October 2000 – One of this year’s most critically acclaimed Hollywood movies was the Disney/Miramax film Cider House Rules. (See April AFA Journal.) The hero is Dr. Wilbur Larch, an abortionist. Larch is also portrayed as a compassionate, sensitive man who founds a home for orphans. Movie insiders nominated the film for seven Academy Awards. The film is typical of what Hollywood currently produces and praises.
Among evangelical Christians there is no longer a debate regarding the entertainment media’s moral nose dive over recent decades. It is obvious.
Some rail loudly against the product (movies, literature, music) with bitter denunciations and little else. Some recoil in silent repugnance, withdrawing entirely from the entertainment arena.
And some – like Peter Lalonde – respond by seizing the opportunity to share the Gospel. “My brother Paul and I have a kind of Joshua and Caleb spirit,” he says. “We believe in just storming the land.”
Lalonde has had a passion for film since he came to faith in Christ in the early 1980s when a friend took him to a church film night, and he saw the Gospel in a movie. After producing and hosting the TV series This Week in Bible Prophecy for several years, the Lalondes felt led to enter the film medium and shake up mainstream filmdom with a little salt and light.
Cloud Ten Pictures, their production company, has already written and produced a series of end-times thrillers (Apocalypse, Revelation, and Tribulation) which have sold more than a million video copies. That series will continue with the release of Judgment this winter.
With their success in the genre, the Lalondes were the obvious choice to produce Left Behind: The Movie, based on the wildly popular novel series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Talk about engaging the culture for Christ – Jenkins and LaHaye’s novels have dominated bestseller lists, both secular and Christian, since Left Behind first appeared in 1995. Their first seven titles have sold more than 18 million copies, and five more sequels are expected.
Now, the Lalondes find themselves at the helm of a phenomenon that is sure to have an explosive impact for Christ in the American culture.
“I think Left Behind offers an unparalleled opportunity for Christian filmmaking, for us to take things to an entirely new level,” said Lalonde this summer on the Toronto set as his crew completed shooting the film. “The big studios can do the effects, they can do the explosions, they can do all of the marketing and the publicity. But to capture eternal truth on film, I think that’s something we can do as a Christian film studio that they cannot do.
Though the Lalondes did not require that actors be believers, three committed Christians were cast in major roles. Kirk Cameron (from TV’s Growing Pains) plays Buck Williams, the leading character. On set, Cameron told AFA Journal it’s very exciting to play a “guy who goes from really not considering the existence of God…to surrendering his life to God.”
Chelsea Noble plays Hattie. “She’s searching,” says Noble. “She’s being deceived and doesn’t know it. I think it’s important to see Hattie making choices in this world without God. You need to see life with God and life without [God] and where that takes you.” Noble, who is married to Cameron, also played on Growing Pains, as well as Full House.
Clarence Gilyard, co-star of Walker, Texas Ranger, plays Rev. Barnes, who is shocked when he is left behind in the rapture; Barnes later comes to faith. Gilyard says, “God was giving me a gift, an opportunity to be creative and to share the Gospel, to play that character under those circumstances.”
“The video release is set for October 31,” said Cloud Ten Sales Manager Byron Jones. Theater release is set for February. If that sounds backward, Jones says no, it will work. Cloud Ten anticipates heavy response to the video in churches, and the company is offering churches the opportunity to sponsor the movie as an outreach ministry in their local theaters.
“I am convinced this film will bring millions to a point of decision regarding their faith,” says Pastor Jeff Voth of Tulsa’s Life Connection Church. “Our church of 200 is sponsoring six screens.”
Peter Lalonde sits in his trailer on the Left Behind set, the last day of filming. He’s exhausted from weeks of intense, grueling work. But it’s clearly a labor of love. “I believe that, by the grace of God, this is the time to take the land in Christian filmmaking,” he says. “Our prayer is that we will empower thousands of other Christians [in the industry], that they will be encouraged to say, ‘Why don’t we do this project?’ or ‘That one is pretty ungodly….’ If we can empower people to take those kinds of stands, I think we will have achieved our goal.”
To learn how your church can sponsor Left Behind: The Movie at your local theater, telephone Cloud Ten at 1-800-670- 6479.