Courageous — Behind the Scenes Exclusive
Volume 2, Issue 2
Written by By Sara Jo Mason   

From Sherwood Pictures, creators of the 2008 top “indie” film Fireproof, comes new movie Courageous.

CapFFireproofireproof was more than a means of entertainment.  The low budget yet number one hit movie inspired passion in marriages across the nation, heating up intimacy and helping to re-solidify vows.  Kirk Cameron played the lead role of fireman Caleb Holt whose marriage was coolly suffering.  Challenged by his father to a 40-day experiment called the “Love Dare,” he began the hardest mission of his life, saving his marriage and winning back the heart of his wife Catherine, played by Erin Bethea.


After the movie hit box offices, there was a high demand for follow-up materials including the Love Dare book.
Now, with at least double the budget of Fireproof at $1 million plus,  Courageous is set to hit screens with a production, as Hollywood would term it, “bigger and better.”

FlywheelPosterSeveral aspects of Sherwood Pictures’ methods of movie making shockingly defy Hollywood standards.  Their first film, Flywheel, released in 2003 included an all volunteer (and mostly inexperienced) cast.  In 2006, the cast and crew for Facing the Giants were all Sherwood Church volunteers.  2008’s Fireproof was their first use of a celebrity with Kirk Cameron, who donated his acting fee to charity.  The remaining cast and crew for that film were also all Sherwood volunteers.

With Courageous, they stuck with a similar style, first allowing members of the church to audition for parts, then narrowing those down before stepping outside of the church and conducting auditions by invitation only with Christian acting agencies and churches across the nation.

When casting parts, they asked each individual who auditioned if they had any areas in their lives that would hinder God’s blessing on the project.  And, yes, they did turn a few hopefuls away, not due to talent, but due to other challenges in their lives.

Kendricks“We view the people who are in our movies as stewards,” said producer Stephen Kendrick. “We are entrusting them with a huge platform.  We want them to use that platform to honor the Lord.  If you have an actor who is very hypocritical in life, it could jeopardize the message in the movie, the respect level, and the impact of the movie. We are trying to guard by having people in the movie who are very passionate for the Lord and the message of the movie.  That they are going to model the message themselves.”

Stephen’s brother Alex always had a passion for filmmaking.  When they approached the pastor with an idea for producing films, the pastor told them “Ok, go make the movie, but make sure you don’t use church budget money, and still do your jobs.”  The brothers wondered if they could pull it off, their original budget for their first film Flywheel being only $20k from private donations.  They managed — with over two hundred thousand DVD sales.

FTGPosterIn their next movie, Facing the Giants, volunteers were chosen for parts that closely resembled their real life occupations or experiences.  That movie grossed over 10 million and sold more than 1.6 million DVD’s worldwide, in 16 different languages.

Fireproof lit up the theaters, earning $33 million dollars off a $500 thousand dollar budget.  The proceeds off each film are funneled back into ministry.

As the embers cooled in the aftermath, Alex and Stephen began to pray for direction for the next film.  A year later, they decided to direct their focus on fatherhood.

The statistics on fatherless children are devastating,” commented Jim McBride, who is the executive producer along with Pastor Dr. Michael Catt.

DirectorAlexinWarehouseSceneStephen stated, “We believe God is calling men to rise up with strength and leadership in their homes, with their families and their children.”

The story line for Courageous follows five men, all fathers, in law enforcement.   For these men who face dangers everyday in their jobs, they will be shaken to the core with their faith and fears after a tragedy strikes too close.  From the struggle comes a life changing decision that will affect them all, as they come to a deeper understanding that honor begins at home.

WarehouseSceneKendrick stressed that the film’s goal is to convict the hearts of men who may not be following Biblical standards for responsibility and leadership in their families.  He referred  to the climactic scene in Fireproof where a tearful Caleb got on his knees and apologized to his wife for his past actions and shortfalls as a husband.  Kendrick said, “A lot of men left the theater thinking, ‘That’s what I need to go home and do with my wife.  I need to ask her to forgive me.’”  Likewise, with Courageous, he hopes the film will inspire pivot points in the hearts of men to solidify their relationships with their children.

GroupPrayerThe movie projects have had tremendous effects on the church as its members are experiencing God in action.  They pray together, serve together, and then watch God work.

On set, prayer had a constant presence.  At 8 am on filming days, the cast and crew gathered.  They had a daily devotional, shared scriptures and encouragement, then prayed together and gave the day over to the Lord.

Afterwards, they had the daily blow-pop award ceremony in which a member of the cast or crew was awarded with a blow-pop sucker for a good deed or exceptional job done recently.  Afterwards, the team broke up as each department headed their separate ways to get started.  The directors would meet with the actors and walk out the first shot of the day.  Then, while the actors were in make-up, the lighting crew set the stage.

MakeUpThis go-round, Erin Bethea, the leading lady from Fireproof, worked with the make-up team on Courageous.  “I am so enjoying being on the make-up team for this film,” said Erin during the filming of Courageous.  “Obviously, my first love is acting, but there just wasn’t a role in Courageous that was right for me this time around.  I believe so much in this ministry, I just wanted to be involved in whatever way was helpful.  I consider my role in make-up as much an honor as the role of Catherine in Fireproof.  Ultimately, in both roles, I was just a part of the team, working for the greater cause.”

Erin continued, “While we were filming Fireproof, I think we all knew it was a powerful story and would have an impact on lives.  I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how well it has done.  Just shows how we can’t put a limit on what we believe God can do.  There is no way of knowing about the level of ‘success’ Courageous could have, but I do believe the story is incredible and the impact on people will be powerful.  I think it will be Sherwood Pictures’ best film to date. This film has an amazing cast.  We are lucky to have a much more balanced mix of experienced and inexperienced actors, but everyone is so talented.  I have found that the best way I am able to encourage any of our actors in Courageous is simply through prayer.  It was a great tool for those of us who acted in Fireproof, and the prayer on Courageous has also been taken up to a new level.  The actors are prayed for before every single scene.  It’s a real honor to watch and be a part of what I believe is the best kind of encouragement.”

Among the volunteers for the Courageous film is Anna Marie McWilliams, a high school teacher at Sherwood Christian Academy.

“I did not originally audition for a part because there weren’t any lead roles that would have fit me,” said Anna Marie.  “I had put my name on the ‘extras’ list and was hoping for a call, but Teri Catt (casting director and wife of Sr. Pastor, Michael Catt) called me toward the end of the auditions and asked if I would like to audition for a role.  After hearing about the part I realized that this was an opportunity to encourage women who have traveled down rough roads, to remind them they aren’t alone and they can do it with God’s help.”

Anna Marie plays the part of an ex-girlfriend of one of the five policemen with whom she has a five-year-old daughter.  In the movie, she has spent the last five years raising the child alone.  Anna Marie told us, “It is a non-speaking part, but I have to show a lot of emotions!  Because I have no lines, all of my emotions have to be portrayed through my face and my actions.  Easier said than done!”

In a movie that is all about the needs within families, the creators of Courageous were mindful in respecting the needs of the members of the cast and crew to spend time with their own families.  They would film for two weeks, taking weekends off, then break for a week for a breather.

RestaurantScene“Movie making is a big black hole, it will take a lot of time and energy,” says Stephen.  “You have to guard your priorities during that time.”  They spent 12 to 14 hour days on set, which can be physically and mentally draining.  According to producer Stephen Kendrick, they were challenged at times with spiritual warfare, where the devil tried to attack and divide the team, distract and discourage them.  They combated it through prayer and needed time off.  In the end, the results were unifying in the church body, as they worked on a massive project together, then stepped back and watched God bring it to completion and use it.

Will there be more films after Courageous?  Well, that depends on what God says do according to Pastor Dr. Michael Catt.  “We plan movies one at a time,” said Dr. Catt.  “We spent months as a Sherwood Pictures team praying about this fourth film.  We may continue, but there’s no guarantee.  If God says, ‘That’s All Folks’ we’ll stop.  Right now, all our energies are on Courageous.  We aren’t thinking any further ahead than that.  The Book of James says, ‘don’t worry about tomorrow.’  It’s not so much that our target is impacting mainstream media; our target is to point people to the Cross.  If that includes films, fine.  If it’s something else, okay.  Whatever doors God chooses to open, we’ll walk through.” PivotPointEndingBug


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