By Donald James Parker
George Escobar, founder and Executive Director of the Advent Film Group – producers of the new movie going on sale on March 17th. That excellent film named Come What May was featured in a review I wrote for The Christian Pulse a few weeks ago. This movie is a keeper, so I encourage you to buy the DVD and share it with those people that God puts on your heart.
TCP: What is the vision for the Advent Film Group?
George: AFG has an integrated, dual mission: Being and growing great filmmakers for Christ. AFG aims to make solid, entertaining films that are good for families and affirm biblical values and principles. Making good films is not a mere end in itself. It is also AFG’s means for giving high school and college-age young people hands-on exposure to the craft of filmmaking. In this way, AFG seeks to inspire them and help them discern whether God has sent them to serve in this critical message-making and culture shaping field of endeavor. Forty young people participated in the making of Come What May! If AFG’s vision is fully realized, God will have used AFG to:
•germinate the seeds of filmmaking vocations He has sown in the hearts of many young people;
•through long term relationship with these chosen seed bearers, nurture, train and encourage them to grow in skill and Godward vision for their work; and
•help seed and establish them in the field of filmmaking — so that within two generations the field will be overtaken with faithful, fruitful, gospel affirming story tellers for Christ.
TCP: Obviously you're not afraid to tackle controversial issues since Come What May featured the highly inflammatory abortion issue. What other subjects might we expect to see highlighted in future films?
George: We are focusing on three subjects for our next three films: 1. The importance of fatherhood (addressing the problem of absent dads. Dad may be at home, but his heart and mind is somewhere else.). 2. Knitting families together (promoting family unity by showing a "great" accomplishment that only a family can achieve if they work together for kingdom purposes.) 3. Loving our neighbor (tackling immigration)
TCP: Do you have any seemingly miraculous stories to tell about the founding of Advent or the production of your movie?
George: God has made Himself strong from the very start of Advent Film Group. We have dozens of stories we like to tell. Here are three miracles you should know:
1.Our miraculous funding – I was told by friends in Hollywood it would take talking to 30 accredited investors before finding one who would invest. That's a 30:1 ratio. That Lord wasn't interested in 30:1, 20 to 1, or even 10 to 1. He wanted us to know without a doubt that funding was coming from Him. We ended up talking to 20 investors and they all said yes. 100%. 1 to 1 ratio. That's impossible without God. In three months we received the funds to start production. According to the world, finding 20 investors requires talking to about 600 people. In other words, if we talked to 600 people, one person per day, it would take us almost two years. Isn't that incredible?
2.Finding our adult cast for "Don and Judith Hogan" – We didn't want to cast the normal way (open casting call over the internet or open auditions) because when we did that we got a lot of "unsavory" submissions. We just did know the true character of the actor/actress. We could see what they did before, but there's no telling what projects they would do next. So we pray about it. A very specific prayer: Lord please bring us: a) professional actors; b) that they would be married; c) they would be Christian; d) they would know homeschooling or are homeschooling parents; e) they love teaching acting to young actors; f) they would have 5 weeks to work with us; g) that we could afford them. The Lord answered everyone of those very specific prayers and He brought us Karen and Kenny Jezek. That's a miracle. But stop to think about this, God knew we were going to need the Jezeks, so He began preparing them to be ALL of these thing fifteen years ago when they began their careers and their own walk in Christ.
3.Getting distribution – There are about 4,000 films made every year, mostly independent films. About 5% of them get one distribution offer. The Lord didn't want us to get one offer, or two, or even three. He gave us 10 distribution offers to pick from, including the most successful Christian distributor, Provident Films, who had engineered the release of FACING THE GIANTS and FIREPROOF.
TCP: Do you feel you're in the role of a David trying to slay the blaspheming giant called Hollywood? How can you possibly win that fight?
George: It's not really a battle against Hollywood we are fighting. It's much bigger than Hollywood. We're fighting against a humanist secular worldview that denies God, His truth, His sovereignty. It permeates everything now. It's a Cosmic Battle. On our own, there is no way we can win this fight. All we can do is stand firm. To take a stand and let God fight the battle.
TCP: How long did it take you to shoot Come What May and how did you get Patrick Henry College on board?
George: Principal photography (the main production filming) took 5 weeks, about a week of that was spent on training the students. That was done in the summer of 2007, from July 9 until mid August, just before the PHC students returned to campus. We had another week and half of "pickup filming" in late January, early February 2008. Post-production, including sound design and mixing took about 7 months total. When you don't have a big budget, time is your other asset.
Patrick Henry College was on board at the very start. We are a homeschooling family and we've been supporters of the college since before the college was built. Over the years, we had established a good relationship with the leaders of PHC, and the homeschool community. Still it was leap of faith for PHC to commit to making this movie. When they saw how the Lord made the funding, and all the other miracles that followed, it was a confirmation for PHC that they needed to be involved.
TCP: How much did it cost? How much of the labor was done by volunteers?
George: COME WHAT MAY is a micro-budget movie. Our budget was similar to the FACING THE GIANTS and FIREPROOF budgets, if you factor hard costs, plus the volunteer work and in-kind services we received for free. Volunteer labor accounts for about 60 percent of total labor across the board including production, business, legal, finance, sales, marketing, and distribution expenses.
TCP: What are your favorite Christian movies?
George: Fireproof, Facing the Giants, Chariots of Fire, Joshua
TCP: What are your favorite secular movies?
George: It's a Wonderful Life, Patton, Sound of Music, Emma, Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth BBC version), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Master and Commander, Gettysburg, Singing In the Rain
TCP: Featuring subject matter such as abortion can bring about persecution Is AFG prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of an outraged culture?
George: A good metric of how well we are representing Christ in our films can be measured in two ways: 1) How Christians are talking about and praising the films. 2) How Christians and non-Christians are offended by the message in our films because they promote an opposing viewpoint. In both cases AFG is prepared to the extent we are in prayer. We don't want to be puffed up by the praise, nor do we want to shrink when we face opposition.
TCP: Where is your base of operations?
George: Our main office is in Purcellvill, VA (not far from Patrick Henry College). We run a virtual studio model. Editing is done in Tennessee, near Nashville, by Manny Edwards. Sound mixing and design is done in Colorado Springs by John Doryk at his home studio. Color correction, digital workflow coordination is at Leesburg, VA by Stephen Pappas.
TCP: How much prayer goes into your efforts?
George: A tremendous amount of prayer from the very start is needed. The longer we do this, the more we are in prayer and in praise. The Lord's blessing on us has been tremendous. It's endless. It is truly a wonderful experience to be doing work He wants done. It's almost indescribable to be in the midst of seeing God at work in each of us as we've undertaken this project, but also seeing other people from across the country being touched by God to help us, to pray for us, to fund us, to be changed after seeing CWM.
TCP: Christian literature and movies usually preach to the choir. How do you plan on getting your material in front of the secular audience?
George: AFG has long-term mission and vision. 1. First we need to train ourselves to make good films for an audience we know. This creates a solid foundation on four fronts: a) Meet the needs for Christians first; b) Allow Christians to help us; c) Collectively we can pray together for God's blessing in rebuilding cinema culture for Christ; d) Grow our audience and train them to want something better and better in films that put Christ at the center of the story. Once we have a foundation, then we can build a house and invite our "neighbors" and break bread with them. We will reach out to the secular audience, but only after we ourselves are equipped (trained), have financing (from a growing audience who know and like us), and have permission from God to move forward. Think of Joshua and the Israelites marching around the walls of Jericho. We believe the walls will come tumbling down, but first we have to march, pray, and then we will shout when God tells us. And shouting is not necessarily the volume of our voices, it's the penetrating message we communicate.
Check out the Advent Film Group website at http://www.adventfilmgroup.com You can order Come What May there.
About the reviewer: Donald James Parker is a novelist who specializes in culture-clash fiction. Check out his work – including free ebook download – at www.DonaldJamesParker.com?tcp