Makers of 'Fireproof' turn focus to fatherhood

Kent Bush

The team at Sherwood Pictures doesn't work like other filmmakers. They never have.

After the surprising success of "Fireproof" -- the third film for the group comprised of pastors and staff at the Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. -- most film companies would have rushed back into production to maximize their profits.

At Sherwood they stopped and prayed. They have prayed for more than a year, seeking God's direction for their next endeavor.

Sunday, they announced what the direction will be for their fourth film, "Courageous."

"The movie is about fatherhood and the title is one word: 'Courageous,'" director Alex Kendrick said. "Four fathers who are all in law enforcement -- who protect and serve together -- go through a terrible tragedy. They begin looking at their role as fathers. and they begin challenging one another to fulfill God's intention for fathers."

Kendrick's brother, Stephen Kendrick, is the co-writer and producer of "Courageous."

"God led us," Stephen Kendrick said to the audience of church members Sunday morning, many of them volunteer crew, cast, or catering in earlier Sherwood movies. "We believe God is calling men to rise up with strength and with leadership in their homes, with their families and with their children."

According to producers, more than one million children a year experience their parents' divorce and almost 25 million children live without their biological father.

Children without their biological fathers, on average, are more likely to be poor and have educational, health, emotional, and psychological problems, suffer child abuse, and engage in criminal behavior, than peers living with their married, biological mother and father.

One of the main ways Sherwood Pictures differs from others in the industry is the seamless production and marketing efforts.

"We partner with the pastors at Sherwood from the time there is an idea until the film is released," said Kris Fuhr, vice president of marketing for Provident Films, an agency that supports the Sherwood films. "Most films are handed to us after they are made and we have to develop a marketing plan. With Sherwood, we see how the script will play out and develop a battle plan for how to take the movie and turn it into a ministry tool for people and churches across the country."

Fuhr is a good choice for the establishment of a battle plan. She is a Westpoint graduate who reached the rank of Captain before retiring from the Army to start her family.

"I didn't think being a soldier and a mom was a great combination," she said.

She began her career promoting films when she got the opportunity to work with Big Idea Productions to market their first feature film, "Jonah, A Veggietales Movie" in 2002.

From there she became involved with Sherwood's second film "Facing the Giants" and then "Fireproof." She also worked with the "Chronicles of Narnia" and a Michael W. Smith film called "The Second Chance."

Fuhr said the plan for the latest release from Sherwood has a significant purpose.

"This movie will be a catalyst for men to rally together and develop a stronger group of fathers for the next generation," Fuhr said. A series of materials to help facilitate men's group and individual studies will be developed to accompany the release of the movie that is in its earliest stages.

After the script is finalized and casting is completed, production will begin. That phase will be followed with studio work to edit and perfect the film before major theatrical release.

Fuhr said her relationship with Sherwood Pictures has been a whirlwind.

"I can't believe it has been five years since I first started working with this church in Albany, Ga.," Fuhr said. "They work in unison to reach a world beyond their own borders."

Fuhr said the plan for the new movie is simple.

"We'll continue to pray," she said. "We are now praying for the production and the business side. We have to decide when the film should be released and who our partners will be. It is an exciting time."

The film already has more than 8,000 fans on a Facebook fan site. "Fireproof," which cost about $500,000 to produce, grossed more than $33 million at the box office. Millions of DVDs have also been sold after the movie left theaters.

Producers hope that "Courageous" picks up where "Fireproof" left off - both in marketability and ministry.

More information about the movie can be found at www.courageousthemovie.com or www.facebook.com/courageousthemovie.

Augusta Gazette (Augusta, Kan.)