There's a long-held assumption -- particularly in conservative circles -- that Hollywood simply doesn't understand people of faith and that Tinseltown, either purposefully or inadvertently, ignores Christian audiences.
"King's Faith" tells the faith-based story of Brendan King, a teen in foster care who has faced person and legal problems (Image source: King's Faith website)
It is true that faith-based projects haven't traditionally been championed in popular media, but there's evidence that these tides might be changing, as feature films like "Left Behind," "Noah," "Son of God" and a number of other Bible-themed movies are slated to hit the big screen in 2014.
And just as Hollywood seems to be diving into Christian subject matter, churches, too, are increasingly stepping into the entertainment world and producing films of their own.
The movie, about Brendan King, a foster teen recently released from prison who tries to leave his former gang life behind while building his new-found Christian faith, shows the power that churches can have when they use film to tout theological or moral messaging.
"King's Faith" found a big audience after it was released in theaters and later on DVD. In the end, it received a rating of 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, a website that measures viewers opinions on feature films.
This rating means that, of the 214 people who posted reviews, 94 percent reported that they liked the film -- not a bad rating for a church's first time involvement in a Hollywood picture.
Perhaps it was the storyline that drew viewers in -- a tale about a young man working diligently to escape his past, while he adjusted to seeing the world through a new and refined faith-tinted lens.
Watch the "King's Faith" trailer below:
DiBella told TheBlaze that the idea for "King's Faith" emerged after he had some success with his first film "Cherry Crush." While he was content with the movie, it wasn't an inspirational story with the power to impact audiences.
So DiBella began looking for a storyline with a bit more heart.
"I was just chasing a good story -- a story that had a deeper component," he told TheBlaze.
Having done research about a runaway who once lived in New York City, he said that Brendan, the main character in "King's Faith," had been floating around in his head for quite some time.
"I just love the idea of a kid who was bounced around in foster homes and who ... gets sucked into drug culture," he said. "With all the characters that I seem to write, there were pieces of me and pieces of things I am dealing with or characters in other stories."
After finishing the script, DiBella realized that the story would do well to incorporate faith as a central element. It was then that Dueker and his church were brought into the process to help guide the Christian themes in the film.
"The last thing on my mind was being a part of making a movie," Dueker told TheBlaze, but he detailed how he inevitably became a key component in helping bring "King's Faith" to light, calling the culminating product "a God thing."
Despite their success, making a Hollywood film came with some challenges.
DiBella said some of the casting decisions were tough and that distribution was also challenging, as he wanted to protect the project and his investment in it. Dueker's had other worries, though.
Considering the powerful storyline and the fact that faith was integrated into the film, the pastor feared that it would be difficult to find a balance between the two.
"One area where I was a little worried -- we wanted to walk this fine line between having a powerful and true message that would reach people who wouldn't normally see a Christian film, but without crossing or falling off that fine line," Dueker said.
Here's a scene from the film:
Often times finding this middle ground can be difficult, as some movies, depending on their content, alienate faith audience while others turn secular audiences off with too strong of a faith-based message.
"Thankfully I think the Lord really blessed us with the collaboration ... just being able to walk that line of making a movie that a teenager maybe who has never stepped foot in a church [could watch] ... and yet the message is very strong and there for the believers as well," Dueker added.
DiBella, too, said that it was extremely important to make a movie that "audiences wouldn't be allergic to." He agreed that a balance needed to be struck between entertaining the masses and holding onto the film's powerful message.
The two hope that "King's Faith" leaves audiences with one key take-away: The notion that a person's past doesn't have to forever define him or her.
"There is grace. There is a second chance with the Lord no matter how far gone you might be or how many mistakes you may have made -- and that the lord can turn your life around when you turn it to him," the pastor said of the film's central message. "If you stand firm the Lord will use you in ways you don't imagine."
After reaching success on all fronts, DiBella said he wants to continue challenging the Christian movie genre to create films that have impact and the ability to entertain. And it's likely he will soon have another chance to just do that.
DiBella and Dueker are already planning the next film, which is set to shoot in Rochester this upcoming summer.
"Our next film the character will be a female protagonist. She's dealing with some depression and mental illness issue from past trauma she's had in abuse," DiBella said.
Dueker's Hope Church is like many other houses of worship looking to make an impact through film.
As TheBlaze has reported, Sherwood Baptist Church, a house of worship in Albany, Ga., has created numerous films that performed well at the box office, including "Courageous," “Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof."
Find out more about "King's Faith" here.
Featured image via "King's Faith" website