The film, about a wealthy young American who finds God when he travels to India and is affected by the plight of the poor, is an indie Christian endeavor whose $1.6 million budget was raised with collection-plate contributions from the members of Friends Church in Yorba Linda, California.
About the prayer coordinator, the church’s Creative Arts Pastor Brent Martz explains that the job was vital to the project.
“For us at the church, having people praying from the very beginning of this project and even up to today and this opening weekend has been a huge part of it,” Martz said. “We believe that God led us into making this film, and he’s ultimately responsible for it, and so every bit of this journey has been covered through this prayer team, and they’ve been so faithful to pray for all us during the writing and during the production and during the post-production and now during the marketing and PR.”
Whether all the earthly beseeching of the Creator of the Universe has been effective remains to be seen.
The plentiful praying certainly didn’t stop director Jon Van Dyke from filing a federal lawsuit, alleging fraud by church leaders. Van Dyke’s version of events involves a biblical deluge of internal bickering, cheating, and outright fraud. He was director of the Friends Church media department when he wrote the movie script. To hear him tell it, Martz, his boss, demanded a co-writer credit he wasn’t really entitled to, or he would fire Van Dyke. The young director says he was terminated when he raised concerns after the movie wrapped, including a claim that
the budget was “significantly inflated to include numerous illegitimate and improper expenses” in an effort to dilute profits.
According to Martz, the profits from the movie are intended to build hundreds of schools for children from India’s Dalit caste. But box office revenue this past Friday through Sunday — opening weekend, when the movie was shown on 41 screens — was only $96,347. Under a typical indie distribution deal, the producer (essentially, Friends Church) will get maybe 40-50 percent of that.
More revenue should come in from TV rights and rentals, presumably. Will it be enough to generate fat profits so that Dalit children may get an education? Let’s hope so, and let’s also hope that the lawyers don’t gobble up al the money.
If the project stays awash in red ink, I suppose the church could always hire additional prayer coordinators to get those schools built.