This blog was adapted from a March 8, 2018 Facebook post by Matt de Rojas.
I recently discovered the following video, which was posted last August. I highly implore that you watch it. Because I have been saying many of the same things stated in it for a long, long, LONG time. Just not in a 15-minute video, every second of which is absolutely worth the watch. I should point out that I refuse to use the term “Christian films” in normal parlance due to many of the reasons touched upon here. Further thoughts follow afterward, but please take the time to watch this first.
It’s clear that a lot of my fellow Christians who are involved in film and television production focus far more on “the message” than the production values. This video reveals one of the reasons why: that many of them are not filmmakers in the first place and some even admit as much of this. The message is very, very important to get across; there is no denying that. But it’s 1) how that message is put across and 2) the environment in which it is put across that are just as important when it comes to the visual arts. And for whatever reason, a great deal of these Christian films just cannot seem to grasp that, leading them to instead comprise a general lack of regard for basic filmmaking techniques and utterly awful black/white mischaracterizations. For one thing, I could probably count on one hand the number of atheists I know personally who, much like KT CANNON™ antagonist Maxen Meyer, are antitheists hellbent on straying believers from their faith by any means necessary (this is no more right than the similar characterizations many secular filmmakers have made about Christians).
I can’t speak for why this is, or why the people behind these movies insist on making them the way they do and, intentionally or unintentionally, targeting only people who are already believers. If they want to, I won’t stop them. It’s their right. But I know there is a better way: one that takes the same message to unprecedented new levels and incorporates it into a memorable experience with believable characters and situations.
Jesus Christ used parables many times in the Bible to get across many great spiritual points and the key tenants of the faith. I believe that films and television programs in particular are great vehicles for modern-day parables. Indeed, the most compelling stories in the world do not come across as effectively “sermons on film.” The Christian allegories in any good C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien work, as well as their film adaptations of it (one of which won the Academy Award® for Best Picture, mind you) are proof positive of this, as is the original 1978 SUPERMAN movie and the HARRY POTTER series.
I have reviewed many Christian films with a focus on not just the message at the heart of the movie, but also the context of that message. It’s what separates a masterpiece like RISEN from utter drivel like LAST OUNCE OF COURAGE. I certainly wouldn’t make a movie like my first short, VIRTUAL TEMPTATION, if I wasn’t just starting out in professional filmmaking. As wrong as it may sound to some of you, I can’t simply support a movie just because it’s Christian anymore. I want people to raise the bar on both the filmmakers’ side and the filmgoers’ side. Enough is enough.
Obviously, this is not to say that the name of God should never be invoked or that characters shouldn’t be outright Christians in order to get our point across. There is nothing wrong with such positive depictions of faith if they add to the story we’re trying to tell. Sometimes, however, a story doesn’t need to have someone who’s already a subscriber to the faith as its focal point, and yet the message being told can still manage to reflect the same kind of worldview in its own way—whether it’s an epic, action-packed thriller; or a character-driven comedy/drama.
I know I’m not the only one who would agree with this or who is working to raise that bar. There are a lot of other filmmakers and artists outside of Braveworld who are not just believers but who also know the craft. I know a handful of people who are part of this untapped talent and who have made some truly incredible stuff. And LORD willing, we will be part of the revolution that will finally bring faith-based films on par with their secular counterparts.
It’s time to do to film and television what bands like Skillet have done to music: break through into the mainstream while still being true to our core beliefs and values. NOW.
Be Brave. -MdeR
(Photo credit: God’s Not Dead 2 / Pure Flix Entertainment)