Re-posted from my Substack.
David Helling has been working on his first feature-length film—His Only Son, about Abraham and the near-sacrifice of Isaac—for a long time.
How long? He can remember casting actors for his film in Los Angeles in 2018, the same week Dallas Jenkins was in town to cast actors for The Chosen.
Scheduling conflicts forced Helling to delay production until the summer of 2019—by which time the first half of The Chosen’s first season had come out—and then the pandemic came and threw the entire movie industry into disarray while Helling’s film, which did not yet have a distributor, was still in post-production.
But then something happened: as theatres began to re-open, enormously successful shows like The Chosen—and, now, films like Jesus Revolution—proved that there was a market for explicitly Christian productions, and indeed that Christian films could be a significant part of the movie industry’s efforts to rebuild itself.
To that end, Angel Studios—one of the companies behind The Chosen—has now launched its own theatrical division, and His Only Son will be the first film to get a regular wide release under that banner when it opens this Friday, March 31.
I had a chance to talk to Helling about his film, and we had fun talking about some of the historical and theological ideas that informed his approach to the story. We also talked about how he came to be a filmmaker in the first place, and about how His Only Son ties into the Bible-themed short films that he made for his church while he was honing his craft. (You can watch those films at Helling’s YouTube channel.)
You can watch our interview above; paid subscribers can also see a transcript of our interview below. Some of the main points we cover include:
- Going to Iraq with the Marines, and to California for film school (00:43).
- Helling’s religious background, and how he rediscovered the Bible (05:50).
- The biblical short films he produced for his church (11:20).
- Why he focused on the binding of Isaac for his first feature-length film (14:36).
- How the binding of Isaac anticipates the crucifixion of Jesus (20:35).
- The different theories about where Abraham came from (23:40).
- How the film incorporates some fictitious Philistine characters (27:10).
- How the film got its lead actor, Nicolas Mouawad—and how it might have helped Mouawad get a part in a George Miller film (37:08).
- Why the pre-incarnate Christ appears in this film (40:52).
- Helling’s friendship with The Chosen creator Dallas Jenkins, and how the success of that show has helped his own film get a theatrical release (45:17).
And yes, I need to get a better microphone. In time, in time.
- ‘Solomon and the Djinn: two movies’ (August 27, 2022)
- ‘The binding of Isaac, coming to theatres next month!’ (February 11, 2023)
- ‘Angel Studios launches new trailer, new theatrical division for His Only Son’ (March 16, 2023)