Blessed with a gift for amazing storytelling, Jon and Andy Erwin have created a spot for themselves in the faith-based film market that may well land them at the top of the entertainment industry.
From their humble beginnings as teenage camera operators for ESPN, to their rise in the world of commercials and music videos, the Erwin Brothers built their success directing music videos for A-List artists including Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns and many others. They have received 10 nominations and three consecutive wins for Music Video of the Year at the GMA Dove Awards.
It seems their entrance into feature films was inevitable. In 2012, working as a team directing, writing and producing, the Erwin Brothers took on one of the most politically-explosive issues in American politics and made their feature film debut with October Baby.
Originally rejected by every major studio in Hollywood, the film became a Cinderella story as it went on to garner rave reviews and a nomination for Inspirational Film of the Year by the GMA Dove Awards.
The moving story about the power of forgiveness, healing and redemption captured the hearts of both believers and unbelievers alike. Produced on a modest budget of $1 million dollars, October Baby quickly got Hollywood to stand up and take notice when the film nearly doubled it’s money in the first two days, and ranked 8th at the box office opening weekend.
Glowing reviews, a banner list of endorsements and box office success cemented the Erwin Brothers reputation as tour-de-force filmmakers and champions for the faith-based movie industry.
Today the award-winning team is gearing up for the release of their much anticipated second feature film–Moms’ Night Out a laugh-out-loud clean comedy that will have you not only relating to the characters, but rolling in the aisles!
With three children under the age of five, Writer/Director Jon Erwin and his wife Beth are living the life of finding joy in the chaos of parenting! Sonoma Christian Home Magazine Editor at Large, Suzanne Niles got to chat with Jon about his hilarious new film – Mom’s Night Out.
SCH: Jon, you appear to have a real hit on your hands with Mom’s Night Out. Is this possibly your life playing out on the big screen?
JE: They say you write what you know and this movie is very candid. Beth and I are in the center of the toddlerdom hurricane. I love my kids: I love being a dad. You know, when you have three who are under five you are in for quite a ride so I wrote a movie about it! As we were writing this movie I think I said at least five times a day, “I’m putting that in the movie.”
SCH: In regards to motherhood, what “needs” did you want to address in Mom’s Night Out?
JE: I saw something in my wife that I think is in about 40% of women, which is this depression because of what they see online and on magazine covers; they believe they can’t measure up and they need to be affirmed, they need to be encouraged and to know they are important. They need to laugh, so there was a real honesty in what we wanted to do. I wanted to affirm my wife for the role that she has and how important it is. Moms are rarely told how important they are in our culture. So that was actually the goal.
SCH: Well you succeeded in making a hilarious, yet warm and meaningful film. How do you feel about the kind of response you are getting from those who have viewed it prior to the release?
JE: You know I love what Bill Cosby said about touching people through stories. I wanted to dig deep into my life, my family’s life, people that I have observed, things I observed in my wife, what makes us laugh, things I think are funny and put that on screen for others to enjoy.
We screened the movie last night for a packed crowd of Army wives whose husbands are serving in Afghanistan. They loved it. They laughed and laughed. We want moms across America to say “Somebody gets me; somebody understands how hard it is but has also told me how important this is”. In my opinion there is nothing more important than investing in the life of a child. What’s more important than that?
SCH: I truly laughed so hard at this film, even though my kids are grown. Did you realize that this story would appeal to moms of all ages?
JE: While collaborating on this script with Andrea Gyertson Nasfell, we realized that we were creating this story that whether you are in the thick of it now, or a decade or two decades ago–it is so relatable. Moms of toddlers can enjoy this with their moms because it rings true for all.
Now that I am a parent I apologized to my mom. I mean, I was a handful, I did kindergarten twice because I was a disturbance to the class; I was doing my spelling hanging from the ceiling so she decided to homeschool me. I just had to learn in a different way and she really invested in my life and I am so grateful for that.
The heart of this movie rings true no matter what stage you are in. You know I even received a handwritten letter from a 14 year old girl who had screened the film and she said “I am just entering high school, I am struggling with depression and accepting myself and this movie has taught me that God loves me for me and although I’m a mess, I’m a beautiful mess and I’m his masterpiece. I know this was meant for moms but it was so special to me.” Everything we do is for the emotional benefit of the people who come to see our films. It’s so great to see the movie work.
SCH: You put together an amazing ensemble cast. Did you write with specific actors in mind?
JE: Yes, and we got every actor we wanted. It is a diverse, extremely talented cast.
Sarah Drew came on, because she fell in love with the script and we fell in love with her. Very rarely does it happen that you get your first choice for every role, but that is what happened. Patricia Heaton, Sean Astin… I wrote the part of Bones for Trace Adkins, not knowing if we could get him and I had no back up. Trace loved the script and came right on. I had worked on Courageous, so having Kevin Downes, Robert Amaya and Alex Kendrick on set was kind of like getting the band back together.
SCH: This is such a great genre. It’s a buddy picture centering on moms with lots of physical comedy. Is this a first of this genre for the Erwins?
JE: It’s our first comedy. We have done other things with comedic elements in them, but this is our first outright comedy. Doing an outright comedy is like walking a tightrope without a net, it is tough, hard work. As a director I encourage the actors to use improvisation. Our goal was to make this movie funny. If it wasn’t funny on the page we would get on the set and experiment.
The clearer vision and purpose you have as a director, the better able you are to field ideas from other people and incorporate those ideas. There is a loose improv cadence to the movie, like a dance. The film is very real, it doesn’t feel performed, it feels captured. God gave us everything we needed. It was a wonderful genre to explore.
One of my big beefs with comedies is that sometimes you just want to take a bath after you watch them. The genre has really gone in the gutter a bit and it is very difficult and very rare to find a clean comedy that you can watch without this kind of stress. My wife and I have gone on date nights to see a comedy and walked out. We just want to laugh; we don’t want the crazy language or sexual innuendo.
USA Today says we are living in the age of “super stress” in America. In this age of super stress, sometimes we fight with our spouse because they are the only other adult in the room. Instead of doing that, it is so good to laugh together, to identify together, and to acknowledge that what you are doing is so important.
You can twist people’s arms to do a lot of things but laughter is a spontaneous reaction. There is a certain amount of healing in that laughter. I am hearing so much laughter during the showing of Mom’s Night Out and I love it.
SCH: Would you consider a sequel and if so what would the premise be?
JE: We are. We are walking that story out. But it depends on how this film does at the box office. So all of you reading this out there, if you want to see more clean comedies, please show up to your local theatre on opening weekend.
I have fallen in love with the characters, so we might see them in a sequel investigating how to have a great marriage when you are raising small children. How do you stay connected and keep that spark alive? That is something Beth and I fight for. How do I balance my love for my spouse with my love for my children?
SCH: What message do you want moms to walk away with from this movie?
JE: The message, the core of the movie, the things that we believe in is immensely appealing to everybody. I love the whole concept of grace. The world as we know it, they kind of think we get what’s coming to us, what we deserve in life. You see this in the arts in the dark, evil stories out there. Then there comes Jesus, who flips it upside down and offers grace. God loves you just as you are, flaws and all. We are not perfect, we make mistakes, but we are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece, and we are all loved. Moms need to hear that, so do dads.
SCH: Mom’s Night Out is being released on Mothers Day, May 9th. How would you like to see moms celebrate Mother’s Day this year?
JE: I want Moms to escape to Mom’s Night Out and laugh, laugh, laugh, to leave feeling affirmed, inspired, and ready to take on their role as moms in a new way and I hope that happens all across the country.
Watch the trailer for Moms’ Night Out:
MOMS’ NIGHT OUT is directed by The Erwin Brothers and produced by Kevin Downes, Jon Erwin, Andrew Erwin, and Daryl Lefever. Executive producers are Patricia Heaton and David Hunt.
From the Reporter: I want to encourage all Sonoma Christian Home readers to show up to support this great family film! Let’s make sure that we help Mom’s Night Out have a great opening weekend so that more wonderful films like this can be made and used by God to help share his grace!
Looking for more news on this great movie? Please read Patricia Heaton Stars in New Comedy ‘Moms’ Night Out‘