The Filmmaker Who Never Went
to the Movies
By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
OKLAHOMA 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
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
“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
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
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
More from ASSIST News
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 www.opendoorsusa.org.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.