The Grace Card DVD: making the movie - more heroes than Hollywood

Updated 2:10AM, Friday January 6th, 2012 by Les Ellison, Be the first to comment! seperator

The making of 2011’s faith based movie hit, The Grace Card, shows what makes the whole approach to Christian film making so different to the big commercial studios. This wasn’t just about making a Christian film, It was about the Christian making of a film. Faith has as much to do with the process as the product.

Compared to Hollywood, financial resources for independent faith based movies are miniscule. The big faith based hit movie of 2011, The Grace Card – shot on location in Memphis, Tennessee in just 30 days, had a budget of about $200,000. Released the same year, Working Title’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy swallowed up around $30 million.

Grace from the Outset

First time director/producer Dr David Evans and his wife Esther created the movie for GraceWorks with Calvary Pictures. A Memphis optician by profession, David learned his craft directing large scale passion plays for Calvary church, so he was well used to large scale community involvement.

Together, David and Esther mobilised the goodwill of the people of Memphis to make The Grace Card possible. Keen to support a film that gave the city a positive image for a change, the whole Memphis community rallied to the project.

The Memphis police allowed the use of genuine police vehicles and assured the film's authenticity with an on-site officer as consultant. When David needed to shoot scenes in a hospital, he gave a 5 minute presentation to the president and vice president of a neighbouring clinic and they immediately signed up.

Faith in the progress

Aerial shots of the city were way out of budget at $10,000 to $12,000 a day until a local company not only helped with the filming, but also provided the Medi-Vac helicopter for a key sequence.

Inspired by the film’s themes of grace and forgiveness and by the enthusiasm of local support, Hollywood professionals also came forward with vital film-making skills.

Top guitarist Brent Rowan offered to craft a score with a real Southern states feel and veteran Hollywood screenwriter Howard Klausner overhauled the entire script from scene one. In front of the cameras, seasoned screen actor, Louis Gossett Jr, gave the whole project a solid base.

God in the ending

Local groups came forward with an ‘I’m here if you can use me’. Because the whole community was there for the same reason, there was an amazingly relaxed atmosphere – each day’s work beginning with prayer and devotions.

All over Memphis, ordinary people were pulled not only into the film process but the film’s storyline.

The film’s last five minutes expanded from the original ending and called for 200 people as extras. Casting involved over 50 churches with no idea of what they were about to see. Says director David Evans, ‘I thought, God let this scene come together the way it’s supposed to.’

What happened was entirely unexpected. ‘I said “Keep the cameras rolling.” It changed the whole movie. It was something that couldn’t be scripted. It’s all the more special when we watch it now. God was in control and brought it together.’

Joy in the outcome

The unique cooperation between Hollywood veterans and local churches peaked with the The Grace Card’s premiere in the Memphis’ Orpheus Theatre attended by Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

By the time of the premiere, The Grace Card production had clocked up more than 15,000 hours of volunteer involvement. An entire city - churches, agencies and individuals had invested in the film's message of grace and forgiveness.

As a measure of the project's artistic and commercial success, movie distributors queued to manage the film's release in cinemas and theatres. The Grace Card is now a bestselling family enterainment DVD and an engaging small group or whole church film based study kit.

The Grace Card Movie DVD and the film based DVD study kit both available from



This article was written and published by Les Ellison for


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