Monday, December 22, 2008

Faith and Film: What's Working, What's Not

I was recently called to share some thoughts on Christian film and its impact on culture. While you can hear the summary at the Moody Radio archives (my quotes are at the 20 minute mark), I wanted to share two insights on spirituality in today's films.

First, the message counts. In other words, there must be a significant issue at stake, regardless of whether the film is Christian or otherwise. And if a film is presented as a Christian film, the audience deserves to see something distinctly Christian in its message.

Fireproof presented a clear struggle of a guy attempting to succeed in his marriage without Jesus and how he ended up much better with the power of Christ in his life. House (the R-rated film based on the novel by Peretti/Dekker) failed to offer a clear Christian message and frustrated many Christian fans while not offering enough firepower to dominate at the mainstream level.

Second, quality counts. Bella succeeded as a pro-life film among a broad audience in large part due to its astounding quality. It lacked sci-fi special effects, but was a finely-crafted drama that deeply touched the emotions. When Christian filmmakers produce films with a striking message at the same quality as Hollywood, the true potential of Christian message can leave a deep impact.

Case in point: Sony + Grassroots films from Albany, GA = box office success. It takes the quality production (and marketing!) of Hollywood combined with the grassroots efforts of Christians to truly create a successful Christian film in mainstream culture. Mel Gibson, Sony, The Ultimate Gift, Expelled, Disney's Narnia films, and Veggie Tales have each figured out this formula.

One final note: There are lots of good Christian filmmakers out there without a Hollywood budget making films that help people without making millions of dollars. For example, I appeared in a cameo role in The Imposter, a film starring Kevin Max (of DC Talk) that may not be in next weekend's Top 10, but has helped touch some lives.

My friend Matt Mitchell produced Pray, Pray 2, and has more on the way, creating solid faith-based films to encourage teenagers. And if you've never watched a Rich Christiano film, you're missing out.

If you haven't rented or purchased a quality Christian-film recently, buy one to watch this Christmas break (I highly recommend my friends at Your purchase is your vote for future Christian films that will influence today's (and tomorrow's) culture.


Matthew Kinne said...

Your readers may also want to see THE BILL COLLECTOR movie, coming out Fall of '09. The movie stars Danny Trejo (SPY KIDS) and will have a limited theatrical release.

In THE BILL COLLECTOR, Lorenzo Adams is in trouble. The hard driving manager of a collections agency must pay an old debt of $100,000 in a matter of days or face certain death. An unlikely friendship with his would-be killer and a cockamamie scheme to hire desperate down-and-outers from an inner-city mission all amount to nothing when Lorenzo finds himself staring down the barrel of a gun.


Thanks, Matt! You'll have to share more as the film's release nears.

jasongrant said...

I have to think of a simplistic solution... those who wish to finance these features need to pull together. Rather than making many low quality films.. make 1 or 2 really high quality films.
I was personally amazed at the success of 'Facing the Giants' although I was not a fan. I felt that the film would give the un-saved person the wrong idea about Christianity (turn to God and everything will be perfect).
I will say this though... please do not allow Carman to star in any more films.


Thanks, Jason! Some filmmakers are beginning to attempt this type of collaborative financing, but it's only just beginning among some of the filmmakers I've met.

I favor more of a both/and approach; meaning I'd like to see a few top-notch films hit nationwide with a Christian message, but also support a large array of indie and lower-budget Christian filmmakers in their desire to serve specific niches through their ministries. The goal is to communicate Christ to various audiences, not always to make a blockbuster film.

Merry Christmas!

Bret Ceren said...

Dillon - spot on. It seems that too many Christians want to do everything themselves, instead of partnering with experts in given areas, vis a vis the marketing power of the Hollywood establishment. Fearing or blaming them is not the answer - speaking their language and creating a winning proposition for our own quality media is. This type of free market success will also help with the question of financing - if a quality Christian media bloc, at least in terms of film, can be organized, I do not believe funding would be an issue. Keep it up, and Happy New Year!

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