Filmmaker Andy Erwin shared about the perils and rewards of his filmmaking career during a recent discussion with TAB Media about his latest film, “American Underdog,” the story of NFL MVP and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner.
“We’re just kids from Alabama that fell in love with storytelling,” Erwin said. “[People] kind of discounted Birmingham as a place that filmmakers could come from and we … always came in with a chip on our shoulder and said, ‘We’re proud to show what Alabama can do.’”
Erwin and his brother Jon have been making movies together for 25 years. Originally from Birmingham, they now live in Nashville.
“We started with music videos back in the day, and we ended up doing a small little independent feature,” he recounted. “We … shot a lot of it at Samford University [in Birmingham]. It was called ‘October Baby’ and that kind of launched things off.”
The brothers made the comedy “Mom’s Night Out” in 2014, “Woodlawn” in 2015 and “I Can Only Imagine” in 2018.
“’I Can Only Imagine’ was the one that really put us on the map,” said Erwin, adding that the success of the film led them to direct “I Still Believe,” then “American Underdog.”
Filmmaking with purpose
Erwin shared about how their films include a faith component.
He recalled that the two were working on a Kendrick Brothers film when Alex Kendrick approached Jon on the set of “Courageous” and asked, “‘Jon, what’s your purpose?’ He said, ‘It’s time for you and your brother to find your stories to tell.’
“We decided to jump into the deep end not knowing what we were getting into. God has a way of not showing you the end destination,” Erwin said.
He joked that if he had seen the challenges they would face along the way, he might have run the other direction.
“I think God gave us just enough success to keep us from quitting and just enough struggle to keep us from ourselves and [to depend] on Him,” he added.
And the Erwin brothers have been busy. They currently are shooting two films with two more in development.
Not only is the work pouring in, Erwin said, but they are attracting big names like Dennis Quaid and Anna Paquin, who appear in “American Underdog.”
“Faith films had not really proven themselves, but because of the success of the Kendricks and breaking down that door, that ultimately led to us having our breakout,” Erwin recounted. “Now it’s seen as a legitimate genre. More and more God is opening doors like that and I’m really excited about it.”
Erwin addressed how the quality of each film has appeared to improve.
“Quality is something you always chase,” he acknowledged, “but it’s not something you always catch. We aspire with each one to get a little bit better, and I think God has allowed us to have the longevity now to … understand the discipline of what we’re doing … .
“[I]t’s been really cool to see God open those opportunities for us to stretch with each project. And with the talent coming around in front of the camera it’s just been really cool to see it compete on a legitimate level.”
Erwin got the chance to work closely with Kurt Warner in making “American Underdog” as he translated his story onto the big screen.
“Kurt Warner is a champ in every sense of the word,” Erwin said. “There’s something universally loved about Kurt’s story. He is the ultimate underdog.”
American Underdog highlights the true story of Warner, played by Zachary Levi, who went from a grocery store stocker to a two-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion and Hall of Fame quarterback. The story also focuses on the support he received from his wife Brenda, played by Anna Paquin, and his family to reach his ultimate goal of playing in the NFL.
More information is available at www.americanunderdog.movie.