Andrew Erwin: A Passion for Telling True Stories (Part 3)

John FarrellBy John Farrell13 Minutes

John Farrell: Of all the movies that you’ve worked on or produced, what’s your favorite scene?

Andrew Erwin: I’ve got a couple of them, but my most memorable one was the scene in Imagine where Bart comes home to deal with his father who’s dying of cancer. It’s an eight-minute scene. No music, just dialogue.

The whole movie just parks for these two actors to have an incredible sparring match. John Michael Finley, as a young actor, brought an incredible energy to that scene, but Dennis Quade came in that day dialed into another level. He had this textured, just volatile performance, but it was all under the surface. It builds to this moment where he finally says, “If God can forgive everybody else, why can’t He forgive me?” You think Bart’s going to say the cliche thing, but he turns to him and says, “God can forgive you. I can’t.” And he has to walk out.

I’ve never seen such a beautiful sparring match between actors and such an earned moment with redemption that leads to the beautiful resolution to that later. But that scene was one where, as a director, you just sit back at the monitor kind of feeling really blessed you get to watch this and be the first audience.

Starting Out

JF: How did you and your brother get into filmmaking?

Andrew: We got into filmmaking as kids. My dad was a news anchor and then ultimately became a radio host for talk radio. So, we kind of grew up as studio rats in the background, hanging out, and watching how things were done. At one of the TV stations my dad worked at, we worked out a deal with them where if we helped behind the scenes late at night they would let us have the equipment from midnight until 4 a.m. to tinker around with and figure out how to use it.

I was 16. John was 12, and we would go lock ourselves in the studio and figure things out. That’s where we kind of fell in love with this idea of storytelling and filmmaking. Ultimately, it was a hobby that grew out of control. Then we kind of took the path of hard knocks and we had a production company that we started together in our early twenties. We took whatever jobs we could to get it started and then worked on the weekends as cameramen for sports networks. Worked for ESPN and other networks, and that paid the bills.

We eventually got our break into doing documentaries and did a documentary feature called The Cross and the Towers that was about the aftermath of 9/11. That led to us being able to get into music videos. We did music videos for a number of years until finally in 2010 we decided to try the jump to feature films with a small little independent feature called October Baby that Jon had written with another writer, Theresa Preston. That was an experiment that should have never worked, but it did.

That opened the door for us doing it full-time. We went on to do Mom’s Night Out with Sony and then Woodlawn and the rest of our resume. It’s been an exciting journey. My dad said, “Whatever you give 25 years of your life to, you have a chance to be successful at.” I’m 42, got our start when I was 16, so we’re right on track.

JF: What Christian artists did you work with before you became the film producer/director you are today? What sports and events did you cover during your tenure at ESPN?

Andrew: For ESPN, Jon and I worked pretty much every sport you can imagine, specializing though in football. Football was our thing. I was on the Saturday night primetime crew for college football and then I was an alternate off and on with “Monday Night Football.” I was a sideline cameraman. Jon ran one of the other cameras on the ESPN2 primetime crew.

We did that for a number of years. We filmed everything from the NFL. We got to film one Super Bowl. In fact, funny tidbit, Kurt Warner’s second Super Bowl against the Patriots in New Orleans in 2001 or 2002 was the one Super Bowl I got to work behind the scenes. I did that for a number of years. Still, some of my closest friends work in that world. My mentors came from that world.

On the music video side, we’ve worked with everyone. Pretty much every artist over the past 15 years we’ve in some way collaborated with and become some of our dearest friends. The ones that gave us our shot were Michael Libby Smith and Amy Grant. Both of them allowed us to kind of get our start and then went on to win video of the year with Casting Crowns.

We stayed in that world for a number of years doing contemporary Christian music, and then we moved over to rock and did videos for a lot of different Christian rock bands. The biggest of which was the video that we directed for the song “Monster,” which has right at about 280 million views or so on YouTube. We did that for a number of years and that led to us switching over to feature films.

What’s Next?

JF: What’s next for you and for the Kingdom Story Company?

Andrew: We’ve been excited that there’s been a number of different projects going on. We’re producing a film called Jesus Revolution that Jon Gunn is directing. It’s about the beginning of the Jesus movement in the 1970s out in California. Incredible story.

The cast that’s shaping up for that is really good and Jon is going to direct a killer film. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and he’s quite the filmmaker so I’m excited about that. Then we’ve got this American icon series that’s like a documentary series. We did one on Steve McQueen a couple of years ago that Jon directed with another filmmaker, Ben Smallbone, that we love. We’re working on a new one right now on Johnny Cash. That’s being prepped right now, and we’ve already started a lot of the interviews for that. Then we’ve got a couple of other documentaries we’re working on getting off the ground. We always love docs. That’s our first love so we jump back and forth between that world and feature films.

JF: What is your testimony?

Andrew: I grew up in a Christian home and have always been exposed to the teachings of Christ. It didn’t really sink in for me till later though. I went off to Bible college for two years in upstate New York and spent a year on a ministry team and was just going through the motions.

Then, I finally came home from that and really just was aimless and didn’t know the purpose of what God had for my life. I was just really, really miserable. Finally, somebody asked me, “Andy, where do you stand with God? Do you know where you are in your relationship with the Lord?” I finally broke down. I was like, “I’ve been waiting 21 years of my life for somebody to ask me that. I don’t know.” I just was too proud to admit that I needed it.

That was a moment where I finally broke down and said, “Jesus, I don’t believe that you just came to die for everyone. I finally am believing and trusting that you did it for me. And I need it for me.” And that was a moment where it became very personal.

Then I think for me, it was unlearning a lot of the religiousness that I had and really beginning to understand the idea of grace. Over the past five years, I began to be introduced to this idea of grace and what the gospel really means for my life. That it’s not a series of dos and don’ts. It’s about what Jesus did on the cross was comprehensive. It did everything and there’s nothing I can ever do that’s good enough or bad enough from this point on to make God love me any less. And that my freedom in Christ is where the power comes from.

Again, my mindset is very religious a lot of times and I’ve had to unlearn a lot of that religiousness to understand that it’s about what Jesus did on the cross and that’s the only thing that any of us have to stand on. That’s where the power is.

JF: Where can audiences go for more information on Kingdom Story Company and the movies that you are producing as well to purchase your movies?

Andrew: Our movies are available to purchase anywhere movies are sold: Apple, iTunes, and Amazon. As far as for more information about what’s going on with us, you can go to There’s an upcoming list of what we’re working on and new info on us and our films. We’ll keep you posted there on upcoming projects.

Read Part 1 of Andrew Erwin’s Interview: Andrew Erwin: A Passion for Telling True Stories (Part 1)

Read Part 2 of Andrew Erwin’s Interview: Andrew Erwin: A Passion for Telling True Stories (Part 2)