God’s Not Dead: Bringing Apologetics to the Big Screen
Spend much time talking with Hollywood actors, writers, producers or directors and there’s often a common thread in their respective backstories. Maybe they grew up with relatives in the movie business and followed in their footsteps. Or, perhaps, seeing a particular film at a pivotal age was the impetus for knowing that Hollywood was calling. For others, the shy, the bullied, the outsiders, a deep sense of solace was found in disappearing into the lives of a fictional characters.
But for the founding partner of Pure Flix Entertainment, David A.R. White, who is also an actor, writer, producer and director himself, he is the rare exception to the rule. If anything, his life’s journey wasn’t leading anywhere close to the bright lights of the movie business.
Growing up in the small farming community outside of Dodge City, Kansas, David was the son of a Mennonite preacher who saw exactly one movie in an actual theater during the first 18 years of his life. Sure, there was television and the weekly movie night at his local church, everybody loved those, but for David, he says it was God, who gave him an unexplainable, unshakeable fascination with media.
The Unlikely Road to Los Angeles
Trouble is, David wasn’t able to do much with that while attending Moody Bible Institute. Without any acting, drama or film study opportunities, the closest was a mime troupe, David knew he needed to leave Chicago and head west to pursue what was on his heart. So with no connections, friends or a five-year plan, David embraced the unknown and moved to Los Angeles.
Six months later, David landed the role of Andrew Phillpot on a popular TV show, Evening Shade with a seasoned cast including Burt Reynolds, Marilu Henner (currently starring on TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Hal Holbrook (Lincoln), football legend Terry Bradshaw and even a future Oscar winner named Hilary Swank (New Year’s Eve) for a couple of episodes.
While David knew who Reynolds was from watching Smokey and the Bandit, he says he “had no idea” who any of the others actors were—or what they’d starred in.
“I became a student of learning about all these past movies I hadn’t seen,” David shares. “I had a million questions, and thanks to Burt, I learned all these nuggets along the way. He was my mentor in a lot of ways because I’d never really acted before.”
Basically learning how to act by watching his esteemed peers, David started with just one line and ended up staying on the show for three years.
“It was an awesome experience, and I remember having a million questions,” David recalls. “Burt had all these little sayings. He would always say ‘know your lines’ because you can’t act if you don’t know them. When we would do the tapings for the studio audience, he said ‘the colder people are, the more they laugh.’”
Another facet of Burt’s career that really stuck with David is that he always worked with the same people, his friends, over the course of 20-30 years.
“My dad was a pastor, and we moved around a lot, so the idea of being in one place for years and working with your friends was very appealing,” David shares. “It’s been cool to see the Lord do that now with Pure Flix because we produce our own movies. I get to work with friends all the time, and it’s a wonderful thing.”
From the Heart of Pastors to a Theater Near You
Knowing there was a powerful connection between faith and art, something he’d experienced firsthand when watching World Wide Pictures’ productions like The Prodigal when he was young, David hoped to make his own movies with an encouraging Christian message. And in 1992, that dream became reality with Second Glance.
Before long, David found himself involved with Christian films on a regular basis, the crash course of sorts that paved the way for future endeavors. Now through Pure Flix, a Christian movie studio that produces, distributes and acquires Christ-centered movies “for the sole purpose of changing our culture for Christ, one heart at a time,” David loves making films that are entertaining and edifying.
With God’s Not Dead, which releases in 750 theaters on March 21 and will expand to more audiences on March 28, David plays a reverend named Dave in a story that’s particularly timely.
“God’s Not Dead is about a student who is forced to defend his faith in a university setting,” David says. “We have partnerships with pastors all over the country, and we asked them what they feel is needed in the film world—what they’d like to see. So many of them said they wanted movies that would help believers know what they believe and why they believe it. So God’s Not Dead is basically a movie about apologetics.”
Since David, so by extension, Pure Flix, already had a relationship with the popular Christian musicians, Newsboys, who happen to have a song called God’s Not Dead, it only made sense to incorporate them into the movie.
“First and foremost, we wanted to make a compelling project where someone can reach into his/her community and invite someone who maybe wouldn’t go to church but would see a movie,” David shares. “The beautiful thing about movies since we live in a sight and sound generation that’s impacted by media is that when you see a movie, you allow that movie to take you to places you wouldn’t allow your best friend to take you. It’s such an incredible medium and forum.”
What David believes sets God’s Not Dead apart is that it’s a wonderfully evangelistic and beautiful film about belief.
“The ultimate thing about this movie is that God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good,” David concludes. “Our goal is that when people walk out of the film, it puts the viewer on center stage and asks the question ‘What do you believe? Is there a God or is there not a God?’ And I think as believers we forget that taking a stand has a ripple effect. We never know the ripple effect of the different stands we take in life. God calls us to obedience. He calls us to follow Him 100 percent. That’s what we hope people will take away.”
For more information on God’s Not Dead, where it’s showing and how you can bring the film to a theater near you if it’s not already playing, please visit www.Godsnotdeadthemovie.com.
About the Writer
Christa A. Banister is a highly caffeinated novelist, feature writer and film critic who watches bad movies so you don’t have to. When she’s not debating the merits of what’s showing in a theater near you, the Dallas-based writer is working on her third novel, traveling, cooking, cheering on her beloved Packers and blogging about pop culture and everything else at www.christabanister.com.