Go ahead and mark your calendars for Friday, January 20th. That’s the day that The Resurrection of Gavin Stone hits theaters, and you’ll definitely want to check it out. This is a laugh out loud funny movie with a powerful story line, a great movie to take your friends to see and discuss afterwards.
I’m honored to get to talk with director Dallas Jenkins and get a behind the scenes scoop about the making of the movie.
Tell us about the inspiration for Resurrection of Gavin Stone.
There’s a popular “passion play” that originated out of Colorado Springs, and the creator of it had the idea for this movie. I came across the script a couple years ago and loved the story, I thought the idea of an outsider pretending to be a Christian and then experiencing church and the story of Jesus in the process was ripe for great humor and strong emotional impact. I did a rewrite to make it more my own, but the idea began with the play.
The casting was perfect! What criteria did you use for casting actors? Did whether or not they were Christians factor into the process?
I look for the best people to play each part, and of course they have to love the script and want to do it. If they’re a Christian, that’s a nice bonus because it might allow for some shorthand in communication, but not only do I not require actors to be Christians to be in my films, I love working with outsiders because it gives me a chance to be “salt and light” in an industry where they rarely come across Christians.
This film is unabashedly about the power and impact of church and it’s explicitly Christian, but because this script is really strong and the story is told through the eyes of a church outsider, it appealed to non-Christians who were auditioning as well.
How involved was Harvest Bible Church in the filming?
I’m full-time on staff at Harvest heading up our filmmaking arm, and while the financing and co-producers came out of Hollywood, we shot the film at our church, we had final say on all the spiritual content of the film, and my whole team as well as several other staff members were involved full-time for the film. We were very much equal partners with the Hollywood companies involved, they were amazing.
Were the passion play scenes based on previous church productions or were they completely original for the movie?
We borrowed a few props and backdrops from the original production, but the original production is very different from the production in the movie. Because Gavin’s spiritual journey actually comes full circle while performing the play, I wrote a couple of moments and scenes in the play specifically tailored to the storyline of the film. For example, I added in the gospel story of Jesus and the rich young ruler because the dialogue was relevant to Gavin’s journey.
Tell us about the involvement of the Take Up Your Cross motorcycle ministry.
WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels had a supporting role in his first film ever as Doug, a sweet church volunteer who is loosely based on a biker guy from our church. So we made Doug a member of “God’s Chariots,” a Christian motorcycle group similar to “Take Up Your Cross.” The real life guys then gave Shawn a leather jacket, lent us some bikes, and acted as extras in the film, it was great.
What is your favorite scene in the movie?
That’s easy. Gavin commits a pretty grievous wrong against the church and the pastor’s daughter Kelly (played by standup comic Anjelah Johnson), and so when he apologizes for it, he’s stunned when she and they quickly forgive him unconditionally. The scene not only has some humor I love (she says, “my Dad reminded me of all that Christian stuff of what our church is about, how this could really impact you, what grace looks like, blah blah blah”), but when he asks why they’re giving him grace, she says, “This is what we do.” And that’s the whole point of the film.
What is your vision for the movie?
Many faith-based films ask churchgoers to come to the theater, we believe this film can get moviegoers to come to church. We’ve already heard from multiple church outsiders who’ve loved the film (partially because the main character is an outsider) and have outright said, “I want to go to a church like the one in the film.” My goal for this film is to exhibit the power and impact of church in an entertaining way, and hopefully there will be a few more seats filled on Sunday morning around the country.
Faith-based movies can be funny! I can’t promise everyone will love this film, that’s impossible, but if anyone says they never laughed once, I’ll refund their ticket.