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With tomorrow being the first day of this year’s National Novel Writing Month, it seemed appropriate that my first Thimblerig’s Interview would be with the very accomplished and successful writer, Bill Myers.
Perhaps best known for McGee and Me!, the popular kids television program and novel series, Bill has also written more than 80 books, both fiction and non-fiction, and he also has experience in film, with credits as an actor, producer, writer and director.
Oh! And Bill also happens to be a committed Christian.
I recently came across Bill’s work Kickstarter campaign for a film called Forbidden Doors, which you can read about here. This campaign is raising support for an independent film based on his book series of the same name, Forbidden Doors.
I was very interested to read about the filmmaker’s plans – that they want to make a film that reaches outside the Christian subculture, a film that entertains as well as shares truth, a film that has “plenty of chills and thrills to keep the audience glued to the screen.”
Curious to know more about the people behind this film project, I wrote Bill and asked if he would be willing to answer a few questions about being a writer who happens to be a Christian in the modern entertainment industry. He graciously agreed and took the time to answer a few questions.
Please Introduce yourself…
Author/filmmaker, 70 national and international awards including the C.S. Lewis Honor Award. 8 million/books videos sold. And I take none of it seriously, just use it as cred to open some doors. For the most part, I’m the goofy neighbor next door who keeps forgetting to mow his lawn.
How did you get involved in filmmaking?
I saw the power story and parable has to mold and motivate our culture.
Who have been some of your most profound creative influences as an artist?
Sorry for the piety, but I’d have to say the Apostle John. Actually, Scripture in general. There has been no book I’ve found that so accurately captures the heart of God, man, and our world. I’m not talking religion here, but as a work of art, nothing even comes close.
What are your thoughts on the state of filmmaking in the Christian community?
I have very strong opinions which I never make public. I’m happy to sit down with a filmmaker and tell them my opinions and suggestions for improvement of their work (and when asked, do so) but I am loath to discuss their shortcomings publically. That’s like telling the world the flaws about somebody else’s baby. Making a movie is so difficult, we should be required to give standing ovations at the opening credits before we even see the quality.
Considering that most “faith-based” films only play to Christian audiences, what do you think is the key for films made by Christians reaching beyond the Christian subculture?
Stop the propaganda. Stop trying to change your audience. Stop using characters as mouthpieces for your philosophy and make them real with real strengths and weaknesses. Christian films for Christians are mostly to affirm. I get that. With all the tearing down, there’s a much-needed place for encouragement. But if we’re doing projects for those outside the family (and still want those projects to have an eternal impact upon our culture) than be content with simply glorifying God with your art (which is controversial enough in our current climate) and let the Holy Spirit do His part in drawing the audience closer to Him. Exalt God. Let God do the rest.
You are currently raising funds to make a film called Forbidden Doors with a Kickstarter campaign. Please give a synopsis of the film and tell us a bit of the history of the production.
It’s based on my teen book series, Forbidden Doors. A couple teens return to California from the Amazon and discover their classmates, in fact the entire town, is falling under some very evil occult influences. With so much attention toward the paranormal these days and so many misconceptions, it seemed a natural and much-needed project. And since you brought up Kickstarter, here’s our link if you feel like helping out or forwarding it to friends. http://kck.st/1rdb4UI Thanks, we really need it.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced so far in developing the project?
Um, er . . . money.
Forbidden Doors has been described as Christian Horror, which is unusual for a film made by Christian artists. What advice would you give to other filmmakers who want to go down this path in their own stories?
Don’t get carried away with the creep factor. As an old agent once said, “Bad publicity is better than no publicity.” The devil doesn’t care what you say about him just as long as you’re talking about him. Don’t give him too much credit. If kids go to bed at night afraid of him, you’re working for the wrong side. Make sure God not only trumps evil, but does it in a way that we stop fearing that evil and realize we actually have the power to kick its butt.
Do you think it’s possible for Christians to make edgy – even R-rated films? Please explain your thoughts on this question.
The Bible is full of edgy, R-rated scenes . . . but the edginess is never glorified. I think the reason some Christians don’t make R rated movies falls along the lines of what Paul says regarding stumbling a weaker brother. That’s the tension of being in both worlds…the religious (and I use that term intentionally) and being relevant to a very different culture. Whatever you decide requires careful prayer and expectation of ridicule. I plan to be raked over the coals by secular reviewers who say Forbidden Doors is too tame because it’s too realistic and that there is no gore…and bad-mouthed by the Pharisee element of Christianity that is eager to judge without evaluating my heart and purpose.
What final advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers or novelists, especially those who are approaching filmmaking or writing as a calling or a ministry?
If you sincerely see it as a ministry (and not some way of being famous or being loved by the world) immerse yourself in God’s presence. Take quality time each day to feed your soul, to dwell in His heart. It’s not your ministry, it’s His. Be flexible to His desires. I want to exalt Christ to the nations, and for decades I wore myself out doing it on my own (while begging God to wake up and get with my plan). Only recently have I discovered His real method:
“Be still and know that I am God. And I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10.
Do you want to exalt Him? Then be still in His presence and know Him. If you’re under thirty it’s doubtful you’ll believe me. I wouldn’t. But don’t take my word for it, take His. If you want to exalt God . . . be still and know that He is. It’s totally backwards and upside down thinking from that of the world. But if you’ve hung out with God for any time, you know upside-down is pretty much His style.
I appreciate Bill taking the time to answer my questions, and hope that the readers of Thimblerig’s Ark Blog will be encouraged and energized by Bill’s advice, garnered by years in the industry.
Finally, I encourage my readers to head over to the Kickstarter page and consider being a part of making Forbidden Doors a reality.
Bill on Twitter: @BillMyersauthor
Bill on Facebook: /billmyersauthor