Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Storyteller

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Building The Faith-Based Film Ghetto


Very early in my career as a writer of faith-based films, I read an interview with Christian filmmaker Rich Christiano where he proudly proclaimed, "It's not my job to entertain Christians."

I understood what he meant. He felt Christian films should have a ministry purpose. That they should be vehicles to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Still, I resented his comment. Despite the fact that I believed my films had a ministry purpose, I thought "Why shouldn't Christians have their own entertainment?  What's wrong with that?"

Plenty, I have come to believe.

The turning point came to me a few years ago at a Movieguide event on the East Coast hosted by its founder Ted Baehr.  For those unfamiliar with the organization, Movieguide's mission is to "redeem the values of the entertainment industry, according to biblical principles, by influencing executives and artists." Basically, they try to prove that it is in the best interests of Hollywood to produce films with wholesome and redemptive themes. Every year they produce a report to Hollywood which illustrates how much more money family-oriented films make on average than the the darker fare the industry celebrates. There is no disputing the numbers.


I became associated with Movieguide when it awarded my spec script "I, John" with the Kairos Prize at its annual Hollywood gala.  (2nd runner-up) I was very honored and enriched.  When I was later invited to a fundraiser at a private home in Northern Virginia a few years ago, I happily attended.  While there, I pulled Ted aside and told him that my latest faith-based film, Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End, was wrapping up production. I thought he would be pleased that I was still making Christian films. His response surprised me. He just rolled his eyes and said, "Sean, you've got to stop making those films."

Whoa!  Waz up with dat?  Is Ted Baehr suddenly a hater?  An enemy of Christian films?

No. Not at all.  He simply has his eyes on a bigger prize.  He believes that "he who controls the media controls the culture."

That made me think.  What is the place of Christian films in our culture, and, more importantly, the Kingdom of God?  The answer is complicated.  And I suspect my answer will anger some of my fellow filmmakers.

The independent Christian film business is growing by leaps and bounds. In many ways, I think the aforementioned Rich Christiano is the father of the modern movement. Starting in the early-90s, he made a series of low-budget evangelical films and developed a workable release model. PureFlix honcho David A.R. White got his first taste of Christian cinema by appearing in Christiano's Second Glance while he was on break from his steady work on the Burt Reynolds sitcom Evening Shade.  Producer Paul LaLonde and director Andre van Heerden further upped the ante by adding thriller aspects and recognizable movie stars, to their low-budget faith-based and end times films. Still, Hollywood didn't really start to take notice until the release of 1999's The Omega Code. The $12,000,000 domestic box office was surprising, but it was nothing compared to the $600,000,000+ generated by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.


I happily waded into the faith-based world in 2005 by co-writing Hidden Secrets, the first film produced, but not released, the current industry leader PureFlix Entertainment. At that time, the independent faith-based film market was still small.  There was only a couple rows of DVDs at my local Christian bookstores, and most of those videos were concerts by Christian recording artists.  A new narrative film was released straight to video every couple months. I didn't necessarily see every film, but I was aware of them all.

We have turned from a novelty to a genuine genre. My question is: Is that a good thing?

Years ago, I would have said yes, but now I am not so sure. I think ultimately it comes down to Matthew 5:15:  "No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house."  By creating our own genre, for ourselves, by ourselves, I believe we are effectively placing our light under a bushel.

When I began making Christian films, everyone at least gave lip service to the concept that we were trying to reach people for the Lord. You'd see the producers, directors and stars on the Christian cable shows and hear them on radio broadcasts saying how their films were going to reach the lost. They'd all say if only one person came to the Lord after seeing the film it would be worth it.  Some of those folks were completely sincere, others, well, not so much.  To many, the faith-based film industry was simply a business. The reality is that, before the market gradually shifted from DVD to streaming, a reasonably budgeted faith-based film with some recognizable talent could expect to make a profit regardless of quality. The films were a safe bet with a small but dependable audience. But the environment has changed.

Recently a friend contacted me and asked me if I wanted to pitch a series with him to a faith-based streaming service.  I said okay.  He asked what we should pitch.  My response was: "First we have to establish a genuine evangelical need ." (When I use the word evangelical, I am using it in the more traditional missional definition. I am not using it in its now almost inescapable political sense.)

As soon as those words left my mouth, I realized how absurd my comment was. We didn't have to worry about any evangelical need because only Christians would ever see the series. No unbeliever was going to plunk down his credit card and subscribe to the service. There was absolutely no missionary purpose at all. Period. We would be strictly in the business of entertaining Christians.   And what is true of an internet web series is also true of independent theatrical faith-based films. You might be able to generate sixty million dollars in box office by getting hundreds of churches to buy up theater seats, but you're still hiding your light under a bushel unless the lost are seeing your film.

If you ever hear a Christian producer or entertainer tell you the purpose of his film or web series is to reach people for the Lord, then puts it behind a Christian paywall, rest assured he is not being truthful.

So what are the options for independent Christian filmmakers?  I see three choices.

1). EVANGELISM

You can make faith-based films aimed at bringing the non-believers to the Lord. This is a tough to do successfully. Why?  Because if you want to successfully reach non-believers, you have to do as Jesus did and step into their world and meet people where they are now. Unfortunately, if you do that in your films, you risk losing the base Christian audience. The rule of thumb I was taught was that we shouldn't show anything in a film that a pastor wouldn't feel comfortable showing in his sanctuary.  That's exactly why our films seem phony and unbelievable to non-believers. If I said it once, I've said it a thousand times:  If the world we present doesn't seem real, then our solution won't seem real either.

Case in point. I was approached by some filmmakers to write a script. It was a true story about a woman who left the world of drug addiction after coming to the Lord. The woman herself gave her testimony on numerous Christian talk shows. Very compelling stuff.  The filmmakers said they really wanted to make a film that would reach drug addicts. I said if that was their goal they had to really show the temptations and dangers of that world. You have to understand someone, and what brought them to that place, in order to reach them. The filmmakers agreed. Then I said, if they did that, the film would never get past the Christian gatekeepers who rate films solely on the number of bad words and bad things depicted regardless of the message. Without the support of the gatekeepers, the film would never reach the church audience.  Even if the film got to the church audience, they would reject it because of the content. Without the church audience, they could never hope to recoup their investment. The film has yet to be made.

Here's a film of mine that fits well into the first category. It was also viewed by a number of non-believers because of its high rating on Netflix, and a description that didn't completely pigeon-hole it as a faith-based film. It just looked like a cool, supernatural mystery.


Sadly, I doubt the film is having the same impact since it is no longer streaming on Netflix or playing on television. Now, if an unbeliever wants to see it, he has to buy the DVD or subscribe to a Christian streaming service. Both are unlikely.

2). ENTERTAINMENT

Make films for the Christian audience. At a Christian film festival, I had a long talk with the head of a Christian streaming service. When he started his company, he envisioned a Christian HBO, where people could watch films suited to their tastes and values. I have no problem with that. However, if that is your goal, there is no need to continue making the "sinner comes to Christ" story. Granted, it's a great story with many variations, but it's not the end of the story. Trying to live the Christian life itself is fraught with drama.

If you're honest with yourself and your audience is entirely Christian, then you should create stories that deal with living the Christian life. Instead of pointing the mirror toward the world, I believe we should point the mirror at the church. There's a certain smugness in far too many of our films that reminds me of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11, who proudly points out that he is not like those sinners, We have plenty of work to do in our own backyard, too. Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America. Where are our films about race relations within the church? Where are the films addressing judgement in the church when grace is needed? Where are the films bridging denominational hatred and suspicion? A few people have tried, but the films weren't successful. It seems that Christian film goers only want films that make them feel good about themselves, not films that challenge them.  (Then again, it might not be the film goers. I think they are more tolerant and interested than the gatekeepers.)

My first produced faith-based film, Hidden Secrets, falls easily into this category. Although we present an atheist character being subjected to evangelization, both directly and indirectly, the main focus remains the relationship between the believers. Rhonda, the graceless Christian, is more of a villain than the atheist. I know her character has sparked many soul-searching conversations.


That film was about the closest I ever came to addressing troublesome issues within the church. In fact, I received an edict soon afterwards not to give the Christian characters in our films any flaws! (I was told that the Kendrick Brothers films made more money than ours because their Christian characters didn't have any flaws.) I confess that I, and the other writers, tried to include some jokes about the excesses of televangelism in the made-for-cable film Brother White, but they were all removed. Most of my faith-based films were, despite claims to the contrary, simple entertainments. For example, don't expect any altar calls or coherent theology from the Revelation Road trilogy, but, hey, why can't Christians have their own Road Warrior film?


Once again, I have no problem with Christian entertainment and there is certainly a place for it. I just think we have to be honest in our intentions. Don't call it evangelism when ninety-nine-percent of the people who see your film are already Christians.

3). MAINSTREAMING

The third option is to ignore the Christian film genre entirely and simply enter the mainstream media instead. Many believers are dismayed at the sudden changes in our culture. While the media tends to reflect rather than influence the culture, a lot of these recent changes have been accelerated because of conscious decisions within the media to promote new viewpoints. The traditional Judaeo-Christian viewpoint was, unsurprisingly, ignored. Why? In part, because there are so few believers sitting at the tables where these decisions are made. Our worldview is not proportionally represented at the highest levels within the industry.

Some of that is strictly our own fault. Many religious leaders have so demonized the film and television industry that they have consciously or unconsciously dissuaded their followers from entering the business. The only time most studio or network heads hear from a Christian is when someone is threatening a boycott over the outrage of moment. Even when mainstream Hollywood attempts to tell a Biblical or faith-friendly story, they are viciously attacked for what they got wrong rather than applauded for what they got right. (See my earlier blog:  Enter The Haters.)

Now, if you have the talent and ambition to move into the mainstream, will all of your movies or shows end with an altar call? No, probably none of them will. The mainstream media is not a place for weighty theological discussions, however there is definitely room in the market for graceful redemptive stories that reflect our values. One of the problems with faith-based films is that the audience wants the films to present the entire gospel in such a matter that it compels the viewer to accept Christ during the credits. I think that is symptomatic of a problem of the American church in general. We have become lazy. We leave the work of evangelism to the professionals: priests, ministers, television evangelists and now also faith-based filmmakers. That is an abrogation of personal responsibility. We're all supposed to be working in the field. To me, the role of the filmmaker is simply to start the discussion for you. The films themselves don't have to be explicitly Christian. Many completely secular films are great conversation starters. They include A Clockwork Orange to Wings of Desire to The Book of Eli to This Is The End to the HBO series The Leftovers. All of those films have elements many Christians will find objectionable, but they ask the world questions we can answer.

Here's the trailer to my first film, an edgy, mainstream whodunit:


Many Christian filmmakers have approached me and asked whether I thought they were selling out if they made secular films. I tell them no. From the dawn of my writing career, I have told both spiritual and mainstream stories. However, my moral worldview always remains consistent whether I am writing a faith-based film or a true crime docudrama for the FBI. I am who I am. I believe they can remain true to themselves, too.

Here's a trailer to one of my Emmy-award-winning films for the FBI:


I do not judge any of my fellow filmmakers. If you feel lead to make strictly evangelical films, go for it. If you want to make Christian entertainment, have at it. If you want to make mainstream films, you have my blessing. I just recommend that you take a step back and consider what you are trying to accomplish. Ask yourself: What is my goal? Who am I trying to reach?

I believe what is true of Christian filmmakers is also true of African-American and other minority filmmakers. After the #OscarSoWhite controversy at the Academy Awards two years ago, many commentators recommended that minority filmmakers should make their own films for themselves. As you may suspect, I disagree. If your desire is to share your culture and beliefs with the rest of the world in order to bring about understanding, you need to do it in the mainstream film business. Otherwise, like so many Christian filmmakers, you'll only end up preaching to the choir.

Not that there's anything wrong with that....


Other Faith Based Writing Blogs:
Building The Faith Based Ghetto
Do Christian Creators Know When Their Movies Are Bad?
God Told Me To Write It
Enter The Haters
Ministry of Motion Pictures Podcast Interview Part 1
Ministry of Motion Pictures Podcast Interview Part 2
Ministry of Motion Pictures Podcast Interview Part 3
Zach Lawrence and the End Times Quandary
The Making of Hidden Secrets
The Making of Holyman Undercover
The Making of Sarah's Choice
The Making of The Encounter
The Making of Run On

If you liked any of my films, you'll love my novel Chapel Street, which is now available on Amazon HERE.  You can also get the hardcover from Barnes & Noble HERE.


Learn more about the book, click Here.

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42 comments:

  1. Great article, and I appreciate your POV having been in the trenches. Regarding the EV possibilities, I've felt for a long time that the problem is that the church is not on board with Christian filmmakers making films for the lost. Oh, they might pay lip service to it, but they shackle Christian creatives from doing anything interesting by not supporting the films if they don't fit the "family friendly" model.

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    1. I agree completely. The church is not on board with making films that honestly meet people where they are. They only want G-rated films, but this is not a G-rated world.

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  2. How about a re-make of "The Cross and the Switchblade?" Real world stuff, tough stuff.

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  3. I think you've pointed out the fundamental flaws of Christian media. It doesn't want to have its flaws acknowledged, because that might drive people away, but by doing so it creates a plastic, completely unrealistic set of circumstances incompatible with the real world. I charge that most Christian movies are too afraid to even tout specifics of denomination out of fearfulness.
    I read a lot of history, and this narrative isn't new. But I also think our modern time has widened that rift considerably (theocratic authoritarianism is out, information is more widely available than ever before, and young people are abandoning the Church in droves.) Historically speaking, Christianity is incredibly dirty, bloody, full of scandal, and responsible for reprehensible things. In other words, it's very human. But as long as Christian media refuses to acknowledge that, it will continue to sound tone deaf.

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    1. The problem is worst than the fact that the church won't own up to our problems before the world, we don't even acknowledge our problems to ourselves in our art. I believe the audience feels that Christians and Christianity are given such a bad rap in secular media that they don't want to see it in faith-based media. However, to me, this brings to mind 1 Corinthians 11:31 "For if we judge ourselves, we would not be judged."

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  4. I agree with you on all levels. There are some movies that fall into category 1 well. I agree that your film The Encounter would fall into this category. I also felt that the recent film of The Case for Christ fell well in the first and second category. I did the free trial for PureFlix, and I was disappointed. I was disappointed because so much of what was in there were films trying to proselytize, but this is a paid service geared only to Christians... (I was also disappointed when I realized that The Encounter was only on PureFlix now for this same reason.)
    I really wanted to see something on this service that fell into your second category. I have young children and am regularly looking for entertainment that is safe for them. I don't intend to keep them in a bubble, but I would love to know I can watch movies that share my values and are entertaining at the same time... I don't need an altar call in every single one of them. Also, I want some reality in film even if it portrays Christians in a negative light. Do you know what else portrayed genuine truths about imperfect people? The Bible... And that's one of the main reasons I know it's trustworthy.
    After reading this blog, I had to go and check out Hidden Secrets. It's sad to hear that you were basically reprimanded for depicting Christians as flawed individuals... I felt that film was a perfect example of what I really wanted to see when I subscribed to PureFlix. If I'd seen more like it, I'd have probably kept the subscription...
    I especially agree with you on your 3rd choice listed. I think Christian influence in secular film will have more of a cultural impact than Christian films ever will. Again, I actually don't think it's bad to have films for Christians, but those should be about edification and will not change the lives of those outside the church. Secular films with Christian influence will have the largest impact. We have a tendency to live in echo chambers. Social media assists us with that by using algorithms to keep us mostly seeing positions and opinions the same as our own. If we put out explicitly religious films, it will only impact those who want to hear it. It will resonate well in our echo chamber... If we simply make a secular film that normalizes Christianity or christian values, that will actually change the culture more than trying to preach our values through film.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words about Hidden Secrets. It is one of my favorites. I wish that one, and The Encounter, were still playing on cable and secular services like NetFlix.

      I agree. Social media is increasingly isolating us into safe, little echo chambers. Jesus didn't just sit in the synagogue waiting for people to come to him. He went out into his culture and met people where they were. We should do that same.

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  5. I like your input. As someone who's in the media industry, particularly in the advertising and art world in NYC, I know that there are very few Christians who are artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Many who are these things, tend to do Christian art. I agree with you that Christian films preaches to the Christian audience and I don't know if you mentioned it in this article, these films make atheists or nonbelievers seem unrespectable. It is my hope that Christian films can provide a broad look into the nonChristian culture, representing all sort of people from their good character to their bad habits. It is also my hope that Christians storytellers can provide a dynamic characterization for believers in film. There seems to be a lack of truth in characterizing people and even characterizing time. Christian films embrace the hero's narrative arc more than Disney does. This truly worries me. It teaches a generation of young Christians that in God's timing, things happen quickly and that God is overwhelming victoriously with visible results. A reading of the Bible of any story will quickly disprove the narrative style.

    I will go as far as to say that some Christian films are misleading and don't do much to provide the structure of discipleship, instead they make Christians seem heroic as we are the victim turned victor. It would be nice to see people's stories that cover a wide range of human experiences.

    For a while I invested my time in wanting to make films for the nonChristian world. But that is a hard task at hand.

    However, the Mission is a beautiful film as is Selma.

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    1. I see a hunger in the mainstream audience for shows and films that deal with transcendence from the material world. People want to see that their lives have meaning. Christians are perfect people to deal with these issues. The problem with Christian films is that we want to data dump the answer rather than gently walk people through the journey one step at a time. Many Christian filmmakers take the attitude that their film might be the only one a sinner might see, so try to cram the whole message in. I don't take that attitude. I never viewed my films as a be all or end all. They are just stops along the way on a faith journey. All we have to do is inspire people to take the next step. That's all.

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  6. I am shocked someone who has written screenplays for Pure Flix is saying what a lot of us are thinking. Just yesterday I was having a conversation about why aren't Christian films targeting those who are not Christians? Where is the opportunity to evangelize?

    So I made a thriller with a positive message but not overtly Christian. I wanted to tell a story like Jesus would, pregnant with meaning but not spoon fed to the masses. Something that would make someone who enjoys symbolism like I do pay attention.

    I didn't go to film school but I am a creative/artist so I made something that I wanted to look at artistically. It was low budget but I am proud of it.

    I was just nominated best director at the International Christian Film Festival 2018. It encouraged me that maybe there is hope for Christian Films. Part of me hopes we are just in the infancy for the industry and we are trying to grow up.

    If you are interested in seeing this Sean let me know and I'll email you the YouTube link. I don't want this public as I'm entering film festivals throughout the year. I would be interested to hear your critique of it. How I could have improved etc.

    chris@abrandaid.com is my email.

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  7. Chris, I will send you an email.

    Thanks, and congratulations on your nomination.

    Sean

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    1. Got your email and thanks a million on reaching out!

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    2. Did you ever have a chance to watch my short film? I'm in pre-production on my next project and wondered if you have any feedback for me.

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  8. Thanks man. I find this so interesting. It definitely gives me alot to think about as a christian who is seriously looking at media as a form of evangelism. I am actually very new to the field and have basic knowledge in media and television production I have started writing a screen play, which is loosely based on my experience as a divorced Christian missionary and the experience of others.. it is set in a modern day scenario in an urban area, with modern day missionaries and the realities of doing mission work in areas where people don't have the same beliefs as you do, even among Christians and how you can be castigated by your own ( fellow brethren) I want it to be as real and dramatic as my personal experiences have been. Is this email address for you still valid semurph@aol.com?

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  9. Thank you for this! Please email me at colourfulky@gmail.com

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    1. Great I emailed you my name is Afryea Charles. I am going to change my name from Free on google:)

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  11. The thing is, this "Christian" movie genre really should consider breaking out of the G-rated barrier and tackling the more mature aspects of religion. Religion is a mature topic, and it deserves a mature evaluation. And some of the most inspiring stories of Christians involve very grotesque, gruesome stuff, but their triumph is overcoming the brutality of the world and inspiring others to take up the Cross. Atheists will often attack Christians by using mature topics against them, ie., using the Crusades, Witch-Hunts, Inquisition, or anything about Christianity that Christians wouldn't be proud of. Christian children need to learn how to respond like adults, especially in a secular world that isn't really that friendly to Christianity.

    But as it stands, these G-rated Christian films serve as a mocking point for atheists to attack Christians and talk about how biased they are, how they have one-track minds, how they're scared of mature topics, and how incompetent they are at making good movies and art. For every Passion of the Christ, there's two or three cheesy Christian movies that sound more like Sunday sermons rather than real movies. And it's not like Christians can't make good movies. The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings are both based from books by Christian authors, and they sold well. Indiana Jones involved artifacts from the Bible, and Star Wars involved Christian principles of forgiveness and redemption. They were both massive hits. The aforementioned Passion of the Christ is a blockbuster. Same goes for religious movies of the past like Ten Commandments and the Prince of Egypt. Same goes for the many movies about Saints in the past that Hollywood produced back then when they still feared God.

    Christianity is the same religion that gave us the Renaissance. The same religion that funded the creation of many beautiful works of art and architecture. The artists during the Renaissance, or heck, even the architects back in Dark Ages Byzantium designing the Hagia Sophia, were animated by a sense of purpose. They were creating art for the Lord, and so, they knew that art had better be far superior to secular art, because the person they were making this for isn't just some ponce with a fat wallet, it's the Lord. Who deserved everything they have, everything they can do, and then some. So these guys went all out. They made some of the most magnificent and wonderful pieces of art and architecture that became the hallmarks of Western Society. Shouldn't film be treated to the same deal? If these Christian film-makers really want to make movies for Jesus, should they not work their asses off to the point where these movies are better than regular, secular entertainment? Half the time, I'm beginning to feel like Narnia or Star Wars are better Christian movies than the ones that are dedicated to religion. At least they got some of the religion's teachings and themes across.

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    1. My short film I just finished is rated PG-13 so I can see your point and I agree mostly.

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    2. Just to nitpick a little... Catholic Christianity is the religion that gave us the Renaissance. (And ambiguous "Christianity" gave us the end of the Renaissance, which was during the Protestant Revolution.) So I actually agree with your point - there not been much, if any, good Christian art produced outside the union of the Church. Thank you for your insight.

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  13. And another point of contention I have with this Christian media industry is that they're not looking at what can appeal to youngsters. They seem to look back with nostalgia to times such as the 50's and 60's, not realizing that such times have passed and it's time to look forward to the future. What are the young into, these days? Well, a quick Youtube search will tell you that it's cartoons, anime, action hero movies, and video games. Yet the so-called "Christian right" either belittles or demonizes these things. They look down on action hero movies and cartoons/anime, and they downright demonize video games. In the past, they demonized movies like Harry Potter for daring to have magic (even though past movies by Christians had magic, and even sitcoms in the 60's had magic women that Christians didn't bitch against) and they also demonized board games like Dungeons and Dragons, despite the premise of said game being as standard as a Disney fairy tale.

    I've seen some Christian media going the right way, such as cartoons like Superbook, or movies like the Nativity Story which show the beauty of Biblical tales. Some cartoons like Transformers Prime had many Christian themes like forgiveness and the importance of wisdom being snuck in between giant robot battles. And I suppose some video games can be construed as at least pro-Christian, with games like Castlevania, El Shaddai, and the Medieval Total War games where you get to play as religious people. Heck, even Halo has some relevance to Christianity considering that the humans are somewhat religious (Sgt. Johnson and Dutch) and the bad guys are based on the Book of Revelation (Prophets=False Prophets, Flood=The Beast, Guilty Spark=Lucifer) and the main theme is a Catholic monk chant. Some Star Wars games carry over the same morality system and themes of salvation/redemption from the movies. Yet the "Christian Right" just demonizes these video games just because some contain criminal protagonists (GTA) and some use magic (Too many to count). They don't see the potential of tapping such markets to get the Gospel into the hands of the young, to secure the Church's future. In other words, the "Christian Right" is okay with letting the secular left and the atheists win the culture war and win the youngsters over so long as they have the old in their pocket. Which, speaking as someone who keeps an eye on demographics, is not a good thing for the future of the faithful. Atheists are getting more and more aggressive because they know they can get away with it. Because they know their numbers are higher among the young. That trend needs to be reversed. And for that trend to be reversed, we need to win the culture war, and avoiding things that kids like, as well as demonizing them, while pumping out sub-par, G-rated movies, is not the way to do it.

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    1. You bring up with too many issues to deal with here. I have considered dealing with some of your topics in separate upcoming blogs.

      I have always been amused by the hypocrisy regarding magical or fantasy stories in Christian circles. They will embrace those elements in stories by Tolkien or Lewis, but decry those exact same elements in, say, Harry Potter. Oh well.

      I don't think we're going to see credible Christian superhero movies or video games. Both of them are too expensive to produce in a manner to compete successfully with so-called secular media. In reality, the Christian market for film is much smaller than most people imagine. Plus, as I said in the blog, I don't necessarily see the value in creating media for the faith market. I say make art reflective of our values for the whole world instead!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and respond.

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    2. The problem is, they sometimes can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy. So any magic is treated with disdain. Heck, I've heard of some circles of evangelicals and ultra-traditional Catholics who despise Tolkein and Lewis for using magic in the first place. They think all of it leads to the devil, which is false.

      But we did have some good Christian superhero movies. The Spider Man trilogy that came out in the 2000s definitely had Christian themes of fidelity and forgiveness, and some could argue that the Dark Knight trilogy had similar themes as well. Some of the Superman flicks even outright embrace the symbolism of Christ as part of the Superman mythos. And as I said before, some video games have been respectful to Christianity at least, with Castlevania and El Shaddai being good examples. And going with what you said, both believers and non-believers can enjoy these games and movies. I'd just like more games and movies where Christian themes and ideas are respectfully shown, but not shoved down people's throats, and the LOTR and Narnia series were already good examples-we just need to build from that template more. One can be an atheist or a pagan and still enjoy those works.

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  14. Hey Sean, I just found your blog and read one post. Its nice to hear a Christian voice inside the film industry talking about what is wrong with Christian films today. I had an idea for a movie that will never be made because of the Christian censorship issues you raised in this post, so I decided to do something a little easier to achieve...I had to escape the gatekeeper's censorship and came to the Internet. You can find my work (for free) at www.redeemingloveonline.com - I wanted to share this with you to say thank you for sharing your insight into the problems the Church and film industry are having. Keep up the good work!

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  15. Thank you for writing this. I've felt so alone in trying to point these things out.

    It makes me wonder what the leaders of Pure Flix are like in person, as individuals, and which ones are responsible for this mess because of what heart motives.

    Hopefully it's sheer foolishness instead of true malice of forethought, or greed for box office revenue, but whatever the case I pray thing reverse before too much damage is done.

    (See petermarkley.com for some of my own writing and work on this subject.)

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    1. I went to your webpage and I couldn't find any of your writings on the subject.

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  16. For anyone interested, here is a film I produced and directed to offer an alternative to what is out there in the Christian film relm. There are others trying to make different stuff, a friend of mine produced a film called "Thy Neighbor" which is also a thriller with Christian undertones.

    If the admin doesn't want this on the thread I understand but thought maybe it may encourage some of you here. Please click and enjoy--would want to hear your thoughts on the film.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCT7FdxMyBE&feature=youtu.be

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  17. I think you have rung a bell in my head, this is what stopped me in my so called "career" in film making, i cannot and will not make this kind of preachy films, i love God, my talent is mine because He bestowed it upon me, so i cannot use it to make films for those who already know Him, i also don't believe in making entertainment for a specific group of people, horror films are entertaining but not everyone watches them, it's the same with christian films, they may have a good message completely spoiled by its execution, now that i have found people with my same mindset i think i am not alone, i will make my films mainstream, with plenty of messages in redemption, forgiveness, love and eve God Himself, but none of them will be labeled christian. Thank you for your words, you have inspired me.

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    1. I'm glad I have helped. Good luck and God bless with your career.

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  18. For someone who has an interest in writing, I would totally agree. I've been told that I can use my medium to influence people towards Christ and I want to - but not in a "let me beat you over the head with the gospel and follow it up with a serving of altar calls" sort of thing. I want to write books that make people ask questions; books that encourage people to think. That's what Jesus did. Your words definitely are encouraging as you're one of the few I've seen who actually make the same point. Thank you for bolstering my confidence and God bless.

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    1. I'm glad I was able to help you. I hope you do great things!

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  19. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info. streaming vf

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  20. This is really informative blog for me. Because Christian movies are not entertainment source only. Your blog describes the main motive behind these movies. great job!

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  21. This whole idea of writing from a place of ideology is a problem in a lot of modern day secular films and media. Star Trek Discovery is written by uber-liberals who have a specific message they want to tell. The show therefore ostracizes a large portion of the Star Trek fanbase. I would argue that Star Wars The Last Jedi did the same thing... and all these filmmakers are doing is the exact same thing Christian filmmakers have been doing for years: making films not out of inspiration and creativity, but with predetermined messages that fit their own ideology.

    I always thought that if you just try to write a story, the moral will usually happen without the author trying to make it happen, if that makes sense.

    Anywho, good stuff. Thanks for the article, and God bless.

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  22. It is almost impossible for any human being to write something without his/her worldview entering in. You can't write about the actions of human beings in conflict in a values neutral context. Nor would you want to do so. All people act in accordance with values, even if they are of their own making. The problem only arises when the worldview (or message)becomes more important than the story. Then it becomes propaganda -- whether you agree with it or not. I, obviously, have no problems writing films with a message. However, I recognize the fact that the more heavy-handed the message becomes, the less the audience. You have to find the balance.

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  23. One of the first things I was taught in a play writing course was that your work needs to be a reflection of the truth. To accomplish this feat you have to do as much research as you can. I am a nonbeliever. When I watch Christian films like 'God's Not Dead' I'm pretty disheartened by portrayals of characters like the "angry atheist:" Raddison, different lawyer goons, etc. I think these kinds of strawmen characters are so prevalent for a couple reasons. I think many Christian screenwriters have not talked to enough people who disagree with them. This leads them to write villain atheists based on their own conceptions instead of grounding them in reality. This is a lot better than the few Christian writers who have interacted with nonbelievers, understand their point of view, and still portray them as Christian-hating psychopaths. I'm certain these are very few, but if apologists like Ray Comfort can hear the arguments against their position for decades and never acknowledge them I imagine a few screenwriters can too. I would like to see films from screenwriters of all beliefs that actively challenge what anyone believes: in that way we can strive for truth. I really enjoyed your article, thank you.

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    1. A lot of recent faith-based films have concerned themselves with fighting the "Culture War" than sharing God's grace. I am not interested in doing that I have turned down some projects that do so. I do not think that all atheists are angry. Some of the nicest and smartest people I know are atheists. I may disagree with their worldview, but I certainly still enjoy them as people. But if they want to talk about God, or the lack thereof, I am happy to oblige them. I think that attitude showed up in my first faith based film Hidden Secrets. The atheist is the funniest and perhaps the most reasonable person in the film. We couldn't do that nowadays. It's all about beating the atheist now.

      To your final point, great art often -- and should -- challenge the audience. One of the problems with Christian films is that we do not try to hold a mirror to the church, which could lead to greater understanding and self-improvement. Instead, we point our fingers at the world. It all comes back to the whole point of my blog: Why are we making these movies? And are they accomplishing what we intend?

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