The image of the words ‘God’s Dead‘ painted in ten-foot red letters on a school hallway would leave most people feeling hopeless–that is, until a student comes along and tapes a note with the word ‘Not’ in the middle. Instantly the dispatch of despair is transformed into a message of hope, light, and truth.
This image went on to become the iconic poster for the first God’s Not Dead movie. One could say the student’s evangelical gesture is the perfect metaphor for the real life mission of Hollywood actor/producer David A.R. White.
After growing up in a small Mennonite farming town outside of Dodge City, Kansas, White moved to Hollywood to pursue an acting career at the age of 19. Just six months after his arrival, White got his first break in 1991, when he landed a recurring role in the award-winning TV series Evening Shade starring Burt Reynolds.
White spent the next several years working as an actor in episodic TV and film, but felt God calling him in 2004 to form Pure Flix Entertainment – a Christian film production company that produces, distributes, acquires and markets Christian and family-friendly films. White is on fire when it comes to his mission to “further the Christian faith-based genre with excellence in every way.”
After ten years of modest success, Pure Flix Entertainment produced their first major hit in 2014 with God’s Not Dead which brought in $9.2 million on opening weekend.
Fast forward to 2016, and White has produced and starred in nearly twenty faith-based films. Some of his film credits include: Revelation Road 1 & 2, SIX…the Mark Unleashed, In the Blink of an Eye, Hidden Secrets, Jerusalem Countdown, and Dancer and the Dame. Today White is widely known as one of the most respected and prolific producers of faith-based films in the world. David and his beautiful wife, actress Andrea Logan White, live in Los Angeles with their three children.
Sonoma Christian Home caught up with White to talk about God’s Not Dead 2 and the mission of Pure Flix to impact the culture for Christ. SCH Founder & Editor in Chief, Erica Galindo reports.
SCH: God’s Not Dead became the highest grossing independent film of 2014, earning over $63 million. Did you ever imagine it would be such a smash hit? Were you surprised by how well it did?
DW: Yes, absolutely, we had released a few theatricals, but God’s Not Dead was a surprise in terms of success. That’s the thing in life and with God, you just never know. You never know what God is going to do.
When the numbers came back that first weekend, all of Hollywood called. Their two questions were ‘Who is PureFlix?’ and ‘What is God’s Not Dead?’ For the mainstream media to all be asking those questions – it just opened up a whole line of conversations about the Lord, about the movie, and ultimately about what the movie was standing for. It was a neat time.
SCH: Did you feel a lot of pressure to deliver another hit film? How hard was it to get the right script for the sequel?
DW: Well that’s the thing, we didn’t want to do a sequel just to do a sequel, we really wanted to make sure that it would stand on it’s own. It had the heart from the first one. We were serving the audience and giving them what they would expect, to make it entertaining, and to go above and beyond the first one. So yes, that was difficult, but we feel we really did that.
It’s been amazing to see people’s response. We felt we really served the audience with a different movie, but at the same time, it still has a lot of the heart and some of the same cast and characters of the first one.
SCH: A major theme of this movie is religious liberty and ensuring that our freedoms are protected. Have faith. Speak truth. Stand firm.
As a filmmaker, and as a Christian, how important was it to you to make this film, and what are your hopes for God’s Not Dead 2?
DW: I think the GND Brand is really about current events and what is happening with the discrimination toward religious freedoms. To take those events and put them into an entertaining story that enlightens people that this stuff is really going on, but also how to defend their faith in these situations… I think we are doing that.
GND2 is about a public school teacher who is being sued for her Christian faith after she inadvertently answers a student’s questions about Jesus in the classroom setting. Our Forefathers intended freedom of religion and freedom of speech in the first amendment, but this is happening in our country right now. Those liberties are being discriminated against, and we want to bring those to light.
SCH: When you see the story of a hard-working, God-fearing public school teacher being persecuted for her faith and under threat of loosing her job, people start to really understand in their hearts how important this issue is.
DW: I think that’s the thing about movies that’s so spectacular. You can go to a theater and when the lights go down, you allow that movie to take you places you wouldn’t even allow your best friend to take you. Jesus used stories in the Bible, the parables teach lessons and that’s what we are trying to do with this medium.
SCH: How did you see God working on the set? Did you witness any miracles, where you just knew God’s hand of favor was upon this film?
DW: It’s an interesting thing, obviously we pray a ton before we shoot, we pray about who is supposed to be in the cast. We’re always amazed at the miracles that He does throughout the shooting process.
Some people believe there needs to be all believers on the set, and that’s how they build their films. For us it’s like the opposite, it’s more of a mission statement behind the camera. How do we treat the crew that doesn’t know the Lord. How can they get a better understanding of who Jesus is…you know?
We pray everyday before we start shooting, conversations spark up with different crew members… We even had a little Bible study that came out of it. It’s interesting how the Lord brings certain cast members in that needed encouragement in their faith.
Maybe they just started to come out as a believer and they’re getting attacked. This allows them to be to be surrounded by so many believers that love them, and ultimately it just sparks different conversations. It’s just been a beautiful thing and I think that’s what the Lord intended us to do in our jobs.
SCH: How many projects do you have in the incubator right now?
DW: [Laugher] Oh, I don’t even know. Our goal is to produce four theatricals a year. And we’re not producing all of those. Our goal has always been to also put our arms around fellow producers, and be able to help them release some films that studios wouldn’t release because they are so bold. We are still finalizing what is to come this year on our release schedule.
The other thing I’m so excited about is PureFlix digital, it’s really the faith-based version of Netflix. We have almost 4,000 titles, if you go to PureFlix.com there’s a 30-day free sign-up. You can watch faith and family content 365 days a year, 24/7, non-stop.
Since it went live in June, almost half a million hours have been consumed of faith content compared to what the world is putting out. So we’re super excited about that.
SCH: Netflix is producing original series for their digital platform. Are you planning to that also? Is that what Hitting The Brakes is about?
DW: Yes, it’s a faith and family sitcom coming soon. We also have the Encounter TV Series coming, as well as we have a couple different new series in the works.
SCH: Any last thoughts you’d like to share about God’s Not Dead 2?
DW: We’re so excited obviously to share this film with the world. It came out all over the world at the same time. That’s not something that normally happens with Christian films, so that’s exciting.
Find out more about David A. R. White and his latest projects by following him on Twitter
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