Cross Shadow Productions was started in early 2007 by two worship leading couples – Dr. Matt and Amy Mitchell and Tiann and April Kruger. They are based just outside of Raleigh, NC and have produced the “Pray” series and “Paranormal”.
What led you to get involved in filmmaking?
It all began rather unintentionally out of a conversation we were having one night at my house. Tiaan and I were sitting in my living room discussing movies and lamenting how there were no good, clean, suspense movies out there for Christians to see. Everything seemed so evil and contained so much offensive language, nudity, and needless gore. We jokingly said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Christian Ghost story or a movie about that?” Then I remembered hearing an amazing story as a teenager from some of my friends at church. It wasn’t really a ghost story, it was more of a miraculous true-life event that was really creepy and suspenseful, but ultimately showed God’s power in the end. It was perfect for telling at church retreats and campouts. I had actually written it down years ago, and found a copy, which I gave to Tiaan that night. He took it home and read it, and liked it as well. That simple short Christian suspenseful story is what eventually became the basis for the original “Pray” film. The Lord just opened up doors everywhere for it to all happen. He provided the funding from people at our church that heard we were thinking of making a movie. Then God provided the actors & the crew we needed (all of whom donated their time), the locations & sets, equipment, you name it. It was truly amazing to see how He provided everything we needed.
Why Christian thrillers?
Great question! Really, it was mainly because we wanted to see suspenseful, heart-pounding movies like what we grew up watching, but without all the ridiculous, sinful stuff in it. And honestly, there just weren’t any movies out there like that. Nearly all of my friends grew up watching Halloween, or Hitchcock films, but once I became a Christian, I just couldn’t stomach a lot of the stuff in those movies anymore, and certainly couldn’t recommend those today for younger audiences. We knew we couldn’t be the only ones that longed for a good, clean, thrilling movie that made your heart race, but didn’t have all the needless offensive junk in there. I guess it just seemed like a totally overlooked niche in the faith-based market, so we said to each other, “Hey, why don’t we make a movie like that?” And the rest is history.
What was the initial reaction to your first movie?
It was definitely mixed. You could tell right away the people who “got it” and understood what we were trying to offer, and those who didn’t. Our target audience (teens and college) loved it! Youth Pastor’s embraced it, and knew they finally had something to show their teens in the Fall, and at lock-ins in October and then follow it up with the Bible Study Discussion Guide afterwards. But there were always critics who loved to leave negative reviews everywhere saying it was unChristian or evil, or low-budget etc. Usually, those were the people who didn’t watch it to the end of the movie, or judged it by its cover, or just don’t like that genre in general. We understand that it’s not meant for everyone, but if you wanted a clean, suspenseful tale that you didn’t need to repent for seeing afterwards, then here you go.
Did you know when you did the first “Pray” that you’d be doing sequels?
Not really. Originally, it was just going to be a single film. Honestly, we weren’t sure anyone would ever see it, so we kinda just made it for us. We sent it off to the Dove Foundation to get a review of it and see if it would be Dove-Approved. Apparently, the VP at a major distribution label saw it and liked it and tracked us down. He offered us a deal on the spot and sent us a nice royalty check in the mail. We couldn’t believe it! Tiaan and I still laugh about it, and are shocked and humbled that it continues to sell as well as it does. It was our first attempt at filmmaking, so it’s pretty rough, and yet it continues to out-sell anything else we’ve ever done. It really is incredible how it’s taken on a life of it’s own. Once it was obvious that it was becoming a surprise “hit”, the label contacted us and asked if there was a sequel in the works. There wasn’t, but after that phone call, there was!
What was the greatest challenge in producing a 3D movie?
Filming in 3D definitely has it’s challenges, but editing it is just as hard, if not harder. When we were prepping to shoot “Pray 3D: The Storm”, Tiaan was great at knowing how to make the technical aspects work, and making sure we knew some of the pitfalls to avoid. In the “Pray” movies, I would typically want to direct a scene very tight, and up close to capture the actor’s fear and tension, but with 3D you can’t always do that. You can only get so close to the subject, before the 3D effect fails, and just doesn’t work. Having a Director of Photography like Tiaan, that knows that, helped to remind me of things like that. The lighting is totally different for 3D too , and with the two 3D cameras we used, we actually had to let the actors shoot some of the footage so it would appear “real” and as if they were truly blogging from the Curtis house. It came off really well, in fact, I think that’s one of our favorite scenes from the movie.
What has been your most popular movie?
It’s funny you would ask! Up until last week, I would have told you that the original “Pray” was still our best-seller, but something is definitely happening with “Paranormal” right now. When a movie comes out, it typically moves the most units in it’s first quarter, then slowly decreases as time goes on. However, with “Paranormal”, which has been out for two or three years, sales have just exploded this past quarter. It’s moving thousands of units right now and we don’t know why, but we’re certainly not complaining!
Tell us about your upcoming film projects.
As for future projects, you can see some of the possible ideas and early artwork at www.crossshadow.com It’s hard to say which way we may go next. The future is wide open for us. We have a lot of really exciting, creative ideas and potential films in various stages of development. There’s a few more suspense titles that we may do, especially with “Paranormal” catching fire recently, but we also have some sci-fi/action oriented films we are considering too. As always, it’s up to the Lord and His timing. Where He guides, He’ll always provide, so we’ll wait on Him for the next step. 🙂 Be sure to follow us on FB and our blog (blog.crossshadowproductions.com) to stay in the loop as to what’s ahead!