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Artist Francesca Battistelli Champions Homeschool in 'God's Not Dead: We the People'

Kimberly Carr - Digital Media Producer

Music artist Francesca Battistelli is sharpening her acting skills with the upcoming film God's Not Dead: We the People. Perhaps best known for chart-topping hits like 2009's "Free to Be Me" (I still have this song on repeat), and the more recent "This Could Change Everything," Francesca not only portrays lead character Rebecca McKinnon, she also offers a new song for the soundtrack.

In an almost super-human feat, Francesca divides her time between family, homeschooling her and husband Matthew's growing family, producing music, and now acting in feature films.

Her latest project, God's Not Dead: We the People, is sure to open the eyes of those unfamilar with the legal issues and societal prejudices confronting families who choose to educate children in a homeschool setting. The film opens with a social worker knocking on Rebecca's door to inspect her homeschool class. Forced to comply, Rebecca soon finds herself and her community embroiled in a legal battle and testifying before the United States Congress.

I spoke with Francesca recently about her new song, new movie, and her passion for protecting the rights of parents.

I want to talk about the song “God is Good” which appears in your new film God’s Not Dead: We the People. The lyric video was just released, and you said there's a special story behind the song. Can you share something about that?

I wrote the song several years ago. It was actually supposed to be on my last album and at the last minute I felt like it wasn't supposed to be on there. It didn't fit anywhere in the track listing. And I really felt like we were supposed to save it for something else, but I didn't know what that was going to be. I wrote it for a friend of mine who went through just a devastating loss – lost his wife. We wrote it to encourage him, that no matter what you're going through, God is still good. It was ready to go and we were about to release the album. And I just said, ‘We need to hold onto this.’ So we've been just keeping it, you know, hidden for the last four years or so three or four years.

One of our last days of filming God’s Not Dead: We the People, and Vance, our director, started describing a scene in the film and he's like, ‘I need a song that kind of is like this, but not to this, but a little bit more of that.’ And I was like, ‘I might have the song for you!’ I played it for him, and he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is perfect!’ And it was one of those moments for me of – okay Lord – all along, you knew that this song needed to be for this moment in this film. We've just released it as well on streaming and to radio, but I'm excited for it to be part of the film.

The film starts out pretty intensely. A social worker comes into your home to investigate where you're holding homeschool classes. That's pretty jarring for people who aren't familiar with the issues that come with homeschooling. So can you tell me what it was like being in that scene, seeing that you do have some familiarity with homeschooling?

Yeah, I know it was so funny when I read the script, my husband was like, well, you're not going to have to act at all, just be yourself.’ Rebecca [her character] has fewer kids than I do. It's a scary thought and one that doesn't seem as far off as it used to. With the way things are growing – homeschooling has been banned in several European countries and they’re definitely talking about it here. I think it all comes down to, we as parents, we live in America still for who knows how long. And we have – I believe – an inherent God-given right to educate our children and raise them the way that we see fit and not the way the state sees fit.

This film dives into the idea of – what if that was challenged? And for people who are like, ‘Well, I don't homeschool, I don't care. I'm not interested in that topic or I wouldn't want to see the film.’ I think you could really insert anything into that little topic of homeschooling and resonate with this film and this idea of – we as the government know best, just trust us. And if you've been paying attention for the last year and a half, I feel like you probably understand what that means. Even when we filmed this however many months ago, it didn't even seem as real as it does now, which is scary, but it's an important thing. I think the film really is about freedom. And if that matters to you, I think this film is going to inspire you and challenge you to really think, okay, ‘How can I stand up for what's right?’

I also saw that you made a special announcement. Your homeschool crew is growing by one….?

Yes we are. Yes, baby number six! We're expecting in February. So we're very excited.

Congratulations! So, you’ve have the kids, you've got life, marriage, music, and now acting. How did acting happen?

You know, it's a lot, but we talked about touring kind of shutting down for the past year and a half. And I know that some people are starting back up again. It sounds very stressful to me, but good for them. (laughing) You know, it gave us the margin and the opportunity to be able to do something like this. If things had been business as usual, I may have been on a tour in January and not been able to say yes. And so that's been a blessing of this whole thing for us. We've really tried to step back and just gain perspective on what matters to us and the kind of life do we want – jumping off that hamster wheel, which is something we've been trying to do for the past five years anyway. But I know a lot of artists were hit hard with, ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do if I don't tour?’ And I think that's actually been really good for the industry and for families and for people to go, ‘What am I doing?’ Not that it's wrong to go out and minister, but I think it's just been a really positive thing. So for us having our kids out of school and being able to just say, ‘Yeah, we'll be in Oklahoma in two weeks and film a movie that we've never done before!’ It was fun. We loved it.

So, do you think you're going to pursue acting in the future?

Who knows? I really enjoyed it! I didn't know what it was going to be like. I've done a lot of theater growing up, but being on a movie set for 12 hours is a lot different than community theater in high school! So I really had no idea if I was even gonna do a good job. It was encouraging that I got through it.

And you were surrounded by some pretty good acting veterans, David A. R. White, Isaiah Washington, William Forsythe, with Antonio Sabato, Jr. playing your husband.

Yeah. You know, it was encouraging. Everyone was so kind, and I didn't know what the atmosphere would be, but my friend Amanda – she plays Taylor Hayes in the film, a single mom – she's amazing. And she helped me from the first day. I was like, ‘What, wait, what did he just say? What does that mean? Are we shooting from behind me now or in front of me?’ She would like give me all the tips and was so kind. We had a good time.

Be sure to pre-order tickets for this three-day only event at godsnotdead.com, only in theaters October 4-6.

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