Critically Speaking: Michael W. Smith & Ryan Smith
- Friday, August 22, 2008
What do a famous Christian music singer/songwriter and a feature film company have in common? On the surface, not much.
However, veteran artist Michael W. Smith is meddling in more than just music these days. Having written the score for a few movies and starred in another (we hear there’s more where that came from), Smitty is also one-third of the innovative brains behind Seabourne Pictures, established with the “objective of creating thought-provoking and engaging feature films.”
Co-founded by Mark Cowart and Ryan Smith, Michael’s son, Seabourne is attempting to challenge the status quo and narrow the creative chasm between “Christian” film and mainstream movies by releasing C2: Giving Movies a Second Look, a DVD curriculum designed to promote discussion and critical thought about the films Christians watch. Using a straightforward study guide and original short films, small groups can connect, critique and conclude how movies comment on an accurate biblical worldview.
Sitting down with Michael and Ryan, the father/son team discusses film, its influence and its place in a broader Christian perspective.
CMP: When did you first consider developing films that would initiate discussion and critical thought?
Ryan: Mark [Cowart] had seen a clip of a movie at church. It wasn’t very good. He came in and said, “We can do this so much better.” So originally, we talked about doing clips for sermon illustrations. Then that morphed into this idea of using 20-minute short films as a way to get Christians engaged in a discussion about the arts and how to take your Christian worldview to the movies.
CMP: What were each of your roles in developing and releasing the C2 films?
Michael: I paid for it (Laughs).
Ryan: I wrote and directed Relapse, a drama I had wanted to do before we even had the idea for C2. Then we looked for something else on the opposite end of the spectrum to give C2 a real sense of variety. So I produced the comedy, Love at First Sight, and helped write the story.
Michael: It was fun playing a producer role on C2. I’ve always had an interest in film. I scored a couple of movies and did The Second Chance movie. Obviously, I saw the potential in Ryan and Mark. These guys really have it. Ryan’s directed three of my videos, and, more than likely, the next film I’ll be in might be one of his films.
But I didn’t even score these films. It was fun to say, “I’m not doing the music, but here’s recommendations of a couple [people] that would be good.” The guys who [scored the films}—Jim Daneker and David Hamilton—knocked it out of the park in my opinion.
CMP: What influence do you think film exerts on moviegoers?
Ryan: In a survey the Barna Group conducted recently “nearly one-third of adults (29 percent) contend that movies have had a substantial impact on the development of their personal morals, values and religious beliefs.”
People are impacted by what they see whether they realize it or not. Sometimes it’s subconscious. I think that’s the kind of filmmaking we’re interested in, something that’s a little more under the radar, something subtler. We’re not interested in making message movies.
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