Kevin Downes is executive producer of Jesus’ music, in theaters now. He is also an actor, screenwriter and director, and head of production and distribution for Kingdom Story Company, a Christian entertainment company. Jesus’ music (listen to my podcast review here) features artists and their music to explain how and where contemporary Christian music began and evolved. Here is an edited version of my conversation with him about why he wanted to release this movie in theaters and the challenges he was facing. We also talked about his relationship with his wife and children and how God made his family bigger.
You could easily have made a second documentary on Christian music with all the potential material. Was it difficult to limit the project to one film? We’ve had over 100 interviews, over 300 hours of content. We wondered if maybe we should make it a miniseries. But at its core, Kingdom Story Company is a feature film production company. Usually documentaries aren’t our thing, although we’ve done a few. We just decided: what an opportunity to create an hour and 40 minute feature film and craft a compelling story, release it in theaters and let people come together on their entry point into Christian music? .
Would you like to talk about your personal journey of faith? I was born and raised in the Central Valley of California. I became a believer when I was 8 years old. A friend in third grade invited me to an AWANA group. Then in high school I went to my first concert of Christian music — it was a Michael W. Smith concert in Fresno. And I just couldn’t believe how amazing the music was. It was like, wow, they were singing something that I totally believe in, and I can connect. I became a fan of Christian music as a teenager. When I graduated from high school I came to Los Angeles and wanted to be an actor. When I was 21, I auditioned for a Christian movie that I didn’t know was a Christian because there weren’t any Christian movies in the early 90s, other than maybe a few Billy Graham movies. And I got picked for the lead role with a good friend of mine. From there, God put it on my heart: “This is what I want you to do with the rest of your life: be able to create Christian films.
What do you hope as a result Jesus’ music? I hope people go to the movies and be inspired that these artists have a real passion to be able to sing the music from their hearts that we always love. I love one of Chris Tomlin’s quotes from the movie, “Music is our gift from God.” And he really believes in it. I hadn’t realized how many Chris Tomlin songs we sing in church. I so appreciate all these artists and the sacrifices they make so that we can enjoy this music.
Can you tell me about your next projects? We have American Underdog, the story of Kurt Warner. It hits theaters on Christmas Day. It’s about how Warner struggled during his early years of playing in college, met his wife, and then, within a few years, went from supermarket shelf inventory to being Super Bowl MVP. . It is the story of his perseverance and his faith. Coming out of the pandemic, I think this message is important.
After that we have a movie called Unbreakable boy, which hits theaters on March 15. It’s in the vein of the film Wonder, where the central character is a 10 or 11 year old child with an inextinguishable spirit. He teaches the life lessons his parents need to hear and then goes through various trials and struggles. And, my boy, don’t our children sometimes give us the best examples, adults.
We are going into production in a few months on a film called Jesus’ revolution.
What’s the hardest part about trying to be successful in the film industry? Movies are so hard to make. You talk, first of all, of creating a story and getting the people you’re making the film with to agree on it. Then you have to hire a team, launch and put it all together. For us, it usually takes about a year from start to finish, and that is if there are no hiccups or issues. Nobody really gives you anything when you’re in the industry.
During this past pandemic year, what has been one of the greatest spiritual lessons you have learned? For me, it’s a matter of patience. When the pandemic started, we were ripped off the rug. We had a movie that was in theaters (I still believe), which suddenly wasn’t in theaters. It looked like a lot of people were going to show up, and it was disappointing because we had been working so hard on it for so long. I was home for the next four or five months and I was also battling the disease: I got the flu, then three months later I got COVID-19. But through it all, I learned that I really, really treasure the times I have with my kids and family. For me, the pandemic was a time to hit ‘reset’ and love them more.
What would you like people to know about you that they don’t know? I have been married for almost 25 years now. I love my family. My wife is awesome. She’s probably more patient than she should be, because making movies takes a lot of travel, so I don’t have a traditional schedule. I love my children, and God had a plan for it. My wife and I struggled with infertility for nine years, and we didn’t know why. But God guided us and put our two hearts in place to adopt this little boy from Haiti who is now 13 years old. He came home when he was 21 months old, and man, he’s such a special gift to us. I love that God places my heart there. Sometimes you have expectations of how life is going to be and what you think you want, but in the end God has another plan, another desire. And I love the way He changes it in an instant.