Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Overstreet

The growing "Christian movie industry"

24 posts in this topic

NPR has a report on Christian moviemaking that makes me want to... well, never mind. I'll let you decide for yourselves.
 

"I think we're going to see significant production houses that will be funding $200 million films done by Christians," he predicts. "We're going to have our own Steven Spielbergs. We're going to have our own filmmakers that can tell great stories, produce tremendous films, but they're going to be doing it with a Christian world view, and they're not going to be embarrassed about that."

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The only new development will be the industry part, with the marketing

The marketing is the worst of it. There obvious theological insanities involved with branding the gospel, and the Church is always the ideological loser when it tries to play the market.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, The Widow's Might is a musical about taxation and battling the government about tax foreclosure? Surely this will be better than Cop Rock. Who says the musical is dead? ::59::

I was in a Christian bookstore last week, and there was an impressive collection of straight-to-DVD Christian movies. And Kirk Cameron and Steven Baldwin can't be in all of them. So there is a burgeoning Christian film industry. I hope that out of all this will rise some talented people who become bored with didactic storytelling and discover how to tell a good story with enough subtlety to allow the viewer to figure out the theme without drilling a message into them. At least one can hope.

I did notice that the strangest of these family-friendly films, or at least the strangest casting, was a film called The First of May, featuring Mickey Rooney, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Joe Dimaggio! :blink: I was awfully tempted to pick up this DVD just to see the three of them in the same film!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know when I'll get time to listen to the report, but can we please stop spreading the meme that Fireproof was the #1 independent film of 2008? The #1 AMERICAN independent film, sure, maybe... since Slumdog Millionaire, a British movie, HAS grossed about three times as much as Fireproof did, no matter what the NPR report says... though I'd like to know how Twilight, a movie produced and distributed entirely by Summit Entertainment if I'm not mistaken, doesn't qualify as "independent". (Summit Entertainment's second-biggest hit, Never Back Down, grossed less than $25 million, well behind Fireproof's gross. That sounds kinda indie, no?) Okay, maybe Fireproof was the #1 AMERICAN independent film that played in LESS THAN A THOUSAND THEATRES... but that doesn't roll off the tongue quite so easily, does it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mark Moring has responded to this NPR report by arguing, No! We don't need a Christian film industry!

He invites us to comment at the CT blog, and I encourage you to do that. It would be nice to get some substantial responses before the wave of condemnation comes in, accusing him of selling out to the world.

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctmovies...ur-own-spi.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ABC's Nightline updates the Christian/faith film industry story, repeating that Fireproof was the #1 independent movie in America, and showing clips from a forthcoming independently produced film with a Christian message.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

is anyone able to list the 2008 domestic grosses of the above films (or point me the right direction)? boxofficemojo seems to conflate all grosses and i'd be interested in some definitive listing of those grosses. i mean, ultimately, i'm glad to see fireproof do well - but i also want to make sure we're comparing apples to apples, if you know what i mean.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
i mean, ultimately, i'm glad to see fireproof do well - but i also want to make sure we're comparing apples to apples, if you know what i mean.

Yeah, agreed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't want to start a new thread for this, so I'm posting this here... CT Movies has profiled a Fireproof producer who is now producing films in Florida, and it ends with this quote:

Nixon hopes these efforts will start a movement of prayer and turn hearts to God. In turn, he wants to establish Orlando as the headquarters of Christian filmmaking

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anyway. It's a puzzling quote, and I'm not sure what to make of it. Does anybody else here have a take on this?

I don't think it's that puzzling. Nixon wants his studio to be big, and

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So maybe it's no more complex than "we want to be like a powerful studio, and we'll say the first studio that comes to mind."

Am I being uncharitable to suggest that all that a Christian company company could hope for is being the Christian Lionsgate?

Edited by Nezpop

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lionsgate distributes Tyler Perry movies, so it's already the Christian Lionsgate. ;)

And I hear that the Lionsgate executive who turned the original Saw into a franchise happens to be an evangelical Christian, so make of that what you will.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Links to threads on 'How should a Christian review a "Christian movie"?' (Feb-Jun 2007) and 'Fox Launches New "Fox Faith" Label' (Sep 2006-Dec 2007).

John August -- who (co-)wrote Go (1999), Titan A.E. (2000), Charlie's Angels (2000-2003), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Corpse Bride (2005) -- regularly posts tips on screenwwriting at his blog. Today he addresses the question: "What is your take on the Christian movie scene?"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I met a guy who said that years ago, he was on a plane ride with Leonard Sweet. He had no idea who Dr. Sweet was, but once introduction formalities, they discussed how in the business world, people who advertise their Christianity are distrusted. According to the man I talked to, if one sees a Jesus fish, Scripture, or other American evangelical paraphernalia on a business card, then it is a good indicator that one is dealing with a substandard contractor, business person, etc., and that they use their association with Christianity as a means to push them past other mediocre competition. Though I have not read it, years later, the man I talked to said he found out that Dr. Sweet published that conversation in one of his books.

To me, this captures the Christian film industry, but there is no real point in being snooty about it either. I've tried that tact, and it only alienates. Most sermons are poor. I have no idea how sermons work outside of Western Kentucky, but here, it is a white guy in a suit, doing his own weekly, 40 minute version of the Rush Limbaugh show. They shoot from the hip, and even the best are substandard mimics of national speakers who aren't especially impressive. Evangelical Christians sit through drivel every week. Do you really think they are going to mind "Fireproof"? Content, delivery, and context has never been a big deal to them. Movies like "Fireproof" are a vast improvement over what they weekly get treated to.

Though I am saying something here, in person I am different. When people go on about how great it is, I just nod, and keep my mouth shut. I am as fine with them teaching marriage classes using the film, as I am with them using Andy Griffith episodes for Sunday school lessons. Kirk Cameron is no Don Knotts, but if gets people to examine their lives, marriage, and what the Ephesians says about love and respect, then all I can say is: "God bless it with Your Spirit".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

NPR has a report on Christian moviemaking that makes me want to... well, never mind. I'll let you decide for yourselves.

QUOTE "I think we're going to see significant production houses that will be funding $200 million films done by Christians," he predicts. "We're going to have our own Steven Spielbergs. We're going to have our own filmmakers that can tell great stories, produce tremendous films, but they're going to be doing it with a Christian world view, and they're not going to be embarrassed about that."

This quote reminds me of Richard Gazowsky, the pastor of a small Pentecostal church in California whose attempt at making a big-budget Christian sci-fi epic was chronicled in the documentary Audience of One. The tone of the movie is similar to Lost in La Mancha , except that Terry Gilliam's project failed despite his talent and experience as a filmmaker.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

And I hear that the Lionsgate executive who turned the original Saw into a franchise happens to be an evangelical Christian, so make of that what you will.

Huh! That puts a new spin on comments from a student in my current "faith and pop culture" course who suggested "Saw" (possibly one of the sequels) as promoting "forgiveness," which I found a bit of a stretch, but since I hadn't actually seen it (and nothing could make me), I couldn't really argue about it. So I haven't seen it, but can someone who has tell me, is it a case of victims being given a choice of "do the right thing or be mutilated"? Why do I suspect that "mutilation" wins?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

And I hear that the Lionsgate executive who turned the original Saw into a franchise happens to be an evangelical Christian, so make of that what you will.

Huh! That puts a new spin on comments from a student in my current "faith and pop culture" course who suggested "Saw" (possibly one of the sequels) as promoting "forgiveness," which I found a bit of a stretch, but since I hadn't actually seen it (and nothing could make me), I couldn't really argue about it. So I haven't seen it, but can someone who has tell me, is it a case of victims being given a choice of "do the right thing or be mutilated"? Why do I suspect that "mutilation" wins?

As I recall, the third film focused on a guy who had the opportunity to save people involved in a courtcase related to his kid being killed by a drunk driver, the lawyers, the drunk driver, etc. But the saw films, if about anything are...how badly do do you value your life? Jigsaw himself sets traps people can survive, the proteges (Shawnee Smith and Costas Mandylor) do not. But even in Jigsaw's traps, there is not avoidence of torment. You'd have to try pretty hard to make a defense that the films are not about torture.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
SDG quoted in Huffington Post!

Thanks, Darrel, I hadn't seen that HuffPo picked up that piece!

The article was actually written for my local paper, the Newark Star Ledger, where it ran somewhat longer -- and where I was quoted twice. I think some around here will get a kick out of the second quote, which got chopped from the HuffPo edit. Here's the conclusion of the original piece:

But Greydanus — who also reviews for the National Catholic Register, and recommends pictures from “The Social Network” to “Inception” — says he hopes both the faith-based audience and film-based Hollywood will look beyond their rigid preconceptions. “There is a Christian subculture that is interested in spirituality but doesn’t identify with the Moral Majority or Ted Baehr’s Movieguide and does go to some R-rated movies,” he says. “Just as there are unchurched Americans who are still curious about spirituality.”

And the one faith that may yet draw them together is the belief in the simple magic of good movies.

My follow-up piece ... in which I go into some more detail on, among other things, the limitations of MovieGuide (context that I felt the quote above more or less called for).

Granted, it’s a perception with some basis in actual Christian culture. Take the Christian review site MovieGuide, where all movie reviews begin with a lengthy content-advisory catalogue of positive and negative content and themes (preceded by a string of impenetrable abbreviations, e.g., “PaPaPa, OOO, FR, C, BB, L, VV, S, N, AA, DD, MM”). Too often at MovieGuide, “safe” movies get high marks simply for avoiding objectionable content. (Four stars for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and Prince of Persia? Three stars for Marmaduke and Alpha and Omega? Really?) Moral analysis at MovieGuide can verge on the Orwellian: Babies, one of the most delightful movies of the year, may have a “strong moral worldview,” yet it’s dinged for a “light humanist quality” (i.e., secular humanist) “because no mention is made of God.”

On the other hand, MovieGuide critics are capable of praising positive spiritual and/or moral dimensions even in movies with horrific content, such as Winter’s Bone and District 9. That’s a pretty striking indicator of the breadth of Christian interest in mainstream films of all kinds that take these matters seriously.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been getting around. I saw the article in a tweet from Religious News (which linked to an article in the Oklahoman) before Huffington Post Religion tweeted it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It continues to get around: The Washington Post (not has prestigious as Huffington, but still...)

Edited by Darrel Manson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's an interesting article by Skye Jethani called "Why Are Christian Movies So Bad?"

It's a response to this Relevant magazine article, by Scott Nehring.

And it includes this tasty bit:

American evangelicalism, for the most part, has rejected a sacramental understanding of creation. Unlike Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some other high-church traditions, evangelicalism is rooted in modernity and a literalist vision of the world. The bread is just bread. The wine is just wine (sorry, grape juice). A thing is what it is. We prefer our Bible teaching unambiguous and direct-didactic and expository, thank you very much. We prefer our gathering spaces to be bare and with minimal symbols. Our brand of theology tends not to feed or cultivate the imagination.

A sacramental theology, on the other hand, requires one to see on multiple layers at once. A thing may carry multiple meanings simultaneously. Symbols dominate space and teaching. Mystery is embraced, and the imagination encouraged.

Unlike evangelicals, there is no shortage of celebrated Roman Catholic filmmakers today. And many of the 20th century’s most respected novelists also come for Catholic backgrounds: Graham Green, Flannery O’Conner, Shusaku Endo, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Is it possible that creative story-telling, like the kind necessary to produce great films, is particularly difficult for evangelicals because our instinct is to come directly at a something?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A substantial piece on the subject, offered in response to the recent response to Soul Surfer by Andrew O'Hehir:

Some thoughts on truth and fraudulence in Christian cinema

It's full of great stuff. Like this:

... true art happens where seriousness of purpose meets the skill of craftsmanship, even if the seriousness of purpose is nothing loftier than providing a jolt of irresistible entertainment. Over at Confused Gender, Alex Maisey recently skewered the false feminism of Casino Royale’s characterization of Vesper Lynd in an adroit comment that has applications here:

In Casino Royale, like M before her Vesper Lynd easily succeeds in taking Bond down a peg or two verbally in a scene oft-cited as showing her to be Bond’s equal. Now, I’m very – particularly – behind the portrayal of women in movies as smart, intelligent and able to hold their own in conversation, but context is everything and Casino Royale, whichever way you spin it, is not The Three Colours trilogy and it’s not a studied, layered, nuanced dissection of existentialism in modern society. It’s an action movie and it’s destined to play out on genre terms via the rules of action movies, which include notions of audience expectation.

Alex’s criticism echoes what C.S. Lewis wrote in the very first sentence of his Preface to Paradise Lost:

The first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is–what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used. After that has been discovered the temperance reformer may decide that the corkscrew was made for a bad purpose, and the communist may think the same about the cathedral. But such questions come later. The first thing is to understand the object before you: as long as you think the corkscrew was meant for opening tins or the cathedral for entertaining tourists you can say nothing to the purpose about them.

My hypothesis is that so-called “faith-based films” are intended to reaffirm the faith of the Christian audience in some fashion. The terms of the rules of faith-based filmmaking is that moral and spiritual dilemmas have definite answers that are satisfactorily resolved; that the audience not be subjected to images or messages that may cause them discomfort; that the actors perform in an accessible, unambiguous style; that the aesthetic scheme go out of its way to be clear, to be anything but obscure. Once we understand the rules of the game, we can choose whether or not to play; we know whether or not the game will be fun for us. For me (and, I suspect, for a majority of secular critics), this game doesn’t look like a lot of fun. It looks like a game of dodgeball, in which the other team is stacked with venomously visaged Swedish bodybuilders.

In the context of this discussion, then, it’s fair to say that a move like Soul Surfer may constitute a “faith-based film,” but is it a “Christian film?” I don’t think so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0