By Cheryl Wray
Mark Koch was truly on top of the world.
Koch’s movie, “Lost in Space,” hit No. 1 at the box office and kicked “Titanic” off the top spot on the charts. His lifelong dream to produce Hollywood movies had come true.
Soon, however, Koch’s life spiraled downward and he found himself at rock bottom–until he heard God’s instructions to leave the movie industry and instead minister to men and their families.
Today, Koch lives in the Nashville area with his wife Stephanie and devotes himself to imparting his passion for the Christian family to men everywhere. And he’s working again in the place he fled from so strenuously, so that he can make inspiring movies that point viewers to Christ.
Dreams of Hollywood
All Koch ever wanted was to be a movie producer, despite having no background in the industry or particular skills or training to do so.
“I always had this dream and I believe we have a DNA in the spiritual realm. A divine natural ability and a divine natural assignment,” Koch said.
After graduating from Northwood University in Michigan (he was born and raised in Detroit), he did everything possible to make his dreams come true. An initial move to Hollywood, where he worked at a Volvo Saab car dealership, while pursuing his dream to enter the film business–and discovering that it was not simple without film education or experience–failed and he then moved to Florida.
“My burning desire and dream was still there, and after my father died I realized that I had to follow my dream,” he said. “I couldn’t give up. I had to go back.”
Koch snuck through the gates at Paramount Pictures and with no film experience got a “first-look” deal with the studio.Looking back on that day, he said, “it was only through a series of divine interventions and miracles.”
His newly-formed production company, Prelude Pictures, was in business.
In 1995 he produced his first film, “Judicial Consent,” a Home Box Office (HBO) legal thriller that set a new HBO February ratings record.
According to Koch, he then came up with a marketable idea that grabbed hold of the trend at the time of remaking classic television shows into movies. He took the classic 1960s “Lost in Space” television show,optioned the rights from Shiela Allen (the widow of original creator Irwin Allen) and created a bidding war between Twentieth Century Fox and New Line CInema. It was ultimately financed by Fox with a $90 million budget.
The television series, initially airing for three seasons starting in 1965, told the adventurous story of the Robinson family after their spaceship is sabotaged and thrown off course. Koch’s 1998 movie, featuring such stars as William Hurt and Gary Oldman, knocked “Titanic” from its number one spot and set a box office record for the highest April opening of a motion picture ever. Three weeks later, his company’s “Black Dog” (starring Patrick Swayze, Randy Travis, and Meat Loaf) opened in the top ten simultaneously with “Lost in Space”–a near impossible feat in the industry.
While Koch’s success provided him with all the material success imaginable, he felt empty spiritually.
“I got caught up in the Hollywood fast lane. I had an ego the size of Manhattan. I thought I was all that,” he remembered. “I drank, partied, and was separated from my wife. I found myself lost.”
His two movies opened up to wild success, but Koch had already left Hollywood after being dramatically awakened by God’s calling.
“I wasn’t a Christian and had lost my father. All my worldly dreams had come true, but I was empty inside,” he said. “God just pulled on me, and revealed to me that I was lost. I was the one lost in space.”
“I left Hollywood,” Koch said. “I was determined to serve God.”
Koch said that what followed were six years of a “hard sanctification process.”
“I went through the process of being obedient, then falling, being obedient, and falling again,” he said. “My final wake up call was when God literally woke me up at 5:55 a.m. one morning, and instructed me what to do.”
According to Koch, those instructions were the key to turning his life around–and are key to men and families becoming recommitted to Christ.
“God kept saying to my spirit and mind, Give me your first hour for the next thirty days. Pray for 30 minutes and read your Bible for 30 minutes,” he said. “During this time of obedience, God laid out the phrase to me, ‘Heal the Man, Heal the Family, Heal the Nation.’ We’ve now reached more than 300,000 men with this message, and have seen miracle after miracle after miracle.”
Koch wrote his book, The First Hour for Men, back in 2005 to help explain the concept of spending the first hour of the day with God. In 2016, he expanded it with his book The First Hour for Men: 30 Day Study Guideand began working with the revamped Promise Keepers organization to reach men and their families on a nationwide scale.
“As I look back at it, our goal was to get a million books out there in the hands of men,” Koch said. “We offered the first book for free and had this huge vision.” His goal was to get a million books to America’s men by the end of 2020 but distribution just fell short; they are focused now on achieving that goal by the end of 2021.
Promise Keepers, an organization founded in 1990 by Coach Bill McCartney that created a wave across the country and culminated in a million men gathering in Washington D.C in 1997, has used Koch and his plan to help promote its recent comeback.
“They’ve used me as a spokesperson, and featured my relationship with my son and grandson, in promotional videos,” Koch said. (it verifies the concept of Heal the Man.. Heal the Family… Heal the Nation
Promise Keepers, created with the intention of encouraging men of integrity and creating Godly family homes, fits in perfectly with Koch’s vision.
“That’s my calling,” he said. “To reach men, to bring them back to a godly relationship, to have them go on this journey everyday to spend time in prayer and the Bible.”
He said that prayer is especially integral because it equips men with armor to face the bombardment from society and a greater enemy.
“My other DNA…my divine assignment…is to expose the enemy and equip men,” he said. “The first prayer in my book is putting on the full armor of God. I pray it every day, before my foot hits the floor. “
He points to Isaiah 59 as evidence for why prayers aren’t answered today. “It says that God has turned His face and cannot hear,” he said. God laid on my heart the word WAR and the three keys to preparing for that daily war.”
“The first three prayers in the book are W: Wash yourself with the precious blood of Jesus Christ and repent, this gives you a fresh start each day. A: Armor up! Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand up to everything the Enemy throws your way and R: Refill yourself with the Holy Spirit each day,” he said. “Now not only are you Righteous through Christ, but at that time each morning, you stand sinless before the throne of God. These three first prayers in his book have radically transformed thousands of men’s prayer lives.”
Koch’s own experiences point to the way God can heal family relationships.
After becoming a Christian, he focused on his marriage and relationships with his four grown children Blake, Corrine, Christian, and Carson.
“My life is restored, my marriage is restored, and my relationships with my children are great,” he said. “I needed to become a man of God, a humble man of God, a servant man of God, a loving man of God.”
Today, two of his children live in Nashville; Blake is a former NASCAR driver and has now partnered with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a subscription based home air filter company called Filter Time (filtertime.com), Corrine owns a faith-based clothing company (heartofheartclothing.com), Christian is a singer-songwriter (cxamusic.com). and his youngest Carson in Florida working on getting his general contractor license.
“They’re all serving the Lord in some way,” Koch said. “I’m proud of all of them.”
Koch has spent the last several years full time promoting his book the First Hour through his non-profit United Men of America. His tagline for the UMA is……
God – Family – Country. Koch believes “United in God we Stand… Divided we Fall” . He says the Enemy is in full blitz mode to divide and conquer. Koch has been busy speaking at Men’s Events, Churches, Christian Talk Shows, Radio shows throughout the Nation sharing his testimony “Lost in Space.. Saved by Grace” and distributing his book
Back to Hollywood
During his years away from Hollywood, Koch still kept a connection to the movie industry while focusing on his work in ministry.
In 2003, he assisted in the promotion and marketing of Mel Gibson and Icon Productions’ “The Passion of the Christ.” He helped build a coalition of more than 50 faith-based organizations such as CBN, Lifeway, TBN to garner the support of tens of millions of Christians in support of the movie and propel the film to a record-breaking opening weekend.
He also produced the 2006 movie “The Perfect Game,” which told the true story of the 1957 Little League World Series team from Monterrey, Mexico.
He didn’t, though, have the desire to return to his previous life in movie production until he heard God ask him if he was afraid of his Calling.
“I never wanted to get back into film, because the only thing I’d been doing for ten years was preaching about how God pulled me out of the muck of Hollywood,” he said. “But I was awakened with the thought that I had a fear of falling not failing, afraid to go back to the Enemies turf. But God confirmed to me that I’d been walking with Him for 15 years and that I was solid in my walk and ready to return.”
“He confirmed to me that I needed to pursue my destiny and His plans for my life,” he remembered. “I couldn’t be afraid of going back to that Hollywood lifestyle, because now I was going to make movies that make a difference and for this final round for His glory.”
God immediately gave him peace and extended a reassurance about making movies in Hollywood again.
Koch said God told him that He would give him special projects and that “you have a solid three films in you.”
Koch is currently committed to three films in the next three years, including one that is another baseball-themed movie. The other projects have been identified and will be in development soon.
The movie about baseball, he said, communicates “the power of prayer and the power of persistence, and the power and influence of a father.” This film can transform a teens life and give them hope, faith and encourage them to continue to pursue their dreams during these trying times. We must reach the youth of this nation to create a hope for our future.
According to Koch, there is a real need in Hollywood for movies that aren’t necessarily “Christian films” but that still present the Gospel in an authentic way.
“We don’t want to be labeled as making movies that only Christians will watch,” he said. “We want to make mainstream films that once the audience gets engaged, they will see the transformation in the characters. We want films that show testimonies and make people say, ‘Wow!, I want to know about what transformed them’.”
“Nothing can reach someone in two hours like a movie can,” he said.
Today, Koch looks back on his early years in Hollywood with amazement.
His improbable dream of making blockbuster movies came to fruition in improbable ways–and, ultimately, led him to a faith he never imagined could be possible.
His fall from the top of the industry…his powerful conversion to Christ…his restored life…his message to families…and now his return to moviemaking?
It may, in fact, sound like a made-for-Hollywood story.
“God made it clear that I was created for this, and now I’m back in film,” Koch said. “I want to follow Him.”
Cheryl Wray is a book author and freelance writer. She’s married with three daughters and six grandchildren.