Join hosts Karen Potter and Rob Stoddard from the Covenant Eyes Podcast in a festive episode filled with holiday cheer! In this special edition, they are joined by Pastor Ben Graham, lead actor, and producer of the heartwarming Christmas film, “Christmas at Keestone.” Get ready for a delightful conversation about the movie, Christmas traditions, and the joy of the season.
Watch “Christmas at Keestone”: Available on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Zulu, DirectTV, and Dish. Search “Christmas at Keestone” for a heartwarming holiday experience for the whole family.
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Visit Pastor Ben Graham’s website PastorBenGraham.com for more information on his films, ministry, and podcast.
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Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Covenant Eyes family!
Hey everybody, welcome to the Covenant Eyes podcast. I know I'm looking goofy today, but it is Christmas and I love Christmas and we have got a great show for you today, because we're going to be talking about Christmas and Christmas films, right, rob?Rob Stoddard:
Yeah, I think that's the thing today, Karen Good thing You're distracted by my amazing candy cane antlers.Karen Potter:
I know it.Rob Stoddard:
I am, I am Awesome.Karen Potter:
Well, today's guest is Pastor Ben Graham. He is the lead actor and producer of a new movie out called Christmas at Keystone. It's a new family Christmas film, also starring veteran actors Kevin Sorbo and Corbyn Bernson. Okay, well, exciting. I am a Christmas junkie, I love Christmas films, I love the season, I love the birth of our Lord and Savior. I love it all and I am just so excited for this conversation. Welcome to the show, pastor Ben.Pastor Ben Graham:
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.Rob Stoddard:
Yeah, ben, could you start out? Just tell us a little bit about yourself, your background. You have so many hats. I mean you're a evangelist, pastor, author, producer, actor. Tell us a little bit about just how you got to wearing all these hats and what you're up to.Pastor Ben Graham:
Yeah, absolutely, and I probably should have put one on today because the lights may be bright off my bald head, but anyhow, we, you know, I grew up in a preacher's home. There's kind of a running joke when you're a Graham, it's congratulations, it's a preacher. And you know, I grew up in a fifth generation pastor. Of course, my parents had no expectations for me to be a pastor, just said hey, we want you to do it, god wants. When I was a kid, I remember, of course, saying one day I'm going to be an actor. And. And then you know how it goes with kids. A few years later, times change. Maybe something you've seen, something you've heard, and next to you, I'm going to be a policeman. And and then it was as I got to be a teenager. I was playing basketball. I was like I'm gonna play in the NBA. And then, when I was 17, I went to DC for a leadership training. I was one of 100 students selected around the country to go there. So then I said I was going to run for president in 2016. Well, I'm glad I didn't do that, but you know just, I think you know, as a kid I had a lot of things that I love to do and I always joke I would get bored easy if I wasn't doing so many different things. But that's kind of where it all started. I was in my first movie when I was 11, and it was purely by accident. They were filming in the town where I was living, where my dad passed her, and it was a Hollywood movie. And I went, I was at a friend's house and his mom said, hey, can you go up get some milk at the pharmacy. And I got there and they were filming a movie called sling blade and as I walked up they said, hey, would you like to be in the movie? And I said Sure, and like three hours later I get back home and I never forget. Miss Susie was like, where have you been? And I told her what happened and she said I think that movie is going to be rated R and I was like, oh, please don't tell my parents, they're going to be so disappointed. But that's kind of where it started. Then I did some theatrical stuff in high school, in early college, and then went, you know, was in full time ministry. I became a senior pastor when I was 21 years of age and I was a senior pastor for 23 years and been in ministry for over 25 years. But about 12 years ago, 11 years ago, when we moved to Nashville, tennessee, we got invited to be in a film as extras. And I get on set and they said hey look, you know, could you play a priest? Now, you know, I'm Protestant, not priests, I come from the Baptist background. I was like, bless you, my son. I think I got it, you know. And they said Good, we're going to give you a role. I said this is cool. I get to the set the next day and they're like you know what? None of us are Catholic. Could you just be a preacher? And I was like I think I can do that. And so I, you know, did this movie. I was a preacher. A few weeks later, my family got invited to be in a commercial my wife and I. We have four boys, so then we were in it and it just kind of snowballed from there until we've done all a number of films, both in acting and producing. But we relaunched Graham family films in 2015, and started making good family and faith based movies. And, of course, the thing I'm most excited about with Christmas at Keystone, it's the first movie that my wife and I got to be the lead in together, and so her and I are the central characters that basically meet each other and you know, it's a little bit of a hallmark style you don't know if they're going to fall in love or not and it was a great film. But this was the first we did together, and now we've already done another one together. We've got another one that we'll be filming in 24 together. So that's been really awesome for us, after 25 years of marriage, to get to do these movies together.Karen Potter:
That is an incredible story and I love how the whole family is tied into this. You know it's like it's a. It's a hobby that's turned into a passion and in almost a full-time career. It sounds like, my goodness, you guys stay busy with this. I love that. I think that's great and I think, as Christians, we need more wholesome entertainment because, unfortunately, hollywood has really moved to the far, far left with their filming. It's very, very over sexualized. It's just very violent, and it's great to see that Christians are getting engaged. So what kind of training and education did you go through to really get to a place where you can produce and direct films and then act in them? That's kind of a crazy transition. I'd love to hear more about that.Pastor Ben Graham:
Yeah, I think, from the acting standpoint, it was being a pastor for 20-something years and act like you were happy when people wanted to know just these and as a told joke, you know, I think I had done some a little bit of training when I was younger because I did think that I may go into that. And then when these opportunities kind of came and I do think a lot of it related to the fact that, you know, I've spoken all 50 states, I've spoken over 40 countries. You know I grew up with my brothers performing in music, so I think there was a little bit of stage presence and maybe some of these directors, producers, recognize that. Of course, as I've gotten into different roles and especially with the particular roles that I have coming up, some of them are way different. It's not just playing a preacher, it's not just playing, you know, maybe a guy that is close to me, it's playing something that's totally out of my character. I've really been working hard with some acting coaches and really training for that. Like a particular movie I'm about to do, I play a veteran who's a he's struggling with PTSD and alcoholic and just really going through a rough time, and so I've been working with a lot of veterans who struggle with PTSD. I've been trying to really get an understanding of that and do research and you know, not only have an understanding in my mind, but then you know you have to develop that character to where it plays out in that character, and so it's been a lot of fun training for that the producing side of things, part of its learning. But also I had the chance to get involved in some secular films and you know that was produced by Hollywood and I did these. Of course I was very careful about what I attached my name to, but I did these to kind of go and learn from them, because one of the things I wanted to do was, you know, a lot of times these fake, fake, fake space movies and these family movies are, the quality is not that great, and so we want to get the quality to be great. But the other thing is I want to rival anything that Hollywood does from a behind the scenes. When actors show up, when, when crew shows up, I want them to feel like this is the best film they've ever worked on, and so I try to learn what do they do and how can we improve on that? I've met with probably no less than 500 filmmakers through the years and, just, you know, picking their brain, trying to learn, and then just constantly doing research and study. And the great thing and I think we all learned this, especially during COVID is, you know, there's so much training you can do now in your own home. So there's a lot of groups out there that you can sign up to, whether it's acting class or crew class that you can do without ever having to leave your home. There's a lot of training you can do. Of course, there's all kinds of tutorial videos on YouTube and other places, but I just tried to, you know, emerge myself and learning the craft, and it's something we're continuing to learn. And I think, you know, for me, I'm still even though I've done a lot more films than probably a lot of people have, I'm still new to this and you know, I haven't even come close, I think, to finding that role that defines me, and so I'm constantly looking for that and working towards that. But in the meantime, I just want to keep making projects that are great for families to watch. And then, of course, we do films, like one we did last year called Pardon by Grace is a true story that really helps people in their walk, where they're at. Maybe they're going through similar situations, and I just think media has such a power to help and encourage people, and so that's what we're trying to do.Rob Stoddard:
Wow, that's amazing. This is definitely a passion of yours. This is not just a hobby. So, ben, you've written a number of books. Have you written any scripts or any movies, or is that something that we might see in the future?Pastor Ben Graham:
Yeah, so I have written a few scripts. I think the thing I was most excited about on Christmas at Keystone I also, because I live in Nashville I write music. I've grown up touring. I never did A lot of my family did and I was like man, I've never been able to put a song together, you know. And I got here and I started getting invited to writing sessions and, you know, started getting the bugs, started writing. But in Christmas at Keystone I wrote a song that they ended up putting in the opening of the film, and so I was really excited about that. But I've been working on some scripts. I've co-written several. You know that we've done. But just recently I wrote one that we are looking to film in 24. We're trying to get it out by Christmas and it's one that I completely wrote, and so you know I'm really excited about that. It's definitely something that I want to continue to do. It's very difficult because you know it's just like with writing the books. You have an idea and you think, all right, let's do it, and sometimes you sit down and it just flows, and sometimes you sit down and nothing happens, and you know. So when I go through those moments I kind of take a step back and go OK, is this just me wanting to do this, or is this really something maybe I feel God wants me to put together? And you know I have a lot of stuff that got started, that never got finished. But it's exciting when you can complete a project and that's a good thing to have it done. But then there's so much joy when that project then gets put into motion and you know, with a film, and so I think this year we're going to have our first film going to production that we wrote the script for. So I'm really excited about that.Karen Potter:
That's awesome. Let's talk a little bit more about this film, because I would love for our listeners to know a little more of how can they watch this film and what is it, what can they expect from it? I read somewhere that it's kind of like serendipity that movie, that's a great movie. So, like, give us a feel of like what we can expect and where we can watch it.Pastor Ben Graham:
Yeah, so I play a guy named John who's a businessman and his wife has passed away. You know nothing to give away there. You learn that at the very beginning of the movie. But this is, keystone is a resort and so that's just, that was their place to go to. So he goes back. But he's so busy with work he owns his own company and you know he's busy with that and so he really does it. He thinks he thinks life is all about work, making money and, just you know, being successful in that world. And so when he gets to Keystone he this year it's a little different. He gets woke up to the reality. There's so much more to life than work and that's kind of the progress in this film and it's great. You mentioned Kevin Sarbo, who he and I have worked in a couple of projects together and Kevin kind of jokes about. I think he was kind of the original first to get kind of cast out of Hollywood, so to speak, but but you know Kevin's in it. And then Corbin Bernstein, who played in movies using shows like LA Logs, psych and moves like Major League, started a lot of faith based stuff as well and it was really cool because Corbin and I have become friends, but he's a believer and but still relatively a new believer, and so when he was on set we just got to spend a lot of time talking about things in the Bible and so it was really good. But Kevin's in it. We have many other great actors and actresses. Probably there's a guy his character's name is Liam, but Brian, who's in it. He's my assistant. He gives so much comedy in his role and he just does such a great job in the film. And then the movie one of the co-stars, maggie Jenny, who plays her character's name is Whisper and she actually wrote the project, wrote the movie and did it just a fabulous job. And then the director, ricky Borba, who is one of my closest friends, and Ricky has done multiple films. But we decided to do this kind of running out of time last year going, if we're going to film this, we got to do it early in January because the resort completely changes the decorations, but they could leave it up in January and so we were back and forth Do we do it now or do we wait a year? And we decided to go for it, and so glad we did, and I think the project turned out really well and you can watch it. It's on Amazon Prime, it's on YouTube, it's on Voodoo and a plethora of other platforms. I think you can find it on Direct TV and Dish and typically if you just go on there and type in Christmas at Keystone and it's K-E-E-S-T-O-N-E. But if you type that in, you can find it and we've been getting great, great feedback from it. It is definitely a holiday feel good movie, a Christmas feel good movie. You're not going to be smarter because you watched it. Probably You're. You know it's not a true story, it's just a fun movie. But I think the thing that was so encouraging is I've had so many people say this is one I'll look forward to watching every year and you know so they weren't just saying one and done, and that's so encouraging and I hope that it continues just to do well and just bring a little cheer to you know people during this time of which so many people are in need of hope and just looking for help, looking for a place to escape a little bit, and I think that's what this movie does.Rob Stoddard:
That sounds excellent. I can't wait to watch it myself. I love to a lot of these bigger name or professional actors that are faith based, that are now lending themselves to more of these wholesome films, and so that's really always cool to see. So then, tell our listeners who want to maybe explore more of your material, your books and your preaching and some of the other things. Give our listeners a way. How do they get in touch with you and see more and learn more about Ben?Pastor Ben Graham:
Graham, yeah, you can just go to my website. It's pastorbengramcom P-A-S-T-O-R-B-E-N-G-R-A-H-A-Mcom, and you can find all the information about our films, about our ministry. You can sign up to our newsletter and we send out weekly newsletters because we have so many different things going on. But then also you can find about our show. We have a podcast. It's video and audio that we do every week as well and have some amazing guests, and we'd love for you guys to check out that website. And you know, we're one of the things. This year I think I got to throw this in because I haven't said this yet We've been so blessed with the thing I love most. My wife and I. We have four boys. Our oldest son is married and this year they gave us our first grandchild. We have a granddaughter that's four months old, and so we're so thankful for that. But you know, this really is a family affair and our family is very involved in this, and even our youngest son, cooper, is actually in the movie Christmas at Keystone and this is, I think, his second or third film to be in and he made a little appearance in this one and did a great job. But we're so blessed to get to do this together and we'd love for you guys to check out our website and thank you so much for letting us be here today, and thanks for the prayers as well. We certainly need those.Karen Potter:
Absolutely Well. Thank you so much for your time and welcome to the Grandparents Club. Rob and I are both grandparents as well. My daughter just in Son-in-law just had our first grandbaby about a month ago almost a month ago so, yeah, it's a great place to be and it's a great season. So congratulations and thank you for joining us for this interview. Friends out there listening to this podcast, make sure you check out the show notes. We'll have links to all of his website, to the movie. I think we'll have some of the social media handles on there as well, so be sure to check that out. Leave your feedback and continue to support wholesome, good Christian content like this. This is fabulous, and we just wish you a very Merry Christmas from the Covenant Eyes family. Rob, do you want to wrap us up for today?Rob Stoddard:
Just again, ben, we're so thankful We'd love to have you come back again because I think there's some other topics that really are listeners with Key and I know you do a lot of human trafficking work and that's near and dear to our heart and our listeners, and so we'd love to have you back again. But, as Karen said, I love the conversation today and hearing about your movie and look forward to seeing that. And to all our listeners, have a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year and look forward to talking to you again.