Ted Baehr’s Movieguide organization for years has championed the belief that movies with a moral and uplifting message can succeed in the marketplace.
Films such as “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof” already have validated that belief, and over the next year or so a number of new releases are expected to follow suit.
In addition to the release just weeks ago of “Johnny,” a winner of Baehr’s inaugural Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays by First-time and Beginning Screenwriters, several more projects that have won the same prize are close to hitting theaters.
A grant from the John Templeton Foundation enabled Movieguide to launch the Kairos competitions. The goal was to help ensure truly outstanding faith-based, faith-friendly and family-centered films find a path to production.
The original winner is the story of a 10-year-old leukemia patient and ward of the state, Johnny, who changes the lives of people he meets. Baehr’s review says: “The film is steeped in the biblical truths of God’s faithfulness, forgiveness, and grace. Johnny is a shining example of how the Lord provides us with the strength to endure the challenges, the disappointments, the sorrows of life.”
And now word is out that two more of the favorites from the competition have just completed principal photography, and several others are expected to launch before year’s end.
In print, it’s won two Christy Award nominations and Gold Medal Book of the Year from Foreward Magazine. Now Elevating Entertainment Motion Pictures is on the screen project.
In the story, Zack Ross learns from his autistic friend during a championship baseball season lessons about living and dying.
Set in the south of the 1970s, where “Little League is all that matters,” veteran actors John Schneider (“Dukes of Hazzard”), Grayson Russell (“Talladega Nights”) and Nancy Stafford (“Matlock”) are featured.
“We’re excited with how things are turning out,” said producer and director Dave Moody. “We have truly been blown away by the performances.”
“I actually wrote the script and the novel simultaneously and entered the novel in the Jerry Jenkins Operation First Novel competition the same year I entered the Kairos competition,” Whitener said.
While he didn’t win the novel competition, he said, the book opened the door to getting a publishing contract with Kregel in Grand Rapids.
“I honestly didn’t know if I was better at screenwriting or the more expansive storytelling in a novel,” he said. “I still don’t know, but it’s all good.”
Dallas Jenkins, son of author Jerry Jenkins and a movie director whom Whitener had met at the Gideon Film Festival, encouraged him to work with Dave Moody of Elevating Entertainment for “A Season of Miracles.”
“He told me if I ended up with a big studio, my movie could easily sit on the back burner for many years,” Whitener said, “as one of a number of projects the studio had purchased. But if I went with Elevating Entertainment, they might greenlight my script.”
Jenkins told Whitener “if Dave Moody is excited about the script, he will make your movie; he will get it done.”
Movieguide noted that while the budget for “A Season of Miracles” is relatively low by Hollywood standards, a recent report in Variety Magazine said of the 20 most profitable movies based on return of investment, 16 were produced for approximately $1.5 million or less.
“Many of these movies (‘Fireproof’ and ‘Facing the Giants’) have shocked the world, and investors, with outrageous ‘return on investment’ of over 1,000 percent,” the report said.
Also, Christina Denton of Martinsville, Va., the 2009 winner with “A Matter of Time,” learned her script headed into post-production over the last few weeks.
With Kevin Sorbo (“Soul Surfer”), Shelley Long (“Cheers”) and Jason Burkey (“October Baby”) it’s a the romantic drama about a young man so blinded by a bitter, broken heart that he’s unable to see the love of his life right in front of him.
It’s expected to be released early in 2013.
Several other Kairos Prize scripts are nearing production. “Under the Apple Tree,” written by Matthew Hill and Landon Johnson, is in the final stages of development and heading into pre-production this summer. The 2011 winner relays the story of an atheist who, just wanting to pass her religion class, is forced to partake in extracurricular activities with a devout Christian.
Also, “Habit Forming,” by Heather Hughes and Kate Wharton, is set for production later this year.
More details are at Kairosprize.com.