What was the subject of your pastor's sermon three weeks ago?
If you don't know, you aren't alone. But you can probably name several things Forrest Gump did during a two and half hour movie you haven't seen for several years.
According to George Escobar, founder of the Advent Film Group, the reason is simple.
"Our senses are saturated by the imagery of film," Escobar said. "There is something subconscious going on."
Escobar - who has 20 years of experience in the film industry and has worked as former Vice President of Product Development for Discovery, Executive Director for AOL/Time Warner, and former Producing Fellow from the American Film Institute's Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies - took notice of a new Christian film movement. This movement, led by Sherwood Pictures who produced Flywheel, Facing the Giants and the box office hit Fireproof, doesn't follow the typical Hollywood formula for film production.
Sherwood started out of a church in Albany, Georgia. Two brothers, Stephen and Allen Kendrick, knew of the Barna Group study that showed the impact movies could have on people. They wanted to use that impact to reach people for God.
Escobar said his decision was simple.
"I saw what the Lord was blessing," Escobar said. "Many filmmakers have gone after the Christian audience but not with a Christian movie. They all failed. Sherwood Pictures showed that when you meet people's needs, they respond."
That belief is the cornerstone of the Advent Film Group. While AFG isn't a replica of Sherwood Pictures, they are two branches from the same vine.
Their first movie, Come What May, is set for DVD release on March 17, 2009. The decision to skip the box office and go directly into homes and churches was deliberate.
"When you show a film in the theaters, half of the money goes to the theater and most of the rest to a distribution company," Escobar said. "Going straight to DVD will allow church groups to become the distributor."
AFG has an application for a group showing license on their web site (http://www.comewhatmaythemovie.com/events.php).
Like Sherwood, AFG relied heavily on volunteers. Two professional actors, who now home school their children and teach acting, volunteered their services for the film.
Home schoolers are a big part of AFG. More than 40 home schooled students, who now attend Patrick Henry College, did much of the work as interns and assistants on the film.
Kenny Jezek, known for roles in Days of Our Lives, Hill Street Blues and FAME, and his wife Karen, known for her daytime television work on Capitol and Rituals, play two of the main roles.
Austin Kearney and Victoria Emmons play the other two main parts. Both are highly ranked speakers and debaters and transitioned to film in these roles.
The storyline is anything but simple.
Kearney plays Caleb, the son of the characters played by the Jezeks. Emmons is his love interest slash moot court partner at Patrick Henry College - a national moot court and debate powerhouse.
The case the two are selected to argue in moot court is a twist on the parental notification law that would force medical personnel to notify parents before a girl under the age of 18 has an abortion.
Caleb's mother is a high-powered attorney who is selected to argue a very similar case before the Supreme Court. Mother and son take different sides of the argument and the biology teacher and author father is brought into the fray.
The film is unabashedly pro-life and uses logic and law to support the point.
Sherwood's first film had a $20,000 budget. Their second had a budget of $100,000 and the third spent more than $500,000.
AFG benefited from a rapidly assembled group of supporters who provided $300,000 for filming and distribution. They have another script in development already and have plans to get bigger and better as they hone their formula and grow in their craft and ministry.
"Sherwood was the plow and we are coming behind them with future seeds," Escobar said. "We are raising up a generation of Christian filmmakers and actors."
Facing the Giants and Fireproof demonstrated that there is a largely untapped market for movies with a Christian theme. AFG hopes to be a part of reaching that market and sharing their message in a new medium.