Brad Silverman enthusiastically projects optimism and hope when discussing his latest project,Grace Unplugged. The film, starring AJ Michalka (Aly and AJ) and James Denton (Desperate Housewives), follows the prodigal journey of Grace (Michalka) as she explores the world of rock’n’roll that her worship music leader father (Denton) discarded years ago. Navigating the twists and turns of their relationship and Grace’s quest to discover where she should use her gifts, the film is a knockout in terms of storytelling, acting, and delivery that will leave you asking, “where is your heart?”
Fresh off of Movieguide’s Faith and Film Awards, Silverman has taken home the Epiphany Prize, for most inspiring film, and finds that already, the phone calls are getting answered a little faster. His sense of reality comes from his own admission that he’s “a pretty average guy,” determined to ask himself and others if they are living to glorify God or themselves. Faced with concerns about whether Denton’s father figure can be depicted as struggling at home leading a family, Silverman says, “We’re all blinded to our own flaws.”
Here, Silverman sees no separation between the secular and the sacred. “As we’re walking with God, in God’s word, transformed by the Holy Spirit, we should use our gifts and abilities to make good [art].” That’s the rub for Grace and her father, one that has played out in millions of Christian homes where a parent and teenager see different ways to make an impact on the world.
It’s his own experience of success and failure that drive the relationships in Silverman’s script. Jewish until his mid-twenties, the writer/director was witnessed to by a faithful friend and converted to Christianity. Exploring youth ministry, he discovered that yes, teenagers could be out of line, but that parents weren’t always handling things in the best ways they could.
“Kids are going through what is probably the most awkward time of their lives,” Silverman says, “and parents are trying to deal with those kids, but they need to be refocused on what God would have them do in that situation.”
Silverman says that “Christ is the inevitable answer to all of our problems,” but he never wanted the movie to be a “medicine pill.” He wants people of all backgrounds to see it, enjoy it, and learn from the relationship between Grace and her dad.
That’s where Grace Unplugged succeeds in my mind: it’s not that Grace or her dad are “right,” but that they need to grow together. In a pivotal scene, Silverman remembers giving direction, standing between the two actors. “I made waves with my hands, holding my arms up, and while at any point in the wave motion, one could be higher or lower, we aimed to be dead even in the middle,” he says. “There are so many movies where the kid has to see the error of his ways or they paint the dad as this obnoxiously overbearing parent, and I didn’t want the audience to see it as black and white.”
Still, Silverman admits that parenting under God is a growing, moving thing, as the father of two teens and two younger boys. “You better believe I love my kids,” Silverman recounts, “but they’ve seen plenty of Grace and sometimes at home, they’ll say, ‘you know, you’re starting to sound like the dad…’”
It’s tough being the director of an award-winning film AND a dad, no doubt. Your toughest audience, bound to keep you on your toes, is always waiting for you at home.
This interview was originally published on HollywoodJesus.com.