FACING THE GIANTS OF SUCCESS
He’s not your typical “movie star” and he will tell you that he doesn’t consider himself a “star” but Alex Kendrick, his brother Stephen and his church have made quite an impact in the movie world with “Facing the Giants”.
The movie, which was released in the fall of 2006 has made over $35 million dollars and DVDs of the movie have been distributed in 56 countries in seven different languages. So what are they doing with their millions? Nothing. They don’t actually have any millions yet. Although the movie made millions, Kendrick says they have not received their portion from Sony yet. “After paying the studios, Blockbuster, Walmart and everyone else, we are still waiting for our share,” he said. ““If we get money, we are putting straight back into ministry and we want to make more movies”.
The average person assumes that Kendrick, who played Coach Grant Taylor in the movie, is a movie star and a millionaire. When I first met him he told me that people come up to him and ask how it feels to be a millionaire. He responds by handing the person a $1 Million Dollar bill which is really a gospel tract. His candid attitude and humility instantly makes him a likeable guy.
He became interested in moviemaking at an early age with his brothers Stephen and Shannon. When the first bulky video cameras were made, they became homemade movie director and stars with other kids in the neighborhood.
“The plots would always be the same – chase’m down and beat’em up!” Kendrick recalled. They directed and starred in homemade classics such as “Savings Bond” instead of “James Bond” and “Alabama Jones” instead of “Indiana Jones”. Their interest in video editing and making movies was birthed early in their lives. “We kinda developed a knack for doing that. The desire never left us.” Kendrick said.
After attending Kennesaw State University and attending New Orleans Theological Seminar, Kendrick was employed at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany. Stephen later joined him at Sherwood as an assistant pastor.
In 2002, they read something very interesting. A national survey had been done which stated that movie and television were considered the most influential factors in our culture today. The alarming absence from this list was church. Church was not even in the top ten.
“I remember thinking: ‘has our culture degraded to the point where church – although it is a factor – wasn’t in the top ten’?” It was then when Kendrick approached his pastor again about making a movie.
Their first movie project was a movie called “Flywheel”. Flywheel is a story about a dishonest used car salesman who begins to think about his life after he rips off his pastor on a car deal. It wasn’t the original idea that Kendrick had in mind but it was something that God inspired.
“I learned very early that there is a difference between a good idea and a God idea,” Kendrick said. Although Kendrick had visions of an action movie, God wanted Flywheel. At first, Kendrick wasn’t sure what kind of impact a movie about a used car salesman would have. He initially hoped that the movie would be shown at the local Carmike Theater in Albany, Georgia. The theater manager was hesitant but after he consulted the home office, they agreed to show the movie on one screen. Local news and community interested was so big that the first night of the movie was a sellout. By the end of the week, Flywheel became the second highest grossing movie at the theater. After six weeks, Carmike wanted to show the movie in Tifton and Columbus. At this point, Blockbuster Video also showed interest in the movie. Instead of putting a copy in the local Blockbuster Video store, they wanted to put 1-2 copies of Flywheel in all of their 4,500 stores nationwide.
“I nearly fell out of my chair,” Kendrick said. “Here I was thinking it would just be neat to have it in our local Blockbuster store but God was doing abundantly more than we had ever thought.”
Today they have sold over 85,000 DVDs of Flywheel.
The success of Flywheel was just a taste of what was to come. As the storyline of Facing the Giants was coming together, Kendrick’s vision was to go into 40 theaters and cover the entire state of Georgia.
Kendrick admits that the process wasn’t an easy one. “It was a constant daily dying to yourself and dying to what you want but still stepping out in faith even when it doesn’t make any sense.”
Kendrick stated that although the movie is not based on a true story, several elements of the movie are based on real life experiences. These elements were put together and what resulted became Facing the Giants. Everything you see in the movie really happened to people at their church.
Kendrick relates the story of how University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt got into the movie. “Stephen and I were driving down the road and we wondered -- who would we want to be in the movie if we could have anybody we wanted? We thought of Mark Richt. We knew that he was a professing believer and he’s a football guy.”
The only problem was that they had no clue how they would get Mark Richt to appear in the movie. So they prayed. After the prayer, Stephen pulled out his cell phone and dialed 411 for the telephone number for the Athletic Department at the University of Georgia. He eventually got in contact with Mark Richt’s secretary. Stephen told the secretary about the movie and how they would like Richt to be in it. In the conversation, Stephen mentioned the movie Flywheel. The secretary told Stephen that the movie was sitting on his desk at that very moment!
Both Stephen and Alex could not believe what they were hearing. “At this time it was early on. There may have been 20-30,000 copies out there. What are the chances that Mark Richt – the guy we are wanting and praying for – would already have seen it and sitting on his desk?”
Richt called back and agreed to be in the movie.
In Spring 2005, the movie was done but they did not have a distributor. It looked like nothing was happening for them. “I was like -- God where are you? We’re waiting,” Kendrick said. Spring, then summer goes by without anything happening. Finally, while doing the rough edit of the movie, Alex had put in a song from the group Third Day. They knew that if they were going to use that song in the movie that they needed to obtain permission from the publisher. They contacted Provident in Nashville, Tennessee. The representative from Provident wanted to see the movie first before giving their permission to use the song. After letting the movie sit on their desk for about a week, a secretary at Provident decided to put the movie in for a quick preview by the executives. Once they started watching it, they were drawn into the movie. They called Alex and told him that he could have any music he wanted in the movie. They also said that their parent company might be interested in distributing it. The name of the parent company was Sony - the number one movie distributor in the world.
Instead of 40 theaters, the movie opened in September 2006 in 441 theaters nationwide and eventually to 1,000 theaters. Facing the Giants made 10 million dollars at the box office, 13 million dollars in rental and 11 million, so far, in sales. In a movie which cost $100,000 to make, the Lord has taken the loaves and fishes and multiplied it.
While the financial impact of the movie has been great, the spiritual significance has been far greater. Since the movie was released in the fall, they have surpassed 7,000 emails from those who made a decision to serve Christ as a result of viewing “Facing the Giants”.
Kendrick is still amazed at what God has done. “It makes no sense for a church with no name actors, no money and hardly any experience to make a movie that a major movie corporation would get behind and distribute that celebrates Jesus Christ. That doesn’t make any sense unless God’s behind it.”
A new movie is currently being planned and shooting is set to begin this fall. One can only imagine what God has planned next.