Everyone has meager beginnings and first impressions can be deceiving. At face value, Flywheel came onto the Christian movie scene with little national momentum. However, Stephen and Alex Kendrick found some local success by having their movie shown around their home state of Georgia. Box Office Revolution (BOR) did not exist at the time of Flywheel’s inception, but we would have given it a poor review for multiple reasons. Even today, BOR suspects that the Kendricks know how low quality Flywheel actually was, but they were not deterred. All they had to do was start somewhere.
Following Flywheel, Stephen and Alex continued the process of movie trial and error by learning from their mistakes, unlike many Christian movie-makers. They increased their production budget and invested in better technology, such as better cameras. As they created Facing the Giants, they continued to show inherent talent in coaching actors to be believable and realistic in their acting. Facing the Giants burst onto the scene as a national momentum changer in Christian movies, partly due to an improved marketing push. The movie was filmed with entirely ‘amateur’ actors, departing from a typical Christian movie model. Giants brought more success than Flywheel, and the Kendricks could have stopped there and coasted the rest of their career. Yet they did just the opposite.
There is no doubt that Stephen and Alex Kendrick are grounded in the Christian faith they profess and that they care about portraying real people in real life on the big screen. There is nothing flashy about the Georgia natives, just authenticity and real Christianity. These factors no doubt contribute to their cinematic success.
Fireproof was a slight departure for the Kendricks, as Christian celebrity actor Kirk Cameron was brought in to star in the movie about troubled marriages. The Kendricks took on a topic that is unfortunately unpopular in many Christian circles and hit another home run. Time has proven the actor coaching genius of the Kendrick brothers as Cameron and his co-star Erin Bethea have put on less than quality performances in non-Kendrick movies. At the time of Fireproof, BOR wondered if the Kendricks would begin to coast through the remainder of their career, but we were wrong again.
Courageous had the largest budget of all Kendrick films, and it paid off. Popular Christian actors Kevin Downes and Ben Davies were added to the cast list, alongside the typical ‘amateur’ Sherwood actors. Thanks to Kendrick coaching, BOR saw no difference between experienced and inexperienced actors. Courageous was the most complex Kendrick plot to date and had the deepest character development at the time. The film tackled the serious topic of true fatherhood from multiple angles and expounded on the Kendricks’ silent commitment to diversity in actors. In short, BOR calls Courageous a blockbuster success and the moment when the Kendricks truly ‘arrived’ in film-making. Once again, at this point, the Kendricks could have sat back and coasted. Yet, once again, they chose the higher road.
Following the success of Courageous, Alex and Stephen Kendrick chose to leave their seemingly comfortable staff positions at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, and decided to strike out on their own with faith in God that their new venture would work. They developed Kendrick Brothers Films and seemed to lay dormant for several years. Alex appeared in a few movies as an actor only, including The Lost Medallion and the blockbuster Mom’s Night Out. BOR wondered if their film-making days were behind them. We were completely wrong.
The rumblings of War Room began late in 2014 and continued throughout the spring and summer of 2015. The early advertisements promised a talented cast, a commitment to diversity, and a solid topic designed to change the church culture in America. The movie delivered on all three and packaged them all into an exquisite plot centered around well-developed, believable characters. Complete with a realistic ending, believable life events, a non-linear plot, excellent acting and production, and personal Easter eggs, War Room proved that the Kendricks were not finished making high quality movies.
In addition to perfecting a model for writing and producing high quality Christian movies, the Kendricks are also credited as helping the groundbreaking Erwin brothers begin their movie success. Along with Sherwood executive producer Jim McBride, the Kendricks are quietly thanked for their help with October Baby, the Erwins’ inaugural film that received meager attention compared to their blockbusters Mom’s Night Out and Woodlawn. Therefore, the Kendrick brothers have also shown that they think beyond their own movie-making ventures and seek to improve and discover quality Christian films everywhere. If there ever was a time that quality Christian films were desperately needed, it is now.
The Kendricks have not only found success in grossing high dollar amounts through independent films, but their strong faith and mission clearly drive their film-making. They mobilize the church not only to advertise but also to make a difference in American Christian culture. As far as BOR can tell, the Kendricks have no ulterior motives except for strengthening Christians through movies. Movies are powerful, and the Kendricks have proven this. Yet there is nothing more powerful than righteous prayer, as was demonstrated in War Room, perhaps the most powerful Christian film to date. BOR only expects great things from Christian movies in the future, and the Kendrick brothers are partially responsible for ushering in this new era.