“I’m a firm believer in God-given dreams,” David A.R. White says. “I remember sitting on a tractor in the middle of a wheat farm, just surrounded by this wheat, and I couldn’t shake this thing inside of me, to into the entertainment industry, to become an actor.”
White, 46, is one of the co-founders of Pure Flix, a film studio specializing in Christian-themed movies. The actor and producer has just published a memoir, “Between Heaven and Hollywood: Chasing Your God-Given Dream.” The book recounts White’s journey from a Mennonite community in Meade, Kansas, to Hollywood, and ultimately Pure Flix, the studio that has released dozens of films, including “God’s Not Dead,” “Woodlawn,” and “The Encounter.”
“It didn’t make any sense,” White, the son of a preacher, told CNSNews.com of his “God-given dreams” of acting as a young man in the 1980s. But “God-given dreams are bigger than us. He wants us to depend on him to then step out.”
White moved from Kansas to Los Angeles in the late 1980s. He got his big break in 1990, when he was an extra on the Burt Reynolds show “Evening Shade.” Extras are not supposed to speak, but when there was a pause in a scene White, who was playing a student who had taken a test, offered a line to Reynolds: “I got a B, coach.”
Reynold’s replied, “Good work, Philpott.” White was suddenly no longer an extra, but a reoccurring character on “Evening Shade.” There followed several years of success on TV and in movies.
“Evening Shade” went off the air in 1994, and for White work dried up. Much of “Between Heaven and Hollywood” is devoted to life lessons about dry periods, faith, and turning failure to success. He writes, “Many Christians are prepared to face or deal with failure…[but] there is a difference between someone who fails as a Christian and a Christian who fails.” White believes that "failures can be stepping stones to God-given dreams."
In 2005 White and two partners, Russell Wolfe and Michael Scott, founded Pure Flix. “I had this thing inside of me,” White recalls. “I wanted to tell stories, I wanted to be on the producing side. I had known the Christian film industry because I had grown up as a Christian.”
After a few small scale films that had modest success, White and his partners wanted to do a film called “God’s Not Dead.”
“We had to raise about $6 million and we couldn’t do it to save our lives,” White remembers. “Yet we believed that the Lord was telling us to put this film in theaters. The faith-based studios wanted nothing to do with the movie. Nobody saw it. But the Lord had put it on our hearts. Opening weekend came, the Lord showed up at the every end, we got what we needed, it hit theaters, and of course it went on to become the biggest grossing independent movie of 2004.” "God's Not Dead" made $62 million on a $2 million budget.
In recent years, Christian film like “The Blind Side” and “Miracles from heaven” have made large profits.
“Hollywood has started to take notice,” White says. “Apparently there’s some faith-based people in this country. Hollywood forgets there’s 150 million people who go to church at least once a month and there is a hunger for these films.”