I have always had a love for sports since as far back as I can remember. I grew up playing sports (wrestling and football) but, unfortunately, was never blessed with great natural athletic ability. As I grew up and started working in the entertainment industry, my love for sports had a direct influence with my filmmaking ventures.
After watching Matt “The Hammer” Hamill on The Ultimate Fighter Season 3, I knew there was an inspirational story that had to be told. Hamill, a 3x NCAA champion, was born deaf. I approached my writing and producing partner, Joseph McKelheer, about the idea of depicting Hamill’s childhood through his first collegiate championship and he was immediately convinced. Soon after, I met and told Matt that his movie would be the “Rudy” of MMA movies!” With McKelheer and Hamill fully onboard, the script had many rewrites until it was finally propelled into production.
Based on the life of the UFC fighter, Matt Hamill, “The Hammer” is a coming of age drama about the first deaf wrestler’s journey to win a National Collegiate Championship. Raised among those with the ability to hear, Matt finds himself no less an outsider amidst the Deaf community. But through sheer determination, he turns what could be a disability into an asset and in the process serves as an inspiration for both those who can hear and those who cannot. “The Hammer” is currently available on DVD/VOD nationwide. For more information please go to TheHammerFilm.com.
During the filming of “The Hammer”, McKelheer and I were fortunate to meet Paul Burress who had been a long time supporter of the film. While getting to know each other, we learned that Burress was not only an MMA fighter and coach, but a Baptist pastor as well. As we spent more time with him, we realized that Pastor Burress was a kind, sincere, faithful man who lived for God. How could Pastor Burress preach about loving thy neighbor and, at the same time, encourage members of his church to fight in a cage? The same light of inspiration struck us and we saw Burress as the center of what would become our new documentary, “Fight Church.”
We approached our dear friend, Academy Award Winner, Daniel Junge (“Saving Face”) about directing “Fight Church”. Junge joined forces and approached Bryan Storkel to co-direct with him. Like Junge, Storkel had experience filming documentaries and had just finished “Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians.” With Junge and Storkel onboard, “Fight Church” went from being an idea to a reality!
“Fight Church” explores the confluence of Christianity and Mixed Martial Arts, including ministries, which train fighters. The film follows several pastors and notable fighters in their quest to reconcile their faith with a sport that many consider violent and barbaric. Faith is tried and questions are raised. Can you really love your neighbor as yourself and then punch him in the face?
Unfortunately, we are only half way through production and we are asking for your help. Please support our project and contribute toward our Kickstarter campaign by going to FightChurchFilm.com. Also, follow us on Twitter and Facebook (FightChurchFilm). Thanks everyone for your time and consideration.
EBEN KOSTBAR and JOSEPH MCKELHEER formed the production company Film Harvest to produce high quality, yet cost effective films. The company’s first film, Godspeed, was awarded the Jury Prize for Artistic Achievement at the CineVegas Film Festival. Next, they produced The Hammer, the inspirational story of Deaf UFC fighter Matt Hamill. The Hammer was released theatrically in over 100 theaters. The company has several other features slated for 2012; The Aggression Scale (SXSW premiere – Anchor Bay), Free Samples (Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Ritter. Tribeca premiere) and The Thompsons (Sequel to the Lionsgate cult hit, The Hamiltons).
Film Harvest’s goal is to produce high quality, yet cost effective films that both thrive in the marketplace and garner critical acclaim.
The company’s first film, “Godspeed”, a psychological thriller, was awarded the Jury Prize for Artistic Achievement at the CineVegas Film Festival and was distributed by Lightyear Entertainment and Imagination Worldwide.
Film Harvest went on to produce “The Hammer”, the inspirational story of Deaf UFC fighter Matt Hamill, which premiered at AFI Fest in 2010 and won the Breakthrough Award. The film went on to win seven more awards at some of the most prestigious festivals. In the fall of 2011, “The Hammer” was released theatrically by D&E Entertainment in over 100 theaters across the country. In 2012, the film was released by Arc Entertainment and Archstone Entertainment around the world.
In addition to “Fight Church”, the company has three other features in post-production; “Free Samples” (Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Ritter), “The Thompsons” (Sequel to the Lionsgate cult hit, “The Hamiltons”) and “The Aggression Scale” (Anchor Bay).
Film Harvest is operated by Eben Kostbar and Joseph McKelheer.