Christian Film-Maker John David Ware, an Interview
by Elizabeth Lonseth
Reading about the stance you have taken in Hollywood for the Christian Faith, with the 168 Film Project, we have to say “Wow”, go John! Are Hollywood studios more open to films that embrace the Christian faith than it was say five years ago?
JDW: Pre The Passion of the Christ, there was less interest in faith-based films. Post Passion, they are more open. It’s really about: can they make the kind of money that the Passion and Blindside did? If so, then they are interested. I think the studios would rather not do a faith-based film, but if it is a good story and will make money they are interested.
Q: Is it only a dream for a Christian fiction writer to think their work could be made into a mainstream Hollywood film? Do you think we will see more major films based on faith-based novels in the future?
JDW: If they think they can make money, absolutely. A lot of the time, studios get money from outside sources. They who put up the money get to dictate what happens in large part. It’s the same with individuals and investors. Often, indies will produce the movie and then get the investors. This is taking a big chance. Get the money and distribution first. Once you have seed money, you can get a bank loan and then you are off to the races. But it is more credible when you have a team that believes in your film.
A great story is the first thing. Second, is there a following, such as a bestseller novel or a quantifiable niche audience? How many eyeballs are looking at your blog? If thousands, then the studios might be interested, hundreds of thousands and they are very interested. Many in the biz literally comb the news and the bestseller lists everyday looking to option a book for a year. If your book is a best-seller, that is one thing. If not, they will want to see a script eventually.
Translating a book into a screenplay can be very tricky. Chronicles of Narnia – they reworked that quite a bit. Usually, the studios will want you to take out most specific faith references for fear of offending some and losing box office. They took much of the obvious Christian references out of the second and third Chronicles of Narnia, and yet they didn’t do well at the box office.
Marketing films of faith to secular audiences AND to the faithful is like walking a tightrope. InNarnia bad word-of-mouth sowed dissolution amongst Christians who don’t want to see a “cop out” on the message. It’s so hard to resist the urge to cross over and try to appeal to everyone.
Also, 168 Film Festival Schedule: March 31 – April 2