Brothers Following Call to Make Movies

By   •   July 2, 2013

Erwin bros

Jon and Andrew Erwin weren’t old enough to drive a car when they told their father what they wanted to do for a living.

“They said, ‘Dad, we think God is calling us to make movies,'” recalled Hank Erwin, a former Alabama state senator and longtime radio and television broadcaster.

Some parents wouldn’t have taken their kids seriously, but Hank and Sheila Erwin helped their boys buy their first video camera.

It wasn’t long before the idea for Erwin Brothers Motion Pictures was born. Hank Erwin says his two sons, four years apart in age, were only in junior high school.

From ESPN to ‘October Baby’

As teenagers, Jon and Andy Erwin honed their skills by shooting short films for a youth camp in New York and operating video cameras for ESPN. They landed the ESPN gig because a regular employee needed a last-minute replacement–just one of many moments in the Erwins’ career that seemed to be more than coincidence.

As the brothers ventured into documentaries, they found favor–and controversy–in a faith-based project called The Cross and the Towers. The film tells the true story of steel beams in the shape of crosses, found inexplicably standing upright at Ground Zero. The crosses encouraged exhausted and traumatized rescue workers in the weeks following 9/11. The film racked up awards at festivals around the country–and caught the eye of Christian music artist Michael W. Smith.

Within a few years, Jon and Andy had directed music videos for Smith, Third Day, Montgomery Gentry, Skillet, Casting Crowns, and Nicole C. Mullen, to name a few. The Gospel Music Association honored the brothers with three consecutive Dove awards for music video of the year.

As the successes piled up, Jon and Andy acknowledged the One who was guiding their every move.

“God allows us to do what we do,” said Andy Erwin in a 2008 interview, four years before he and Jon saw the fruits of their most intensive labor yet–the full length feature film, October Baby.

The brothers’ mom, Sheila Erwin, said a third of the budget for October Baby came from “Nana,” Jon and Andy’s grandmother.

The film had strong Christian themes involving the sanctity of life and the freedom of forgiveness, and it took the movie industry by surprise. Opening No. 8 at the box office, October Baby made nearly $3 million its first weekend, despite showing in fewer than 400 theaters.

Nana’s investment paid off.

Telling the story of a young woman who realizes she is the result of a failed abortion, October Baby has a pro-life message that is forgiving, not condemning. The Erwin brothers called the film “an opportunity to serve, give back and save lives” without being “preachy.”

“I’m not a preacher, and I’m not a politician,” said Andy Erwin. “I’m a storyteller.”

‘Christians Like to Laugh, Too’

After October Baby, the Erwin brothers had a big decision to make.

“What is it that we want to commit the next year of our lives to?” said Andy Erwin.

Instead of going for another tearjerker, Jon and Andy decided to try something different: a comedy. Not just any comedy–a movie the whole family could watch together, without worrying about constant cursing or cringe-worthy, explicit scenes Mom and Dad would have to explain to their kids after the credits rolled.

Enter Mom’s Night Out. The Erwins just wrapped principal photography on the movie, which follows a stressed-out mom and her friends who just want one night to themselves. When the dads take over parenting duties, hilarity ensues.

“It’s going to be a laugh-out-loud, hysterical family comedy,” said Andy Erwin on the set of Mom’s Night Out, which was filmed on location in Birmingham, Alabama. “Christians like to laugh, too.”

The movie, set to be released in 2014, features a star-studded cast including Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond, The Middle), Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings), Alex Kendrick (Courageous), and country music artist Trace Adkins (The Lincoln Lawyer).

The Erwin brothers and Mom’s Night Out producer Kevin Downes say they came up with a wish list of actors for the film and got their first choice for every role.

Some would call it luck; the Erwin family knows it’s a “God thing.”

“It’s been quite a process of watching God do what God does,” said Sheila Erwin, who spent a good deal of time on the set, along with her husband. “If you can dream it, God can do it.”

Celebrating Motherhood

While the film is primarily a comedy, Jon and Andy believe it will also be an encouragement to parents–especially moms–who get bogged down in the chaos of raising children.

“We wanted to make a movie that celebrates the beauty of motherhood,” said Andy Erwin.

Jon echoed his brother’s sentiments, saying he hopes the film will show women “how near and dear to the heart of God the role of ‘mom’ is.”

He hopes the encouragement will start with his own wife, by making her feel “affirmed and important, and that all the mayhem of parenthood is worth it,” said Jon Erwin. “And that God has her right where she is supposed to be.”

As they continue work on their second feature film, it seems evident God has Jon and Andy Erwin right where they’re supposed to be.

While Hank Erwin watches his sons raise their own children and live out their dream of making movies, he can’t help but beam.

“I’m mighty proud of my boys.”

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  1. Kal James says:

    Very encouraging something to grow on.

  2. Wolfgang Schwartzenweintraub says:

    October baby had me in tears the entire movie. I survived an abortion and never met my mother or father. My mother was an Army nurse who had an affair with my biological father. I would like to thank the priest who set Rachel Hendrix straight because he set me straight. I had harbored resentment of my parents the entire 78 years of my life. I am now free because of your movie and can put it behind me. I study counseling at the graduate level here on Guam University. Should be about 80 when I finish. Then I can help returning vets come home to their families. Gods Blessing to you Brothers Irwin. With all due respect;
    Wolfgang M. Schwartzenweintraub

  3. Vickie Thompson says:

    So happy for you and your ministry. Our son Jeremiah was at WOL when you were there. He did the sound at the Inn and BI. God bless! Our prayers are with you. Keep up your Great work for our Lord and Savior.

  4. Kimberly says:

    I have had a dream to be in Christian films. God showed me through the dramas and skits he has used me in how it hits the heart! I feel his presence evetytime I’m on stage. I don’t see anyone just me in character and how God is moving in me. I just saw you on TBN… yiu spoke to my soul. I believe in what your ministry is doing… How can I join in on a movie for Christ? Also I have a daughter who has mental illness how about a movie that touches on that. God is keeping me strong for her I have been learning about mental illness through an organization called Nami. Also learning about people who have suicidal tendencies. It is a real issue that has really not been toI know God is opening doors for me to talk about these things in the church

  5. Vicky Cunningham says:

    Thank you sooooo very much for obeying what God asked you to do. I thank God for the people around you that God brought into your lives and they were obedient. They probably didn’t even know it. Thank you for the movies in the future for I am wanting to go back to the movie theater. Several years back I was looking for G rated movies. There was only one. I do not remember the name of the movie. It didn’t interest me to go see it. Thank you for showing us how to fight a good fight of faith. Remembering how the 12 disciples were beaten and put on the cross upside down and prison. So we may have the freedom to worship, praise, honor God freely. Remember to STAND FIRM ON WHAT WE BELIEVE. In Jesus Name of Nazareth. Amen Amen

  6. Jennifer Pozo says:

    I would love to work for your in the Christian movie making projects

  7. Georgia Steele says:

    Love your movies.

  8. Yvonne mort says:

    As a chistian who doesn’t understand why the world of entertainment thinks it has to sink to the baseness in human nature to entertain,Thank you for showing you can be christian and fully human.

  9. G. Rycke says:

    Thank you so much guys for your work. I thank God for your lives. I enjoy watching movies and much more movies with the values you show very well. Continue that. Seeing you doing what you were born for is a blessing. God bless!!

  10. Debi Estopellan says:

    We watched the movie tonight for Family Night. My teenager and Middle Schooler loved it. Thank you for sticking with your values and saying the name of your Savior, and mine too. It is so refreshing to hear “Jesus” during a movie. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world.