Culture

Should We Make Christian Movies?

Let’s be really honest. Most Evangelical attempts at films in the last 30 years have been, putting it nicely, terrible. Numerous people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have taken a shot at exactly why this is. Everything from “they’re cheap” to “they’re not honest enough” have been suggested. For the past four years or so since starting my own career as a filmmaker, I’ve struggled to explain to many why I refuse to support these movies.

Let’s be really honest. Most Evangelical attempts at films in the last 30 years have been, putting it nicely, terrible. Numerous people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have taken a shot at exactly why this is. Everything from “they’re cheap” to “they’re not honest enough” have been suggested.

For the past four years or so since starting my own career as a filmmaker, I’ve struggled to explain to many why I refuse to support these movies. I often will get responses like “well, they may not be the best quality, but we should support the Christians who made them” (which is horrible logic in its own right), and “they’re making money, so that should indicate something right?”

Box office numbers don’t indicate quality (the Transformers franchise comes to mind). Many of these movies make lots of money (Heaven is for Real, God’s Not Dead, and War Room all grossed more than $60 million), but get horrible critical reviews (each got a metacritic score of 47, 16, and 26 out of 100 respectively). Instead of listening to the experts of what makes a good film, evangelicals lash back with childish accusations of persecution. God’s Not Dead is almost a metanarrative about Christian movies in the filmmaking industry, but I doubt the producers put even that amount of thought into it.

Let’s be clear. This is not persecution. Hollywood does not care about religious affiliation when it comes to movies. Hollywood cares about whatever will make money. In fact, there’s been a rising interest in biblical films in the past couple of years. People are interested in the bible, and have been ever since the birth of the motion picture (by 1927, just 21 years since the first feature length film was released, 39 movies found their base on Jesus or the Bible). Really, the critics are just doing their job, and evangelicals are just being whiney. If we’re being honest, these accusations of persecution are not just childish, but also horribly offensive to our brothers and sisters who really are being persecuted.

Since we can no longer rely on this persecution complex, we must ask ourselves an important question. Why exactly are these movies so bad? Before diving in, it would be good to define what a Christian movie really is. A Christian movie, in this context, is one that cares more about the explicit message of the filmmaker than the aesthetic quality of the movie, and is largely marketed as an evangelistic tool.

Why are they so bad?

There have been many accusations as to why Christian movies are so painfully bad. Right off the bat, it should be addressed that it has nothing to do with production quality. High production value and lots of money doesn’t ensure a great film (take a look at Juno, which was made with $7.5 million, grossed over $230 million, and was well received both critically and publically). Good stories with believable characters make great movies. Many Christian movies miss this.

It seems to me that of all the things that make Christian movies so bad, fear appears to be the biggest. Evangelicals are afraid of siding with anything that isn’t explicitly Christian. We need to hear the literal gospel being preached from the big screen in order to feel comfortable accepting it.

There is a problem here, however, because anyone can come along screen-preaching in Jesus’ name, and they would be accepted no matter what they are saying (passages like Exodus 20:7 and 1 John 4:1 come to mind). Christians are then afraid to criticize “their own.” Again, this is a problem because we have movies like the God’s Not Dead franchise that actually harm the conversation between Christians and non-believers because it villainizes and paints atheists in a very uncharitable light (for an example of how this can be done right, please watch Stephen Frears Philomena).

Evangelicals are afraid of ambiguity. This is bad for a number of reasons. One, people don’t like to be preached at. The great irony of the Christian movie genre is that they are marketed as evangelistic tools, and largely only appeal to people who already profess the faith. Two, impactful and life-changing stories ask way more questions than they answer. Many Christian movies give trite little answers to every one of life’s problems in a very sunday-school-esque manor (AKA every answer is “Jesus.”) Three, this fear of ambiguity is antithetical to how Jesus taught. Jesus used parables because they were ambiguous (when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, does he really imply that we are saved based off of our works?). His parables brought up more questions than they answered. Jesus forced his audience to question their culture, their presuppositions, and their own selves. Throughout these ambiguous parables, Jesus was able to teach truth in an emotionally deep, and life changing way.

Lastly, evangelicals are afraid of honesty. We are afraid of real life issues like drugs, sex, and violence. Sometimes, these are addressed, but the examples are mundane and the effects are surface level, while often leveling a product as a solution (ahem, Fireproof). The main character’s moral failings only go so far (In War Room, the writers teased at infidelity when TC Stallings’ character flirted with a woman he worked with. I’m not saying an affair would’ve made the movie better, but rather I’m asking why the sin of infidelity is only exemplified in light flirtation and pornography addiction?) We are afraid of honest emotions and real life issues. Life is full of complex and hard to deal with issues. There are no easy answers. We are uncomfortable leaving these kinds of raw emotions and issues unanswered, but are also afraid of giving complex answers, because not everyone might agree.

Can we, or should we, fix them?

The first step to solving any problem is by identifying what isn’t working. The next step is to ask if the problem is worth solving. I’m not the type to just give up on something just because it’s not working, but there’s one major problem with these kinds of Christian movies. Really, this problem isn’t exclusive to Christian films, but this problem is rooted into the very nature of Christian media. Christian media as a whole (music, movies, merchandise, anything that can be monetized) enables isolation.

A group that lives in its own subculture inherently decides to abandon other cultures the members could be joining. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. You are going to find yourself living in some culture or another, so why is diving into the current Christian subculture so bad? The problem is that the Church is isolating itself in it’s own subculture. This issue is not a new one, however.

Before Christ, the Jewish people were known for their isolation. Their entire culture was set up around the idea of holiness, or being set apart. Leading up to Christ, the Jewish people were spread apart, in what was called the Diaspora, and this was of great dismay to a Jew. The biggest weakness of the Jews, however, was the greatest strength of the early Church. After Pentecost, the Gospel message was able to spread quickly across the world because the Jews were so spread out. Isolating ourselves is easy to do, and it’s often preferable because it’s safe. Going out means risking rejection, being taken advantage of, and sometimes harm.

Jesus never promised us safety, but he did promise he would always be with us, and a community that would pick you up after you fall. This is the good part about the community of God. We shouldn’t isolate ourselves, but we should be a haven that we can bring others into. The safety offered by the community of God is in fact a very good thing, but the problem here is that the Church has become too dependant on that safety, and avoided the essential calling Jesus gave before his ascension.

What does this have to do with Christian movies? Christian movies are a bad idea because they are one more tool which allows the Church to isolate itself in its own subculture. This isolationist model allowed for such awful movies like GND (and its sequel) to exist, which ultimately makes the world outside look at us for what we’ve become, a weird group that plays the victim with an us-vs-them persecution complex.

I don’t think that movies based around faith are a bad thing. In fact, some of my favorite movies are based around the faith or have an overarching Christian theme (Tree of Life, Gran Torino, Magnolia, Doubting) and there are quite a few heavily Christian themed films coming out that I am personally excited for (Last Days in the Desert, Silence). The interesting thing is that these films are not made by people who profess the faith. It’s a sad state of affairs when non-christians create better faith films than Christians do.

What I am suggesting is that we should stop marketing films as Christian movies. We should stop trying to make a knock-off Christian Hollywood. We should stop isolating ourselves. We fix these movies when we stop making them. We should instead actively engage culture, go out into Hollywood, and make good films. Perhaps then we can make a true impact in the world of film.

 

What do you think? Should Christians have their own subculture media? Or should Christians be involved in Hollywood?

30 comments on “Should We Make Christian Movies?

  1. thoughtcascadeblog

    We get Pureflix instead of netflix … aside from the documentaries … its awful. The amount of cheesiness nearly kills me and quite honestly most of them dont even reflect the average Christian life style. Its sad really lol

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s good to engage in culture.

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  3. Few Christian movies are good in quality. There is nothing wrong for the followers of Christ to produce films for Christ. They also have their own biases through the people they mix with. No matter what happens, God judges the intents of their hearts. It will be good for you to advise and guide the Christian producers how to produce a more realistic and good quality Christian movies.

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  4. For me my problem is that nobody will tell an honest story from the Bible. “The Passion” came close, but Mel Gibson managed to take something so terrible and bloody and turn it up to 11. Just following the narrative of the four gospels would have been bloody and emotional enough. Then you have “Noah”. Because God judging the world and all of creation dying under a world wide flood isn’t dramatic enough. Ironically, some of the minor details of the narrative they got right, while completely losing the story.

    As you write above Christian movies really are bad. They are flannelgram on the big screen. If you want to bring a story of the Bible to life, do it, be honest, and don’t try to take on too much. The life of David is far too broad, the early years of David would be great for example, marrying a widow while the corpse is still warm, running from a possessed King, and even the common life of a shepard in the wild and how that developed him into the man he became. (I won’t comment on televisions “Kings and Prophets” as it makes me sad.)

    To your point on movies like “Fireproof” I 100% agree. Either make it about real life or don’t. “Courageous” I think may have done a slightly better job, although it was predicatable. The church I attend is full of thousands of people who have come out of lifestyles that would shock many(Drug addiction, sex trafficking, living on the streets, etc.) Thousands more are searching for the real Jesus. If we really want to make movies to impact the world, then we need to tell the stories that real people in need of a real God and real Savior can understand and relate to. Jesus came to heal the sick, not hang out in middle school Sunday School.

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  5. Drew Tearpak

    Great thoughts Gary! I know someone recently (I think NBC) tried to do a life of David tv show, and it was basically if the Bible had been written by George R.R. Martin. It was cancelled by the third episode. The content doesn’t necessarily need to change, but the people who make them do. They need to care more about their craft and telling a good story. They need to make something that will be much more appealing than to just the christian audience.

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  6. Great observations. Faith life – like all life – is so messy that these pat-answer movies make us seem (IMO) disingenuous. We are all grappling with reality, and to pretend otherwise, even on film, doesn’t give God or Christ enough credit.

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  7. I’m a movie addict, I love watching stories on the big screen, almost any genre there is – horror, sci-fi, mystery, drama, action, even the occasional “chick flick”, the only genre I avoid is Christian. Not because I don’t think there should be Christian movies but because, as THOUGHTCASCADEBLOG and Gary said, they’re not well made, “cheesy” I think Thought said. Acting tends to be poor, dialog unrealistic (sounds like old Donny & Marie TV shows), and the story is just not gripping. The best I recall were The Greatest Story Every Told and The Passion of Christ (though, as Gary said, overdone).

    The thing is, a story doesn’t have to be Biblical or “cheesy” to be a good Christian story, some of our greatest Christian writers knew this. Look at C.S. Lewis, not a bit of preaching in his Narnia tales, but the Christian theme runs deep. I’ve thought that if some dedicate Christian filmmaker wanted to do a good Christian movie Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness would make a good trilogy to go up against the vampire and werewolf themes that are so popular. Of course, it would have to be done right with quality actors, good directors, and proper casting. But it can be done.

    As you pointed out, Jesus used parables. This was done for a very important reason – people don’t like to have their sins, failings, shortcomings, made obvious, the message can be delivered more effectively with veiled narratives that point out the problem with the “wrong” way, and the advantages of doing things the “right” way, without hitting them over the head with it. Christians want to take note of Hollywood and mirror its success in pushing agendas. The LGB progress started with television shows like Three’s Company, where there was no real gay person, but the message was there; then they pushed it just a little further with lesbian kissing, then further. Jesus did the same with His message, He didn’t strike out in the beginning but brought healing to get their attention, then parables to give the message gently, then outright attacks on the Pharisees.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Drew Tearpak

      Good thoughts! Thanks for sharing. I definitely think a big part of the problem is the blatant preachy nature of a lot of these films. There’s a saying in Hollywood that says “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t send a message with a film, but people don’t want to be preached at. They want to be entertained and you can subtly influence how people feel about something by showing them a different or greater perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s funny you brought this up. I “judged” a Christian for performing a non Christian song on social media recently. Growing up I wasn’t allowed non-Christian movies, music etc I kind of still am uncomfortable watching and listening to “worldly” music / movies. However, my husband has encouraged me to not be so “sheltered”. THANK you for this reminder that we need to be relevant because I also write songs (as a hobby).. with the intention to “reach out” yet at the same time wanting to stick to strong “Christian” themes/ words – errr..! Lol! This is such a timely post! We are in the world, but we have to always keep it real. Jesus hanged and served those the Pharisees despised.. May we not become like Pharisees ourselves. God bless 🙂 and keep making your movies!

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  9. I totally agree and totally disagree.

    First, the citation of the MetaCritic score isn’t a good reference in my opinion. Passion of the Christ hoovered around a 30% Rotten Tomato score when it came out (it’s now up to 49% and rotten) although it’s perhaps one of the most technically amazing movies of that year. The reason – the message. And Gibson didn’t even show the REAL torture described in the bible. There will be some serious bias for ANY film that has Christian content because many simply have a anti-Christian bias. [The Audience Score on RT is 80% BTW]

    Second, every film doesn’t have to be embraced by every audience. The secular world adored Brokeback Mountain [87% Rotten 82% Audience] but my bias as a Christian caused me multiple trips to the toilet and I couldn’t finish it. TED earned a huge payday for devout Catholic Mark Wahlberg because although it was profane, it has an audience and they could afford to pay the actor. IF it’s ok for that COMMUNITY to make a movie targeted to those beliefs – it certainly is ok for Christians to do the same.

    The secular makes terrible films too. Mortdecai and ENTOURAGE from last year were unwatchable and they suffered. The good news is that civilization will survive another year and we don’t have to worry about a Mortdecai 2 from Depp. Because it didn’t make money. But Hollywood has a dirty little secret. Actually 2. First, they rarely make a movie they know they won’t already break even on through foreign sales. Second, they bundle their dogs to distributors with clear hits so they have the luxury to wait out the storm until the next hit. Meanwhile, they are cultivating actors, directors, cinematographers, producers and writers who have the luxury to make mistakes.

    Look at WAR ROOM and COURAGEOUS from the Kendrick brothers. They make these films for less than $1 Million and have DRAMATICALLY improved their skill since their first film FlyWheel. But they do 3 things excellently. They know how to tell a story, they make a movie for a very specific market that will support them, and they are painfully frugal on their budgets. Therefore, they have made some of the most profitable films (most in the top 10 by % of profit over budget in the year they were made) and can survive to raise up another group of filmmakers. The GREAT news is that HEAVEN IS REAL, GOD’S NOT DEAD and others were about 200% MORE profitable than the average Hollywood film. And SONY created a label to take advantage of this.

    The problem (as you know as a film maker) it’s nearly impossible to get a movie funded unless you are within the studio system much less distributed or of the quality we all desire. You have studios attempting to cash in on the Christian audience with films like NOAH, but the filmmaker didn’t even believe in God. (And there is good incentive since movies with very strong Christian worldviews averaged $86.34 million at the box office in the last five years while movies with very strong Non-Christian worldviews averaged less than $21.24 per movie.)

    Then you have films like the Nicholas Cage film LEFT BEHIND that Hollywood didn’t want to make. Because Cage was attached, the capital to make the film was available, but those that owned the rights thought movie making was simple. They had no real oversight on the script development, and the rest of the talent was locked in not because they were the best available, but for non-craft reasons. I have a close friend who directed and produced a film with Eric Roberts many years ago, and in the middle of filming, the Christian investors DEMANDED the script be changed to make the bad guy (Roberts) “come to Christ” at the end or they would pull the funding. My Christian friend (who has gone on to write and direct films for DreamWorks and others) swore he would never make a “Christian” film again.

    There are many working on this and great progress is being made. Dr. Ted Baher of the Christian Film and Television Commission began publishing annual reports on Christian content in movies almost 30 years ago. He procured money from the Templeton Foundation to reward writers and filmmakers with cash prizes to incentivize Christian screenplays and films. He met with studios regularly to tell them WHY it was financially viable to make “Christian Friendly” films. Since the 1990’s, when he started, movies with Christian content and/or positive references to Jesus & the New Testatment has gone from only 10 percent to over 65%. A 532% increase. Movies like Tony Scott’s

    So now that we actually are making Christian films, hopefully we will have a training ground for those writers, directors and producers to WANT to tell those stories. Devout Christians like Devon Franklin actually RAN a portion of a studio (MGM) profitably before heading out on their own and his new company already has funding and distribution for 4 movies.

    But artists have to make WHAT they know about and are passionate about. Randall Wallace (BRAVEHEART writer) simply couldn’t transition to directing quickly (MAN IN THE IRON MASK ) and the studio dumped him because he couldn’t make them money. However – HEAVEN IS REAL has opened up the gates so he can broaden the films he makes. (He is currently writing the sequel to PASSION OF THE CHRIST for Mel Gibson).

    Tony Scott deliberately changed the script of MAN ON FIRE (Denzel Washington) to effectively be a Christian allegory. And it worked well. Unfortunately he died recently under suspicious circumstances, but GREAT FILMS like BRAVEHEART aren’t made by committee. They are entrusted to talented artists who are profitable for the investors and their distributors.

    You want BETTER Christian movies? Make or raise $20 Million to fund 3 of them. Or help encourage those creative types who can’t stand Sunday school to start shooting small films on their iphone. Best of all – pay for Christian artists to go STORY STRUCTURE class to learn HOW to tell a story.

    Movies with a great story will ALWAYS find an audience and beget MORE money to make at least one more movie. Look at MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, ROCKY, SAW AND THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. All films made on a shoestring budget that had a compelling story that opened doors to have influence.

    But what you are asking for is CONSISTENTLY “good” films. But the Pixar story is for another time. 🙂

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    • RightJB, thanks for giving essentially a well thought out intelligent rebuttal to this blog. I guess if Mr. Tearpak thinks he can do better, then do better. The folks that are doing these are doing them with the tools they have to work with within the budgets they have. It is a nitch market and these guys have a story to tell and tell it. If Mr. Tearpak wants a different story, then write it, fund it, gather the talent and equipment to make the film, then market it. Just because these films aren’t to his liking or some other film critic gathering, doesn’t mean they aren’t “good” and certainly doesn’t make them “terrible” films. Some people don’t like them. That’s all that can be said. And some other people do like them and paid good money to go see them. So who’s right? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But to paint almost all “evangelical” type films in the last 30 years with a wide brush is just showing personal bias, along with all the others who were negative about the current films. War Room was a tremendous movie. Narrow plot, to the point, and yes, overtly Christian. So what? In my view, it said more about the power of prayer than 100 hours of preaching could ever do. Mr. Tearpak wants subtle? Fine. Write subtle and make the film. I think this is kinda like comments on youtube vids. “What that guy did is stupid. Anyone could do that.” Well, you do better and then post a youtube vid and we’ll so what you can do.

      It’s always easy to critique, but much much harder to produce. One has every right to be negative, but don’t paint with a wide brush, and claim some sort of authority, when in the end, it’s just your opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Drew Tearpak

      Hey, RIGHTJB, I appreciate the comments. I have a couple of thoughts for you. First, METACRITIC is a valid source because it take into account critic scores from well reputable sources of profession film critics. Second, I will say that, from what you wrote, I believe you missed the point of the article. Yes, personally, I like many others do not enjoy most “Christian Movies.” This is due to many of the reasons listed above. The reason I wrote this article was to point out that we are creating our own little world to escape in. This is a culture that says “the secular world hates us, so we are just going to stay in our own little place and make ourselves feel better.” Yes, the filmmakers did a good job appealing to their audience, but they can by no means be called an evangelical tool when no lost person wants to be in that theater. I’m advocating that we go out and actively engage in hollywood culture. We should be known in hollywood as working with the best of the best creating something a wide range of people would desire to see. Besides, who thought screen-preaching would be a good idea?

      On top of this, I don’t think quoting money figures is a good idea. Money and high production value never guarantees a good product. It shows that christians will swarm in mass because they want to support the home team. Do we realize that when we spend money on these kinds of movies, some fat-cat exec pockets most of the money, not the filmmakers themselves? That’s what these movies have turned into, a way for Hollywood to cash in on evangelical sentiment.

      I’m not against films that have a faith message to them. I’m not against Christian Allegory at all. I just want us to actively engage in this culture and create something that really causes people to question their own position about faith, life, and Jesus. I believe, like Jesus did, this includes emotionally deep and well told stories that effectively engage the hearts and minds of those watching. And to 7SAWDUST’s challenge, I hope to make something like that someday.

      Also, how to you make a sequel to the PASSION OF THE CHRIST? (Seriously…is it the story of when Jesus comes back? Or the book of Acts?)

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      • Thanks Drew. I didn’t miss your point but i think you missed mine. (Not difficult as I rambled quite a bit.).

        Not every “Christian film” needs to be evangelical. In fact, it’s financial foolishness. There is a niche (like War Room) targeted to committed Christians. But that market is a small, high risk market. Only two out of five Americans are “real” Christians (have confessed their sinfulness and professed faith in Christ – Barna). And of that group less than 1/5th actually go to movie theaters, which is what justifies budgets. HEAVEN IS REAL and others broaden that market a little bit, but they are wise to make smaller movies than won’t lose money.

        I happen to agree however that people are far more persuaded by movies that aren’t “on the nose” in their religion. CINDERELLA MAN is a great example of a film that had amazing Christian messages. Unfortunately, as excellent as it was, Ron Howard turned his back on making those kinds of films because people didn’t show up at the box office. I had an unsaved Jewish friend who I had prayed for and talked about Christ with for years. She called me out of the blue and said “she got it” when she was watching the scene in Jim Carey’s BRUCE ALMIGHTY when he demanded Jennifer Aniston’s character to love her. That one scene did more EFFECTIVE evangelism than 2 years of programming on TBN. Unfortunately, Tom Shadyac – a born again Christian who made amazing box office hits like LIAR LIAR – lost his skills with EVAN ALMIGHTY and eventually has lost a great deal of his theological perspective now veering off into new age subjects. It’s not easy to make a great movie – religious or not, from a creative perspective combining the RIGHT director, writer, producer and actors. It’s even more difficult to make one with Christian themes in Hollywood.

        The Producers of most of the MARVEL movies (CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER) are also strong Christians. They battled hard in Avengers for the line from CPT AMERICA when he said, “There’s only one God ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8ZhOMGvhcU) However, the FIGHT over the line was enormous with the studio and only because of the credibility of previous films was it left in. About 80% of American audiences identify with Christianity (whether they truly have accepted Jesus as Lord or try to live their life for him) – and it worked very well in screenings. it was left in.

        The bottom line is, you make a lot of money for the studio (investors and distributors who control the ability to make the movie) you can make whatever film you want. At least once. Even Spielberg can’t get movies easily greenlit after films like MUNICH.

        I personally am sick of the 1st Century movies, although RISEN was a great idea I thought. Had it removed one character and one scene – I feel the movie could have doubled it’s box office gross. Despite that, the movie I’m currently working on is…wait for it….another first century biblical epic. The reason? It’s already paid for.

        But like you, I’d love to create films that have excellent production values and is entertaining that happen to expose Christian truths to a bigger audience. As I pointed out we should celebrate that Hollywood has acknowledged the necessity from a financial perspective and that a budding subculture is growing to support niche films as well.

        But the homosexual lobby shows that you can change culture by nibbling at the edges as well. (Although they do it by outright coercion and extortion now.) People ARE working on that at every level of Hollywood. It does no good to complain about the darkness when you can find some matches yourself.

        As for the sequel to the passion it is the resurrection and the next 50 days of Pentecost. He appeared to 500. He did miracles beyond what he had done originally. He was taken up into heaven in front of crowds. I’m not sure who WOULDN’T want to see that. Especially by a filmmaker like Gibson. The original film didn’t even have the Resurrection seen.and was shot and added at the insistence early pastors who saw the first cut in editing. Randall Wallace (Braveheart, When We Were Soliders) is writing the script.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Drew Tearpak

        To RightJB, I hope this posts under your comment.
        That makes sense. i apologize, it seems I did miss your point. Thank you for engaging well with this post. I agree with much of what you said.
        And I would agree, 1 Century pics are hard to do well. Can I ask what the film is about? I’m intrigued. If you’d like to chat more, you can email me at dmtearpak@gmail.com. If you can’t discuss further due to NDA’s, totally understand.

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  10. I liked “The Song” and “October Baby”. My problem is they were impossible to see in my area without driving 70 miles. I don’t like the Christians are persecuted movies, like God is Not Dead. I don’t like the Hallmark channel. I realize that this will offend many, but I saw more biblical principles in the Harry Potter and Twilight Series than I do in some of the “Bible based” stories.

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    • Drew Tearpak

      I actually am friends with the Cinematographer of “The Song.” It looked good, but I never got to see it. It’s hard to drive to see indie films.
      And I agree, some of my favorite films that demonstrate Christian narratives have not been “Christian Movies.” I loved Gran Torino, and it had an amazing message of sacrificial love.

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  11. This is a great post. I agree with things being said from both sides. I’ve watched every film the Kendrick brothers have made. Now that I think about it, we own all of them, even Flywheel. I’ve thought for a long time that Christian movies are lacking. I think cheesy was one of the words used here. That may even be putting it nicely. Like you said, we are afraid to be critical. So the same type of films continue to be remade while we grin and bear it because it’s Christian.
    Life is messy. The bible is full of stories that would likely get NC-17 ratings or worse. While I don’t think we have to go that far. I do think real life has to be brought to the screen. Sometimes there are no answers to the questions. That’s real life. Lost people aren’t going to come see a Sunday school tale. They will come see a story that they can relate to.
    The problem I have with most Hollywood movies like Noah, is that they are so far from the bible that it’s totally offensive. When you set out to do a story that’s in the bible, it needs to stay on script. However, when you’re making a movie about regular people you have the room to play around. You can slide biblical principles in there without being preachy. As someone already brought up C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia. Those books are my favorites. I could read them over and over and i strive to one day be as masterful in my own writing.
    To me, what it boils down to is this. Christian movies have to get real. They need better writers, better actors, and pretty much better everything. They could make a movie less Sunday Schoolish, but it’s still going to get hammered by critics and audiences if they don’t up their game.

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  12. I generally avoid seeing Christian movies because I am afraid of how cheesy they will be, or how insulting they will be to non-believers. But I do appreciate that they try to tell the truth. Yes, Jesus spoke in parables, but he also stated things clearly. As the Bible says, how will they know if no one tells them. So a movie or two with blatant messages is a good thing, I think. Just hinting at themes is not going to bring someone to Jesus if they have never heard his name. God uses all sorts of ways to reach all sorts of people. Some need a heavy hand, others need hints. So you may be the subtle hinter, while God has called someone else to be the heavy hand.

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  13. Movies such as Gran Torino weren’t necessary Christian, as per the usual method of Christian exclusivism. Gran Torino, which is a great movie discussing the redemption of a soul, justice, and the shared humanity we have. These are themes which exist in every major world religion. Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, the Baha’i Faith, and others teach these central themes. Taking something inclusive as Gran Torino and trying to attach the “Christian” only solidifies the desperation many evangelical Christians feel in trying to express the unique effect Christ has had. What they lose is recognition God has His Hand on the entire pulse of mankind and continues to guide all of us through pathways and languages we are able to recognize. Gran Torino is amazing because of its inclusiveness and the real way of describing a true spiritual journey for all.

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  14. Seth Muse

    This is so great! Well said! It reminds me of going to the Bible Bookstore back in the 90s and looking for music. Since there was no Christian radio station, we had a poster on the wall that said crazy things like “if you like Nirvana, you might like DCTalk.” Really? We didn’t know it, but the whole problem we were creating then was this Christian subculture that only Christians would identify with. Because that’s what Christ told us to do right? Make something so cool and irresistable that lost people would flock to us and beg us to give them what we had. I remember pastors teaching that and I may have taught it myself. Thanks for writing!

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  15. Having suffered through a number of these my observations probably aren’t much different from yours.

    Focus on excellence in storytelling and the Christian themes will seep through from who you are, just like they do in any other media.. Focusing on making explicitly Christian movies and you are apt get junk that will only resonate in the Christian media subculture.

    Kind of like a lot of the Christian elevator music that gets passed off as worship and turns up on WOW annual albums.

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  16. Pingback: 7 Things Christians Need to Stop Doing – Rethink

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