Baptist church’s film gets national distribution

  • By Elliott Minor / Associated Press
  • Thursday, September 28, 2006 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

A movie made by Baptist pastors using their congregation as cast and crew is a long shot for the Hollywood treatment.

But “Facing the Giants,” an inspirational film about a chronically losing high school football team, is opening nationwide today.

Members of Albany, Ga.’s Sherwood Baptist Church donated the money for the $100,000 film.

“We are thrilled. It was more than we ever imagined,” said the Rev. Alex Kendrick, an associate pastor at Sherwood.

Sherwood’s pastors believe television and films have a greater influence than sermons, so they got into the movie business in 2003 with “Flywheel,” about an unscrupulous used-car salesman who turns his life around after finding God. It was shown at local theaters and distributed on DVD.

“Every church has to find out what they’re supposed to do,” said the Rev. Michael Catt, the senior pastor. “For us, it was making movies.”

For “Facing the Giants,” Kendrick and his brother, the Rev. Stephen Kendrick, also an associate pastor, wrote the script and helped produce it with the help of 500 church volunteers and a handful of technical behind-the-scenes professionals.

Alex Kendrick plays the lead role of Grant Taylor, coach of the fictional Shiloh Christian Academy football team. He and his wife face the usual everyday problems, as well as infertility concerns that strain their relationship. In addition, the coach learns that some parents are calling for his ouster.

Taylor prays for answers that ultimately ease his family problems and change his coaching philosophy. He turns the team around by telling players they need to believe in God as well as themselves.

The church spent about nine months producing “Facing the Giants,” including three months of filming at local high schools and pecan orchards. All the actors and extras were volunteers.

The movie was “discovered” after the church contacted Nashville, Tenn.-based Provident Films, which had focused on Christian music distribution, for permission to use some of its songs. Provident, which merged with Sony last year, wanted to see the movie.

“We thought it was a tear-jerker and we worked with Provident to get the rights,” said Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which will handle DVD distribution.

The film’s supporters complained when the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating board gave it a PG rating, usually a warning of profanity, violence or nudity. Believing the rating might have been based on the movie’s strong religious message, conservative talk-show hosts, lawmakers and religious groups saw the decision as evidence of an anti-Christian bias in Hollywood.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., sent a letter to the MPAA demanding an explanation. The board doesn’t usually explain its ratings decisions, but after being bombarded with more than 15,000 e-mails, a spokeswoman said the rating was based solely on the film’s mature subject matter – football violence, depression issues and infertility – and had nothing to do with its religious content.

The Rev. Alex Kendrick stars in “Facing the Giants.”

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