THE PRODIGAL PROJECT
What’s the movie about?
– It’s a movie about a church making a movie about the parable of the
Prodigal Son. It is a comedy with a message for both
Christians and non-Christians.
What’s the big idea behind the movie?
– A growing number of people in our society have no use at all for religion.
They see Christians as judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical, sexist, out of
touch, humorless, and old fashioned. The sad truth is that many of us in the
church can be described with just such terms. But the truth of the Gospel is
that God isn’t interested in religion, either. He is all about
relationships: the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father, and
relationships among His children. We want to illustrate that truth. But
we’re not planning to produce a typical “Christian film.” So many in that
genre are well-meaning, well-done and carry messages that are right on
target, but they speak primarily to a Christian audience. They tell powerful
stories filled with the Gospel, but they’re done in such a way that
“secular” folks will never see them. Our pastor, Jim Somerville and his
brother, Gray suggested the innovative approach we’re taking. And Jesus’
parable of the Prodigal Son as recorded in Luke 15 is our model. He told a
great story that held the rapt attention of his secular audience: the
sinners and tax collectors. But the Pharisees and teachers of the law also
were listening. And, as it turned out, Jesus spoke to both groups a message
of forgiveness, reconciliation and love. We feel that God is leading and
enabling us to do likewise: entertain and inspire, tell a great story that
reveals spiritual truth.
– A core team has been at work on this project for many months. The
writers are Deborah Hocutt and David Powers. Deborah is a seasoned creative
professional and an organizational genius. She worked for years as Literary
Manager for the novelists David Baldacci and John Grisham. Deb is also
serving as the Production Coordinator. David Powers has led FBC’s Media and
Communication Ministry for the last 19 years. With 40 years’ experience in
television production, he has produced and directed musicals, documentaries
and dramas in the U.S. and 25 other countries. In addition to working with
Deb on the screenplay, he will also direct the movie. Debbie Ward is serving
as associate producer, coordinating the hundreds of volunteers who will help
with the production. Debbie brings a wealth of administrative experience to
the team. Jerry Cardwell, who has more than 20 years of experience as a
Production Executive with CBN and the Family Channel, is serving as Unit
Production Manager, responsible for bringing the film in on schedule and
within budget. Paul Bickford, a graduate of the University of Miami’s Film
School, leads the FBC Communication Team, providing guidance for the
project. Paul will also be involved in the production of the movie. Steve
Martin is working with the team as a story consultant and helping with the
marketing. Steve is a marketing communications professional and former
partner and strategic plans director of The Martin Agency. He has written or
ghostwritten 16 books, including four novels, and has just completed a
screenplay that has been optioned by Northshore Pictures. FBC’s
Administrator Billy Burford will serve as Secretary/Treasurer of the
producing entity, Belltower Pictures. All of these folks are members of
Richmond’s First Baptist Church. And over the past months, folks from
outside our congregation also have begun to come alongside the FBC team to
offer advice, support and assistance. We hope to make this a model of
cooperation among congregations, organizations and individuals throughout
the greater Richmond community and beyond.
How will it be distributed?
– The distribution plan is not yet in place. But that’s not unusual for a
project like this. Many movies, especially those from relatively unknown
production companies, do not get distribution deals until the movie is
finished. But we are certainly praying, thinking and working on it now.
Among the possibilities under discussion and planning include: a theatrical
release for movie theaters, DVD release, a made-for-TV-movie, and download
release through the web.
How much is it going to cost?
– We estimate the production cost to be $500,000 – which puts it in the
“very small budget” category for motion pictures.
Can we really do a quality production for that kind of money?
– We are confident that we can achieve the goal with God’s direction. We’ve
had experience doing it before. We have produced two award-winning Christmas
TV specials on small budgets… made possible because of the large number of
volunteers from our church who gave freely of their time, talent and energy.
Even the handful of “professionals” we brought in to help, did so for
reduced rates. Most production supplies, food, props, and services were
donated. The church already owned much of the production equipment, so
expensive rentals were limited. And we watched every penny very carefully.
We anticipate following the same model with this production.
How are you going to pay for it?
– We are looking for financial support from several sources. We have some
money available from the FBC TV Ministry “Special Projects Fund” (money
given by viewers and supporters of the church’s Television Ministry). The
First Baptist Church Endowment Fund has committed to a major financial
contribution. And several individuals have made financial gifts. But we believe this project provides an opportunity for
cooperation beyond a single church, among many individuals, organizations
and congregations in our community. So we’ve begun talking with others about
participating in the project by providing money, in-kind donations, and
volunteers. If you want to contribute to the costs of production,
Contact David Powers and we’ll send you more information.
What is Belltower Pictures and what does it have to do with this movie?
– The church’s Communication Team has established
a separate entity to produce the movie. It is a Non Stock Corporation
under Virginia law, and is seeking certification by the IRS under section
501c3 of the tax code – which means that it will be a non-profit corporation
that can accept tax-deductible contributions. The Communication Team felt
this approach would open the way for other organizations, individuals and
churches to participate. And it provides a way to continue this ministry
beyond a single movie. We’re hoping to recoup the cost of production, plus
some, once the movie goes into distribution. That money will go back into
Belltower Pictures to fund the next project. We hope to repeat this pattern
over and over, so that the funds invested to produce this movie will serve
as seed money and provide a harvest of more great stories which entertain
and inspire, revealing spiritual truth for a hungry world.
What if we don’t get all the money we need? – We
won’t produce the movie. The costs of writing the screenplay, setting up
Belltower Pictures, and moving through the early pre-production steps are
very low and are being covered by the TV Ministry “Special Projects Fund.”
We can’t spend money on production until firm financial
commitments are in hand. No money will be spent until the funds are
Who are the actors?
– No roles have been cast yet.
May I audition?
– Yes. Open auditions will be announced a couple of months before
production. We will audition
for major roles as well as extras.
Who’s going to do all the “behind the scenes” work?
– We will rely on hundreds of volunteers in dozens of roles and a handful of
paid professionals in the positions of key department heads. More than 400
volunteers were involved in the last Christmas TV special. And we anticipate
a similar number will be needed for this project.
May I help out?
– Yes! We’ll need set decorators, carpenters, electricians, wardrobe and
makeup people, cooks, babysitters, drivers, security people, and first-aid
personnel. If you’ve always wanted to be involved with a movie production,
this is your chance. Want to learn some of the interesting specialty skills
involved in movie production? Here’s your opportunity. We’ll provide
training. You’ll provide the time and energy. God will get the glory. And
we’ll all have a wonderful time in the process.
Contact David Powers and we’ll send you more details.
Find out more about the project on David Powers' blog.