Interview: Sam and Kevin Sorbo on “Let There Be Light”

With so many films showing and telling about violence, sometimes we need films that can make us feel better, inspired and a bit hopeful. The importance of films about faith is not for you or me to convert ourselves to religion but to see this world through the viewpoint of light and goodness, and find stories about kind people who try to make this world a better place for you and me.

Co-written by Sam Sorbo and Dan Gordon, directed by Kevin Sorbo “Let There Be Light” is what we need to bring sunshine into our daily lives. This film reminds us about the important to live life to its fullest and to embrace death. Of course, everything is left up to our own imagination and to the power of interpretation of what our eyes and ears receive. I believe films like this have enough power to give us the energy to recharge our brains, clear our thoughts and release the negativity brought by people who misrepresent religion.

This entire concept made me eager to talk with the lead actors Sam and Kevin Sorbo. As mentioned above, Sam Sorbo is also the co-writer and Kevin Sorbo is the director of the film. I must say, the interview is pretty long, but it gives detailed information not only to help you understand the reasons behind making the film but also its profound premise, which I found too important not to discuss properly.

MOVIEMOVESME: I would like to start by asking you how you both came to the idea of making this film? Did you want to talk about different religions, or did you just find a good, interesting story to turn into a film?

Sam Sorbo: I came up with the idea for this film. At first, it was just an idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I believed it could be made into a movie I would want to see. And so I reached out to a friend of ours, who’s a well-known screenwriter, and I asked him if he’d consider writing it with me, and when he heard the idea he jumped in. He just really liked the idea. Then about two weeks later, we got the funding. Which is so, just sort of random.

Kevin Sorbo: Yeah. It happened very, very quickly. It never happens that quickly or easily in this industry. People are always chasing money, and the money came to us, and we were shooting just months later and a year and a half after that, the movie is out in theaters. That’s very unusual. Most movies take three to five years to go from an idea to getting funded and then to the movie screen.

MOVIEMOVESME: I am curious about the concept of the film. There is a great parallel about faith. On one hand, there is the good that brings more goodness and light. And on the other hand, there is ISIS and so many deaths that they promote. And in your film, it goes really well – bringing side by side the concept of ISIS and the concept of goodness in the film.

Kevin Sorbo: Well, ISIS, obviously, is a pretty terrifying group of terrorists and we don’t make a huge reference to it, it only really comes up a couple times in the movie. But it is really a talk about all the evil in the world no matter who does it. And we all wanted to look for a place to give people some hope. I mean, people are always looking for the bright side of the life instead of the negative because the news, always deals with the horrible tragedies of life. And I think people are tired of it. You get to a point where you realize that not all of life and not all people are bad.

I mean, I’ve got atheist and agnostic friends that are good people, they just don’t have a belief in God. And you know, that’s fine. I’m not here to change people’s minds, but I’m here to hopefully make people think a little bit about it. I don’t want to just preach to the choir when you do these movies. I do want to “reach across the aisle” so to speak and just offer to think about this. Think about the possibility of it, at least, instead of being so closed minded.

MOVIEMOVESME: I have a question for Sam. When you were writing the script or developing the story with Dan Gordon, how did you choose the character’s name? Because “Sol” can be associated with “Soul”. Is there an intentional reference there?

Sam Sorbo: Yeah. I’m a bit of a linguist, and I like word games. So yes, typically I’ll choose names that are meaningful in more than one way. So Saul of the Bible is actually spelled Sol which means “sun” as in “sunshine”.

Kevin Sorbo:  As in “let there be light with sunshine.”

Sam Sorbo: But of course, there’s also the reference to Saul of the Bible who meets Jesus-

Kevin Sorbo: And becomes Paul.

MOVIEMOVESME:          And, Mr. Sorbo, I have read in the press release that you mentioned you cried when reading three specific scenes of the film. Could you reveal which ones? And did those scenes make you want to be a part of this film?

Sam Sorbo: I told him

Kevin Sorbo: Yes, my wife told me. No, I knew I wanted to do it. I’d seen the rough draft that Sam did, then I saw the final draft that Sam and Dan Gordon did. So, as I was reading it and thinking about it – as usual, people do when reading books or scripts – you usually see a movie in your mind. And when I got to the part when I’m talking to pastor Benny, when he tells me the God chose me, and I know that I’m not a good person. It just … I know that part really gets to me there and another area certainly when I talk to my ex-wife in my loft where I get really emotional about seeing Davie and also I see Davie in the vision I have.

Sam Sorbo: Don’t give away the plot.

Kevin Sorbo: Yeah, I should not give away the plot but there are so many places that made me get emotional and I think that if this touches me, I know for sure it is going to touch other people as well. And it was interesting, during the filming, the crew members were touched by those scenes. And nobody is more jaded than crews, so if you make them laugh or make them cry and feel emotional, you know you’ve got something good.

MOVIEMOVESME: Mr. Sorbo, I wonder how did it feel to be both –  behind and in front of the camera – as a director and actor?

Kevin Sorbo: I started drifting back to my Hercules year, and I’ve always loved it. When I got a chance to do this, I jumped in. I mean, Sam and Dan both said I had to direct this. And I was all for doing it. I think I’m smart enough to know that I’ve got to hire good people around me. So from the wardrobe department to the camera crew, to the set designer. I want to hire people that do their job and know their job because I like to have a set that’s on the same team together. So, I’m not there to boss people around. I’m there to make a happy place to work and a good place to work.

Sam Sorbo: Well, he’s very much a collaborator and so while he has some ideas of what he wants, he trusts the people that he hires. And he actually put together a really great crew. It was a truly wonderful experience shooting the film together, and it was a very collaborative effort because, often, he was on camera rather than behind the camera watching it. So he really had to trust the crew behind the camera to make sure that he was shooting what he wanted to see on the film. Yeah, I think he loved that.

MOVIEMOVESME: Sam, you also had three duties to fulfill on the set. You are the co-writer, the producer, and act in the film. How was it for you?

Sam Sorbo: You forgot the most important role – I was the mom on the set as well, because my boys are in the crew! You know, you just do what you have to do to get it done. I really enjoyed the whole process because I conceived this film, and so I was very lucky that I got a chance to make sure, on different levels, that it turned out to be the film that I wanted to make. And the proof is in the footing, once we put it in front for testing, Willy loved it, Ben loved it more. People didn’t leave their seats, they waited until the last of the credits roll before they got up and left the theater. It opened in the States and we’ve been getting letters.

I had several different roles in the making of this film but I like it that way because I can see the film in my head and so that allowed me the ability to sort of see it through and make sure that it turned out the way I wanted it to turn out. And I can say unequivocally that it did; that this is the film that I wanted to make.

And I’m so thrilled that audiences have been responding so positively to the film. I mean, people don’t leave the theater. They sit through the credit roll. And they applaud at the end of the movie, which seldom happens. And then once the lights come up and they start to exit the theater they actually talk to strangers, which I find so amazing. I think it’s a testimony to the profound sort of humanity that links us that the film points out. And we have differences, and if we would only focus on our common humanity and the things that we have together, we can maybe have less violence in the world and a little bit more happiness.

MOVIEMOVESME: Mr. Sorbo, the opening scene of “Let There Be Light” is quite impressive, especially with the speech that Sol Harkens delivers about his reasons for not believing in God or why he refused to accept His existence. How did he find the transformation of the character that you portrayed from being atheist to becoming a Christian?

Kevin Sorbo: I think it’s in the written word. I mean, the script was great. What was frustrating for me was that we cut out about fifty percent of that debate because of the way we wanted to keep the movie going. Trust me, that was seven, eight pages of dialogue originally, so I worked very hard in getting that down. That was really tough for me to watch so much of that end up on the cutting room floor. So maybe one day we’ll have the director’s cut come out.

But the writing was great in there. Some people say transformation is too quick.  But, guys, this guy had a vision that was so huge for him. He was already a man that was filled with so much confusion and anger and hate. And the hate was really more for himself than anything else. So there’s only so much you can do in an hour and a half, and I think people have to look at that, too. It is a movie. We’re trying to get a message across, so you can’t play six months out in a movie.

Even though we did show the time passing. Yeah, there might have been one or two more scenes that we could have thrown in there, but we wanted to keep the movie at a certain length.

MOVIEMOVESME: When your character loses his son, obviously, he is angry and he stops believing in God,  finds it useless to pray. But then when he converts and he goes back to the same place where he should have been before he stopped believing in God, then he loses another loved one. Do you find that sort of poetic?

Kevin Sorbo: You know, yeah! We talked about having that fairytale ending where cancer is cured, but life is life. And you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

Sam Sorbo: Well, first of all, Sol Harkens never believed in God. And it was simply a thorn in his side that his wife prayed to a God that didn’t save his son. A God that he never believed in but nevertheless, if she believed in him, why didn’t He save their son for her?

And maybe I am giving away the end of the film, but the idea is that death is not the end. And that is why he accepts her death. But he couldn’t accept the death of his son, because, at the time that his son died, he had no understanding of what that feeling is. And so her death actually shows his full transformation. And yes, there is poetry there. Absolutely.

MOVIEMOVIESME: So do you think it was just about Sol accepting the existence of God? Because there is also a scene where Katy is explaining to her son that, he should just pretend that she’s in the next room. It is a good way to explain to a child that she is not somewhere else, but right there, just not being seen.

Another interesting fact is that your whole family was involved in this project – like a family project – two sons, a husband, and wife, and then directing, writing. Can you share your experience?

Sam Sorbo: Sure! We’re a homeschooling family, so we do spend a lot of time together, so it wasn’t really a new thing for us, although typically we aren’t all working on the same project together. But in a sense, we all had different positions on the project and different roles, obviously. And so it was just a group project and I really enjoyed spending time with my children in that way.

I will tell you that they auditioned for the roles because we wanted to make sure that they could perform well enough. They would have been ridiculed if they hadn’t performed well. And it would have been seen in a negative light. And so they auditioned, and when they auditioned they were amazing, and I just was so thrilled that they could be part of the movie.

But the first day on set, I think that there was a bit of an attitude that we had own kids on the cast. Kind of skepticism. And we got rained out the first day, which meant that we had to switch up the scenes. And while the kids weren’t supposed to be active the first day, we had to go to day three, and in day three, they had a pretty heavy scene. So we went to shoot their scene just right off the cuff, and they showed up, they knew their lines, they didn’t sweat, they were very professional, and I could see backs getting a little bit straighter from the crew who were watching. You could see them sort of realize that they came to play their roles, they’re serious.

Kevin Sorbo: Yeah, they won the crew over pretty quickly. People from the crew were coming up to me and telling me I better pick up my pace because my kids were outshining me.

MOVIEMOVESME: The film is very educational and I have learned a lot from it. I wonder,  what did you learn from Katy and Sol. Did your characters teach you anything?

Kevin Sorbo: A very good question.

Sam Sorbo: An excellent question.

Kevin Sorbo: As I mentioned earlier, I know who are atheists. People who are agnostics. People I’ve seen on TV that are atheists and seen their debates. So, I can understand how people get to that point, find that sort of disbelief. I could never fall into that because I know the way I feel, and I know the way that I believe how everything came about. So I just don’t believe that you can get something from nothing. But I can understand how people fall away. I know somebody who’s had somebody die in their life, and then that turned them away from even wanting to ever believe in God or cater to that “myth,” as they call it. So, I understand that. I think I’m educated enough to listen to their point of view, but I’ll never fall that way because I’ve been a Christian my whole life, so … I’m just not perfect, that I know.

Sam Sorbo: I can’t really say much because I created Katy. if I hadn’t written her, I don’t know, I guess … The word that comes to my mind is “forbearing.” I guess I learned that from her. Because she is the one suffering. And that is a quality that I admire in her that I don’t know whether I possess. You know? There you go.

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