|Yours Truly at the Premiere of The Encounter|
The Boston Christian Film Festival was an evangelical enterprise organized by Tom Saab, who also happened to be an investor on "The Encounter." The festival would rent a number of theaters in a multiplex for a weekend and show a wide variety of Christian films free of charge, and then give an altar call for anyone who felt inclined to accept Christ after the films. The festivals seemed to be very successful. The screenings were often very crowded.
A large PureFlix contingent flew out from Los Angeles for the film festival which was also serving as the premiere venue of their more highly-touted film "Jerusalem Countdown." David A.R. White, the ultimate hyphenate, attended. So did Steve "Sting" Borden, Jaci Valezquez, Jamie Nieto and practically the whole zany Gibney clan. So did Carey Scott, the director of "Hidden Secrets" who also appeared as an actor in "Jerusalem Countdown," and Anna Zielinski, another star of "Jerusalem Countdown," who would loom large in the upcoming "Marriage Retreat." Sadly, Bruce Marchiano didn't attend. I still haven't had the chance to meet him yet.
|David, Madison, Jamie, Sean, Anna, Carey|
The big moment came. We went into the theater and sat near the front. The theater was packed. I sat next to Jaci and a few seats away from Sting. The movie played and the audience immediately accepted it. When the line I mentioned to Sting came up, he gave me a curious look. I nodded with approval. (He later asked what I thought about the line in the final film. I said, honestly, that, with the music, it worked.) When Jaci's character's flashback came up, she asked in a whisper which of the two girls was supposed to be her. I answered, honestly, that I had no idea. I had never seen the footage before.
After the film, the lights came up a bit. Producer/Festival Organizer/Evangelist Tom Saab came forward and gave an altar call. I was not prepared for the response. Over two hundred people came forward to accept the Lord. It was very humbling.
After seeing the response of that audience, I was anticipating big things upon the release of the film. I was wrong. It dropped into the market with zero marketing. (I believe PureFlix was still pouring all of its money into "Jerusalem Countdown.") I saw no ads. No reviews. Nothing. I was crushed. I felt we had made a film that would truly touch people, but it looked like no one would ever see it.
Then the film hit NetFlix. I have previously written a blog about my belief that Netflix would destroy the independent film business, but it saved "The Encounter" from oblivion. People saw the film on the website and word of mouth quickly spread. It became a sleeper hit. It soon rose to the Top 10 in it's category in Amazon and remained there for over two years. Prior to the release of "God's Not Dead," PureFlix proclaimed it was the most profitable film they made.
But more important than the money were the testimonies I heard. Non-believers have turned to the Lord after seeing the film, and believers have found their faith restored and their questions answered. This film has only been seen by a fraction of people who have seen "Titanic," but I doubt "Titanic" changed as many lives. There truly seems to be a special anointing on this film, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.
In retrospect, I wish this had been my last film with PureFlix. There was a certain purity of purpose to "The Encounter." We just wanted to make a little evangelical Jesus film that we felt would touch people and answer some of the modern objections to Christianity, and that's exactly what we did. None of the major decisions involving the production were marred by ego, compromise, a desire for career enhancement or an unseemly grasping for money.
Sadly, that would not be the case on all of the films that followed.
"The Encounter," Part 1, Proof God's Not Dead
"The Encounter," Part 2, The Writing
"The Encounter," Part 3, The Making Thereof
Read about the making of my previous features:
Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God. It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.