EDITOR'S NOTE: This article first appeared in The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, on the Web at www.christianindex.org.
This story is part of a series of Baptist Press stories about Fireproof, which hits theaters Sept. 26. To read an overview of the movie click here. To read a review of the movie click here. To read how churches can get involved click here. Finally, stories about movie volunteers are available here. and here.
ALBANY, Ga. (BP)--It's a long way from the sets of "Flywheel" and "Facing the Giants," but the filmmaking team of Alex and Stephen Kendrick is up to the challenge.
The brothers' third and latest film, "Fireproof" will be released Sept. 26. The storyline focuses on a young couple, Caleb and Catherine Holt, whose seven-year-old marriage is on the rocks. Divorce is imminent when Caleb's father issues a "love dare" to his firefighter son as a last-ditch attempt to save the marriage. The movie is largely set in a fire station and, unlike the previous films, boats some special effects.
It is being released two years after Facing the Giants, filmed on a $100,000 budget, surprised many in the film industry by grossing $10 million. It remains a top-selling DVD. Fireproof had a $500,000 budget.
When asked on location last year what was different on the set of Fireproof, Alex Kendrick quickly joked, "We've got more than one camera, plus I don't have to both direct and play a major role." (He played the lead role in Facing the Giants.)
Then he turned serious when discussing the state of marriage in America.
"The foundation of marriage has been attacked, devalued and redefined by many in our culture," he said. "It is our desire to tell a story that would allow the audience to relate to common marital issues, and then to take them down a path toward understanding principles for unconditioned love through the roles of husband and wife.
"Our hope would be that after viewing the film, couples and singles hoping to marry would be challenged and exhorted to pursue God-honoring relationships that reinforce the foundations of marriage in light of a relationship with Jesus Christ. We want people to realize that fireproof does not mean the absence of fire, but the ability to withstand it."
The movie is set in Albany, Ga., and has widespread community support, says Sherwood executive pastor Jim McBride.
"We could not be more pleased with our relationship with Albany. The police and fire departments offered their services and equipment and some officers volunteered their time and others received credit for training exercises.
"The fire department even burned down an old house for us that is a pivotal role in the movie and gives Kirk's character the opportunity to rethink life's priorities. Phoebe Putney Hospital let us film on site as well as provided some doctor's offices as a set for some scenes. More than 20 sets and a production office were provided by local businesses."
The actor with the greatest name recognition, which will help generate media attention, is Kirk Cameron. The Los Angeles resident –- best known for the popular 1980s and early 1990s television series Growing Pains -– bumped into Alex Kendrick and Sherwood pastor Michael Catt in an airport a while back and the three began discussing the next venture. Cameron, who had supported Sherwood's efforts in the past and attended the Hollywood screening of Facing the Giants, offered his services and eventually auditioned "just like anyone else," he said in an interview in late December.
"I just wanted to be part of something exciting that a church was doing on the quality level that Sherwood has brought to the screen. I wanted to be sure that my casting, if it occurred, would be of the Lord and not just because I had more experience than others," he explained.
That he was "just another member of the team," as he put it, was obvious on the set in tiny Shellman, Ga., on the final days of shooting. In between filming he was just another sweaty face on the crew and was accessible to any who wanted to chat while sitting on the rails of the train tracks on the set.
And that, the Kendrick brothers maintain, is what they want the film to be remembered for. In such a faith venture, it's not about making money but about changing lives.
They credit Catt with being the visionary that allowed them to make the first movie, Flywheel, when they didn't think a church would be willing to take on such a risky project. The church already had a successful media ministry and the brothers were unsure if Sherwood would want to venture into the risky world of movie production. Now, thanks to Catt's leadership, the church's vision to change the world from Albany has expanded even further.
"Marriage touches almost every life," Catt said. "In my lifetime the divorce rate has climbed to one out of two marriages, and the marriage rate has dropped 30 percent. What if we can make a dent in those statistics?"
As with the church's first two films, the production was driven by volunteers; one professional film crew of eight worked at a discounted rate.
Stephen Kendrick, explained why the brothers and Sherwood Baptist Church opted for a third movie.
"If we go back to the idea of redeeming the time because the days are evil, this is the best use of our ministry time," he said on location last year. "We each have full-time responsibilities at the church but this is just something else that we feel needs to be done and is worked into our schedule."
"When was the last time you worked on something (Facing the Giants) that directly impacted 3 million people in 56 countries around the world? Since the release of Facing the Giants in September 2006 we have received 10,000 e-mails and reports of more than 5,000 professions of faith, and we feel Fireproof has that same potential.
"That's why you see all of these volunteers out here in the hot sun, taking vacation and personal time away from their jobs to help make this movie. We are preaching a two-hour sermon in the format of a Hollywood movie and will be able to reach people who would never set foot inside a church.
"They are doing this for more than here, more than now. They have a sense that long after they have left this world, this movie will still be telling a story of redemption and will represent what they feel is important in life."
Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index. For more information about "Fireproof," visit FireproofTheMovie.com. For resources, visit FireproofMyMarriage.com.