Whether I Eat or Drink or Make Movies

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(Don’t forget to visit “The Kindlings Muse today for today’s podcast, an interview with Paul Elie on his book, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” a review of writers Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day and Walker Percy.)

A few weeks ago I caused a furor in a blog I wrote about “Facing the Giants.” My friend Lou Carlozo supported me and I actually received emails from Nashville insiders who spoke on conditions of anonymity, saying the film was poorly produced, was an artistic embarrassment, but because powerful Nashville Christians are involved, nobody dare say, “this emperor has no clothes.”

The more common reactions were from people who a) loved the evangelistic themes; b) believed we ought to support the effort because it was made by good Christians ( “I thought Dick was ¢â‚¬Ëœone of us;'” c) agreed it didn’t meet Hollywood production standards but thought my comments were counterproductive in light of a) and/or b).

For anyone who wants a peak into my mailbag, the following email I received today is an example.

“Your article is offensive at best. What do you expect when the budget is ($)100,000 and the actors are new to the acting profession? I saw the film and there were some scenes that were weak but the story line was exceptional and moving. I saw people openly crying and moved during this movie. They were emotionally involved and impacted. That is more than I can say for the majority of trash that comes from Hollyweird. Maybe they will learn this lesson again. People do not want to see garbage that comes out of movie business incessantly. My hope is that this movie makes a ton of money for Sony and the church in Georgia. They deserve it, just for receiving comments like yours. Keep writing your so-called reviews. It will keep the movie in the press and gain more viewers. Annoyed”

Here’s what I am trying to say.

Sears offers products that are good, better and best. Should Christian filmmakers not aspire for the best?

My critique of this film is a simple one. When Paul said “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31),” I think it applies to our filmmaking as well. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien took this verse to mean their work ought to meet the highest standards, not just in content, but also in style and craft as writers. They created classics that have stood the test of time because they understood to glorifying God requires the highest in spiritual, intellectual and artistic achievement.

We ought to be concerned about the content of Hollywood’s product, but our higher calling means we also need to be even more concerned about craftsmanship than Hollywood. How can we say we desire to glorify God in our filmmaking and then say, “What do you expect when the budget is ($)100,000 and the actors are new to the acting profession? I saw the film and there were some scenes that were weak but the story line was exceptional and moving.”

I have no doubt that “Facing the Giants” will “make a ton of money,” but since when is that American materialistic standard our standard? As for emotional reactions? I’ve been “moved to tears” by art my kids brought home as children, but I did not expect it should be mounted at the local art museum. If we want to glorify God, why should we champion movies with good storylines that make people cry, but are created with inadequate, uncompetitive budgets and substandard acting? If this film DOES make tons of money, Hollywood may distribute more of them. Do we really want to send the message to Hollywood that the kind of films Christians want will be characterized by poor acting, low production values that are inoffensive, make us cry and also make tons of money? Is this truly how we want to influence Hollywood for God?

I honestly do not bear ill will towards the sincere attempt of a local church to produce a film, and today’s technology means good movies can be made on lower budgets, but if we want to glorify God and enrich the culture, we need to model our commitment to excellence by producing films that meet or exceed the highest known standards. Until we realize that our art & craft matter to God as much as a great story and content, we are missing the point of Genesis, where God, the Great Craftsmanlike Artist,” looked at all He had made and said, “it is good.”

Whether you write the stories, create the storyboard, film & edit them, create the audio sounds, act, do the post-production, work the distribution system or fund the project-do it all to the glory of God.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in August 10, 2006 by | 1 Comment »

    One Response to Whether I Eat or Drink or Make Movies

    1. Jesse Dziedzic on October 20, 2011 at 11:40 am

      What a frankly incredible writing..

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