We chatted with director Judd Brannon about his new movie Champion, the themes of the film and how important it is to convey a strong message without being forceful.
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I’m married and have two boys 12 and 14. I live in Woodstock, Georgia, I have lived here and the Atlanta area all my life, only moved away for a couple of years to be a youth pastor in South Carolina. I have been working the past 12 years here at First Baptist Church Woodstock, where I do the video editing and producing.
How did you become a Christian?
I was on a youth retreat at a camp when I was 12 years old, there was a youth minister who shared the Gospel, he said if anyone wanted to stay and learn more to stay in the room, most of the kids went and played and I stayed, I wanted to learn more. It was on that retreat that I accepted the Lord. I really saw the power of youth ministry and so I did camp ministry all the years I was in college and my wife did camp ministry, I was a youth pastor for a couple of years and really believe strongly in camp and youth ministry.
How did you get into making and directing films?
I always wanted to make movies. When I was kid, 10 years old in my parents basement, shooting videos with my dad’s video camera with my brothers making silly videos that I would never show anybody to this day. I always had a love and passion of that, but really about 10 years ago here at the Church, I really saw how videos had an impact on people and how they can have a legacy or a longevity, a shelf life basically beyond me. I had made some music videos for some bands and the music videos began to share the message outside of the walls of the Church and I said “wow, I wonder if I could take that further” and of course I had seen what the Kendricks through Fireproof and Facing The Giants and I thought maybe I could do that and that’s where it started.
Please tell us about the film Champion
Champion, without giving it away is really about two guys and how their lives intersect, one who has to forgive himself for some mistakes that he has made and the other gentleman has to forgive the other who has made the mistakes. They have to work through their problems together. So overall Champion is about forgiveness and how to break free of that prison of unforgiveness. It’s all set in the world of dirt track racing which is kinda unique.
What inspired you to make this film?
I was praying, “Lord, how can I use the gifts you’ve given me to a greater capacity”. Our time is so short, the older my kids get, time is very limited, so how can I use the gifts God has give me for the kingdom in a greater way. I knew it was to do film making and I said “well how can I do that?” There is a dirt track in my town, I didn’t really know anything about dirt track racing, so I went down to the track and started walking around, met the owners and drivers and there was a lot of energy and excitement at the track, so that’s kinda where it started. That was just the backdrop for the story and I prayed “Ok Lord, what is the story you’re placing on my heart, what is the message that you want me to communicate?” And that really was a forgiveness, second chances type story.
Why do you feel forgiveness and second chances are important?
I think we all have stories of that within our family, I know we do within our own family. I work in a Church and see unforgiveness here at the Church, we see it on the highway, we see it everywhere. I felt that if people could understand what Christ has done for them, through Him on the cross, if they could understand how much they’ve been forgiven, it helps them take that step and turn the corner towards forgiving someone else in their life.
The film also looks at fathering and foster care, how did that come about?
Absolutely. I don’t even know if we knew the fatherhood component until we started screening the film and people were like ‘wow this reached me as a father’ that came out a lot stronger then we originally planned.
As far as the foster care, my wife and I were foster parents at the time we look at filming, so that kinda stilled its way into the film. It was a tangible way of putting an idea into people’s minds of maybe being a foster parent and help a child while their family rebuilds and the idea is for the child to go home and for the family to be reunited.
How important is it to make a story lead film such as Champion that isn’t preachy but can still deliver a strong Christian message?
That took a lot of work in the writing side because we wanted to have something that had entertainment but we also wanted a story that was authentic, that challenged people and inspired people but they didn’t feel like it was forced, but just part of the story, just real to life. I think the writers did a great job of really putting that together.
How do you see this film being used in ministry?
I hope that people go to the theatres or get it on DVD or show it in their churches. It’s just a tool, the Lord does the work, hopefully He uses the film as a tool just to spark conversation and create discussions to help people think about some changes that need to be made in their life.
I met a lady who had seen the film and she said “wow, I’ve been holding unforgiveness against my father for 10 years and it’s the first time that I’ve been able to take a step towards him or turn that corner.” That blew me away, that was worth making the film for just that story.
I’m hoping that it helps people, ask questions and reconcile relationship with a friend, or co worker or neighbour.
What one thing do you hope people will take away from this film?
The one thing would be how much Christ has done for them, Christ forgave us so we can forgive other people.