Part 1 in Series, “The Future of Faith in Film and Television.” We asked observers in and around the entertainment industry to share their perspective on where faith is (or should be) headed in film and TV. Here’s what they said:
Many of my same industry friends who won’t watch or rent a movie that describes itself as “Christian” are more than willing to sit down and watch a cheesy Hallmark special of similar quality. Why?
by McKenna Elise • Actor
Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, “Oh crap. She’s up.”
That’s one of the few Facebook status updates that actually caught my attention this month. However, after more than a decade in the entertainment industry it didn’t hit me with the lightheartedness my friend probably intended. I now know the subtle power of evil the devil often exerts in my own life and among my friends and the films they make with such excellence.
It reminded me that every morning when I wake up, the devil should sigh loudly, shrug his shoulders, and think to himself yet again, “I hoped today would be easy, but looks who’s back at it…” He should be scared of me. Or more fitting of his character, excited to plot and scheme and worm his way into my work in an attempt to destroy it. Every day I should be equally as excited to derail his plans as he is to detonate mine.
Giving the Devil his Due
That’s true of my work as an actor, but shouldn’t that be the point of films made by Christians as well? Show business is tricky… I cannot think of a profession with a better platform for spreading the good news of life in Christ. But unfortunately for everyone in our culture, it’s also often the last place the church has looked.
For at least the first fifty years of movie-making Hollywood’s audience was made up largely of people of faith. Church’s often served as the movie house for their town and many denominations actually funded and even made movies. Films were largely artful representations of life, or the way people wanted life to be. They had morals, integrity, heart and… wait for it… solid story lines!
I’m not saying all old movies are idyllic, nor am I saying that all modern movies are terrible and tasteless. What I am saying is that through the years as Christians have removed themselves from the filmmaking community, movies have developed a little less heart and lot more…well, skin.
While there are certainly many great artists and actors in the industry, the overall impact of a Hollywood devoid of believers serving as “salt and light” has been a growing litany of films of which the devil would be quite proud. In fact, many church-goers seem to believe that the Hollywood is little more than the devil’s playground. They are terrified of the devil’s influence upon the next generation, and believe that nothing good could ever come out of Hollywood.
Turning the Tables
I happen to believe the opposite. I think it is our job as writers, actors, and creators of faith is to find a way to make movies that are so good they scare the heebie-jeebies out of the devil. Movies that parlay a message of hope, love, forgiveness, family, charity, etc… In one simple thought, it’s our job to create movies that share the message. And here in lies the rub; to create a quality movie with positive reinforcement that keeps peoples attention and doesn’t alienate those who may not be familiar with the Gospel.
I’m not talking about more “Christian” movies. They certainly have their plane, but what on earth qualifies something as a ‘Christian’ movie? Having a conversion scene? Setting it in a church? Multiple prayer scenes? Saying Jesus at least 13 times in the first 12 minutes?
No one knows, and frankly, none of my friends really care. If it has even the label of ‘Christian’ they’re not going near it. And I don’t believe the problem is merely production or acting quality. I think it goes much deeper.
Many of my same industry friends who won’t watch or rent a movie that describes itself “Christian” are more than willing to sit down and watch a cheesy Hallmark special with a very similar quality. Why? I think it’s because they don’t want to be preached at! They want the family friendly stories without their own preconceived and often negative notions of the church rising to the surface.
The movie ‘The Blindside’ is a perfect example of this. It didn’t pitch itself as a Christian movie but undoubtedly shared very Christian themes of compassion, dedication and ultimately of love. And people flocked to it in droves. It made the studio’s ecstatic with its success and audiences thankful for it’s sentiment. It touched their hearts without shoving the gospel down their throats to get there.
Shrewd as a Serpent, Innocent as a Dove
So here’s my point, the devil is sneaky; he masks his evil works as fun, adventurous and worst of all, harmless. He doesn’t make ‘message’ movies. He seeks to weave his message into every movie. Why can’t we do the same?
Why can’t we make movies that provide a touching but realistic message of love to an audience without preaching at them? I’m not saying we should hide our intent, but maybe we shouldn’t stamp our work with a huge cross either. We need to create Christian movies in a smart, interesting, professional and non-threatening way so that people watch it and think, “Wow… that was great. I want to see more movies like that.”
In short, movies that make the devil get up in the morning and say, “Oh crap! The theater’s full!”
McKenna Elise is an actress with fifteen years experience in film and television. She writes for THW under a pseudonym.