In sharing his testimony about how he and his brother, Stephen, ventured into Christian filmmaking, Kendrick’s natural comedic side came through. From the days of making ‘cheesy’ home movies in their backyard to producing their first Christian film, Kendrick injected humor amidst the life lessons God was teaching them along the way.
“Who wants to watch a movie about a used car salesman? Nobody. But that’s what God was directing us to do,” he confided.
“Through the making of Flywheel, surrounding a used car salesman who swindles his own pastor,” he confessed, “I asked for the least amount of money we could shoot this movie with — $20,000. That was wrong. My faith was so small.”
Then he described how God moved and literally brought families out the woodwork offering to contribute to the making of Flywheel.
“Before I knew it, He had brought $20,000. So we started to shoot. I made every possible mistake you could make.”
“We ran out of light on a shoot so we told everyone to come back Monday to finish it. We forgot what we were wearing. One of the actor’s got a haircut over the weekend,” Kendrick recalled. “We got the story right, but we got the production wrong.”
The Lord opened the door to have a small showing of Flywheel in their local theater over a weekend, which turned into multiple weeks. The film ended up making $37,000, yet they only spent $20,000 to make it.
The Lord kept bringing to mind Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”
Then the DVD sales started and copies of Flywheel just flew off the shelf. Blockbuster picked it up and sold them in their stores. They sold 1.2 million DVDs.
“I kept thinking, ‘why are these people buying this movie?’ It was so bad.”
It’s safe to say, God did abundantly beyond what they ever thought.
“Pray. Die to yourself. Obey the Lord,” he urged. “Find where God is working and join Him.”
So God moved in their hearts through three couples in their congregation that, medically, could not have children. After 40 days of prayer, all three conceived. He was clearly moving them toward the theme of their next film, Facing the Giants, which was faith over fear. Two other big moments in the film were also based on true events — the coach having a car given to him and the player who made the 50 yard field goal. While all didn’t happen in the same year, Facing the Giants included all of them.
“Our target is people of faith — to exhort and encourage the church,” Kendrick acknowledged.
Kendrick asked Lord if he could shoot in high definition for their next film. Not only did they get the right camera, they happened to meet Bob Scott, who was a professional at shooting football. For Facing the Giants, they had a $100,000 budget, and God provided all of it through “a doctor over here, an architect over there,” and the next thing you know, they all start giving with no strings attached. It enabled them to rent all the equipment they needed.
So it opened in 40 theaters in Georgia and then they pitched it to some studios. They all said the same thing. ‘Nice job, charming story, has a little too much religion, so we’ll pass.’
“Do not jump ahead of the Lord. Don’t lag behind him. Track with the Lord,” he emphasized.
“So I got frustrated with the Lord and asked him, ‘What are you doing, Lord? You answered all of our prayers up until now.’ So one day I was sulking in my office, and He reminds me. ‘Alex, what do you say in the film?’ ‘Praise God when we win, we praise God when we lose.’”
“So the truth is, I’m a hypocrite,” Kendrick confessed. “What does that say about my faith, that I say it in the movie but don’t apply it?”
So Stephen comes into his office and says there’s a Third Day song in the film so just in case they ever get it distributed, he suggested they get permission to use it. So they called up Provident Music in Nashville and showed them the film. Next thing they know, Stephen gets a call from Provident and they say, ‘We’re in. We’re going to send this to our parent company, Sony.’
God opened the door for a big studio to pick up Facing the Giants for a theater release.
“It was like we prayed all through the movie, but not after the filming. Then it was like I said, ‘I’ll take it from here, Lord.'”
It ended up in 400 theaters. They figured it would make $3-$5 million. It made $10 million. Then once success comes, so does the criticism. He urged filmmakers to accept the valid criticism, but to deflect the rest.
Then the Lord put on their hearts the concept of the ‘Love Dare,’ the basis for Fireproof, a film that focused on marriage.
“We learned our greatest asset is the favor of the Lord,” he professed.
Kendrick shared story after story of how God opened doors and provided the way to meet their needs and reach both the lost and believers with the message of each one of their films.
One example was on the set of Fireproof when they were filming the car on the train tracks. They had to figure out how to get the car off the tracks. They needed a forklift. While they were trying to figure out how to get one, some started praying, and low and behold, a man standing on his front porch was observing what was going on and came over and noticed they could use a forklift.
“‘Yeah, that would be nice,’ I said. Next things we know, the guy says, ‘I’ll go get mine,’ and the guy goes behind his house and comes out with his forklift, lifts up the car and asks, ‘So where do you want it?’,” Kendrick relayed with amazement. “Don’t just throw money at things. God knows where the forklifts are.”
“Pray, and don’t just pray, ‘God help me.’ Pray as much as you work. And that’s a lot!” he reiterated.
Predicting it would earn about $10-$15 million, Fireproof ended up making $30 million. God then directed them to make a film about fathers and son, Courageous. It, too, made around $34-$35 million. The Lord then laid the subject of prayer on their hearts and gave them the idea for War Room.
“Prayer should be the first option, not the last option,” Kendrick affirmed.
Sony had a problem with two white guys making a movie about black people. They didn’t like it, Kendrick explained.
Then, War Room was number one at the box office.
“It shocked us all with its success,” he recalled.
“God tells the best stories. Don’t ever settle for less than excellence. Keep learning all you can, but remember, remember, remember your greatest asset is the favor of God.”