Sept. 11 is a time when we think of heroes. There are heroes in all walks of life.
The newest film from Sherwood Baptist Church, “Courageous,” which comes out in theaters Sept. 30, follows four heroes’ struggles as police officers and dads.
One local father and son, Rusty Martin, Sr. and Rusty Martin, Jr., got a chance to experience the film first-hand.
Kim Martin sent headshots of her husband and son to Sherwood Baptist after seeing “Fireproof” in 2008 with a note. If the church decided to use actors outside of their members, her family would be so excited to take part in it.
It wasn’t until 2010 that the Martins got a casting call for Sherwood Baptist’s fourth film and auditioned from the dining room in their home via Skype.
“[Kim] saw it in her mind years ago,” Rusty Sr. said. “This was her vision to begin with.”
Three weeks later, in April, Rusty Sr. and Jr. made the nine-hour trek by car to be on location in Albany, Ga. Rusty Jr. took on a lead role as Dylan Mitchell, the son of the main character. Rusty Sr. had a principal role as factory owner Frank Tyson.
Balancing life on set and at home
During the next three months, the Martins spent weeks at a time in Georgia for the filming. It was a test of character for Rusty Jr., who was 14 years old at the time and had to fit final exams at Wake Christian Academy into his busy schedule.
One night after filming, the father-son duo drove the nine hours back to North Carolina and rolled into Wake Christian parking lot at 7:30 a.m., just in time for Rusty Jr. to change clothes and head to one of his exams.
While the last months of school were challenging for Rusty Jr., he also saw how God provided for his needs and blessed his family.
One week while on location, Rusty Jr. was filming the biggest scene of the week and juggling a lot of math homework. When he wasn’t filming, he was studying.
One of the “child wranglers,” volunteers on the set that made sure children actors were in costume and where they needed to be, saw Rusty Jr. working on math and offered to help. It turned out that she had been a math teacher.
Not only did Rusty Jr. get a 106 on his math end of grade test, but he finished out the school year with all A’s.
The hundreds of hours spent in the car and on set brought Rusty Sr. and Jr. even closer together.
“We talked about everything,” Rusty Sr. said. “We’ll never forget that ever.”
The two sat in their hotel room on one trip, reading the full script and crying together because of its powerful message about fatherhood and family.
“It was an awesome story,” Rusty Sr. said.
Rusty Jr., who plays a teenager trying to figure out his dad’s role in his life and who he is, said he had to do some serious acting. Unlike his character, Rusty Jr. has a great relationship with his father.
He has been acting since he was in third grade at the age of 9. Rusty Jr. has an agent, TALENT ONE, in Raleigh and has participated in films like Destiny Road, a film produced by a Brazilian pastor, and school productions like, “Cross Country” and “The Constitution.”
“He’s definitely paid his dues,” Kim said of her son.
The “Courageous” film is the biggest project of Rusty Jr. and Sr.’s careers thus far.
At 52, Rusty Sr. has worked on numerous films, including some Christian projects like “Snitched,” a film produced by Apex-based Cross Shadow Productions. He most recently worked on “The Carrington Event,” a made for TV movie.
While Rusty Sr. doesn’t play one of the main father figures in “Courageous,” he said the experience made him want to improve his role at home as a Godly father.
“You can’t be around that and not want to step your game up at least a little bit,” he said, “and that’s what it’s going to do for those who see [the film].”
Rusty Sr. said he learned what it means to be a Biblical father and husband from a group of Godly men when he was younger. Having that leadership prepared him for fatherhood.
The Martins are using the film to reach out to the community. On Thursday, Sept. 1, the father and son spoke to a first responder men’s Bible study about fatherhood. And speaking opportunities like that keep presenting themselves.
Honoring first responders
As a way to thank first responders, the action squad in the Raleigh area is giving away free tickets. First responders can reserve up to two tickets to “Courageous” (one for him or herself and one for a spouse or friend) and a gift card for concessions at www.courageous-raleigh.com. The deadline to reserve tickets is Sept. 16. Select first responders will be able to pick up the tickets a area Chick-fil-A restaurants closer to the movie opening.
Not a first responder, but still want to get involved? The action squad is taking donations in hopes to reach $12,500 to help pay for the movie tickets. The squad has already raised $6,700. To donate go to www.courageous-raleigh.com and click on donate.
Promoting the film
The Martins traveled to Atlanta two weekends ago for the premiere at the Fox Theater.
“It was first class,” Kim said.
The theater seats 4,000 people and the Martins said it was amazing to see viewers’ reactions – from laughs to tears to cheers.
Rusty Jr. even got to meet Mark Hall of Casting Crowns, the Christian band that created the song, “Courageous” for the film.
The film makers originally asked Hall to create an original song for the movie, but didn’t hear back until the day before the film was expected to be completed.
“It was worth the wait,” Rusty Sr. said.
Rusty Jr. is now 16, taking several honors classes at Wake Christian and working to achieve the Eagle Scout rank. So, fitting in time to promote the film can be difficult, but he’s glad to do it.
The film will be shown at theaters in Raleigh, Cary, Briar Creek and even at White Oak. The Garner theater has received a great response from group pre-sales for the opening weekend. It will be shown in 1,400 theaters across the United States. Movie goers also will be able to catch the flick in Nigeria, Canada and Guam.
The Martins will be at the 7 p.m. showing of “Courageous” at White Oak Friday, Sept. 30 and the 4 p.m. showing on Saturday, Oct. 1 for a meet and greet with movie goers.
The Martins hope to get as many people out during the opening weekend as possible. Rusty Sr. said while there are many blockbusters with action scenes, “Courageous” is an inspirational story and he would like to see movie goers send a message to Hollywood executives that Americans want quality entertainment.
“[Sherwood Baptist Church] films have a heartbeat – a storyline to it and ‘Courageous’ has an amazing storyline to it,” Rusty Sr. said.
“It’s an exciting film that you don’t want to go get popcorn or go to the bathroom in the first few minutes because it starts with a bang.”
And the Georgia church accomplished that on a tight budget. All of the locations, food and behind the scenes work was donated to the production. With about half of the actors paid and the other half volunteers, the budget was kept to $1 million, twice the budget size of “Fireproof,” which grossed $33 million.
All of the actors help out in other capacities as well. Rusty Sr. met Jason McLeod, the actor that plays the role of Eric Harmon in “Fireproof” and also Brock Kelley in “Facing the Giants,” when he was hauling water coolers on set.
“There are no egos,” Kim said, “and no egos allowed on the set.”
The advertising has been a mixture of grassroots and big media as well. While the trailer was included in films like “Soul Surfer” and “the Help,” there have also been screenings for ministry leaders to build buzz around the film.
“Sherwood isn’t concerned with numbers; it’s concerned with the message,” Rusty Sr. said.
“What we hope ‘Courageous’ will do is draw fathers back to sons and daughters and bring kids back to family as well,” Rusty Jr. said. “It’s normal everyday guys becoming heroes at home.”
Contact Kelly Griffith at email@example.com or 919-552-5675.
Want to see the “Courageous” trailer?
Go to www.courageousthemovie.com to check it out.