Concerns over profits never stopped the Kendrick brothers because they did not start out to make money. A Baptist minister , Kendrick was on the staff of Sherwood Baptist Church when his interest in moviemaking lined up with his desire to “present stories that would draw people to a relationship with the Lord and a greater depth of faith with God.”
His pitch to create feature films using church resources was accepted and Sherwood Pictures was born. Using volunteers from the church as cast and crew and armed with what Kendrick admits was only a very basic concept of filmmaking, they produced 2003’s Flywheel starring…Alex Kendrick. It told the story of a corrupt used car salesman who becomes honest after a religious conversion.
His following films vary but follow a similar formula. They each embrace a single theme: Surrender to God in Facing the Giants, marriage in Fireproof, and fatherhood in Courageous, coupled with a strong proselytizing message. Kendrick explains:
Stories speak to people. Not that we’re trying to preach to them, but when you present a principle or a truth in story form, in a way that people can identify with, it speaks to them….And so not to take anything away from the preaching of the word, but yes, theres a power in stories that we want to utilize and reach this culture.
How do they get to these stories? The theme comes first, the plot is written around the theme, and characters follow.
We go through the better part of a year, saying, ‘Lord what do you want us to focus on, what do you want the plot be?’ It’s usually near the end of that year. It could be eight months, ten months, or a full year, it’s almost like He downloads something to us.…it’s almost like the Lord wants us to seek Him, seek Him, seek Him, seek Him, seek Him, and then He says, ‘Ok, here’s the direction.’ And when the direction comes, it’s very clear.
This method must have something right because Sherwood Pictures’ films are arguably the most successful religious submarket films ever, after the Passion of the Christ. Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous have earned a combined $78 million in box office receipts and millions more on the home market, hefty profit for films whose creation budgets are $2.6 million… Yes, $2.6 million for all three films. That’s the kind of return on investment most Hollywood executives – indeed, most business executives in general – only dream about.