Special Assignment: "Fireproof"

News 12 at 6 & 11 o'clock, November 3, 2008

ALBANY, Ga.---It's one of the biggest films this fall, making millions at the box office and no doubt saving countless marriages in the process. But Hollywood had nothing to do with this blockbuster. The Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany. Ga. has been busy making movies with a message.

"Fireproof" tells the story of a firefighter, played by Kirk Cameron. He's willing to risk his life to rescue strangers, but what's he willing to do to save his own marriage? It's more than just another movie, it's actually a ministry of this church.

Jim McBride is just one of the ministers here.
"We're very excited about it- but one thing we're always clear about- is it's Gods movie."

Sherwood is the same church that released "Facing the Giants", the football film about faith. Stephen and Alex Kendrick are the brothers behind the movies. They wrote the screenplay to "Fireproof" and Alex directed it. According to Alex, "Stephen and I grew up wanting to make movies and made them in our backyard with a camcorder when we were kids."

It's a partnership that's lasted into adulthood. "Well, its interesting how God has continued to keep Alex and I together over the years, even though we have not pursued that."

Alex feels the same way. "It has been a blessing to work with Stephen", he told me.

You might recognize Alex. He played a football coach, one of the lead roles in "Facing the Giants". The volunteer cast is a trademark of Sherwood pictures, that's how they're able to make the movies.

Stephen explained what that really means. "With fireproof, we had about 12 hundred people from the community come together, 16 locations donated, home schooled kids pushing dollies, senior adult men doing the clappers, Sunday school classes providing the catering. Definitely a volunteer driven effort."

That's right. Volunteers do it all. In front of the cameras and behind the scenes. Remember Reverend McBride? He was in "Facing The Giants" as the opposing coach in the championship game. But you won't find any stars around here. Albany is a long way from Hollywood- and in more ways than one. They like to keep the spotlight--- on the message.

"Well, we are ministers first before we're movie makers", Stephen said, "and our love for God has been the fuel to make movies that impact people. Because we want to inspire in them a message of faith, hope & love- and so that has been our reward to see the changed lives- the saved marriages. So, if the movie makes money- great--- if it doesn't, we're ok."

More about the money, in a moment.

"Fireproof" is just the latest release from Sherwood Pictures. They shot the movie entirely on location in Albany, using the city's fire trucks and burning buildings as backdrops.

Except for the lead role- played by Kirk Cameron, the other actors are local volunteers. The movie raises the burning question, what are you willing to do to rescue your own marriage? Where does God fit into the relationship? Not the kinds of questions Hollywood has been asking...

(Rogers) "What's the problem in Hollywood? Do you think they just don't get middle America?

Alex has a theory. "I do think Hollywood tends to focus on the world views in New York and California and we try to tell stories relatable to middle America, for the rest of us if you will. The flyover states."

Even the New York Times review conceded that "Fireproof" offers something different"...including that rarest of creatures on the big- or small-screen: Characters with a strong conservative Christian faith--- who don't sound crazy."

"To hear these critics say, 'this movie actually worked for me, and I got something out of it, was incredible for us", Stephen said.

But in a movie about marriage, the Kindrick brothers wanted to make sure they were watching out for Kirk Cameron's own marriage. Especially when it came to a kissing scene.

Stephen explained, "There's a romantic kissing scene in fireproof, and we wanted to honor Kirk's marriage while we're making a movie about honoring marriage, so we flew in his wife to be the kissing double in the scene--- and it worked out so well, you can't even tell when you see the shot."

"Fireproof" is not the Kendrick's first film. The first was "Flywheel". It's about a used car dealer who decided to change the way he did business, personally and professionally. It was a struggle just to get it--- on one screen.

Alex talked about the struggle. "It was a big answer to prayer for us to get it in our local theater- played off of a DVD system."
What was meant for one weekend, lasted 6 weeks, outselling 12 movies made in Hollywood.

Next, came "Facing the Giants". Alex took a lead role in that one as a high school coach who learned to put his faith is something bigger than football.

And finally, this fall came "Fireproof". Sherwood's most ambitious picture yet. How successful is "Fireproof"? The numbers are impressive even by Hollywood's standards. They spent about a half million dollars to make it.
And as of last weekend the movie has earned more than 23 million dollars.

That's a lot of money for a church of any size. Sherwood bought 82 acres of land for local sports park. The plan is to use it as a ministry to the community. There's also a book... "The Love Dare". The Kendrick brothers wrote it to go along with the movie. It went to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

So what's next for the movie makers and their far-reaching church ministry? The Kendrick brothers say they're still praying about it. But the plan is to release a movie every couple of years. If they follow the formula, it'll be shot in Albany, using volunteers.

And it will be a huge hit.


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