Newsong's Eddie Carswell never imagined that creating the Winter Jam tour 20 years ago would result in a movie filled with the biggest acts in Christian music.
However, "This Is Winter Jam" will hit the big screen as a music documentary that showcases all of the behind-the-scenes action from the nationwide 2016 Winter Jam tour.
For one day only, the tour will arrive in movie theaters April 19. Christian music fans will get to experience more than just music, given the in-depth insights about their favorite artists with performances by Jeremy Camp, Francesca Battistelli, for KING & COUNTRY, NewSong, Family Force 5, Building 429 and more.
Carswell, the founding member of the contemporary Christian music group Newsong, created the Winter Jam show in 1995 with only a few weeks worth of tour dates. Now that over 600,000 people have seen the 13 week show, Carswell has big hopes for the film.
"I hope people walk away saying, 'Wow I can't wait to go back and watch God's presence there.' I think some people probably never saw people stand up and say 'wow I've watched Jesus come to my heart,'" Carswell told CP. "Maybe people raising their hands and praising the Lord, that's something they never seen before. I'm hoping they see us enjoy being a Christian."
The 10 different bands and over 150 people working behind the scenes to bring the show to life also enjoyed themselves with video games, their own private church experiences, catered food, massages and an opportunity to fellowship with one another. For Carswell, this is a special experience that fans attending the largest Christian tour in the world don't usually get to witness.
"The stage is such a small part of what we do. There are 150 or 160 of us out here every day and a lot of interacting," he said. "Getting to know people, being kind to them and all of these things, I think is a bit of a learning ground and a place to read your Bible, pray and go out trying to be a good representative of Christ."
Choosing which acts will be featured on the Winter Jam tour each year is no easy feat. Because of scheduling issues with musicians recording or embarking on their own tours, Carswell admits that he does not always get the lineup he originally wanted.
However, he recognizes that God has a hand in the final production and is always happy with the final result.
"You end up getting the people God sent your way and it's amazing but it's not necessarily the people you originally wanted to have," he said. "But it ends up being the perfect people putting on the best presentation."
This year, the group for KING & COUNTRY embarked on the tour, which Joel Smallbone, one half of the fraternal music duo, believes was well worth documenting in the form of a film.
"The road is a very fascinating place. With Winter Jam, because it is other bands, semi-trailers, 14 tour buses and other people, it's a story that you feel like...yes people love seeing what happens on stage each night but we want to be a part of taking people deeper," Joel told CP. "We're taking people backstage doing interviews, really capturing the mission and the heartbeats of why this tour thrives every year."
Aside from great music, Carswell gives everyone the opportunity to experience the tour by keeping ticket prices low at just $10. However, the Newsong founder admitted that he would let those in who couldn't afford that to witness the power of Jesus.
Sprinkled in between all of the live music is also a sermon from the likes of evangelist Tony Nolan on many nights throughout the tour. People who did not get to attend the show will also experience his powerful word in the film, which Carswell insists is necessary.
"People are encouraged by the music and different things but we're also trying to have somebody come up and explain why it's important to have a relationship with Jesus in a concise but fun way," Carswell told CP. "Tony Nolan has such a great story of what God has done in his life and he has a lot of good humor that keeps everybody listening. He stands up there and speak in 15 minutes and represent the cross in a good way."
Dubbed as the biggest Christian music tour in existence, Joel has witnessed firsthand how the show has changed people's lives.Fans on the tour told him heartfelt stories about his band's music helping them overcome the death of family members and pushing through with the hope found in Jesus Christ.
"For one time in the history of the world, the same people are all going to gather in this one room for the cause of this music and for the cause of Jesus," he said. "That's an exciting prospect every night."
Although it is a music documentary, Joel makes it clear that the film is about much more than the performances from the biggest names in Christian music.
"Yes ,it's entertainment...yes it's art. But more than that, there's a deep seeded hope that is laced through the entire night and the entire tour of Winter Jam," he told CP. "We all walk away with successes and failures and dreams that people can look at and go, 'I'm inspired to go out and do something.' I hope they genuinely walk away enjoying it, having had a good laugh and feeling like they know the artist just a bit better than they would at just a regular show."
For more information about Fathom Events' "This Is Winter Jam," please click here.