Why does the church need to be involved in producing movies? I hear that question often… especially when we talk about how much it is going to cost to produce “The Prodigal Project.” (read more about that…)
“Doesn’t Hollywood already do a good job of it? And aren’t there other churches producing Christian films?”
The most obvious answer is that we have a story to tell – the story of God loving us so much that he came to live among us, showing us how to truly live. It is the story about God searching for the lost… and throwing a party when we’re found! If it isn’t the church’s job to tell that story, then whose job is it?
Unfortunately, most of the Christian films produced by churches speak primarily to a Christian audience. They tell powerful stories filled with the Gospel, but they’re done in such a way that “secular” folks will never see them.
He reminded his readers of the famous quote by Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I don’t care who writes its laws.”
We’ve got to realize that the ideas that most effectively shape a culture are not necessarily those that are argued, but those that are embodied. They capture the heart and mind because they capture the imagination.
So let’s embody God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and opportunity for second chances. And let’s tell compelling stories which reveal that truth. Let’s pour our energy and resources into capturing imaginations… Like Jesus did when he talked about wedding banquets… and travelers mugged on the side of the road… and farmers sowing seed… and fathers welcoming home lost sons.
This week in our writing session, we decided on a direction for the second draft of our screenplay for The Prodigal Project.
Thanks to our Pastor, Dr. Jim Somerville, who met with us and offered some well-timed words of encouragement. He also made a suggestion which forms the structure for our next draft. It was actually his brother, Gray who came up with the idea. But we’ll get into credits later.
We spent a lot of time laughing during our meeting. We recalled some of the wild ideas we’ve had, both the far-out and the way-too-safe concepts that we’ve considered, and the long path we’ve traveled so far.
I think God opened our eyes to a new perspective: our message and our goals are serious and life changing, but we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously… and God Himself is in charge of the life-change department.
The meeting came after a difficult three weeks of sifting through the responses and input we’ve been getting in response to the first draft. We asked for it, sought it and, in two cases, paid for it. We appreciate every word of it. Most of it has been helpful.
I’m learning something about advice, though: Listen to all the advice that comes your way. But be careful, prayerful and wise about which advice you follow.
Seems pretty simple and obvious, I know.
But I, for one, tend to tune out when someone offers advice that I don’t want to hear. Maybe I’d do well to keep listening and try to pick up at least one point I can use. If I shut down too soon, I may miss something really important and helpful.
A couple of cases in point:
One reader (a west coast script coverage professional) advised against beginning the screenplay with a voice-over. But when I viewed one of the movies he’d written, guess what? It began with a very long voice-over. And it wasn’t especially well-done. I lost interest pretty quickly and turned it off half-way through.
Well, at that point I was ready to dismiss all the rest of what he’d given us. But then I watched another film – and this one was both commercially successful and critically acclaimed. It began with an even longer voice-over. This time, it held my attention.
It was a difference between good and poor filmmaking – not necessarily poor writing.
OK, I understood. So I went back through all the other points our screenplay coverage guy gave us and found several very helpful tidbits. Our second draft will be better for it.
One consistent theme that runs through all the comments we hear from “industry insiders” is about how important it is to stick with the tried and true Hollywood formula for movie making. There are certain kinds of things that have to happen at a certain time, in a certain way for a movie to be successful.
Most of this information is helpful. If we don’t produce a movie that people will want to see, we will have failed miserably.
And Hollywood has been at it for more than a century, so we will listen to the folks “in the business” who know what works and what doesn’t.
But then I pull up a wildly successful movie on Netflix and watch as it systematically breaks all the rules.
As one of my writing partners, Matthew Brown has pointed out, “Who would think that a two-hour and twenty-minute movie, most of which takes place on an island with one actor talking to a soccer ball would be any good.” But, of course, “Cast Away” was hugely successful at the box office and won a raft of awards.
The lesson: Learn the rules. Learn why they are the rules. Learn the theory behind the rules. Then and only then, with fear and respect for our industry forebears, venture out and push the edge of the envelope.
I don’t think it is an overstatement to say we’re going to push the edge of the envelope with this project. Can’t say too much about it yet because it would spoil the surprise.
Pray for us as we write the second draft… and as we listen to advice, learn the rules, and decide which rules to break.