Tommy Woodard and Eddie James (the Skit Guys) join Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman to discuss why humor is so important to faith, why we should pursue excellence in the arts, and their new film: Family Camp.
Tommy Woodard and Eddie James begin by sharing their testimonies with Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman; how God called them to comedy, how church media picked up in the ‘90s, and what they do in their ministry (0:49). They discuss how Christian media doesn’t need to be bad, why laughter is important to the Christian faith, and how Jesus used humor (6:41). They dive into how God can use humor to redeem hurt (15:31). Woodard and James then go through the backstory of their first full-length movie: “Family Camp,” and how God was involved throughout the process (20:02). They talk about why they wanted to make an excellent, faith-based, family-friendly movie that defies expectations (26:16). Dr. Denison then discusses the history of why the arts have become less important to many modern Christians, and why we should change that (31:25). In fact, God used “secular” media to reach Dr. Turman and James before they became Christians (39:26). They also discuss the idea of a “faith-based comedy” and the preconceptions of Christian movies (43:30). In closing, they consider how this movie will uniquely speak to our culture and give a hopeful picture of family (48:00).
P.S. We highly encourage our audience to go see Family Camp on its opening weekend, in theaters on May 13th. You can buy individual tickets or take a group.
Resources and further reading:
- Get tickets to see Family Camp, in theaters on May 13th
- Review of Family Camp – Blake Atwood
- The Skit Guys website
- “How a little-known Reformation-era painter calls us to excellence today” (Lucas Cranach) – Dr. Ryan Denison
- Review of The Chosen– Mark Legg
- Review of Art and Faith by Makoto Fujimura – Mark Legg
- Review of Everything Everywhere All at Once, and why Christians need to rethink art – Mark Legg
About the hosts
Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.
Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.
About the guests
Tommy Woodard and Eddie James are the “Skit Guys,” and have traveled the world performing for families at events, churches, and conferences. Their SkitGuys.com website has grown into a treasured media resource for families, pastors, and churches. Their numerous short films, skits, and scripts are used to reach families all over the world. On YouTube alone, their channel has topped 33 million views.
Transcribed by Otter.ai
Mark Turman 00:07
Welcome back to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, the executive director of Denison forum sitting down again with Dr. Jim Denison, the CEO of Denison ministries and cultural apologist with Denison forum. Jim, how are you today?
Jim Denison 00:20
I’m doing well. Mark, how are you?
Mark Turman 00:21
Doing? Great going to have a fun conversation today. We have some guests here in the studio with us today. Joining us are Tommy Woodard and Eddie James, known to some of us as the skit guys. Guys, how are you today?
Eddie James 00:36
We’re doing very well. Good. Our names don’t have doctor in the front. I
Tommy Woodard 00:39
I know we got to work on Doctor
Mark Turman 00:49
So let me give you a brief orientation. From my side. I’ve been a pastor for 34 years, 25 years in the Dallas area. Not long after I arrived in the DFW area, we were looking at ways to create some dynamics within our worship service to tell stories to illustrate biblical truth. And somebody said, Hey, have you seen these things called called coming out of the skid guys, and one of them was a youth minister somewhere and he apparently got over that. And anyway, we started tapping into these resources. Gosh, it feels like 20 plus years ago, and it became a pretty consistent feature of our worship services Sunday morning, other types of ministries that we were doing, like a lot of churches, particularly 20 years ago, we played around with drama Ministry of our own we thought we could be you guys and had some traction with that for a while. And, and have continued to use your resources on a consistent basis. I, I would imagine that’s true of a number of churches and believers and pastors that will hear this podcast. Oh, I know those guys. I’ve seen their stuff. I’ve used their clip and that type of thing. A lot of it has been least my familiarity with short films that you’re used in some kind of a ministry worship context that illustrates a truth or brings an element of biblical truth into focus for people would be the way I describe it. That’s my take on it. How would you explain yourselves? How would you describe yourself? Where did you start? When it came to creating this minutes?
Tommy Woodard 02:29
That was really good. Yeah. Wow. Never thought about it. I know. He makes it sound good.
Eddie James 02:35
It was all nuggets. Right? Really beautiful. We started out my buddy Tommy invited me to church, my senior year in high school, 1987, September 17 1987. He invited me to church, and that that changed everything for me. And then we had a youth minister, that basically in the 80s, because we grew up in the 80s. And way back in the way back in the 80s
Jim Denison 02:58
Dinosaurs roaming the euro. Polyester.
Eddie James 03:06
When I first became a believer, our youth minister basically said, hey, I want you to do skits every Wednesday night. And that really was it like every Wednesday night, and he held her feet to the fire on I want you to do a skip. Now my youth minister gave me a stack of sketchbooks from the 80s. And most of them because of the time and I’m very thankful for the people that came before us. But most skits were basically they got to Jesus very quickly. So it was Hey, Joe, you seem really sad at school today.
Tommy Woodard 03:34
I’m very sad at school today. Oh, you
Eddie James 03:36
need Jesus. Thank you. That was that was. And then there was scripture backed up because you always had to have skirt. You could not talk without backing up scripture within a skit in the 80s. But I remember as a new believer going, I don’t talk like Oh no, I’m in trouble. I don’t talk like this. So he and I started stealing stuff from Saturday Night Live and trying to make a Christian
Mark Turman 04:00
about Saturday night, it’s
Eddie James 04:02
very hard to do. It’s very hard to do to have a bridge there was a bit of a bridge, but that’s really like, and then before we knew it, our youth pastor was basically if he had a winter retreat, or hey, I’m going over to speak he had brings when he would bring us along. And that’s really how we started learning things of going okay, what are you talking about? Okay, and we’d open up the Word of God when you Oh, okay. Okay, we can do a skit like this. And it really was kind of this improvisational, throw it out there. See if it happens type thing. And we both were youth pastors. And along the way, though, throughout the 90s, there were still friends and buddies that would go, Hey, we’re doing a camp, you want to come do skits? And we would say yes. And it kind of grew from there. And then into the early 2000s, where churches were starting to use videos. And Tommy, you went with a college graduate that was doing film.
Tommy Woodard 04:49
Yeah, yeah. We had a guy at my church that came along to be our media guy. I think that was his official title.
Mark Turman 04:55
The first one of those Yeah. Oh, yeah. Like oh, we
Tommy Woodard 04:59
got a media guy. I, and at some point, he said, We should put what you guys do, you know, on film or videotape it. And we’re like, okay, and he did it. And it worked. And all of a sudden churches, the churches went through this short period where they would use movie clips. Yeah, illustrations. I’ve done that. Yeah. And then they moved to Oh, somebody’s making clips for sermons. And that’s what we started doing. And so, in that process, Brian, he’s the guy who came to my church, you know, he became the guy to do all of our little short movies. And so for the past 20, some odd years, we’ve made, I don’t know how many short three, three and a half minute films. The idea is don’t give away the sermon. Like, we know, like, the pastors worked hard. He doesn’t need you in three minutes to do what’s going to take him 45.
Mark Turman 05:46
I would, you know, we would talk about when I was planning worship, in my church, we talked about how do we create tension? How do we raise a question that intrigues them? But doesn’t, doesn’t bring the whole load? Yes, yes, yes. Yes,
Tommy Woodard 06:02
that’s exactly right. So our goal has always been to walk alongside the church and to help pastors, you know, and ourselves, we, you know, people look at us and like, Oh, you guys are crazy. You know, we’re pastors more than pranksters, our heart is to share with people but we just do it through humor.
Jim Denison 06:18
Right? That’s terrific. Gotta go back to something real fast. Saturday Night Live. Yes. I think that’s beyond cool. Yeah. I wouldn’t talk about this down the way and unpack it as you
Mark Turman 06:27
wish we’re probably gonna get emails by the
Jim Denison 06:31
left that one thing? What could go
Mark Turman 06:35
wrong words? Yeah.
Jim Denison 06:41
I’m sure they’re waiting on my endorsement. Lorne Michaels is just he’s so excited right now to go on his resume. Maybe calling me that’s one of the things I think we get wrong in Christian culture is our unwillingness to learn from people that are really good at what they do. You know, and being willing to try to be excellent in the space. Yeah, one of the real pet peeves I have is of Christian media that isn’t as good as secular media in terms of production values, terms of really learning the techniques of the trade. I was a speech major in college, I had a lot of drama, a lot of theater along the way. And it was always so frustrating to see the degree to which we felt like we just couldn’t even try to incorporate secular values because of the secular message. Yeah. And I just love the fact that you guys we’re working with really best in the business when it comes to scans as much as we obviously struggle with the message, but your medium, what can we learn from that? How can we, how can we move that forward? And so I just wanted to thank you for doing that and normalizing that for us. And I think that’s the point on a wide variety of levels we ought to be making.
Eddie James 07:41
Thank you. I mean, yeah, being invited to church, and then getting thrust into I mean, really, a ministry, like our youth minister gave us an open window. And it really was that thing like his mom made us Hans in France, you know, muscle suits, and we, you know,
Jim Denison 07:56
we needed we needed
Eddie James 08:00
but we were taking church lady Hans and France and we were taking things like that, that you would see on Saturday Night Live. And but but then, and we’re still this way today, it’s humor heart and him humor. It’s so good heart and him. It’s we always laid back but but we were those high school buddies, those college guys getting in his truck, just going going down the street for gas men in a chicken dinner, trying to figure out okay, how do we make a Christian audience laugh? And they didn’t laugh a lot in the 80s. It was not a lot of laughter. So our back swelling allowed to you weren’t allowed.
Tommy Woodard 08:32
It was disrespectful. The laugh in the sanctuary? Yes.
Eddie James 08:35
And we’ve gotten to be around a long enough to go, oh, wait, well, they weren’t being rude or mean, you just weren’t supposed to laugh. And we’ve got to see that too. And we really do it to get to not a got to we’ve, we get to see this growth. And this beauty of we could go to a family night at a church and your I just stay astounded sometimes because I know the high schooler inside me. That was like, nobody’s laughing. We’re bombing. But then to see a whole, you know, auditorium filled of just, you know, believers having a good family night.
Mark Turman 09:06
Well, yeah, thanks. And I think that’s part of what kind of drew me in and kept me engaged with your ministry, that there’s always been this since somebody asked me six, seven or eight years ago, why are you doing this ministry? Why are you pastoring this church? And I said, I want to connect people to the joyful, abundant supernatural life of Christ, John 1010, you know, and that they’re just that’s what drew me and he talked about what you couldn’t couldn’t do in the 80s. Why kind of like you I got invited to church when I was 17. I was completely aimless in high school, got invited by my friend to come to this church. And what I loved about this church in East Texas was pastor, one of the best known to pastors in this area of the country, started almost every single sermon with a joke. It’s great. He wanted to connect you into the experience by just simply getting you to relax and he believed that humor It was powerful to do that. And he was he loved telling stories and jokes and things that would make you laugh. And it what it meant was it caused you to relax and you were ready for what he was going to teach you from the Bible. Yeah. And, and so that sense of joy was really what drew me into this church and drew me into doing ministry that way, in so much needed, particularly in a time like ours, where things are so difficult, so confusing, so hard, which really kind of gives rise to what kind of prompted our conversation today you guys are about to release a full length feature movie coming up on May, the 12th, may 13, just a little bit from now called family camp. And I want us to get into some of the story around that. But before we do with, especially with Jim here, he and I talked with some of his background, just the idea that the movie we’ll talk about a moment really focuses on faith obviously, focuses on the importance of family importance of priorities. But it’s also fun. It’s a lot about fun. And I wonder if we could just chase out that idea of humor as an aspect and an opportunity of ministry. Jim, you talked about a book by Elton Trueblood that you’re familiar with. Give us some context for that. Yeah,
Jim Denison 11:21
you bet. Perspective Yeltsin true Bloods, I think one of the most significant Christian philosophers of our generation, and really interesting story, Quaker by background and the interesting, brilliant thinker, I think he had a book on the humor of Christ, that when I encountered it some years ago was really revolutionary for me, he made the point that Jesus was as a public communicator, a person who regularly even systematically used humor to make his points. The reason we miss it is that the humor of his culture was so different from the humor of our culture. And so we don’t realize how funny he really was. So Trueblood, kind of unpacks all of that a little bit. He says that in Jesus day in his culture in their rabbinic culture, exaggeration, was not only how you made a point is called rabbinic hyperbole. But that was also how you communicated humor. So for instance, Jesus would say, why are you paying attention to the speck in your brother’s eye, when there’s a log in your eye, they would have laughed at that. The exaggeration of this, you got a telephone pole sticking out of your eye, and you’re looking at a speck of sawdust in his eye. Well, then Jesus said the way he would have said that that would have been humor in his day to say that he tells the story of the Pharisee and the Publican. And so you’ve got this Pharisee that comes in and praise, you know, and Lord, I’m so grateful. I’m not like this guy. And the Publican won’t even look up to heaven, you know, and just beats his breast, they’d be laughing at the story of this contrast between the absolute extremes of the culture of the day. And the point he was making is, I think the point you’re making, which is that humor is an incredible entree to the heart, to the mind, but to the heart, it’s a great way of opening the door, a great way of building relationships. And if Jesus would do that, shouldn’t we be doing that? That’s what True Blood was all about? Well, we needed that message, then don’t we need it now. It’s a pandemic, in the midst of I mean, we could have the rest of conversation about all the reasons why we need to laugh today, right. But to be able to do that, in the context of a Christian story, in the context of the Christian faith, is saying, this really is about joy. This really is about a relationship with God who loves you, who likes us crazy about you. And so I just thought that idea of humor as Jesus practiced, it is, I think, a biblical mandate for what you’re doing and just wanted to thank you, therefore, for what you’re doing.
Tommy Woodard 13:30
Oh, thank you. That’s the I love that picture. I think it is tragic that as the church we have such a history of not laughing, you know, I mean, we are the people who carry the joy of the Lord. Right. And yet, we’re going to be so dour and so sour, you know, I mean, and that was the thing as young guys, we’re performing our hearts out, you know, here we are probably 2021 years old. nobody’s laughing, right. But then after you’re done there shaking your hand going, Man, I’ll tell you what, that’s so funny. You know, and you’re like, I thought you were dead. Like I don’t laugh.
Mark Turman 14:03
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I just, you know, I remember, a few years ago, Roy fish who were familiar with Southwestern seminary taught evangelism, how to share your faith in compelling ways.
Jim Denison 14:18
It was Jesus and then Roy.
Mark Turman 14:22
Directly to Roy, he was the
Jim Denison 14:23
Mark Turman 14:25
And I think I remember him saying, I want occasion that when you’re trying to not only share your faith, or even you know, get up and teach biblically, preach your message, whatever. You have to understand that you need to come through their heart to their head. Yep. And, and if you don’t do that, if you try to go the other way, many times, you’re just not going to get there. Yeah. And
Jim Denison 14:45
even Aristotle knew that in his book on rhetoric, he understood that do you have to speak to the heart and to the head and then to the will and he thought it was in that order. And I remember we jump immediately to the will we want you to do x that’s so true when we first moved your emotions to open your mind to Then have your mind roof to your volition. And it’s really almost a three stage process. Yeah. And
Mark Turman 15:03
then and humor being kind of the same one of the safest pathways right into a person’s heart where they like say, that’s again, why my pastor would tell jokes. I think I remember however, you know, when we sit around, and Pastor sit around, right, people who have served at church, mostly if they sit around and tell, quote, unquote, war stories, they tell the funny things that happen. The kid that did a cannonball into the baptistry, or
Eddie James 15:27
people do that. Do that? Yes. Oh, well, that sounds like they probably
Mark Turman 15:31
does, you know, it’s probably never happened to you guys. You said something that came out of your mouth that you were like, there that goes, I need to retrieve and unring a bell. And that’s gonna be the thing that I’m known for. You know, at my church, we had a list of them that they kept running of Mark isms that great they didn’t want to talk about anything else that God might have done in that church. Talk about. You remember the time you said this, when you meant that, but you said, but I also remember I used to crawl up in my parents bed on occasion when I was a kid, and they would watch a comedian by the name of Jonathan Winters. Oh, yes. so talented. And I remember listening to Jonathan Winters and unpack his craft on one occasion. And and this certainly held true out of his personal life that so much of humor emerges out of pain, it emerges out of brokenness, has it been something that you guys have been able to pursue and work with?
Eddie James 16:30
I think so. You know, I, if you were to CSI, our lives, Tommy nice lives. I came from a really dysfunctional home really, really, you know, abusive home? I would say pain was a part of my childhood, a part of what I what a sorry, thank you. Well, what I knew about what I think it led me into ministry, as far as wanting to shepherd people, take care of people and to not have what you hadn’t. Yeah, yeah. And with that, though, you have to heal, you know, you have to allow God to heal the stuff that has broken inside you. Yeah, I think there’s a lot of truth to that. You know, I don’t live in pain anymore. But I do know that pain and when I see it, or when I sense it, or when I when I see someone having it, like, I definitely can relate and have empathy for it. And I think it does. I don’t know what that reservoir is, I don’t know where it comes from. But there is a reservoir that it does it, it allows the humor, it allows the the, the other side of the pain come forth, because if you’re going to talk about pain, you have to make them laugh. I really for however that’s worked. I don’t think I’m the funniest guy or anything. But I do believe everything you just said about like your pastor, humor breaks down walls for truth to enter. I mean, if you can get someone to laugh, you can get him to listen. And I think that’s been the story of our friendship. And our I mean, we are the two guys in the, I mean, we will leave here and we’ll go get in Tommy’s car, and we’ll laugh and laugh. Like we did like when we were in high school, but like we were walking to the airport two days ago, and it was kind of one of those, you know, out of body things where we kind of walk it and we’re just cracking up laughing I’m going Oh, my goodness. laughter So good. Like, I’m sure we look like fools. I’m sure we look like idiots just laughing and cackling you know, you know, people, you know, looking, you know, trying to get to their gate, but going, my goodness. Laughter is just it’s a beautiful, and it does it just kind of, really it is good medicine unless we’re attractive.
Jim Denison 18:28
I want that. Yeah, something in me that wants that. You know, if your faith can make you laugh like that, well, I want that. I grew up in a home with no spiritual life at all. My dad had fought in World War Two came back and never went to church again. And so I grew up with no spiritual life. On my dad’s questions. I got invited on a bus ministry when I was 15 years old, and the first time I’d ever heard the gospel. And after a few weeks, I asked my Sunday school teacher, not how could I be justified and sanctified? How can I have what you have? That was literally my question. Yes. And out of that, she led me to faith in Christ. But it was the joy in these people. That was something I just had not experienced. And I think the Holy Spirit is able to use on that intuitive level. Just what it is to be community what it is to have the joy of the Lord to have the abundant life of Christ. And it just speaks to our souls. I think there was a God shaped emptiness in us. Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. And in ways that we don’t even know you may never know the seeds you were planting as you’re walking down that airport runway or not. Well, not the runway. Oh. That would be I see these guys out.
Mark Turman 19:31
Just laid the foundation for their next.
Jim Denison 19:34
Yeah, exactly. But as you do that people are watching you. And you don’t even know they’re watching you. Yeah. And they might have seen your movie. They might have seen your skit. They might have seen you in church the other day, and they’re seeing you be real. They’re seeing the faith be real in you. Alfred North Whitehead said great people plant trees I’ve never said under a lot of what you’re doing. That’s beautiful and people that are seeing the authenticity of your faith in ways that are going to draw them to that faith that you just may never know about the word hope Thank you. No,
Eddie James 20:00
thank you. That’s great word.
Mark Turman 20:02
Let’s, let’s talk a little bit about the backstory around this movie family camp. It’s a pretty sick, you know, some interesting things going on in the area of Christian filmmaking. And, you know, we’ve seen the guys out of Atlanta and some others, making various movies that have come out, of course, right now, in the kind of new world on the other side of a global pandemic movies and theaters trying to get their act back together. Certainly, I don’t know that I’ve ever met a single human being who didn’t want to go see a movie. Especially a good story, right? I mean, just as much as we are great at seeing screens in our pocket or at home. It just something about going into a theater and having a bucket of popcorn being in a dark room with total strangers and watching the screen together, right. And so obviously, the movie industry is trying to regain their traction in these days. How do you guys go from what you’ve become known for what you’ve done so much of over a couple of decades of making these short films and that type of thing that were used in like said, churches ministry context, seems to me like a pretty significant leap from there to a full blown movie that may be showing in 900 theaters in a couple of days. What’s the backstory around that that you want people to know?
Tommy Woodard 21:27
It’s a great question. You know, we we have said, throughout our ministry, do what you can, where you are with what you have, and leave the results up to God. And so we’ve tried to be as best we can faithful in these things. There’s always been the dream, there’s always the dream to make a movie, it just seemed impossible. You know, until you had you mentioned the Kendrick Brothers, you have these guys come out. And all of a sudden, oh, they’re making some movies that are in the theaters, and people are going to see them. And so there was kind of that well, maybe someday, you know. And so we started acting as if, and if you looked at our if you saw any of our short films, what you didn’t know was the set for our short films was almost identical to the set to make the movie. So we just started living as if like, one day, we hope we get to do this and we want to be comfortable with it. But we still didn’t know nobody’s knocking on our door going, Hey, we need to skate guys movie. You know? People are knocking on the door going who? This gay guy. So so we are trying, we’re hoping people are coming to us, oh, you should crowdsource it. You should you know, there’s all these different ways to make a movie. My buddy Eddie here. One morning is praying. And he just says this God, it’s yours. We’re not going to force it. We’re going to try to make it happen if you want it, it’s yours. Two hours later, the phone rings guy named Jason says I was just thinking about you guys. Have you ever thought about making a movie? Yes, we in fact, if you’d called two hours ago, I just
Eddie James 22:56
gave it over. They just happened. Right?
Tommy Woodard 23:01
So Jason would introduce us to a man named Bill Reeves, who would become within the next. There’s sort of way too many details. But Bill would become the president of the company that runs Caleb. And then Bill would connect us with Sony provident, and you just saw, the other thing we we’ve really believed is that, at just the right time, God brings just the right people, people you don’t even know to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. Throughout this entire process. We could talk about what did we do? And how did we do it and all of that, the truth of the matter is in our hearts, and in our minds, God is the one who’s really made this happen. Even including in the midst of a global pandemic, there was one movie being filmed in America. And it was ours. Wow, there was one other movie being filmed somewhere else in the world. And we we took that very serious, we’re very cautious. We didn’t you know, we didn’t scoff it was going on, you know, no one got sick. Because of the situation as it was, there was a lot of Oh, cameras and production, stuff that wasn’t being used. So we got to use it a lot less expensive. You know, there was just all these different things that you see, going into getting it released into the theaters, you know, it’s getting released into theaters, because everybody else said no, nobody wanted to stream it. Nobody wanted to back it up. And finally, roadside came along and said, We’ll take it let’s see what we can do. You know, so I don’t think I can tell you that there’s something we did to make this happen, but it sure seemed like it seems like God’s hand was on it. You know, and we hope so. Yeah.
Mark Turman 24:32
So was the Is that to say that the script was something that you guys had been working on and kind of putting a story together so that if God ever decided to kind of open the doors it would be there or how did how did the actual story? Yeah, can we be
Eddie James 24:47
we had a it’d be reminiscent of probably Planes, Trains and Automobiles. We had a ride this week. It was a movie called ride share. And basically this was this was a buddy comedy. And that was the one That seemed to get Okay, we’re gonna do this one and then it costs too much money and, and they were very honest like, Hey, you guys are no nobody knows who you guys are. This movie if you go page by page and you itemize this, it costs too much money. So we’re so sorry. Just for example, like I grew up, we we both went to Saddleback as interns in summer of 89. And I ended up staying. So I got to sit under Rick. And so I remember one of his sermons was, let me
Mark Turman 25:28
let me back up and some might not know what you’re talking about. So So back Community Church, Rick Warren, Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life,
Jim Denison 25:35
church, yeah, all
Eddie James 25:36
of that settled by that Saddleback. My boss for like, eight years.
Tommy Woodard 25:41
I was at First Baptist Frisco. Same thing.
Mark Turman 25:44
Yeah. By the way, Frisco is the center of the universe now was the center of the country. Frisco just north of Dallas.
Jim Denison 25:53
city in the country? Yeah. That’s because
Tommy Woodard 25:56
you were there. I was there,
Eddie James 25:58
burgeoned? Did I just put the pebble down the hill? He gave a he gave a sermon one day, he just about dreams. And over Abraham, and just every dream has in there all DS right? Because that’s what pastors do. So biblical, yes, yes. So you know, a little
Mark Turman 26:14
Eddie James 26:16
But there was a dream to be made. You have a decision. And then with every dream, there’s delays, difficulties and dead ends before deliverance. And I would say, this movie is a beautiful picture of a dream of a risk of just trying, but every step of the way, dead ends, delays, difficulties, even with that first movie, it wasn’t going to be they said no. And then you look at this dead end, and you’re going, Oh, god, okay. Do we do we not here, you know, what, what does all this look like? And then the guy that’s made all our mini movies, like over two days, basically went, he, he just, he just put out family camp. It was rough, it was bare bones, but it was enough for them to go, this one will do it takes place in one setting, the cost will be low. Let’s try this. And so all of us, we just came together, you know, and just kept working on it and flushing it out. Sony was very good, because with the Kendrick Brothers movies to go, Hey, here’s what we know from these movies, we need more of this. And we need more of this. So we really did try that all the all the way going, we’re going to be the first faith based family friendly comedy in this in this genre. And if you even if you take off the name faith based, family friendly comedy, there are none. There are cartoons and their superhero movies. But how we grew up with Tim Conway and Don Knotts, the Apple Dumpling grind, or anything else to where your family could take you to these movies. And they weren’t there back wasn’t tight. They weren’t afraid of what was going to be going to be said. There aren’t any of those movies anymore. We get on our apps going? Is it okay? Can I lower my standards as a believer to be entertained? Can I lower my standards? And you know, let me get on this app and make sure this movie is halfway. Okay for my kids to see. You don’t have to worry about any of that with this one. Because I mean, so yeah, we got the opportunity. And we really it’s a get to first faith based family friendly comedy. And we hope we hope audiences really like it. We hope it’s a chance for them to get out there and take their families. Thank you so
Jim Denison 28:13
much for doing that. Oh, yeah. writing an article right now that we’re going to put up on our website in the next day or so about the degree to which there’s so much in the culture of trying to normalize what you think of as unbiblical morality. And it’s not just pride month, it’s not just the things that are overt like that. It’s me watching a welcome TV show last night, in which two gay characters, you know, are intricate to the story and two of the most sympathetic characters in the entire plot the entire story. If a couple doesn’t have sex on their first date, we’re surprised, right? We’ve gotten so normalized, so desensitized that I’ve got grandchildren, who, by the way are perfect, no question about being inherited originals? That happened and I’m so grateful. But I mean, I cringe when they’re in the house and commercials are on Yes, you know, with things that are inside the space, and not just even the stuff we’re all familiar with. But just how once you start thinking how pervasive it is. So you get on the app, and you ask, okay, is this at least something I can live with? Is the yes, at least two out of five, when it comes to this character, that character would have you know, this, this category as opposed to others. So thank you, as a father and a grandfather, for giving us for the first time an option where our kids can be entertained in a holistic way that even more than that has an eternal message. But thankfully, I’m thinking you’re just planting seeds in what you’re doing right now. In hearts and minds of lives that you’re not going to be the short of eternity. That’s just a terrific calling, isn’t it? For you to step out to do it, though, you know, it’s one of the film cooks we used to play all the time back when we were all using film clips and sermons. Yeah, yeah. Was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade I
Eddie James 29:48
love that Oh, yeah. Yeah,
Jim Denison 29:51
bridges there but he can’t see it till he steps. Yeah, no. Yes. What you did, you knew what was there but you don’t really know it’s there. You step on If you don’t
Tommy Woodard 30:00
do well, listen, it’s scary. Yeah, like, we’ve, we’ve made the movie and everything. And it’s still just really scary. Sure, and thank you for saying that, because I haven’t, because we’ve just been doing it. I haven’t thought of it as steps of faith. And that is, that blesses my heart to think about it. So thank you,
Jim Denison 30:18
well positioned you to receive God’s best, you know, faith was an earnest favorite positions as to receive as well. So and that’s what you’ve done. You’ve put yourselves in position to be used by God in ways that you won’t be able to measure the full success of this of eternity. I just moved that you’ve done this and great deal, and so encouraged, thank you now that you don’t have to do this. You didn’t have to go do this except for the call of God on your life, you know, and for you to take what the world would consider to be a real risk, but for you is a risk not to be obedient. And I’m glad you knew that more of us need to know that I think
Tommy Woodard 30:51
thank you, you know, he talked about us lowering our standards, one of our great goals is to make films that are so funny. And so excellent. So excellent. Yes, that somebody who’s not a believer will go I don’t care. Yeah, that I don’t care that it’s a Christian movie. It’s great. I’m bribing see it, you know, that’s not the goal. And it’s a great challenge, you know, but we have a, we’ve had a TV show for a while, and we’ll get some feedback, and it’ll be a kid get my dad to go to church, but it What’s your shot? So you know, and we consider that a great comp, absolutely. You know,
Jim Denison 31:25
well, that’s how we used to do it. I mean, if you’ve been to the great cathedrals, you know, in Europe, if you’ve seen these churches built over generations of time, there was a day when worship required excellence. When the idea was we’re going to come in, you may be in a small town in this village here, and you may have a small hut, but you come to this church, and you’re drawn vertically to God. And the beauty of the artwork around you the beauty, the architecture, all of that. I love leading study tours to Israel. I’ve done that 35 times over the years, and Holy Sepulchre is my favorite Church on the planet. The beauty of it, the beauty of the symbolism inside it, the beauty of the artistic expression and the sacrifice of this. Plus, you’ve got people coming from literally all over the world, to worship God there. It’s revelation seven people of every tribe, language people in town. And so here I am, as a Baptist minister, whose favorite church is Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. And so much of it is because of the excellence, the quality of the artistic expression to the glory of God. So we used to do that. Yeah, used to be that’s what Christians were known for, you know, and boy, to the degree that we can come back to that place and earn the right to be heard and the culture, yes, by doing this with that kind of excellence is exactly I think our future. Come on,
Mark Turman 32:30
Jim, where do you think we got off some of that, to where, you know, I’ve heard people talk about it, even in the form of architecture. And you see, oftentimes in our world today, much more simplistic things I remember being Saddleback on one occasion, and Rick Warren saying, Nobody comes here for the building. It’s basically a square box with a patio and attempt before that, and a tent before. And, and certainly there are extremes where we’re, but I, I have somebody in my life that I see on a regular basis, who is a Catholic believer and and when I asked her why, why that particular expression of Christian faith, she said, I love the pageantry of it. I that’s what I love about it, I connect in a faith oriented way, because of the beauty of it, the color the pageantry of it. And in what we’ve lost some of that, but faith is has always been expressed in the arts, and we’re looking
Jim Denison 33:37
at the temple, look at the synagogue before that. And then looking at the temple and the beauty of the temple and the gold leaf covering the temple. There wasn’t functional, it was aesthetic, you know, and it’s God trying to make that point and how he describes heaven and all that. Well, there’s a lot inside that, of course, as y’all would know, but a short version would be that you get to this Protestant Reformation, 16th century Martin Luther, and it takes two branches. The one side is known as the magisterial reformation. This is Luther, this is Calvin, this is the Reformers that are protected by the magistrates, therefore, the magisterial reformation. It says, we’re going to keep everything the Catholic Church is doing which is not unbiblical. Now, we may reinterpret it, we may rebrand it. The Bible doesn’t say Thou shalt not sprinkle babies, for instance. So we’ll continue infant baptism, but we’ll repurpose that as dedicating a child to God, as opposed to washing away inherited original sin, that sort of thing. So in those kinds of traditions, which today you think of as Episcopal or Anglican, you’re going to keep Catholic pageantry, you’re going to keep some of the symbolism, you’re going to keep some of the artistry, you’re going to see that not as an end, but as a means which was always in the Catholic tradition, the best tradition as well. But then you had a so called Radical reformation, which said we’re only going to keep what the Catholic Church is doing, which is biblical. When no place in the Bible, you baptize infants, so we stopped baptizing babies and start baptizing believers by immersion and so forth. So that becomes kind of a rejection of all things Catholic, including symbolism, including what’s known as icons, including the pageantry. We have the artistry of the aesthetics and the architecture and all of that. And they’re just kind of a baby with the bathwater, I think kind of a reaction or rejection of all of that. And then on a pragmatic level, it’s a whole lot easier to settle a frontier, if you can mean in a farmhouse, if you can put up four walls and a table, and some kind of a trough to baptize in and a farmer can preach, you know. And so while you’ve got these magistrale, reformation type churches, a Catholic churches waiting on a priest to come from the seminary over in Philadelphia, you got these farmers preaching and Baptist churches, you know, and so part of it is we don’t want to be Catholic. And part of his we’re being pretty practical here. And it’s just simpler to do it this way. And I think that’s a lot of it.
Mark Turman 35:41
Well, sometimes if you haven’t traveled to places like Europe and and even back to Israel, that type of thing. You don’t realize a lot of things that are here, it took a long time for them to get here. So we talked about mourning the burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dom, 800 years, those things didn’t just show up. That’s right. In 100 years or so it takes a lot longer to two generations to get to some of these things. Right. Wow. But go I want to circle back to Luther just a minute into the Reformation had an opportunity a couple of years ago to go to Wittenberg where Martin Luther did his studies and 95 theses and the whole 95 theses. One things I learned that was completely new to me was how the arts played into the Reformation. Absolutely, that when you if you go and study literally go to this wonderful little village in in Germany, where Wittenberg that is Wittenberg, you have this beautiful church on went into the street, you have the monastery where Luther lived and taught on the other end of the street, basically about one mile long on this cobblestone street as the as the teacher explained to us, this is where God ignited the Reformation on this one little mile of Wall Street. But it wasn’t simply Martin Luther, there were a lot of other people involved. You had not only the technology of the Gutenberg Press, which was key to this in in similar ways to a camera for making a movie or the internet today. But you also had a guy named Philip Millington, who became the pin essentially of writing down many of the things that were being taught and said and the reforms that were being considered. But you also had this guy named Kroc, who was I first time I ever heard the term polymath was about this guy, a polymath is someone who is a genius across multiple categories. And that was this guy living in this town named KroniK. He was not only brilliant on multiple levels, he was a brilliant artist. And he interpreted many of the things that Luther was trying to teach into art. He would do woodcarvings. Wow. And the woodcarvings would tell the story of the gospel in a fresh way, as Luther and Millington were trying to articulate it.
Jim Denison 37:58
And some of that and cultures that were not yet literate, or at least didn’t have a lot of access to that, but you could hear the story you could see the story. And then Luthers hymnology that are going to put you communicated reformation true through hymns like a mighty fortress is our you know, which by the way, I don’t mean to belabor this point, the way that we do it is I’m told by music historians, not the way it was done. There’s a story out there anyway that Luthor originally set that to what was the barroom tune of the day? Because the tune was known. And instead of it being this ponderous of my I won’t sing it A Mighty Fortress. It was a mighty fortress is our God. That was the the original tune in Psalm 46. Right, that’s right, that he built it on that. So again, using the culture of the day, in order to communicate and advance a movement. And isn’t that how God’s always done it?
Mark Turman 38:45
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, not to endorse things we don’t mean to endorse, but Luther was very proud of his beer making ability was his beer drinking. You used to, he used to mock his friend Philip Malenko. And because, well, my LinkedIn couldn’t hold his beer very well. And Luther could so they often had a lot of jokes.
Jim Denison 39:06
He had his table talks, and they said he did his best work after a couple of beers. That’s funny. He was asked how the Reformation started. You said well, while I ate, drank and ate, slept and drank beer, the Holy Spirit did it all. I’m not saying
Mark Turman 39:22
a Saturday Night Lives good.
Eddie James 39:26
It’s funny, like I am listening all that and it really does harken back to you know, I think about staying at home like being a latchkey kid. And you know, dad, dad moved about, I don’t know 45 minutes down the road and mom went back to school so back in those days, it really was me and my sister coming home after you have the key. You unlock the door, you lock the door, you do your homework and and you get you we have food to eat, and but we watch TV like I watch TV. I can remember you know You’re talking about all the arts. I grew up on TV more than I did sports because I had to stay inside. I can remember. Tuesday night, seven o’clock, Happy Days comes on. And like the Fonz was in the late 70s, early 80s. The Fonz got a library card. The whole country got a library card, right? Yeah, I can remember this one episode. And it was so real to me. But when I think about part of my faith, as weird as it sounds, talking about the arts, there was an episode called Richie almost dies. And basically it must have been sweeps week or something because Richard Cunningham is in motorcycle accident. The Fonz walks in, he’s by by Ritchie’s his best buddies, deathbed. And he sees Richie Lyon there and what I’ll never forget it. I’m like seven years old, eight years old, and by myself. Arthur Fonzarelli, comes around, he looks up and starts talking to God. And as a kid, that was one of the first times I ever saw somebody and he’s crying. And you know, I mean, it’s acting right. I mean, Gary Marshall wrote the thing, right, you know, all these sitcoms, but for me as a seven year old by myself, with the door locked. That was so real. The Fonz is talking to God and I will never forget it as a seven year old going. He is he’s praying, he’s talking to God. And really, like it was a it was a launching pad for me to talk to God. I have journals starting in sixth grade, you know, fifth grade, where it’s my journal to God, and I hadn’t been to church yet. But I think about those little little steps of faith and going. I think Arthur Fonzarelli was like one of my first inductees as far as the arts.
Jim Denison 41:37
He was your first Apostle Paul. He was
Eddie James 41:40
talking to God going God, I don’t know what this is going to do. I don’t know how this is going to look. But if you can’t anyway,
Jim Denison 41:46
you’re here because of Fonz and Saturday Night Live. Jesus. Now we have good guys. And now we’ve got,
Mark Turman 41:57
again, some parallels to my own story, you know, kind of an aimless 17 year old, I’m working in a grocery store, end up at a guy’s house about six or eight of us. 10 of us watching a movie. And it happens to be in this case, a scary movie, which I hate scary movies. I do not watch scary movies do not do any scary movies. But we’re actually watching a movie that some may remember called The Omen with Gregory. dove in and like, this is where I really got convinced never to watch scary movies. But we’re watching this movie. And one of my friends can tell that I am. I’m scared by this movie. He goes, Well, you know, all of this is kind of based on stuff in the Bible. And I’m like, There’s no way this is in the Bible. First time I ever saw guy, reach over, pick up a Bible often off the card table or off the coffee table, walk over to me flip back to the book of Revelation that had some reference to the movie, and says no, look what it says right here. That’s what they’re showing you on the on the movie. Wow. And that started isn’t that amazing? And understand it a pondering and questioning and a searching. Because up until that point, I’d been raised in a devout Catholic Catholic family for 10 years versus 10 years of my life had not had any spiritual influence in my life for six or seven years. Until this moment. Wow, amazing. And this movie starts prompting questions in my mind. And it just it just, that’s how I ended up in this room today.
Tommy Woodard 43:29
That’s so beautiful. It’s beautiful.
Mark Turman 43:30
So I want to go back to something that you’re talking about the category I want to go back to the category, faith based family friendly comedy as a genre. Because I want to think, in some ways, obviously, that’s a natural outgrowth of who you guys have been right in the ministry that you’ve done, and the Ministry of bringing truth and gospel through laughter. So you can kind of easily make that connection. But do you worry in any way about the preconceptions of people who Oh, well, let’s go see that church film that the skit guys did? They’re gonna walk in with an expectation about other faith based movies that they’ve seen. Are you are you concerned about that at all? I’m walking into that,
Tommy Woodard 44:17
no, I’ll be honest with you, I’m not concerned, I Our movie is different. It is unapologetically. Will everyone get exactly what they’re hoping to get, you know? No, but I believe they’ll get what they need. And I think they will be entertained. You know. So I think there may be moments in the movie that they’re waiting for that moment that the non Christian does something evil. And that doesn’t happen in our movie, you know, because not a Christian people aren’t evil. So we shouldn’t be making those kinds of stories but you know, so they may not get that they may not get that thing that makes them leave. Going because I’m a Christian. I’m bad. better than the lost world, you know, but what we have in this movie, besides a lot of laughs I think is real people with real problems. You know? The dads aren’t doofus in this movie. They’re just normal dads
Jim Denison 45:14
and how are the granddad’s? That’s what they things need to be discussed? Yes.
Tommy Woodard 45:27
Yeah, but to answer your question real directly. I’m not worried about that. Now. Do I think it’s possible they might not walk in the theater? Because they’re afraid they won’t get it? That’s possible. I hope they’ll take the chance.
Eddie James 45:38
Yeah, it’s, it’s been very fascinating to go. We’re basically doing what we’ve always done, even since high school like, Okay, we don’t talk like this. But we talk like this. How can we put this out there? How can we portray this? There was even someone that commented, this feels like an Adam Sandler movie without Adam Sandler. And there was a debate of whether that was good or bad, and it’s good. And so if you look at the territory, Adam Sandler bill, and I’m not condoning the territory, but you know exactly what he’s about. So to answer your question, if we could build a territory where people go, I can trust the skit guys. Humor, heart him humor heart him all day long. If they can trust us, we have, we could build that type of territory. And people go, no, they’re good, they’re good. They’re good. That I think over the next 10 years, that could be a really beautiful thing. Yeah. And
Tommy Woodard 46:27
I wonder if it’s maybe even the reintroduction of this genre, right, because I remember I can remember, like you said, the Apple dumping dump gang and those types of movies and that my my parents were completely unconcerned, being negative or destructive to their, they were completely safe with it, we can go we can go and we can go with no hesitation, this will be a great thing. But it really is a genre. Even if you take the faith part off of it is a genre that has been lost lost. In its tragic, most of the last 30 or 40 years. It’s so it’s so sad, you know, and as the church we want to be about building up the family and encouraging the family, we’ve been Edie and I’ve been serving the church for, you know, over 25 years. One of the things we love is we’ll go do our we started off by just doing youth events, right? And then it became church wide events. And so we’ll go do a family night at a church. And you have everyone there from we used to say aged eight to 80. And then six year olds got mad. So now we say, two to 200. But the 200 year olds are really quiet. What we love is in the middle of performing, you’re seeing the grandpa laugh and you’re seeing the little kid laugh. And the great reward is after it’s over. And you’re you know, it’s the glorification of the worm, and you’re shaking hands and talking to people. And that dad that comes up and says, you know, with tears in his eyes, thank you, thank thanks for giving my family something to do together, you know, and I think that’s what we’ve done with this movie.
Jim Denison 48:00
It’s so great, such a gift, you know where to culture right now that says that’s not what you want to make movies for. You either want to make it because you’ve got a message you want to communicate and the message is not what we wish the message was, or because you want to reflect a culture that’s all screwed up. And so for the movie wants to reflect all of that, to go to that third direction that says I really want to communicate a message. But the message is so countercultural, it’s actually enjoyable. It’s actually fun, it’s actually good for your family, is to your point, recreating the past in a way, that isn’t such a different cultural moment. I think a lot of that the past came out of a culture that celebrated that, that that well, that’s what art ought to do. It ought to reflect on a time that was simpler, a time where family really was seen as foundational and holistic and healthy and good. Now let’s come back and almost proactively try to recreate that moment again, and we need some profits to do that. We need some people to go out there and say, you know, this is what the future should look like. Isn’t it a shame that the only time you get to laugh with your family is at this movie? Isn’t it a shame the only place where you feel safe with your family is your well? How are you going to do something about that? How are you going to use your influence to do what we’re doing here on forward sort of a way and I think it just terrific to be that kind of stake in the ground. And that first place forward, you know, thank you for movement, you know, that is really ultimately what we need. I hope so.
Mark Turman 49:16
So just a couple more minutes before we wrap up anything else about this journey? I’m kind of curious about from the time of the phone call to the time the movie was finished how much time that was but anything else about what your ministry is about about the movie specifically that you want people to know as you hit into its release?
Eddie James 49:38
I I think I’ve just been, you know, Tommy will use this verbiage about just just chasing, chasing those those first moments of you know, when we gave our lives to Jesus, and when you’re like, Whoa, this is Oh my goodness, I get to live this out. I get to be about this and and you get to see those God moments. You know, we’re in our 50s and, you know, we’ve got To really young, very, very young, very young, but I want I want that for others. Like I think the little boy in me that teared up watching the Fonz talk to God, like our movie can do that our movie can. Our movie is unapologetically set in this real estate, so to speak, for you to go for families not to have to worry, like the Apple, Apple, Apple Dumpling gang and those types of movies, but they’re going to hear about God, it’s going to point them to God, I remember being in my 20s. And CBS came out with Touched by an Angel. And I remember reading in the Orange County Register on a weekly basis, go on the number one show the number one show the number one show, how was this touched by what like the number one show 34 million people in the 90s. Were watching the show. And every episode was Was there some heart being turned to God and the change that happened with that, all that to say, I hope that’s what we’re doing. I hope that’s I hope people can come. Even if they haven’t set foot in church in a long time. Even if they felt like they’ve lived a wicked lifestyle. They can go alright, I’ll go with you. I don’t want to go with you, Uncle George. But I’m going to go and they go. And they’re, you know, they’re kind of laughing and they didn’t really mean to laugh, but they’re laughing. And but that they’re going to hear a message of hope. Like I hope the little kid in me gets excited for that.
Jim Denison 51:25
We’ll pray to that. Thank you.
Tommy Woodard 51:27
Absolutely. Yeah, I think and he talks about chasing moments. In my story in 1987. I went on a mission trip just graduated high school. I stepped out on a little platform and a church in Mississippi and did a monologue called a substitute worker for children’s shirts. It’s the first time I’ve ever used my gifts and talents to honor God. I was going to go on a week long mission trip. And then I was going to go after Eddie graduated, we were gonna go to New York and be on Saturday Night Live. That was the dream. That was a dream. Oh, I thought if I give God a week, he’s gonna owe me. That’s how
Jim Denison 52:00
we can get from here. Yeah,
Tommy Woodard 52:07
that very first night of that mission trip after it was over. This little lady came up to me and she grabbed my hands. And she said, The Holy Spirit spoke to me tonight through what you did. And we talked about a calling and I do believe in callings. In my own life I go is that a calling? I don’t know. I know what it is, is chasing. I’ve chased that moment. Ever since that moment, and the hope it’s what Eddie and I do together. The hope is that this movie is another one of those things that people will be able to leave. And even if they can’t identify it’s the Holy Spirit. But that they were spoken to by by someone by something, that if they know who he is, they will pursue him even closer. And if they don’t know who he is, they will seek him out. And that and that hopefully, like with your Sunday school teacher, that they will leave going. I want what they have, you know,
Jim Denison 52:58
amen. That’s awesome. Terrific. So that little old lady who knows, oh, my goodness, and that of her authenticity,
Tommy Woodard 53:05
I’m telling you, her willing changed and everything Holy Spirit in your life, change everything. It would be two months later that I invited him to church, he would say yes to God, and everything would change
Jim Denison 53:15
and all the dominoes out of that. Yeah. You cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness. Oh, you just can’t. You cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness. Present. You don’t know this. You just she had no way to know she. Just to say that.
Mark Turman 53:32
This guy’s full of one line.
Jim Denison 53:33
I love it. I love it. Well, but also thinks it that lives cool. So I don’t know. You gotta wait. You know, it’s a challenge.
Mark Turman 53:44
This has been really great. Thank you for joining us. Oh, my God loves humor heart and him. That’s what we try. The movie. The movie is family camp. Yep. releases on May the 13th selected theaters on May the 12th. Some churches and organizations are renting out entire theaters. They are an opportunity for not only a family, but the church family. Great thing to invite people to,
Tommy Woodard 54:10
if I can add in since we’ve just through this process, learn how it all works. But that opening weekend is the key like some people say well, I’ll wait and see. But we have the opportunity as believers to send a message to the industry that we want more faith based comedies more faith based movies. So if you can go that opening weekend, that’s that’s huge. Great,
Jim Denison 54:30
great point. Yeah, it goes to the stats. It goes to how it’s calculated. Everything goes past that. So yeah, we need to send that signal. Yeah, that’s terrific. Now.
Mark Turman 54:37
Thank you guys for joining us for being a part of this conversation. I want to thank our audience for listening to us. I hope the conversation has been helpful to you. If it has hope you’ll share this podcast with others and rate us on your favorite podcasting platform that helps people to know about us find the show, and we look for more good work from Tommy and Eddie from the skit guy. eyes. You can find them online as well. Thank you guys.
Tommy Woodard 55:02
Thank you What a privilege