Tragedy Tests Faith in ‘I Still Believe’

Love and faith are tested in I Still Believe, the true story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp and his first wife, Melissa.

In the film, Camp’s search for his artistic voice leads him to professional success and the love of his life, but his faith is put to the test when tragedy strikes. It stars K.J. Apa as Camp and Britt Robertson as Melissa. Directed by Jon Erwin and Andrew Erwin, the film was written by Jon Erwin and Jon Gunn and is produced by Kevin Downes and the Erwins.

I Still Believe became available on premium VOD March 27 and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital May 5.

“It’s a really authentic story that shows young love going through some of the big-gest challenges that you can imagine,” says Andy Erwin in the extras.

At the heart of the story is Camp’s first love, Melissa, who fights cancer with the support of her husband and her Christian faith.

“The impact that she had on his life was so profound that it ended up launching this platform for his worldwide music ministry,” says Downes.

“She wanted to have the courage to endure something that would change people,” adds Robertson.

Camp expresses his faith and his love for Melissa through music, and to tell his story, Apa worked with music producers to hone his voice before filming.

“We had decided early on that we didn’t want to imitate Jeremy,” says Andy Erwin.

“The music that we had, that Jeremy wrote, we kind of made it our own,” adds Apa.

The result is a soundtrack that fans will enjoy, say filmmakers.

“I think fans of Jeremy Camp will hear something familiar but really unexpected as K.J. kind of reinterprets what Jeremy’s music is to him,” says Andy Erwin.

Camp wrote the song “I Still Believe” to reaffirm his faith and bare his soul. Singer-songwriter Shania Twain, who plays Camp’s mother, identifies with his songwriting dilemma.

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“You’re contemplating, ‘Do I share this intimacy or don’t I?,’” she says in the extras. “Jeremy felt it was more important to share.”

“He writes this beautiful song that begins his journey toward true healing,” adds Gary Sinise, who portrays Camp’s father.

The Erwins had Sinise in mind when they wrote the part.

“To have him on set I think everybody just raised their game,” says Jon Erwin.

Among the extras is a conversation between Camp and fellow Christian music star Bart Millard of MercyMe, the subject of Kingdom’s previous film I Can Only Imagine. They compare notes on their biopics and contemplate how their stories have inspired the world.

“Millions have been ministered to because of this,” Camp says.

Extras on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Andy and Jon Erwin
  • “Origin” featurette
  • “Casting” featurette “Music” featurette
  • “Music” featurette
  • “Bart & Jeremy” featurette
  • Deleted Scenes

 

Kingdom and Lionsgate: A Royally Successful Wedding

It was a great first date — the release of I Can Only Imagine— that was the genesis of the partnership between Kingdom Story Company and Lionsgate.

The origin tale about the Christian music breakout hit had been in “development hell,” notes Kingdom president Josh Walsh.

“At the time we didn’t really have a lot of street cred,” he says.

The filmmakers privately financed and independently produced the film and found a distribution partner in Lionsgate.

“Lionsgate really saw something in it, and took a chance to distribute it,” Walsh recalls.

The film went on to earn more than $17 million its opening weekend and tally $86 million worldwide for its theatrical run — and it spawned a marriage between Lionsgate and Kingdom — led by filmmakers Jon and Andy Erwin, Kevin Downes and Tony Young.

“Jon and Andy said, ‘We want to build a company, not to do one film here and there, but build a collective of artists to do something bigger than just a movie every couple of years,’” Walsh recalls. “[Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chairman] Joe Drake really bought into that vision and supported it in a big way. And that would become the Kingdom-Lionsgate partnership, and we’ve had an amazing partnership thus far.”

This year’s follow-up to Lionsgate sister company Roadside Attractions’ I Can Only Imagine, the film I Still Believe is the first product of that union, and like the couple in the film, the movie had to weather hardship.

After it earned a promising $10 million at the box office its opening weekend, I Still Believe ended its theatrical run as the nation’s movie theaters closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The film would have to use a relatively new form of distribution, premium VOD, to continue to find an audience.

“As filmmakers, we are heart-broken that we can’t share I Still Believe on a big screen the way we intended,” stated filmmakers Jon and Andy Erwin at the time. “We make movies because we love movies and we stand firmly behind the nation’s theater chains, from the largest circuits to the smallest mom-and-pop indies that have been so dramatically affected by these unprecedented closures. But the safety of guests comes first, and we’re proud to have the opportunity to share online a movie whose inspiring message of love, hope and faith is perfect for these uncertain times.”

Lionsgate released I Still Believe on PVOD March 27, just weeks after its March 12 theatrical opening.

“We’re thankful for our exhibition partners for being understanding, and we’re thankful to Lionsgate for being innovative,” Walsh says. “We were really surprised and thankful with how that premium window went. We know it’s just new territory for the whole industry, so we are thankful for the audience that has showed up.”

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He notes Lionsgate’s marketing team turned on a dime to boost the new distribution strategy.

“With its loyal and passionate fan base and an uplifting message of hope for these uncertain times, it made perfect sense to shift gears and release I Still Believe in the premium video-on-demand space,” says Lionsgate worldwide home entertainment president Ron Schwartz. “We trust Kingdom to deliver quality films and they trust our ability to take full advantage of the marketplace. While we can hardly wait to return to theaters when it’s time, we’re pleased that our home entertainment marketing, operations and creative teams could pivot quickly to ensure that I Still Believe reached its audience, and we expect its strong performance to continue through its traditional home entertainment window as well.”

Walsh also looks forward to the disc release of the film, noting that the home entertainment window is “a big one” for Kingdom’s content — inspirational stories of faith and patriotism.

“With the premium VOD window, we learned the audience is still there and wants to see it,” he says. “I think in the next window of home entertainment, there’ll be an even bigger audience — so we’re excited.”

New Company Headed by Bill Sondheim Slates First Digital, DVD Release

Greenfield Media has set a Dec. 3 digital and DVD release date for The Reliant, an independent faith-based film with a pro-Second Amendment rights message that stars Kevin Sorbo, best known as television’s “Hercules.”

The film is being released to home audiences after a limited theatrical run in late October. The Reliant grossed close to $500,000 and sold approximately 35,000 tickets, Greenfield says.

The film follows a young family as they struggle to survive on the outskirts of their burning town after an economic collapse – and a government seizure of guns. When they capture a thief attempting to steal from them, they discover the attack on their home was no random act of violence. “They are torn between justice and mercy, and struggle to trust in God in the crisis of their lives,” according to a news release. “The film answers the question of what will you do to protect your own family.”

The Reliant opened Oct. 24 with a one-night Fathom Events showing on 722 screens. The marketing program included a media tour by Sorbo, targeted social media ad buys and support from the NRA.

“We focused on a grass-roots push in middle American markets, which resulted in a successful Fathom event that exceeded all expectations,” said Bill Sondheim, the veteran home entertainment executive who launched Greenfield Media earlier this year.

“That enthusiasm has carried over to both the physical and the digital releases as witnessed by the film grabbing the No. 1 pre-order spot on Amazon the week after the Fathom event.”

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He said the film will be distributed to home audiences through Distribution Solutions, which is “ideally suited to maximize this mass merchant-oriented film.”

In addition to Sorbo, The Reliant starts Brian Bosworth, Mollee Gray, and Eric Roberts.

Prior to launching Greenfield Media, Sondheim most recently served as president of the entertainment group at Cinedigm Corp. Before joining Cinedigm in October 2013, Sondheim was president of entertainment and worldwide distribution for Gaiam, later Gaiam Vivendi, which was ultimately sold to Cinedigm. From 2005 to 2007, he oversaw the development of Sony Music Entertainment’s dual disc technology initiative.

Before Sony, Sondheim was president of GT Brands LLC and, before that, president of Polygram Filmed Entertainment’s video distribution entity when it appeared PolyGram was on the cusp of becoming the seventh major, through hit theatrical movies like What Dreams May Come, with Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr., and The Game, with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn.

Faith and Family SVOD Service Pure Flix to Bow Sitcom Starring Donna Mills

Faith and family subscription service Pure Flix (pureflix.com) Oct. 24 will debut a new sitcom “Mood Swings,” starring Donna Mills and Crystal Hunt.

New episodes will be released every Thursday for eight weeks on the $10.99-per-month service (following a free trial).

In the comedy, created by Hunt (“One Life To Live,” “The Guiding Light”), four generations of women are thrown together by circumstance to live under one roof and survive in Los Angeles. Newly divorced from her mega-successful, controlling and philandering husband, Farrah (Hunt) is awarded the couple’s Malibu mansion along with an enormous mortgage and minimal financial support to take care of herself and 8-year-old son Ryder. Recognizing she needs an income, she decides to rent out rooms in her house in order to pay the bills.

In addition to Mills and Hunt, the series stars Robin Riker (“The Bold and the Beautiful,” “General Hospital”), Sophia Gasca (“Ballers”), Christina DeRosa (Bad Moms), Scott Bailey (“The Bay,” “Ray Donovan”) and Jason Earles (“Hannah Montana”) and Dyan Cannon.

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The series is written by sitcom veteran Bob Colleary (“Golden Girls,” “The Facts of Life,” “Touched by an Angel”), Danielle Bisutti and Hunt, and directed by Sean Lambert (“The Larry Sanders Show,” “Kickin’ It,” “Grounded for Life”). Hunt is the executive producer.

“We felt there was a need for a great female ensemble comedy,” said Hunt in a statement. “Right now, you can only watch reruns of shows like ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Designing Women’ to enjoy a female-driven show. Our thinking was to embrace the legacy of these programs while adding a modern twist.”

Scottsdale Ariz.-based Pure Flix features faith, family-friendly and wholesome entertainment in the United States and Canada, according to the company, with a vision “to positively influence the global culture for Christ through media.”

Faith Film ‘The Heart of Man’ Due on Blu-ray Sept. 17 From MVD

The faith-based film The Heart of Man is coming to Blu-ray Disc Sept. 17 from MVD Entertainment Group and Ocean Avenue Entertainment.

The film is a narrative telling of a father’s “Prodigal Son” search for his son shot in Hawaii interwoven with interviews with real people going through their problems and subsequent healing.

The film also includes interviews with William Paul Young, author of the New York Times best-selling novel The Shack; Dan Allender, Ph.D, author of The Wounded Heart; and spoken word artist Jackie Hill Perry.

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Directed by Eric Asau, the film stars Robert Fleet, Serena Karnagy and Justin Torrence.

Faith Film ‘Breakthrough’ Breaks Out on Digital July 2, Disc July 16

The faith-based film Breakthrough will come out on digital July 2 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD July 16 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In the film, when Joyce Smith’s (Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”) adopted son John (Marcel Ruiz) falls through an icy Missouri lake, all hope seems lost as John lies lifeless. In the face of every bleak medical case history and dire scientific prediction, Joyce’s unwavering belief inspires her community to pray for John’s recovery.

Along with producer DeVon Franklin (Miracles from Heaven), the film was adapted for the screen by Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds) from Joyce Smith’s book (The Impossible). The film also stars Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama), Topher Grace (“That ‘70s Show”), Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”), Sam Trammell (“This is Us”) and Dennis Haysbert (“24”).

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The film has been awarded the Dove Seal of Approval for all ages.

Extras on the discs include a making of featurette; “Carry My Soul,” a Phil Wickham deleted scene with optional audio commentary by Franklin and director Roxann Dawson; “Trapped in Icy Waters”; audio commentary by Franklin and Dawson; and a photo gallery.

Faith Film ‘Run the Race’ Coming to Disc at Walmart and Digital May 21

The faith-based film Run the Race debuts on Blu-ray and DVD at Walmart as well as on digital (including Movies Anywhere) and on demand May 21 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, in partnership with The WTA Group, Reserve Entertainment and 10th Leper Productions.

The film will be available on Blu-ray and DVD at all retailers nationwide June 18.

Executive produced by athlete Tim Tebow and his brother Robby Tebow, the family drama follows the journey of two high school athletes and brothers who see their relationship tested as they seek different paths out of their troubled lives. Reeling from his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, Zach, an all-state athlete, finds glory on the football field, working to earn a college scholarship and the brothers’ ticket out of town. When a devastating injury puts Zach — and his dreams — on the sidelines, David laces up his track cleats to salvage their future and point Zach toward hope.

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The cast includes Tanner Stine (“NCIS,” Indivisible), Kristoffer Polaha (“Condor,” “Get Shorty”), Evan Hofer (“Kickin’ It”), Kelsey Reinhardt (“Transparent”) and Mario Van Peebles (“Superstition,” “Bloodline”) with Mykelti Williamson (FencesForrest Gump) and Frances Fisher (TitanicUnforgiven).

Bonus features include “The Heart of Run the Race,” in which executive producer Tim Tebow and cast talk about why the film is so important, what makes it special, and the bonds of family; a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with writer-producer Jake McEntire and executive producer Robby Tebow; and “The Cast Talks,” in which cast and crew cover a variety of topics, including their characters, the power of forgiveness, mentorship, dating and sports.

Pureflix.com to Produce Three Original Series

Independent faith and family streaming site Pureflix.com has announced the production of three new original series to bow in 2019: “Mood Swings,” “Sons of Thunder” and ‘The Beverly’s.”

The three-year-old entertainment site, featuring movies, TV shows and kids’ programs, is a subsidiary of Pure Flix Entertainment, a faith-based entertainment company and Christian movie studio based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that produces, distributes and acquires Christ-based movies. Subscriptions are $10.99 a month or $99.99 a year.

“Mood Swings” is a comedy that stars Donna Mills (“Knots Landing”), Crystal Hunt (“One Life to Live”), Andrea Logan White and Larry Wilcox (“CHiPS”). It follows four generations of women who live together as roommates in the City of Angels as they deal with various life issues and surviving each other.

“Sons of Thunder” is a mystery drama starring Randall Reeder (Deadpool) and Vanessa Angel (“Being Mary Jane”). It follows a combat vet who travels across the country to find the owner of a mysterious bag. Along the way God gives him a mission to help others.

“The Beverly’s” is a family comedy that centers on a small town girl (Christian music artist Jamie Grace) who mentors three young orphan girls that dream of starting their own music group and along the way learn valuable life lessons.

Pure Flix has produced such faith films as the “God’s Not Dead” franchise, Do You Believe and The Case for Christ. Inspirational entertainment on Pureflix.com includes recently premiered new episodes of “Malibu Dan … The Family Man,” starring David A.R. White, Kelly Stables and Andrea Logan White with guest stars including Cheryl Ladd and David Rasche; “Hilton Head Island”; and “The Pure Flix Comedy All Stars,” with Sinbad and Louie Anderson.

Stage Production ‘Moses’ Coming to DVD Oct. 16 From Virgil Films

Moses, a theatrical stage production, will hit DVD Oct. 16 from Virgil Films at $19.99.

Filmed in front of a live audience at Sight & Sound in Lancaster, Penn., Moses is an original stage production experienced by nearly 2 million people. It follows the life of Moses, set adrift as a baby and wandering in the wilderness — until God calls him into action to lead God’s people to the promised land.

The filming took place in a 2,000-seat theater with live animals and special effects including the burning bush, the parting of the Red Sea, a ship on stage, and the death angel, floating above the audience.

Fathom will mount a three-day theatrical event for Moses on Sept. 13, Sept. 15 and Sept. 20 in more than 800 Theaters.

The title has an all ages rating from the Dove Foundation.

PureFlix Adds Spanish-Language Content

PureFlix.com, the $10.99 monthly faith and family subscription streaming video service, is expanding its offerings to include Spanish-language content.

The new PureFlixEspanol.com platform will feature a variety of titles, including movies I’m Not Ashamed and God’s Not Dead 2, documentaries, talk shows, children’s programs, and animated shows, among others.

Self-help titles feature topics such as starting a new business, effective communication, overcoming a painful past and relationships.

More than 400 Spanish-language titles currently reside on PureFlixEspanol, with additional titles added monthly. An estimated 250 titles are expected to be added to the platform by summer 2018, including telenovelas and original content created exclusively for the new platform.

With the additional Spanish-language content, PureFlix now features approximately 8,500 titles.

“When Hispanic consumers talk, a responsible company needs to listen and act…and that’s exactly what we did,” CEO Greg Gudorf said in a statement. “Hispanic families are seeking clean, faith and family titles, and we want to be the streaming video service they turn to and trust.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of Hispanics in the U.S. identify themselves as Christian and a combined 84% indicate that religion in general is “very” or “somewhat” important to them.

The Star

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 2/20/18;
Sony Pictures;
Animated;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for some thematic elements.
Voices of Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Aidy Bryant, Anthony Anderson, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Mariah Carey, Phil Morris, Roger Craig Smith.

This fluffy faith-based animated adventure frames the tale of the Nativity from the point of view of a group of animals whose lives intersect with the coming of the Messiah.

The Star follows a little donkey (Steven Yeun of “The Walking Dead”) with big dreams who befriends the pregnant Mary (Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin,” playing another woman pregnant by unusual means here) before she leaves for Bethlehem, then sets off with his animal friends to protect her after learning King Herod (Christopher Plummer) has sent hunters after her in his attempt to prevent the birth of the King of the Jews. The camels (Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey) of the Three Wise Men also seek out the impending birth of Jesus to protect him.

Lest anyone worry about the film straying too far from scripture with its talking animals, one of its best running gags involves the fact that the animals can communicate freely with each other, but just sound like animals to the humans around them.

It’s a testament to the earnestness of The Star, and a sign of how it expects its audience to approach the film, that an early scene involves Mary returning home to her husband, Joseph, after being away for an extended period of time. Visibly pregnant, she explains it’s the Son of God and that it’s his duty to help her bring the child into the world, and he embraces the calling. Were this not a faith-based movie aimed at children, I suspect most men being told that story by their wife might have a different reaction.

The film’s screenplay was originally intended for a live-action production of the Jim Henson Company, which reportedly would have employed a style similar to Babe, using visual effects to make the animals appear to talk. When that didn’t pan out, the project was revived at Sony Pictures Animation by DeVon Franklin, a prominent Christian preacher and motivational speaker who has produced a number of notable faith-based films, such as Heaven Is for Real.

The end result is a cute adventure that, despite some broad Looney Tunes-type humor, remains grounded in its piety. While not a musical, the film relies heavily on a soundtrack consisting of modern renderings of some classic Christmas songs.

The songs are the subject of a good portion of the Blu-ray’s bonus materials, which include several “lyric videos,” two sing-alongs and a dance-along video.

The Blu-ray also offers some typical behind-the-scenes featurettes, such as the 13-minute “An All Star Cast” and the two-minute “Creating the World of 9 Months B.C.” There’s also a commentary with executive producer Franklin and director Tim Reckart.

But the Blu-ray also has ambitions to serve as a faith-based teaching tool, and to that end it includes the 10-minute “Faith All Year Round With DeVon Franklin,” in which the producer discusses the film’s message with a group of children. For those who prefer something more interactive, there are three arts-and-crafts videos.

Finally, the Blu-ray offers a bit of background art for special occasions in the form of an animated Nativity scene that runs on a 21-hour loop.