The Parable of the Director and the Screenwriter

Jesus told this parable:

hollywood-signTwo people went to Hollywood to get involved in the entertainment industry.

One was a film director from Georgia who felt called to make Christian movies, and the other was a screenwriter from Jersey whose ambition was to become the next Quentin Tarantino. The two wound up living in adjoining apartments in the Valley where they would pass each other every day, but they never spoke.

The director from Georgia, who had come to Hollywood because he was so bothered by the stream of morally bankrupt movies and programs being produced there, was offended by the lifestyles he encountered in L.A. and angered by the way industry people so often made fun of religion. Emboldened by the culture war messages he would read online, he decided to turn his energies to creating a Christian alternative to Hollywood.

One afternoon he sat in church and prayed, “God, I’m so glad I’m not like the other people I see out here – the godless actors, hedonistic directors, vile comics – or even like that liberal screenwriter who lives next door, people who don’t know you and who are trying to destroy traditional American family values. I’m in church every Sunday, attend Bible study twice a week, fast and pray regularly, and give money to conservative politicians. I will play an important part in saving the culture, and I’m so glad you sent me here to stand in the gap.”

At that same moment, the screenwriter from Jersey – after working for hours at Alfred Coffee trying to break a new script idea – was wandering the streets. She missed her family, was agonizing over the less talented writers who sold scripts while her career was going nowhere, regretted that clingy guy she’d brought home the night before, and was worried that she’d started drinking too much.

When she found herself standing across the street from the church, a small part of her felt like she should go in, but she just couldn’t. There was too much baggage.

Instead, she sat on a bench and broke down into sobs, crying out, “God, what’s the point of all this? What am I even doing here? If you’re out there, please give me a break. I just really need a break… I’m so sorry… for everything…”

And Jesus said, “I tell you that the screenwriter, rather than the director, was justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Inspired by Luke 18:9-14 and this article about the Golden Globes.



5 thoughts on “The Parable of the Director and the Screenwriter

  1. Interesting that the spiritual leader/model for the Georgia director traveled over 2000 years ago to his own “Hollywood” of a sorts and voluntarily LAID DOWN his life and DIED for that “immoral culture.” By God’s grace, there has to be a way to avoid evil BUT STILL WALK IN LOVE … LOVE that is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful…1 Co. 13:5

  2. Sorry…more thoughts because this is such a huge topic to me….hanks for writing about it!

    In complete honesty, I’ve assumed your parable targets no actual person (why Georgia?) but is aimed at contrasting humility with arrogant thought processes in regards to artistic motivation.

    Frankly, I’m often afraid and frustrated as an artist who also happens to be a Christian. I have a problem. The passions in my life, and therefore the objects of passion in my art form, will unavoidably, due to the nature of passion, spill out onto my writing page or painter’s canvas.

    It’s like this. IF perchance FAITH LIVING is my strongest muse, and simultaneously also the strongest motivator that consistently pushes me to the goal, THEN, in the realm where FAITH LIVING appears to be far less prevalent (“Hollywood”?) this very passion/muse/motivator seems likely to become the greatest barrier to me ever gaining an audience with the powers that can take my project all the way to the finish line.

    Actual fact from my recent experience. Teachers in a Hollywood friendly/religious-friendly screenwriter’s boot camp I attended conveyed that dipping my artistic brush in paint that colors my story foremost and obviously with faith elements is most likely to put me on a trajectory of self-sabotage, unless I’m making a comedy that laughs at Christians. This warning makes the “Christian alternative” choice of the “Georgia director” understandable to me. (I understand his choice but not his attitude.)

    Veteran art teachers teaching student artists should understand that every artist is not inspired by the same muse. Mine (currently) IS “Faith living” and specifically that area where a soul wakens to the knowledge of a world that is not just physical but spiritual, too. This wonder of realms motivates me, but it comes to me legitimately and very personally from my relationship to my own family of 6 generations of missionaries, 66 on 4 continents. My muse differs from every other fellow screenwriter.

    Honest critics (to me) judge the SKILL LEVEL of the presentation/production, and not the topic an artist chooses to pursue. (obviously some topics will never make a dime for lack of interest) It’s true, a critic can say, “afterlife” movies are not for me, or “homosexual lifestyle” movies are not for me, or “save the whale” movies are not for me, but when posing to be a true critic, I think a critic should be more interested in evaluating the SKILL LEVEL of an art production (if SKILL is the focus of what they hope to see excel.)

    Every artist/director/writer should be able to see their motivation clearly and ask themselves the hard questions. When I make “art,” am I simply indulging in exploration of a topic that puzzles me and makes me wrestle and maybe others will want to wrestle with it too, or am I trying to “catch” or “attack” someone?

  3. That’s a lot to think about, Ann, and I think I agree with everything you’ve said. I do have a few brief thoughts in response…

    First, the use of Georgia – nobody in particular in mind. Just wanted him to be southern, because I’m southern, and I know my own propensity for sin.

    Second, I certainly agree that everyone has a different passion (or muse) when it comes to art. Some Christian artists might have a passion of making art for those in the church, while other Christian artists might have a passion for making art for those outside. I don’t have a problem with any artist creating art according to one’s passions. My problem is that it seems like the Greater American Church only recognizes the potential of the former, while largely ignoring the ministry possibilities of the latter.

    Back to the idea of making for the church: ideally, such art should be made with such excellence and skill (as you said) that it has the potential to move those outside the church. This is what we used to do. The problem, at least with Christian-made film, is that it usually is not that way – we make message heavy films that sacrifice quality for a form of pedestrian didacticism.

    • Very true in your observations and about our limited perspective on potential- i.e. where it can be and what it can be. Thankful I know a limitless God, otherwise I’d remain as found- stuck in my own pile of junk with no hope of change.

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