Editor’s note: This piece first appeared at FaithWire.com.
Christian actor and filmmaker David A.R. White admits he’s among the least likely people to end up in Hollywood. After all, White, who co-founded Pure Flix Entertainment — one of the largest distributors and producers of Christian-themed films in the world — grew up in a culture that was almost entirely shielded from Tinseltown’s influence.
“I think of myself as probably one of the least likely people who should be doing what he’s doing,” he recently told “The Church Boys” podcast, explaining that he grew up in a small town in Kansas surrounded by wheat fields.
White also divulged that he was raised as a Mennonite, joking that it’s often been said that members of his childhood denomination were so buttoned up they made Mormons “look like a pack of Hells Angels.”
But despite his conservative upbringing, White — who describes his path to Hollywood in his new book, “Between Heaven and Hollywood: Chasing Your God-Given Dream” — said he felt God calling him to the entertainment world at an early age.
“I had this dream that God had put inside of me. I grew up Mennonite … I saw one movie in the theater the first 18 years of my life,” he said. “We were massively conservative, but I had this dream. I couldn’t shake this dream. It made no sense.”
Listen to White share his story below:
White moved to Hollywood when he was 19 years old, and immediately jumped right into acting. Eventually, though, he felt called, more specifically, to faith-based filmmaking — a move that certainly came along with some challenges.
After launching Pure Flix, White and his business partners faced fiscal instability amid the nation’s dire financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. White, among others, didn’t take a salary for almost two years, putting everything on the line to keep the company afloat. That all unfolded, of course, before the company’s 2014 smash feature film hit “God’s Not Dead.”
But making that movie also carried with it some significant risk — and yet another leap of faith.
“We really believed that the Lord wanted us to launch that theatrically,” White said, explaining that he and the Pure Flix team needed $5 million to make it happen. “That was a big deal to step out and try to do something that was not an easy thing to do. The Lord blesses that in a lot of different ways. He’s seen us through.”
And it’s easy to see why White has come to that conclusion. In the end, “God’s Not Dead” worked out quite well for Pure Flix, as the film, which had a $2 million production budget, brought in nearly $61 million at the box office.
Since the movie’s release, the production company has continued to make a plethora of films, with the 2016 follow-up, “God’s Not Dead 2,” bringing in nearly $21 million.
Pure Flix has also released its own streaming service, which it likens to a faith and family friendly effort akin to Netflix; it’s yet another effort that helps the company meet its goal of inspiring the masses.
“The reason why we established Pure Flix was to uplift and inspire the human spirit through the powerful medium of film,” White said. “And I think we’ve been able to do that in the midst of all the stuff that’s been going on.”
The filmmaker said he’s also hoping to inspire people through his new book, “Between Heaven and Hollywood: Chasing Your God-Given Dream,” as he hopes to help them take the dreams that God has written on their hearts and “turn them into the writing on the wall.”
“I just wanted to tell the story and encourage people,” White said. “If it doesn’t make sense — this dream that you have inside of you — then it’s okay.”
As for whether there will be a “God’s Not Dead 3,” White answered affirmatively and followed that up with a “Lord willing.” He said his team is currently working on the script and focusing on finding the appropriate subject matter and plot line.
“We’ve been trying to find … what does God really want us to do with that — and what’s the best story we can tell about it,” White said.