Russ Doughten (Feb. 16, 1927 — Aug 19, 2013)
Mr. Russell Doughten has been called the “Father of the Modern Christian Movie” and was a pioneer in putting Christian movies on video. As a producer, director, writer and actor, he is responsible for more than 150 projects, touching hundreds of millions of people around the world. More people than the number of those who live in the United States have seen his movie, A Thief in the Night, alone. Mr. Doughten and his projects have received over 50 awards.
As a trailblazer for Christian filmmakers, Russ Doughten founded Heartland Productions in 1965. Under the Heartland banner, he produced and directed eight dramatic features that present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Among these motion pictures are ones that appeal to children, young people and adults. The goal of these projects was to make the life and teachings of Jesus Christ real and pertinent to the lives of people today.
In 1972, he began Mark IV Pictures with Donald W. Thompson. Together these filmmakers produced 12 feature-length, dramatic Christian movies over a 12-year period. Many of the films have been recognized with awards for acting, directing, technical quality and effectiveness in communicating the Christian message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Doughten’s best-known movies are a series of four films based on end-time prophecy: A Thief in the Night; A Distant Thunder; Image of the Beast; and The Prodigal Planet. Millions of people around the world have been touched by the Gospel message in this series. (Writer”s testimonial: I saw these videos as a young teen when my pastor played them for our congregation over a series of four Sunday evenings. After four sleepless weeks, I was hooked on the study of prophecy and the end times. Not too many years ago, I found these films for rent at a small video store, so I watched them again. It is true that hairstyles have changed and the clothing is dated, but the message is not!)
When Mark IV and Heartland ended in the mid-1990s, Mr. Doughten formed Russ Doughten Films, Inc. to carry on the successful tradition of film evangelism around the world. The existence of more savvy Christian film companies has tapped the lion”s share of funding. Many prophecy movies produced today have budgets that are greater than all of the A Thief in the Night series combined; however, the majority of them lack the biblical foundation upon which Doughten based all of his films. At the 2001 WYSIWYG Film Festival held in San Francisco, CA with about 1,000 people in attendance, Russ Doughten was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his body of work. He then received the Milestone Award for 50 years of achievement in communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ through movies at the February Annual Meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville, Tennessee. (This award is pictured above.)
Recently, the A Thief in the Night series has been put on DVD, in multiple languages, with behind-the-scenes info, actor interviews, scene selection and a live on-screen, full-length “Receive Jesus” track.