“Courageous,” the much-awaited follow-up to the highly successful Sherwood Pictures’ produced film “Fireproof,” is set to premiere on September 30, 2011. The film, produced by Stephen Kendrick, tells the story of five fathers who discover the true meaning of fatherhood as they go through life’s most difficult challenges. Starring and directed by Alex Kendrick, “Courageous” is distributed by TriStar Pictures and marketed by Provident Films and AFFIRM Films.
joltleft.com’s Cheryl Wicker talks to Stephen Kendrick to learn more about the valuable lessons the movie offers and Kendrick’s deep faith and dedication in pushing Christian films out into the mainstream.
Cheryl Wicker: Could you give a quick summary of the movie, ‘Courageous’?
Stephen Kendrick: ‘Courageous’ follows the lives of five different fathers and their families, and their discoveries about what fatherhood is about. As they interact with the gangs in the local community, they realize that most of the kids that get involved in gangs don’t have their dads involved in their lives at all. Then, through a personal tragedy, one of the fathers comes to realize how important his role as a father is. So he begins to work with the other men in trying to figure out how to be a great dad. There’s more action in this movie than anything we’ve done before. You’re going to laugh, cry and be challenged.
Wicker: Why did you choose a story about fatherhood?
Kendrick: We spent about a year praying [about this]. We had a lot of storyline ideas ourselves [and] other people were sending us their story ideas. But after about a year praying, there was just this clear direction. The leadership team believed that God was leading us to focus on fatherhood. If God is leading, then God will provide. So we begin to get storyline ideas that lined up with the subject of fatherhood that we’re working on and fitting, and we were thinking, okay this is good. At the same time, as we are studying scriptures and we’re on our journey as fathers, we are learning about fatherhood every day.
Wicker: How did your being a father yourself impacted on the film and how you envisioned it to be?
Kendrick: I have four children. My brother Alex has six children and so those things are constantly on our minds. Plus, our own father has had a big impact in our lives and we are very grateful for that. We look around and see how many people have grown up without their dads involved in their lives or involved in a healthy way, and as a result, you see it impact every area of their lives because of the woundedness, the hurt, or the ignorance, and you know it’s related to that.
Wicker: How come Alex is the actor and you’re not? I mean, you seem to be a bit theatrical yourself.
Kendrick: Yes, I can be. Alex has a gift in that area. I haven’t really pursued that very much. I haven’t seen a role that I feel like that’s me, or I need to be that strongly. I do a little bit behind the scenes, like I was the Marine in the training scene in ‘Fireproof’ where I just walk up and stand there. But I have not been impressed with my own acting and so…
Wicker: Maybe it’s the stage acting…
Kendrick: Yeah, I’m not trying to force something but I do enjoy working behind the scenes and I do enjoy bringing all of the ingredients to the kitchen so that we can make the movie. Well, we’ll see what happens.
Wicker: You speak a lot about excellence. What does excellence mean to you as a Christian filmmaker?
Kendrick: Excellence means representing the reputation of Christ well. It means doing all things as best as you can and for us, it’s because it’s as unto the Lord. If I am just doing it for my glory and myself, it’s a pretty small goal, but if I’m doing something as an offering unto the Lord, I want to give God my best. That affects all the major decisions we are making. It affects the quality of the cinematography or the acting. It affects the quality of the storyline itself and the morals or the message that’s being communicated.
Wicker: What does excellence mean to you when it comes to your new project ‘Courageous’? How are you taking this movie to another level? What will we see differently?
Kendrick: Well, excellence is a moving standard and with every one of our movies, we’ve tried to look at how we can improve every area and so we’ve gone to another level with cinematography. We went from the Panasonic Vericam 1080P camera to a RED 4K camera, which is almost four times the resolution in quality. We went from just a few locations to more visually rich locations, and we’ve lifted the standards in our acting. In each key area, we’re trying to grow, improve, and learn and apply the lessons from the previous movies.
Wicker: I know a lot of people are anxious to see the movie.
Kendrick: Well, they can go to Courageousthemovie.com and they can watch clips. We’ve got about 70 videos on there of the entire production of us making the movie. We have a five-minute overview of “The Heart of Courageous.” We will begin screening across the nation for pastors and ministry leaders, and we will probably do 350 to 400 of those. But we want to show it to the ministry and spiritual leaders across the nation first so they can know with clear conscience they can endorse it and feel good about the message of the movie and the content.
Wicker: I understand that you are going to have books and curriculum that go along with ‘Courageous’. Are you doing the writing on that?
Kendrick: Yes, we met in Nashville and Lifeway and they’re producing a curriculum that churches will be able to use and they’re actually going to produce two different curricula. One will be sold through their organization and another will be sold everywhere else. We also crafted out the outline of all these curricula and the content for that. Alex and I are writing a book called “The Resolution for Men” and this will be released and will be all around the nation. it will be the next step for when men walk out of the theater wanting to make a commitment to being strong leaders.
Wicker: We can hope that will be as successful as your earlier book, ‘Love Dare’. I understand it made a major milestone.
Kendrick: Yes. It was on the New York Times Bestsellers List for a hundred weeks or so.
Wicker: I know that you all put on some Christian filmmakers boot camps before. Are you planning on doing anything like that again in the future?
Kendrick: We do them for the crew that’s making our movie. We train the people we bring in the week before we go into shooting and we will continue to do that. But we have been talking now about what we can do because we get a lot of people calling us saying, “Help me. You know, I just need four hours of your time…” We get that all the time and they’re constantly calling us saying they want to make movies and can we come down [to help]. So we thought it would be a blessing to them and to us if we group it all together and do, say, a weekend or so. We haven’t scheduled a date or name or anything but we know that’s probably coming.
Wicker: I know you’re very good at mentoring other filmmakers. What encouragement would you give to a young filmmaker who’s trying to get into making films for Christians?
Kendrick: Fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and if they will fear God it will help them make better decisions in everything they do. Secondly, get in God’s word every day. God’s word equips us for everything we do. Our understanding of Scripture impacts our writing, our directing, our producing, our editing in the way we promote the messages of the movie. It literally constantly affects the decisions that we make and helps us in a positive way. And then, start small. You start with a two- or five-minute short and work your way up. Don’t try to tackle a two-hour feature movie as your first project. Cut your teeth on a smaller level and work through the kinks at that level and build your strength as you go. That’s what we have to do and the people I see try to jump too far, try to take own too much too soon. They haven’t learned the hard lessons of leadership and filmmaking on a smaller level and it comes back to get them later on.