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The Filmmaker Who Never Went to the Movies

By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

CBN.comOKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA (ANS) -- The man inspired to make the new film End of the Spear—about five missionaries slain in Ecuador in the Fifties—never set foot in a movie theater until a few years ago.

“I was raised not to go to movies," says Mart Green, founder of Every Tribe Entertainment. His parents and grandparents never set foot in a movie theater either, and he maintained that standard with his own children.

Yet on January 20th, he’s set to release a $20 million film about five American missionaries who dared to make contact with one of the most violent tribes ever documented by anthropologists. In End of the Spear, Green explores the story that’s never been told before—from the tribe’s perspective, demonstrating the remarkable way God altered the tribe’s brutal behavior.

Green grew up in a retailing family. His father founded Hobby Lobby, a $1.5 billion chain of arts and crafts stores scattered throughout 28 states. Following his father’s retailing path, the younger Green launched a chain of Christian bookstores in 1981, which grew to 21 mega-stores today.

Eight years ago, Green witnessed something that changed the course of his life. On a trip to Guatemala he watched a man receive a Bible for the first time from Wycliffe Bible Translators. “This guy waited 40 years to get his Bible and he wept and wept,” Green recalls. The man’s tears left an indelible mark.

Green woke up that night about 2:00 a.m. with a sense of conviction. “I wasn’t reading God’s Word on a consistent basis,” he admits. “I made a vow to read God’s Word consistently for the rest of my life.”

Shortly after that, a friend invited Green to get involved in a marketing effort for the Bible patterned after the “Got Milk” campaign. As he sought the Lord about the right theme and tone to set for their proposed series of 30-second commercials, Green pulled out a tape he had lying on a shelf. It was about the five missionaries: Jim Eliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian who were killed in 1956.

In the tape, Mincaye, one of the tribesmen who took part in the killings says: “We acted badly -- badly until they brought us God’s carvings. Now we walk his trail.” As he listened to the tape while driving in his car, he decided their story fit the theme that most captured the heart of their project: ‘This book is alive.’

“I started weeping in the middle of a Wal-Mart parking lot,” Green recalls. He suddenly phoned his friends and said: “I’m working on this 30-second commercial, but someday there’s going to be a movie to help our cause!” Yet he never envisioned it would become his project.

Seven months later Green’s friend called and urged him to make a film about the missionaries. “I said, ‘Whoa, I do Christian bookstores—I can’t really do two jobs.’” He thought of every excuse he could muster to dissuade his friend.

There was one excuse that trumped the rest. “I’ve never even been in a movie theater,” he told his friend. “How in the world would I get the rights to do a film when I’ve never even been in a theater?”

But just as God led Peter to overcome his revulsion toward Gentile foods, God slowly overcame Green’s resistance to movies. He says his first foray into the forbidden realm was a Jim Carrey film.

“I appreciate my upbringing,” he says. “But we should have said there are a lot of movies you shouldn’t go to. Because we took a hands-off approach, the world embraced movies. Instead of saying ‘don’t go,’ we should have said ‘let’s create.’”

“We’ve got to be in the game,” he adds. “We’ve got to stop complaining and start creating.”

Now Green believes the most influential mission field is in Hollywood. “When you touch Hollywood you touch the world,” he notes.

When God finally softened Green’s heart about leading the film project, his immediate response was to fast and pray. “Every year the Lord takes me on a fasting journey,” he says. He prayed simple prayers—mainly that God would assemble the right team of people. “I had to believe God called me to do this in that Wal-Mart parking lot.”

His first answer to prayer was a gifted producer named Bill Ewing, who left Sony Pictures after making Spiderman and Men in Black II. Ewing quickly embraced the vision for the project.

Securing cooperation from the Waodani tribe was a bit of a hurdle, Green says. From the outset, he wanted to tell the story about what happened to the six tribesman who killed the missionaries. “Where are the six guys who killed the five today?” he asked. “That’s the story I want to tell.”

Green and a small team including Steve Saint--the surviving son of Nate Saint, flew to Ecuador in October 1999. After they arrived they rode a bus eight hours from the airport, flew another hour into the heart of the jungle in a small plane, and then journeyed six hours by dugout canoe to meet with the elders of the Waodani church.

They lived with the tribesmen four days and tried to establish a bond. But the leaders initially rebuffed their overtures. “They said, ‘We’ve had a lot of people coming down here to take our pictures who try to take advantage of us.'"

In reply, Steve Saint told the Waodani church leaders about the Columbine tragedy in the United States, which happened six months prior to their trip. The tribesmen were incredulous when they heard about the violence.

“Do you mean kids went in and shot others down for no reason?” they asked. “Oh…hating and killing? That’s the way we used to live. If our story can help others in North America then we want you to tell our story.” The leaders of the church—who became key figures in the project—granted their permission to Green.

Green’s first film project took much longer than he would have imagined. “I had no idea it would take seven years—technically six after we got the film rights,” he says. “But I had no contacts before this,” he notes.

Many prayers were answered during the ups and downs of the project. There were times when Green almost gave up. “It’s been miracle after miracle that’s happened,” he says. “I pray that people who come to the theaters will be impacted.”

Green gets energized about future projects. “We have the best stories,” he says. “They just haven’t been told very well. I get excited about the power of the media and the power of God’s word,” he says.

“My passion in life comes down to four words: This book is alive!”

More from ASSIST News Service

ASSIST News Service is brought to you in part by Open Doors USA, a ministry that has served the Suffering Church around the world for nearly 50 years. You can get more information by logging onto their website at

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