Filmmaker Greg Fromholz is using his camera to capture intimate portraits of Christian wisdom, embodied in people like Eugene Peterson and Phyllis Tickle. Recently he has decided to make a Legacy Film about RLC’s founder, Tony Campolo. We sat down to talk with him about his project.
How are you connected to Tony Campolo?
I met him in late 1990’s in Belfast. Hearing him speak, as well as reading a number of his books, had a major impact on my wife and me. Tony’s teaching has directly impacted the way we live our lives.
Why this film about Tony Campolo at this time?
This idea of filming came to me when one of my mentors died in his late 70’s. Luckily I got to spend a lot of time with him and learn from him, but I wanted other people to have that same opportunity. So I began to pursue film making with key figures in the church in this Legacy Film series. I’ve done two films since then: Phyllis Tickle and Eugene Peterson.
These people that we love and follow–they don’t have an ability to stop time. We live in a snapchat world, and it is vital to know and engage in our histories. I believe that knowing our history is like a swing: the further we push back the further we can go ahead. This is what we want to do for our Church family, to have the knowledge of those who have gone before, so we can continue to move forward and change this world. I want the Church to be able to learn from Tony and from his decades of experience. Tony’s life is not just a product or an idea but an action.
What is the power of storytelling through film?
I’m a huge fan of documentaries because film has a way of transporting us to another place. It does this not just with words, but by allowing us to glimpse their entire world visually- to see the “in-between”. It allows you to see worn hands, laughter lines, and the ways these figures connect with those they love. It demystifies our heroes because we can see them in their own homes or on a walk. Film allows you to participate in all these details.
These figures–Eugene, Phyllis and Tony–they’re not young, rising, and looking to get their name out there. They are so comfortable in their own skin, so honest and raw. This is such a beautiful addition to their legacies, and something film shows powerfully.
On my side, all we’re doing it capturing a life well lived. They’ve lived the life. We just film it.
What have you learned as you’ve spent time with these incredible figures?
They are people of great humility and deep integrity. They know what is truly important – faith, relationships, family life – and talk about those things often. They don’t spend loads of times mentioning how many books they’ve sold or the famous people they’ve met. It’s almost always their faith and their family. They have lived lives of consistency and compassion. They take God seriously but they don’t take themselves too seriously. They laugh at themselves. There is so much to be learned from them.
From Tony I’ve learned the importance of passing on our passions and desires to others, and not just holding onto them. Red Letter Christians is about that – about passing on the mantle of Jesus to all of us. In this film, I was surprised at how prominent Shane came to be, but Tony’s desire to pass on his legacy is such an important part of who he is. Tony’s legacy won’t be found in his name, it will be found in the thousands of people who have taken up his calling and lived out his challenge – to care for the poor and live as Jesus wanted us to live.
How can we support your work?
My wife and I are paying for 50% of the film costs, but we are trying to raise the rest. We have a Kickstarter campaign and we’ve raised 20% in the first week. So if possible, please give.
Beyond that, please keep up with me to see when this film is completed, and to see what comes next. I’d love to make 1-2 of these every year, if possible.