ALBANY — Affirm Films, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. company, and Provident Films is in the final stages of preparing for the release of “Overcomer,” a sports drama from The Kendrick Brothers that focuses on finding identity in Christ.
Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick, the creators of “War Room,” are set to release the new movie in 24 countries. Director Alex Kendrick once again returns in a leading role, along with Shari Rigby, Priscilla Shirer, Cameron Arnett and newcomer Aryn Wright-Thompson.
The film’s title inspired by 1 John 5:5, which reads, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” “Overcomer” will be released across North America on Aug. 23.
Ahead of that date, several premieres are set in different cities — including in Atlanta on Thursday.
“The screenings have been very positive,” Alex Kendrick said. “We will be in 1,600-1,700 theaters and in 24 countries. (For the Aug. 23 release) we have a number of sellouts already, too.
“The biggest thing is the theme on identity. What you allow to define you is timely in this culture. Those are the questions we ask in the movie.”
A novel, which has already been released and made it onto best-seller lists, and a Bible study accompany the movie. Additionally, Shirer is preparing a book aimed at teen girls.
The study book, “Defined: Who God Says You Are,” is designed to walk the reader through how God made them uniquely.
“We don’t believe identity comes from (a person’s) circumstances or their job,” Alex Kendrick said. “The creator defines the creation.”
The Kendricks, working under Sherwood Pictures, also cretaed “Flywheel,” “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof” and “Courageous.”
“Overcomer” was produced on a $5 million budget, making it the largest of these films in terms of budget and set value. It was made with equipment, production values and sets comparable to what is used in major Hollywood blockbusters.
“The scope is bigger,” Alex Kendrick said. “The way it is shot, it is with the same equipment being used to shoot the Marvel movies. The actors do an amazing job. This is quickly becoming a favorite for us.”
Coach John Harrison, portrayed by Alex Kendrick, is a high school basketball coach whose state championship dreams are crushed when the largest manufacturing plant shuts down and hundreds of families leave town. Harrison questions how he and his family will face an uncertain future.
After reluctantly agreeing to coach cross country, Harrison and his wife meet Hannah Scott, a teenage athlete with asthma who lives with her grandmother while pushing her limits on a journey toward her own discovery.
“The Atlanta premiere will be packed,” Alex Kendrick said. “We (hope) the audience and the media are inspired by the film and spread the word when they leave. The cast and crew, most of them have not seen the film either. In a sense, it is a birth of the film.
“The pre-screenings have gone well. For the last 20 minutes, (some people) have been on their feet. We hope they leave with their heart full and perspective inspired. So far, that has happened, and I hope (that will continue).”
Stephen Kendrick served as the film’s producer, and the screenplay was written by both brothers. It was filmed last year primarily in Columbus, with some scenes shot in Albany and Nashville, Tenn. — much of it outdoors.
As a thank you, the Kendricks opted to do the first premiere in Columbus, which was to follow by a premiere in Dallas, a region known for responding well to the Kendrick films, before going to Atlanta — the largest of the premiere events.
“It is to show (local leaders) what was recently shot in Georgia,” Alex Kendrick said. “The response has been wonderful. The rooms are usually packed where we go.”
After “Overcomer,” Alex Kendrick said earlier this year that his plan is to start the season of prayer over again while catching up on family time. A percentage of the proceeds of the film will be donated to several charities.
The widest release for “War Room,” which opened Aug. 28, 2015, was 1,945 theaters — and it eventually generated a domestic total gross of $67.79 million. “Flywheel” had a budget of $20,000, “Facing the Giants” was made with $100,000, the cost of “Fireproof” was $500,000, “Courageous” was finished for $1 million and the budget for “War Room” was $3 million.
“With every film, we are able to increase the budget,” Alex Kendrick said. “We are grateful to learn from those films (and make) more professional films.”
Students of Sherwood Christian Academy and members of Sherwood Baptist Church will be among the first to get reserved showtimes and tickets. Alex Kendrick said free tickets are also being given to first responders, and a number of ministries and sports teams are being invited.
“We are trying to say thank you to Albany, the city that got (the films) their start,” Kendrick said.
After the movie releases in North America, the Kendricks will next take a 10-day tour of South America for the film’s release there before taking their break to catch up on family time.
“We are excited and tired,” Alex Kendrick said. “It has been almost a two-year journey, but it has been worth it. It has been a journey we have found fulfilling.
“Knowing we have touched lives has been inspiring to us.”
Composer Paul Mills said he has also found work on the project inspiring. He had been working with The Erwin Brothers when he was connected to the Kendricks. After hitting it off with the brothers, he got involved in the score for “War Room” and later returned for “Overcomer.”
“We saw music the same way,” Mills said. “We saw the power in music. Alex and Stephen both love dramatic scores.”
Mills developed the “Overcomer Theme,” which has a presence throughout the movie. He said it is brought to life with French horns and a slow melody.
“It gives you a sense that something is about to happen,” he said.
The character Hannah has her own theme, a piano melody written to connect the audience with her feelings of isolation and perceived weakness due to her asthma.
“It is almost childlike when you hear it,” Mills said.
Even the “Overcomer Theme” plays a role in Hannah’s transition as she battles some of her challenges. Meanwhile, Harrison is facing spiritual and emotional challenges of his own while he believes his identity to be wrapped around his job — a role that has drastically changed.
“The theme is to find identity,” Mills said. “They are reconnecting to what is important.”
Mills said his intent was to amplify the message and personal stories of the film’s characters through the music, ultimately connecting everything for the climax when these challenges are faced.
“We try to make music an important component that makes the audience connect,” he said. “The connection of music, stories and visuals is going to be powerful.
“I think it is one of the best stories I have done to date, and I think the Kendrick brothers would say this is the best film they have done to date.”
In the effort to get “Overcomer” and its music to complement each other, Mills created a larger score and used an orchestra that included a bigger string section to bring out the important moments.
Much of those resources, Mills said, came from the Kendricks coming to the composer to ask what was needed to take things to the next level — and finding out how much it would cost.
“They gave me that freedom with a bigger budget,” he said. “(The musicians) put their heart and soul into it, and I believe we were successful in every way in taking it to the next level. Even the climax of the movie is bigger.
“Really, the most fun part of the movie was listening from the control room and seeing it come to life.”
In the end, Mills said he participated in the project for the same reason as the Kendricks — to connect the audience to the message. The composer said he has also seen a working relationship blossom, which he wants to develop even further.
“Our working relationship is wonderful; we enjoy working together,” Mills said. “We have a working relationship already established, and we have the same goal. We want them (the audience) to get the message of the movie.
“I will always be available to work with the Kendrick brothers and their movies. It is one of the most awesome things in the world, working with (them).”
For more information on “Overcomer,” group tickets, the Bible study and novel associated with the film, cast and filmmakers, trailer, posters and banners, visit www.overcomermovie.com
Since releasing its first theatrical film, “Facing the Giants,” in 2007, Affirm Films has released numerous faith-based films. Affirm is a division of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
Provident Films, a division of Provident Music Group, a Sony company, develops, produces and markets faith-based films. A pioneer in the genre since 2006, Provident Films’ partnerships include Sherwood Pictures/The Kendrick Brothers, The Erwin Brothers and Graceworks Pictures.
The Kendrick Brothers is a partnership that also includes Shannon Kendrick — who served as executive producer for “Overcomer” — that exists to honor God and share the story of Jesus Christ through movies, books, curriculum and speaking by blending engaging stories with doctrinal integrity. For more information, visit kendrickbrothers.com.