You may not know his name, but this writer-director-producer has made more faith films than the Kendricks and Erwin Brothers. His name is Chris Dowling, and he’s been at this for nearly two decades. As a screenwriter, he not only writes for himself, he writes for the biggest names in the faith-based film industry. He’s best known for his work on Blue Miracle, Where Hope Grows, Run the Race and the unscripted series, Repo Games. He has directed A-list actors such as Jason Alexander and Patrick Warburton.

Chris also teaches screenwriting at the newly formed online school for Christian filmmakers called Aspire Circles.

In this episode, Chris talks about his lengthy career in the faith film industry.

Associate links to Amazon

well chris it’s a pleasure to have you
on the podcast today thanks for for
joining us thanks for having me buddy
you have quite an extensive background
in uh christian or inspirational
filmmaking you started with a feature
film called rockslide which was sort of
a film noir uh spoof
uh with patrick warburton and jason
alexander and that was your feature
debut that was a wild cast to come
together on a little hundred thousand
dollar movie i was very uh very
fortunate it’s uh yeah it was a crazy
cast that went everywhere from you know
we had warburton alexander we had um
brian bosworth was in there even jerry
cantrell from alice in chains tom
bergeron the host of dancing with the
elaine hendricks andy dick played the
bad guy i mean it was like i honestly
that was a funny one because i it was my
first movie and i was like just kind of
thrown in with like all these
working actors you know and and it just
it was really cool man it was definitely
trial by fire but um it was an awesome
first experience yeah i can’t wait to
talk to you about that
um then you went to repo games doing a
reality tv show series that you created
and produced then you jumped into back
into christian filmmaking with where
hope grows and you had a lead david
desantis who has down syndrome you did
asperger’s or us a documentary you
produced that
then you went on to priceless with the
small bro bone brothers
run the race you wrote and directed
which was co-produced with tim tebow
then you went to the man from nowhere
which was directed by matt greene at uh
the masters university most recently you
uh you wrote blue miracle directed by
julio quintana with it was acted by
dennis quaid
and uh you’re in post-production with a
film called roll with it
michael w smith i hear is in he plays a
redneck trucker singing free bird so
totally typecast totally typecast i i
can’t wait to see him singing freebird
that’ll be funny
so you’ve got quite a an extensive uh
amount of experience in the christian
film genre so you’re sort of an expert
and like you said your grandfather salty
old grandpa in this now right
yeah yeah i’m a jaded seasoned veteran
if you will
so what’s your background how did you
get into film what what was what
motivated you to do this and is this
something that you had always planned on
doing yeah i mean um you know growing up
i always loved to write stories that was
always like key things um did try to do
a lot of comic books but i was just a
horrific drawer um
i mean so it moved on from that and um
yeah we’d make little videos you know
i’d have my dad’s big sony vhs camcorder
just you know we go out and make videos
and um
and i had a best friend who um we were
in high school and we kind of were like
dude we’re going to move to la and we’re
going to be like the new two quarries
you know i don’t know which one was
going to be filming in our hand but we
hadn’t decided that part yet we just
knew we were going to be the two
quarries heading out there so he moved
out there and um judy started crashing
into this day he’s you know just still
cranking along and um and then so i kind
of followed him out and um and i knew i
wanted to do screenwriting so i came out
there with some spec scripts
but again at that point in time it was
like you didn’t um email scripts around
i like i had to go print them i had to
get them done
and then you had to find some way to get
them in the hands of people that was the
hard part yeah um and you know so as a
18 year old kid coming out there you
know we it was
rough i mean to say the least at the
beginning um and it’s still rough anyone
trying to break into this industry as a
writer i’m telling you it’s not an easy
thing no it’s not
but fortunately as i was out there um
i mean there was people that i got to
know and we had a good group of people
that were around and
people were reading my stuff and thought
i was good or at least good enough and
um you know eventually
eventually if you stick with it um i
mean now it’s 20 plus years for me but
like you know it starts to happen and
it’s there’s projects obviously like i
had written and you know nobody wanted
to touch
because i had no credits behind me
hadn’t done anything and then all of a
you know i get a couple credits
underneath me a couple successes and
then i send the same project back i’m
like oh we love this and it’s like you
already read this and it’s uh yeah you
didn’t like it the last time yeah but so
you know that’s how the industry is
right it’s the crazy chicken or the egg
thing like you have to be successful for
them to want to do your projects yes how
do you get a project
you know
up and running if you know no one’s
there to support it yeah now that it’s a
that is a challenge
so you uh studied uh radio tv and film
at university of texas
you’re longhorn and then you moved to la
and you got your your start not in
directing or writing you started as as
an actor yeah i mean like when in rome
right i mean if i was going to l.a i
might as well get some headshots you
know and i always like acting and and
it’s something maybe one day i’d like to
try and do again and i had a little
success with it like i got on a soap and
i was chas the party guy on uh
on days of our lives had a little
19 20 episode run um
and um but you know i came off that and
it was like i just i’ll be honest man i
didn’t like the audition process and
yeah i just would rather
i’d rather stay at home and start
writing stuff instead of like you know
driving in la it could be you know one
audition could take your whole day
because it takes you two hours to get
anywhere and then you go sit there and
wait for an hour and it’s like you know
so i i was i was coming off of
doing the soap and then yeah and then i
just said you know what i’m gonna call
the manager and said i think i’m just
going to start trying to write it was
pretty funny though because i sent my
manager a script and he was like well
he’s like i don’t want to read it i
don’t like reading my actor stuff
because i don’t like telling him it’s
not good he’s like so i usually tell him
don’t send it to me i was like ah please
he reads it he calls me goes i’m not
gonna lie you may be a better writer
than you are an actor
i don’t know if that’s
good or bad to hear from your manager
but um but anyways uh so um so i kind of
moved full force into
you know pursuing um pursuing the the
the writing and directing thing so
that’s great um we did a short film uh
me and my um my best friends out there
jensen ackles and um put it together won
some awards and then um that you know
it’s like everything’s a small uh
stepping stone right like it was a short
film and then as we were talking about
rock slide like then it was like i had
some other buddies who were like new
producers and they said hey do you have
a movie we could shoot for a hundred
thousand dollars and we’re like all
right well what if you know each of us
went and could get 25 000 each and
there’s four of us so we could pull this
money together and so we did that and
like it was like okay cool we did rock
slide and threw a connection we gave it
to patrick warburton and
crazy enough he loved it and said he
would do it which was mind-blowing um
yeah i’m
so grateful for him he’s such a great
guy but i’m still grateful for the you
know to this day um and um and then he
started then all of a sudden all these
other cast members started coming on he
started making phone calls and my other
buddy john walk started making phone
calls and was like hey uh tom bergeron
said he wants to do this and uh you know
andy dick says he wants to be the bad
guy and reena sophie and it’s so crazy
um it was it really was mind-blowing um
yeah and so we got that one done and
look that one’s hit or miss um there’s
people that love it love it love it and
there’s people that hate it hate it hate
it and i understand both of them um
and um and you know and then so
everything was a stepping stone so now
you know and then the next thing was i
think where hope grows maybe guy was it
where he’ll grows i think it was repo
games you did repo games
oh well i had written where hope grows
it hadn’t gotten
done yet but um i financed yet but um
yeah and then from there uh it was crazy
me and my buddy had this crazy idea he
was he’s a full-time actor and um we
said man what if what if we did the show
where like it was a live repossession
and then we let the people getting their
car repossessed play a game show in
their front yard against the repo man
and if they win we pay off their car and
they own it and if they lose we repo it
because it was a live repo anyways
and um
i told my
i told my lawyer and he said there’s
only one
one person i know crazy enough to pull
off that legal nightmare and so he
hooked us up with this company 495
and sure enough we sold it to um at the
time spike network and it was the
largest series pickup in spike history
they did 20 episodes right off the bat
incredible so i’ve seen over 200 live
repossessions i got shot at in vegas i
had to be the swat team had to run us
out with shields um i mean oh my gosh
that was a wild ride it was a fun wild
ride and it’s funny because to this
thing i i still work a lot with 495 i
still do unscripted stuff yeah um and i
work with 495 still and even like
yesterday they were shooting the show
over here by me and i went over there
and one of the guys was like dude he was
like we still talk about repo games how
do we get it back on it’s been 10 years
it’s the best show ever and i was like
i haven’t seen it i have to confess but
uh it sounds like a fun show i gotta i
gotta look it up
it is a fun show it’s a wild one and
look again i mean
we weren’t um repointing corvettes from
rocket scientists so it was like more
like fun
jokey kind of questions almost like
jaywalking with jay leno if you remember
that where you asked kind of like kind
of silly questions yeah but i’m not
gonna lie when you know there’s
six cameras and um your neighbors are
watching and your car is on the line
it’s crazy how you can’t remember the
simplest things you know what i mean
so there’s
yeah i got and it was cool because repo
games gave me the money to then what
happened next was um rich paluso at a
uh called me about this movie called the
remaining and asked me if i could
rewrite it but he didn’t have
he wasn’t ready to greenlight it yet but
he really loved the idea and he said hey
you have to you’d have to kind of
basically do this on spec but i think if
you rewrite it i think we can get it to
a place where i can greenlight it and um
that was super fortunate because i was i
was in the office with my reality show
stuff and we were in post-production so
i had some time to start
noodling it and um
and got to rewrite it and it got made
and um
so that yeah and that movie is great
maybe actually just got because i think
probably halloween but just got released
on pure flicks again as kind of so it’s
getting kind of a rebirth right now so
that was a an apocalyptic horror film
yeah yep it’s the old subgenre known as
faith-based horror uh and that was
before hope grows where hope grows
yeah that was right before where help
grows okay um if i remember correctly
and then
um and then same thing i started helping
some guys rewrite something and they
were trying to do this movie with like a
small town feel but it was kind of like
a screwball comedy and i was like hey if
you guys are trying to have a project
that like a city or a town would get
behind i’ve got this this project and i
showed them where hope grows and um they
were like yo let’s let’s do that one and
so we had an investor that came in and
gave us the money and we took it to
louisville kentucky and
it was wow to this dean it’s still my
favorite movie i’ve ever shot i don’t
think i’ll ever shoot a movie that i
love more than that movie so what was
the inspiration for that film
um you know funny enough uh
even though again it yeah it’s like the
hollywood reporter said it was the first
english-speaking film with a lead actor
with down syndrome
but it wasn’t really the inspiration
wasn’t the down syndrome or a special
needs angle it really was about a man
who finds childlike faith at his lowest
point and how what that could do
and so i needed like a harbinger of this
childlike faith and i say you know i
didn’t really know anyone was down
syndrome or special needs really and i
said but you know maybe it would make
sense if it was like an individual with
down syndrome
because you can believe they have this
childlike faith and the world would
think that they’re stupid or they don’t
get it or they’re idiots or however
whatever whatever the
you know the way the world judges
individual special needs but then really
actually they’re happy like this guy’s
happy like the characters
he’s got he’s a happy guy like and so he
but he’s not worried about the world and
and so it’s about this guy who has it
all who was a major league baseball
probably had any woman he wanted you
know had money had everything he’s
struggling to raise his
daughter as a single father and he just
has this chance encounter with you know
this kid that works in the grocery store
and how literally
watching that kid live his life you know
the certainly someone we would consider
the least of these um in today’s society
actually has it more together than this
guy does yeah and it won the audience
award at the heartland film yeah the
heartland film fest which is really cool
because that you know that that
festival’s kind i mean like it’s that’s
a super legit festival it’s like um i
mean honestly it’s almost like kind of
sundancy for like
family or just like you know um family
films i guess if you say that but it’s
yeah like it’s certainly prestigious
especially in this world i mean i know
it’s great we’ve been nominated or won
like dub awards and other things but
like heartland was something cool to win
for me like that was probably the
coolest one and that led you to doing a
documentary on asperger’s
um funny enough not to well so that
actually that led me to priceless
uh john chapman who was with the small
bone brothers like he had seen the movie
and said hey the boys want to do this
movie they we saw where it grows we feel
like it’s the right vibe
and so that started that conversation
but um my
one of my best friends
uh he was my dp on warhol grows and he
had bumped into this comedy troupe in
boston where everyone had autism and um
and so he was the one who came back and
said hey uh i’m gonna go shoot this
let’s see if we have anything and we
watched it and he went out there we got
and it was enough for a short film and
he was like dude i think we could you
know if i went back out there for a
couple weeks and we had an idea like
this could be feature length and so
it all worked out and it turned out
great netflix bought it it was at sun i
mean it was at a south by southwest i
mean it was really really proud of it
that’s great
yeah there was a lot of press it was
marketed very well
oh cool thanks yeah and then that funny
enough that led to
on tour with asperger’s or us which was
a docu which was a
limited series that hbo picked up so
that’s on hbo so okay i didn’t know that
that was a series
oh yeah it’s great it’s actually i think
it’s better than the dock it’s a travel
log we the boys get a winnebago and they
do their first comedy tour where they
get booked for 20
25 shows across the us
um so they spend their summer
just tackling the us together it’s
pretty it’s pretty cool
that sounds great
so priceless came out and then uh then
you got run the race now was that
another one of your your pet projects
that was something that you were really
you’re one of your best that was my
buddy darren moorman who was producing
it calling me and go hey man do you want
to get in the tim tebow business and i
said yes i do
so uh so he sent me over uh the script
and said hey this needs a rewrite and
you know we think you’re the right guy
and then um the rewrite led to them
talking to a bunch of directors but then
you know um obviously my name was in the
hat and my name is the one that got
pulled so um yeah very very proud you
know very proud of that one again i
always say it i hate the title of the
movie i hate even saying it um it’s such
a pedestrian weird title um but uh but i
love the movie oh that’s great um
and then you you must have been friends
with matt to get connected with the man
from nowhere because he did that at the
masters university uh without any studio
yeah matt and i’ve been playing
basketball together for ten fifteen
years and yeah
and they do about the masters university
where he teaches does um these really
cool short films every year so i’ve been
writing their short films for the past
three or four years i didn’t know that
yeah and then um and they’re really
there’s some really good ones um
and then uh yeah and then he had this
idea to try to pull off a
feature in eight days uh which is crazy
that is insane
and we did it and we’re very proud of it
actually it’s an exclusive on um pure
flicks right now
oh okay
yeah it’s pretty funny too if you have
you seen it but i have i have okay so
there’s this whole um and matt may have
talked about this but there’s this whole
neo-noir or i’m not neo just noir um
through line like b story right yeah
two weeks before shooting that whole
story did he say this was a westbrook
and you were the one at having to
rewrite the whole thing as a
as a yeah
no more no more western now we’re doing
more like all right cool let’s do it
while you’re in the shoot was that in
the middle of the shoot or was that
before the shoot about two weeks before
the shoot wow yeah but it was it was
kind of cool because it was kind of like
a master chef thing where it was like
all right here’s the locations i think
we can have here’s you know the stuff we
can do now go write this you know go
write this story line so i was like
alright cool so we we kind of made it
work that way but again to pull off a
movie in eight days and one that looks
like that um and i’ve talked to people
that you know people really respond to
it oh i know
yeah um
so it’s it’s improv it’s an impressive
feat matt crushed it to i mean to use
students in that kind of a setting
without any kind of
studio support behind it
um that that’s incredible i mean hats
off to both of you i mean there was a
significant amount of material in that
world which would have been the western
that you had to rewrite
so that was a big rewrite for you guys
yeah yeah thank you yeah it was a good
and i don’t know i’m sure matt since
you’ve talked to matt we just sold
another western too did you okay he was
mentioning he had a western so i’m glad
i’m glad it sold
yeah so we just sold one so pretty cool
that’s fantastic who’d you sell it to
who’s got it
um i think i can say um insp network
see funny enough uh they’re the sixth
highest uh most watched network on cable
right now actually sometimes they
sometimes they move in front of hallmark
in five um but they’re uh
yeah their whole their whole tagline is
heroes live here so they do like a lot
of westerns john wayne
um they do you know any movies that have
true heroes very like middle america you
know that kind of like american grit
type stories like that’s kind of what
falls in there so they um but they do
they do originals and the last one they
did was actually pretty good that it was
called the warrant and it started neil
mcdonough if you know neil
oh okay anyways but you know guys
working actors worked in a million
studio shows and movies and um and it’s
it’s a fun thing so they’re great great
group over there great people but i mean
we had a
um they were talking to me about
possibly directing something i said well
if you like westerns hey read this one
and then they read it and said we like
it we like it so much we buy it so
well that’s great so matt’s going to do
that is he going to do that with master
oh no i mean that’s i mean that script
is sold so it is now up to them however
so he’s not attached anymore yeah i mean
hopefully you know when they decide when
they put it in slate if they need extra
if they need outside help they would
come to us but you know what that’s the
the beauty and the terror of selling a
it’s like a
child that you just send off to college
and you just say i hope you do it well
yeah and when they come back you don’t
recognize them
that’s true
had that happened too many times yeah
well that’s that’s hollywood
okay so how did blue miracle come about
that was that’s quite a big budget film
for you guys with ben howard and
uh yeah so blue miracle’s cool because
if you like if you do the math and you
think about it like i’ve had you know we
had moderate success or decent success
with some of the other movies but it’s
like even like you take run the race
and it did like whatever seven million
dollars in the box office right
so if you do the map i mean what maybe
maybe seven million maybe you know maybe
a million people saw it maybe 750 000
people saw it total um at least in
theaters but then you look at like
netflix and that platform and when you
see that we were number one
or number two in the world for many
weeks and number one is the most liked
on the platform and you do the math like
honestly there’s probably
130 million people that have seen that
movie so far if not more at this time so
it’s like that’s pretty cool like
obviously the upside of of any of that
that you know is gone like you just it’s
just a purchase price but like right but
the fact that so many eyeballs like it
was cool i taught a class last night and
um everyone had seen them in that movie
you know i mean i’ve never been in a
class so far where everyone’s like oh
we’ve seen one of your movies but last
night everyone had seen blue america
yeah that’s incredible cool it’s a cool
calling card and um
and that was one that came to me where
uh guy who was it maybe it was darren
again it was darren again um they had a
they had this ip this great story of um
you know the the caso gar and omar’s
life and said hey they actually had a
book um a book proposal they said read
this book proposal and you know see what
you think about
how this could be a feature and so i
pitched him on something and
just took off and started riding and
those are always funny journeys too
because like we had other networks our
other studios that were looking at
totally financing it even before ben um
and um it’s it’s one of those things
where it’s like they read the first
draft and they hated the first draft
which was interesting so we took it back
to the second draft
they liked the second draft a lot but
still had some notes but then at that
time we floated it to some other people
and other people like nah we like it as
it is
and so it moved on and then obviously it
was a success so um
but you know it’s it’s
it’s it’s funny when you you know it’s
it’s a funny it’s a funny dance when you
have a script you’re trying to sell on
the market and just
you know how people perceive it or what
they want to do with it and
you never know was that one of ben
howard’s first uh
third coast entertainment projects
that might actually be his first one
that actually
went into
well not went into production but
definitely aired because
ben ben and i have roll with it with
shonda pierce yeah
you know that is um we have and we’re
just working on our
distribution right now because it was
going to be theatrically released um
essentially last october but obviously
that all fell apart so we’re trying to
figure that out but that was i think
those two are ben’s first two third
coast um
good yeah he’s a nice guy turned out
they both turned out great i’m super
proud of both of them so yeah yeah i’m
glad you got that going
now tell us about roll with it yeah so
roll with it um look man it’s not a war
and peace we’re not uh redefining a
genre or anything it is about
shonda plays a um a waitress at the
biscuit barrel which is our version of
cracker barrel since we couldn’t afford
buy them off and pay for their all their
copyright stuff um so anyways small town
uh which was awesome because we actually
shot in ashland city which is where
shonda lives and it’s it was great um
and basically she finds out her house
there’s a tax lien against her house
she’s a widow i mean it really leans
into actually a lot of shonda’s life i
mean she is
a widow um and actually her and her
um late husband had the idea for this
kind of project um so it’s it’s kind of
a legacy to them together
and it’s yeah she’s raising a son by
herself and she gets this
tax lien that she never knew her husband
was never paying the taxes on the house
and she’s had she struggled to sing um
to to you know she used to sing they
used to do karaoke together and sing but
since he’s gone they’re always a duo she
hasn’t done it again and of course it
just so happens
that the cheatham county fair karaoke
competition is coming to town
and um she ends up trying to win that to
get the money back to save her house
it is super inspirational it’s pretty
broad which i love it’s definitely not
like a faith film on the nose which
it’s not even a faith film really i mean
there’s definitely strokes of faith in
it for sure and you can’t get away from
the idea that there’s people like
michael w smith and shonda and heather
land is in it um even elizabeth
hasselback shows up and sings an arios
wagon song um
but um
but it’s um what i love about it is it
kind of has that 80s feel and i’m like
i’m just a super 80s freak where it’s
like you don’t have to overthink the
movie you just got to fall in love with
the character and go on the ride and um
it turned and it turned out great we’ve
tested it with audiences it’s it’s a hit
we just now need to figure out where it
lives but there’s great music in it huey
lewis in the news
katrina and the waves wang chung i mean
it’s called roll with it so it opens
with steve wynwood’s role with it um
free bird which that’s like i told you
spoiler alert is michael w smith is a
redneck singing the bar uh you know
shake your groove thing so it’s like all
this great music and i just i love music
so much so it was that was really fun i
mean i had a blast picking the songs um
there’s an epic epic uh
performance uh built this city
um starship song so it’s it’s fun it’s
really really fun um we just need to get
it out there i can’t wait yeah
and no idea when that’s gonna happen
we are in talks right now so hopefully
i literally i literally was told we
should have an idea in next two weeks so
okay all right so maybe maybe sometime
next year
my guess is it would be uh sometime
first quarter next year okay
that’s quick that’s pretty quick
yeah i mean it’s um but i think we’re i
mean we’re you know we’re chomping at
the bit ready to get it out there we
have to find the right partner that um
is as chomping as we are yeah that’s
good that’s good i hope that works out
thank you yeah yeah it’s been a good one
so you’ve written about nine features
and you’ve directed four so do you have
a preference between writing and
directing or is that just something that
happens out of necessity
um you know i mean right now
preferentially i like to write because i
can do it from the house and i got two
little kiddos that i don’t like okay
that’s good
i don’t like leaving so if you know as
of right now
i’d rather write if i had to choose um
i really don’t want to direct um
like a movie a year just to stay
relevant you know what i mean like to
keep keep it going i don’t want to just
have these long layovers
i just optioned a script called the
miracle girl that i’m really excited
about that um
hopefully will get into production
within the next
i don’t know into this year into the
beginning of next year but that that was
just last two weeks so i’m slated to
direct that
there’s a little jimmy dickens biopic
that i wrote that i’m slated to direct
there’s a musical that i’m doing with
alan powell and steve barnett at monarch
media that i’m slated to direct so
there’s a lot of directing things i’m
slated to direct and those scripts are
turned in it’s just now a matter of
getting those things fully financed and
on you know a shoot schedule so wow
how are you so prolific it seems like
you’ve got stuff just flowing out of you
um i do honestly that’s funny um i will
say i i write really fast yeah um i just
whatever reason that’s just
my gift or just so like um and i’m at
the point now where i have a lot of
people like that are kind of coming to
me but i can turn things around really
and i also don’t have like i’m not stuck
in one genre i mean as you’ve seen like
uh yeah i’ve done sports dramas i’ve
done horror films comedies um
you know i’ve
got characters that are all latino
except for dennis quaid as in you know
blue miracle i’ve got
scripts i’ve written where there’s a lot
of african-american characters i’ve got
you know
two scripts right now that are being
shot that are both you know strong
female leads the miracle girl that i was
talking about is a i mean it’s it is a
vehicle for a strong female lead so
i don’t know i just i don’t know i if
i just
i crank like if it’s if it’s something
that i get i got a vision for i’m just
gonna sit down and crank it out and even
if it’s not the great here’s the beauty
of having success right like even if
it’s not like
perfect or the best whereas like earlier
before i’d have to have it like top top
not shape to get around because i mean
it was literally the calling card you
know now i’ve got people that if i can
just get them the script and they can i
go hey here’s the script now if you like
it let’s work on this together
now they’ll take that chance so it’s i
think it’s easier like the pressure’s
off and somehow okay i see yeah where i
where i can just kind of crank through
it and be like okay here it is we’re
going to make this a lot better but like
here’s the you know here’s the script
true so on your first scripts you got to
do like 20 drafts but on your current
it’s it’s just a few drafts yeah
yeah that’s that’s
that’s yeah that’s the way it is
huh interesting so how long does it
generally take you to to write a script
from start to finish
do you have like an average
you know what it so depends on like like
a movie like priceless the first draft
took a week
on blue miracle
you know the first draft probably took a
month but i you know i
i don’t really i’m not good at mapping
out so like a lot of guys will do like
beat sheets or like an outline or
they’ll do the board and they’ll put all
the scenes up and i can’t do that i just
sit down and i just start writing and so
a lot of times like when i did rock
slide i was doing i was making sure i
wrote five pages every day at least and
so i remember as like page 85 and i was
like ah this thing sucks where did i go
wrong and so i had to go back and i was
like oh here it is on page 15 like i
made the wrong decision because i was
just writing and i just kept running
with it so i got to scrap all those
pages and go back and start again so
like that could that would take longer
i mean you know typically in these deals
you’re given like three months to do the
first draft but i i would say almost
i have some version of the first draft
with an easy month for sure that’s
pretty good that is really good
i i find myself in that position all the
time if i if i just go ahead and write i
end up somewhere where
there are some surprises but there’s
also some bad things that make me have
to go back and restructure and do all
that hard work to get it up to
get it back up yeah well and i think
it’s also like the more you do it the
more things land naturally because like
again like i’m not going okay what’s my
first act break what’s my second egg
break but then i’m always it’s always
interesting then when i like i’ll get
through and i’ll go back and i’ll go oh
look my my first act break naturally
fell like right where it probably should
fall you know what i mean like but it’s
i’ve been doing it for 20
second years i’m so it you know it’s
very different than trying to
map it out for the first time
no for sure that’s great
what do you find to be challenges in uh
working in christian film are there any
challenges that you you see oh my gosh
yes there are todd there are huge
i don’t know well i mean like
there’s there’s challenges that are like
where it’s like
uh like people like marketers or
producers or financiers or whoever it is
like obviously
super limiting into a lot of times what
you can do and say
which is super frustrating where it can
be down to like in
run the race i had people tell me that
like there’s jump cuts of cheerleaders
doing flip-flops is like the football
team runs out and they’re kind of
flanking them and doing flip-flops like
99 of cheerleaders in america probably
do when when the team runs out and it’s
jump cuts too and you know and i get the
note well we can see the bloomers um
quit very briefly in one scene it’s like
dude if you’re looking for the bloomers
and jump shots while the whole football
team’s running out like i mean
so you get those weird notes right where
it’s like
like why or like you know a lot of notes
where it’s like
faith has to equal family friendly and
it’s like no can’t we show real things
and do real things it doesn’t be
gratuitous like i don’t want to do
gratuitous things but like
um there’s people that are dealing with
bigger issues than
you know whatever little small way we
want to paint it and i think there’s you
know obviously there’s different people
in this industry that are
making things like the kendrick brothers
make for a certain audience and i love
those guys they’re awesome um
and you know like the irwin brothers
they have their kind of take and then i
think i i tend to feel like mine has a
little more indie kind of vibe to it
which is kind of where i where i live it
where i like and enjoy the films i watch
anyways um i always find it funny too
because it’s like
people like oh well you know if i write
a movie that’s kind of cut like the
movie we have now like there’s just
plenty of cuss words in it you know what
i mean um yeah just the way it works
it’s not a faith-based film but um
but the film’s beautiful and it’s a
great story of a daughter and a uh
father coming back together and figuring
out each other um
you know um
i mean i’m already even thinking about
going oh my gosh are some of my faith
fans gonna just completely be upset
because i’ve done this beautiful movie
that you know is you know got this and
yeah yeah they probably will uh that’s
true but you know so it’s like i so i
hate that i’m hyper aware of that type
stuff yeah um but it’s part of it uh and
you know i think our i think our our
faith audience is strange like um
in a very frustrating way and i as long
as they agree with the message they kind
disregard the art they don’t really care
about the art as long as they agree with
the message
and i find that super frustrating um and
again again it’s all subjective so i
mean i’m not saying i’m the arbiter of
all things that are good films but
there’s some really
bad art that gets a pass yeah because
the message is a christian message and
that’s it is what it is um so i mean
that can be frustrating as you know that
can be frustrating as well
so there’s those i mean i want to say
seventy-five percent of the movies i’ve
done with the faith with christian
producers at some point god gives them a
note which is terrible as a writer
because what am i gonna do like if god
gives you a note i’m gonna argue back
and forth are you serious god gave you
oh yeah
yeah that’s they’ll be like oh they’ll
be like oh yeah god gave me this note i
mean and that’s just a losing battle
because then i have to go
no i mean like i’m not like god is a
better storyteller than that like we’re
not doing i don’t want to do that but
it’s like oh you know all right well
god told you something else i’m like no
god i mean god didn’t give me any notes
but i’m telling you like
i can’t just take a note because you
feel like god gave you that note that’s
happened in numerous movies i’ve done
and it gets frustrating because
how can i argue with the note that you
think god gave you
there’s all those
all those things that are all out there
um yeah
you know but but again like
i think i do think the audience is
expanding i do think more
people they were finding you know
pockets at least with people that are
more interested in not the same old
faith content so that’s
that’s good and i do know that at least
some of my films a lot of my films have
had pretty good crossover appeal um just
talking people and being in hollywood
for 20-plus years
you know that gives me a little
different perspective i think it was
like obviously like you know the irwins
were in alabama
and um you know kendricks were in what
so i i feel like you know i was around a
lot of industry people that weren’t
faith at all and that’s really that was
my friends that was my contemporaries
and so um so that’s been kind of cool
because i i tend to get a lot of respect
for the art even if they it’s the
backwards i get respect for the art even
if i don’t agree with the message
um which i understand um and i find that
pretty refreshing like that always gives
me you know like i like to show my faith
projects or my cuts of the faith movies
or my scripts to
non non-believe my buddies that are like
atheists or agnostic because i want them
to judge it based on like
you know is it a good movie like are you
tracking the characters like do you want
to watch this movie and not just like
you know i like this rousing version of
this casting crown song right here or
whatever the case may be like total time
and place for both of those things but
that’s just not for me
yeah right
so crossover is hard but it is really
amazing when it does happen because it’s
so rare
when something is able to do that really
it really is a no man’s land and that’s
something that i’m always
or you know younger
filmmakers and stuff they’ll be like oh
i mean it’s always the same pitch and i
get it because we all want to do it like
this movie reaches across the aisle and
this is this and it’s like i’ll read i’m
like man i gotta let you know like
you’re actually in a no man’s land right
now like it’s not
faithy enough to wrote to be a fate
you’ve got certain things that are like
you can’t say this in a faith movie but
it’s also got too much faith where like
no one
is going to pick it up you know secular
crowd because that’s also what people
don’t understand i think um
um is you know you’re not when you’re
trying to sell a script or whatever it’s
not the audience you’re not like going
hey um there’s an audience for this like
there very well might be an audience for
this but you’ve got to sell the
gatekeeper at netflix or the producer
like you’ve got that that’s got to be
sold to them so they don’t agree with it
or they don’t like you or they don’t
like it that audience will never have a
chance to see it there very well might
be an audience for it but your p you’re
thinking incorrectly if you think that
this is like well there’s not interest
they’ll do and it’s like no you got to
this netflix guy why they need you know
you know why why they should like it if
it’s something that’s
you know that they’re not super into
right and it’s ever going to make it
i wonder if the the ambiguity that in in
an attempt to make that crossover i
wonder if we maybe shoot ourselves in
the foot by by doing that too much you
know if you empty too much then
the audience knows it whether they’re
faith-based or not they know you’re not
really being true to the theology or the
beliefs of christianity if we just had
more theology and and didn’t worry about
trying to
coddle them or separate them from the
truth that we believe if they would
respect it more
i think i think you’re right i think if
it’s authentic i think but then you have
to i think the issue is and this is
where i think we fall short with
faith-based films is then you have to
create authentic characters for that to
come from and so if the characters are
just a bunch of shills that are just
waiting to pay off some service then
then it doesn’t feel authentic and i
think that’s the biggest issue like it
feels like the movie is just the sermon
and it just got rat and everything else
it was almost like reverse engineered
right like right here’s the sermon and
now we gotta find characters to do it
but if your character
if that’s organically coming from your
you know i i think then the audience
does buy it the same way by the way that
if i was watching a movie about you know
a muslim family or you know and i if i’m
watching it like
if it doesn’t feel like propaganda and
i’m just watching this you know these
this family and their life journey or
something like i’m interested like i
want to watch it like i want to be a
part of it like um
and so that you know i think it’s the
same way like you can have people but
you’re right authenticity is key
especially especially in this generation
in this age right now
that’s true i mean i read dostoyevsky
and i just think wow you know this guy
really put a lot of theology and a lot
of thought in his theology and that’s
the content you know that’s driving some
of the the chapters and story movements
and you know it’s regarded worldwide as
as masterpiece and uh you know yeah we
could be we should be able to do the
same thing in christian filmmaking
yep but again it’s it’s just it’s
there’s certain key components that a
lot of times when these christian
uh finance the financiers and stuff they
really feel like they really have to
just nail it like put you know oh
you know hammer on the head multiple
times to make sure you’re understanding
that can’t be subtle
you know it can’t be layered it’s like
it has to be like in your face like
you know
fall on the ground sinner’s prayer and
you know and then everything goes
so yeah
yeah that’s great
but i think even as christians like i
was gonna say our archer that’s that’s
what gets me is like our journeys are so
messy like
you know i mean like i mean i think it
doesn’t even feel authentic to many
christians it’s almost in a weird way
some of these movies and forgive this
terminology it’s almost like christian
porn where it’s like this is how we
wish the world worked or this is how we
this is how this sh you know this is my
dream this is my fantasy like it works
like this i say this thing and then my
life is perfect or that everything goes
away and it doesn’t work that way
because i’m a christian right now go on
a journey and like dude it’s not easy
like there’s days weeks months where i’m
i didn’t want to do this but i i believe
you know in the historicity of jesus and
i believe in i believe all this stuff
and i know it’s in my heart so even on
those days where i’m like god like i
still circle back and it it can’t leave
me but
man it’s tough yeah and and man there’s
things i’m like god like if i wasn’t a
christian man i would do well even
movies like i’m like i can’t tell you
how many movie ideas i’ve thought of
them i’m like well
that doesn’t even seem remotely edifying
so i can’t do that but man that’d be a
funny movie
so i so i think that’s part of it too is
like even our for our christian audience
it doesn’t feel authentic um to a lot of
people yeah that’s true
so what inspires you what keeps you
going i mean as well as things where
like again i’m no longer bright
bright-eyed and bushy-tailed um
i’m um
i’m i’m trying to work and um
you know
but i want to let you know i i do
believe in like a legacy or like um a
brand and so um
you know i want to create content like
you know i was saying where you know i
feel like we’re a little more on the
edge of of the christian audience and um
i feel like it’s got a more of an indie
vibe but i definitely like stories that
driven by
unlikely heroes or underrepresent like
again like the special needs thing will
always be
i mean that movie really changed me
because i didn’t know anyone in special
needs and now
you know david desantis the lead actor i
talk to him every single day and
i’m on boards of special needs
communities and i volunteer at my church
you know it’s like it literally you know
maybe his art imitating life imitating
art or whatever the case may be but it’s
like it really did change my my life
with that and um
and so like to me that’s awesome like
movies that can do that um and introduce
the world
to characters and heroes that they’ve
never seen or they didn’t know um
i like that i like stories that have a
cause behind it or you know um
but at the same time i mean i want to
have fun too like i’ve got adventure
i’ve got action movies right now that uh
we’re pitching and
you know like i’ve got a supernatural
thriller that we’re pitching like you
know it’s i i just i want to make good
stuff and i want to make stuff that
affects people but i also find it
interesting too it’s like
some of these films that we i have now
that are broader or not faith like i
think it’s awesome to get some people
that are outside of the face space to be
like hey i like that movie who’s the guy
making that movie oh cool what are his
other movies and then go back and look
and those movies don’t offend them
because they’re not you know um just
again a sermon wrapped up in a movie but
like they’re like oh cool like i found
inspiration of this or i have questions
now right you know
so yeah i think
you know it is funny though every
movie i right now like i am just messing
around and writing a script on my own
right now just for fun in between some
stuff but um
but of course there’s a character with
down syndrome i i try to put a character
down syndrome now in every script i’m
doing um so
i got to find david more work he’s so
good in the movie
so you’re now in involved in teaching uh
through a company why don’t you tell me
about this yeah so there’s this really
cool website that’s cranked up called
aspire circles like and um a good
group and they were just trying to find
resources for people that want to make
you know inspirational content and stuff
but maybe don’t have access to
industry people um
and so they brought me in to do a course
uh and it’s super casual i’m not good
like i’m not a good master class guy i’m
not a good
i’m i’m just like conversational and
telling war stories and you know what is
it like in the trenches and
how do you get your stuff done and um
and so um basically uh yeah there’s
classes that you sign up for and i’ve
got one that teaches about writing i get
into some directing too it’s um
i think it’s 15
classes and then there’s interactive
zoom calls um once a month um
my friend chris palaha who is the star
actually before help grows not the
individual down syndrome david de santos
but the other guy who’s been in a
million things um he’s teaching acting
uh chris kimlin who
shoots all the irwin brothers stuff and
shoots all my stuff he’s doing
you know there’s adam drake who’s the
first ad for the chosen and has done and
is just an amazing guy he’s doing
a ad stuff so it’s like there’s a wide
group of stuff in there for anyone
interested in you know filmmaking like
how do i get started or what do i need
to know or what are some tips like
it’s there and it’s interactive and
they’re building out communities and
it’s called circles because it’s like
you join these circles where you’re now
you know you’ve got a community that’s
all doing the same thing is it based on
semesters or quarters or is it just
whenever you start up it just uh that is
interesting because i think right now
it’s like some it’s almost like semester
so like you sign up now but i think
there may be an archived element
afterwards obviously the zoom calls
would not be happening but just like if
you wanted to take the class later and
just go over the class
but um but right now like yeah i think
their sign up is through like october
22nd or 25th i mean it’s coming up so so
you’re getting a lot of response yeah
yeah i have i’ve had people reaching out
to me and um
and again because there’s i mean if
you’re in you know iowa and you want to
write some faith-based films like it’s a
chance to at least hear some stories or
and get a chance to ask questions that
you might not have i mean i i you know
i’ve taught classes i taught a class
last night i mean i’ve taught zoom
classes at universities and high schools
um and it’s it’s a lot of the same
questions so this is like that chance to
kind of just put it out there and
um and give some answers and some
insight and you know what does it run
i think it’s 125 bucks for the whole
semester oh not bad at all that’s a
really good good price
yeah totally totally doable and again
it’s cool like if you may
get there on the circles and decide that
you also want to check out
cinematography or
you know check out
producing or whatever and so it’s like
you could do two of them or you know and
again you get access to people that are
really doing it in the industry that’s
right it’s a cool little vibe that’s
that’s the kind of thing i encourage
young animators or filmmakers or anybody
in the arts there’s an academic
component that’s helpful
but they need to be supplementing it
with a professional
workshops or something so that they’re
getting both sides of the equation in
their education
and i think this is a great opportunity
for for students who uh thank you yeah
and you’re 100 right like because it is
i remember even coming out of film you
know film school with ut and um you know
i got out to la and i was like well this
is the way i was told it was supposed to
go so good right now and i said i’m like
reading other people’s scripts i’m like
well this format is off and i’m like
wait a minute they just sold the script
for you know 200 000 and i’m like
looking at mine going you’re supposed to
be like this i was told everything was
supposed to be you know
so yeah definitely i think i think and i
think that’s part of it is just kind of
hearing like hearing the war stories and
like how you know how do you really
how does it really work i guess is the
question right there’s the academics of
how it’s supposed to work yeah in theory
and then there’s the reality and
i think so we’re talking more of the
reality yeah got to get in the trenches
see what it’s all about and that’s
extremely helpful to be able to do that
chris i really appreciate the time
you’ve given me to to tell me about your
it’s just the inspiration of of being
able to work in this industry and do
what you’ve done
uh is is so helpful so i i appreciate
your time on this yeah well i appreciate
you having me