A Unique Vision
Michael Catt, the Senior Pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church, has a vision. He believes his church can "reach the world from Albany, Georgia." For that to happen, you need to be creative. Fortunately, the church's pastoral staff includes a pair of brothers with a lifelong dream to make movies.
The result? Sherwood Pictures, the church's decidedly unique filmmaking ministry.
Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick, associate pastors at Sherwood, along with their brother Shannon, grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna. Their neighbor had a Super 8 film camera. "We played with that camera for two or three years until camcorders came out," Alex said. "We created our own entertainment."
Through trial and error, the brothers learned visual angles, editing, and eventually began making their own short movies. Later, as a communications major at Kennesaw State University, Alex talked some of his professors into letting him substitute videos for term papers. After college, Alex and Stephen still were making movies as they moved into ministry roles. Alex shot short films with college students; Stephen shot camp videos with his junior high youth group. Their productions premiered at their church on makeshift screens of paper tablecloths.
In 2002, Alex read an article citing a study by George Barna that said the most effective communication to this generation is movies. As the media minister at Sherwood, Alex proposed making a family-friendly movie that could be filmed affordably in Albany. "A huge segment of people love movies but leave theaters disappointed in the profanity, immorality, and messages that trample their family's values and faith," Stephen said. Pastor Catt agreed and the church created Sherwood Pictures.
Their first movie was FLYWHEEL, which was filmed on a $20,000 budget that came from private contributions. Using an all-volunteer cast of actors, the movie utilized local homes and businesses as sets. The wardrobe department amounted to each actor's own closet.
Yet FLYWHEEL took off. By then, Alex Kendrick had narrowed the potential plots for a second movie to what he felt was a can't-miss mix of high school football and faith. He and Stephen began to write FACING THE GIANTS back to front, a la Alex's writing style of starting with the final scene. To fold in a woman's perspective on impossible hurdles, the brothers included the issue of infertility.
All-Volunteer Movie Cast
Because so few of the cast members had time to be a volunteer movie lead, Alex Kendrick plays the role of Grant Taylor, Shiloh Academy's head football coach. Art imitated life when Shannen Fields, wife of the Sherwood Academy high school football coach, took the role of Grant's wife, Brooke. Although not wheelchair-bound in real life, Steve Williams plays his everyday role as a dad encouraging a son to trust God and risk something new as Larry Childers. The Kendrick brothers drew that character from their own father, Larry Kendrick, who has battled Multiple Sclerosis for more than 20 years.
High school senior Bailey Cave played place kicker David Childers. Like his character, Bailey was new to football. Jason McLeod, plays Brock Kelley who shines in the memorable "death crawl" drill scene, is now a junior at Georgia Southern University. Tracy Goode, as assistant coach Brady Owens, picked up coaching tips from the coach of a local high school football team. The movie's football teams are the local school squad, whose uniforms, stadium, practice fields, and spring schedule were essential movie backdrops.
Bobby Lee Duke and Mark Richt
The Giants' flamboyant coach Bobby Lee Duke is the creation of Jim McBride, executive pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church. Borrowing from colorful past careers that included being a carnival barker and a professional wrestler, Pastor McBride created the wild-eyed character and his memorable adages.
University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt is also bigger than life in Georgia. Yet he humbly volunteered to fly from Athens to Albany for his cameo appearance. The coach's huge popularity in Georgia and strong faith made him an ideal cast member. Coach Richt was willing to be part of the production because FLYWHEEL is one of his favorite movies.
The Big Shoot
The filming of FACING THE GIANTS lasted six weeks and was done in and around Albany with a two-week break midway through. Sherwood Pictures rented video and film equipment, including camera lenses, dollies, lights, sound equipment, and work trucks. They also purchased a computer to edit the film. The movie was shot with one high-definition Panasonic Vericam Camera and edited on a PowerMac G-5 computer using Final Cut Pro HD software.
The production used local media outlets to solicit extras for the large-crowd scenes. For the final game between the Eagles and the Giants, Lee County High School's principal, a fan of FLYWHEEL, offered their field and stands, which matched the script's vision. School leaders also generously offered uniforms, equipment, football players, and cheerleaders.
Background Music Pushes the Movie to the Front
Provident Films entered the frame when Sherwood approached Provident Music Group, a Nashville-based music label, for permission to use songs by Provident artists Third Day and Casting Crowns.
What began as a routine viewing for publishing approval led to Provident's president opening discussions with Sherwood to oversee the film's distribution. Provident Films, which is a joint venture between Provident and Sony, showed the film to Sony Pictures, who loved it. Through its relationship with Sony, Samuel Goldwyn Pictures agreed to distribute the film nationally, beginning September 29.