Grammy Award and Dove Award-winning Christian pop music duo For King and Country, comprised of brothers Luke and Joel Smallbone, brings to viewers a powerful new film, Priceless. Inspired by true events, the story centers around the life of James Stevens. Newly-widowed James (portrayed by Joel Smallbone) loses his job and custody of his daughter. In order to make some quick money, he agrees to drive a truck across the border, “no questions asked.” When he discovers that his “cargo” is actually two sisters being sold into human trafficking, James finds himself at a moral crossroads and must decide whether to walk away or stay and fight for these girls.
In the early 1990s, the Smallbone family made the journey from Australia to live in Nashville. Musical talent is widespread in their family, their father being a music promoter and their sister being Rebecca St. James, Grammy Award-winning Christian artist. This movie is a family effort. Not only does Joel star in the film, it was directed by brother Ben Smallbone, and produced by Luke and their father David.
The theme song from the movie, also entitled Priceless, has reached the #4 spot on Hot Christian Songs, and the film has been adapted into a novel, Priceless: She’s Worth Waiting For written by Luke and Joel. The film, produced by Radiate Films and distributed by Roadside Attractions, arrives in theatres October 14, 2016.
Sonoma Christian Home sat down with Luke Smallbone, producer, to get behind-the-scenes insight about this amazing and dramatic film, Priceless. Editor At Large Melanie Pickett reports.
SCH: The movie was intense and emotional and inspires viewers to get involved.
Luke Smallbone: Obviously there’s been a lot of hard work put into it and you hear stories like that you’re kind of like “Yes!”
SCH: How did you discover the story that inspired the character James Stevens?
LS: We actually created it all, for the most part, in-house. We’ve been talking about the Priceless Movement for a number of years now, and one of the things we say is that culture says for women to talk trash and act like they’re worth nothing more, or to act like they’re cheap. We believe that there’s a God who says they’re priceless and we also say to men, “Hey guys, it’s time for us to stand up and stand out in relationships.” It has become such a big deal, us talking about this, and we thought to ourselves ‘What would it look like if we made a movie?’ surrounding this topic.
That was about two years ago that we first started working on a story. My brother Ben had done a documentary about a man who really the story of James Stevens was inspired by. He was a dude that had his face blurred out and he just was really moved by the work he had done. He actually is a Brazilian man so we took a lot of those elements from the story that that man told and interjected it into this film called Priceless. We had a screenplay writer work with us to put the actual story into an official screenplay script form. It was about a year ago that we wrapped filming and obviously now on October 14th, we have our first feature film coming out.
SCH: Human trafficking is a prevalent issue in our world today. Why was it important to you to show that element in the movie?
LS: We’ve been talking about the Priceless Movement for a number of years and we’ve been trying to figure out a story that really represents our greater point, which is a human life is priceless. There is so much value in a person. For us, what’s the antithesis of somebody who’s priceless? It’s somebody who can be bought or an experience that can be bought. That’s why we felt very drawn to the themes of human trafficking because that’s what that whole world is. It’s saying ‘Hey, I’ll pay you this amount of money if you’ll do this for me.’
We think that this is something that’s also an epidemic right now. It’s a super sad thing that we need a really, really bright light to shine on. We feel that one of the best ways we can do that is by creating awareness through a film. I can’t tell you how thankful we are for this story and for the film that we have now, and just early on doing screenings and seeing how people were being impacted by this message and people wanting to get involved. It’s been a really, really special thing.
SCH: When you’re trying to do something good for God’s kingdom, the enemy loves to put things in our path to keep us from succeeding. Did anything happen during this project that you knew undoubtedly happened through God?
LS: We’ve had issues basically every step of the way basically. I often refer to it as one of the most difficult things we’ve ever put our hands to. We’ve had so many special miracles take place during that time. We have to raise about $2.5 million for promotion and advertising for this film. About six weeks ago, we had $900,000. We’re sitting there saying ‘Guys, we don’t have even half of what we need and our film comes out in a few weeks. What do we do?’ All of us felt like we need to release this film October 14th and that God was kind of saying ‘Come along on a journey with me and watch me provide for you.’ We had film executives who are Christians saying, ‘Hey, we’re all about going on this faith journey, but at some point we still have to have the money.’ They were even doubting the process like, at some point we either have to push the film or we need the money to show up.
A friend of ours saw a commercial on television from a gentleman who does infomercials. He felt God said ‘Hey, you need to call that dude and see if he’d be interested in investing in the film.’ He was like ‘Are you serious? I’m going to cold call a guy and ask him for money and I just saw this guy on a commercial?’ He decided to just do it so he could get this thought off of his back. He calls this dude up and leaves him a message. He said, “Hey, my name is so and so. I was wanting to see if you would be interested in investing in a film and just see where this goes.” The guy that he called is part of a pretty big corporation. He left him a message and was like ‘I’m done! We’re never going to hear from this guy. We’re all good.’
Sure enough, this gentleman named Mike called him back. He said, “I don’t usually respond to these voicemails because I’ve got assistants and other people to do this for me, but there’s something about this. I just felt like God said I needed to call you back. What’s the deal here?” So he said, “Well, I’ve been part of this film called Priceless. This band for King and Country is a part of producing it and we’re looking for people to invest in our promotion and advertising.” He said, “Okay, can you meet tomorrow?” Our buddy is like yes, but where? He didn’t even know where this Mike was from. He said, “I live in Minnesota. Could you meet there?”
Sure enough, our buddy who called Mike lived five miles away from this gentleman. They meet the next day and he says he wants him to invest in this film and Mike said that sounds cool and asked how much he was looking for? Our buddy goes “We’re looking for 1.1 million dollars” and Mike says, “Let me make two phone calls and I’ll get back to you later on today.” He called a lawyer and he called an advisor and both of them said that this was something they felt was solid and he should do. I kid you not, 48 hours after that we had 1.1 million dollars show up in our bank account. Talk about a miracle. We had a guy basically cold call for $1.1 million. That’s outrageous.
SCH: Awhile back you went through a pretty considerable health scare (with ulcerative colitis). How did that affect your faith?
LS: I think that it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. You don’t ever really plan to get sick and you certainly don’t ever plan on getting sick when you’re in your 20s. When you’ve really nothing else to fall on—I had my wife and I had a six-month-old son at the time—but you can’t get out of bed. You can’t help your wife look after your child. You can’t even hold your child. That’s astounding. When you start to ask God the questions of why is all this happening to me and one of the things I think I’d always incorrectly thought was it all the good things that I’d done in my life that earned God’s grace. When you can’t do anything for Him, you’re literally not out on the road, you’re stuck in bed, and you’re crying out to God saying “ help me get well so that I can go out and do things.”
I literally heard and felt God say, “Look Luke, I’m not after you doing anything more for me. You can’t earn goodness. You can’t earn what you’re trying to earn. I just want to spend time with you. I just want to be with you.” That’s changed my relationship with God forever. What’s crazy is I look back and I go would I have experienced that if I’d always been healthy and the answer is ‘probably not.’ In a roundabout way, I’ve become very, very thankful for this disease. I don’t really have any symptoms anymore so I like to think of myself as healed, but it has been a difficult journey but one that now I look back on and I’m really, really thankful for.
SCH: As you mentioned, Priceless opens in theatres October 14th. How can fans keep updated with events, ticket purchases, and connect on social media?
LS: Pricelessthemovie.com has all the info there. If you want to get involved on socials and start talking about out there, Priceless The Movie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram You can find us there. Any fan and anyone who wants to be involved with this cause, can get on social media and start talking about it.