Dave Hartline interviewed Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, screenwriters for God’s Not Dead, which was the country’s fourth-highest-grossing film last weekend. The movie tackles the battle between the secular and the world of faith, especially as it relates to public universities.
Dave Hartline: First of all, in full disclosure, I met you guys about four years ago at Family Theater Productions in Hollywood while talking about my books and other projects. I was so impressed with not only your faith but your humility. A few years before, you were working with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, and you gave all that up to toil in the vineyard of faith-based movies. Why?
Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman: We felt like the Lord was asking us to leave the secular film world and go into making Christian films. It was a very personal thing, but since we’re guys from New Jersey — and not very bright ones at that — He had to make the signs pretty obvious. Eventually we got the point.
: I have to tell you that there’s a certain buzz that I am hearing about the film God’s Not Dead
, not only on the Internet but actually in the theater. I have not only heard but have witnessed people clapping in the theater. In addition, with relatively no advertising budget, God’s Not Dead
is blowing away films with huge advertising dollars. How do you explain this?
Solomon and Konzelman: We always pray first. And we felt really called to write this piece. But in terms of the response to it, what can we say? It’s all the Holy Spirit.
Hartline: God’s Not Dead was No. 5 last weekend, and that’s with one-third to one-fourth of the screens compared with the films that finished ahead of you. Will there be more screens in play, and what about a release in other countries?
Solomon and Konzelman: The film was actually No. 4 — the original estimates were a little low — so the rankings got revised on Monday. From what we understand, they’ll be adding another 400 screens domestically for the second weekend, with theatricals for the U.K. and Africa next month and pretty much all of Latin America in May. None of which was expected.
Hartline: I think a faithful Christian, or anyone of faith, feels a lot has changed in the last five or six years. People of faith are often mocked or belittled in popular culture, and the faithful are accused of all sorts of bigotry and ignorance. We are told to get with the times, as if our consciences could really leave the truth behind. It seems the movie is addressing that underlying feeling in the faith community.
Solomon and Konzelman: Yes, that’s definitely the nerve that’s been touched. Secular humanists insist that Christians in general — and Catholics in particular — are supposed to leave their belief system at home when it comes to matters in the public sphere. So according to the rules they propose, their belief system is allowable . . . and ours isn’t. Which is a deliberate attempt to subvert the whole democratic process. As someone else pointed out: Democracy is supposed to be about more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
Hartline: While the film is getting kudos from the faithful, some of the not-so-faithful are descending into the bizarre, and then some, in denouncing the film. I am not talking about just the cranky atheistic websites: The reviewer at Variety actually used the words “Nazi propaganda films” to describe the portrayal of Professor Radisson played by Kevin Sorbo. It appears the militantly atheistic professor has some admirers out there. Does that surprise you?
Solomon and Konzelman: No, it’s not a surprise. The secular press keeps saying “this isn’t a real problem” . . . or that the basic premise is manufactured. Our response to them is to ask why there are so many people saying this mirrors a situation they’ve encountered in college . . . or even earlier. In recent years it’s moved down into the high-school and middle-school world as well.