When Joe Knopp catches a break from producing movies in Los Angeles, there’s nothing he looks forward to more than flying home into the Dayton Airport.
Knopp just finished working as a producer on “I Can Only Imagine,” a brand new film that follows the life of Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, who loses his father to cancer. The loss inspired him to write the mega-hit song.
A meet-and-greet release party for Knopp will be held tonight, before the 7 p.m. release of the film, at The Greene’s Rave Cinema movie theater lobby. The producer will be available for photos and autographs from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
Rachel Ennis, Knopp’s manager, said he will also be around to meet fans after the two-hour movie is over.
Springboro hasn’t always been home for Knopp. Hardships and perseverance have led him to his Dayton-centered life, amidst all the chaos of producing movies.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Knopp grew up in a Philadelphia orphanage from age seven until he was 18 and graduating high school. Unable to afford college upon graduation, Knopp enlisted in the Air Force and was soon stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
Knopp’s personal story has strong emotional ties to the film’s main character, Bart.
“In the movie, Dennis Quaid plays an abusive father and I had that in my own life. I think the connection with Bart...for a while he was probably ashamed of his story and sort of ran from it and I did a similar thing,” said Knopp.
“I remember about day four of the basic training in the Air Force, it’s this iconic day where everyone gets their head shaven and puts a uniform on and you look around and everyone looks the same. No one knows your background, where you’re from. From that day forward, I never really shared my story ... In time what I learned and what Bart learned is we all have a story and part of our story can encourage and provide levels of hope for other people.”
Twenty years, a wife and kids, a Bachelors in Finance from Wright State and a few movie productions later, Knopp said his family plans on keeping Dayton as their home base for a long time.
Knopp also said that as soon as the plot of a movie make sense for the region, he would love to bring a film to the area in the future.