By Edwin Carpenter, Editor
The Grace Card is a powerful movie about a tough cop who battles with his teenage son. It is also about loss and finding grace when it is most needed. The film played in theaters nationwide, and now The Grace Card comes to DVD, with an Aug. 16 launch.
Just prior to the theatrical release, The Grace Card’s director and executive producer, first-time filmmaker Dr. David G. Evans, spoke by phone with The Dove Foundation about his experience in bringing this story to life.
Dove: Tell us a little bit about your background, David, and what led up to you directing your first film, The Grace Card?
David: “I grew up in Arkansas and moved to Memphis in 1990 where I went to Optometry school for four years. In 1994 when I started in my eye-care practice I had seen many passion plays over my high school and college years and really felt like there needed to be something like that in our church because what was missing was a large, annual event that would pull people together, you know, hard work that would pull everyone together for a few weeks.”
[David approached the church staff and stated he was willing to write and direct a passion play. The last year he did it there was a cast and crew of about three hundred people, live animals and high-tech set building and computerized lighting. David said that he would write a modern day story every year and blend it in with the story of Jesus’ life.]
David: “Ours was the only one in the country that I could ever find that was doing one like that, where you could change this modern day story every year about some crisis that was facing a family or an event or whatever the story was about. After I saw Fireproof in September 2008 with our church I really felt like that’s something that God was calling us to do.”
Dove: Can you describe the transition from directing passion plays to producing a feature film?
David: “I found that making a movie is a lot more complicated than I thought. I didn’t quite know all of the elements that went into it but we learned fast. My wife and I felt that it was God’s calling to put The Grace Card together.”
Dove: How did you come across writer Howard Klausner?
David: “Over a two month period of time, from about December of ‘08 after I saw Fireproof to January, I put together a 120-page screenplay and that circulated around our pastoral staff and our church and we went through a few revisions, changing a few scenes here and there and some of the dialog. Rich Peluso at Sony Pictures / Affirm Films wanted to see our screenplay. He felt we needed to strengthen the dialog even more, so he introduced me to Howard Klausner who wrote Clint Eastwood’s Space Cowboys and Howie agreed to join our team. He did a page one rewrite, which means he basically went through the whole script and reworked most of the dialog, of course keeping the story intact. Giving us some stronger dialog helped us build the characters even better and make it more emotional than it already was.”
Dove: How did casting come about?
David:” Basically we put the word out around the Memphis community; ended up having over 50 churches send members of their congregation and audition. My music pastor and I did about a week of auditions. His wife plays Dr. Vines, the female counselor in the movie.”
[David said they used the exact same casting-call application that is used by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Stephen and Alex Kendrick were very good about sharing their paperwork with David including shooting schedules and forms they had created from their years of work making Christian movies. A lot of the details had already been laid out for David and he duplicated their approach by using Christian believers in the various roles in the film.]
David: “The majority of our cast has never been in a movie before, with the exception of two characters. Most members of our cast were volunteers as well; everyone being a part of this ministry and believing in the story and the message that we all were there to present.”
Dove: And of course Michael Joyner has a lead role in the film, and really nails it. What a performance!
David: “Incredible! And he is a clean comedian who travels around the country doing stand-up comedy in churches for different business events and again, just really talented and pulls off the character very well and the transition of his character as he begins to reach out to Christ. It’s really powerful as it unfolds on screen.”
Dove: It was icing on the cake to get Louis Gossett Jr. His role is somewhat limited, but he really takes command when he’s on the screen. (David agreed). There are always challenges, David. What challenges did you face in getting the film completed?
David: “Not having done this before, one challenge is just trying to find the right crew members and putting together a team that you can number one, afford, and number two, that you feel believes in the project. We started every day with a devotion and prayer and we wanted everyone to come to the set every day believing in the reason they were there, and that it wasn’t just a job. It was a challenge in finding the right people but in the end I believe for every single position both in front of the camera and behind it that God sent us the people that we needed to bring together. We knew that the movie was going to open in hundreds of theaters, even though when we arrived on the set the first day, most of us didn’t know what we were doing! The other challenge was the long hours for the cast. Many of these people work normal jobs during the week. We had to work with their schedules. We went about a week and a half filming throughout the night so that those folks could work their normal job schedules – it was pretty tough on everyone.”
[David added that he still had his eye-care practice and as executive producers, he and his wife had the financial burden of the film weighing on their shoulders, too. Yet he says they are excited about what God has done over the last several months at the early screenings.]
David: “Just seeing the reaction of people coming out of the theater saying, ‘Wow! This is something we needed in our city. We want to share this with our church’. We were praying that people would put their arms around The Grace Card and embrace it and share it with everyone that they know.”
The Grace Card DVD is available for pre-order now with sales starting Aug. 16. Bonus features on the DVD include:
the opening scene of Courageous, the anticipated new film from Sherwood Pictures;
commentary from Evans, Joiner and Associate Producer Lynn Holmes;
a behind-the-scenes feature, Starting a Grace Awakening;
deleted scenes and outtakes;
and a music video, Healing Begins, from the contemporary Christian band Tenth Avenue North.
To learn more or order the film, visit www.thegracecardmovie.com. The Dove Foundation awarded The Grace Card, five Doves, its highest rating, and recommends it for audiences over age 12. It is not to be missed!