What Ministry Resources Are Available For “I Can Only Imagine”, “Paul”, and “God’s Not Dead 3”?

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Last weekend, the movie industry was collectively stunned when the Erwin Brother’s I Can Only Imagine sold $17 million dollars worth of seats (which roughly equals $1.5 billion in concessions) on a $7 million dollar budget, the 4th best opening for a faith-based film ever.

This weekend, Affirm Films’ new Christian-themed film, Paul, Apostle of Christ, will open, followed Easter weekend by Pure Flix’s third film in the God’s Not Dead franchise, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness. That’s three major Christian-made films opening across the nation in a two week period, films that have been made both as cinematic experiences as well as ministry opportunities.

This is one of the things that sets the so-called “faith-based film” genre apart from most other genres – the idea that the films are meant to be more than just entertainment, but entertainment with spiritual ramifications: an opportunity to learn about the Christian faith in a non-threatening, neutral environment for those outside the faith, or a chance for spiritual growth for people who are already followers of Jesus Christ.

To illustrate what I mean by this, on the website for I Can Only Imagine, we’re told, “A gripping reminder of the power of forgiveness, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE beautifully illustrates that no one is ever too far from God’s love—or from an eternal home in Heaven.” Paul, Apostle of Christ has a page on it’s website where James Faulkner, who plays Paul in the film, reads portions of Scripture as a tool for Christians observing the season of Lent. The makers of God’s Not Dead 3: Light in the Darkness sayGOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS is a powerful reminder that in all circumstances, we are called to be a light for Jesus to a world in desperate need of hope.”

And so Christian-made filmmakers will often develop ministry tools to encourage churches and individuals to take the film as more than just entertainment. This can be interpreted in at least three ways: one, that the filmmakers are genuinely wanting their films to make a spiritual impression on audiences; two, that the filmmakers recognize that ministry resources are another revenue stream and an encouragement to sell bulk tickets to entire churches; and three, a combination of the two.

The second option might seem cynical, but it can’t be disputed that filmmaking – even Christian-made filmmaking – is big business. It’s especially indisputable now that we are living in a time where three modestly budgeted Christian-made films featuring well known actors are being released in thousands of cinemas across the country in two weeks. These films represent hundreds of filmmaking professionals, thousands of hours of work, millions of dollars of investment, and so it makes sense that many decisions connected to these films are directly related to the potential big payoffs that will hopefully accompany them. But at the same time, they are also legitimate means for opening discussions about spiritual and theological issues, and this is where the ministry tools come into play.

What about the three movies being released now? What sorts of ministry resources are they offering? Are they giving away ministry resources, charging for them, or both?

cityonahillOn the I Can Only Imagine website, we are directed to a page that links to a few different things. The first is a link to City on a Hill’s website where the majority of ministry resources are offered, including: a small group study ($39.99); a journal ($14.99); a leader’s guide ($14.99); a church campaign kit ($79.99); and others. Back on the movie’s website, you can also purchase Bart Millard’s autobiography, A MercyMe album, an I Can Only Imagine children’s book, and a host of other things including a bunch of framed art.

The website doesn’t list any free ministry resources other than some free downloadables such as video clips and web banners.

paulA trip to the Paul, Apostle of Christ website finds a much smaller resource operation going on, with more resources being given away. Like I Can Only Imagine, Paul‘s website offers a few free downloadable social media items, but they also offer a couple of ministry resources including a reasonably comprehensive discussion guide and a more concise church leader packet, all available as free downloads.

Interestingly, you’ll find no church campaign kits advertised on the Paul website, but I did some digging around and found out that Outreach is selling one for $49.95.

Our final stop on the Christian-made movie tour takes us to Pure Flix’s God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness webpage and the first thing that struck me when visiting this website was that you can tell that Pure Flix has done this before.

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The main clue is the way they handle the campaign kit. It’s not just a simple Bible study or sermon guide selling from $49.45 to $79.99. Rather, it’s a kit to help your church buy out a theater and hold a premiere event experience complete with optional red carpet (extra $199) and backdrop for photos (extra $370 for a 9’8″x 7’2″ Jumbo Sleeve Banner). How much for this experience? Roughly $2,500. This is being billed as an experience where your church or organization would need to purchase at least 250 seats – essentially buying out the theater – and the cost would include many of the same things you get in a typical campaign kit.

Interestingly – and this is what sets Pure Flix apart from the other companies – you cannot purchase a church campaign kit without the theater buyout.

Here is a video they include explaining their strategy:

So your church’s options are two (A) buy out the theater and give away the tickets or (B) buy out the theater and charge your church members and guests to attend. Either way, Pure Flix is passing the costs down the line and insuring that they will sell out theaters. Is it a good ministry model? A good movie business model? Both?

Interestingly, on Pure Flix’s “premiere partner” FAQ page, they have this question and answer:

 

Hollywood Finally Notices Success of Christian Films

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hollywood has finally noticed the success of Christian films such as last fall’s War Room and 2014’s God’s Not Dead!

Los Angeles, California – Alex Boese of the Spaghetti Harvest Media Marketing Group (SHMMG) of San Bernardino, California announced at a press conference on Monday that his company has decided to take a page from the faith-based handbook. This year, SHMMG will begin encouraging studios to release secular film advertisements with relevant Bible verses.

A Hollywood po

A big Hollywood power lunch meeting from the 1950’s.

“At a recent big Hollywood power lunch meeting at Soho House,” Mr. Boese said, “I convinced some of the town’s biggest players that using the Bible is the best way to attract the elusive faith-based audience, a key rising demographic that has proven to have very deep pockets when they feel they are being serviced.”

Mr. Boese went on to explain that “faith-based” films (also known as “faith and family” films, “family-based and faith-building” films, “faith, family & family, faith” films, and “building family and faith in the faith and family building” films) have gained popularity over the past few years, in large part thanks to the grass roots social media marketing efforts of the small independent studios which produce them.

A key way these studios have utilized social media is by producing images showing key verses from the Bible and a logo of the film that can be easily shared from Christian film fan to Christian film fan. Often the images will also show stills from the films to help drive the Bible verse point home.

“If we want to attract that F&F audience, we have to play by their rules,” Mr. Boese commented. “If that means using the Bible to sell tickets, then so be it. After all, if the Bible is good enough for Christians as a marketing tool, then it’s good enough for us.”

Mr. Boese’s comments were briefly interrupted as a man started shouting about cheapening Scripture by using it to sell products, but he was quickly ushered out by SHMMG employees. The incident was quickly forgotten by those in attendance. [note to editor: consider redacting this paragraph]

Mr. Boese ended his presentation by revealing several different advertisement mockups that SHMMG had developed. He announced that these Bible advertisements would be likely soon begin showing up on each respective film’s social media feeds, pending approval of each film’s marketing department.

“This is a new day of partnership between Hollywood and the faith-and-family-based community,” Mr. Boese said confidently. “And by the way, using the Bible this way should help us to sell a LOT more tickets.”

Time will tell, Mr. Boese. Time will tell.

For more information, read this article.

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How George Lucas Helped Shape The Christian Film Industry

A long time ago, in a cinema far, far away…

Episode 1:  A New Resource

It is a period of spiritual war…

war-roomWar Room opened up last weekend in 1,100 theaters around the country, and made an impressive 11 million dollars. Not bad for a movie made with a 3 million dollar budget, and the movie’s just getting started.

Made by filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who also made Facing the GiantsCourageous and Fireproof, War Room is the latest offering in the burgeoning Christian film industry (read my thoughts on that idea here), and stands to turn a healthy profit, as all Kendrick-made films since Facing the Giants have done, thanks to good grass-roots style marketing and the legions of loyal Christian fans who consistently turn up to support their films.

Christian filmmakers, Kendrick brothers included, have been learning quite a bit from their secular counterparts these past few years – how to make a film look and sound better, how to help actors act better, and even (on the rare occasion) how to write a better screenplay.

But the thing that really stands out? How to turn a profit.

And this is what has gotten the attention of the big boys in Hollywood.

Of course, making money from art is not a new thing for Christians. Back in the days of Bach and his contemporaries, musicians and artists were commissioned by the church to create, giving us beautiful and important work that continues to be cherished today. Locally, churches have been paying artists for ages to minister as organists, choir masters, worship leaders, and praise band members.

And it’s also not a bad thing. “Don’t muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” Paul said in the book of Timothy. In other words, when people work hard, they should be able to enjoy some of the benefits of their labor. In filmmaking, that means if someone makes a movie, and it earns buckets of money, that filmmaker should be able to have a few buckets for themselves to do with as they please – even if the film is being made as a “ministry” or an “outreach”, and not just as typical profit-grabbing entertainment.

Of course, there are more and more potential buckets available for successful films. We have the obvious box office buckets, but if the film has been distributed in the traditional way, the majority of those buckets go back to the studios and distributors. So another option is the bucket of merchandizing.

And there are lots of buckets in movie merchandizing, even with Christian-made films.

Warrom-DisplayUnlike secular movies, where the merchandizing can run the gamut from video games tie-ins to kid’s meals at fast food restaurants, Christian-made movie merchandizing primarily means the creation and selling of what the Christian marketing world calls resources.

What are resources? One kind of resource is the study guide. These are written so that Christians can watch the film with their Sunday school or small group and then engage in a Bible study inspired by the film, and it’s something that is particular to the faith-based film genre. For example, Marvel doesn’t typically mass produce study guides to the MCU movies, nor does J.J. Abrams write study guides for his films, although they’d probably sell if they did.

[Undoubtedly they’d sell. Note to self: pitch study guide idea to Kevin Feige and J.J. Abrams]

But resources can also mean many other things, from church campaign kits, books inspired by the film, and original soundtracks featuring favorite CCM artists.

And then there’s the typical kitsch and tchochkes – baseball hats, coffee mugs, t-shirts, notepads, plush dolls, little wooden crosses, and the like. I would imagine secular companies have to be impressed by how effective the Christian Corporate Machine has become at taking films from idea to screen to marketplace.

For example, long before it ever bows onscreen, a film like War Room has been so incredibly well-strategized, planned, marketed, and produced, that I’m surprised the ever-popular Chick-fil-A wasn’t signed on for some product placement.

I can see it now… Ms. Clara goes into her War Room to pray, but when she’s sure nobody’s looking, she pulls out a bag of waffle fries and a white styrofoam cup of sweet iced tea emblazoned with that curly red chicken head…

Yeah, maybe that wouldn’t have worked.

Regardless of how they do what they do, it’s interesting to see how Christian filmmakers have joined their secular counterparts in mastering the business of movie marketing cross promotion and tie-ins.

And do you know who we have to thank for the overabundance of “resources” being produced for Christian-made films?

George Lucas.

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Episode 2:  The Merch Strikes Back

It is a dark time for movie merchandizing…

Yep, George Lucas.

That George Lucas.

You read it right, dear reader. I’m making the claim that George Lucas is the reason that every time a new faith-based film opens, the Christian bookstores and websites fill up with all sorts of movie-themed “resources” that help bring in more buckets of money for Christian retailers, publishers, filmmakers, producers, marketers, and everyone else involved in making and promoting Christian-made movies.

Most people under the age of 30 probably don’t realize that prior to Star Wars, movie marketing cross promotion was pretty insignificant. Yes, you had the occasional attempt to take advantage of the buzz created by a movie by making a strange toy version, like the odd “for ages 6 and up” shark game made by Ideal Toys when Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 6.48.53 PMJaws became such a monster hit. Certainly, toys and merchandise and even Christian-produced resources had been made based on movies and television programs, but usually with fairly limited success.

And then, when George Lucas took us to that galaxy far, far away, things changed.

The key is found in one of the biggest blunders in movie studio history. Because Star Wars was seen as such a risk, Lucas made a deal with Twentieth Century Fox that he would take a cut in directing fees in return for having all the rights to licensing and merchandising, and then he sold the toy rights to Kenner for a flat fee of $100,000 per year.

Kenner was so unprepared for the popularity of Star Wars that they didn’t make near enough toys for the demand. If parents wanted to buy their child a new Star Wars toy for Christmas in 1977, they were forced to give the child a voucher for Star Wars toys that would not be manufactured and released for months, and Kenner went on to sell a staggering $100,000,000 worth of Star Wars toys during the first year alone.

That’s one hundred million dollars.

Worth of little plastic action figures and such.

For a movie that nobody had wanted to make.

In one year.

Since that time, the franchise has gone on to make well over 27 billion dollars, with only about 4.3 billion coming from the movies. That means around 23 billion dollars of revenue has come from merchandizing alone.

And with Lucas’s innocuous little space opera, not only was a merchandizing juggernaut born, but a new way of making movies as well. Suddenly, films started being greenlit based on how much peripheral material could be marketed alongside it, as well as potential box office.

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The Star Trek Happy Meal.

It’s hard to imagine, but there was actually a time when McDonalds and other fast food places didn’t sell Happy Meals connected to movies. In fact, McDonald’s first Happy Meal was an attempt to cash in on the space craze created by Star Wars, and it was based on 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Read this article for more information on the way the Star Wars marketing phenomenon evolved over time, impacting the majority of movies being produced, both then and now, both secular and Christian.

Episode 3: The Return of the Faith-Based Filmmakers

The Kendrick Brothers have returned to their home in Albany, Georgia…

And so now we live in a time where it is standard operating procedure for potential merchandizing to play a heavy role in the making of movies. And while Christians may not yet be at the place of the summer blockbuster, where merchandizing often seems to lead the film, we are definitely at the place where merchandizing is being utilized to bring even more profit to those who made the faith-based film.

And profit is important, even in the Christian film industry.

But I want to end this blog post with a pretty radical suggestion.

If we must have a Christian film industry, what if that industry did things differently? What if the movers and shakers made the decision to not be swept away by dreams of big box office and profit, like all the other film industries are, and like many of the other Christian media industries seem to be? What could be done, if we determined that we were going to be a counter-industry industry?

What if our Christian film industry – as a whole – pulled a Keith Green?

keith-green1Keith Green was a very popular but quite radical Christian singer in the 70’s and early 80’s, who famously (or infamously) gave away his records, telling people to pay what they were able, and he required Christian retailers to give away a copy of his cassettes for free with each one they sold, all to help spread the Gospel. Green’s giveaways reportedly sent shockwaves through the Christian music and retail industries at the time, but Green was known to be an uncompromising person when it came to his convictions.

And if today’s successful filmmakers of faith started insisting on doing something similar, imagine the modern day shockwaves!

What if many of those resources developed for movies made on a shoestring budget, but movies that turn out to be popular enough to go on to rake in ten or twenty or even forty-five times that in box office, were just… given away?

The study guides, the bible studies, the church campaign kits, the prayer journals, the baseball hats, and the little wooden crosses all available for whatever potential customers could afford to pay, even if it is nothing at all.

All to help spread the Gospel.

I know, I know… it’s a crazy idea.

I know Christian producers have to pay salaries, and I’m not suggesting they don’t. I know that Christian filmmakers want to be able to afford to plan out their next projects, and they should certainly do what it takes to do that. I know that some – like the Kendrick brothers – pour much of their film profits back into their home churches, and they should obviously continue to do that as they feel led.

And I know that they all need to put bread on their own tables, and provide for their families, and they certainly shouldn’t be muzzled while they are treading out the grain.

But I’m so frustrated that too many of the other Christian industries appear to be too much industry and not enough Christian. And since the film industry is the youngest of them all, and it’s the industry closest to my heart, why can’t it be the one to change course and do something different, and radical, and refreshing – even if it seems crazy, and unindustrial, and unprofitable?

After all, they thought Luke Skywalker was crazy for switching off his targeting computer when he was making that infamous trench run.

And Luke wound up saving the rebellion.

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God bless, and may the force be with you…

Always.

Update 1:  I just found out that the producers of the upcoming movie, Captive, are giving away a ton of resources on their website.  All the sorts of materials that are being sold on the War Room website are free for the Captive folks. I was already looking forward to seeing Captive, and now it’s even moreso!  Good job, Captive!

Update 2: I’ve heard some encouraging news.  Apparently, Giving Films – the production company behind the upcoming film, 90 Minutes in Heaven, have committed to giving all the profit they make from the film to charity.

That’s what I’m talking about.  Way to go, Giving Films!

Branding the Christian Faith • 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media • Day 32

Consumer Jesus by Bangsy

Consumer Jesus by Bangsy

Branding Christianity.

As I enter the home stretch of my 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge, I’m struck by the irritating oxymoron that we sell our Christian faith as just another brand on the shelf.

But before I get into that, I want to consider the concept of branding as a practice.

I just returned from a week in Arizona with my Chinese and Korean elementary and middle school students (yeah, I know… the world’s coolest field trip) and seeing my home country through their eyes, I was struck by how intently everyone and everything is branded.

For example, the boys in my group desperately wanted to get to clothing shops like Hollister’s, because the Hollister’s brand is so popular among a segment of youth in China.  They also wanted Gap, Target, Sketchers, Abercrombie and Fitch, and others.  But it wasn’t just clothing, because when we took them out to eat, they wanted to try the branded restaurants – Chipotle, Cracker Barrel, Red Robin, etc.  The one notable exception was the non-franchised generic Chinese restaurant we took them to so that they could experience Americanized Chinese food (which is almost a brand unto itself), and which they loved, to my amazement.

On the one hand, branding makes sense.  You know that you’re going to get the same quality product no matter where you are.  A Starbucks in Phoenix is the same as a Starbucks in Shenzhen.  The Apple computer you buy in Richmond is going to be the same as the Apple computer you buy in Hong Kong.  There’s a comfort in that fact.  There’s security in that fact.

And isn’t that what we’re after in life?  Comfort and security?

[On a side note, this recent exposure to the concept of branding makes me think my next 40 day challenge should be to try and live a brand-free life.  But I digress…]

rebrandingJesusBranding has worldwide power and influence, and so it comes as no surprise that the faithful would seek to take the Christian faith and turn it into another brand on the marketplace.  Want a hamburger?  Go to McDonalds.  Want to be entertained?  Go see the latest Disney movie.  Want spiritual salvation?  Why not try brand Jesus?

The problem is that the practice of branding the faith has led to the less-than-stellar state of Christian media that we experience today.  And yes, after the past 32 days, I can testify that Christian media, even made with the best of intentions, is less-than-stellar.

After all, branding brings comfort and security.

Branding doesn’t encourage risk and asking difficult questions.

And while Christianity does both of those things, most of our media does not.

For a good example of where I’ve seen this, during my week in Arizona I didn’t have time to expose myself to much Christian media.  We were running all day and night (not just shopping, by the way), and the only place I could find Christian media was while driving the van from place to place, in the form of Christian radio “family-friendly” radio stations, stations that are infamous for trying to appeal to the “Becky” demographic archetype.

Not surprisingly, I was completely underwhelmed by what I found there.  But, I’m not a middle-aged soccer mom, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that it didn’t surprise me.

Here’s the rub with my response to Christian family-friendly music:  I personally know a few Christian musicians and songwriters, and they are – without a doubt – talented people.  In fact, the ones I know have more talent in their little toe than I have in my entire body.  And yet, popular Christian family-friendly music, the kind you hear on our radio stations, arguably the most visible (audible?) part of the Christian brand, is just… bland.

Uninteresting.  Predictable.  Over-produced.  Safe.

And those are not words that I would use to describe the Christian faith.

It seems like Christian music makers are limited by the restraints put on them by the Christian Industrial Complex, which tries to please a certain demographic, and that makes me sad.

But then, that’s the whole concept behind branding, isn’t it?

This practice also underscores my argument that the last thing that Christian filmmakers need to do is allow their craft to be pigeon-holed into some sort of Christian filmmaking industry.  Because at the end of the day, you can be the most talented filmmaker of your generation, but if you have suits from the Christian Industrial Complex above you dictating what you have to do and what you can’t do in order to fit the niche audience’s needs, you will never make a movie that rises above the level of bland.

But again, it all comes back to the bad idea of the creation of Christian brands in the first place.

Can you imagine if the writers and characters of the Bible had been restricted by 21st century evangelical faith-based branding?  If the Christian Industrial Complex had had a hand in what we read today when we open our Bibles?

I think our Scriptures might have been pretty different.  For example…

adameve• Adam and Eve would have been created wearing modest clothing, and the couple would probably also have been wearing complementary Lord’s Gym and His Pain Your Gain t-shirts.

• The story of Noah would have been a nice story about a kindly old man who builds a big boat filled with animals, and saves them from a flood.  There wouldn’t be anything about worldwide devastation, about the death of all other young and old living creatures.  No, it would be something well suited for a Sunday School flannelgraph.

• Forget the whole Noah post-flood-getting-drunk-on-homemade-wine thing.  Welch’s grape juice, maybe, but definitely not homemade wine, and definitely not to the point of getting drunk.

• Abraham would have proudly told Pharaoh that Sarai was his wife, showing the power of his faith, the strength of his convictions, and his respect for the sanctity of marriage.  Then he might have been invited by Pharaoh to speak at the annual Egyptian Men’s Conference.

• The Israelites would have shown much more faith as they wandered in the wilderness.  Making the golden calf?  Out!  Complaining about manna?  Forget it!  Being killed by snakes for their unfaithfulness?  Wouldn’t happen!  They would have been a much more faithful lot, and then Moses would have gotten to go to the promised land, too.

peanut-butter-cup• David dancing naked into the city after the return of the Ark of the Covenant?  Are you kidding me?  First of all, he wouldn’t have danced.  Second, he would have been wearing suitable clothing, including quite possibly the Jesus, Sweet Savior t-shirt along with a respectful pair of dungarees.

• Speaking of David, he wouldn’t have had the whole embarrassing Bathsheba affair.  But if it had to happen, then he would have been excused from his role in leadership until a proper amount of time had passed, and then he would have been allowed back, properly contrite, having learned a valuable lesson, and he would have written a book about his experiences.

• Song of Solomon?  With all that sexual content?  Not a chance.

• And don’t get me started on the prophets.  There would be some serious retooling of those stories needed to make them more palatable to Becky and her friends.

So, what do we do?

Knowing that The Christian Industrial Complex is out there, researching us, trying to figure out what it is that will motivate us to use their services or buy their products, just like Apple, just like Coca-Cola, just like every other branded producer on the marketplace?  What do we do?

It’s really quite simple.  We make a concerted, focused effort to grow in the Christian faith – apart from The Christian Industrial Complex.

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Christian publishers, a Duck Dynasty Bible is too much. Way, way too much. Seriously.

And that means we need to take a page from the Reformation and learn to study God’s word for ourselves.  We don’t need to depend on study Bibles written by the celebrity pastors, famous singers, or even famous duck call salesmen.

Not that the celebrity pastors can’t write worthwhile stuff.  Of course they can.  But we shouldn’t depend upon the celebrity pastors at the cost of not thinking for ourselves.

We must study the Scriptures and learn for ourselves.

The problem is that we’re not doing this.

Last year, Lifeway Research (admittedly part of the CIC) concluded that 19% of American churchgoers read the Bible every day, 26% a few times a week, 14% once a week, 22% once a month, and 18% never read it.

No wonder we’re settling for what The Complex serves us, because we’re not growing in our faith on our own!  We’re expecting others to feed us, and we’re not interested in working for it ourselves.

But here’s the kicker – we’re told very specifically in Philippians that we are to be working out our salvation with fear and trembling!  That doesn’t give the impression that we’re to be concerned with comfort and security, but that we’re supposed to be working!  Yes, it’s work, and it can be scary business, if you’re doing it right.  It’s unsettling!  It’s not at all simple!

And the branding of the Christian faith is just the opposite.

And meanwhile, here I sit, with eight days left on my challenge.  To be honest, I’m really, really looking forward to this challenge being over.  I think I can handle Christian media when I take it in bite-sized chunks, but when I consume nothing else each day, it’s too much.

I long for a Sacred Arts Revolution.

But it’s not all dark, creatively.  There have been some hopeful signs I’ve found in the world of media (specifically music) being made by Christians, but typically outside of the Christian Industrial Complex.

Enjoy Mutemath, Future of Forestry, and Audrey Assad.

 

 

 

 

 

Spin Marketing Christian-made Films

According to their website, on Easter weekend, Tim Chey’s David and Goliath premiered in 31 cities across the fruited plain.  The film, which reportedly cost $50 million to make, made just over $150,000.  But on Monday morning (China time), I saw that the David and Goliath Facebook page had posted the following update.

My last check indicated that this post has been liked 1,007 times, and shared 126 times.

The only problem?  The D&G FB people are lauding their weekend by saying they were “The #2 New Release Movie” for the weekend in the theaters in which they premiered. But as I looked through the listings of those theaters, as far as I could tell, there were only two new releases this weekend. David and Goliath, and Fast and Furious 7.

So, in other words, they’re promoting the film by saying that it came in last for new release films, but making it sound like a big accomplishment.

Got to love spin in marketing!

By the way, I’ve only found one review of David and Goliath so far, and here it is.

***update***

Earlier this morning, I wrote a comment on the David and Goliath Facebook page requesting information about their stats.  I just went back to see if the D&G people had replied, and found my comment deleted, and that I was blocked from making further comments on their page.  Interesting…

***second update***

The spin continues.  Riverrain Studios (no website or contact information that I can find), the folks behind David and Goliath, have issued a press release lauding the film’s unimpressive second place finish out of two new release movies.  The press release, entitled ‘David and Goliath’ Rocks at the Box Office is a textbook example of spinning a story, and is complete with anecdotal reviews from regular moviegoers.

***third update***

And the spin story has been picked up here, and spun some more:

and here:

“David and Goliath” Movie Hits #1

Not only do these stories put a spin on an unimpressive feat (being #2 out of 2), but they also spin the #1 Independent film story to sound more impressive than it is.  According to deadline.com, the number one indie film of the weekend was Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young.

The press release gets the information technically correct, but you have to read the fine print (or in this case, the parenthetical print): David and Goliath was the #1 indie film per screen average for a specialty bow.  That doesn’t mean that it was the #1 indie film.  “Specialty bow” means that it was a specialty film that premiered that weekend.  And of the two specialty bow indie films that premiered over Easter weekend (David and Goliath and a film called Let’s Get Married – a foreign language film from China) D&G was #1.

Read the details here.

The Thimblerig Do You Believe? Little Cross Challenge

Keep reading to see what the Thimblerig’s Do You Believe? Little Cross Challenge is…

I just watched the trailer for trailer for Pureflix’s upcoming new film, Do You Believe?, and after the success of God’s Not Dead, it looks like the filmmakers are attempting to up the ante, going from a film with four separate stories that eventually interact to perhaps as many as twelve.

Christian filmmakers continue trying to establish themselves, and continue their attempts at being taken seriously by non-Christian and cynical Christian moviegoers. To help with this, Pureflix has taken part of God’s Not Dead‘s $60,000,000 (edit, now being reportedly close to $100,000,000) worldwide box office and invested it in casting some familiar faces (Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Cybil Shepherd, Lee Majors).

I wish Pureflix all the best with this new film, and only hope that the filmmakers took some of the constructive criticism of God’s Not Dead to heart when developing Do You Believe? (including the critiques in my own review).  As I’ve said before, Christians have the greatest story ever told to tell, and we should be making the best films on the market.

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 8.41.05 AMThat being said, I find myself rather unsettled by the end of the trailer, and the focus on the tiny little wooden crosses.  Knowing that a huge part of filmmaking these days (Christian or otherwise) is merchandizing, I fear that come March 2015, the tiny little wooden Do You Believe? crosses will be mass produced in China or Venezuela and sold in Christian bookstores and Walmarts all across the fruited plains.

This fear has led me to create “The Thimblerig Do You Believe? Challenge”, and I invite anyone to join me in this challenge at any level.

The Thimblerig Do You Believe? Challenge

So here goes:  I officially state here and now that if the makers of Do You Believe? do not sell little Do You Believe? wooden crosses as a part of the merchandising of this film, I will personally donate $200 to the charity of David A.R. White’s choosing.

Also, if the makers of Do You Believe? use some of that 60 million to make the crosses but give them away, or even if they sell the crosses but give all the proceeds to charity, I will donate the money.

I know $200 is not much when compared to the potential revenue of what could be the next WWJD bracelet, but to me, it’s pretty substantial.  I feel particularly strong about this since Do You Believe? apparently focuses on the importance of the cross, and it would be particularly distasteful and even despicable if they turned the cross into just another avenue for building profits.

Hopefully that won’t be the case.

Anyone want to join the challenge?  The more people that join, the more likely the message will get back to the folks at Pureflix.

(Special thanks to Doc Benson for posting about this on Facebook, and drawing my attention to the trailer)