5 Questions with Stephen Kendrick of War Room
The surprise of the box office in early September was seeing the film War Room at Number One. In advance of its opening in Canada, we spoke via email to the film’s producer, Stephen Kendrick, who along with brothers Alex and Shannon are a part of a team called, naturally, The Kendrick Brothers.
The film has a surprising amount of charm and heart, and is definitely worth checking out. After all, not many other films conclude with a double dutch tournament.
Scene Creek: Why was it so important to have T.C. Stallings and Priscilla Shirer on board for this project?
Stephen Kendrick: We believe that T.C. Stallings and Priscilla Shirer were the perfect choices for War Room. They were not only a joy to work with, but they delivered powerful and believable performances on screen. It was also very important to us that both of them have a personal commitment to the message of prayer in the film and they would leverage the bigger platform War Room provided them, to point people to a stronger faith in God.
Scene Creek: How did you conceive of the character of Miss Clara?
Stephen Kendrick: Miss Clara is clearly the favourite character from the movie War Room! Her uninhibited passion, clever wit, and contagious faith are captivating on screen. During the writing process, Miss Clara was developed over time. You could say she is the combination of many attributes form multiple women of faith that we have known over the years. We’ve met some amazing, elderly black women who have a tenderness toward others, a funny sense of humour, and a fire in their spiritual lives that is refreshing.
Our grandmother was a coffee drinking, easily laughing widow, who would teach Sunday school to women in her church and be singing joyfully in her home during the week. Our 73 old mother still gets up early every morning and prays for her three sons and her nineteen grandchildren by name. We believe her prayers have been the wind in our sails for many years. Also, we met a captivating, 91 year old, Italian woman from New York named Molly Bruno who has countless stories of answered prayer and who personally prayed for the production of War Room from beginning to end. We tweaked the character of Miss Clara after getting to know Molly and seeing her fervent faith.
Scene Creek: Did the opening weekend box office success of this film exceed your expectations?
Stephen Kendrick: Yes! Both Fireproof and Courageous opened at #4 in the U.S., so we were quietly hoping for at least #3. When War Room hit #2 and then went even higher the following week and landed at #1 in U.S. theatres on Labour Day weekend, we were ecstatic. War Room was on half the screens and up against bigger budget films with Hollywood stars and still soldiered to the top.
Scene Creek: Do you think that it is significant or matter of fact that each of the major characters in this film are black?
Stephen Kendrick: It was absolutely the right decision to tell the story of War Room through the lens of a black family. The drama levels are heightened by the passion, humour, and wit they can bring to the table. We knew it seemed odd that two white men in South Georgia would be writing a movie about an affluent African-American family, but the ideas, scenes, and images in Alex’s head were from that context all along. We intentionally tried not to make War Room about racial issues or things only relevant within a black culture. We wanted to deal with universal issues surrounding prayer that anyone could relate to. It’s been amazing to see how War Room has been reaching and strongly resonating with racially mixed audiences across our country and has actually became an instrument of unity and healing, in theatres and cities where it is being shown.
War Room opens September 18th across Canada.