‘Woodlawn’ is a true story based on the profound effect the gospel message of hope and love, changed the lives and culture of a coach, a team, and a community walking through a difficult time in American history. The film has received wildly popular reviews and has made a huge impact in the entertainment industry. There have been testimonies of dozens getting saved and encountering Jesus at different theaters across the nation.
We recently talked with the Producer of the movie, Daryl Lefever, about the film and his process as a film maker and how he has stewarded the call of God on his life.
Why is “Woodlawn” a story you wanted to tell? And how did this project come together?
Woodlawn is the true story of our Directors, the Erwin brothers, father. He was the Football Chaplain of the Woodlawn Football Team – Sean Astin plays his role in the movie. The Erwin’s heard the stories of the revival at Woodlawn growing up, and as they moved into film, it was a story they wanted to tell.
In August of 2014 we had to make a decision if we were going to make the film in order to get it in theaters by football season of 2015. We had no script, no cast, no distribution plan, and no funding. I have been working in film for 22 years, and can testify that without those things in place you cannot raise funds. So we prayed, and God said, ‘The Time is Now’. We started working on the script, and asking for funding. Unbelievably, we raised $10,000,000 before we had anything in place, and the rest of the funding came in while we were in production.
It’s important to remember that this was before the shootings in Ferguson and Charleston, so we did not understand why God told us the time is now. In hindsight, the story of this film and how Jesus can overcome hatred in any setting is the message our country needs right now.
As a filmmaker and storyteller, how do you see your craft and calling as worship? How has your faith been challenged and grown through your career in film?
Christian Film making is sort of like creating a worship concert. You need to share from your heart, show examples of how God is working, pray, invite people into His presence, create an atmosphere of praise, and then ultimately give Him all the Glory for what had been done. I’m not a song writer, I’m not even a screen writer, but I love being part of the process to make His name famous.
I was working for the big studios on giant films for years. I was making a pretty good living, and enjoying my work. But, I always wanted to make films that honored the King. When I had the chance to work on my first Faith film, my salary was cut to about a third of what I made previously at Warner Brothers, so it was a tough choice. But, the amazing thing is that no matter how tough it got, He always provided for our family. We even put our son and helped put two of his friends through BSSM during that period. So now I have the confidence that no matter what God calls us to do, He will provide a way.
Do you have any word of advice or encouragement for other creatives that are seeking to honor God through their work and craft?
My advice to other creatives would be to find that balance of relentlessly pursuing whatever God has put on your heart, but at the same time being aware and responsive if He is providing ways for you to sustain yourself, that are outside of that dream. Until the dream grows to the point where you can live on it, He may be giving you opportunities to thrive and be successful in other things. It does not reduce the passion for the dream, it only makes it possible.
Woodlawn is still playing in select theaters nationwide. Check out their website to find a showing near you.