I get a lot of questions about the making of my movie, Soul Surfer, and the experience of having a movie made about my story.
Not going to lie, it was pretty crazy! 😆
I thought it would be fun to do a blog post answering a lot of these questions so I could share what it was like from my perspective behind-the-scenes!
“How did you feel about having a movie made about you?”
Having a movie made about me is not something that I expected or something that I went seeking. My personality naturally doesn’t love being in the spotlight. While I usually prefer being behind the scenes, I have been on a journey to use the spotlight I’ve been given to encourage others. Soul Surfer was a great example of this because I wanted to use this opportunity to shine a light into the world. But if we were going to make this movie, I wanted to make sure that we did it right!
My family and I went through a lot of scripts over the years and they were all so terrible that we didn’t even bother working with them!! So when we finally got a script that was worth reading and something we could work with, we were super stoked.
It was very important to us that the movie really captured our entire journey as accurately as possible. We wanted to put the feelings of all the emotions and everything we went through, good and bad, into the movie. From there we worked very hard to fix up scenes that weren’t accurate or that didn’t have the feel of us. I went through the script with a fine-toothed comb so-to-speak until I was satisfied with everything!
Overall, my family was super involved in the whole process – we were on the set almost every day – and we all are very happy with how it turned out.
The cast and crew were completely rad and we all enjoyed hanging out with them so much! They did such a great job of taking the ideas, priorities, values and expectations that my family and I had for Soul Surfer and bringing them to the big screen in the best way possible.
The experience was super wild and cool and surreal all at once. I was 19 when they started making Soul Surfer, so it was a really weird concept to have a movie being made about your life while you still have so much of your life ahead of you.
“Were you satisfied with AnnaSophia Robb’s portrayal of you?”
Yes, definitely. We put a lot of thought into choosing all the actors and actresses, however I specifically hand-picked AnnaSophia Robb out for this role. My mom and I had seen Bridge to Terabithia and my mom was like, “She’s the girl we have to get to play you, Bethany!!”
I was so stoked to have her as part of the movie! I honestly didn’t think I would find someone who would do it justice and my expectations were really high. Overall, I think she did an incredible job… I guess she was the girl for me!
It was also really fun because we became great friends in the process! Sean McNamara, our director, and his team set up four days where AnnaSophia went to Hawaii prior to any of the filming. They rented a beach house and she and I just hung out for four days and I taught her to surf. We were so excited to meet each other at the time! At first it was a little awkward (I mean, how do you act and what do you say around the actress who is going to portray you in a Hollywood movie?!), but once we got to know each other we got along really well.
We quickly became a great team because I knew nothing about acting and she knew nothing about surfing haha. So my main job was helping her learn to surf (she was actually a pretty quick learner!). And in turn, she observed me, learned more about me and asked lots of questions about my life so that she could portray me as accurately as possible.
All things considered, it was a best-case scenario! I can’t imagine anyone who would have played the part better than AnnaSophia and I loved that I gained a sweet new friend in the process.
“Your faith takes a big role in this movie. Did you get a lot of push-back about this while making Soul Surfer?”
This aspect took a lot of careful work behind the scenes. Soul Surfer is an interesting blend in Hollywood because it’s a mainstream film with more Christian themes than most. My faith is the most important part of my life and it is the foundation for my family and I so it was VERY important to us that our faith was prioritized in the script. However, I wanted to incorporate my faith into the movie in a way that was real and honest and not cheesy.
I was super thankful for Sean McNamara because he really fought to keep faith in the center stage of everything, even when screenwriters wanted to cut it out. I really appreciated his perspective on this because he really wanted to give our faith an authentic role in the film without making it too preach-y. I think he did a really great job of weaving it in!
P.S. Now, I actually have TWO feature films about my life – Soul Surfer and my documentary Unstoppable. While Soul Surfer is quite accurate, if you want to see the unfiltered version of my story, check out Unstoppable! It captures my life from childhood to motherhood! 🙂