Faith & Family Films Vs R-Rated Films

When high quality independent productions appear on the Internet the number of hits it receives skyrockets. Many filmmakers have been discovered based on the popularity of their high quality production. Unfortunately, the average filmmaker can’t afford to produce a high quality film for the Internet, unless it gets notoriety – But, which camp will support his style: Faith & Family Films or R-Rated Films?

The ideal attention getting short film developed for the Internet is one with a high visual concept. These grab the attention of the viewer, but typically lack story. The show is designed for an emotional moment, but doesn’t bring to life a story that inspires a change in our lives.

Few high concept filmmakers are able to cross over to telling in depth stories that lead to social or personal change. However, they do get a lot of buzz. Most of these types of filmmakers are great at creating trailers, but not feature films that rely heavily on story. These two types of films require different skill sets and few filmmakers have mastered both.

Regardless of the format, the filmmaker must find investors or sponsors in order to survive. This has been true since the invention of film. Bad television shows continued airing regardless of its poor ratings when there was a sponsor who believed in the show and the audience it captured. Likewise, many shows have failed when the sponsor pulled out.

Sponsors or donors play the same vital role in the Christian film and television market. Unfortunately, few Christian companies want to fund the bad and low quality programming that plagues Christian media. The Christian television market has also seen the ramifications of the donors, who supported bad programming for the sake of getting some message out, getting old and dying – Without any new programming to inspire young Christians to donate.

This shift in the market forces all production people who want to earn a descent living to produce programs for the general market with or without a subtle message. Oh, there are a few who will do film part time, but their quality won’t be competitive or pull in a large enough audience to make a social difference in our country – Outside of a miracle.

So, how does one build a big enough audience to attract sponsors and get a message out?

Soon we will see another surge in the production of family films by Christians trying to survive in the industry. Competing for screens, will be cutting-edge artists creating more R-rated films to distinguish themselves from the family focused newbies in the industry.

I’m convinced that there will be a polarization of the two markets. It will be a race at the box office to see if a Soul Surfer or a Hangover type sequel will bring in the biggest audience. If I were a gambling man, I’d choose the R-rated films to win. Mostly because controversy sells and the secular community loves to generate it, while those producing family fair try to avoid it so they don’t find themselves shunned by their own audience.

This new competitive market was started when The Passion of the Christ broke all records and proved to Hollywood that R-rated films could make big box office dollars. Prior to it, no studio in their right mind would risk large dollars or big names on an R-rated film. Everyone knew that family films were the only moneymakers, forcing money hungry studios to continue producing them.

The tides have since changed and family filmmakers now battle to bring their audiences into the theaters, but with a great prize of impacting our social interests. And, of course, the one who generates the most controversy or newsworthiness will pull in the largest audience and make a deeper impact in our community and culture.

Who do you think will win… The faith & family films or the R-rated films?


3 thoughts on “Faith & Family Films Vs R-Rated Films

    • Hey Paul,

      The “successful” film by Hollywood standards is the one that brings the largest audience into the theater. Typically speaking, any film that grosses over $40M is considered successful. Since The Passion of the Christ in 2004, which made $370M+, R-rated films have been on the rise.

      These films far exceeded the G and PG rated films that used to dominate the charts. However the PG-13 rated films are still giving the R-rated films a run for their money. But, this is not the only indicator of trends.

      When you look at the people purchasing tickets, it’s easy to see a decline in family attendance. Most are probably opting to sit in the den with a large screen TV showing something from NETFLIX at $8 a month rather than paying $40 per show at the theater.

      Another factor is the budgets being allowed the various productions. R-rated films are getting bigger budgets in order to raise the quality and draw more people, while family film budgets have been reduced over the past two years, reducing the production values. Couple this with the Christian film market that had only 4 films make it above the $40M mark since 2004, and you have to understand that the latest battle is between the growing R-rated and PG-13 markets.

      Back when I was working at an ABC affiliate, I did an interview with the president of the MPAA. He commented off the record on how the new ratings were designed to water down the system until there were two ratings: Adult and Kids, or R-rated and PG. He further stated that the goal of the PG-13 rating was to move teens from PG to R films over time.

      You may have noticed that PG-13 initially didn’t allow the F-word, but now allows it under “natural” situations. Also, nudity wasn’t a part of PG-13, but now it can be present if it is “brief and natural” versus sensual. In the meantime, G and PG have merged to be the same, with the exception that people use it to determine kidding film versus family film.

      The only way to have family films push the R-rated films back to the place where few people care to watch them is to raise the quality of the family films. We need new innovative stories and bigger budgets. We need to get past the thought that family films can be shot on a shoestring and instead put the full budget of the film onto the screen in all its potential glory.

      I’d love to see the golden age of movies return with people going to the theater in droves to watch wholesome entertainment, but only one of my friends in the industry has worked on a fully funded family film in the past ten years. The rest have to take extreme pay cuts to work on family films, causing them to lean toward R-rated films with full budgets.

      So, you tell me, what category do you think will win?

      I think we would agree on what category we’d like to see win, but until something changes…

  1. I don’t disagree on your numbers and such, you could very well be right. As Indie filmmakers we’ll have to be creative in how we make our films and finding distribution channels, ’cause most of us don’t have the budgets to compete with the big H-wood.

    We’re chatting up your article over on Christian Filmmakers website.
    Drop in if you’ve got some time, say hi to a few friends! 🙂

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