Editor’s Note: The “Summer of ’67” movie screening will take place June 29-July 5 at Regal Hollywood 27 at 100 Oaks Mall in Nashville. Tickets can be purchased on site.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
SPRINGFIELD — Christian filmmakers Sharon and Fred Wilharm have learned a lot over the past several years as they have directed and produced seven movies and numerous smaller projects.
Sharon noted that for a long while she wanted to go into “ministry,” but God never opened that door. “Then I finally figured out that filmmaking was my ministry. That’s when I really got serious about writing and directing and doing it well.”
Fred and Sharon work as a team, taking the idea from concept to paper, and then on to the screen. While they joke that their first movie needs to remain “locked up,” they have had success, especially with their last two movies, “The Good Book” and “Providence.”
Their filmmaking efforts have been recognized with hundreds of accolades including the “Shibboleth Award for Visionary Leadership in the Field of Christian Filmmaking” and four Crown Awards including Silver “Best Picture.” Crown Awards are presented by International Christian Visual Media.
The Wilharms are excited about the potential of their seventh (and possibly last) film, “Summer of ’67.”
Summer of ’67 is a Vietnam War love story told from the perspective of the women who stayed behind, said Sharon Wilharm. The movie brings to life the turbulent times of the 1960s and the struggles faced by the men and women impacted by the Vietnam War, she added.
Wilharm was only 1 when her father served on the USS Forrestal when it caught fire during the Vietnam War in 1967. Though her father survived, 134 sailors were killed, according to Wikipedia.
“Growing up, I heard the stories and always wondered what it must have been like for the sweethearts, wives, and mothers who got the news but didn’t know whether their loved ones were alive, injured, or killed,” she said.
She said the movie is a “powerful tribute to veterans and their families who sacrifice much for their country.” Sharon also noted that the movie “is a story of holding fast to our faith through life’s struggles.”
Her husband added that while the movie is centered around the war, “it takes place on the homefront.”
Though faith in God is prominently on display in the movie, the couple, who are active members of Springfield Baptist Church, Springfield, intentionally have not marketed it as a faith-based movie.
“We wanted to market it as a drama and romance story,” the couple agreed. Fred Wilharm noted there are enough Christian films that “speak to the choir.”
“We want to attract people who might not come to a faith-based movie,” his wife agreed. “The faith message is in the movie but it can speak to people who attend and are not expecting a faith-based film. We are trying to reach people subtly with the gospel message.”
Sharon admitted they took a risk by not marketing the movie as a faith-based film. “We are out of our comfort zone,” she acknowledged. “We are trusting God to get the message to those who need to hear it,” she added.
The couple hopes that Christians will invite their non-Christian friends to go with them to watch the movie. “It can be an evangelistic tool,” Fred observed.
“If they know someone who needs hope and encouragement, they can find it,” Fred added.
The movie definitely has a Tennessee flavor. It was mostly filmed in Nashville, Springfield, Pleasant View, and in Kentucky. The cast includes several Nashville actors as well as popular talk show host Michael DelGiorno.
While they have enjoyed their filmmaking career, the couple plans for the Summer of ’67 to be their last movie. Sharon plans to expand her writing career to novels and will travel and speak, accompanied by her husband.
“We’ve enjoyed our time making movies. We’ve learned a lot,” she said.
“We’ve met many wonderful people. God has used our movies far beyond anything we ever expected. But now it’s time to pass along the baton. I’m looking forward to the next phase of our life where we take all those experiences and life lessons we’ve learned on the film set and apply them to a whole new audience.
“God is good, and I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us next!”
— The Wilharms are open to holding special screenings of Summer of ‘67 for churches. No screening fees will be charged for screenings held prior to Nov. 16, 2018. After that, events will be charged a normal screening fee. For information, contact Sharon Wilharm at SharonWilharm@comcast.net. Additional information on the movie can be found at www.summerof67.com. The website also includes a form that churches can use to book a screening.