Tag Archives: Christian films

Prodigal Project update

one-sheet-thumbnailIt has been awhile since my last update on the film. Not because nothing’s been happening, though. We’re making progress… slow and sure.

Sometimes I get anxious and frustrated. In the TV world, where I’ve spent most of my life, things happen much faster. In the “film biz,” progress is measured in months and sometimes years. But that’s the nature of the beast, so I’m learning to deal with it.

Here’s where we are…

Fundraising: Nothing’s real until the money’s in the bank. So raising the funds we need for production is the first priority and is taking most of my time these days. As of today, we have $265,000 committed to the project. We need a minimum of $500,000 – so we’re over the hump. Ultimately, we need to raise $750,000 to take care of marketing & distribution. We’re continuing to seek potential donors and applying for grants from foundations. Want to donate? You can do so here.

Cast & Crew: We’ve not done any casting yet. We won’t begin working on that until we’re closer to the funding goal. But we have begun putting the major crew department heads in place.

Among those already attached to the project, and some of the previous projects in which they’ve been involved…

  • Ken Roy, Line Producer – Lincoln, Mickey, John Adams, Hearts in Atlantis, Killing Kennedy, Blues in the Night
  • Rich Wills, Producer – Lincoln, Civil War 360, TURN, Troop 491
  • Jon Nelson, Director of Photography – First Landing, Gospel of Liberty
  • Richard Blankenship, Production Designer – Lincoln, TURN, John Adams, Captain Phillips
  • Jim Ed Wills, Editor – Lincoln, TURN, Troop 491, Killing Kennedy

Partnerships: We’re structuring our production company, Belltower Pictures as an independent non-profit corporation focused on producing, promoting and distributing high quality Christian-themed films, television and web projects… and to be an incubator for the next generation of Christian filmmakers… and to offer a way for people of diverse faith traditions to come together and work on a common goal. To that end, we’re constantly in conversations with churches and other organizations to forge partnerships, not only for this film but also for future projects.

Distribution: We’ve already begun developing potential distribution channels. A representative of a major film distributor recently told us, “The script covers a timely subject/scenario ripe for comedy… We’re rooting for you guys to pull the rest of the finance together and make the film, the market needs more comedies.”

If you want to keep up with what’s going on with the film, jump over to the Belltower Pictures website and sign up to receive updates.

Establish the work of my hands

I woke up this morning with fear and doubt.

I’ve been working on The Prodigal Project for three years. And it is going well. We have a terrific screenplay, some talented and energetic folks working hard to move the story from the page to the screen, and a growing number of partners gathering around Belltower Pictures. Together we’re building a community around the idea of telling great stories that reveal spiritual truth.

There are still many hurdles to be cleared. We still need to raise a significant amount of money. There are insurance, legal, accounting, crew and cast, distribution and marketing issues to be resolved.

I’m having lots of conversations about the project. And without exception, everybody I talk with responds enthusiastically, affirming that we’re doing something that really needs to be done. Most of these conversations result in more creative ideas and another partner joining the family.

But still… doubt and fear grip my gut with predictable regularity. And that’s where I started this day.

This morning I wrote in my journal – “Oh Lord what am I doing? I’m foolish and naïve. Maybe I should just drift quietly into retirement oblivion.”

A full-on pity party was cranking up.

Then I began my daily Bible reading with Psalm 90. I didn’t really pick it out. It was just the next one in my regular reading pattern. It ends with –

“Establish the work of our hands for us –
Yes, establish the work of our hands.”

I wondered what that really means. So I googled it. Here’s what’s the famous 19th century British Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote about it:

This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetz...
Charles H. Spurgeon. (1834-1892) National Portrait Gallery, London

Let what we do be done in truth, and last when we are in the grave; may the work of the present generation minister permanently to the building up of the nation. Good men are anxious not to work in vain. They know that without the Lord they can do nothing, and therefore they cry to him for help in the work, for acceptance of their efforts, and for the establishment of their designs. The church as a whole earnestly desires that the hand of the Lord may so work with the hand of his people, that a substantial, yea, an eternal edifice to the praise and glory of God may be the result. We come and go, but the Lord’s work abides. We are content to die, so long as Jesus lives and his kingdom grows. Since the Lord abides for ever the same, we trust our work in his hands, and feel that since it is far more his work than ours he will secure it immortality. When we have withered like grass, our holy service, like gold, silver, and precious stones, will survive the fire. (The Daily Spurgeon)

Thank you for that encouragement, Lord. Now… on with the day. “Establish the work of my hands!”


We quibble over words and fail to tell stories

I was inspired and challenged this week through a blog post by Gary Furr, pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

He was commenting on a recent decision by Lifeway Christian Stores to remove the movie “The Blind Side” from its shelves because it contains profanity and a racial slur.

Read his entire post. It’s worth the time and effort.

What struck me between the eyes was his challenge to us creative types in the church.

Furr talks about UVa professor James Davison Hunter’s 2010 book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. He says, “Hunter surveyed the Christian landscape and concluded that not only is Christian impact on the culture waning, the Christianity that wants to affect it is weak and superficial. While we make great impact on individuals and meet many needs, it does not tend to move the influence makers of our society.

“Nowhere is this lack of depth and power more evident than in our engagement with the arts. Those who tell the stories, produce the art and who debate world changing ideas are not, by and large, among Christians. This is not a problem, he says, that can be overcome by forceful politics, organizing or by withdrawing into the artistic ghettos of our churches where terrible or, at best, mediocre art is produced to satisfy the internal audience but which makes virtually no impact on the larger culture and particularly those who are the shapers of culture.

“The antidote is not to somehow regain some imaginary lost control of the culture but to think more brilliantly, achieve more truthfully, and to produce more beautifully the genuinely great ideas, art and cultural expressions that will, finally, draw by their intrinsic and persuasive superiority.”

Dr. Gary Furr

He says this is most often not the path we choose. “In short, we quibble over words and fail to tell stories. We are horrified about avoiding improprieties, all the while serving, supposedly, a gospel whose book tells unflinchingly disturbing, violent, cruel, and even vulgar stories about adulterers, philanderers, thieves, and every other kind of human with a failing. In the telling of those stories, the artistic power of it continues to help us talk. Our Savior is a man hanging naked on a cross, surrounded by blasphemies and lies.”

Furr’s prophetic words come at a crucial point in the development of The Prodigal Project.

There’s nothing sanitized in Jesus’ story about the young man who wished his father dead, and then went off to squander his inheritance on prostitutes and wild living. Nor is there anything appropriate about the outburst of his older brother when the young prodigal returns home with his tail between his legs. It is in contrast to those earthy, despicable, yet all-too-real characters that we gain a better understanding of a loving, forgiving Father who goes out to invite both sons to the party.

I pray that, in retelling this most beautiful of Jesus’ parables, we will, as Furr exhorts, “think more brilliantly, achieve more truthfully, and produce more beautifully” so that younger and older sons of our culture will be drawn to a portrait of the Father who embodies grace, love and second chances.