In the past 10 years, a new genre of movies has taken flight in Hollywood and beyond: Christian movies. Two Christian filmmakers/actors had a large impact on the recent increase of these movies. Alex and Stephen Kendrick have paved the way for a new era of the Christian movie industry, providing a basis for many christian movies in the future and proving the Christian movie industry to be successful.
Alex and Stephen were born in Athens, Georgia . They grew up making “stop-and-go” videos. They put these videos together and showed them to their friends in a makeshift theater. Later on they put together commercials, movie trailers, and other things like that. Eventually Alex got a job as a DJ for a radio station and started making videos for camps. The pastor at a local church, Sherwood Baptist Church, saw their work and hired them as “media ministers”. During a time in Orlando the pastor at the church, Michael Catt, asked Alex where he wanted to be in five to ten years. Alex said, “I want to make movies, but no church is going to let me stay on staff and do that.” The pastor replied, “Why not? Bring me a script and a budget, and let’s see if God is in it.”
The movie that sprung from that conversation was “Flywheel”, a $20,000 budget film funded by the church. The movie was about a dishonest car salesman The movie was picked up by blockbuster and has so far sold over 700,000 copies. Their next movie, also directed by Alex Kendrick and produced by Stephen, was called “Facing the Giants”. The movie was about faith and football. It was made for only $100,000 and sold over 2.3 million copies, gaining a $10 million in gross sales. For all of the movies the brothers made at this point they had used only volunteer actors. This cut the cost a lot, and at the same time it started off the careers of many actors. By their third movie, the Kendrick brothers and their church raised the budget to $500,000 (still extremely low). In addition to using volunteers, they also used Kirk Cameron. They let him play the lead role because he really believed in the things the Kendrick brothers were doing. This time they wanted to make the movie about marriage, so they made “Fireproof” about a marriage falling apart and gave a healthy marriage the “fireproof” quality. With a ‘less than a million’ budget, “Fireproof” made almost $7 million on the opening weekend and grossed over $33 million. This was what all filmmakers dreamed of: a low budget and big gross sales. The brothers made over $140 million total on all their films to date and spent under $7 million.With Alex Kendrick’s next film, “Courageous”, they made $34 million with a budget of $2 million. Alex wanted this movie to be about fatherhood. It followed a group of police officers who make a resolution to be good fathers while dealing with their jobs at the same time. The movie soon became the winner of many awards. It became the first winner of the K-Love movie impact award. It also became the first dove award winner for movie of the year. “Courageous” became the grand prize winner in the MovieGuide awards, and, according to Global Village Inc., Alex (who acted in most of his movies) acquired the Grace Award for most inspiring performance in movies (2012). The latest film made by the Kendrick brothers is called “War Room”. It was their next movie after “Courageous”. This time the movie was about prayer. The brothers want to inspire, motivate, and challenge audiences to “fight the right kind of battles”. “War Room” was released in August of 2015, and made over $67 million at the box office on the still-slim budget of $3 million! It was the first movie done separately from Sherwood Baptist Church. Alex and Stephen now have their own production company: Kendrick Brothers.
Though Alex and Stephen Kendrick hit upon success, their motives never changed. The brothers want to touch people’s lives, not just make money. “If we make money, great. If we don’t, but we change people’s lives, it’s a success”, said Stephen Kendrick. They strive to seek God in everything; to not get ahead or behind. It’s God they’re making the movies for. The brothers go through a session of prayer between each movie to seek God and ask him what to do next. Alex said that his job is very fulfilling; “To do something with a group of people using their gifts and abilities… there’s something very fulfilling about that”.
The brothers have made a deep impact on the lives of others. They really want to inspire their viewers . Each of their movies explored a different subject of a Christian life. Their first movie, Flywheel, was about personal integrity. Then came Facing the Giants, with faith. Fireproof was marriage, and finally they came up with Courageous, on fatherhood and parenting. Another way they’ve made in impact is in the lives of up-and-coming Christians pursuing careers in film-making. Stephen Kendrick said,
We believe every generation needs to be investing in the next generation. It’s exciting to now be able to pour into those who are called to make Christian movies long-term. God has commanded us to disciple those coming after us. We must help them learn God’s Word through the lens of our experiences and mistakes. Then they can stand on our generation’s shoulders one day and bring even greater glory to God with what they produce.
For example there was a family/adventure film released on April 6, 2015 called “Beyond the Mask”. It was a movie set around the time frame of the American Revolution. Stephen Kendrick helped the creators, a homeschooling family, write the script and both brothers gave advice for directing the movie. They saw potential in the new movie, and recognized how it was opening a new genre of adventure/family Christian movies. Another example would be the 2013 movie “The Lost Medallion”, targeted towards a younger audience. The director thought the script lacked a faith element, so he let Alex draft a script for a part he proposed as a solution. Alex ended up playing a role in the movie and in addition helped to edit it. Alex and Stephen have also inspired many people to get involved in the film-making industry or to pursue greater goals. Jon Erwin directed second unit on the movie “Courageous”. When Alex asked, “What’s your purpose?”, Jon didn’t know how to answer. Until then his purpose was to make money. Alex’s words convicted Jon that him and his brother needed to use their gifts for God in a “greater capacity”. The Erwin brothers went on to create the hit movie “October Baby” with a powerful pro-life message in a unique and compelling way. Since then they have created a few more successful films like their 2014 film “Mom’s Night Out”, and their football drama “Woodlawn”. George D. Escobar, known for the 2013 film “Alone, Yet Not Alone”, was also influenced greatly by the Kendrick brothers. Alex said to him, “George, with all the gifts that the Lord has given you, what are you doing about it?” That made a large impact in his life. He now runs a workshop training people to make Christian movies. Ten of his students have become full time filmmakers. Also, the Kendrick Brothers aided young up-and-coming filmmakers by inviting them to work with alongside them in their new movies. They invited 18 film interns to be a part of their latest film to give them experience and help them pursue their dreams in that area.
Besides touching people’s lives, the Kendricks have made some major contributions to their hometown. With the money they earn on the movies they did things like fund and 80 acre park in Georgia and support missionaries and clinics. Also, they’ve already opened three churches with the earnings from their films.
The Kendrick brothers also have made an impact on the mainstream movie-making industry. In the Christian film-making arena Christians have been motivated and inspired to create more films with powerful messages. Many have also adopted his marketing strategy. Even in the on the secular side, filmmakers, studios, and distributors now see Christian films as a potential moneymaker. The year of 2014 was unofficially named the “Year of the Bible” because of all of the biblical epics released that year, including “Noah”, “Son of God”, and “Exodus; Gods and Kings”. Even now, in 2017, there is news of future large-scale Christian movie ventures, including a movie on the biblical Methuselah, and the Pure Flix drama entitled ‘The Case for Christ’. Hollywood is taking notice. The Kendrick brothers have helped to kick-start the Christian movie industry and have become pioneers in Christian film-making, beginning the new era of Christian movies.
The Kendrick brothers made a huge impact on the Christian film industry and Christian film outreach. They have paved the way for many more quality Christian movies to be made. They have revolutionized the marketing strategy for their genre. They have inspired viewers around the world through their acting and directing. Ultimately, Alex and Stephen Kendrick have ushered in the new era of God-glorifying Christian films that continues to flourish before our eyes.