Dallas Jenkins has been producing and directing feature films and shorts since 2000 when, at 25, he produced the feature Hometown Legend and shepherded it to distribution by Warner Brothers. He then directed multiple shorts and features that won multiple festival awards and are currently on DVD and TV all over the world, including the features Midnight Clear (Lionsgate DVD), Though None Go With Me (Hallmark Channel original), and What If... (Pure Flix DVD). He is currently Executive Director of Vertical Church Films at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, where he directs and produces films.
He just completed his first feature at Harvest, "The Resurrection of Gavin Stone," which stars Brett Dalton (Marvel's Agents of Shield), stand-up comic Anjelah Johnson, D.B. Sweeney (The Cutting Edge), Neil Flynn (ABC's The Middle), and WWE Superstar Shawn Michaels and will be released to theaters January 20 from Walden Media and WWE Films.
"The Resurrection of Gavin Stone" is an inspirational comedy about faith and forgiveness. Gavin Stone, a washed-up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local mega-church and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood. The movie releases to theaters nationwide on January 20, 2017.
Q: Being the son of Jerry Jenkins who wrote "The Left Behind Series," in what ways have your dad influenced you as a Christian and a movie director.
I was raised in a Christian home and have been very close with my dad my whole life, so that's been a big influence on who I am, obviously. As a filmmaker, the two biggest factors were one, the desire and passion to tell stories, and two, his introduction to me of great films when I got into junior high and high school. He's a big movie buff, so he's always been very supportive once I got that bug.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and some of the movies or shows you have had done.
In 2000, my dad and I started Jenkins Entertainment, and we decided to just jump into the deep end of the pool and make a movie. I was 25 years old, so ignorance was bliss, I suppose, and we made Hometown Legend, a high school football film set in the south. This was back when the faith based movie business was barely born, and before a dozen faith and family-based football movies were made, so I'd like to think we were a little ahead of our time!
The movie wasn't a huge success, but it got picked up by Warner Brothers, which was amazing, and it's still out there selling. I then directed a few features and short films, produced a Hallmark Channel movie based on one of my Dad's books that ended up being one of their biggest hits, "Though None Go With Me," and ultimately in 2010 made the feature "What If...," which was our biggest success.
It was then that I got recruited to move to Chicago to make movies at a church, Harvest Bible Chapel, and that's where I'm at now, releasing our first full-length feature.
Q: Congratulations on your new movie "The Resurrection of Gavin Stone." Tell us very briefly what is the movie about?
Gavin Stone is a former child star now celebrity wannabe who's gotten into some trouble in his hometown and has to perform 200 hours of community service at a local mega-church. There he notices they're putting on a big passion play, so he pretends to be a Christian so he can work off his hours playing the part of Jesus. The humor comes from him trying to navigate through church world as an outsider, and the spiritual and emotional impact comes from the church community he finds and learning about Jesus by playing him.
Q: Who are some of the people on the cast?
Brett Dalton from "Agents of SHIELD" does an amazing job as Gavin, popular stand-up comic Anjelah Johnson plays the pastor's daughter Gavin falls for, WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels has a cool supporting role in his very first film, Neil Flynn from The Middle plays Gavin's estranged father, and DB Sweeney plays Pastor Allen, one of my favorite pastors I've seen in a movie.
Q: What are some of the truths you hope this movie could impress upon on your Christian viewers?
This movie is ultimately about the power and impact of church in bringing someone closer to God. Gavin finds an uncommon community he's never gotten anywhere else. Also, there's something important said about some of the things we church people take for granted, both the ways we talk and also some of the lessons of Christ, that Gavin uniquely appreciates as an outsider.
Q: What about your non-believing viewers? Can we bring our non-believers to see this movie too?
This movie has scored just as high with church outsiders as churchgoers in test screenings. This movie is unabashedly Christian and is set in a church, but non-believers have loved it and been impacted by it because the main character is a church outsider, so they can identify with his character and see the story through his eyes.
Q: The movie deals with grace being offered by the local church. I really like how you put the emphasis on the church. What are some practical ways the church today can show grace to others?
My pastor and the executive producer of the film, James MacDonald, preached a three part sermon series based on the line in the film said by Kelly when Gavin asks her why he's so quickly forgiven for one of his big wrongs: "this is what we do." And the three topics, the three things we should be doing, are: We Welcome Without Judgement, We Love Without Condition, and We Forgive Without Limit.
A church that does those things will need to order more chairs, and we've already heard from people saying they want to go to a church like the one in the movie.
Q: What's next for you in your agenda?
There are five different entities involved in the release of this film, all dipping their toes in the faith-based waters, so first order of business is for this movie to do well so we can make more! But we've got a few projects in different stages of development and intend to be shooting the first half of 2017.