Embracing Beauty • Day 6 • The Art of the Musée d’Orsay

embracing-beauty

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris houses some of the world’s masterpieces, with paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Cézanne, and many others. The museum itself, originally built as a train station, is a work of art in and of itself.

musee-d-orsay

For today’s example of beauty, we’ll be looking at some of the classic works that you can see if you visit the Musée d’Orsay. Also, if you follow the link below the gallery, you can find out more of the fascinating history of the museum, as well as see many more examples of beautiful works of art that are housed there.

To see more, visit the website for the Musée d’Orsay.


Stay tuned for more examples of embracing beauty, and please share this post with your friends! Let’s help spread beauty all over the internet.

Also, if you have an example of beauty that you want to share, drop me a line at info@thimblerigsark.com and I’ll be happy to include it!

Past days of Embracing Beauty:

Embracing Beauty • Day 1 • Hyeonseo Lee’s Escape from North Korea

Embracing Beauty • Day 2 • A Teacher’s Story

Embracing Beauty • Day 3 • The Photography of Samuel Zeller

Embracing Beauty • Day 4 • The Top 100 Most Beautiful Songs According to Reddit

Embracing Beauty • Day 5 • The Animation of Glen Keane

quote-i-have-an-idea-that-the-only-thing-which-makes-it-possible-to-regard-this-world-we-live-w-somerset-maugham-35-19-73

Day 5 of the 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge

5-hand_woodelywonderworksI decided from the beginning of this challenge to be honest in my daily reports.  Whatever I was experiencing, I was going to record, for better or worse.

So, yesterday was on the worse side.  Sorry about the downer.   Today was much better.

Five observations for day five:

1)  The tiny little men who live in the internet really do pay attention to what you do when you’re online.  If you spend your time looking at a lot of Christian media, the tiny little men will notice and start shifting the adverts around until you get more and more adverts for Bibles and Chris Tomlin music, and fewer ads for Budweiser and Viagra.  Thanks, tiny little internet men!

2)  Watching streaming television or movies in China is more frustrating than sleeping on a bed with scratchy sheets and a couple of hungry mosquitos buzzing around in the room, while someone sits nearby in a squeaky rocking chair softly humming “Baby, Baby, Baby” slightly off key.

I wish I could download more Christian-made movies.

3)  I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing online Christian bookstores these past five days, and I’ve decided that Christian consumerism is a funny animal.  On the one hand, there are many wonderful products that are created and sold to build up and encourage followers of Jesus to be better followers of Jesus.  On the other hand, they say that over half a billion dollars in Bibles alone are sold every year.  Half a billion dollars.  Just for Bibles.  So, that would mean in my 12 year old daughter’s lifetime, over $6,000,000,000 of revenue has been generated in Bible sales alone.

The big business side of Christianity makes me feel just a bit icky, and this challenge is exasperating that feeling.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 10.41.22 PM4)  I mentioned in my first post that I’m a big-time movie soundtrack guy, so these past five days I’ve really been missing my Thomas Newman, Hans Zimmer, and Christophe Beck.  But, I’ve actually found a Christian film composer whose work I like!  His name is Ben Botkins, and you can hear some of his compositions on soundcloud.  I found him because of his work on a recent indy Christian film about the life of Polycarp, called – wait for it – Polycarp.

Any Christian filmmakers out there looking for someone to score your new film?  Give Ben a listen.

5)  Christian filmmakers can make misleadingly good movie posters.  This has caused me to begin watching several movies that I think will be decent based on the professionally produced movie poster, just to find out it was filmed on a hand held camera.

Yeah, Samson, I’m looking at you, bud.

Therefore, I recommend we come up with a new ratings system for faith based films.  Sure, the MPAA will make their own ratings if the film is released theatrically, but I think we need something to help folks like me understand what we’re getting before we put down our hard-earned coconuts.

My suggestions, which I propose should be called the Thimblerig Ratings System:

Rated N (newbies) – the film was made by newbies.  Their hearts were in the right place, but they had no money, no training, and it shows.  Only watch if the filmmakers are your friends or relatives.  Lots of overt Gospel talk.

Rated V (veterans) – the film was made by veterans, who were only just newbies a couple of  years ago.  They made a couple of trainwreck movies, and learned from their mistakes, managed to get some funding, and so they’ve improved.  You still wouldn’t want to watch this film with anyone who isn’t also a die-hard Christian, but it’s a bit more entertaining for the choir.  Still lots of overt Gospel talk.

Rated P (preachy) – the film is pretty good technically, so they must have actually hired some professionals to be behind the camera.  The film is still very preachy, so unless your non-Christian friend really loves you, don’t show them this film.  Still lots of Christianese being spoken, and lots of overt Gospel talk.

Rated A (amazing) – the film is amazing!  The Gospel is there, but as in the parables of Jesus, you might have to work a bit to find it.  The film is well acted, well scripted, well filmed, and well directed.  You can freely take your non-Christian friends to see this film, and it will definitely provoke some good seed-planting conversation afterwards.  There may be some non-family-friendly elements, but it services the story, so get over it.

And a special rating…

Rated HMJ (Help me, Jesus!) – never mind about anything else, the writing in this film is so poor that you want to fill your ears with honey, cotton balls, and centipedes to avoid having to listen to the corny, canned, Christianese dialogue.  I mean, the dialogue is not even as good as the dialogue used by George Lucas in Star Wars Episode 2:  The Attack of the Clones, and that’s saying something.  Buy a copy of this film and then bury it deep in the ground.

That’s it for day 5.  Tomorrow, I’m excited that my family and I get to watch Unbroken for Friday Family Movie Night!  (available in Christian retailers!  Yay!)

Nate is taking part in The 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge.  Read about it here, and follow along for the next 35 days.

Follow Nate on Twitter, too.  @RNFleming

40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media – Day One Finished

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 10.29.45 PMThe day started well, with Skye Jethani‘s daily devotional waiting faithfully for me in my e-mail inbox when I awoke.  I read it, and then, since my family has not been doing very well with devotionals lately, I called everyone to the breakfast table.

Together, we read through Jethani’s devotional, which dealt with Luke 23: 27 & 28.  It focused on Jesus’ encounter with the women while he was carrying the cross to Golgatha.  They were weeping for him, but he told them to weep for themselves – and Jethani pointed out that Jesus had the chance to act like a victim, but instead he focused on the true victims, and he challenged his readers to do the same.  It led to a really nice discussion with the kids about times they’d felt like victims.

We went to church, and had a nice service at the international fellowship here in Shekou.  Afterwards, I came home to a quiet house.  My wife and daughter had a girl scout event, my older son was playing at a friend’s house,  and my toddler son had fallen asleep.  I wanted to see what sort of Christian television programming I could find, and went searching.

I quickly realized that watching Christian programming from China was not going to be easy.  Parables.tv – the Christian Netflix, as it bills itself – streams videos, but they are mostly the bottom of the barrel, quality-wise.  I’ll try to give them a go later, but the two that I started watching (some Christian “comedian”, and a really REALLY low budget movie about Samson) weren’t worth pursuing.  I tried Godtube, but again, didn’t find anything.  I perused the Cornerstone Network (home of The 700 Club and similar programming), but wasn’t in the mood for the perfect people in suits who smiled too much and talked too much about people being “anointed”.  I did find something about a Christian sitcom called “Pastor Greg”, but couldn’t find any way to watch it online.  Also, there were rumblings about a sitcom starring Stephen Baldwin, but again, nothing available online.  I checked the religion section on Amazon Prime, and there was absolutely nothing there worth watching.

People producing Christian programming, you guys really need to make your things available online.  Riot Studios, the makers of last year’s Believe Me, were brilliant with this – releasing their film simultaneously in the theaters and as a digital download.

I checked over on Christian Faithbook to see if anyone had acknowledged my new membership, and had a single request for friendship.  I’d even commented on one of the groups, but apparently the faithful Christians of Christian Faithbook rarely visit.

By this time, my toddler son woke up from his nap, and so I had to turn from the Christian media to my son.  My attempts to find decent Christian programming online?

there-is-no-try-only-failOne of the really fascinating things that has happened as a result of my announcing this challenge has been the pity exhibited to me by other Christians who also don’t see much of redeeming quality about the bulk of Christian media.  I received comment after comment from Christians telling me how sorry they are that I’m doing this to myself.

I was also fascinated by the folks who wrote encouraging me to consider all the great artists who are not famous for being Christians, but who were.  Tolkien, Hugo, Christie, etc.  One person even wrote, “there’s no excuse to imbibe bad art when you can have good art at the highest cultural level.”

Truth is, I hope to discover some new good art while wading through all the bad.

Interesting note on the day – I decided to prepare dinner, since I was home alone with the baby, and sat down on the computer to find a specific recipe.  Since I could only look on Christian websites, I discovered there are very few Christian websites that specialize in recipes.  This is ironic, considering how much Christian love to eat.

So, if you are a Christian looking for a niche – there you go.

I ended the day on an extremely positive note – watching Richard Ramsey’s The Song.  Here’s the trailer, if you don’t know it:

This movie is absolutely amazing.  Quite literally one of the best films of 2014, in my opinion.  I’m going to be writing a review on the film tomorrow, but you need to see it.  It was a great way to end the day.

Day 1 down, 39 days to go.

What’s Wrong with Christian Media?

Media cloud, VLADGRIN / Shutterstock.com

Media cloud, VLADGRIN / Shutterstock.com

Lifeway Research recently released a study that examined the use of Christian media.  The results showed that the vast majority of Christian media is consumed by – hold onto your hats for this, folks – Christians.

Christian Media Barely Reaching Beyond the Faithful

This doesn’t come as a surprise.  Media will typically be consumed by the target audience, and in this case, why would a person who is not a Christian care to listen to a Christian podcast?  Why would they be interested in reading a book about Christianity?  Why would they spend their time watching Christian television programs?

It seems like the logical thing to do here is to circle the wagons.  After all, if the Christian family is consuming most Christian media, then we should just keep creating media for the family!  This is how business works, isn’t it?  You identify your target audience, and then push your product for that audience.

Given, the study does show that some of our media is being consumed by people outside the church – like a positive form of collateral damage –  but we should count those people as frosting on the cake and keep on doing what we do when we do what we do.

But hold on, hit the brakes, stop the engines, turn off the lights… there’s a slight problem with all that.

Did Jesus tell his disciples in Matthew 28:19 to “go back into the church, close the doors, and make disciples”?

No.  Of course not.  He said “Go into all the world…”  Go.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Stop naval gazing and get out into the world where people need the message of hope that we find in the story of Jesus.

Christian media should deal with finding the lost, and not just massaging the found.   What are the “Christianese” words for this?  Witnessing?  Sharing?  Evangelizing?  We’re supposed to be engaging with the world outside of the church, not just circling our wagons to protect the women and children.

Look at it this way.  Imagine your church supports a missionary family living in some foreign country.  The missionary family comes home on furlough, and visits your church to share about the progress of their work in this foreign country.

The missionary husband sets up a powerpoint presentation in the fellowship hall after the pot-luck dinner, and starts showing slides of the family’s work.

“We’re so grateful to be serving in our host country, and blessed to be able to share our work with you today.”

The missionary smiles and turns to the screen.

“In this picture, we’re having some missionary neighbors over for dinner.  We like to have other missionaries over for dinner regularly.  This next picture shows us at our bi-weekly Bible study with some other missionary families.  Oh, you’ll love this one – it’s a picture of us worshipping on Sunday morning at our church, which is only for missionaries.   Hmm….  this is our neighbor who isn’t a missionary… I’m not sure how that picture got in there.   Ah, here!  This next picture is better – it’s our missionary office, where we work with other missionaries.  Finally, here’s a picture of our kids going to their missionary-kid school.  It’s missionary run, taught, and attended.  They just love it there.”

That missionary probably wouldn’t be supported by the church for much longer.

So, we want our missionaries to engage with the culture around them, but for some reason, we seem to be perfectly comfortable that Christian media is only reaching other Christians.

And Christian media isn’t even doing that very well!

RNS-CHRISTIAN-MEDIA bTake Christian movies for example – one of the categories where the results were considered the most encouraging.  The Lifeway study shows that four out of ten people said that they watched a Christian movie in the last year.

Four out of ten?  That’s pretty amazing!

Well, it seems like an encouraging number until you remember that eighty-three percent of the American population identifies as Christian.

Eight out of ten people consider themselves Christian, and four out of ten people watched a Christian movie last year.

Let that sink in.  Less than half the Christian population of America watched at least one Christian movie last year.

So, what does this all mean?  Should we shutter all the Christian bookstores?  Boycott Chris Tomlin concerts?  Send Phil Vischer snarky letters for hosting a podcast with a Christian point of view?

No. Of course not.  (Although sending Vischer snarky letters about his ukelele might be warranted…)  There’s nothing wrong with producing media for ourselves.  There’s nothing wrong with producing media for small segments of ourselves.  People do that every day, all over the world, in all walks of life.

But as Christians, we shouldn’t be content with that.

So, if you are a person interested in Christian media and interested in changing those statistics reported by Lifeway Research, here are 6 (+2) things that Christian media must do better to catch the attention of those people who normally wouldn’t care.

1.  Be Professional.

If something is good in media, it’s not because it is good by accident, or because someone prayed for it to be good and God miraculously made it so.  Things are good in media because professionals have been hired to make them good.  Christian film producers have finally started to realize this, raising enough money to enable them to hire pros to help shoot their films, and the result?  Christian films are finally starting to look like well-shot films.  People in the world outside the church respect professionalism.

2.  Be Excellent.

Maybe this is a part of being professional, but if you’re involved in Christian media, then you shouldn’t cut corners.  If you’re a self-published writer, then revise, revise, revise.  Give yourself time to do the best you can possibly do with your efforts.  Want to be a filmmaker?  Cut your teeth on shorts before moving to features.  Watch a LOT of movies – and not only Christian made movies.  Read scripts.  No matter what area of media you feel drawn to, take the time to become excellent.  Say what you will about the world, but the world appreciates and is drawn to excellence.

3.  Be Creative.

This is where we often drop the ball with Christian media.  In our rush to get our message out, we tell sloppy stories.  We create one-dimensional characters.  We allow our faith to handcuff us, which is not why we have our faith.  “It was for freedom you were set free…”  Remember?  That includes the freedom to be creative.  Try to look at the world in a different way, in a real and authentic way.  Especially when you consider those people who believe differently than you do.  We call God the Creator, not just because he created everything, but because He is also so incredibly creative.  Go, and do likewise, because people outside the church are attracted to true creativity.

4.  Be Intelligent.

We’ve all seen the near-constant parade of apparently unintelligent Christians in media.  People hosting programs who have trouble putting together intelligible sentences; faith-based scripts that seem not well thought-through or properly edited; embarrassingly discourteous or rude commenters on the internet; self-published novels that are so plotless and pointless that they make one wish that self-publishing were as hard and expensive as it used to be.

Our reputation for being unintelligent has been well earned by these things and much more.  Write intelligently, direct intelligently, comment intelligently, create intelligently.  God may use the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, but that doesn’t mean we should aim to be fools.  Christians in media are the front lines for changing the intelligence perception with the media they create.

5.  Be Ingenious.

Christian media is known for trying to take something the world has done and recreate it in a faith-friendly way.  The world gives us 50 Shades of Grey, Christian media reacts with Old Fashioned.   There’s a good article about this on Vox, written by Brandon Ambrosino.  I’d also recommend the article he cites by Alissa Wilkinson.

The point is that Christians in media need to be ingenious.  We should lead rather than follow, set the standard rather than chasing after the latest fad or trend.  We should aim to take the world by surprise with our ingenious and unique creations.

6.  Be Honest.

Finally, one of the best weapons we have at our disposal as Christians in media is honesty.  As we interact with people who aren’t in the faith, they should see this about us – as we interact with the media, they should notice this about us.  As we write, direct, act, talk, sing, produce, film, record, edit, draw, or whatever it is we do, people should recognize it in us.

They should talk about it behind our backs.

And if they do?  That’s okay.  We should have nothing to hide, and no reason to hide.  We don’t have to pretend to have it all together, because we know that we don’t.  We don’t have to act like our families are perfect, because we know that they aren’t.  We don’t have to act like we have all the answers, because we know that we don’t.  And that’s okay.

What we do have is Jesus.

And if you’ll pardon my brief use of Christainese, we have his forgiveness, his mercy, and his grace.   And He gives us the ability to live openly, transparently, and honestly – in life and in the media we create.

And that is how we will impact the world.

And now the (bonus +2).

1.  Drop the Secret Language.

Christianese – the secret language of Christianity.  The moment you fall into using the secret language, you lose potential interest from people who don’t speak it.  If your Christian media is inundated with Christianese, you need to make some changes, or you might as well just create your media in Klingon for all the good it will do you.

To find out more about Christianese, go to the Dictionary of Christianese, or read a good article about it here.  And then cut it out.

2.  Give the End Times a Rest.

What do we know?  Jesus will return.  How?  When?  We have no real idea – just theories and interpretations.   That means that our Rapture books and movies are just the Christian versions of The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Road, or any of the other dystopsian end-of-the-world stories you want to pick.   And they’re not nearly as compelling, well told, or well made.

Can we just give it a rest for a while?

Please?

(Actually, having said that, a Christian dystopsian story that absolutely nothing to do with the Rapture or the anti-Christ could be a really interesting read.)

 

 

Thimblerig’s Interview • Filmmaker Doc Benson

Over the past several months I’ve enjoyed becoming networked with several Christians who are involved in the filmmaking industry, and who have what I consider to be a healthy and balanced view on living your faith out while attempting to create film art for the glory of God.

One of the filmmakers I’ve gotten the pleasure of meeting (virtually, anyway) is Doc Benson, a man who wears many, many hats: producer, newscaster, station manager, voice artist, feature film actor, pastor, church consultant, and restart specialist.  Doc has been involved in media and ministry since 1990, and has recently written, produced, acted in, and directed his first feature-length film, Seven Deadly Words.

One very interesting thing that Doc has done is started an effort to distribute a copy of Seven Deadly Words to every church in America.  This is an amazingly generous undertaking, with potential far reaching impact.  If you would like to learn more about this effort, you can find out more by visiting the website, www.givingchurcheshope.org.

I’m pleased and honored to have Doc Benson be a part of the third interview in my Thimblerig’s Interviews series.

Please Introduce yourself.

Hi, I’m Doc Benson… Director, Writer, and Producer and all around nice guy.

How did you get involved in filmmaking?

While working on my doctorate, I took a break from ministry and became a producer and on-air talent for a CBS news affiliate. I eventually became a TV station manager in a small community in New England.   I had the opportunity to work on documentaries and in “Disappearances” with Kris Kristofferson. That experience solidified my desire to enter the field of film production. Eventually I studied under Dov Simmons (the same teacher of Quentin Tarantino and Will Smith among others). From all this, I crafted the script and production that eventually became the award-winning feature, Seven Deadly Words.

Who have been some of your most profound creative influences as an artist?

Well….Let me think a minute. I’d have to say that I draw on several sources for inspiration. First and foremost I’d have to say Frank Capra. Some directors like to tell stories about unapproachable people … people of the 1%. Capra, with films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, was best able to capture the irrepressible optimism and daily courage of ordinary men and women.

I am also a big fan of classic radio programs. The ability to capture an audience and transport them into another time and place merely with the spoken word. Sure, the maxim is “show it, don’t say it”, but if the word pictures you create are not on par with the images you paint, you will lose your audience. Script and story matters.

By the way, I have to agree with Orson Welles when he stated that Buster Keaton’s The General is “the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made.”

Seven-Deadly-WordsPlease give a synopsis of your film, “Seven Deadly Words”, and tell us a bit of the history of the film.

Inspired by actual events, this docudrama follows the community and the congregation of Egypt Valley Church as they try to overcome the Seven Deadly Words: ‘We’ve never done it that way before.’ The church is out of funds and out of touch with the community. New pastor Evan Bennett sets out to change things for the better with the help of some folks in and out of the church. But there’s a problem… The Haman Family has been running things a long time, and they don’t like change. When their control and ministry comes under scrutiny, the Hamans decide to fight back. Evan and his family soon learn how far one family is willing to go to preserve the status quo.

For almost two decades I served as a pastor, church planter, and restart consultant. I have seen both the good and bad about churches going through change. I’ve even lived through some “horror stories” of my own. I thought I would combine some of those ideas, stories, and debates, and put them together into a film that could tell the story of one church, going through needed change. Folks may be shocked at some of the things that happen, but I am sorry to say that much of the film is inspired by actual events. In the end, however, it is a story about overcoming the conflict surrounding change, and growing in a direction that is Christ centered and ministry focused.

Script development began back in 2011. We assembled the cast and crew in early 2012, and began principal photography on June 9th of 2012. The premiere was held near the end of 2013, with distribution starting in the summer of 2014. We’ve been blessed to have won a number of awards for the project. It was even screened in Cannes during this year’s festival.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project? What surprises did you experience along the way?

Funding was the biggest challenge. We set up an LLC and secured members to invest in the project. Being that it was my first film, we were in uncharted waters. It took some time to find investors with the vision and courage to recognize the potential in the film.   Selecting a location was also paramount. We partnered with Connersville, Indiana, a community that was supportive to the extent that the provided resources for us at no cost and even let us use the city and local business names in the movie. This was a win-win in that we were able to reduce art costs and production expenses, and they gained a promotional boost with every showing of the movie. I strongly believe that these types of partnerships help to boost production value in lower budget films while reducing actual spending.

10933251_644042369054905_1706003274_nProduction wasn’t as big a challenge as you would think. I had very detailed call sheets, shot lists, and script notes. Good planning made the days run fairly smoothly.   Because of our preparations in advance, we often finished with filming by mid afternoon each day. I didn’t want it to feel like an indie set, but more like a SAG set. The professionalism on set gave the cast and crew time to rehearse, relax, and socialize in the evenings. We still finished the entire film, securing all shots we needed plus some, in the 18 days scheduled (six days shooting and one for rest per week). I believe that well rested actors and crew can give a much better performance in fewer takes than a crew working 16 to 18 hours a day on a mismanaged set.

Surprise? I guess I’d have to say the reaction from mainstream festivals. We have received more awards and recognition from secular festivals than faith-based festivals. Maybe it’s because our story exposes areas in church life that need improvement. Folks who have never stepped foot in a church tell us that they can relate to the conflict over the seven deadly words. Some have even told us war stories of personal experiences.   To me, that’s high praise.

What are your thoughts on the state of filmmaking in the Christian community now, and your predictions for where it might go in the future?

We are trapped in a moment in time where church audiences and the Christian-industrial complex tend to prefer movies that don’t take risks. Movies with milquetoast stories and construction make millions, while films that break new creative boundaries barely scrape by. I call these “Godsploitation” films, after the “Blackspoitation” movies of the 1970’s. They are formulaic for a target market with come to Jesus moments and car salesman subtlety.

Godsploitation films continue to be made because they have a ready audience, and investors like ready audiences. It’s a catch 22. We need investors to take chances on redemptive films in new genres, but we also need believers to accept and promote these new movies. Some producers are starting to break out of this mold, but we have a ways to go before we see a wide swath of redemptive films covering multiple genres.

“Faith-based” films are typically also family friendly, but the Bible is often not family friendly. How would you advise Christian artists as they think about portraying the grittier sides of life?  

Yeah. If you made an accurate movie about parts of the Old Testament, it would be boycotted by many churches!

Life isn’t clean. Good guys aren’t perfect. Bad guys aren’t twisting a moustache and wearing a cape. We don’t exist in a Pollyanna world. If you want to make characters that are overcomers in Christ, you need to give them something to overcome. Give them challenges, problems, realism, grit… especially if your target audience includes Pre-Christians.

10887834_644042195721589_1443528046_nBut that doesn’t mean you have to show EVERYTHING in order to make your point. Take horror films: Hitchcock’s Psycho did more to scare me by showing syrup in a drain than any blood soaked slasher film of today ever will. Or how about just before the fight scene between Ernest Borgnine and Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity. Borgnine sees a photo of Sinatra’s sister, and whispers something in the ear of Montgomery Clift . You don’t hear what it was, but it was bad enough to cause Sinatra to grab a chair and start swinging.  Maybe it’s the radio fan in me, but if Christians want to make realistic films without gratuitous violence or over the top language, take a cue from the masters of the golden age…imply. Your audience’s imagination will do the rest.

Along those same lines, do you think it’s possible for Christian filmmakers to make R-rated films? If so, how would imagine that would look, and what would be the risks?

I think that the movie My Son gave us a window into what an R-rated movie with a solid redemptive message could look like. Unlike many in the church, I felt that the movie probably deserved an R rating for drug use and violence, but that didn’t mean it was a bad movie. On the contrary. Keep in mind that the MPAA rating system is subjective at best and biased at worst. There are many mainstream films that receive ratings lower than deserved.

But really, who cares? Hollywood may release more R rated films, but over and over, studies have shown that PG and PG-13 movies make more money. Remember, you need investors, and investors like proven profitability.

Don’t tell me you couldn’t make that R rated film a PG-13 with just a few tweaks. Drop some of the language. The overuse of profanity is a crutch that weak writers use to create fake tension. Suggest some of the sex instead of just showing it. It will take more creativity, but will be more profitable in the long run and less apt to be shunned by the church community.

What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers, especially those who are approaching filmmaking as a calling or a ministry?

First, expect to be disappointed. There are going to be many hours of frustration, many dead end roads, and many moments of disillusionment. If you think that the faith-based film industry is paved with golden intentions and receptive hearts think again. There are egos, agendas, and self-centered prima donnas here too. They get away with it by disguising their pomposity in a shroud of spiritual language and religiosity. It will be very frustrating, but don’t let it rob you of your zeal and purpose. Keep the faith.

If you want to make a million dollar feature, show them you can make a successful $200,000 feature. If you want to make that, show them you can make a $60,000 film. To make that, make a great $20,000 movie and so on. Work your way up the path of budget and creativity. Don’t try to start too big, nor should you remain stuck in ultra-low budget purgatory. And for heaven’s sakes, no more shorts!

The other thing I would recommend is figure out what film-making job you are good at, and learn as much about that role as possible. Right now most redemptive films are made using the “Lone Ranger” model…One guy or gal is the director, producer, dp, grip, chief cook, etc. That’s not how the industry at large works. A quality production brings together a diverse staff of talented individuals uniquely gifted in their task. I myself have worn a number of hats, but have focused on directing as my calling.

Collaborative efforts will require bigger budgets, which will require greater investment, which will require better stories and quality to attract investors. Therefore, as we move to collaboration, we will see better movies.   Maybe instead of you and four other people each making an okay 10 grand film, you could work together to make an amazing 50 grand feature or web pilot? Leave your egos at the foot of the cross, please.

Can you tell us what you have planned for any future projects?

0dbc96_97dc63a963ad786760ab12a21d10f6c5.jpg_srz_309_496_75_22_0.5_1Ever since Seven Deadly Words and winning those three best director awards, I have been asked to direct for other producers. I look forward to those directing opportunities and others that may come along.   In the mean time I have another film in development entitled The Publication, which will include actors from SDW as well as talented folks like Lee Perkins from Foxcatcher and Nancy Stafford from Matlock. We are still gathering investment on this one.

I also have other scripts that I would love to direct and partner with a production company or church to make. If a church was interested in becoming a producer of redemptive film, I would come in, help train your people, assist with the production planning, and then direct the film.

The other thing happening is a campaign called Giving Churches Hope. There was so much positive feedback about our last movie and the value it had for church audiences, we are working with several church organizations and non-profits in an effort to give a copy of “Seven Deadly Words” to every church in America. Folks can learn more at the campaign website GivingChurchesHope.org or by contacting me directly via DocBenson.org .

Again, a big thank you to Doc Benson for taking part in this interview, and for giving so much great information for those of us interested in helping Christians excel in filmmaking and other artistic endeavors.

More about Doc…

Doc Benson’s article, The Little Red Hen for Filmmakers

Find out more information about Doc Benson: DocBenson.org

Giving Churches Hope website:  Giving Churches Hope

Doc Benson on Twitter and Facebook: @CuldeeDoc & /EricDocBenson

Seven Deadly Words on Facebook:  /SevenDeadlyWords

Past Thimblerig interviews…

Thimblerig’s Interview of Michael B. Allen & Will Bakke, makers of Believe Me

Thimblerig’s Interview with Author and Filmmaker Bill Myers

Stay tuned to the Thimblerig’s Ark blog for more interviews with artists doing interesting non-conformist work in the name of Christ, and come join the Sacred Arts Revolution conversation over at Facebook!

3 Reasons Why a Christian Film Industry is a Really, Really Bad Idea

“Too little, too late.”

That’s the phrase that kept coming to mind as I started to write a blog post where I, as a Christian, was going to argue against the building of a Christian film industry.

After all, Christians have been trying – on some level – to create a Christian film industry since movies began, and some would argue even earlier.  There were the Billy Graham films of the 1950’s, the apocalyptic Thief in the Night movies of the 1970’s, and a smattering of attempts by different Christian filmmakers during the 1980’s and 1990’s, but these movies barely registered on the radar of people outside of the church.  As far as Hollywood was concerned, Christian movies were provincial affairs, unworthy of notice.

Mel-Gibson-and-Jim-Caviez-007Then in 2004, Mel Gibson shocked everyone to attention with his blood-soaked account of the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus – The Passion of the Christ, a film that cost 30 million to make and earned over 600 million.

Hollywood finally stood up and took notice.

It was as if Gibson, by successfully tapping into the largely untapped market of the “faith based audience”, had singlehandedly uncovered the fabled lost golden city of El Dorado, and the L.A. conquistadors immediately set about strategizing how to best invade and conquer this shining city on a hill.

The Armani-suited conquistadors didn’t waste time, but began attaching themselves to little-known Christian filmmakers who seemed to appeal to the Christian masses, eventually inking deals with the Kendrick brothers (Facing the Giants, Fireproof), Pureflix Entertainment (God’s Not Dead), Cloud Ten Pictures (Left Behind), and many others – helping provide the finances and distribution channels that would permit these filmmakers and film companies to continue making and marketing their products for the Christian audience.

And in the past couple of years we’ve seen several well-known individuals from outside the filmmaking industry also try to tap into the Χριστιανός zeitgeist – Rick Santorum, Glenn Beck, Willie Robertson, to name a few – all doing their part to try and build up a Christian (or politically conservative) filmmaking industry in their own image, or at least one that lines up with their own personal theological interpretation of the faith or political ideology.

And now, here we have this little blog, a small voice crying in the wilderness, making the argument that creating a Christian film industry is absolutely the last thing that we Christians should be trying to do.

THREE ARGUMENTS WHY A CHRISTIAN FILM INDUSTRY IS A REALLY, REALLY BAD IDEA

1.  The audience – we want them to hang about, don’t we?

A Christian film industry would only succeed in driving the unchurched audience even farther away than they already are.

Hollywood stood up and took notice with Gibson’s “little indie film that could” because of the massive Christian support.  This huge group of people supported The Passion in a way they hadn’t supported a film before.  According to a Barna survey, roughly half of the movie’s audience identified as born again Christian, and the film was widely backed by Christian leaders of all denominational backgrounds because of the heavy lifting done by Mel Gibson to get them on board.

But the interesting thing about The Passion was how it was also seen by people who didn’t consider themselves religious.  That same Barna survey mentioned that one out of three Americans claimed to have seen the movie, a pretty stunning feat for any film.  Mainstream, indie, secular, Christian, whatever… any filmmaker would dream of numbers like that.

Isn’t that something?  The Passion of the Christ had an incredible return on its investment (both financially and spiritually), and while it was marketed to Christians, it was a movie everyone wanted to see, regardless of their faith.  In fact, I first saw The Passion in a packed movie theater in Almaty, Kazakhstan back in 2004, surrounded by people who had little to no idea who Jesus was, and they were blown away by the film.

But the faith-based movers and shakers seem to have forgotten the wide appeal of Gibson’s film.  Christian films continue to be made squarely for Christian audiences – and if some non-Christians happen to get dragged to the film by their Christian friends, then good on them, but the movies aren’t made for them.

Here’s the rub: if the movies were playing in churches, I wouldn’t have a problem!

But the movies aren’t playing in churches.  They’re playing in cinemas.  In malls and multiplexes.  Where people who don’t go to church like to go on a Friday night.

That’s the problem.

left behindWhat do these people see on their Friday night out?  They see Left Behind (RT score 2) playing beside Fury (RT 78) and Birdman (RT 94).

They see Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (RT 0) playing beside Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (RT 73) and Disney’s Big Hero 6 (RT 89).

If you aren’t seriously bothered by those comparisons, then I really wonder if you’re paying attention.

And with every subpar film effort made to expressly please the Christian masses, the respect of the non-Christian for our art and – yes – for our faith – goes down.  Just look hereherehere and here.  Those are films made in our name, folks, and you can almost hear the sounds of doors closing as the unchurched audience sees what is done in our name, and checks us off their list of groups to be taken seriously.

The creation of a Christian film industry will not improve this, and conversely, I contend that it will entrench us deeper into our misguided acceptance of poorly written, preachy, unambiguous films with underdeveloped low-dimensional characters, and cartoonish, moustache-twirling non-Christian antagonists.

2.  People don’t like message movies.  Seriously.

A Christian film industry would excel at creating movies that are heavy on message and light on story and character development.

After all, that is what we’ve been creating, almost exclusively, since the dawn of so-called Christian filmmaking.

But here’s the crazy thing: people don’t like message movies, especially poorly made ones.

elysium-dvd-cover-36Remember how angry Christians got when the rumors hit that Darren Aronofsky’s Noah would be a pro-environmentalist screed?  Why?  Because Christians disliked the message.  Neil Blomkcampf and Matt Damon’s Elysium was roundly blasted by conservatives.  Why?  Because they disliked the film’s liberal message.

The message of a movie should be like the caboose of a train – carried along by the other elements of the film – story, dialogue, character, cinematography, acting – and not the other way around.  The message of a well-made film will hit you hours later when you’re lying in your bed, while the message of a poorly-made message-heavy film will steamroll you over while you’re sitting in the cinema.

Granted, if you like the message that the message movie is presenting, you might fool yourself into thinking that you like the movie, but odds are you really only like the message and you’re tolerating the movie.  Again, if we are producing these films only for ourselves, and we’re showing them in churches on Sunday nights or at youth retreats, then we should feel free to knock ourselves out and preach away.

However, we aren’t making our Christian message movies in a vacuum.  The world is watching, and they are not getting our message because they don’t like our message-heavy movies.

3.   Further self-isolation is a big, short-sighted mistake.

A Christian film industry would drive us to close our ranks even more than we already have.

After all, the hard truth is that people who aren’t Christians already rarely read our books.  People who aren’t Christians already have little to no interest in listening to our music.  They typically don’t visit our blogs, subscribe to our magazines, attend our universities, shop in our gift shops, tune into our television programming, or take advice from our talk shows.  They’re rarely interested in attending our churches, our Bible studies, our home groups, our prayer meetings, or our revivals.

We’ve done quite a good job building a subculture for ourselves, isolating ourselves from the influences of the world, but in the process we’re also isolating our influence from the world!

newswAnd now we find ourselves stuck in the gravitational pull of a cultural black hole.  Religion has always been a huge factor in public discourse in the United States, but since a height of relevance in the 1950’s, Christian cultural influence has been in a steady decline.  In another study, the folks at Barna have shown that this decline will continue so that, unless something changes, by the time my one year old is college-aged, he will be in the definite minority.  I should say that he will be in the minority if he is following Christ – and it is my daily prayer that he will be.  But my son will need to know how to live and work in a post-Christian world.

And that post-Christian world that is coming will have very little interest in supporting or encouraging a Christian film industry.

THE ALTERNATIVE TO A CHRISTIAN FILM INDUSTRY

Believe it or not, I’m not saying that we should never make films for Christian audiences.  We should!   They should be fantastic films, just like films made for any subculture can be fantastic!  But that should not be the focus of our efforts.

Rather, we should focus on those Christians trying to make it in Hollywood right now – writers, directors, cinematographers, costume designers, CGI gurus, etc – who are currently studying and working in the Hollywood system, who need to be built up and encouraged by the church while the church still has the resources and relevance to be able to support them!  Rather than insisting that they produce middling message-heavy stories for Christian audiences, we should be encouraging them to learn how to tell their stories and live their lives within the system that will be there in the future.

We should be building these believing artists up so that they can have an impact on the lives of the unchurched writers, directors, cinematographers, costume designers, and CGI gurus with whom they work.

We should be helping them to make movies whose posters would be proudly displayed on any mall cinema or multiplex.

We should be helping them get the training and experience and connections that they can use to make films that would have big premieres on red carpets with paparazzi and gowns and tuxedos and limousines.

We should be providing them with the proper tools and support so that the movies they make can be well-made enough to be nominated for Critic’s awards and People’s Choice Awards and Golden Globes and Oscars.

Instead of putting all our money and resources into creating movies that we can enjoy in our isolation, we should be investing in our filmmakers who are out on the mission field of Hollywood, helping them to make movies that can take the cultural landscape by storm, that can hit the widest of audiences, and trusting God to use those efforts to reach the unchurched audience how HE would reach them.

After all, we are called to live with that unchurched audience, not in closed ranks, regardless of how much influence we have.  We aren’t to be conformed by the world (Romans 12:2), we shouldn’t be of the world (John 15:19), but we are to be salt and light in the dark world (Matthew 5:13-16) and bearers of a great light to the people who walk in darkness (Isaiah 9:2).

Maybe, just maybe, in our generation or the next – that great light will be seen flickering with 70MM projection on an Imax screen, to thunderous applause.

Below are a few good places to start if you want to find some Christians to support in Hollywood.   Just click on the logo to go to the organization’s website:

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The Depressingly Low Expectations Of Christian Filmgoers

This morning Darren Doane, the director of Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, posted the following tweet:

https://twitter.com/TheDoane/status/535594602338983937

What’s happening for Doane and Cameron’s movie at Rotten Tomatoes is similar to what you’ll find if you look at many of the recently released so-called faith-based films: extremely low critic ratings and unreasonably high audience ratings. Let’s look at some of the results of other Christian-made films:

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 8.58.23 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 8.59.35 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 9.00.03 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 9.00.42 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 9.02.17 AM

What exactly is going on?

Is there a secular critic bias out there that says if a film is released with a hint of “faith-based”, it will be treated differently than a movie of a different genre?

Even if the movie is brilliant, it will not get a fair shake?

Is there a faith-based audience bias out there that says if a film is released with a hint of “faith-based”, the quality of the movie will be given a free pass as long as it portrays Christians in a good light, talks positively about Jesus, or has Scripture passages used in a semi-appropriate fashion?

Even if the movie is terrible, it will be received positively if it meets the criteria?

Personally, I think there is a bit of both going on.  Yes, there are secular critics who will not approach a Christian film without adding the caveat, “…for a Christian film”.   But one hopes that a critic will be able to separate that particular bias from what they experience on the screen and write a candid review that explores the positives and the negatives of the film.

And yes, there are plenty of Christians who will gladly support anything as long as what they are seeing on the screen reinforces or promotes what they already believe.  Thus you have hundreds of positive reviews on the Left Behind website from ordinary people who make the movie sound like the best film ever made, rather than the enormous cinematic shamble that it was.

But critic bias is by far the less alarming and less surprising issue of the two on the table.  I’m much more disturbed by the way so many Christians will line up around the block to embrace any movie that builds up their worldview – regardless of the film’s quality.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that many Christians have become so needy to see their points of view on the screen that they’ve become blind to what makes for a quality film at all.  At least that seems to be the case, considering the way we rally behind so many poor filmmaking efforts, treating them like the best thing since the last poor filmmaking effort.

Yep.  Our expectations have grown depressingly low.

There has been a two-pronged effect on Christian-made films that I see as a direct result of the low expectations of the target audience.

First, the low expectations force the filmmakers to sacrifice good storytelling on the alter of hitting all the right beats to please the Christian audience.  I’ve discussed this point before, in my article What’s Wrong With Christian Filmmaking, so I will move on to the second point.

Second, the low expectations damage our potential to be taken seriously by people outside the church, as they see us vehemently defending films that are so badly produced.

Our films are not taken seriously.  

What did George Costanza say about Christian rock on Seinfeld?  “I like Christian rock. It’s very positive. It’s not like those real musicians who think they’re so cool and hip.”

If George were still around today, he might also say, “I like Christian films.  They’re positive.  They’re not like those real films…”

We did it to ourselves with a Christian music industry supported exclusively by the Christian sub-culture, we did it to ourselves with a Christian publishing industry supported exclusively by the Christian sub-culture, and now we’re trying to do it to ourselves again by building a Christian filmmaking industry supported exclusively by the Christian sub-culture.

And it’s a huge mistake.

This “circle the wagons” mentality does little to help with building the kingdom of God, but does much for building up walls between the church and the greater culture.

In his Salon article entitled, Christian right’s vile PR sham: why their bizarre films are backfiring on them, writer Edwin Lyngar says some pretty damning things about what is happening in American culture as a result of this past year’s Christian filmmaking efforts.  Lyngar says:

The people who create and consume Christian film are neither mature nor reflective. They are at their core superstitious, afraid and tribal. They self-identify overwhelmingly Republican and shout about “moochers” while vilifying the poor. They violate the teachings and very essence of their own “savior” while deriving almost sexual pleasure from the fictional suffering of atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Hindus, and even liberal Christians. To top it all off, the stories they tell themselves are borderline psychotic.

Is this what it means to be salt and light to a dying world, that the followers of Christ come off as ‘neither mature nor reflective’?  That we’re seen as ‘superstitious, afraid and tribal’?  That our stories are viewed as ‘borderine psychotic’?  I realize that this is just one man’s opinion, but I don’t think we Christians can afford to dismiss opinions like his, because I don’t believe that his opinion is so uncommon.

And it all comes back to the depressingly low expectations that we have for the art being produced by us, for us, and in our name.

The irony is that Christians would be the first to stand up and say, “High expectations breed high results, and low expectations breed low results!” with regards to most things in life:

Education?  Aren’t Christians known for homeschooling our kids because we have high expectations for their education?

Employment?  Aren’t Christian employers known for holding employees to higher standards?

Ministry?  Aren’t we disappointed when people in positions of ministerial authority don’t live up to our high expectations?

And yet when it comes to filmmaking – as evidenced by the overwhelming support given to many of the not-so-great faith-based films that were released this past year – our expectation for quality Christian art is shockingly low.

And it just doesn’t make sense.

Meanwhile, not only was the director of Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas out this morning stumping on the social media platforms for people to speak out at RT, but the man himself, Kirk Cameron, posted this on his Facebook page:

 

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I can appreciate the grass roots campaigning of Cameron and Doane, and I haven’t had the chance to see Saving Christmas yet to speak to the movie one way or the other, but what about this…

What if – instead of just flocking to a film’s Rotten Tomato page and putting up happy reviews to support the filmmakers – we showed that we have the capability to use our higher order thinking skills, and write critically honest reviews that discuss both the good and the bad about the film?

What if – instead of just flocking to the Facebook pages of filmmakers who believe the way we believe and gushing about how much we love their movies, or flaming about how much we disliked the movies, as the case may be – we do the same thing and give them constructive feedback so that they can improve the next time out?

What if Christians do the really heavy lifting and raise the bar on our expectations for films made in our name, helping our filmmakers by expecting them to make great movies that even the secular critics would have a hard time dismissing?

Folks, unless we start to adjust our expectations, unless we break the model set for us by the music and publishing industry, unless we start doing our best to pursue excellence in the films we are allowing to be produced in our name, we might very well find Mr. Lyngar’s heartbreaking prophecy coming true.

The fundamentalist community will continue to shrink until they start telling themselves—and those they hope to win over—more honest and humane stories… Christian film with its cardboard characters and heavy-handed messages will only drive an increasingly diverse and media-savvy populace away. Failing a profound change of heart, the best this community can hope for are films so bad no one will bother to watch them.

Faith Based Films: Breaking The Bond

At the beginning of Calvary, Father James (Brendan Gleeson, best known as Alastar “Mad Eye” Moody in the Harry Potter films) is told in confession that he will be murdered in one week because of the sins of another priest.

I’m going to kill you, Father.  I’m going to kill you ’cause you’ve done nothing wrong.  I’m going to kill you because you’re innocent.  Not right now, though.  I’ll give you enough time to put your house in order.  Make your peace with God. Sunday week, let’s say.  I’ll meet you down by the beach, down by the water there.  Killing a priest on a Sunday!  That’ll be a good one.

calvary-movie-review-0862014-161339 (1)We don’t see who is making this threat, we only see the expressive face of the priest hearing the “confession”.  The rest of the film follows Father James through his week as he deals with his regular parishioners’ troubles, as well as the threat against his own life.  It is a week where Father James’ faith is buffeted from all sides, and we get the distinct feeling that it’s not an unusual week for the priest.

Calvary was made by English-born Irish filmmaker John Michael McDonagh, and although McDonagh makes no public profession of Christian faith, he has made a serious faith-based film.  This is even more compelling when you find out that far from being a “faith-based filmmaker”, McDonagh sees himself as an anarchist, and he regards Calvary as an anti-institutional film.  “Why listen to any institutions at all?” McDonagh asks rhetorically in one interview.

And yet, McDonagh’s film has the potential to resonate deeply with the faithful.  Calvary is not afraid to wrestle with serious questions of the Christian faith, as seen through the prism of the life of this small-town parish priest, and the dysfunctional small town in which he calvary-fireministers.   Among things, Father James is struggling to be an authentic follower of Christ while dealing with issues of abuse, racism, adultery, homosexuality, suicide, alcoholism, corruption, depression, and murder.  These are tough issues that are difficult to examine one at a time, let alone all bunched together in one film, and yet there they are in Calvary.

And why shouldn’t they be?  These are issues that lurk under the surface of just about any church of any denomination at any given time.   They are issues that make us squirm.  They are issues that aren’t pleasant to behold.  They are issues we don’t feel comfortable watching and hearing about and thinking about and dealing with.

But they are real life issues.

Of course, this raises the question in my mind:  why aren’t American filmmakers of faith – the ones making Son of God, God’s Not Dead, Fireproof, Persecuted, Left Behind – dealing with these issues as openly, as plainly, as authentically, as this little sleeper film from Ireland made by the anarchist filmmaker?

In her article, 8 Things ‘Christian’ Filmmakers Can Learn From ‘Calvary, Patheos film critic and editor Rebecca Cusey makes a statement that believers need to hear loud and clear.  All eight points are important, but I want to focus on her fifth point, “Faith Friendly and Family Friendly Are Not The Same Thing”, where Cusey writes:

If your main goal is to make a PG rated film with no boobs or f-bombs, you’ll miss great human stories, including many of the ones in the Bible. Make great kids’ movies for kids, but make great grown up movies for adults. “Calvary” is rated R for language, brief violence, and adult themes, but isn’t salacious or graphic.

When I first read Cusey’s words, having not seen Calvary, it was as though a light turned on in a quite dark room.  The question immediately rose in my mind – when exactly did faith-based and family-friendly become synonymous?

shawshank_redemption_ver1 (1)Think of all the so-called “faith-based” films that have been released in the past few years…  can you think of any that were embraced by the church that were not also made for the whole family?  Conversely, think of all the films that profoundly presented or illustrated Scriptural truths that were far from family-oriented films (The Shawshank Redemption, Unforgiven, Calvary, to name a few).  None of these were made by filmmakers known for their faith.

Suddenly it all becomes clear, doesn’t it?

Christian filmmakers have been locked into the single viewpoint that faith-based = family friendly, and it has made their job of developing solidly powerful Christian films extremely difficult.  Being handcuffed to maintaining a PG rating takes away an enormous amount of material that Christians in filmmaking could potentially mine to tell more authentically human stories.

Think about the darkness and depravity of sinful humanity explored in the Bible – the disobedience of Adam and Eve, Cain’s murder of Abel, the wickedness of humanity in the time of Noah, Abraham lying to the Pharoah about Sarah being his wife, David sleeping with another man’s wife and then having the man killed to cover it up, and on and on and on and on and on.  The Bible doesn’t shy away from showing the darkness of humanity, and yet for some reason, we do!

Now, let me back up for one moment and say that I get it.  I really do.  As a father of three children, I certainly appreciate a well-made family-appropriate film, and I also want my kids to watch films that build them up in their faith.  I also realize that it isn’t pleasant or easy to portray darkness, and the last thing that an artist of faith wants to do is glorify darkness, and that ultimately, an artist of faith wants their art to point people to the light.

But what we seem to be missing is this:  doesn’t light shine that much brighter in a dark room?

Please understand, I am not shouting, “All Christian films must be dark and disturbing!” In 3D T'rig Cover no shadow smallerfact, if anyone wants to produce my novel, Thimblerig’s Ark, it could definitely be a fantastic faith-based animated feature that would be great for the entire family.  I’m certainly in favor of these sorts of films (especially if my name is in the credits).

What I am shouting is the thing that I keep returning to over and over in what has become a growing collection of essays on Christian filmmaking:  that we – the ones paying to watch these films, the ones in the 21st century American Christian subculture – we, the church – must give our filmmakers our blessing to make the films they are called to make, even if it occasionally disrupts our sensibilities, makes us uncomfortable, and stretches our sensibilities.

We – the church – must support them in making films that we would never take our kids to see, but films that are important, films that matter, films that explore the desperate human condition and that impact and effect the society at large.

And we – the church – must break the impenetrable bond that has been built connecting family films and faith-based films – a bond that has frankly meant that we have trouble making either kind of film well.

Finally, we – the church – need to see the value of telling truthful films – films that are even painfully truthful – and we must release and support our artists to be able to tell them.

Then amazing things could potentially happen, and we might even be able to make better faith-based films than the non-faith-based anarchist British/Irish filmmakers.

Wouldn’t that be something?

Click here to read my original post, “What’s Wrong With Christian Filmmaking.”

My faith-based film reviews…

Ragamuffin

Heaven’s For Real

God’s Not Dead

 

 

 

Animator Glen Keane’s “Duet”… He Gets It

This morning I was led from the Rabbit Room to a short animated piece that was hand-drawn by Glen Keane, a Disney animator for thirty years, who served as animator on several of Disney’s classic animated features, and was also was one of the producers of one of my 11 year old daughter’s favorites, Tangled.

The short film is called Duet, and it’s beautiful.

While I do enjoy animated films, and would love to have Thimblerig’s Ark made into an animated feature one day (hint!), I am admittedly not an expert on the movers and shakers of animation.  However, Glen Keane is a name with which I am extremely familiar, and it all comes back to a series of books written for children, the  Adam Raccoon books.  These were a series of books that illustrated the parables of Jesus, and I loved reading them to my kids when they were little.  I’d highly recommend them, and you can find them on Amazon.

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When I realized who Glen Keane was, I was amazed that an artist who was an integral part of the Disney revival of the 1980’s and 90’s was also a believer and follower of Christ, and that he was doing exactly what Christians who want to produce entertainment should be doing – excellent and highly visible work at the top of his field, that he ultimately hoped would bring glory to God.

And the best thing, while not being overt, Keane also isn’t silent about how his faith impacts his art.  In an article at Christianity Today, Keane said he was inspired by James 1:17 when he was executive producer and animator for Tangled: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  Keane also talks about how his faith impacted the stories of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and Beast from Beauty and the Beast.

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Christians are called to do different things with their gifts, and while Keane has been obedient to be a believer and a professional animator with the world’s leading entertainment corporation, others might be called to create more overtly Christian books, or to work in complete anonymity.  But, I am personally glad that believing professionals like Keane are out there, continually producing wonderful works of art and impacting the world of animation and entertainment for the Gospel.

If you have read this far, take a moment and pray for Glen, that God would continue to use his gifts and abilities in surprising ways.

Finally, if you are a fan of animation, you might be interested to watch this making of video for Duet, discussing how Keane has adapted to modern technology, while still doing traditional animation.

 

Drawing Thimblerig

Artist Burton Booz came to my fifth grade classroom and gave a demonstration on how to draw some of the main characters of Thimblerig’s Ark.  It was a fun time for the students as they saw the artist who created the beautiful cover recreate his drawings live!