by C.J. Darlington
Kyle Prohaska Interview
"I never want to get to the place where the Word of God in my films is an afterthought or a cherry on the sundae." -- Kyle Prohaska
Kyle is the President and CEO of Praise Pictures Inc. Since 2006, Kyle has used his producing, graphics, web, and internet marketing skills to work with a multitude of different companies and filmmakers including Rich Christiano (Unidentified, Time Changer, The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry), Coram Deo Studios (No Greater Love), David Evans (The Grace Card), John Moore (The Widow’s Might, Ace Wonder), and many others.
In early 2009, Kyle started ChristianFilmTrailers.com, a promo/trailer website specifically for the faith-based Christian market.
With the creation of Praise Pictures first feature film Standing Firm (Now on DVD), Kyle hopes to take the company to new heights in the coming years and become a driving force in the Christian filmmaking industry.
C.J.: When did you first realize you wanted to make movies? Was there an “aha” moment, perhaps in your childhood, or did it come about more gradually?
I would say God put that burden on me at an early age. Maybe the thought “I want to make movies” hadn’t come to mind yet, but he was slowly growing in me a love for film and a passion for it. Movies were an enormous portion of my childhood, and I ran some of my VHS tapes until they died watching them over and over again. I think deep down the thought that it would be fun to make movies always existed, but it didn’t manifest until a bit later into childhood. Even then however, the tools and even basic resources to do that didn’t exist, so I just had to wait and continue studying and watching films.
Share with us how the Casting Crowns song “American Dream” inspired you to make your movie Standing Firm.
Well, the initial framework for the film came from that song. The idea of a father and his family, and what happens when worldly things overtake what’s really important. That always stayed in the story, but the rest of it came from various real life stories, my parents' marriage and some of the issues they went through, my relationship with my father in a lot of ways came into the story, etc. I suppose I could accredit the song for giving me a kick up the backside to get writing since it lit the flame while I was searching for initial ideas.
When we last talked you were just getting ready to shoot Standing Firm. So much has happened since then! Now that you’re on this end of the process with the movie released to DVD, what are the top three things you learned during the process of making this movie?
1) Prepare - I can’t stress enough just how important preparation
is for the entire process. Of course on this film we had no idea what we
were doing so a lot of it had to be done the best we knew how, but I wish
I would’ve looked into it even more than I did before starting. Also
when it comes to the script, I wish I had fine tuned it far more than I
2) Patience - Films are always going to cost a bit more than you think, take a lot longer than you think, and be more difficult to finish than you think. No matter how careful you are just count on there being issues you have to deal with, and be patient. If you’re doing a project that the Lord has given you to do (meaning you sought out his yes/no to move forward) then he will open the doors. But, make no mistake, making a film is no easy task and it will test you in ways you haven’t been tested before, especially if you’re in charge.
3) Prayer - I wish I had prayed more during this process. Making this movie drove me to my knees more than anything else, but I still wish I had sought the Lord more on a lot of issues. It’s easy to lose your priorities and have your movie become your God. Don’t let that happen, stay in the center of where he wants you.
What was your most memorable on the set moment?
Our entire camera setup had fallen over into the mud and our 35mm adapter that allows us to attach still lenses for depth of field wasn’t working. Instead of freaking out I just brought it inside and everyone was looking around thinking, “It’s over.” It was a critical time in the schedule where it would’ve caused major issues if we had to order another and wait. We all went to pray in the side room and most of us were weeping over it, just praying that God would do something. Before we had gone in to pray though I had said out-loud that we would go and pray, and when we came out God would have it fixed. Everyone looked at it me a little funny, but we prayed anyways. So when I came out my only thought was, “Is it working now?” I hit the button and it started right up good as new. I broke down right there and became a puddle in front of everyone. God showed up in an amazing way that day, and I won’t forget that moment.
A lot of prayer went into this project. Can you think of a specific story about the process or filming that can only be described as a “God moment” or something miraculous?
If I had to pick another great moment in the process then it was when we got distribution. Everyone had turned us down and I was very discouraged. I knew God had been with this project from day one but for some reason we hadn’t found anyone to help us put it in stores. I kept asking God if I had done something wrong. But on a random day I got an email from one of the contacts I had made through a friend, and they wanted it. Soon after we had a deal in hand and were off to the races. They were the very last person we contacted, but it turns out they were the right one. I think yet again, God was testing me to see if I trusted Him or not. This process was full of life lessons and tests for me personally and my faith has grown exponentially because of it.
In our last interview you said about your movies, “I make no apologies for putting the Word of God front and center.” Could you expound on that a little bit? How do you go about doing this while still keeping things relevant to those who might not be as familiar with Christianity?
I never want to get to the place where the Word of God in my films is an afterthought or a cherry on the sundae. There’s no greater story than the Gospel, and there’s no greater character than that of Jesus Christ and what He did. That’s been forgotten. I want Christ front and center in what I do; that’s just where my heart has landed on these issues. I have the unique ability to communicate the truth of scripture for 90 minutes or 2 hours in a dark room to someone who otherwise might not care to listen.
Recently you shared on your blog how you have decided to not go see movies with questionable content because of your convictions. First of all, bravo on that, as I’m sure that doesn’t always come easily. Could you share with us what brought about this decision and do you recommend it for all Christians? Also, how do you decide movie to movie whether to go see it?
This is a very complicated answer, but I’ll do my best. God has been working in my heart on a multitude of issues over time, but it seems he kicked this specific conviction into overdrive just a number of months ago (if that). I just started seeing movies differently and TV differently. It’s hard to explain and all I can do is give credit to God. I see now why it’s difficult to argue with someone about what we should or shouldn’t watch or what is sinful to watch and what is ok because it’s “reality” and “real.” Am I really willing to sit through a ton of different things to come out on the other end with a moral that I likely had before I popped the movie in? Do I simply watch it for a thrill? How pointless is that? So it was a good story--big deal! I think the greatest trap in movies for people like me is our love of the art. We love great cinematography so we’ll watch anything with beautiful shots no matter what’s on screen at the given time. We’ll watch almost any story simply because it makes us pump our fist or we love the twist, or the hair stands up on the back of our neck during that special scene.
I’ve come to see a lot of what I enjoyed about movies to be idolatry. I don’t say that because enjoying a movie is sin, I say that because I saw myself compromising my own integrity for the sake of a cheap thrill or a fun 120 minutes. I’ve spoken to many about this stuff and they insist on telling me that watching certain things just doesn’t effect them at all, and I think they couldn’t be more wrong. If you watch blood and guts movies everyday you will get to the point where you’ve convinced yourself it doesn’t effect you. You’re used to it, but the damage is done. I realized this was happening to me and it scared me.
I’m not going to necessarily recommend that everyone listen to my specific conviction, but I would ask you to seek the Lord on these things and see what he has to say, not what you do. Throw out the “artist” for a moment, and look at it through the lens of the Bible. I have watched very few movies since this conviction came upon me and while that is depressing sometimes, I realize it’s likely for the better.
How would you define your target audience as a film maker? Are you making movies for Christians, non Christians, or everyone? And does it really matter?
The target audience I think I’ve personally been called to is the church. Some would say that’s preaching to the converted or the choir, but I see it differently. I don’t feel called to make more mainstream movies that try to squeeze Jesus in there in hopes of someone walking into their local church on Sunday because of what they saw. We need to be reaching those outside of the church of course, but for me I feel called to edify the believer within the church (since I see this world crumbling before my eyes) and reach those within the church who’re fooling themselves. Reaching the world is all well and good, and we’re commanded to do so, but unfortunately we’re bringing new believers into a busted church. I’m not interested in changing society through mainstream content that I produce. That just isn’t where God has me.
What do you wish the average Christian knew about making movies?
That they cost massive amounts of money and time. Christians as a whole are selfish, greedy, religious, and ignorant. That’s a harsh statement, but as I said in my previous answer, this is where the Church is. I’ve had so many tell me that I should give away my movie for free, and if I don’t then I’m selling the Gospel to line my pockets. It’s amazing how many people want more of something (Christian movies) yet don’t understand that to do so you need to properly support those who’re making them. God can always bring along money in one way or another, and I understand where they’re coming from. However, am I supposed to make poor business decisions and assume on God’s grace? Certainly not! When you spend money on a film, and in a lot of cases someone else's money (if you have investors), you’re called to steward it well. I make no apologies for selling the film to try and make that money back because I wish to make another film. Also I said greedy earlier because in America especially, everyone can afford a $15 DVD. We spend money on all sorts of things, but it seems Christians never want to support their own people. Yes, there are special cases, but this is the USA, and we’re filthy stinkin, rich compared to everyone else. Plop down the $15 and support a Christian filmmaker for pete’s sake, and stop shooting the sheep. If you want to see more of these movies, support them while they’re here and stop starting fires.
It’s inspiring how most of your creative endeavors, whether it be film making, website creation, or design, have been mostly self taught. Do you feel this has helped you learn better or more quickly?
I think this has been one of the greatest Blessings in my life actually. God gave me a passion and an outlet early in life to start learning the skills I have today. When most kids were involved with school sports I was home on Photoshop and Aftereffects, compressing video for the web, learning how to fix PC’s, etc. It makes me excited to raise my own children and help them develop whatever it is God would have them to do with their life. When it comes to what I do, there’s no excuses now-a-days for learning things on your own. The software is way cheaper than ever before, and the resources online to learn are numerous.
If you could only say one thing to our readers about your movie or Christian films in general, what would it be?
Be discerning about what you watch. It seems like anything that gets the Christian film label slapped on it and a Dove seal is supported heavily by the Christian consumer. Any DVD with a warm and inviting DVD cover and a lens flare on top makes a ton of money. There are many films that come out that have poor theology, content, even damaging content, and everyone embraces it with open arms. The more I understand the state of Christianity the farther down into the toilet I think Christian filmmaking will go. Theology and doctrine are forgetting words, and instead, for most Christian parents, as long as it’s got a bit of Christianese in there then it must be ok, right? Wrong. Not just Christian content, but be careful what you watch and what your children watch. Stop turning on the Disney Channel then leaving the room to go make dinner while they soak in the immorality and worldliness just 10 feet from you. When it comes to Christian films, don’t assume that it’s A-OK because it’s in your local Christian bookstore. There’s a ton of books even that become insanely popular in the Christian culture today, but are clearly at war with Christ. Just be careful and discerning and stop assuming that the “Christian” retailers out there care about your family as much as they do their dollars. Perhaps that’s a harsh statement, and it might get me into trouble but “Christian” business is just that... business. Take responsibility for what you feed your mind and the minds of your family.
What has been your most embarrassing moment as a film maker (if you’re telling!)?
I think I would have to go with an answer that doesn’t sway to the funny side of things but rather the serious (I tend to do that *wink*). There were a few times on STANDING FIRM (probably more than I care to admit) where I didn’t operate in a very pleasant fashion. I probably got angry a few times or frustrated or just lost my cool when dealing with my actors or crew. I can’t think of a specific time when this happened, but I know it did and I know I was embarrassed and felt awful afterwards. I remember apologizing a time or two for my behavior. When you’re the ring leader and everyone is looking to you to make the tough calls and lead well, making mistakes like that is very embarrassing and especially as a man.
If you could only do one part of the movie making process, which would you pick to do: act, write, direct or produce (or something else!)?
Directing would be my choice (so cliche but I mean it). You get to be the guy directing each department towards a single vision. I love all the departments involved with filmmaking and Directing is the only single job on a set where you get to interact creatively with all of them.
What is your favorite scene of all time in any movie?
These questions are getting harder and harder to answer! I don’t think I can pick a single scene to be honest. My favorite films though include The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Road to Perdition, The Truman Show, and Forrest Gump. Lots of memorable scenes in there to choose from, take your pick!
Do you consider film making your ministry or your job? Why?
This is (yet again) a complicated answer, and for me I’ve actually done both by title. I worked at my church for 3.5 years as Director of Media Production so I know the confusion that takes place when you know you’re “in ministry” yet you find a paycheck in your inbox. I would say I have to operate it as if it were a job in regards to the WHAT, but the HOW in how I do the WHAT is where the ministry side comes in. The heart of what I do is ministry driven, but the what ends up working more like a job. I hope that makes sense, LOL. I think one of the greatest lessons I learned in working at my church is it’s easy to consider almost anything as permissible because “it’s ministry.” You can spend far more hours than is healthy working on something while completely giving up on things that should be priority because “it’s ministry.” It’s easy for your film to become your God and leave all other responsibilities in the dust because “it’s ministry.” It’s not an easy balance to hold together, and it just takes prayer, discernment, and prioritizing.
What does the future hold for Praise Pictures and Kyle Prohaska?
Whatever God wants, I suppose. Maybe not the best answer, but I mean that. I want to continually be in the center of where God wants me to be, so I’m always looking for whatever might be next for me to step into. I want to keep creating films, but if God says “nope I want you to go here or do this,” then I need to be obedient. I love filmmaking and I love media, graphics, web, etc. but all of that is worthless if I’m not in the center of where God wants me. This all could be something he has me do for a season and that’s it. I don’t want to make any assumptions. But, until I get clear direction that this isn’t where He’s taking me, then I’ll be running full-steam ahead. I look forward to whatever the future holds, and where the Lord might take me.
How much sleep did you get last night and why?
Not enough, but what else is new?
Your favorite food of all time:
Steak! A big fat juicy steak!
You can only listen to one CD for an entire year. What do you pick?:
The Passion 2010 CD.
How about one movie?
Honestly I can’t pick one, but if it meant I was going to have to watch it over and over again I would be VERY careful about what I chose.
What is your favorite Scripture and why?
I would say Romans 8:28. I’ve hung my life on that verse a lot lately. It encompasses everything that will happen to you and has happened to you, and that’s why I pick it.
Watch the trailer for Standing Firm:
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.