All posts by David Powers

New Documentary Film Project Underway

I‘m excited to start a new documentary film project, tentatively entitled, “HOME.” I will produce this feature-length film under the auspices of Belltower Pictures. We will provide a platform for those living in urban public housing to tell their stories… stories that will make you smile, cry, laugh, and quite possibly get angry.

This is not a dry, issue-focused documentary filled with statistics. It is a family of compelling stories, told in first-person by people who are living their lives in the face of incredible challenges. We’ll see and hear how they’re succeeding… and in some cases, failing while trying to find a safe, affordable home in which to raise their families.

‟Stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

– Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TEDGlobal 2009

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Why can’t we laugh at ourselves?

Brother Bob & JoshWe take ourselves way too seriously.

Nowhere is the paranoia more obvious than in churches.

I discovered this phenomenon while trying to promote our film, “By the Grace of Bob” over the last year. Those who seem to be most uncomfortable with our film are clergy. One pastor was honest enough to tell me, “I was really uncomfortable watching your film. It depicts the stereotype that I’m not, but that everybody outside my church thinks I am.”

I understand. I spent most of my career as a church staff member. A Baptist church. I was usually quick to point out to a new acquaintance, “But not that kind of Baptist.”

We’ve had such a hard time getting “church folks” to give our film a chance that we pulled it from distribution, gave it a new title, and we’re now re-releasing it as secular entertainment.

(Another “strike” against our film is that it has Muslim and gay characters. If you want to kill the buzz in most churches these days, just mention those two groups. But that’s a topic for another story.)

The film is satire. And if they would give it a chance, our movie could spark some timely and meaningful discussion among people inside the sacred spaces of our land. It could allow religious folks to talk about why those outside their religious bubbles see them as irrelevant at best… and dangerous at worst.

As one astute reviewer noted, “Many films set out to accomplish satire. Unfortunately, some of them aren’t funny at all; others, end up highlighting their mean-spirited critique without ever loving their subject. To walk the fine line of critique and laughs, a film must actually appreciate the thing which it critiques and have a sense of humor. Powers’ film accomplishes that… With humor and challenges for the church. (Jacob Sahms review at

I’m grateful that Jacob “got it.” I hope more church folks will let down their defenses long enough to have a laugh and join the conversation. God knows we need it.


How to succeed as an independent filmmaker

All you gotta do is…

  • Go to AFM or Cannes and ask distributors what’s selling. Then go make that kind of movie.
  • Put at least three “names” in your film. (must have a 300 or lower Starmeter on IMDb. This week, that excludes Mel Gibson, Renée Zellweger, Bruce Willis, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, and Nicole Kidman.)

    Production still from SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL. Paul Bickford, photographer.
    Production still from BY THE GRACE OF BOB. Paul Bickford, photographer.
  • Budget as much on marketing as you do on production.
  • Engage top-notch social media professionals to start and build the buzz around your film from the early stages of development all the way through the final distribution window.
  • Turn out an excellent film, of course!
  • Rinse and repeat.

That’s what I’ve heard in conversations and workshops at film festivals and filmmaker forums over the last few years.

But those steps don’t assure success. Disney, Columbia, Castle Rock, and Touchstone have all released films that lost millions of dollars despite A-list talent, top-tier writers and directors, and nearly bottomless wells of money for development, production and marketing.

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