By Tom Quimby — Special to The Washington Times – – Monday, September 25, 2017
Veteran film producer Angela White had never seen someone cry during one of her films or sign a pledge to improve the life of a perfect stranger — until she screened her first faith-based film.
With “A Question of Faith,” which hits theaters nationwide Friday, Ms. White becomes the first African-American woman to produce a faith-based film. She is also one of the genre’s most ardent supporters.
“I’ve never done a film where people leave crying. I’ve never done a film where people are telling me private information about their family or their life,” Ms. White said. “This film has changed me. I have to be more accountable and more responsible for the content I do” moving forward, she said.
“A Question of Faith,” distributed by PureFlix to over 600 theaters, relies on a veteran cast to touch upon some of the toughest topics yet tackled in a faith-based film, including race relations, organ donating, texting while driving and even marital strife.
Ms. White said screenings in 30 cities so far have “gone tremendously well,” and viewers have been inspired to action.
“People have said, ‘I’m going to go home and open my Bible. Or ‘I’m going to go home and apologize to my wife,’” Ms. White said.
Furthermore, the filmmaker has teamed up with organ donor Donate Life America, which is setting up tables at screenings should viewers of “A Question of Faith” be moved to donate something greater.
“This is impact like I’ve never seen before,” Ms. White said.
In “A Question of Faith,” Kim Fields, known for her enduring roles on NBC’s “Facts of Life” and Fox’s “Living Single,” plays Theresa Newman, the wife of pastor David Newman (Richard T. Jones). As the film unfolds, their lives will become entangled with those of complete strangers in ways they never could have imagined.
“I thought that Theresa Newman was a phenomenal character to play,” Miss Fields said.
T.C. Stallings of “War Room” fame plays Cecil King, the pastor’s single right-hand man who, while eager to settle down and get married, still manages to bring plenty of comic relief, a process Mr. Stallings said came naturally.
“He’s a lot more like who I am anyway. He’s the accountability brother. He’s the voice of reason. And he’s a really nice person,” Mr. Stallings said. “It was a lot easier to play Cecil because I felt like I was just being myself. He never even got angry in the film.
“When Cecil’s on the screen, it gets fun and it gets warm, and in the film Cecil’s looking for love. That’s his little side story. He wants God to send him a wife.”
Cast works for underserved audience
While producing “A Question of Faith,” Ms. White learned that it’s not only audiences that are relieved to see biblical themes at work but cast members as well.
“A lot of the cast … love the fact that we’re doing a film where there’s no violence, there’s no adultery,” Ms. White explained. “A lot of times they’re being offered roles that are against their personal beliefs.”
Many of the actors have children, which makes them even more selective about the roles they choose.
“They wanted something to not only glorify God but also something that wouldn’t prove embarrassing if their children saw it,” the producer explained.
Mr. Stallings played professional football and worked in church ministry prior to becoming an actor. He has authored two self-help Christian books, created a YouTube Channel dubbed PURPOSE T.V. with TC Stallings and recently finished a pilot for a faith-based TV sitcom called “The Perfect Family.”
Choosing a film project, he said, means ensuring it doesn’t cross any lines where his faith is concerned.
“It doesn’t mean that everything I do is a Jesus film, it just means that when I do something, even when its secular, it can’t be something that dishonors God with bad language or with profanity, nudity or all that kind of stuff,” Mr. Stallings said.
Ms. White, founder of Silver Lining Entertainment, said faith-based audiences are still largely underserved and present somewhat of a learning curve for Hollywood, with the big studios still tentative about crafting content for them.
“There’s not that many faith-based films that come out each year,” Ms. White said. “There’s more than ever [before], but there’s still not that many compared to secular films.
“People are still in desperate need for this content — inspirational content. I hope that we can open up some doors.”
Ms. Fields, whose autobiography “A Blessed Life” will hit bookstores Nov. 14, said faith-based films can attract a diverse range of moviegoers beyond their target demographic.
“Faith-based movies have really just gotten fantastic in terms of … the writing, the acting, the cinematography,” she said. “Filmmakers are realizing that it’s not just about preaching to the choir, so to speak, and [only] serving the faith-based community.”
“But going beyond that, you’re still making a movie, and a movie, pretty much by definition, is entertainment,” Ms. White said. “You have to remember that you’re still in the entertainment business, even though you’re making a genre-specific project.”
And, at the end of the day, it’s profit margins that capture the attention of well-heeled studios.
“I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. Hollywood responds to dollars — box office dollars,” Ms. White said. “That’s the only thing they respond to.
“If faith-based films do not do well at the box office, then Hollywood will not open up to it.”