Andrew Erwin Aims to Celebrate Christian Values with his Movies
Updated: Jun 3
He and his brother Jon are among the top filmmaking teams in the Christian genre and he credits God's blessing for their success.
The Erwin Brothers are riding high right now, with their American Underdog claiming the mantle of the top-grossing faith-based film since the coronavirus pandemic hit back in spring of 2020. The second feature under their deal with Hollywood studio Lionsgate, the biopic about NFL Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner starred Zachary Levi and Anna Paquin and brought in $26.5 million at the box office earlier this year.
Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin - who usually direct and/or produce together - are not, however, resting on their laurels: the Alabama brothers are currently co-producing a feature called Ordinary Angels, having recently wrapped production on another picture, Jesus Revolution; they have a third one - The Unbreakable Boy, also starring Zachary Levi - that is completed and awaiting a release date. In a word, the Lionsgate partnership has turbo-charged the brothers' output.
It was not always that way, of course, as Andrew Erwin tells Movieguide in a recent interview. He states very directly "that the transition from Alabama to Hollywood was definitely a difficult one." The brothers, though, are devout Christians and were not simply operating on their own strength despite plenty of hard work.
"I think there's a lot of things that just happened with God's blessing and timing that you can't repeat. A lot of it was just blue-collar hustle."
They started out in the media sector working on live television production of college football games in their home state, eventually parlaying that experience into producing music videos for Christian acts: their first big success was a project for Michael W. Smith. Andrew says he and Jon invested $10,000 they borrowed to help make that video special so they could use it for their resume.
Aiming to someday make their own feature films, they got hired to work on Courageous, the 2011 faith-based picture from the Kendrick Brothers - Alex and Stephen - the top team in the genre. Alex, in a word of encouragement, challenged them to "get off the sidelines" and "find their own stories" to tell. It didn't take long, because that same year the pro-life story October Baby became the Erwins' first solo effort (it starred one of our favorite Christian actors, Jason Burkey, who also played the lead in our first feature, Miracle on Christmas).
The brothers began to come into their own with the 2015 football movie Woodlawn, a true story set in racially-tense, 1970s Birmingham, AL. Though not a big commercial success, Andrew Erwin says it helped him and Jon realize who they were as filmmakers.
"When we did Woodlawn, we found our voice: we tell true stories, stories of redemption, and it's just the power of the testimony."
Their breakout effort followed in 2018 with I Can Only Imagine, the real-life story of Mercy Me lead singer Bart Millard and the eponymous hit song that is among the most popular tunes of all time in Christian contemporary music. The movie grossed nearly $86 million at the box office on a budget of just $7 million and became the top independent film of the year.
Andrew Erwin gives God the glory, saying He "blew open the doors." The film's success got the attention of Hollywood in general, and Lionsgate in particular.
"Lionsgate, that we (now) work with, stood up and noticed and said, 'We want to be in business with you guys.' So, they really kind of poured fuel on the fire and said, 'Make more movies like this. Make sure it has the content that connects with your audience.'"
The Erwin Brothers have certainly been doing that, with their first picture under the deal - I Still Believe - having claimed the top spot at the box office on opening night back in 2020 before being derailed by the pandemic's closure of movie theaters nationwide. They followed up in 2021 with The Jesus Music, a documentary about the rise of modern Christian music, and the aforementioned sports flick American Underdog.
Andrew Erwin says he, Jon and the team they've assembled at their Kingdom Story Company strive to make a "product that is safe for the whole family," and simultaneously "celebrates those values that we all hold near and dear as Christians." He also underlines the fact that such an approach does not mean sacrificing quality: "You don't have to compromise your Christianity to create great art."
Christian Film Blog will continue to follow the Erwins and report on a release date of The Unbreakable Boy once it is announced. In the meantime, you can watch Andrew's entire interview with Movieguide below.