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Stephen Lamb

Fireproof (2008)

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QUOTE
ALBANY, Ga. (Baptist Press)--The two brothers who directed "Facing the Giants" now are working on another cinematic release -- "Fireproof," starring Kirk Cameron -- about saving a failing marriage.

Stephen Kendrick, co-writer and director for the newest movie from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., along with his brother Alex, wrapped up five weeks of filming their latest Christian drama in December.

Earlier releases "Flywheel, The Movie" in 2003 and Facing the Giants in 2006 received strong reviews and calls for another installment in the feel-good, faith-based, family values vein. Facing the Giants drew $10 million in box office receipts and remains a best-selling DVD.

Fireproof is scheduled to hit theaters in August; like Facing the Giants, it will be distributed through Provident Films, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures.

The storyline focuses on a young couple, Caleb and Catherine Holt, whose seven-year marriage is on the rocks. Caleb is played by Cameron; Erin Bethea, a member of Sherwood Baptist and a graduate of the Baptist-affiliated University of Mobile in Alabama, plays Catherine.

Caleb's father tries to persuade his firefighter son to delay divorce for 40 days while secretly going through a process he calls the "love dare." Although reluctant and skeptical of his parents' newfound faith, Caleb agrees and embarks on a spiritual journey that redefines what love means to him.

As he takes the day-by-day dare with suggestions of how to unconditionally love his wife, he eventually comes to realize that he doesn't know the Giver of love. As he slowly becomes changed from within, he seeks to win back the heart of his wife who is suspicious of his motives.

Full story here.

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Link to the thread on Facing the Giants.

I was supposed to visit the set last month, but there was a major SNAFU with regard to the plane tickets, so I didn't, in the end. But man, that alone suggests the filmmakers have moved on and up in the world, at least when it comes to budgets!

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I didn't get to visit the set, but I did visit the church and speak to the producers/directors ... and this is the first article to come of that. More later.

It's weird, by the way, looking at some of my earlier references to these guys, since when I first heard about the kerfuffle over Facing the Giants' PG rating, I got pretty skeptical and reacted to their soundbites in a perhaps more pointed way than I would use now, having met them. I like these guys, and I even like their films, for what they are -- which is to say, these films are created by regular church members as a form of ministry and need to be judged by different standards than we would use when evaluating regular movies, or even when evaluating stuff like Left Behind, which is pretty clearly just entertainment for churchgoers (even "evangelical pornography", to use kenmorefield's term). Like I've said elsewhere, I've done my share of church drama groups, and it can be hard just to do a night of dinner-theatre sketches -- so I am very, very impressed with what the people at Sherwood have been able to do, so far. I do hope that they keep getting better, and I would personally prefer films that allow for more a little more ambiguity (I'm more of a Job/Ecclesiastes kind of guy than a Proverbs kind of guy, if you get my drift), but right now I'm far more interested in encouraging these guys than slamming them. New talent needs to be nurtured, and all of that.

Incidentally, re: Left Behind, there is an interesting comment in Kirk Cameron's new autobiography about how there were virtually no Christians on the set of that film -- so when I interviewed him about Fireproof a little while ago, I had to ask about the differences between doing a Christian film where everyone on set was a "professional" who was there strictly to do a job, on the one hand, and doing a Christian film where virtually everyone on set was an amateur or volunteer doing it out of a desire to be part of a media ministry, on the other hand. More on that later.

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Kirk Cameron says the film is partly about men taking the leadership role in a relationship. (If I watch this interview again, I'll be sure to watch the female interviewer's face more closely when he makes this statement.) I've seen the film, though -- twice, in fact -- and I'm not so sure that it DOES place any special onus on husbands in general. But I can't get into that any deeper without getting into spoiler-ish territory.

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Kirk Cameron says the film is partly about men taking the leadership role in a relationship. (If I watch this interview again, I'll be sure to watch the female interviewer's face more closely when he makes this statement.) I've seen the film, though -- twice, in fact -- and I'm not so sure that it DOES place any special onus on husbands in general. But I can't get into that any deeper without getting into spoiler-ish territory.

Here's a cool tidbit of information, folks: the guy who wrote the novelization for Facing the Giants and Fireproof--Eric Wilson--rocks the Casbah. :cool: Starting in October, he will introduce The Jerusalem Undead vampire trilogy, with IMNSHO the most unique take on the legend of the living dead in the history of literature. Head to www.wilsonwriter.com and www.jerusalemsundead.com for more info.

Edited by Roland Deschain

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The trailer moved me. I don't know if it's because I am counseling a lot of broke marriages right now, but it really moved me.

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I didn't get to visit the set, but I did visit the church and speak to the producers/directors ... and this is the first article to come of that. More later.

And here is the second. The first article focuses just on the Kendrick brothers, the second one is also about them but looks a little broader; it's more about the church as a whole, and includes an interview with the senior pastor, in addition to the Kendricks.

And yes, despite having identical headlines, they ARE different stories. I haven't double-checked, but if memory serves, there aren't even any overlapping quotes.

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(from that interview)

In your book, you say that there were very few Christians on the set of Left Behind, so even just within the Christian filmmaking business, it sounds like there was a big difference between working on those films and this one.

Cameron: Definitely. You'd think on a movie about the return of Christ, you'd have a lot of Christians there, but to my knowledge there weren't any other Christians on the crew or in the cast. There were some professing Christians

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I don't mean this as a slight to this film in particular at all, but I believe there's some sort of axiom or law that could be constructed here. My first attempt was framed like this:

Every evangelical film project eventually involves Kirk Cameron.

But I think it's missed the target slightly. I'm sure there's a way to fix it, though!

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(from that interview)
In your book, you say that there were very few Christians on the set of Left Behind, so even just within the Christian filmmaking business, it sounds like there was a big difference between working on those films and this one.

Cameron: Definitely. You'd think on a movie about the return of Christ, you'd have a lot of Christians there, but to my knowledge there weren't any other Christians on the crew or in the cast. There were some professing Christians

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Am I alone in finding some arrogance in a statement that "My wife and I were the only Christians", right after saying "there were some professing Christians"? He seems to use cast and crew interchangeably. But it really comes across like, "Sure, there were people who said they were Christians. But my wife and me? We were the only real Christians I saw on the set." Maybe I am reading something unfairly here...

No, I'm with you on this. Especially his reaction to what Trivette, er, Gilyard said about his faith. At least from the interview, Cameron seems to be clinging to the "the only TRUE Christians are the ones that believe exactly what I believe" mindset. I could be wrong, of course.

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Am I alone in finding some arrogance in a statement that "My wife and I were the only Christians", right after saying "there were some professing Christians"? He seems to use cast and crew interchangeably. But it really comes across like, "Sure, there were people who said they were Christians. But my wife and me? We were the only real Christians I saw on the set." Maybe I am reading something unfairly here...

No, I'm with you on this. Especially his reaction to what Trivette, er, Gilyard said about his faith. At least from the interview, Cameron seems to be clinging to the "the only TRUE Christians are the ones that believe exactly what I believe" mindset. I could be wrong, of course.

Since he's part of a ministry called, "The Way of the Master" which, IMO, reduces (and distorts) the gospel message into a series of propositional truths to be affirmed, this is not surprising. Roman Catholic spirituality would be completely foreign to them. While I am not Roman Catholic for a number of reasons, there is no inherent biblical excuse to automatically assume that a Roman Catholic person's faith is non-Christian.

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Hmmm. I have to admit I wondered if I should cut that bit from the interview, lest it be a big distraction or something. This particular quote has NOTHING to do with Fireproof, which is, after all, the movie that he was promoting when I was talking to him, and I wouldn't want his thoughts on this subject to cause anyone to avoid the movie or anything like that. But I was following up something he had claimed in his book, about the making of Left Behind, and I figured people might be interested in hearing a little more about that.

I don't think Cameron's response is all THAT bad, necessarily. He is absolutely right when he says that there is a wide range of belief systems within BOTH Catholic AND Protestant circles. At the risk of sounding inflammatory, there are heretics in both circles who openly call themselves "devout" -- and they might very well be sincere and devout in their devotion to God as they understand him, etc., but their theology is still pretty much non-Christian. (And I'm not talking here about the disagreements in doctrine that separate Catholics from Orthodox from Protestants, I'm thinking more of the way people say Jesus was basically just a good man, or the way they gravitate towards denying the historicity of the Resurrection, etc. -- the stuff that all three major branches of Christianity are supposed to have in common.)

So when Cameron says he doesn't know what a person means by calling himself or herself a "devout" so-and-so, I can appreciate the ambiguity there. Of course, I would hope that he and Gilyard TALKED about their beliefs, but maybe they didn't, I dunno. (A part of me does wonder what a "devout Catholic" was doing in a Rapture movie, since the eschatology that underlies those films comes from a Protestant sect that didn't exist until the 1800s.)

At any rate, even if Cameron and Gilyard DID have the basic beliefs in common, they obviously would have parted ways on the denominational differences, since being a "devout Catholic" entails believing in a lot of stuff that Cameron's brand of "biblical Christianity" does not include. I mean, would Cameron consider belief in the Rapture an "essential of the faith"? If he does, then that alone would put him at odds with "devout Catholics" and devout Orthodox and many devout Protestants, too.

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(A part of me does wonder what a "devout Catholic" was doing in a Rapture movie, since the eschatology that underlies those films comes from a Protestant sect that didn't exist until the 1800s.)

Interesting question. I wonder what his response would be...as a Catholic, I personally couldn't justify acting in a Left Behind movie, because the whole series is intended to popularize belief in a religious dogma that I don't hold (not that I'm an actor anyway). But he's not responsible for the content of the movie, just for his particular work. And while I wouldn't agree myself, I can see the appeal in arguing that we have to work inside the system, and that a Left Behind project is better than 99.9% of other projects out there.

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Am I alone in finding some arrogance in a statement that "My wife and I were the only Christians", right after saying "there were some professing Christians"? He seems to use cast and crew interchangeably. But it really comes across like, "Sure, there were people who said they were Christians. But my wife and me? We were the only real Christians I saw on the set." Maybe I am reading something unfairly here...

It sounded pretty typically evangelical to me.

Reminds me of a joke:

A man dies and meet St. Peter at the gates of Heaven. "Well, let's go on the tour," says Peter.

They walk along, looking at the sites, when they see a group of people holding a rousing worship service. "Those are the Pentacostals over there," Peter tells the man.

They walk along a little more and they see a group of people singing traditional hymns. "Those are the Lutherans," Peter explains.

They walk a little further, when Peter turns to the man. "Shh, we'll need to be quiet walking through this part."

"Why, what's the matter?" asks the man.

Peter replies,

"That group over there is the Baptists, they think they're the only ones here!"

And that's the last off-topic post I'll make in this thread, sorry. :)

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I hope Peter doesn't mind if I link his review. Very kind, Peter. Very kind.

As I mentioned to Peter privately, I haven't seen the previous Sherwood Baptist films, so whether or not Fireproof represents a step up -- something that Peter's review emphasizes -- is absent from my review, as it was absent from my assessment of the film while watching it. I noted several caveats in Peter's review, and in the PluggedIn review, although both came down favorable on the film despite those things.

Oh, one more thing not in my review. I'll be blunt. The depiction of the wife's black, female co-workers really pissed me off. Some "Mmmmm-hmmmm," and "girl" references, that sort of thing. The film has only one or two of these scenes, but one comes early. It's possible that the scene in question put me in a foul mood and didn't allow me to give the filmmakers the benefit of other doubts I have about the film.

Edited by Christian

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Finke:

Also a surprise was the 3rd place debut of Provident/Sony's Fireproof whch opened to $2.6 million Friday even without stars, and a weekend estimate of $7.5M even though it was released into only 839 dates. The reason why is that the studio targeted the Christian audience and hired a Christian PR/marketing firm to push the PG-13 film starring the grown-up child TV star Kirk Cameron. "Just between you and me, keep your eye on the Fireproof per screen averages this weekend," a Grace Hill Media source tipped me. "On Sunday, I think there will be some distribution execs around town who will be asking 'What the hell is Fireproof?' The answer is Sony

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