Alex Kendrick Inspires Audience at VHA Benefit Dinner
Attendees of the Vidalia Heritage Academy benefit dinner on October 17 were uplifted and inspired as Christian movie producer and New York Times best-selling author Alex Kendrick shared the story of his rise to success.
During the dinner Kendrick explained that he and his two brothers had always loved movies and films. “We grew up with no television, which today, I think is a good idea,” he began. “Once in a while, my family would take us to go see a movie in the theaters – usually, a Disney film like Swiss Family Robinson. I remember looking at the screen going, ‘Man, I must do this one day.’” He said that he and his brothers would band together with the 32 kids in their neighborhood to film home movies on a large camcorder. “We would run around making our own version of James Bond, except my little brother was Savings Bond; and, Indiana Jones, but our character was Alabama Jones,” he reminisced with a laugh. “In health class, I remember we talked our teacher into letting us do a little episode involving the ‘Better Take a Shower Body Odor Hour.’ We got an “A,” and everybody else was like, ‘How come they get to make a video?’
“We ran around doing movies all the time, and as it grew, my parents began praying, “God, would you capture the hearts of our sons. They want to get into moviemaking one day,’” Kendrick emphasized. According to him, Christian films were not as widely made during this time as they are now, which led their parents to worry for their future.
Kendrick explained that as he matured in both character and moviemaking, he also grew in his faith. “I prayed the sinner’s prayer at a young age, but I began to really understand what it meant in high school – that Jesus was not just Savior but Lord, and I began to surrender my life to Him in high school,” he said. “My brothers did something similar about that time.”
Yet, when it became time for Kendrick to attend college at Kennesaw State University, the school did not have a film degree, so he worked to obtain a degree in communications. “After school, I was like, ‘God, I’m ready to make movies. What do I need to do? Who do I need to contact?’ and the Lord said, ‘No, you’re not,’” he recalled. “I learned some things during this process and with how it all turned out. If God allowed your dream to die – and sometimes, he does allow our dream to die so that he can resurrect it as well. So, when He resurrects it and it works, He gets the credit. If I have a dream and I put just a little bit of work into it, and God allows me to have it a little bit too soon before I understand who gets the glory, who takes the credit?”
While frustrated about his dream being seemingly on hold, Kendrick turned to ministry, where he worked for several years. “I loved it,” he emphasized. “I was a high school minister and a college minister in my 20s. I remember sitting in my office at the church realizing, ‘What am I even thinking that I can make movies one day? I don’t even know anyone in Hollywood – I don’t even know anybody that’s in that business!’ So, I struggled and gave it to God and asked Him to take that desire away from me.”
Years passed as Kendrick worked in ministry; he married his wife, Shannon, and the couple was awaiting the arrival of their firstborn child when he received a call from a church in South Georgia that wanted Kendrick to serve as the associate pastor of media. “The Lord gave me that peace and told me to go, so now I’m definitely thinking I’m not ever going to be making movies,” he commented. “No one shoots movies in Albany, Georgia.”
The couple moved to Albany and grew their family. In 2002, a nationwide survey was conducted which determined that movies, television, and the internet were the most influential factors in our culture today. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, churches don’t do much with those things,’” Kendrick recalled. “Now, almost everyone at least works with the internet, but back then, it was not as common. I went to my pastor and said, “What if we made a movie for our community?’ He said, ‘Like a feature film?’ and I said, “Yeah!’ He said, ‘Alex, do you know how to do a feature film?’ (I said,) ‘No.’ (He said,) ‘Do you know how much they cost?’ (I said,) ‘A lot.’” The pastor agreed that the movie could be made if the funding for the film was raised without asking for contributions by the church congregation. “I start telling God what the movie should be about. Of course, it had chases and explosions, etc. The more creative I got, the more God said, ‘No.’ He turned my heart toward lordship – the lordship of Jesus Christ,” Kendrick continued. “He started giving me the plot to a movie that would be called Flywheel. It is about a used car salesman who goes to the biggest church in his city to get customers and when he’s there one day, the pastor comes to his lot to buy a car. He deceives the pastor, and when the pastor buys the car and is about to drive off, he asks to pray for the car salesman, thinking he got a good deal. He prays, ‘God, I thank you for this car….I thank You for this car salesman – he gave me such a good deal, I ask that You treat him as good as he treated me.’” Kendrick shared that this prayer causes the car salesman in the film to realize that many aspects of his life were immoral, and caused a spiritual revival in the man’s life.
After Kendrick finished writing the movie’s plot, he asked the Lord to provide him with $20,000 to make the movie using lights from Home Depot, a homemade movie camera prop, a digital camera, and a microphone. Kendrick said the Lord soon delivered, as he received a random call one day that the Lord had placed it on the hearts of a family in the church to donate money to Kendrick. “The Lord had not told them what it was for, so they called and asked me why the Lord would want them to give me money,” he remarked. “I told them about Flywheel, and they gave me the funding that day.”
This sort of divine intervention would continue through the rest of Kendrick’s career, as every obstacle was miraculously overcome in both the movie creation process and the presentation of the films.
When trying to show Flywheel to the community, Kendrick said that he was originally denied by the Albany theater’s manager, who said that the theater could only share movies that it received from professionals. The manager agreed to talk with the corporate owner of the theater chain, who later approved for the film to be shown if Kendrick provided the DVD player. Upon the first weekend the movie was shown, it was sold out as people came to see what story had been shot in their hometown. Quickly, these sold out weekend audiences led the theater chain to expand the movie’s distribution across the Southeast.
A similar instance occurred during the creation of the Kendrick brothers’ second movie, Facing the Giants. Because of the planned utilization of a “Third Day” song in the movie, Kendrick called the band’s management to get approval to use the song in the film. The band asked to see the movie, and soon handed the film off to their record label’s parent company, Sony, which had previously refused to distribute the film. Before long, Facing the Giants was in the theaters across the nation to spread a message of faith and hope.
As the success of the films grew, so did the interest in the projects. Growing Pains Actor Kirk Cameron contacted the Kendrick Brothers about his interest in starring in one of their movies, and the men had him star in Fireproof, a film that dealt with the sanctity of marriage. The movie became widely impactful, as marriages were restored through the audiences’ relation to the plot. Kendrick said that the producers were flooded with story after story of healing relationships, and that those types of reactions are what inspire him and his brothers to continue with their craft.
Since Fireproof, Kendrick has written, directed, and/or starred in eight films, including Courageous, War Room, and Overcomer. He also shared that a new film which he helped write and direct will hit the theaters next year.
“There is nothing you can ask God for that is better than [asking for His favor],” he summarized. “We realized in making movies that it’s not the budget that is our biggest asset; it’s the favor of the Lord.” Importance of Christian Education Kendrick also spoke on the importance of Christian education in today’s society. “My family has been involved in Christian education. I am passionate about it – it is one of the reasons that I said ‘yes’ when asked to speak tonight because I believe in the cause and the importance of pouring into the next generation because the world wants them, and you and I have to fight for them. We have to invest in them,” he remarked.
As a son of both a minister, who created his own Christian school, and a school teacher, Kendrick recognizes the ability small schools have to thrive and to influence their community. “If my dad can trust God to make a Christian school from almost nothing, can God use us, without film degrees and experience – in Albany, Georgia, of all places – to make feature films? The answer is yes,” Kendrick stressed. “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will succeed.”
Vidalia Heritage Academy Headmaster Jeff Mc-Cormick also spoke on the value of Christian education. “I’ve been the headmaster here for 18 years now, and people ask me all the time why I think that education at Vidalia Heritage Academy is important. My answer can be summarized in one word: worldview,” he explained.
McCormick continued, “You see, every educational institute is based on someone’s ideas – someone’s school of thought. That worldview is drilled into students’ heads for roughly 15,000 hours – that’s how much time students normally spend in the classroom from kindergarten through 12th grade. When they graduate, it is their worldview that will determine what’s important to them, how they will live, how they will raise their families, how they will conduct their business, (and) how they will lead their communities and our nation. That’s why education at VHA is important – because the worldview is woven into the very fiber of the fabric of who we are.”
Other Events of the Night In addition to these speeches, several Vidalia Heritage Academy students performed to showcase their talents and knowledge gained at the school.
The school’s “Drumline” united the audience in a chant of “Be bold, Be brave, Be courageous,” in an effort to educate the audience on the school’s annual motto. The third through fifth grade students also took to the stage to perform two worship songs, which they sing during their weekly chapel services. Lastly, the high school chapel band closed the event with a song of praise to God, as they invited all attendees to stand and join in worship.