This Day Forward Screening Feb. 22
Note: CEEP is proud to present a screening of the film This Day Forward on Friday, February 22 at 8 PM. The following is a piece from the film's director, Brian Ide.
“I wish this movie never had to be made,” came the reply as Allie Jensen spoke tenuously into a microphone about a film chronicling the life of her and her family.
“But here we are.”
“Here” being a few years into her father Mike’s stage-three brain tumor. Once a gifted musician and worship leader, he in no way resembles the man that Jen, her mother, married decades ago. Her younger sister has never known, and may never get to know, what her father was like before his illness.
The Jensens’ life, and in turn their faith, became a chaotic, confusing journey, and there is no miracle on the horizon that will set everything back to what they once referred to as normal.
Faith-based films follow a pretty steady formula these days. The good guys love Jesus and the bad guys don’t… until they do. A tearful and miraculous altar-call moment inevitably rights all wrongs and we live happily ever after.
It’s tough for people like the Jensens to watch. They’re already the good guys. They already know Jesus so everything should be good, right? Quite to the contrary, their faith is not just challenged but assaulted, on a regular basis, and this does not make them flawed.
I don’t think we’re stepping out on any limbs to say there are plenty more like them.
Because of this, a small group of dreamers from All Saints Church in Beverly Hills decided to tell a story about the messy faith of a worship leader from a small town in Iowa, funded entirely by donations, with the hopes of raising money to help ease the financial burden of Mike’s medical expenses on the Jensen family, and continue to tell more stories like theirs.
Problems arose when it turned out far fewer than expected were willing to take the risk of funding the film.
A micro-budget film had become a nano-budget. A decision needed to be made and the cast and crew arrived in Iowa with somewhere in the neighborhood of zero dollars available. Early production costs were paid for with a personal credit card before donated funds became available.
But thanks to the kindness of businesses and families throughout the country, we ended up with over 3,300 donated meals (many of which came unexpectedly from Grace Baptist Church in Waverly, Iowa) 600 donated nights of lodging, 20+ donated locations, and to top it all off, over 7,500 hours of donated labor.
If you’re keeping score, we have an Episcopalian church from Los Angeles making a film about a Lutheran worship leader, with meals and labor donated by a Baptist church in Iowa.
The result is a powerful and honest film that has given people hope across denominations, political parties and geography.
The next natural step in the process would be to find a distributor. Someone who might be willing to put a few marketing dollars behind the film and release it in theatres.
So naturally, we did it a different way.
After several meetings it became abundantly clear that the story was touching hearts and minds, just not the traditional distribution model. Intent on protecting the film’s profits for the Jensen family and funding other projects like it, I jumped in a car with Jennifer Jensen and took off across the country to screen the film in 53 cities in 60 days.
What started as a plan to raise awareness for the film quickly became something of a traveling listening session.
Stories, tears, hugs and confessions were spilled all across the country. One woman grabbed hold of Jen after the screening and ominously proclaimed, “You have no idea what you’ve done.” This isn’t the kind of statement that usually proceeds good news. Curious as to how she might be offended, Jen began crafting an apology, but what followed was something no one could have prepared for.
“You gave me back my brother.”
Myrtle’s brother had died of brain cancer while she was out of the country and never had the chance to say goodbye in person. One cold, Fall night, she walked into the screening completely unaware of what it was, or even why she had decided to attend, but she walked out proclaiming, “My life will never be the same.”
It was more of the same all across the country. People were introduced to feelings they never knew they had, or emotions they had been unable to share.
Regardless of the size of the audience, ranging from a handful to several hundred, the prevailing sentiment was clear and it was often summed up in one word.
The harrowing and unfortunate cruelty of a fallen world is that sometimes no amount of prayer will fix the problem, at least not in the way you hope it will. With This Day Forward, people who are hurting and struggling to understand what is happening, and why, have a voice.
This film was made for those who hurt and don’t know why. Not for studios, box office numbers and critics.
It was made for the woman who lost her brother and couldn’t say goodbye. It was made for the wife who had to move in with her parents because she needed help taking care of her ailing husband. It was made for the husband who, after decades of marriage, had to put his wife in a nursing home.
Perhaps most of all, it was made for the 7-year-old girl who popped into the lobby on her way back into the screening from the bathroom and asked, “When is the movie over?” When the reply that came back was around 45 minutes, a smile spread across her face.
“Good. I never want it to end.”
If you asked any one member of the Jensen family, they would surely tell you that they wish this movie never had to be made.
But thank God it was.
- Brian Ide: Director/Producer ‘This Day Forward’