAS, who start to make fun of the boys’ faith – as evidenced by their “The Lord’s Gym” t-shirts [note: check and see what sort of Christian t-shirts were sold in the mid-1980’s. We want to be accurate here]. The boys – struggling with meekness and confidence issues – are too timid to stand up for themselves, and so they let the boys bully them. Having won, the bullies finally leave.

Cut to the public school, where we find Hope (who, being older, has started attending a public school part time) walking down the school hall with her accountability partner, DORCAS. Hope is confessing to Dorcas that a boy named Ace Temptor has been talking to her, and had even asked her on a date to help her study for her Christian history test. Dorcas is righteously angry, since Ace is a well-known womanizer who doesn’t attend church, and she and Hope had taken an abstinence pledge together. Hope is defensive and denies that anything bad will happen. Dorcas knows better, but Hope has changed since starting public school. As Hope walks away, Dorcas prays for her.

TheApostleNow we see the steeple for Mt. Moriah Community Church, where Pastor Taylor is the minister. As he enters his office, his secretary hands him a cup of coffee and tells him that Elisabeth Falwell is waiting for him in his office. Pastor Taylor goes to her (leaving the door to the office open, of course) and listens to her story. Elisabeth is concerned that Mark is gone, and Pastor Taylor suggests that perhaps he is at the Christian bookstore reading or listening to the latest CCM cassettes. Elisabeth wonders if Mark could have been raptured, but since no clothes were left behind, the pastor says he doubts it. They pray together.

We go to The National Institute for Atheist Science Research, where the atheist scientists are putting on protective suits and descending down some dark stairs. The leader of the atheist scientists is STEPHEN DAWKINS, a serious and humorless man, and right now he is especially upset. There is no prayer here, only hard and cold science. The scientists enter into the darkness of a big room and find their worst nightmare, a giant squishy gross demonic-looking substance. [note: we’ll definitely need some money for SFX]

Drew-Barrymore-in-Firesta-010This brings us to the introduction of another very important character, a mysterious girl who doesn’t talk. She is walking through the woods getting hungry [note: symbolizing spiritual hunger? I’ll talk to my nephew] when she comes upon “Ten Boom’s General Store and Bible Wholesaler”. When she goes into the store, she is tempted to steal some food, but upon seeing a Bible, changes her mind and approaches the sweet old lady working the cash register. The old lady, FANNY TEN BOOM, has pity on her and gives her some food.

Back in the library, the boys are interrupted in their diligent study by the friendly librarian, MR. LOGOS. Mr. Logos invites the boys to come back to his office, where he shows them his new ham radio, and they discuss how they can use it to encourage missionaries all over the world. But their excitement is interrupted by the arrival of Pastor Taylor, who says he needs to talk to the boys. The pastor takes them to the librarian’s office, where he asks them questions about Mark’s disappearance. He recommends that it would be better if they didn’t go looking for their missing friend, which puts the boys in a quandary as they balance their respect for authority and their desire to find Mark.

Ten Boom blesses the food the mysterious girl has in front of her, and then as the mysterious girl eats, the old woman tries to get her to talk. She asks the girl’s name, but the girl can’t answer. The old woman notices that the girl has a tattoo of a dove on her arm, and the mysterious girl indicates her that the tattoo is her name. Ten Boom calls a local Christian homeless shelter and tells them about the girl named DOVE.

In a strange dark room full of atheist scientists, they are listening to phone calls over sophisticated scientific equipment. They listen to the old woman’s call and then dial 666 on their inter-office phone. Dawkins picks up the phone, and he smiles wickedly. They’ve found the girl!

1235168795Pastor Taylor comes to Elisabeth’s house and starts to look around, trying to figure out what might have happened to Mark. She shows him the shed where Mark disappeared and finds – under some straw, and under a shaft of light – a small Psalty toy. The lights flicker and the camera shows Pastor Taylor sensing something in his spirit. “I need the church’s help on this one,” he tells Elisabeth, rushing out heroically to make some phone calls.

In the Moody home, the family is eating dinner. The father says that after dinner he will be joining the church search party to help look for Mark, and Matt continues to be bothered by not being able to help. They have a conversation about authority and respect. Hope, meanwhile, is struggling because she likes Ace, but she knows he’s also such a bad influence. She asks a question which leads her father to tell the story of his coming to Christ, a transformative experience that changed him from a hopeless sinner to a responsible family man. Hope makes the decision at that point that she will try to share her faith with Ace, no matter what – that she will save him. And simultaneously Matt makes the decision to help find Mark, no matter what. [note: they are both acts of defiance that will have consequences later on – bad choices that will earn good lessons]

After dinner in his bedroom, Matt uses his walkie-talkies to contact Luke and John. They decide to meet and look for Mark, even though it is disobeying their parents. Over the walkie-talkie, Matt prays for forgiveness, even while feeling that God will understand. Matt takes off on his bike, but as he’s leaving, he sees Ace climbing the frame of the house into Hope’s room. This is bad, but Matt doesn’t have time to counsel his sister. He rides off into the increasing gloom to find his friend.

hqdefaultUp in Hope’s room, she is working on her Christian history homework when there is a tap on the window. She’s shocked (but secretly happy) to see Ace outside, and she lets him in, where he promises to help her study her Christian history homework. It’s a perfect opportunity for Christian witness, she thinks. She doesn’t realize that Ace has other plans. Inappropriate plans. [note: a good lesson about opening the window of your heart to let Satan into your house]

Back at Fanny Ten Boom’s store, there is a knock on the front door. Ten Boom opens the door to find a representative from the Christian homeless shelter, who smiles and asks about the mysterious girl named Dove. But it’s not really a representative from the Christian homeless shelter – it is an evil atheist scientist looking for the mysterious girl. The evil scientist knocks the old woman on the head and she slumps to the ground. The mysterious girl goes running, but is cornered by two more evil scientists. She focuses her energies on them [note: good time for more SFX – “Stranger Things” goes too subtle on this part, we need to have a glorious light shining from above, perhaps the sound of angel voices?] – cries out “No weapon formed against me shall prosper! ISAIAH 54:17!!!” and the two evil scientists fall to the ground, unconscious. Dove runs out into the forest. Dawkins steps out of the general store, looking into the woods, scowling evilly.

Meanwhile, the boys have reached the spot where Mark disappeared, and they start looking for him, while the rain begins to fall.

999git_winona_ryder_059Back at the Falwell house, the phone rings, and Elisabeth picks it up. There are strange sounds, like devils playing ping pong, and there’s also breathing. Suddenly, very weak and quiet, we hear a child’s voice feebly singing the chorus to Petra’s More Power To Ya, followed by a loud screech, an electric shock, and the phone falls to the ground. Elisabeth cries to Aaron that it was Mark, that she knows her son’s voice, and Mark always loved Petra.

Back in the forest, the rain has started pouring. The boys are yelling, shining flashlights, looking for Mark. They are encouraging each other, building each other in the faith, quoting Scripture, even as they look. Suddenly, they hear the crunching sounds of someone coming through the underbrush, they turn their flashlights, and shine their lights into the face of Dove, whose face seems to be glowing from some inward radiance, even as she is soaked in the pouring rain.

FADE OUT

 

 

 

 

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Thimblerig’s Interview • Phil Cooke, Producer of The Insanity of God and Hillsong: Let Hope Rise

14978955I recently sat down and started to read the bestselling book, The Insanity of God, and found that while it was easy to pick up, it was nearly impossible to put down. The book is part life-story of Nik Ripken (not his real name) and his family, telling how they wound up as missionaries/relief workers in Somalia during the 1990’s, when the civil war was raging. It goes on to explore how watching the tiny Christian population try to survive in the middle of unimaginable difficulties changed him, and after leaving Africa, the calling he had on his life to try and learn more about the struggles of the persecuted church in the world – a calling that led him to many different “closed” countries – where he interviewed dozens of Christians for whom persecution was a part of daily life.

The book deals with real persecution, not the “Starbucks red coffee cup” kind of persecution most of us know in the west. Needless to say, the book is a challenging read, and is important to read so that we can better understand what our brothers and sisters are experiencing in other countries.

I was thrilled when I read that Lifeway Films, in partnership with the International Mission Board, was making a documentary based on the book. Real-life stories like this are much more inspiring and challenging then the fiction accounts of American persecution that we’ve seen in theaters over the past several years, and this is one of the first major films of its kind, a documentary exploring the trials of Christians around the world.

A bit of research led me to some more thrilling news when I found out that Phil Cooke was attached to the project as an executive producer. I’ve followed Phil for many years, and have long enjoyed his perspective on faith and the arts. I wasted no time contacting Phil to see if he’d be willing to answer a few questions about the film, and he was gracious enough to take the time to do so.

THIMBLERIG’S INTERVIEW WITH PHIL COOKE

Why don’t we start with a little bit about you, Phil. Who are you, where did you come from, what do you do now, and how have you gotten to do it?

2015132Cooke-1167edit I’m a pastor’s kid from Charlotte, NC who never had a call to preach myself.  However, as a teenager, I loved to make films.  My friends and I took my dad’s Super-8 movie camera and produced war movies, mafia movies, space movies – all kinds of terrible films.  I went to college as a music major (remember, I was a preacher’s kid), but a student in my dorm saw my film reels and invited me to the film department to learn to edit.  A professor was there who asked if he could show one of my films in his class.  When the film ended, it started a discussion, and the thought occurred to me that if I can do something with a camera that makes people talk like this – then that’s what I’m supposed to do with my life.  I’ve never looked back, and today I’m the founder of Cooke Pictures, a media production and consulting company in Los Angeles.

Who have been some of your biggest spiritual or theological influences?

My father was a huge influence on me.  He was a great student, had multiple graduate degrees, and taught me the value of reading.  My first job out of college was an assistant film editor on Francis Schaffer’s famous film series “How Should We Then Live?”  So I became a huge fan of this thinking.  Then I worked with Oral Roberts at the peak of his media ministry.  But probably the most influential influence has been our long time pastor in Los Angeles, Jack Hayford.  In my book, he could be the Protestant Pope.

How about your biggest creative influences?

As long as I remember I’ve gravitated toward creativity.  As a kid, I was always the guy who wrote the sketches for “skit night” at camp.  As far as influences, I take in everything.  I study advertising, I’m a museum hound, a movie buff, and a hardcore reader.

What are your three “desert island” films?

That’s a tough one, because I don’t think of films in that way.  But three I couldn’t live without would probably be The Godfather, The Seventh Seal, and Citizen Kane.  I’m also a big fan of campy science fiction films from the 50’s and 60’s.

Speaking of films, you’ve produced two that are coming out in the next couple of months, with The Insanity of God playing in theaters on August 30 and Hillsong: Let Hope Rise releasing on September 16. Starting with The Insanity of God, what can you tell us about this film?

4817_the-insanity-of-god-poster_AC09Nik Ripken was a long time missionary in Somalia, but when his son died in the field, he began to question what it was all about.  Traveling to the most desperate places on the earth, Nik began to see things he’d never realized before – especially the levels of Christian persecution that are out there.  Another producer, Craig Martin brought the book to my attention, and we felt it was a story that needed to be told.

Reading The Insanity of God, a book which so clearly portrays the suffering of the persecuted church, had a profound effect on me. If you are willing, can you talk about the impact producing this film has had on you?

During the filming, I had a number of moments where I saw just how unserious I have been about the gospel.  In America, we launch a boycott when we can’t say a prayer at the beginning of a high school football game.  But overseas, people are being raped, beaten, tortured, and beheaded everyday for their faith.  Their commitment is so far beyond anything I’ve ever had to give.

Considering all of the talk we hear in America about the loss of religious freedoms, what would you say a film like The Insanity of God has to say the American church?

First – we need to do more to help.  These are our brothers and sisters, and we can’t sit idly by and continue watching.  Second – although right now it’s nothing like what’s happening overseas, believe it, it’s coming our way.  There’s no question in my mind that we’re seeing Christianity being more and more marginalized in our culture, and I don’t think it will be long before it gets very serious.  I’m reminded of the recent quote by Catholic Cardinal Francis George:  “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

Turning to your other film, Hillsong: Let Hope Rise is a much different film, and has been billed as a “theatrical worship experience.” Can you unpack that idea a bit?

hillsong_let_hope_rise_xlgI’ve been a long time friend of Pastor Brian Houston and his leadership team at Hillsong Church and had the opportunity to teach the entire church staff in Sydney a few years ago.  Their worship band, Hillsong United has sold out the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, and Red Rocks, and is one of the most popular bands in the world.  In our research for the movie, we discovered that 50 million people sing Hillsong music every Sunday!  So producer Jon Bock first developed the concept, and I helped raise the money, and we started working.  Essentially, the movie is a behind the scenes look at their most recent world tour.

What were some of the challenges and joys of making a feature-length film about a worship band, albeit a very successful worship band?

Money.  It’s always money!  Feature films simply cost a great deal to produce, market, and distribute that it’s critical that you have an idea that audiences will be interested in, and we believe we have that in Hillsong, which has become a global brand.

Turning from the specific to the general, what are your thoughts on the state of the faith-based film industry and where do you see it heading in the future?

IMG_0873I’ve been involved in both Christian and secular media for a long time, and I’m very gratified to see that Christians are finally understanding the importance of telling a story well.  In the past, most Christian producers got so wrapped up in the message, they often put that message inside a very unappealing package.  But today we live in the most distracted culture in history, and the competition is simply too great.  How we tell the story is just as important as the story we tell.

Do you have any advice for Christians looking to get involved in the entertainment industry – faith-based or otherwise?

Yes – be the best at whatever you do.  In Hollywood, nobody cares if you’re a Christian or if God called you to make a movie.  But if you’re a great actor, director, writer, or whatever – that will get their attention.  Once they respect your talent, they’re more likely to be interested in what you believe.

Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can share with us? What’s on the burner?

Phil at CBSOur company – Cooke Pictures – is largely a client driven media production and consulting company, so we’re always involved in amazing projects.  Just a few of our current clients include The Salvation Army, the YouVersion Bible App, and The Museum of the Bible (opening in Washington, DC in 2017).  Beyond that, we’re talking to a number of major secular networks about television projects.  Honestly, my great passion is feature documentaries.  I wish more Christians understood that with a limited budget, a fascinating documentary can be far more influential than a badly produced drama.

Finally, where are the best places people can go to keep up-to-date about your activities (Twitter, Facebook, etc)?

My blog is at philcooke.com, I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @philcooke, and I’m on Facebook as well.

To find a theater near you that will be showing The Insanity of God, take a look here.

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise will have a wide release on September 16.