Monday, February 13, 2012
What Do They Know That We Don’t Know
Over the last few years, we have seen an explosion in Christian films.But has the quality increased? Many would agree that there is something lacking in the overall artistic and technical aspects. Is it the writing? The cinematography or the acting?
Perhaps if we had more money, our product would look better. Undoubtedly, the production value would increase. We’d have the time to get more shots. We’d have access to better cameras and equipment, and we could pay for better actors. Maybe, we could bring a writer or two on board to rewrite our scripts.
But I think money is only part of the answer. If we had all of the resources at our disposal, I have a feeling there would still be something lacking, something not quite right. There are many intangibles at work. First of all, are we telling the right stories? Do we really understand the filmmaking process and what films are capable of? Are we so focused on giving all of the answers, that we’re not asking the right questions? What if we focused our attention away from Christian films and concentrated more on redemptive or transformational stories?
Here are 10 guidelines that mainstream filmmakers understand about making redemptive films.
1. Your movie must have entertainment value. People watch films to be entertained. Some Christians have made entertainment a dirty word. When people watch films and television, they are relaxed and more receptive to the message contained within the story. Often, they will reexamine their lives or be challenged to be a better person.
2. Filmmaking is an art form. The art must come first. For most Christians, the message is first. Audiences will not accept this and will see it as a form of propaganda. We must recognize that the divine can be found in art. We understood this for centuries. But, somewhere along the way, we have forgotten this. Film is not a good forum for a 5-point sermon. If we make great art, it has the capacity to move the human heart.
4. Films work better with metaphors and symbolism because you keep the audience engaged in the story. This is a concept that most Christian filmmakers have failed to understand. Metaphors and symbolism help to forge connections between dissimilar objects and themes. We need to realize our audience has the intelligence to figure it out on their own. Stop telegraphing every story element or plot point. Remember, Jesus said in his parables the Kingdom of God is like….
5. Films are a great forum to ask questions. Christians love to ask questions, but unfortunately, we also love to give all the answers. We really don’t want our audience to have to think for themselves. This doesn’t work for film. Jesus used parables as his principle storytelling technique. He often asked questions, but he seldom gave they answers. It was his audience’s responsibility to find the answers.
The wonders of God can also be found in the small things of everyday life which are truly the miracles. We can find the divine patterns of life that exist in the smile of a child and the dawning of a new day. Christian filmmakers often don’t know how to depict the glorious, marvelous and small wonders of God’s grace and love which occur daily in our lives.
7. Redemptive filmmaking requires the ability to question God. We Christians have a tough time doing this. We don’t want to admit we have doubts and are sometimes confused. Perhaps, we think it is a sin to question God. But that’s not Biblical. Jacob’s name meant deceiver, but his name was changed to Israel meaning one who struggles with God. This happened after the all-night wrestling match at Peniel. We have to ask questions. Where is God when we are hurting? Why do bad things happen? As filmmakers, we have to be willing to ask these questions. If our goal is to be authentic, real and genuine, our audience is asking the same questions. Let’s face it. Christian filmmakers paint a world the way they want to see it. Mainstream filmmakers paint life’s complexities and the world as it is.
9. Filmmaking is a visual medium. The key to making great films is to think visual. How do we visually illustrate the personification of art? How do we express emotions—anger, frustration, indifference, internal struggles? Redemptive stories require expressing the intangible in a tangible, visual form.
10. Redemptive stories do not necessarily offer a convenient and tidy ending. Just as in life, there may not be a fairy tale ending as in “they lived happily ever after”. For example, in Bella, it would have been temping to end the movie with a happy and satisfying conclusion. However, both lead characters had their moments of redemption, which were more reflective of real life. Redemption is a complex process and is different for each of us.
You can be a media missionary wherever God decides to plant you. The most important thing to discover is what God is saying to you. Christian filmmakers don’t necessarily have to go to Hollywood to make redemptive films. When we, as filmmakers, forget about our agenda or what we think a Christian movie should look like, then I am convinced God will be able to speak to us. How God is at work in people’s lives is the best inspiration for making movies and media that can reflect his glory and truth. We do not need to create Christian cinema or a Christian film industry. It serves no purpose. God is already at work in the film and media industry. As always, he requires our obedience to serve his will and his interests