Quality Christian Filmmaking - An Oxymoron or Just Moronic?
- Monday, July 18, 2005
Even after Mel Gibson gifted moviegoers with the unforgettable Biblical epic, "The Passion of the Christ," one of the questions most often fielded by Hollywood’s most successful Christian artists is, “When are Christians going to make BIG Hollywood movies?” By BIG, they mean big budget – an option not available to anyone who calls themselves a “Christian filmmaker,” unless, of course, like Mel, you are fortunate enough to be able to afford to bankroll your own vision.
The truth is, Christian actors and producers will make BIG Hollywood movies when moviegoers support their efforts by purchasing tickets. The trouble is, there are plenty of self-inflicted roadblocks in the way that are preventing this from happening.
At the risk of offending an entire group of well-meaning, hardworking artists, it seems the “Christian movie” genre carries a carefully earned stigma of mediocrity marked by a steadily growing collection of low budget, poorly produced films. To mainstream moviegoers, the result of the negative association of following the word “Christian” with the words “actor”, “producer” or “film” is that the collective contributions of these artists are automatically defined as less creative and inferior to their secular, mainstream counterparts.
For more than 15 years, I have been fortunate to find success in Hollywood as both an actor and a producer – and yes, I am a devout Christian. My one-man show, "Holyman Undercover," that I perform in various live venues – both secular and Christian – is a success as well. I find, however, that being defined only as a “Christian actor” or “Christian producer” doesn’t sit well with me.
Perhaps it is because so many of the movies produced and marketed with the “Christian” pitch rarely realize their full potential, reach their desired audiences or, more importantly, impact the lives of those viewing in a way that is memorable and life affirming. Where is the passion? Where is the commitment to quality? Where is the sold-out devotion to great storytelling?
In fact, so compromised is the response of mainstream moviegoers to most films labeled as having a “Christian message” that they are rendered almost useless as the evangelistic tool most Christian filmmakers pray their works will be.
A highly publicized study commissioned by the Dove Foundation and conducted by Paul Kagan and Associates proved that while some people line up to buy tickets to sex- and violence-laced R-rated movies, G-rated films are more than eight times more profitable. In the wake of that eye-opening study, makers of “Christian” movies are stumped by the figures. They are asking themselves why “Christian” movies aren’t seeing the success their less family-oriented counterparts enjoy. In a climate where family movies are the proven moneymakers, how did this happen? Why are Christian filmmakers – and Christians who are working to produce films with a Christian message – missing the mark?
Those who are fans of these kinds of movies are loyal and want to do what they can to support these kinds of productions. So, why is it so hard to grow the Christian-film market and expand the number of those who are avid fans of this type of family-friendly fare?
The easy answer – and the truth – is because movies with Christian themes are about Jesus and Christians and how their faith affects their daily lives. The general public thinks using the word “Jesus” is the dividing line they don’t want to cross.
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