Friday, November 30, 2012

Christian Movie Connect Episode 50 - Bart Gavigan

A native of the U.K., Bart Gavigan is known in Hollywood as, “The Script Doctor,” with the gift to look at film projects – both small and great and analyze what they need to be more successful. As a veteran writer and film-maker, he runs clinics for major European and Hollywood screenwriters with his creative partner, Martina Nagel. Bart is the producer and writer of the award-winning Christian films, “Luther” (with Joseph Fiennes and Peter Ustinov) and “End of the Spear.”

In this interview, Gavigan talks with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about his life in the film industry and the emphasis he puts on relationship. As a script consultant and mentor, Bart believes in developing the whole person, not just screenwriting talents and craft.

Bart is an advisor to Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute and has acted as advisor to Equinox and British Screen in Europe. His newest film, “The Film-Makers Son,” tells the gripping story of an inner-city teen in Reading, England who struggles to put together disturbing pieces of his life after an unexpected tragedy. The film is set to release in 2013.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Smells Like Community Spirit


Oliver Stanton, a recent escapee from corporate America, just bought a bowling alley in the smallest small town he could find- Scarberry, Ohio.

A few days after turning on the lanes, Oliver’s quaint getaway is undermined when he discovers that retail giant, Mega Value Mart, has plans to open their newest store right in the middle of the town’s most beloved property, Chautauqua Park.

Oliver is joined by a whimsically eccentric cast of Scarberry’s “finest” in a battle to preserve the park and his new way of life in this screwball comedy of municipal proportions.

Starring: Scott Docherty, Ashley Boehm, Comedian Mat Thornburg, with Joe Boyd (Hitting The Nuts, A Strange Brand of Happy), former Ben-Gal Cheerleader Melissa Scalia, and nearly all the members of improv comedy troupes Q-City Players, The Middle Child, and The Grapes of Laugh.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Building a Better Mouse Trap - Part 1

Are things as bad as they seem? Are we living in the worst of times? According to radio host and political commentator, Laura Ingraham, America is experiencing a total cultural and moral collapse. She highlights this in her new book, Of Thee I Zing. She believes the media is the source of America's decline. Of course, she’s not the only one who is pointing this out. Many social commentators believe morals and values are at an all-time low. Is this true?

Is there something different about today’s culture? Just like all complex issues, you’ll find no simple answer. How you address these issues will depend on your worldview. If you are a Christ follower, you have reasons for concern. On the other hand, if you identify yourself as a secular humanist, you probable believe we are living in the age of enlightenment.

Getting back to the question, what’s different today? Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new (NLT) and in Ecclesiastes 1:13, “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” NLT

The Bible makes it clear that we’ve seen it all before, and we’ll see it in the future. Human activity and the human condition have not changed over the years. Since the dawn of time, we’ve seen murder, jealousy, greed, corruption, sexual impurity, lust, etc.—the same things we see today.

Laura Ingraham and other commentators would have you believe that sin and bad behavior all started somewhere in the 1960s with the counter culture revolution. I’ve heard many argue that America in the 1950s was something like a utopian society. Most people went to church, believed in God, prayed, and always did the right thing. We believed in morals and values and expressed them in our daily lives. Does anybody really believe this? Perhaps, Ingraham’s concept of America is based on TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s and movies from the 1940s and 1950s that depicted America as a wholesome, family-friendly, and God-centered nation. I somehow doubt we were ever the society that Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best would have us to believe. It’s a nice myth.

Sin didn’t just pop up out of nowhere; it’s been with us a long, long time. But Laura is right about one thing in her new book. The media is playing a significant role in helping to advance the moral and cultural decline of mankind. What’s different today is sin in increasing and becoming more public and more acceptable. Laura points to the media as the source of the problem and blames Hollywood elitists for polluting American culture.

But it’s more than just the media. Media is no longer just media, and entertainment is no longer just entertainment. They have become something greater than their sum. That something is difficult to express in thought or words. The best way I can describe it is as a media culture or a force where media and culture have combined as one. This force is now capable of creating, shaping and defining a reality that we all accept as normal. In other words, what we see and heard in the media, we accept as truth and thus becomes important in our lives. The things that we don’t see become unimportant even though they could hold the greater value.

We no longer think about faith, Christianity, and belief as important and valuable because they are no longer reflected in any significant form in our media. The mass media acts as a giant amplifier helping to increase the effects of sin. It communicates the importance of wealth, power, sex, influence, materialism and consumerism as the things to desire and aspire to. Mass media therefore is the perfect vehicle or delivery system to highlight the human condition. That’s what’s fundamentally different today. Media is only a conduit. I believe in the power of media and that it can be used in a positive fashion to lead people to the truth. Unfortunately, in our society, it’s primarily being used in a destructive manner.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Twilight,' Bond Dominate Fruitful Thanksgiving

With a handful of strong holdovers and a few interesting new releases, moviegoers turned out in massive numbers over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Skyfall and Lincoln held on to their positions in the top three, while newcomers Life of Pi and Red Dawn outperformed. The only disappointment was Rise of the Guardians, which missed the mark for a DreamWorks Animation offering.

For the three-day weekend, the Top 12 earned an estimated $206.7 million, which set a new Thanksgiving record ahead of 2009's $175.2 million.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 earned $43.07 million for the three-day frame ($64.02 million five-day), which is the highest-grossing second weekend ever for a Twilight movie. Through 10 days in theaters, the franchise finale has taken in just under $227 million, and is tracking about $4 million behind New Moon.

In second place, Skyfall added $36 million ($51.1 million five-day) for a new total of $221.7 million. It's already easily the highest-grossing Bond movie ever ahead of Quantum of Solace ($168.4 million), and it's on pace to close with at least $270 million.

While Breaking Dawn and Skyfall ranked first and second, respectively, the real all-star of the weekend was third place finisher Lincoln. In its second nationwide outing, the Steven Spielberg political drama was impressively up 19 percent to an estimated $25.02 million ($34.1 million five-day). The movie has already grossed $62.2 million; it's hard to say exactly how it's going to play over the next few weeks, but it does now appear guaranteed to earn over $100 million.

Rise of the Guardians opened to a poor $24.03 million over the three-day weekend, which added up to a $32.6 million five-day start. That's way less than The Muppets ($41.5 million) last year or Tangled ($68.7 million) two years ago. More importantly, though, the movie's five-day start is lower than any three-day opening for a DreamWorks Animation movie since 2006's Flushed Away.

The movie's audience was 57 percent female and 53 percent under the age of 25. They largely rejected 3D showings, as that format only accounted for 35 percent of the movie's box office.

Combine good word-of-mouth ("A" CinemaScore) and the holiday tie-in, and Guardians is at least likely to perform well over the next few weeks. Still, it's going to have a tough time getting past $100 million, which is terrible for an expensive DreamWorks movie.

Life of Pi was slightly behind Guardians with $22 million for the three-day weekend and $30.15 million for its five-day opening. That's about twice as much as Hugo made over the same period last year, though Pi was playing in more than twice the number of theaters. The movie's audience was 52 percent male and 60 percent were 25 years of age and up, and they gave Pi a solid "A-" CinemaScore. Unlike Guardians, people sought out the 3D version of Pi, and it represented 68 percent of the movie's box office.

Wreck-It Ralph flexed its muscles again with an estimated $16.8 million over the three-day frame ($23.01 million five-day), which was off just 10 percent from last weekend. That hold is surprising given the direct competition from Guardians, and reinforces the fact that Ralph is getting some of the best word-of-mouth for an animated movie in years. The Disney Animation movie has now grossed $149.5 million.

The long-delayed Red Dawn remake opened in seventh place this weekend with an estimated $14.6 million ($22 million five-day start). That's a fine debut, and is even more impressive considering the movie was shot over three years ago. According to distributor FilmDistrict, Red Dawn played best through the South and in military areas, and the movie's demographic breakdown was 62 percent male and 52 percent 25 years of age and older. Audiences awarded it a middling "B" CinemaScore, and odds are it fizzles pretty quickly in the next few weeks.

Silver Linings Playbook expanded to 367 locations this weekend and wound up in ninth place with an estimated $4.6 million ($5.9 million five-day). That would be a great result if the movie was exclusively riding word-of-mouth buzz at this point; however, The Weinstein Company's marketing pitched the movie as a Nov. 21 release, meaning this could essentially be the opening weekend gross (albeit without the full theater count potential). Further expansion plans are unclear right now, though it's easy to imagine the movie getting a nationwide push on Dec. 7 against weak competition from Playing for Keeps.

With tough competition for adult audiences from Skyfall, Lincoln and Silver Linings, two new limited releases failed to break out this weekend. Hitchcock grossed $301,000 at 17 locations for a mediocre $17,706 per-theater average, while Rust and Bone only mustered up $30,200 at two theaters ($15,100 average). Hitchcock will expand in to 45 or 50 locations this coming weekend, while Rust and Bone's expansion plans are currently unknown.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Power of Film

I often talk about the power of film. I’m convinced that movies are the most unique form of all media. There is something remarkably different about the effectiveness and impact of a movie compared to television shows, video games, web content or any other type of electronic image. In fact, film transcends all other forms of media. That means they have a unique place and influence in our society. It’s through films that we can express our wants, fears, hurts and desires. Cinema has a unique ability to shape public perception while educating and enlightening our society. There is no question that movies have changed our perceptions and influenced and impacted the very fabric of culture and our nation. Movies challenge us individually to consider our lifestyle choices as well as the pathway we are currently pursuing.

So why do movies have this unique ability than other media forms? What makes them different? Why are they more capable of communicating powerful messages? Here are five concepts that separate film from all other media experiences.

1 The cinematic experience. There is something very different and profound about entering a dark theater. It is perhaps the last place that we truly shut out the outside world. Where else do drop off of the planet for two hours. No cell phones, beepers or electronic media devices allowed. Think of it, when most of us go on vacation, we check our e-mails. Movies at the theatrical level have our total, undivided attention. If we are spending ten bucks, most of us want to get our money’s worth. We are not in control of the cinematic experience. We cannot hit pause or rewind. We are totally immersed in both sound and image. There is nothing like the big screen because it creates an experience more real in some ways than life itself.

2 Movies are about something. A few years ago, I heard an industry insider say that movies are about something or at least the good ones are. He is absolutely right. Films are not like television shows or web-based content because they are typically anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes in length. In other words, you have to have something of importance to drive two hours of content. Plot will not get it done. Movies require a theme. The characters must need something in order for movies to work on an emotional and psychological level. Movies work best with big ideas such as justice, forgiveness, redemption, freedom, social change, philosophy, or political change. Movies work on a big canvas so they require something important to say in order to hold our attention and interest. Why do films such as Casablanca, Citizen Kane or the Wizard of Oz hold up after all of these years? Because they were all about something. In the case of the Wizard of Oz, it was about finding your way back home and also the thing you seek the most, you always had it within your possession. Those are universal themes that are just as relevant today as they were at the time these movies were produced.

3 The group experience. Where else do we gather with total strangers to share an experience such as viewing a film? We laugh together, cry together and are frightened together. There is something powerful about a group experience. It validates the importance of the message that a film expresses, and most often we see films with friends and family. It always invites a discussion. Afterwards, we may go out to dinner or for coffee, and we often ask each other, “How did the movie impact you. What did you think about this character or that particular scene? Did you understand what the movie was about?” What other forms of media can you think about where we have this kind of profound discussion and dialogue.

4 The journey. Movies most often are about the human condition. What makes us human? Films have the capability of taking us on this journey as we seek answers. We can relate to this because at some level we are all on our own personal journey trying to make sense of the world we live in. All films are part of some journey. It’s expressed through what writers call the “character’s arc”. Films can transcend both space and time. In fact, we can see a character’s entire lifespan in a film. It’s through this process we can see how characters change, whether they are moving toward the truth or away from the truth. We can witness a conflict of values as characters wrestle with their inner demons to move from vice to virtue. Movies are the only form of media that has the ability to present this type of character arc and development. Through this process, we can see our lives played out in the characters portrayed on the big screen.

5 The suspension of reality. When does a movie stop being fiction and take on the form of reality? If the filmmakers have done their job well, there is a point at which the audience crosses a threshold where they start to believe what they see in a movie is reality. It’s no longer a film but a reflection of the real world. I’m convinced that film is the only form of media that can do this convincingly. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about when a movie has the ability to transport us to a different time, age, world, or even a different universe. Can you think of a film that has done that for you? When the experience became so real that you forgot you were watching a movie. When this happens, truth can be communicated on a very deep, personal level. You care very deeply about the characters, their fates and their causes. You can imagine how God can use this experience in our lives to reflect His glory and truth.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Forecast: 'Guardians,' 'Pi' Target Family Audiences Over Thanksgiving

As usual, Thanksgiving weekend is shaping up to be a very busy one at the box office. Family audiences will get to choose between Rise of the Guardians and Life of Pi, with the DreamWorks Animation movie sure to win out. Meanwhile, the long-delayed Red Dawn remake finally hits theaters, and will hope to take advantage of the newfound star status of Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. Even with all of these new entries, though, the top movie will once again be The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, which could be at around $230 million by Sunday.

At 3,653 locations (2,900 of which will be feature 3D or IMAX presentations), Rise of the Guardians is almost certainly going to be the highest-grossing movie among the new releases this weekend. The movie features an Avengers-like team-up of fantasy characters like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost, though the marketing has mainly emphasized Santa and his elves. That seems like a good move: with the exception of last year's Arthur Christmas, movies about Santa Claus do very well around this time of year, and younger children will be drawn in by the elves' pratfalls (which appear inspired by the Minions in Despicable Me).

Rise of the Guardians is facing direct competition from Life of Pi and Wreck-It Ralph, though, and its unique animation style makes it a slightly tougher sell than more standard animated fare. Paramount is currently forecasting around $35 million for the five-day weekend.

Life of Pi, adapted from Yann Martel's international bestseller of the same name, debuts at 2,902 theaters on Wednesday, 2,633 of which will play the movie in 3D. The movie is receiving generally strong reviews, and for a while the marketing was pushing a quote that claimed Life of Pi was "the next Avatar." From a box office perspective, though, it's more likely to be the next Hugo. That movie also opened on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, featured a dose of magical realism, had a young protagonist dealing with isolation, and was an acclaimed filmmaker's first foray in to 3D (Martin Scorsese for Hugo, Ang Lee for Pi). Hugo had a $15.4 million five-day start last year; Life of Pi is reaching over twice as many theaters initially, though, and the book was much more popular. As a result, the movie should break $20 million for the five-day frame (Fox is expecting high-teen-millions).

Nearly three years after completing principal photography, the Red Dawn remake is finally reaching theaters (2,679 theaters, to be exact). The lengthy delay is being blamed on producer MGM's bankruptcy issues, though there was also the minor issue of having to change the invading force from China to North Korea in post-production. In comparison, the 1984 original (which earned $38.4 million, or $90.7 million adjusted for ticket price inflation) featured Russians as the villains, which brings to mind the biggest issue with this remake: in 1984, the notion of Russia invading the U.S. was far-fetched, but they were at least a global power, and the Cold War was still technically going on. While North Korea has been antagonistic towards the U.S., they don't even have the wherewithal to cause much trouble in Asia, much less stage an invasion of the U.S.

Since the central conflict is blatantly absurd, the marketing has instead relied on vague patriotism, which just isn't as compelling. It's also emphasized the presence of Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Huntsman) and (to a lesser extent) Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), though star power tends to be an overrated indicator of box office potential. Distributor FilmDistrict is hoping for a debut in the high-teen-millions for the five-day weekend.

Silver Linings Playbook was supposed to open nationwide on Wednesday, but is instead expanding to only 367 theaters after earning a mediocre $443,003 from 16 locations this past weekend. The David O. Russell comedy, which stars A-listers Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, has been receiving great reviews and plenty of awards buzz, but the tone-deaf advertisements and confused release pattern aren't doing the movie any favors. It should at least do well enough this weekend to crack the Top 10, though that's a minor consolation at this point.

On Friday, Hitchcock reaches 17 theaters, while Rust and Bone opens in New York and Los Angeles. With all the offerings currently out there for adults, it's hard to imagine either of these movies bursting out of the gate, though their respective studios (Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics) will surely work out solid expansions between now and Christmas.

Forecast (Nov. 23-25)
1. Breaking Dawn Part 2 - $45 million ($68.2 million five-day)
2. Skyfall - $34.2 million ($50 million)
3. Rise of the Guardians - $32 million ($45.5 million)
4. Lincoln - $17.9 million ($24.5 million)
5. Wreck-It Ralph - $17 million ($23.3 million)
6. Life of Pi - $15 million ($21.1 million)
7. Red Dawn - $10.6 million ($14.8 million)

Bar for Success
Rise of the Guardians needs to earn at least $40 million for the five-day weekend—that would put it in line with last year's The Muppets, but still a far cry from 2010's Tangled. Life of Pi is in fine shape at $20 million, while Red Dawn needs at least $15 million.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Maybe Hulu Had It Right After All

I was thinking just the other day that television has been our pal for over 60 years. But, truth be told, television is probably more like our family—the kind of family that you don’t mind coming over and staying for a while. The box has become America’s most influential piece of furniture. We have made it the centerpiece in our homes and have given it a prominent place of stature in our family or living rooms.

So, I have a question for you. Have you ever wondered how television has impacted your life? For good or bad? I was reading some statistics that’s astonishing. By the time the average person graduates from high school he or she would have spent 18,000 hours watching television. That includes over 330,000 commercials. As adults, most of us will spend on the average over 4 hours a day watching TV. That’s a lot of time. Hey, if we’re spending that much time on any given activity, it has to have some type of impact. Right?

Maybe Hulu had it right after all. A couple of years ago, they ran a commercial campaign which launched and promoted their new website. It was a funny, entertaining and facetious commercial featuring Alec Baldwin. Hulu is a web-based site where you can view television programs online. If you missed it in real time, it gives you another opportunity to view your favorite show.

Baldwin start out at the Hollywood sign where he says, “They say television will rot your brains. That’s absurd. Like a banana will only soften the brain. To go all the way you need Hulu to turn it into mush.” It turns out that Baldwin is actually an alien, and he’s using Hulu to turn our brains into mush so they can be scooped out and consumed by the master alien race. The final tagline for the spot reads, “Hulu, an evil plot to destroy the world.”

Could Alec Baldwin be right? Perhaps, he really is an alien. Just kidding. No I don’t believe there is an evil plot to destroy Western civilization or undermine the morals and values of our youth. And, I’m certain there are no aliens pursuing some mass invasion. Hollywood executives do not gather on Monday morning to discuss their evil intentions of polluting our minds. They are not in cahoots with aliens. I guess it would be more comforting if that was the truth.

However, Alec Baldwin did get something right. Perhaps, television has softened our brains. Maybe it’s just easier for television to do the thinking for us. I’m sure you’re probably thinking right now, what’s the big deal. I’ve been watching television and I’m fine.

I’m just like you. After a hard day, I just want to relax. I just want to sit down, watch the tube and chill. No heavy lifting. All I want to do is to put it on cruise control. The TV networks understand this well. They want to give you what you want. The networks are in the business to make money. No evil plot.

That’s why we get programs like Hawaii Five-O. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of this show. But the format works great for television. It’s simple and doesn’t require you to do a whole lot of thinking. Like most scripted programming these days, it follows a predictable formula. Bad guys commit a crime. Our heroes, Five-O, springs into action. They catch a break, discover the plot and who and where the bad guys can be found. And after a chase or two or an explosion, the bad guys go down hard and are brought to justice. Same formula week in and week out. Just add some pretty pictures and some pretty people for eye candy, and you’re on your way to becoming a television producer.

Network executives have known for years that most people don’t want to watch complex television shows, such as Kings or Caprica. Both lasted only one season. They required the viewer be actively engaged and understand what is actually happening. Often it’s not about what we can see on the screen, but it’s more abstract and less defined. It’s what’s occurring in the minds of the characters or in the subtext. Remember, we just want to relax and not be challenged. Perhaps, Edward R.Murrow put it best. He understood the future of television and its potential to be used for both good and bad. He warned of the dangers long before others understood what was happening in our society. In 1958, he said that television is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us from the realities of life. By watching television, you would find evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation.

Murrow said that the American public has a built-in allergy to unpleasant and disturbing information. Murrow campaigned that television should reflect and offer a public discourse on matters of public policy and issues that impact society. But he believed because of the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies, programmers and sponsors, that the positive use of television would not become a reality. Television networks understood the human condition and what we really wanted to see. We were not interested in seeing the truth because that would be too unpleasant.

As Alec Baldwin says in the Hulu spot, television has indeed softened the brain. Perhaps that’s our legacy. Maybe today we can no longer think for ourselves. Whatever the box says is fine with us. No evil plot. We’re merely doing it to ourselves.

The 10 Immutable Laws of Storytelling

By Andy Goodman

1. Stories are about people. Even if your organization (a) is devoted to saving flora and/or fauna, (b) toils in the dense thicket of policy change, or (c) helps other organizations work more effectively, human beings are still driving the action. So your protagonist has to be a person. And since this person also serves as the audience’s guide through the story, it’s essential to provide some physical description when he or she is introduced. This helps your audience form a mental picture—after all, it’s hard to follow what you can’t see. And don’t forget to include your characters’ names. Audiences will relate more readily to “Marcus” than “the at-risk youth,” even if you have to use a pseudonym to protect your subject’s identity.

2. The people in your story have to something. A story doesn’t truly begin until the audience knows precisely what the protagonist’s goal is and has a reason to care whether or not it is attained. So within the first paragraph or two,make sure it’s clear what your hero wants to do, to get, or to change. And given that stories are driven by some kind of desire, beware the passive voice! When you write, “a decision was reached,” the people in your story magically disappear and suddenly the action is forced by an unseen hand. (For more on problems with using the passive voice, see Gonzales, Alberto.)

3. Stories need to be fixed in time and space. Audiences don’t require every detail of longitude and latitude up front, but the moment you begin telling your tale, they will want to know: Did this happen last week or ten years ago? Are we on a street corner in Boston, a Wal-Mart in Iowa, or somewhere else? If you help them get their bearings quickly, they will stop wondering about the where and when of your story and more readily follow you into the deeper meaning within.

4. Let your characters speak for themselves. When characters speak to each other in a story, it lends immediacy and urgency to the piece. Audience members will feel as if they are the proverbial fly-on-the-wall within the scene, hearing in real time what each person has to say. Direct quotes also let characters speak in their idiosyncratic voices, lending authenticity to the dialogue. “The name is Bond, James Bond,” is way better than, “The agent introduced himself, characteristically repeating his surname twice.”

5. Audiences bore easily. Human beings are hard-wired to love stories, but in this, The Age of Too Much Information, people don’t have time to wait for your story to get interesting.Within the first paragraph or two, you have to make them wonder, “What happens next?” or “How is this going to turn out?” As the people in your story pursue their goal, they must run into obstacles, surprises, or something that makes the audience sit up and take notice. Otherwise they’ll stand up and walk away.

6. Stories speak the audience’s language. According to national literacy studies, the average American reads at a sixth grade level. So if your ads, posters, and publications are intended for mass consumption, plain speaking is the order of the day. Good storytellers also have a keen ear for the colloquialisms and local slang that quickly establish common ground between the teller and listener.

7. Stories stir up emotions. Human beings (which should, hopefully, comprise the majority of your audience) are not inclined to think about things they do not care about. We all have too much on our plate as it is. So even when you have mountains of hard evidence on your side, you have to make your audience feel something before they will even glance at your numbers. Stories stir the emotions not to be manipulative, not simply for melodramatic effect, but to break through the white noise of information that inundates us every day and to deliver the message this is worth your attention.

8. Stories don’t tell: they show. Intellectually, your audience will understand a sentence such as, “When the nurse visited the family at home, she was met with hostility and guardedness.” But when you write, “When they all sat down for the first time in the living room, the family members wouldn’t look her in the eye,” your audience will see a picture, feel the hostility, and become more involved with the story.

9. Stories have at least one “moment of truth.” At their essence, the best stories show us something about how we should treat ourselves, how we should treat other people, or how we should treat the world around us. Since the first forms of humankind gathered around the first fires, we have looked to stories to be containers of truth, and your audience will instinctively look within your story for this kind of insight.

10. Stories have clear meaning. When the final line is spoken, your audience should know exactly why they took this journey with you. In the end, this may be themost important rule of all. If your audience cannot answer the question, “What was that story all about?” it won’t matter how diligently you followed rules one through nine

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Breaking Dawn' Ends 'Twilight' Franchise on Strong Note

The fifth and final Twilight movie opened to an outstanding $141.3 million this weekend, though that wasn't quite enough to set a new record for the popular franchise. Meanwhile, Skyfall had another strong weekend and Lincoln over-performed in its nationwide debut; as a result, the Top 12 earned around $237 million, which makes this the sixth-highest-grossing weekend ever.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2's estimated $141.3 million ranks eighth all-time and fourth in 2012 behind The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games. Among Twilight movies, it wound up slightly ahead of predecessor Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($138.1 million), but a tad below New Moon's franchise-best $142.8 million. This makes Twilight the first franchise ever to have three movies earn over $130 million in their first three days.

While this is undeniably a fantastic debut, there's a nagging feeling it should have done slightly better given the movie's finale status; past franchise finales like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Star Wars: Episode III -Revenge of the Sith easily had the best debuts for their series. At least Twilight didn't see much, if any, audience attrition, which is a rare thing for most franchises.

There are a few indications that Breaking Dawn Part 2 could hang on a bit better than its predecessors. First, its Friday-to-Saturday drop (42 percent) was a slight improvement over Breaking Dawn Part 1 (44 percent). More importantly, it received the best exit polling so far for a Twilight movie, and its "A" CinemaScore ("A+" among those under 25) suggests word-of-mouth will be solid. Ultimately, the movie should earn at least $280 million and could wind up around $300 million.

The audience was 79 female and 21 percent male (highest male share of the franchise so far), and it was split evenly between those above and below 25 years of age.

On Friday, Lionsgate/Summit passed the $1 billion mark for the first time in the company's history, and is now at over $1.1 billion. For 2012, it's going to finish ahead of 20th Century Fox and Paramount, both of which are part of the traditional "Big Six" studios.

In its second outing, Skyfall fell 53 percent to an estimated $41.5 million. In comparison, Quantum of Solace fell 60 percent in its second weekend. Through 10 days, Skyfall has earned $161.3 million, and by Wednesday it will pass Quantum's $168.4 million to become the highest-grossing Bond movie ever. Also, using Quantum's pattern, there's a good chance Skyfall winds up with $250 million by the end of its run.

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln expanded to 1,775 locations this weekend and earned an excellent $21 million. That's easily the best start ever for a narrative feature about a real-life president ahead of Oliver Stone's 2008 movie W. ($10.5 million). It's also noticeably higher than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's $16.3 million. With great reviews, plenty of awards buzz, strong word-of-mouth ("A" CinemaScore) and an audience that skews older (67 percent over 35 years of age), Lincoln should be on track for a very healthy run at the box office.

In fourth place, Wreck-It Ralph dropped 45 percent to an estimated $18.3 million. The animated hit has now grossed $121.5 million, and even with direct competition from Rise of the Guardians on Wednesday it's still in line for at least $150 million by the end of its run.

Rounding out the Top Five, Flight fell 42 percent to an estimated $8.6 million. Through 17 days, the Denzel Washington addiction drama has grossed $61.3 million.

Opening at 16 locations, Silver Linings Playbook scored an estimated $458,000. In comparison, writer-director David O. Russell's last movie, The Fighter, earned $300,010 from just four theaters in its first frame. Aside from tough competition for adult audiences from Skyfall and Lincoln, Silver Linings was also likely hurt by The Weinstein Company's last minute decision to add these playdates, which makes it more difficult to properly raise awareness and book the best screens and the most showtimes. The well-reviewed romantic comedy expands to around 420 theaters on Wednesday.

Anna Karenina also debuted at 16 theaters but only earned an estimated $315,000. It's per-theater average was $19,688; director Joe Wright's Atonement had a higher average at twice as many locations when it opened in December 2007.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Illusion of Freedom

Unless you’ve been stuck in a different dimension over the past couple of years, you realize there is an enormous debate about the issue of freedom and the direction of our nation. A lot of people have been talking about it. In fact, many are saying we are losing our freedom. It seemed to start with the election of President Obama and the debate over healthcare. Who decides our future? Big government or do we? So the current debate has been framed in terms of choices and our freedom.

The conservative message is clear. Big government means you will lose your ability to choose for yourself as well as your freedom. Liberals believe you will lose your freedom and your ability to choose because big business will make those choices for you.

No matter who wins the argument or dictates public policy, we all have lost our freedom. In fact, freedom is only an illusion. Are we really in control of our lives? Whether it’s big government, big business, or the media conglomerates, there are forces at work within our society that have tremendous influence, power and wealth. And they are determined to stay in power.

Whether by accident or design, today we have a media culture that is capable of dictating and controlling practically every aspect of our lives. Whoever controls the media controls the culture. One of the ways that you control the culture is by defining the American Dream. Has the American Dream been hijacked? At one time, many people considered the American Dream as the pursuit of freedom and the ability to make your own decisions.

Today, I’m not sure that’s the case. Our media culture has led us to believe the American Dream is about getting everything you want whenever you want it. It’s now a self-centered world build on the ever expanding appetite of consumerism and materialism. As we pursue this lifestyle and this new version of the American Dream, we actually lose more of our freedoms. Our choices become limited as we are more closed in. We are encouraged to spend all of our money. And when that is no longer sufficient to meet the demands of a consumer-based lifestyle, we then start borrowing money that we don’t have. Does this pattern seem familiar?

It’s obvious that this is what Washington has done, and it’s the same thing that most of our society has also engaged in. We give up our freedoms for all of these material things that occupy our time and our interests. We no longer have a life of our own. We are forced to work at a job that we don’t like because we have no other choice. Does that sound like freedom to you? Or is it a form of bondage? Who convinced you to live this life? Who says that our society and the way things are ordered are the way they are supposed to be?

Maybe the best way I can illustrate my argument is a speech from Edward R. Murrow, one of the nation’s first pioneers in television journalism. In fact, he wrote the book. The speech was given in 1958 in Chicago before television and radio executives. Historians have called it the wires and lights speech. His words are chilling and prophetic and they should cause all of us to seriously think about the state of our own existence.

“This just might do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse, a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts, but the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies, and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television. Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black in white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and compliant. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant and disturbing information. Our mass media reflects this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.”

You have to remember that Murrow said this over 50 years ago. I’m sure he would be absolutely amazed if he could see the extent of today’s mass media and the rise of our media culture. The question is, are we being distracted from the truth. Are we insulated from the realities of the world we live in? Has it been done by design? Let’s put it this way. Is the media culture a form of a drug? I’m convinced we’re being medicated into compliance. For the most part, we really don’t understand what’s happening around us. We are told what to think in a nice way that suggests that we are making our own decisions. But are we?

I’m not sure who’s in control. Does it matter if it’s big government or big business? The point is your freedoms are long gone. You just don’t realize it. The media culture has made sure of that. There is only one way to exercise your freedom. And it’s not through the ballot box. Nor is it through revolution or political change. The only place you can be free is in your spirit. And you do that by accepting Christ. There is no freedom on earth. There never has been. Your freedom lies elsewhere, outside of this system. In fact, this world and this world system has never been our destination. That’s radical thinking. Are you ready to be free?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Forecast: 'Twilight' Finale Eyes Record Debut for Franchise

Just four years after the franchise began, the fifth and final Twilight movie is expected to dominate the box office when it debuts at 4,070 locations this weekend. Assuming it gets the typical finale bump, Breaking Dawn Part 2 will easily score a franchise-best opening, and it could even be on track for a 2D opening record.

Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln expands in to 1,775 locations after a successful week in limited release, though it's going to be competing for adult audiences with the flashier Skyfall. Overall, this is going to be one of the highest-grossing weekends ever, and it could even top the $259.9 million record set on the final weekend of 2009.

In November 2008, the first Twilight movie surprised many box office observers when it debuted to a hefty $69.6 million on its way to a $192.8 million total. The movie's popularity grew on DVD, which caused many fans to seek out the book series as well. As a result, The Twilight Saga: New Moon opened twice as high ($142.8 million) just one year later, and ultimately closed with an astounding $296.6 million.

The following Summer, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse set the franchise record with $300.5 million, confirming that Twilight was a premiere franchise on par with Harry Potter at the domestic box office. Last November the first part of finale, Breaking Dawn Part 1, took a slight step backwards with $281.3 million, though that's still a very strong hold for the fourth entry in a franchise. To date, the four Twilight movies have made over $1.07 billion domestically and $1.44 billion overseas.

Summit clearly knows how to release a Twilight movie, and their marketing team appears to be taking a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach. Previews nicely mix action and romance, and posters/billboards clearly focus on stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner (the K-Stew/R-Patz relationship drama from this Summer is all-but-forgotten at this point, and shouldn't be an issue when it comes to the movie's performance). The biggest difference for this outing, though, is that it's the final movie, and the marketing is going to great lengths to highlight that (the tagline reads "The Epic Finale That Will Live Forever").

As Hollywood tends to want to keep lucrative franchises alive long past their expiration date, it's rare to see definitive franchise conclusions like Breaking Dawn Part 2. When they do come around, though, they consistently debut higher than any of their predecessors: examples from the last decade include The Long of the Rings: Return of the King, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight Rises. Using Lord of the Rings as an example—it's a book adaptation with exactly one year between entries and no 3D addition—Breaking Dawn Part 2 could be in line for as much as $165 million this weekend.

It is worth pointing out, though, that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 will be opening at 10 p.m. on Thursday night instead of the typical midnight debut. Technically these showtimes should be accounted for on Thursday, not Friday, though there's a good chance that Lionsgate/Summit doesn't break out the results.

After earning $1.33 million from 11 locations in its first six days, Steven Spielberg's biopic Lincoln will attempt to connect with mainstream audiences when it expands nationwide this weekend. The big pluses here are the Spielberg brand, strong reviews (90 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), and a heaping of awards buzz surrounding Daniel Day-Lewis's performance as the 16th president of the United States.

Unfortunately, audiences have consistently shown that they aren't interested in seeing wonky political dramas, especially ones featuring real-life presidents: not counting documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 and fantasy horror flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the top debut ever for a movie about a real-life president belongs to Oliver Stone's W. with a meager $10.5 million. It's also hard to imagine that, in the immediate wake of a heated presidential election, many moviegoers will seek out a nearly two-and-a-half hour political drama. Add in Skyfall's appeal among Lincoln's key older demographic, and there's a good chance the movie underwhelms in its nationwide debut.

Silver Linings Playbook and Anna Karenina will both make a play for arthouse audiences this weekend at 16 locations each. The Weinstein Company was originally planning to go nationwide with Silver Linings on Nov. 21 before announcing this limited run last week; that expansion has now been delayed a bit, and instead it will only go out in to around 420 theaters next Wednesday. Ultimately, this is the best pattern for a crowd-pleaser that's proving to be a tricky sell (advertisements are as awkwardly manic as the movie's main characters), though the last-minute shifts may have thrown off the marketing effort a bit.

Reviews are more mixed on Anna Karenina, and it's been hard to get the word out with all the other adult-oriented movies currently playing in theaters. Still, Joe Wright and Keira Knightley's past collaborations are well-regarded, and the book is one of the most widely-read of the 20th century, so a debut near $500,000 seems doable.

Forecast (Nov. 16-18)
1. Breaking Dawn Part 2 - $158 million (including 10 p.m. Thursday)
2. Skyfall - $47.5 million (-46%)
3. Wreck-It Ralph - $18.7 million (-43%)
4. Lincoln - $11.5 million
5. Flight - $8.9 million (-40%)

Bar for Success
Breaking Dawn Part 2 needs to at least match its predecessor's $138.1 million. Since it's a light release catering to older audiences, $10 million is a fine start for Lincoln.

How Do You Start a Movement? Part 2

For some time now, I’ve been trying to start a movement. In fact, that is the mission of Media Missionary School and Flannelgraph Ministries.

So what is our movement? It is based on awareness and education and primarily aimed at people of faith. It involves following 5 core principles that permit Christians to re-engage culture by using mass media and entertainment as a means to interject Christian and Biblical principles into our society.
The Five Principles

Principle 1. Christianity is rapidly loosing its impact on culture. Today the media controls the culture and, by doing so, controls the hearts and minds of the people. That includes young and old, Christians and nonbelievers. It is no longer possible to determine where culture starts and where media ends. They have merged to create a media culture which, in turn, has created a media culture crisis. When we recognize how media is influencing and changing us, we will understand that our perception of media and entertainment needs to change. Then we can utilize the opportunity this crisis presents for positive change by promoting and producing media and entertainment that reflects Biblical truth.

Principle 2. Christians must become media literate so that we are knowledgeable in the language of media and its influence. By doing so, we can unlock the meaning of the message which media communicates and take control of how we respond to the message.

Principle 3. In order to engage our culture, we must recognize Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a legitimate mission field. In fact, Hollywood represents a unique people group or tribe that for the most part has not been reached. They have their own language, customs, and culture. In order to redeem Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry, we must stop blaming them for all of society’s problems and begin a dialogue of reconciliation.

Principle 4. Prayer is the foundation of the Christian faith. Without prayer, nothing is possible. Christianity currently faces a media crisis. Therefore, we must pray for both Christians and nonbelievers working in Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry as well as all other media fields. We must pray for God’s Kingdom to become a reality in the entertainment industry.

Principle 5. The Body of Christ must raise up, equip, train, and support media missionaries to the mission fields of Hollywood and the broader entertainment and media industry. Our purpose is to reseed the culture with mainstream entertainment and media that reflects Christian and Biblical values. We do this by partnering with the mainstream, entertainment and media industry.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How Do You Start a Movement? Part 1

For some time now, I’ve been trying to start a movement. In fact, that is the mission of Media Missionary School and Flannelgraph Ministries. But movements are a funny thing. Whether they are politically, socially or religiously based, they take on a life of their own. Often they start and develop their own rules. What I have discovered, is there is no predicable path or guidebook to follow.

So what is our movement? It is based on awareness and education and primarily aimed at people of faith. It involves following 5 core principles that permit Christians to re-engage culture by using mass media and entertainment as a means to interject Christian and Biblical principles into our society. I’m convinced that our culture is controlled and manipulated by the media. In reality, the world we live in is a reflection of what the mass media culture wants us to believe. Just look at the TV commercials…as in “it says I am”

…. Media has changed our culture and has influenced and infiltrated the Body of Christ. Obviously, this has enormous implications for all of us.

Some have suggested that this explanation or theory that the media is the source of what ails our culture is simplistic and not an adequate explanation. Ockham’s Razor suggests that when you have competing hypotheses then the simplest explanation is usually the correct one and adding anything to that would not be needed. My hypothesis is that the media is the issue and represents the so-called 800 pound guerilla in the room which no one seems to notice.

My theory starts with the fall of man. What is the issue at the heart of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. This condition defines all human beings. It is a direct result of original sin, including the desire to put ourselves on a level with God, which results in man’s desire to be the center of his own universe. In other words, what we want is more important than anything else, and we must have it at any cost. This condition defines who we are. it is at the core of our existence. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we will continue to struggle with this issue.

The media understands this concept Oh so well! They didn’t create the human condition, but they certainly know how to exploit it. So it makes sense logically that if the media wants to control the culture and, by doing so, maximize its power and profits, it would tap into the one theme that defines who we are. The media would make it a priority to learn how to manipulate us and play on our emotions and would make it their goal to understand how we are wired in order to get the responses they desire.

Yes, self-centeredness and the desire for instant gratification of wealth, power and prestige has existed since the beginning of mankind. All the media has done is picked up on this weakness. Because of the power and scope of today’s media, the media now amplifies this message a thousand times over and tells us we deserve it. This is the heart of our problem. The message of the Church cuts against the grain. It’s why people of faith are having a difficult time impacting our culture. Our message is being drummed out and made irrelevant because the media proclaims a popular message that does not cut across the grain. The Christian message puts God first and calls us to put our “brother” above ourselves. That’s not the message you want to send if you want to sell a $50,000 car.

Our challenge and the movement that I am trying to initiate is to reverse the current trend. Christians can use the media to influence the culture for good just as well as those who have used it to capitalize on our weaknesses. We start reversing the trend by first taking the red pill. Read the article on our website called “The Red Pill”. You can click on The Red Pill image on the blue column at the right side of the screen. Then read the following five core principles. I don’t know how a movement starts, but what I can do is share with you what I believe God has revealed to me. I encourage you to seek God and discover the truth for yourself.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Skyfall' Scores Best Bond Debut Ever

After doing tremendous business overseas in the past two weeks, Skyfall definitely did not disappoint in its domestic debut this weekend. The 23rd James Bond movie scored an outstanding $87.8 million, which is a new opening weekend record for the 50-year-old franchise. This helped push the Top 12 to an estimated $162.6 million, which is up 29 percent over the same period last year.

's opening crushed Quantum of Solace's $67.5 million, which was the previous Bond record. It was also double Casino Royale's $40.8 million debut, which was star Daniel Craig's first outing as the infamous spy. The debut ranks fourth on the year behind The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games, and it ranks seventh all-time in November behind two Twilight movies and four Harry Potter flicks. Including $2.2 million from Thursday's IMAX/premium-large-format showings, the movie has already earned $90 million total.

was always poised to have an impressive debut thanks to the strength of the Bond brand, but the fact that it so handily set the record is due to a number of factors unique to this entry. First, and perhaps most importantly, Daniel Craig is James Bond to most audiences at this point thanks to Casino Royale's ongoing legacy and reinforced by a clever London Olympics opening ceremony cameo seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Additionally, the four-year wait in between movies and the buzz surrounding the 50th anniversary of the character helped to make this feel like more of an event than usual. The enthusiastic reviews ("Best Bond Ever" was a popular one) and Adele's popular theme song helped in the final push as well.

The movie earned a very good $13.1 million, or 15 percent of the four-day haul, from IMAX presentations. The audience was 60 percent male and 75 percent were 25 years of age or older; in comparison, only 58 percent of Quantum's audience was over 25, which suggests that long-time Bond fans made it out at abnormally-high rates for Skyfall.

With the audience skewing older and awarding the movie an "A" CinemaScore, Skyfall is on track for a ton of success in the next few weeks. It's guaranteed to earn over $200 million at the domestic box office, and $250 million doesn't really seem like a stretch either.

In second place, last weekend's winner Wreck-It Ralph eased 33 percent to an estimated $33.1 million. That drop is a bit better than 2010's Megamind (37 percent), and the $93.7 million 10-day total is also up on Megamind's $88.8 million.

fell 39 percent to an estimated $15.1 million in its second outing. Its $47.8 million total is noticeably higher than Denzel Washington's 2010 thriller Unstoppable ($41.9 million) through the same point, and that movie wound up earning over $81 million.

In its fifth weekend, Argo had its steepest drop yet. The Ben Affleck-directed thriller fell 35 percent to an estimated $6.7 million, for a new total of $85.7 million. In comparison, The Town was at $80.5 million through a month in theaters.

Taken 2
rounded out the Top Five with an estimated $4 million, which is only off 33 percent from last weekend. That's a remarkable hold given the direct and overwhelming competition from Skyfall. The action sequel has so far earned $131.3 million, and has a legitimate shot at coming very close to its predecessor's $145 million total.

In 15th place, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln debuted to an estimated $900,000 at 11 locations. That translates to an $81,818 per-theater average, which is second-best ever for a movie in more than 10 locations (behind Precious). It's also third-highest in 2012 behind The Master and Moonrise Kingdom. The historical drama's audience skewed male (55 percent) and much older (67 percent over the age of 35), and they awarded the movie a great "A" CinemaScore. The real test, though, comes next weekend when Lincoln attempts to reach mainstream crowds in at least 1,500 theaters.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to Build a Better Redemptive Film

Media and entertainment is America’s number one export. I think it’s safe to say that Hollywood knows a thing or two about how to make movies and television shows. What do they know that Christians don’t know about making movies? 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?

Hollywood knows how to tell a good story. And they have been doing it for years. Here are ten secrets they have realized about telling good stories that are capable of impacting the human heart.

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.

3. Films need to have an emotional impact. Emotions move people; therefore, our characters need to be believable as well as our dialogue. Nobody will accept the redemptive process if you are not successful in taking them through the emotional journey involved in the process of change.

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.

6. Redemptive films need to illustrate the wonders of God. As Christians we don’t do this very well in film. When it come to miracles, angels, the unexplained, healings or the story of the loaves and fish, our stories seem to be flat, one-dimensional and lacking depth. Perhaps we’re too close to the subject material. NonChristians for some reason seem to be much better at this. For example, Jesus of Nazareth, produced in 1977 for television, is exceptional at exploring the wonders of God. It is a difficult concept to explain, but they do it with simplicity, humanity and the divine in such a way that it moves you.

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.

8. The need for redemption requires us to face sin. NonChristians may not call sin, sin, but they are good at depicting it. There is no redemption in the filmmaking process without the ability to portray sin. Our audience will not accept the fact that our characters have gone through this incredible transformation without seeing what their lives looked like before the transformation. They have to see the ugliness. We have all gone through the same experience. Life isn’t always pretty. That doesn’t mean we offer gratuitous, offensive material just for the sake of showing it. But it is part of the journey to redemption. I know for some Christians, this is a difficult concept to accept. But here is something to consider. The Bible is a story of the human condition without God and does contain content that some may find disturbing. We are afraid that if we show sin we are somehow endorsing it. Most Christian filmmakers want their hero or protagonist to be flawless not at the end of the redemptive process but at the beginning.

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.

Bottom line

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