CROSS ROAD: ‘Woodlawn’ – A New Game Plan for Faith-Based Films

Former rocket scientist, shark safety diver and award winning screenwriter, Dan Goforth’s most recent assignments were RIDING ON FAITH, the true-life story of rodeo champion Amberley Snyder and the feature film adaptations of New York Times bestselling author Col. Walter J. Boyne’s DAWN OVER KITTY HAWK, as well as the sci-fi graphic novel, THE CHRONIC ARGONAUTS, from New Baby Publishing. Visit Dan’s blog, Script Soup and follow him on Twitter @Dango_Forth.

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CROSS ROAD: 'Woodlawn' - A New Game Plan for Faith-Based Films by Dan Goforth | Script MagazineWoodlawn is the latest film from Jon and Andy Erwin, opening in theaters across the nation on October 16. It is produced by Provident Films and distributed by Pure Flix Entertainment.

The world is changing- fast. Writers, directors and producers of faith-based films are directly affected by how the world watches movies. The Erwin Brothers know that today there are more cell phones than people on the earth, with a huge number of those owners consuming entertainment via their phones. More people around the world are now living in cities than in rural areas, resulting in a 30% growth of movie theaters in the last five years worldwide. There are ten new movie theaters opening every day in China alone.

So, the Erwins began to ask, “What is the world watching?” Embarking on a two year research study, following the incredible success of their first film, October Baby, Jon and Andy found that with 20,000 movies being made world-wide in a single year, 60% of the American box-office business came from just 31 movies. Those same 31 movies did 40% of all business in the world. Each of those films made more than hundred million dollars.

These are the blockbusters. And with the advances in digital distribution, these films are seen almost instantaneously all over the world. As Jon Erwin says, movies have become “the most advanced, widest form of communication in the history of the world.” Jon continues, “So, we began to ask this fundamental question, ‘Would it be possible for a blockbuster to be made by a Christian with an overt Christian world view?’ And we began to study it. And the answer is absolutely yes. All the data supports it.”

CROSS ROAD: 'Woodlawn' - A New Game Plan for Faith-Based Films by Dan Goforth | Script Magazine
This led them to consider their next film carefully. A piece of family history convinced them that the time was right for a true story that took place in 1973 at a Birmingham, Alabama high school that was being ripped apart from violence due to integration. Nothing being done could fix the hatred there – until one night, the entire football team gave their lives to Christ. That shook the embroiled city in a way that no one expected. And it led to the largest attendance ever seen in the history of Alabama high school football – played between two formerly bitter state rival teams, both undefeated. Both playing for the only regional slot available for the state playoffs. Over 42,000 people packed into the stadium, with thousands more being turned away from the packed stadium.

caleb castille as tony nathan

Newcomer Caleb Castille stars as Tony Nathan

Woodlawn is the story of Tony Nathan, the first African-American football superstar in Birmingham, Alabama. Growing up in the then segregated South, Tony faced immense personal trials both on and off the field. His talent, and character, led to his being recruited by legendary University of Alabama head coach Bear Bryant (played by Academy Award winner Jon Voigt). His is a story of inspiration – in a setting that seems almost prophetical in its timing, with so much focus today on violence related to race. With a release scheduled during the height of football season, it has been featured on network televised college games.

Jon Voigt stars in the film as Paul "Bear" Bryant

Jon Voigt as “Bear” Bryant

Woodlawn is one of the most expensive independent Christian film since The Passion of the Christ. It is evident that production companies believe in the Erwins. Provident Films and Pure Flix Entertainment have backed the film from the beginning, Recently, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey also joined the roster as Executive Producers, bringing their own experience producing successful and inspiring projects under their Lightworkers Media banner.

CROSS ROAD: 'Woodlawn' - A New Game Plan for Faith-Based Films by Dan Goforth | Script Magazine

Sean Astin stars in the film as Hank Erwin

The Erwin Brothers believe it is time for faith-based writers and filmmakers to look at the digital film world in a new, and yet old, way. “This is a new mechanism of delivery. Just like radio, just like the printing press, just like Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible. All the way back to the Roman Road. Think about it – first century Christians. Rome built road for commerce. Rome built roads for military expansion. We didn’t build them, but they were there and we used them. So the Gospel went out on the Roman Road. In my opinion, this is the new Roman Road. The Roman Road of the 21st century and I believe it will work. I believe when a Christian, someone, breaks this model, we will never look back. And it will be a part of spreading the Gospel all over the world in a way that has never been done before.”

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