A Brief Plea for Excellence in Christian Film
Under my review of Courageous, I had a commenter take umbrage to my opening remarks concerning the lameness that permeates the typical Christian film.
It's a church. It's not Hollywood. They don't drop tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars glorifying sex and materialism.
The preamble to this post sounds like one of those people who goes to a worship service and then critiques the sound quality and the talent of the musicians.
Allow me to expand upon my response I made to him:
The fact that it is made by a Church causes me to have even greater expectations for the quality of the film. They should WANT to make their movie outstanding. I reject the idea that because a local church, or low-budget "Christian" production company, makes a mediocre film that was cheaply produced at least "they’re not like Hollywood and their million dollar materialistic sex movies." Are we to expect that only Hollywood should make good films?
I noted two examples for comparison: Inception and Hugo. I suggested them because both films are engaging and interesting to watch. They are well crafted. I understand that both, particularly Inception, are laden with special effects which would be extremely cost prohibitive for a low-budget Christian film. But I am not saying that if a Christian film isn't like Avatar (God forbid) that it isn't worth watching. I am just pleading for some excellence in film making.
But what sort of Christian films are there? I am subjected to eye-raking movies like The Encounter, In the Blink of an Eye and similar direct-to-DVD slop that isn't worthy of the Hallmark Channel or in the case of Six: The Mark Unleashed, the SyFy Channel.
I did note in my review of Courageous that I liked the film overall. But still, it lacked in certain areas, which included the acting. Sherwood Baptist in Georgia is a large church and they have gained millions of dollars not only from movie ticket sales of their films, but also in DVD purchases and other merchandise. They have the money to invest into making a film with greater production value. I want them to have a greater production value not because they can get their films in theaters or have more wordily recognition, but because Christians should strive for excellence.
Now my commenter responded to this thought by suggesting they spend their money on missions or other spiritual areas. That may be, and good for them, but how does that excuse them from pursuing excellent in film making? Another commenter responded to our exchange by stating that a Christian production company may run into trouble with available talent. In other words, the level of talent typically on display in Hollywood produced film is unavailable and cost prohibitive for Christian oriented production companies.
I don't agree with that. I live in the LA area. I know good actors who are Christians and they would thrill at working on such a project. They wouldn't ask for a multi-million dollar fee like Tom Hanks would get, but they certainly don't want to work "for free" just because it's perceived as Gospel "ministry." It’s their craft and they should be consider worthy of their labor.
The same can be said about the production talent. There are many fine individuals who operate cameras, lighting, sound, and editing, and they know how to make a movie. Hollywood doesn't have a corner on the market in either acting or production, they just pay well. Though Christian production companies may have low-budgets, in these two areas, it is where they need to be willing to count the cost in my opinion.
But for some reason Christians are content to compromise. They either compromise on production value, which makes the vehicle that carries the Gospel they wish to proclaim a joke because it is laughable and unwatchable. Or they compromise the message of the Gospel because they believe it hinders the watchability of their film.
Now, I have high hopes for Sherwood pictures and wish them all blessing as they go with God, but the fact that they are a "church" should actually mean something with what they produce. Believe me, if I attended a church whose sound system was terrible and the choir was off key all the time and the people didn't really care to fix the problem to make the worship better, because in their mind what truly matters is good intentions, I would truly wonder about the leadership of that church.
Labels: Christians and Culture