For many kids growing up in church, watching the requisite "Youth for Christ" video is just part of the whole youth group experience. But for filmmaker and co-founder of ChristianCinema.com Kevin Downes, a 30-minute "Youth for Christ" video was far more than a spiritual rite of passage.  It was the beginning of a lifelong passion.

"I was in my early 20's when I acted in a ‘Youth for Christ' film called The Crossing," Downes shares. "I not only loved every moment of making it, but when I was seeing how people would draw closer to Jesus by watching, well, I knew God had me in the right place, and I wanted to make films for the rest of my life."

Even with a clear sense of what he wanted to do with his life and ministry, Downes didn't pack up and move to Hollywood in search of his first break. Instead, the Theater Arts and Geography major decided to dive headfirst into the film business by making his first movie with a few of his closest friends and his brother, Bobby.

"We went out and made one called The Moment After on a shoestring budget with just a few crew people," Downes shares. "Once we finished, my brother and I knew that we had to develop our own distribution in order to release the film to the public, and we weren't quite sure how to do that. So 10 years ago now, we basically started ChristianCinema.com out of my brother's closet and my spare bedroom."

With Bobby designing and building the site, Kevin was in charge of shipping the movies to customers.

A decade later, things have progressed considerably. No longer the makeshift operation of its earlier incarnation, Downes says he's got "plenty of wonderful people" working for them now.

Movies with a Mission

Back when Downes was a teenager, he was inspired by inspirational, sports-related fare like Rocky 2 and Hoosiers because they "encouraged you to do better at whatever you're doing—to pick what you love and be the best of it."

And while Downes' films don't typically have that same sports motif, there's an element of that encouragement through every bit of entertaining he does.

"My goal is to make films that inspire and move the spirit. I also want to encourage people to love their neighbor through stories that examine the human spirit," Downes says. "We all have a story to tell, and I think the most inspirational story is the one that comes from the depths of despair and pain. Jesus' journey is the most inspirational story and certainly the benchmark.

With two very different films, now available for purchase at ChristianCinema.com, Downes explores different facets of faith on Mercy Streets and Six: The Mark Unleashed.

Imagination @ Work

After the success of Downes' aforementioned film debut, The Moment After, Downes' and Co. didn't rest on their laurels and immediately went to work on Mercy Streets.

A modern-day retelling of The Prince and the Pauper proposed by Downes' pal Jon Gunn, the flick features twin brothers who never knew each other and how eventually, they get mistaken for each other.

"The idea was to tell a story that illustrates the concept that not everything is what it appears to be, yet we wanted the brothers to inevitably learn more about each other," Downes says. "We wanted each of them to learn something about themselves through the journey."