We caught up with Dallas Jenkins, Director of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone to chat about the response to the film and the future of faith based films.
Tell us a bit about the film for those have not yet seen it.
Gavin Stone tells the story of a former child star, whose now a washed up celebrity wannabe in his 30s who gets into some trouble in his home town and is sentenced to 200 hours of community service at a local Church. When he gets to the church he finds out they are putting on a big Easter production and so he wants to do that rather than clean the Church. He pretends to be a Christian so that he can play the part of Jesus in the passion play and how he navigates through Church world learning the language of Christianese is the thrust of the humour of the film and playing the part of Jesus he learns more about him.
How did the audience react to the film?
The numbers were not what we wanted them to be, I think its been increasingly difficult in the US for smaller films to breakthrough in theatres, they are kinda getting squeezed out by the big huge movies. But those who did see it, the reaction has been really really strong. Those who saw it were over the moon about it, the humour of it was unique for a faith based film, in every screening I have heard people saying they laughed their head off and also cried as there is a lot of meaning in it too. We are excited about how people did respond, we wish more people had seen it, but hopefully a lot will make up for that on DVD and streaming.
How did you see God use this film?
We have heard over and over from people, through letters, emails and in person, from people outside the Church saying they haven’t been to Church in years and this movie makes them want to come back and those inside the Church saying that the movie revived their appreciation of who Jesus is and their understanding of what grace is supposed to look like.
Do you see this film filling a niche in faith based films?
Yes because, if you think about the faith based films we’ve seen over the last few years, they all come into a few categories, there are the films like War Room and Courageous, which are essentially sermons set to film, which I appreciate. Then there are movies like God’s Not Dead which are a call to arms against culture, there are not too many movies which are comedies or even set in Church. So one of the things I think we did accomplish was telling a different kind of story than what you are used to, especially telling the story through the eyes of an outsider. Hopefully the movie on DVD and streaming will succeed enough, so that there are more movies like that, just so that we have a variety. I think faith based movies can look different, the more variety and choices we have the better off we are.
What would be your ideal faith based film?
That’s kinda the point that there is no one particular type of movie that we should be making. For me I really would love to tell stories that aren’t afraid to get real, maybe not all of them have to be PG or clean. In fact after Gavin Stone which was PG and clean, when it didn’t do well in the box office, its kinda given me a little freedom, I thought well I’ve made a clean version and no one showed up anyway, maybe I can go ahead and tell the stories I wanna tell. I love The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, I love PG movies and G movies, but I also love movies that are a little more raw, if the Bible was made into a movie it would for sure be rated R. I’m just looking forward to hopefully having the freedom to tell all kinds of stories. I think an ideal faith based film would be one that doesn’t shy away from the truth of sin and the truth of what pain feels like and what we go through, so the hope that does come will be even more impactful and hopefully open more doors and broaden our audience a little bit.
How do you see the Christian film industry moving forward?
Honestly it’s becoming a real challenge, especially in the low budget world, it’s really hard to make money in films these days. For Christians and non Christians I think are only going to the theatres for the bigger movies and think what am I going to get at this theatre that I can’t get at home.
To be quite frank I think with The Resurrection of Gavin Stone at least in the marketing of it, I don’t think people necessarily really believed that they needed to see the movie in the theatre.
I think in some ways for faith based movies to be in theatres it has to be more expensive otherwise we might just as well go straight to DVD and streaming, which maybe the way of the future and thats OK, maybe our budgets need to get even lower than they are right now, so we are able to make money, otherwise we can’t make more movies like it.
I don’t know what the future holds, I’m just trying to figure it out myself. Clearly going to online options, streaming options is a market we need to explore and one that I am looking at and trying to figure out how I can make movies for a living.
Why do faith films still matter?
I think for two reasons. One for the sake of art, art should reflect life and when at least in America here a good chunk of the country are evangelical Christians, we should be able to see stories about that and so I think its good for art to have forms of faith.
From a spiritual perspective, I think that media is an incredible way to tell stories and an incredible way to reach people. So I want more faith based films out there for no other reason than to be able to use storytelling to reach people and to introduce them to the Gospel and to Church. So I think that the more movies we have out there that reflect the life of a faith based person, the better it is for art and for the Kingdom.
What is next for you?
Honestly thats what I’m trying to figure out. Right now we are concentrating on making sure The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is as successful as possible, to make sure our investors get some money back.
I’ve got up on a whiteboard nine or 10 different projects at various stages of development, I’m trying to figure out which one would work best next. We did build up a bit of a fan base from this film, because those who saw it really did like it, so hopefully I’m gonna listen and find out what they want to see next. I’ve got lots of different stories I’m interested in telling but I’m open to whatever the Lord has for mm, whatever God wants me to tell and I’m just trying to figure out what that is.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray in stores across the US on May 2nd 2017.