It’s easy to imagine the filmmakers of faith-based pictures like “Courageous” and “Left Behind” dismissing mainstream critics’ self-perpetuating jeer machine as “secular propaganda,” but anyone who’s read a David Mamet book or watched David O. Russell lose his mind can tell you that becoming a successful artist involves selfishly pursuing one’s goals for years on end, destroying lives and dreams in the process. These faith-based guys are just too nice to do this well.
Quality be damned, Paul Lalonde and John Patus, two writers who worked on previous 'Left Behind' scripts, have written an as-yet-untitled reboot of the franchise. It’s unclear if the script is based on one of the sixteen (!) ‘Left Behind’ books written between 1995-2007 by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. What we do know is that the picture is in the vein of a classic disaster movie. It won’t feature John Cusack waiting for Tom McCarthy to die so he can get back together with Amanda Peet, but rather, the Rapture.
Cloud Ten Pictures, the production company that financed the first three ‘Left Behind’ pictures (one theatrical, two straight to DVD, all successful), is owned by screenwriter Paul Lalonde. Cloud Ten will be financing the $15 million picture. It will be one of the most expensive films to come out of the burgeoning Christian-themed film market, which currently has a hit in theatres with the $28 million-grossing "Courageous."
"Courageous" came from the more auteur-minded corner of the faith-based filmmaking community. Unlike the ‘Left Behind’ films, which have each had different creative hands behind the wheel, Sherwood Pictures (the studio behind "Courageous," “Fireproof,” and “Facing the Giants”) has so far only made films directed by Alex Kendrick, produced by Stephen Kendrick, and written by the two brothers together. It makes for an interesting artistic progression from film to film and would make for an even more interesting episode of Sundance Channel’s “Iconoclast” if you got the Kendricks in a room with the Coen Brothers.
This writer has seen "Courageous" and was surprised by its well-staged action scenes and ambitious plot, which was reminiscent of “Crash.” The main difference between the two films was that "Crash" featured people from all different races or religions learning to deal with one another, while "Courageous" featured Baptist people learning to accept that they are Baptist, or should become Baptist, or are currently Baptist, but need to reaffirm their faith (Baptist).
It is, however, quite inspiring that the church members of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia can come together and make a feature film on a $2 million budget. The cast and crew are nearly all members of the church, which ends up explaining some of the amateurish acting in these films. Sherwood Pictures does not seem to have any connection to Cloud Ten Pictures—aside from their mutual love of Kirk Cameron—but while "Courageous" and "Fireproof" cost $2 million and $500,000, respectively, they each pulled in over $25 million at the box office. The first ‘Left Behind’ film cost around $4 million and just barely made back its budget at the box office. The series no doubt made millions more on home video, but still, it feels a bit risky to lay down a $15 million bet on this ‘Left Behind’ reboot, especially if the film is not directly based on a book, which will lower its perceived legitimacy. Plus, Cloud Ten Pictures just needs to step up their faith-based web presence in general because this YouTube page isn’t cutting it.
Check out the trailer for the latest ‘Left Behind’ film, “Left Behind: World at War,” and imagine what this will look like with an additional $11 million thrown at it. [THR]