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Faith on Film at the USA Film Festival


by Stephen Becker 28 Apr 2010

Several films with North Texas ties will show during the USA Film Festival Festival opening today in Dallas. KERA’s Stephen Becker tells the story of how a veteran director and a first-time filmmaker joined forces to make a movie that spoke to each of them:

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Several films with North Texas ties will show during the USA Film Festival opening today in Dallas. KERA’s Stephen Becker tells the story of how a veteran director and a first-time filmmaker joined forces to make a movie that spoke to each of them.

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The story begins with a sermon Andrew Stevens heard one Sunday at Highland Park United Methodist Church. Paul Rasmussen leads a contemporary ministry program there, and he told the story of the prodigal son.

STEVENS: “And he dovetailed into his years as a basketball coach at Centenary College. And I sort of envisioned the idea as I was sitting there one day daydreaming in church.”

That idea was the genesis of Breaking the Press, a modern-day retelling of that Bible story set in the world of high school basketball.

Stevens knew first hand it’s a long road from script to screen. He’s produced more than 170 movies and knew he couldn’t make this one on his own.

So he asked his friend, Charlie McKinney, for help. He’s a financial planner who attends the same church. Stevens wondered if some of McKinney’s clients might like to invest in the film.

But McKinney had other ideas.

McKINNEY: “I said, ‘Let’s not do it with them, let’s do it with you and me.’ So he put up half the money, I put up half the money.”

The film shot in and around Dallas last summer. McKinney provided many of the basketball players in the film through the Heroes Foundation, a youth sports organization he founded.

In late April, Stevens was still working on the cut of the film that will screen at the USA Film Festival on Saturday. But that version of the film may not be the only one the public eventually sees.

Foreign DVD sales are important for a film’s bottom line. Stevens says that about 65 percent of a film’s revenue comes from overseas. And religious films typically don’t sell as well outside the U.S.

So Stevens may re-edit the film to tone down its Christian references. But he doesn’t view that as selling out.

STEVENS: “Rather than having zero possibility of distribution, does one create a less-evangelical version so that there can be some distribution, still with the same message but maybe not quite so overt as would appeal to an evangelical audience. I don’t think that’s a cop-out.”

McKinney, the money manager, is even more pragmatic.

McKINNEY: “The focus is 100 percent faith-based. But if we can spend $3,000 and make an edit and sell the film overseas and bring in $25,000, we can use that money to make the next faith-based movie. That makes sense to me.”

Which is exactly what the pair plan to do. As Stevens put the finishing touches on Breaking the Press, McKinney was sending around a script he wrote for the next faith-based film they will make together – this time with baseball players.

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