Why God-Given Stories Make the Most Powerful Movies
By Jessilyn Lancaster, Managing Editor
When I CAN ONLY IMAGINE debuted in 2018, the movie shocked the box office, raking in significant money for an independent Christian movie.
Executive Producer Travis Mann thinks some of I CAN ONLY IMAGINE’s success boils down to MercyMe frontman Bart Millard’s obedience to the Lord’s calling.
“I felt like this was a powerful story, and I had a sense that God wanted that story to be told so it could impact more people,” Mann told Movieguide®. “Because of Bart’s relationship [with his father], God gave Bart the song that touched so many people’s hearts and lives. I felt that we, as filmmakers, were fortunate to be the ones chosen, the ones who were lucky enough to be involved in telling that story. We were tasked with helping get that story in front of the bigger audience because God wanted more fathers and sons to know about how great a relationship could be, despite how bad it might have been in the past.”
I CAN ONLY IMAGINE won one of the Epiphany Prizes® For Inspiring Movies at the 2019 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards.
Though I CAN ONLY IMAGINE may be one of the most recognizable recent titles to Mann’s name, he’s been at work in the industry for more than 20 years, and he has multiple exciting projects in the works.
Mann revealed that one of his upcoming projects will focus on reporter Ben Malcolmson, the college journalist who decided to walk on to the University of Southern California football team under Head Coach Pete Carroll. What started as a first-hand experience to write a story turned into the fluke of a lifetime, and Malcolmson received a coveted spot on the roster.
After graduation, Malcolmson eventually followed Carroll to the Seattle Seahawks, serving the coach as an assistant.
“Ben, who probably shouldn’t have been in [football in] the first place now has a career in the NFL, which is crazy in and of itself,” Mann said. “But then, he goes to Seattle, he goes to a Young Life meeting, and in through the door walks one of his old teammates from USC that he hasn’t seen in five years.
“They catch up with one another, and the guy tells Ben the most amazing story about how Ben being on the team and some of the things that he did there had this profound impact on his life and the lives of his teammates, including one teammate who tragically died. All this time, Ben thought he had been an absolute failure because he had not found God’s purpose for being on the team. It was there all the time, and God revealed it five years later through this miraculous get together, where he just totally stumbled his way in,” Mann continued.
“Ben is an amazing young man a lot like Bart in that he knows it’s a powerful story, but he just tells it very humbly, giving the glory to God. It’s just something I’m so excited to be involved with,” Mann said.
Mann believes that by bringing these stories to the big screen to reach a broad audience, he’s fulfilling his God-given calling of working in the entertainment industry.
“I think different people in Hollywood sort of have different missions,” Mann said. “It’s the same way different churches have different priorities where they reach out to the community, or the world, where they focus their attention. I think that there’s a time and a place for these different stories, honestly, with different audiences.”
Instead of stressing over the details, though, Mann focuses on the overarching narrative so he can impact audiences.
“There’s power in storytelling,” Mann said. “I think Jesus was the greatest storyteller of all time, and movies are the most impactful way of telling stories today, so I think it’s natural that as Christians, we would want to be like Jesus and tell these stories. The best way to do that, to have an impact on culture, to have it be memorable, to have it be emotionally stirring, is to do it via film.”
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