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David A.R. White on ‘God’s Not Dead: A Light In Darkness,’ the success of faith films, and whether it is based on a true story

The producer, actor and Pure Flix Entertainment co-founder also discusses the repeated criticism the genre gets
David A.R. White in God's Not Dead 3
[Image: Pure Flix Entertainment]

It was the $611 million success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ back in 2004 that originally exposed the huge audience that faith based films could tap into.

Since then the genre has grown more and more popular, as independent studios like Pure Flix Entertainment have produced and distributed films and television shows that Hollywood previously ignored.

The crown jewel of Pure Flix’s oeuvre has been the “God’s Not Dead” franchise. The 2014 original grossed over $64.7 million from just a $2 million budget, while the follow-up also brought in $24.5 million.

“A Light In Darkness” marks the third film in the series, and I recently had the chance to speak to its star David A.R. White, who is also its producer and the co-founder of Pure Flix Entertainment, about the film, the genre, and its critics.

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Why did you want to return for a third “God’s Not Dead”?
Reverend Dave hasn’t had a lot to do in the previous films, and he especially hasn’t been through hardship. But this film is really about Dave having to deal with everything going wrong, after his Church is burned to the ground. In the first movie the quote was, ‘God is good all the time. God is good.’ But what makes this film really authentic and organic is that we ask, ‘Is God really good?’ Especially when all these things start happening to you. It asks, ‘How do you respond to this?’ And we even ask, ‘Is the Church even relevant anymore?’ These are strong and tough questions, but they are authentic, and we try to tell it from both sides. And we try to keep it real. Especially with everything that’s going on. And all the hate that is going on. And all the yelling and nobody listening. I think this film will have its place.

Why do you think these films have been so successful?
Why these films have connected is because they are relevant at the time they are made. And right now the big thing that is going on is that no one is listening to the other side. That’s why our tagline is, ‘How can you be a light in the middle of the darkness?’Are you going to share hope, love and forgiveness? Or are you going to contribute to the darkness and be angry, bitter, and vengeful. I think both sides want to get along together. It is hard, though, because one side has to take the first step. And at its core what this film is about is how to take that first step.

Is “A Light In Darkness” based on a real story?
Specifically no. But in the first film there was about 50 different court cases that were listed because of all the stuff that was happening in colleges and on campuses. I still think that all of that is still happening. In this one, this kind of stuff is happening, too, though. We list the court cases that are associated with it to show that this is relevant and this is happening. But specifically we didn’t take it from any one story.

Why did you start Pure Flix Entertainment?
I have been in the faith based world for quite a while. I moved to LA when I was 19 and then just four months later I was on a hit sitcom (“Evening Shade”), which lasted for 4 years. But in the process I started to do more and more faith films. But there was no distribution outlet for them. They would just go through ministries or book stores. We just felt like there was a void there, and something that was needed. So we started Pure Flix to be that conduit for producers and their films.

The popularity of the genre continues to grow, too.
Faith films were not even a genre. They certainly weren’t respected or given a name. They were dismissed as cheesy Christian films. What we have seen over the last few years is, I mean “The Passion” is what really kicked it off originally, and then other Hollywood studios started to come in and go, ‘We would like that division. The faith based division. Because there is supposedly 150 million that go to church once a month. Maybe there is a market for this.’ I don’t want to take credit for it, but we kind of helped bring the genre to the fore a bit more, made it a viable genre, and now Hollywood is involved in it, and that’s exciting.

Do you think that critics miss the point of the films?
Sure, there’s no doubt about that. But at the end of the day, I don’t want to claim that they just do that for our films, they do that for a lot of films. People come in with a bias depending on their backgrounds. However, I think that in the past, have we gotten a fair shake? I don’t know. I’ll let you guys decide that. We just try to do the best with what we have. And we are thankful for where we are at.

“God’s Not Dead: A Light In Darkness” is released on March 30.