A month out from the release of the film Let Hope Rise, Hillsong United singers Joel Houston and Taya Smith have hinted at moments of both tension and humour during the making of the film.
The pair were interviewed by US Christian radio host Gary ‘Wally’ Wallace, who asked them to reveal what went on behind the scenes (watch below).
Joel said he never really got used to the Hollywood-sized cameras following them around while the movie was being made.
“It was very obtrusive, because they weren’t small cameras. They were these giant things. We would be sitting there trying to have a serious moment, write a record, and this giant camera would just kind of float into your face. I’d just stare at it like a deer in headlights.”
Refusing to Create Scenes for the Camera
When asked whether the film’s creators ever asked the band to set-up or recreate scenarios, Joel said they did ask—but the band refused.
“Multiple times, and we refused to do it,” he said. “They would ask, ‘Hey Joel, can we get you to come back into the room, and just strike up something with a bit of a tension, about the fact that you really need a song today? And I’d be like, ‘but we don’t need a song today’.
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“I’m grateful because we just refused to try and do anything different to what we normally do, and I think that’s what comes across in the movie, it feels authentic. And that was our only prayer for it.”
The making of the film did result in at least one blooper – in which fell off his pushbike while trying to avoid a pedestrian on New York’s Sixth Avenue. And Taya joked that “the film” itself is one big blooper, full of potentially embarrassing and raw moments.
Director a ‘Better Man’ for Knowing Joel, Taya & Friends
Let Hope Rise is not the creation of Hillsong Church but of an independent group of Hollywood film-makers, including director Michael John Warren, who has worked with celebrities like Nicki Minaj and Jay Z.
Joel explained that because Warren isn’t a man of faith, he directed the film from a non-faith perspective.
“He was kind of exploring the whole thing from the outside looking in which is really cool,” he said.
In an interview with Christian Post Warren said that spending a year delving into the music and work of Hillsong United both inspired and changed him, even though he’s not a believer.
“Their mission — without exaggeration — is to make music to save souls,” he told CP when talking about the United crew.
“They are trying to get people to discover Jesus. That’s probably the most righteous reason to make music. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard to look at that and not feel good about it.”
“I don’t believe the same things…but I’m learning from them and I’m taking lessons from them.” ~ Director, Michael John Warren
Warren said he became friends with Joel Houston and his fellow musicians.
“I’m not a religious person… but I learned things from working with and becoming friends with the members of Hillsong United,” he said. “They are lovely people. They are sincerely giving. They are sincerely supportive. I don’t believe the same things they believe, but I’m learning from them and I’m taking lessons from them, and I believe I’ve become a better person having spent a year studying them.”
Moments of Tension
Joel told the movie website MovieGuide that the film revealed the pressure the band sometimes feels when writing new worship songs, because they want to communicate God’s heart well.
“There’s a responsibility there,” he said. “What we’re talking about is the most important story there is. We want to do it in a way not so much that it’s perfect, or ticks all the boxes, but that is honest.
“Sometimes writing the honest thing involves a lot of self-searching and going to deep places, and that can be painful and challenging. I think you see that in the film a little bit – a glimpse – but in such a way that, maybe there’s more to this whole thing called life.
“That’s our prayer for it: that people would understand that there’s a God in heaven who is personal.”
A ‘Theatrical Worship Experience’
The IMDB website describes Let Hope Rise as ‘new genre’ unto itself: “the theatrical worship experience”.
“The film explores Hillsong’s humble beginnings and astonishing rise to prominence as an international church whose songs are sung every Sunday by more than 50 million people worldwide,” says the movie’s description.
The film hits selected cinemas on September 16.