The Christian singer will star opposite Joey Lawrence in a true story about redemption through Christ.
The film is called Pardoned by Grace and it's got some real firepower from the faith-based community. In addition to Michael W. Smith and Joey Lawrence, who has done several Christian movies in recent years, the executive producer is Ben Graham, a Nashville-area pastor and president of Graham Family Films...as in the family of the late evangelist Billy Graham, the first cousin of Ben's grandfather.
That's quite a team and their film's got quite a story, too. It's about a former criminal and convict named Scott Highberger who came to Christ when he was behind bars and now leads the prison outreach program for his Indiana church, ministering each week to thousands of prisoners. In the film, Lawrence plays Highberger while Smith plays the part of Dave Gargano, the pastor who helped him turn his life around after he gained his freedom.
Filming is underway right now in northern Indiana, including at a jail where Highberger was once incarcerated. He has been on location for the production and calls the experience "surreal."
"Seeing these different scenes depicted about my life, and I'm just watching it, it's emotional. It's like a roller coaster, it's up and it's down...it's really touching my heart."
That's obviously the same effect filmmakers hope the finished product will have on audiences. Graham says it's particularly true of those who are serving prison time, as Highberger once did.
"Scott's story is one of those stories that will bring light into dark places. We want to use this film to reach those who have been in the shoes of Scott, people who need the life-saving message of Jesus Christ."
That, of course, covers every single one of us, not just the estimated 2.2 million people currently in the U.S. penal system, so the message will be universally relevant.
Though Christian director Kevan Otto and his team should wrap the shooting phase of the project in a few days, Graham is still raising money. He says the production budget is covered - about $175,000 - but they need an additional $75,000 for post production and marketing. There is a crowdfunding campaign underway to cover that amount and you can lend a hand via this link.
No release date has yet been set for Pardoned by Grace, but Christian Film Blog will keep you abreast of developments as we get them.