The Little Rock ministry FamilyLife reaches an estimated 60,000 people each year with its "Weekend To Remember" events for couples, and its radio program, FamilyLife Today, is broadcast on about 1,100 radio stations and outlets across the country.
When the ministry set out in 2016 to create a video series called The Art of Parenting, it was meant to be a six-installment portrayal of one couple's parenting journey.
Instead, the ministry is pulling back the curtain on Like Arrows, its first feature-length film.
Like Arrows, which will be shown in more than 800 movie theaters nationwide Tuesday and Thursday, is one of FamilyLife's new parenting initiatives. The ministry also will debut an eight-part video series May 1 that bears the name of the original project -- The Art of Parenting -- hosted by founders Dennis and Barbara Rainey and featuring speakers and pastors from across the country.
In addition, FamilyLife also will begin offering an online course that parents can access for free. Both the video series and the course will debut May 1 at the ministry's website, familylife.com.*
Like Arrows is the story of Charlie (Alan Powell) and Alice (Micah Lynn Hanson) and their 50-year journey beginning as an unwed couple expecting a child and ending with the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary in the company of their adult children, grandchildren and friends.
Bob Lepine, FamilyLife's senior vice president and co-host for FamilyLife Today, said the idea for Like Arrows came from the 2014 movie Boyhood, which told the story of a boy's growing up that was filmed with the same actors over a 10-year period.
"[In Boyhood] they just dropped you into different scenes ... and we got the idea of 'Well let's tell a parenting story,'" Lepine said. "Let's drop people into the parenting journey at different stages along the way so that they can step into the emotions of the challenges that parents face."
Lepine reached out to Alex and Steven Kendrick, makers of the faith-based films Courageous, Fireproof and War Room, and the Kendrick brothers became involved with screenwriting and producing the movie. Alex also plays a role in the movie, and the brothers recommended writer Kevin Peeples to direct.
Lepine described the story arc of Like Arrows as one that moves the family's emphasis on faith from being "a tangent of their parenting to becoming the centerpiece of their parenting."
"That's part of the message of this movie that we wanted to share with viewers, that we believe that faith has to be more than just a component of your parenting," Lepine said. "It needs to be at the center of your parenting, and to make [faith] an add-on, that is going to be disappointing.
"You're going to be frustrated and your kids are going to come away with a mixed message, because if you say faith is really important and then you act like it's just a component ... they come away wondering if you really mean what you say."
After shooting the movie in South Carolina, FamilyLife's first preview audience was with the cast and crew, then with an audience in Nashville, Tenn. The ministry also consulted a focus-group firm and hosted preview showings to 30 churches around the country before pairing with Fathom Events to create the national two-night event next week. Responses were enthusiastic all around.
"People resonated with the theme of the movie, and I think it exceeded their expectations," said Lepine, who said the responses to the low-budget film were "encouraging."
While FamilyLife considered a theatrical release but ultimately went with the Fathom option, Lepine said the faith-based film industry overall is gaining traction with films like I Can Only Imagine and Paul, Apostle of Christ, both of which debuted last month.
"Faith-based filmmaking is not in its infancy, but it's in its toddlerhood," Lepine said. "And we recognized that with a half-million-dollar budget you know that you're not making Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Lepine compared Like Arrows in terms of its story to the TV show This Is Us. "The family is central to everything," he said.
Advance ticket sales have been encouraging so far, according to Lepine, who said some showings in central Arkansas are already sold out.
The movie is set to appear at theaters in Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville and Benton, and will be dubbed in Spanish and Mandarin, as will the eight-part video series being released May 1.
"Parenting is not a Western phenomenon," Lepine said. "It's a human phenomenon and about knowing how to raise the next generation.
"[For] every mom and dad, that's on their heart, and that's where we want to step in with practical biblical help and hope for parents."
Ticket information for Like Arrows is available at familylifeministries.com/likearrows.
Religion on 04/28/2018
*CORRECTION: The website for the Little Rock ministry FamilyLife is familylife.com. A previous version of this article provided an incorrect website address.
Print Headline: Shooting Arrows; Envisioned as a video series called The Art of Parenting, a FamilyLife ministry project becomes a movie opening nationwide