The director of the upcoming faith-based film I Still Believe says the movie’s all-star cast could attract an unchurched audience who typically wouldn’t be open to a Christian message.
Andrew Erwin, who co-directed the film with his brother and also co-directed the 2018 hit movie I Can Only Imagine, told Christian Headlines that the film’s cast – including K.J. Apa and Britt Robertson – could appeal to non-Christians.
Apa has 17 million Instagram followers. Robertson has appeared in several movies popular among young adults and teens.
A romantic drama, I Still Believe (PG) tells the true story of Christian singer Jeremy Camp’s marriage to his first wife, Melissa, who died of ovarian cancer. Camp wrote his popular song I Still Believe after her death.
I Still Believe releases in theaters March 13.
The goal is always to have “crossover appeal,” Erwin said.
“We're not going to be one of these that sells out to reach an audience,” Erwin told Christian Headlines. “But what we're trying to do is broaden our audience to where we can kind of gain new fans – new people that typically would not engage with something like this.
“We tested it with audiences, and it tested on such great scores with the general public that Lionsgate doubled our theater count from I Can Only Imagine,” Erwin said. “And they also are giving us an IMAX release – and there’s never been a faith film released in IMAX before. So it's definitely a step up as far as an opportunity for Christians being relevant. So my hope is it does crossover.”
With Apa and Robertson in the film, the filmmakers have a “huge opportunity” to reach a younger unchurched audience, Erwin said. Further, the inclusion of Shania Twain and Gary Sinise in the movie – they play Camp’s parents – can attract an older audience who typically wouldn’t watch a faith-based film either, Erwin said.
I Still Believe was labeled by Seventeen Magazine as one of the top romantic movies in 2020 to watch.
Although I Can Only Imagine was the Erwin brothers’ biggest hit yet, it wasn’t their first movie. They also made Woodlawn (2015), Mom’s Night Out (2014) and October Baby (2011).
The objective, Andrew Erwin said, is always to reach an audience that doesn’t go to church.
“Our focus is still firmly rooted within the church, but it's focused out,” he told Christian Headlines. “And so our goal is to reach out beyond the church walls to engage a generation that's walking away from the church – as an introduction to Christianity.
“We try to be an introduction to Christianity that's focused on people who are not necessarily churched or have become disillusioned with their faith,” he added. “And so that's the audience we're trying to reach. We're trying to give the church a tool that they can use to reach their community. So it's definitely still engaging the church – but for a different purpose. It's to reach out beyond the church walls.”
Photo courtesy: ©Lionsgate
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.