As the young girl, perhaps thirteen or fourteen, passed, I noticed that she had bright eyes, a pretty face and a bald head. I was at a camp for children who suffered life-threatening diseases, and from the bald pate that displayed only the slightest of dull peach fuzz, I knew why she was there. I turned, watching her walk away with her mother. The back of her t-shirt read, “Got Hope?”
The location was Orlando, Florida; the place was the Give Kids the World Village, an organization, like the Make A Wish Foundation, dedicated to offering children the happiness that inspires hope; and my reason for being there was to interview those making the film Letters To God. Shot at several Orlando locales and scheduled for release in early 2010, the movie is based on a true story about a boy diagnosed with cancer. Spirit-assured, the youngster is at peace with the knowledge that Heaven awaits, that he will no longer be in pain or distress, and that he will face eternity with his Lord and Savior, Jesus. But what of those he will leave behind? This is the young protagonist’s one concern. What will happen to his family, his friends and one tormented soul he has just befriended?
Unselfishly, 11-year-old Tyler begins writing letters to his Creator, seeking God’s care for those he will leave behind. And like Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, Tyler learns how our words and deeds can affect the lives of so many others.
Possibility Pictures, LLC, intended by its founders to be the “DreamWorks of faith-based movies,” is helmed by David Nixon, Tom Swanson and Kim Dawson, each having key creative roles in the church-backed Facing the Giants and Fireproof (the highest grossing independent film of 2008). Inspired by the spiritual and financial success of several cinematic efforts made by members of the Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, the three men are heading a sincere group of investors, talents and spiritual supporters in the development of three faith-based movies, the first being Tyler Doughtie’s story.
Says producer Kim Dawson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I, II and III; Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius), “This is a picture that will build a bridge of hope between the faith-based community and the secular community, using prayer to provide hope to cancer victims and their families around the world. When I first read the story it triggered the thought in me that here is an issue that a lot of families must face. The most effective way you combat this challenge is to gather your friends, family and community around you and rely on them to hold you up. We’re not trying to cure cancer with this movie. What we’re trying to do is help people understand that they are not alone and people who have gone before them can really help.”
So what happens to the letters? That’s where beleaguered U.S. postal worker Brady McDaniels (Jeffrey S. S. Johnson) comes in. Suffering from alcohol abuse and dispirited by divorce, Brady is touched by mail he’s collected addressed to God. Fearing the letters will end up in the dead letter pile at the post office, he takes the letters to a minister. But the reverend senses that Brady has been selected by a higher power to be their caretaker. Though not religious, and suffering from his own problems, he begins to relate to and be challenged by Tyler after being moved by the boy’s entreaties to the Almighty.
While dealing with a sad reality, the script does contain humor and uplifting themes. What’s more, it addresses a subject seldom discussed – children’s reaction to their lives ending so quickly. Mr. Nixon suggests, “The number one fear of a cancer kid is that no one will remember them after they die.”
And that is the power of this production. Not only will the film spotlight Give Kids the World Village, but it will feature cancer patients as extras. They live on in the hearts of those who knew them, but they will also be on film forever – a film that spotlights the grace of God and mankind’s eternal hope.
As Letters To God nears its release date, I will spotlight some of the miraculous moments involved in its production. Suffice it to say, it’s a movie about prayer, one covered in prayer. To learn more about Give Kids the World, go to www.gktw.org.
Phil Boatwright is the author of MOVIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE REALLY, REALLY BAD. For details on the book, go to our home page.