Welch’s involvement isn’t the only iconoclastic element of the Kickstarter-funded project. The film debuts digitally on Sept. 6 for free to anyone in the world who wants it. In addition to the lack of the price tag, Wanderlust Productions, the company behind “Holy Ghost,” will sponsor a live-streaming concert with Welch and Christian band Jake Hamilton & The Sound at California’s Redding Civic Auditorium.
“Christians unfortunately have been given a bad rap,” said Welch. “I’m excited for real people to be able to talk about faith and not scare people away from it. It’s all about love and meeting God and having our eyes opened.”
Welch has been outspoken in the past about how faith helped him kick his addictions to drugs and alcohol, so his involvement in the making and promotion of “Holy Ghost” was a natural fit.
“It’s like I’ve been shown where to get a billion dollars and it’s like I can share all the money with everybody else,” Welch said. “Celebrities are given a platform and we’ve got to use it for something, because we’re all going to be accountable one day, so it’s important to use it wisely.”
If it works, expect Hollywood to take notice. Religious films such as “Heaven is For Real” and “God’s Not Dead” have stunned box office analysts this year. Arriving with minimal budgets and marketing campaigns, they’ve been able to effectively tap into the faith-based community in a way that enables them to outperform far glossier productions.
“Holy Ghost” is cut from the same cloth. The film primarily consists of interviews with religious figures such as author William P. Young and “Heaven is for Real” producer DeVon Franklin, as well as musicians such as Lenny Kravitz, talking about the ways their faith informs their work or the miracles they say they have witnessed.
Its production is certainly unique, given that the film never relied on a shooting script. Director Darren Wilson said he was interested in letting the film build organically instead of having a rigidly pre-determined structure or set interviews. He ended up with enough footage for two films and a sequel, “Holy Ghost Reborn,” is due out next year.
“I wanted to throw caution to the wind and take a risk,” said Wilson. “It ended up being exhilarating and terrifying.”
Wanderlust CEO Braden Heckman says the company is able to offer the film for free because it was fully funded on Kickstarter and he is confident that audiences will ultimately decide to buy their own copies once they’ve seen the finished product. On Kickstarter, the film raised $360,000 in just 45 days, which Wanderlust claims is the most money raised by a faith-based film in the history of the platform.
To help market the picture, the filmmakers are leaning heavily on a grassroots campaign that will see 650 churches host simulcasts for members of their congregation. It has also built up impressive social media outreach, promoting the film to a network of 230,000 Facebook fans.
“We aren’t betting everything on one night and going, oh how is this going to be profitable?” he said. “It already is profitable, because fans funded the whole thing.”
Part of the goal of the film is to challenge conventional ideas of what it means to be Christian by enlisting the likes of Welch and Kravitz. By distributing the picture digitally and relying on these pop culture figures, “Holy Ghost’s” creative team hopes they will be able to appeal to Millennials.
“‘Holy Ghost’ is about people inviting God into their heart and life and going out into world and not staying in church judging people and how they live and saying ‘prepare for hell,’” said Welch. “We want to show people the real Christ.”