.:Targets (part 2)

January 23, 2009 at 4:32 am (Uncategorized)

After a brief history (or at least my perceptions) of the Christian film industry… I think it’s time to deliver what could be seen more of my take on film, my goals, and my understandings of my current path.

To me, film is an art.  It’s the picture, the framing, the lighting, the story, the character, the score… everything.  It is a very collaborative artform that can have many end uses.  Some feel that creating for an audience means you sell out to get more posteriers in padded chairs… some feel that making films for the sake of art is pretentious.

You can’t make everyone happy.  Easiest way to become critic-proof is to die… and then that wears off after time…

So while I’ve come to accept that I am in a field where my success or failure will be more or less determined by others’ opinions of my abilities and work, that my ambition in telling stories is to ask the questions that delve me deeper into understanding of myself and how things work.  I’ve decided not to bring my art to a point where I’m telling people how to live or what to do… but more ask myself how I’m supposed to be living, and what I should be doing with my life.

When I write, I ask questions.  For Greyscale, some of the main questions asked are:

  • What would happen if I forgave people more often?
  • What would happen if people forgave me more often?
  • What does forgiveness even really look like?
  • How does a person’s life change whether or not they are forgiven?
  • Can a person understand forgiveness unless someone has forgiven them?

Questions like that are (to me) deep at the root of daily existence.  In the end, I posit forgiveness in the choices of the main character, and show how the rest of the cast are little more than different hues on a grayscale because of different circumstances… what they were born into, choices they’ve made, and if forgiveness was something granted to them or given by them… and whether or not they’ve accepted the idea of either.

I’m sure a lot of this forethought will be lost entirely on 99% of my audience… but I’m not going to try to hammer in my musings.  If anything, I feel that asking questions is a far more honest platform to create art from, and I can only hope that someone will watch the end credits thinking about forgiveness and love in their lives.

The funny thing is… I don’t expect much in the way of support from the Christian film industry.  I’m not making anything resembling something that is from their blueprints.  I’m showing things that aren’t pleasant… death, lies, deceit, murder… damaged goods.  But, light can’t be discerned without the dark… hills without valleys… etc.  Some won’t agree with my content, and won’t look past the fact that someone was just shot… or that the main character enters the movie bloodied and battered (on multiple levels, but I don’t expect anyone to read that much into a film anyway…)

I’ve had many, many people ask me if this is a Christian film.  I tend to ask them what a Christian film is (an appropriately loaded question).  There’s no altar call, there’s no overtly religious character that steers the protagonist in the right direction… it’s just a tale of a lot of hurting, broken people that find themselves tangled in either embracing or trying to escape either their past, present, or future (how’s that for broad?).  The movie is being made for the most part by Christians.  We pray before we say “action” the first time of the day (a bird defecated in my hair on the first day I forgot… I thought that was humorous).  If that isn’t enough for some people, then so be it.

I will admit that it is difficult to take that Greyscale most likely will not be widely accepted (I’m supposing) by the crowd at ChristianFilmmakers.org because of some of the violence and other elements in it.  If any of you are reading, I hope you take solace in the thought that nothing I’ve included I felt was gratuitous.  Bad isn’t rewarded, good isn’t forgotten.  The story is intended for anybody that is mature enough to handle it.  I’m guessing it’ll come in at PG-13.  I wouldn’t want children to see the violence, personally.

I’m not looking forward to having to defend my choices, but I know that if I continue on this path, I’ll have to do so continually.  I suppose there just comes a point where one gets used to it and continues to ask the questions and tell the stories that one feels led to tell.



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.:Targets (part 1)

January 22, 2009 at 1:23 am (Uncategorized)

There’s a certain established forum that I frequent regarding faith and filmmaking (ok, I’m a moderator).  A lot of it devolves into complaining about the state of popular storytelling, and all the particulars that lead to the disliking of the elements therewithin.  There are good conversations to be sure, but there’s also a lot of in-fighting when right meets left (read: just right of center, usually).

The San Antonio International Christian Film Festival recently concluded.  Among many of their goals is one of creating an alternative ‘replacement’ industry for Hollywood.  I’ve asked many probing questions to the denizens of the forum as to what exactly the goals of this industry are, and how they plan to go about accomplishing them.  I’m not sure too many people have those answers yet… but some musing on the idea of a Christian film industry to replace Hollywood brought some thoughts up…

As I see it, here are the possible endgames:

  1. A movie industry that runs parallel to mainstream emerges (such as the CCM industry) that caters specifically to safe and family oriented material.  “Christian Entertainment,” if you will.  They will still continue to craft evangelistic films, but they will be primarily preaching to the choir since this replacement industry will be supported by its core group (which still doesn’t even agree on content… more on that in a bit).
  2. More films are created with rising production values, start getting more Christian butts into theaters to support the films (such as Fireproof), and they carve out some of the nicer weekend release dates that mainstream fare might wish for.

As I understand it, most Christian films (quality qualms aside) tend to reach out for evangelistic purposes by putting what boils down to a sermon in their film (something usually seen for entertainment’s sake).  Audiences are fairly savvy to marketing and online research, so those that have little to no interest in sitting through a church service on Sunday will have little to no interest in sitting through one of these films.

I believe a large part of the frustration with Christian cinema is that some camps find a film either too preachy, or the Christianity too latent.  This is not to say that there is a middle road that a film can have, but that different groups in Christendom have differing opinions on what a Christian flick should be.  If it doesn’t fall into their camp, then it isn’t a worthwhile endeavor.

A lot of Christians receive their stories and their storytelling style understanding from the many Sundays listening to sermons… sermons that have bullet points and tend to repeat those points so that the person communicating is not unclear in their message, and that the people leaving the Church have an understanding and a remembrance of what was just taught.

Now translate that to film… not much subtlety.  Not much in the way of trusting the audience to understand what is happening… sound familiar for Christian flicks?  I think there is a trend, and it is an unfortunate one.

That’s enough of a minor rant for now… more to come in Part 2.


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