Hollywood Isn’t a Bible School: Phil Cooke Warns Christians Against Labeling Tinseltown ‘the Enemy ’ in NOAH Movie Furor

See also THW series: The Future of Faith in Film and Television

There’s a major shift underway with Hollywood finally grasping the importance of the faith audience in producing films. Christians should embrace the evolution rather than complain that Hollywood is the enemy. 

 by  • The Blaze

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Biblical ‘inaccuracies’ in Noah have many Christian groups in an uproar. (Photo source: Paramount Pictures)

Media producer and consultant Phil Cooke has a unique perspective — he’s a Christian who works in Hollywood. So unlike many of the faithful who are openly shunning Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film “Noah,” he believes there are numerous reasons why people of faith should actually embrace the biblical epic

It’s no secret that a plethora of theological debate has surrounded the movie so far, with Paramount Pictures — in an effort to stem contention — agreeing to add an “explanatory message” to its marketing materials to warn audiences that the movie is not a word-for-word retelling of the famous story.

Cooke, who has no official relationship with the “Noah” production but who has spoken out openly on the subject, told TheBlaze there are valid reasons for people of faith to express concern over theological themes, but that some of the criticism has been unfair.

“I have no quarrel with anyone who is concerned about what I would call extra-biblical, or doctrinal issues in the movie,” Cooke said in an email. “I have a Ph.D. in theology, so I get that completely. My biggest problem is the number of people who have negatively reviewed this and other films on blogs and other platforms without ever seeing it.”

Cooke said that it’s problematic to take a stance against something critics haven’t yet viewed — and that such actions and proclamations add to the reasons why secular culture continues to marginalize Christianity. He also offered advice for believers when it comes to confronting Tinseltown.

“Christians have to stop looking at Hollywood as the enemy, and start reaching out,” he said. “Missionaries have discovered that you don’t change minds by criticism, boycotts or threats. You change minds by developing a relationship and a sense of trust. You work from the inside.”

“Hollywood isn’t a Bible school, so if our expectation is that movies they produce will be 100 percent accurate we simply have the wrong expectations,” he said. “But in this case, Paramount Pictures is spending $200-$300 million dollars to tell the Noah story to the world. Noah will be water cooler conversation for the next three or four months, and it will be part of a national conversation.”

Rather than ignore this conversation or shun it, Cooke recommended that believers use the opportunity to speak with friends, family and acquaintances about their faith. Missing this chance would be a mistake…

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Phil Cook’s 10 Reasons You Should See Noah

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With a PhD in Theology and a thriving movie production company, Phil Cooke is uniquely qualified to weigh in on the Noah debate

You’ve probably heard the controversy about the upcoming Paramount Pictures movie “Noah.” In the last few weeks, I’ve seen numerous blogs, social media posts, and commentaries on the movie – usually criticizing it and detailing how far it strays from an accurate Biblical portrayal.  But as of this writing I’m one of only a handful of people who’ve actually seen the movie. Which is probably why I’m a bit bothered at the condemnations and protests from Christians who have never actually watched it. That’s why I felt compelled to write this post. Is the story an exact Biblical representation? No. For one thing, the Noah story in the Bible is remarkably short. We don’t know what happened inside the ark during the voyage. We don’t know what Noah was thinking. We don’t know the family dynamic. So the filmmakers added to the story. And honestly, there are “extra-Biblical” elements in the film. These are things that don’t line up with the Biblical account at all. If I had directed the film, I wouldn’t have added them, but this isn’t my film.

Last week, at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, three people who have seen it – NRB President Dr. Jerry Johnson, John Snowden, who was the Biblical advisor on the film, and myself (as an NRB board member) showed never before seen clips from the movie and led a discussion with hundreds of NRB members. This is Dr. Johnson’s response, and here’s John’s take. And from my perspective, in spite of non-Biblical elements in the film, and obvious reasons of concern for Christians, in a capsule form, here’s why I think Christians need to see the movie:

1. I’ve been on the set.  I’ve talked to the Chairman of the Studio, as well as the producer, director, set designer, and even the star – Russell Crowe. Not once did I ever get the feeling they were anything but serious. They didn’t mock the story, went to great lengths to get the ark built to exact Biblical measurements, and did an amazing amount of research.  In fact, writer Ari Handel and director Darren Aronofsky have been working on this script for 16 years.

2. This week, Dr. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters made an appeal to Paramount Studios to use a disclaimer on the film.  He suggested that (like Dreamworks did in “Prince of Egypt“) they add a disclaimer to say that this was INSPIRED by the Bible story rather than a film of the story itself. Paramount agreed with the idea without hesitation (I was on the phone calls), and here is their joint announcement. While it was too late to add it to the film, they readily agreed to add the disclaimer to the movie posters, website, digital promotions, as well as all radio and TV commercials that haven’t already been distributed. This tells me that Paramount values the Christian audience and wants to work with us.

3)  It’s an epic film.  I’ve always wondered about the places where the Biblical account of Noah was silent.  In this version, the filmmakers made Noah a complex character, and helped me see possibilities I’d never considered for how details in the story could have happened.  This isn’t the Sunday School sanitized version of the story, and for that I’m grateful.  After the screening, I thought of novelist Flannery O’Connor – one of my favorite writers.  Although she died in 1964, the movie’s unabashed look at sinful, grotesque humanity, and the extraordinary saving grace of God reminded me of how she might have looked at the story.

4. For at least a decade, we’ve been asking Hollywood to produce movies based on the Bible.  Now that they’re doing it, let’s be more encouraging.  So far, they’ve proven to be serious in the effort, whether they miss the target or not.  So let’s support it, not stifle it.

5. Our expectations may be unrealistic.  Paramount Pictures is a business – a secular film studio.  Should we really expect every Bible based film to be 100% accurate? I’m thrilled that Mark Burnett’s “Son of God” is much closer to the text. But to assume every movie out of the chute will be as accurate, is simply not realistic…

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