One sign, among many, that gave Jeremy Camp the faith that the screen adaptation of his memoir, I Still Believe, was blessed was when Gary Sinise, the Oscar-nominated costar of Forrest Gump, and who portrays his minister father in the film, came up to him during production and put his hand on his shoulder. “He said, ‘I am really honored to be a part of this.’” Camp recalled in a phone interview. “I think that really shows his character.” I Still Believe, available to buy or rent from Redbox on DVD or On Demand, stars KJ Apa as Camp. The film is based on Camp’s profoundly inspirational memoir which takes its title from his top 5 single that was written at the darkest period in his life. His wife, Melissa (Britt Robertson), was diagnosed with cancer. His faith tested, Camp wrote the song as a reaffirmation of his trust in God. The Dove Award-winning and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter spoke with Redbox about putting his trust in the Erwin brothers to bring his story to the screen.
Redbox: Let’s talk about the song first because it was a major turning point for you.
Jeremy Camp: I wrote it 19 years ago. Melissa’s battle with cancer tested my faith massively. I was raised in a Christian home and it was an actual raw moment for me. You see it in the movie; throwing my Bible across the room. And then one day I was moved to pick up my guitar and that song just came out. God gave me that song. But it wasn’t like all of a sudden I wrote this song and ‘I’m good now.’ There were still battles, but it was a great starting point in my healing process.
RB: You hear all the time about these beloved, classic songs and the artist says it only took them 20 minutes to write. How long did it take you to write “I Still Believe”?
JC: 20 minutes (laughs). I’m not kidding you; I sat down and the first line that came out was, ‘I still believe.’ From that, it was a stream of consciousness. I just wrote what was in my heart. The verses are very honest. It was me saying I’d never felt that torn before, but I still believe and I’m still going to trust, but this hurts really bad. It really was healing for me.
RB: You’ve had many hit songs, but this must have felt different.
JC: Absolutely. Something extraordinary happens when I play a song that happens naturally, with God speaking through me in the numb state I was in. It is comforting to see people moved by my story. It makes you think, ‘All the pain I experienced was not in vain.’ That was my driving force to move forward.
RB: Who were the first people you played the song for?
JC: My mom and dad. I just said, Hey guys, I wrote a song. You wanna hear it?’ They were praying that God would do something with my heart, and to see it happen through a song… we were just weeping. And at that point, no one is thinking this is going to be a hit song, or one day this will be a movie. No one has that in mind at all.
RB: Where were you when you first heard it on the radio?
JC: I was driving in my car on the freeway in California. I was by myself. All of a sudden I heard the opening of the song on the radio and I didn’t know what to do. It was a surreal moment because I was hearing these words that came out of very painful times coming through the radio. I thought, ‘A lot of people are hearing this right now.’
RB: How did the Erwin brothers gain your trust that they would do justice to you and your story?
JC: The Erwin brothers saw me at a show and said they were finishing I Can Only Imagine about Bart Millard (and the song he wrote about his relationship with his father), but they thought my book could be a movie. Their movie came out and did more than $80 million at the box office. They called me back and said they’d partnered with Lionsgate and that the studio wanted to do my movie next. They sounded really confident. Lionsgate was behind it in a big way and I felt really good about that. All of a sudden we had this all-star cast.
RB: Did you have any input in the making of the movie?
JC: I was there most of the time during filming to make sure things were portrayed accurately. KJ Apa asked me a couple of times how I felt and acted in certain situations; he wanted to make sure he was portraying me accurately. The Erwin brothers told me that my story had touched them and that they felt very protective of it. I told them they had free reign. I was blown away (by the movie). They did an amazing job.
RB: What was it like to see the film for the first time with an audience?
JC: It brought me back to places I hadn’t been in a long time and it wasn’t easy. But what I love about this film is that the Erwins didn’t try to manipulate emotions; what happened onscreen happened in my life. They really did a good job of taking people through my journey and that’s what I felt like watching with it people. People are engaged with this story. There was laughter, there was weeping. It was special, for sure.
RB: Did you feel Melissa’s presence?
JC: I honestly felt like there was a smile from above, almost like a thank you. And I was like, ‘No, thank you.’ Her family felt she was portrayed accurately. I think she would have been very, very happy with it.
RB: What do you hope people get out of I Still Believe?
JC: Right now, a lot of people are feeling a sense of helplessness. I want to share the hope that was given to me though my relationship with Jesus. I’m not trying to preach in anyone’s face, but I’ve always been unashamed sharing my faith. That’s what got me through.
RB: What has been the most memorable encounter with someone who has been touched by your story?
JC: One, in particular. He said he was an atheist but that he watched the film and it made him think about God. He said, ‘Thank you for opening my eyes.” The film was doing well in theaters before the pandemic hit, and now people are seeing it at home. I feel like God isn’t through with it yet. People have told me that their families had talking through things after watching the movie together.