‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ Proves How to Finish a Trilogy

While not exactly a golden rule, it is known fact that if a movie does well in the box office, chances are good that it will be followed by sequel and more often than not, we’ve come to expect that the sequel won’t measure up to the original. Add a third movie to the mix and you’re just asking for trouble. With animated movies, the expectations are often even lower. (Is anyone really surprised that the Ice Age movies keep getting worse?) But sometimes, as is the case with the Disney/Pixar Toy Story movies, we’re pleasantly surprised. Now you can add How to Train Your Dragon to that short list too.

One thing that DreamWorks Animation has understood about this series is that the story comes first, the hijinks come later. The very first Dragon movie proved that way back in 2010 with a strong story and with each chapter that has come after it, that story just keeps getting better. What started out as a cute kid’s story has become a powerful trilogy. We've seen these chara…

Director Shares His Heart for Christians and Veterans in New Film

Harold Cronk director of "God Bless the Broken Road"
Harold Cronk director of "God Bless the Broken Road" (Facebook)
Remember in 2014 when that “little” Christian film, God’s Not Dead, came to town? At the time, the movie wasn’t well known or so it appeared. The independent film opened in the top 10.

“I think it surprised everybody,” director Harold Cronk told me over the phone last week. “We had a very modest budget for that movie and we had hopes that it would make some noise, but I don’t think anybody could have predicted what God was going to do with it.”

The PureFlix movie had a budget of $2,000,000. The first weekend after it opened it made over four times that amount and by the end of its run it made over $60,000,000 in the U.S. alone. But what was the secret to its success?

“You know, I think the film was kind of a rallying call for the faith at that time,” says Cronk. “I feel like there was a large sector of the movie-going audience that was feeling marginalized and it was a way that they could voice their opinion at the box office and support that film.”

Faith-based films are important to Cronk and 10 West Studios who are hoping for a similar effect when the company’s largest undertaking, God Bless the Broken Road, comes to theaters this week.

“If we want to continue to have this type of content available, we need to go support it at the box office and not wait for it to come out on DVD. Not wait for Netflix. Because if we stop having successes in the box office with these family films, they’re not going to be around anymore and what are we going to be left with?”

The story of God Bless the Broken Road centers on Amber, a devout and idealistic Christian whose world comes crashing down when she learns that her husband has been killed during combat. Though the story ends on a positive note, Amber’s road is certainly broken and things get worse before they get better. The film is a passion project for Cronk for a number of reasons.

“We wanted to put a film out there that was going to connect with people who are traveling down broken roads,” says the director. “I know that I’m traveling a broken road, and so many people in this country are hurting and we wanted to give them something that they could relate to. We also wanted them to know that there’s hope no matter where you’re at in your life. God is there for you. You might not be where you want to be at the moment but, He’s got you right where he needs you to be at that moment.”

Robin Givens, Lindsay Pulsipher and
Jordin Sparks (10 West Studios)
The role of Amber, who appears in almost every scene of the film, is played by Lindsay Pulsipher who is probably best known for her work in HBO's True Blood and the miniseries The Hatfields & McCoys. I asked how he came about using Pulsipher for the main role.

“I remembered her from The Hatfield and the McCoys, which was a great miniseries, and she had recently worked with Philip Roy, my cinematographer,” says Cronk. “We we’re having a hard time trying to find the right actress for the role and he said, ‘Cronk, just reach out to Lindsay and call her, talk to her.’ And I called her and we hit it off. She instantly understood what the challenges that character were going to be. Lindsay is such a brave actress and such a committed actress and she did not shy away from this challenge. I am so proud of her and the performance that she delivers in the film.”

Though the film features a great cast including Andrew W. Walker, Kim Delaney, Robin Givens and Jordin Sparks, when I asked who of the cast surprised him the most, the person who immediately came to mind was LaDainian Tomlinson. This was the first acting role for the former San Diego Chargers player. A bit of “stunt casting” if you will.

“If you say LaDanian Tomlinson, the first thing that comes to mind is one of the greatest NFL running backs of all time,” says Cronk. “You don’t expect him to walk on set for the first time in his life as an actor and deliver a believable and honest sermon from the front of the church. He’s an incredible man and were so honored to have him be a part of this picture. He really did a nice job for us.”

The fact that Tomlinson’s mother is a baptist preacher might have had something to do with his believeability in the role. So, how did the casting of a famous football player come about?

La Damian Tomlinson (10 West Studios)
“So, we wanted to make a unique choice in the cast,” says Cronk. “It’s always fun to have an interesting story behind who you brought onto the film and sometimes those decisions can backfire on you, but as we were discussing this role, one of our executive producers said, ‘You know, Harold, I’m good friends with LaDainian Tomlinson. Would you like to talk with him and see if there’s an interest?’ So…for selfish reasons I said, ‘Of course I want to meet him!’ being a football fan myself. ‘So sure, Gary, please. Why don’t you set up that phone call and I’ll try to put two words together.’”

In the end, Cronk can’t say enough nice things about the man who turned out to be a huge blessing for the picture. Harold also wanted to mention Liam Matthew, an actor and Cronk’s partner at Ten West Studios. “He plays Darren Hill, the soldier that was killed in the movie. He did a great job in that role and really – in one moment in the film – he becomes the message of the movie. It was just so fantastic and so glad to have him in part of this movie.”

Though God Bless the Broken Road deals with the aftermath of a death of a war hero, Cronk and his partners wanted this film to not only minister to Christians, but to also give them a tool to help bring people “back to the pews on Sundays” as well as finding practical ways to serve and honor veterans.
“My partners and I all have such a huge place in our hearts for [veterans] and their families. We wanted to actually create a way for the film to do something – to put the love that we feel for these people into action.” A big theme of this film is putting love into action and so, 10 West Studios is donating 5% of the net profits of the film to the oldest military charity in the country, Disabled American Veterans.

“They are an incredible group of folks, boots on the ground, every day, helping our veterans and their families, making sure that they have the basic services they need.” Not only that, but Cronk tells me about a special partnership his team has created with Restaurant.com and Fandango. “We have put together this program called, Bless a Vet. People can go online on our website and they can purchase dinner and a movie for a veteran. For $25, they get a $25 Restaurant.com gift card and a ticket to go see God Bless the Broken Road. In exchange for people doing that, they themselves get a $25 Restaurant.com gift card, so it’s a no-lose situation.”

God Bless the Broken Road opens nationwide on September 7, 2018. Watch the trailer here.


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