Christian filmmaker Jon Erwin remembers his first days working with mega Lionsgate entertainment to make “I Still Believe,” an upcoming biopic on chart-topping singer Jeremy Camp.
“One of the heads of the departments came up and was whispering, and said, ‘I’m a Christian and there’s a few of us here, and I’m so glad you’re here,'” Erwin told Baptist Press (BP) in advance of the March 13 opening weekend of I Still Believe. “We were able to say, ‘Hey, we came in through the front door. They’re paying us to be here.'”
A growing, widespread appreciation of Christian entertainment in the largely secular industry is “a watershed moment … on behalf of Christianity,” Erwin told BP. “God is moving in Hollywood, in the entertainment industry, like I’ve not seen before.
“And we’ve learned that this is probably the most powerful form of storytelling ever invented,” utilizing what Erwin calls “emotional instigation.”
“If you can tell a story that changes the way someone feels – this is the power of mass entertainment,” he said, “… instantly people want to change the way they think and believe to match the way that they’ve been made to feel.”
I Still Believe is a love story that can be an evangelistic tool especially for teenagers, Erwin told BP. The story of love, loss, inspiration and hope has the same title as the first song Camp wrote after his wife Melissa died of cancer three months into their marriage in 2001.
“It’s God’s design for a love story,” Erwin told BP of the romance. “When teenagers see it, they don’t say, ‘Oh, that’s not realistic or that’s not gritty enough.’ They actually say, ‘I want to be loved like that.'”
Erwin views mass entertainment as “the language of the time, of a generation.” He and his brother Andrew co-direct I Still Believe as their first film from Kingdom Studios, a venture they launched in 2019 with partners Kevin Downes and Tony Young, including a first-look deal with Lionsgate. It’s the second biopic the brothers have made based on a Christian music hit, following their 2018 box-office success “I Can Only Imagine,” based on the life of MercyMe’s Bart Millard and the best-selling Christian single of all time. I Can Only Imagine, an independent film, grossed $86 million.
“I think God’s just raising up voices that no one would have expected,” Jon Erwin told BP. “It is very similar to a Nehemiah situation where a lot of the large, powerhouse entities like Lionsgate are just giving us the resources we need to reach a generation in a new way.”
I Still Believe is the first faith-based film to open in IMAX, scheduled March 11 in advance of opening weekend. “Lionsgate is using IMAX to designate that I Still Believe is declaring itself to be the big mainstream faith-based drama of the year,” Scott Mendelson wrote Feb. 11 for Forbes.com.
I Still Believe stars K.J. Apa as Camp, Britt Robertson as Melissa, Gary Sinise as Camp’s father Tom, and Shania Twain as Camp’s mother. Millard joined the film in January as an executive producer.
“I believe that the cast of I Still Believe is by far the greatest group of actors we’ve ever worked with. Years ago I would never have thought it possible to be able to work with people like this,” Erwin said. “It’s a mixture of icons and new voices.”
The movie confronts a longstanding question that has kept people away from God, Erwin said, the question of why tragedy occurs.
“This film grapples with that issue,” he said, “and I think we forget so many times that there is a beauty, and a purpose, and a meaning in the difficult things we go through. And that sometimes God uses those things more than He uses the good things that happen to shape us, to mold us and to give us our voice.
“If you think about I Can Only Imagine, it was Bart grappling with his broken relationship with his father … that gave the world this song I Can Only Imagine, that’s brought hope to millions of people,” Erwin said. “Similarly this is this selfless, beautiful love story, that involves loss and yet a rush of hope at the same time, that gave Jeremy Camp his voice to millions of people.”
I Still Believe offers evangelistic and discipleship resources, including a five-episode video series with Camp and Adrienne, his wife of 16 years, with a companion leader’s guide; a small-group kit with a video and devotional guide; a 15-track DVD of Camp’s greatest hits; an updated memoir by Camp; and the book In Unison, focusing on Camp’s life with Adrienne.
“We want to create films that are strategic in showcasing the power of Christianity to transform people’s lives,” Erwin said. “This movie is saturated with the gospel, and with someone living out their faith.
“It’s a love story as God intended, between these two people and God, and between these two people and each other,” he said. “It’s also very empowering to young people that are Christians to live out their faith, because Melissa said, ‘If what I’m going through changes one person’s life, then it will have been worth it.'”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)