Rarely do critics and filmgoers have such a disparity between what they like until now. There’s been a recent deluge of polarized perspectives concerning secular critics and faith-based films. The latest glut of low budget, poorly crafted faith-based films has given rise to critics blasting the filmmaker’s stories. Some Christian audiences have taken offense to the comments, as if the critics were opposed to the Gospel itself, rather than giving a mere evaluation of a poorly crafted film.
Now, keep in mind that the rising controversy might be marketing driven to get more people into theater seats, but it might also be positioning the audience to take sides – Art versus Faith.
For instance, Mark Burnett said, “Little Boy is an instant family classic, that is utterly unique, but reminiscent of films like E.T., The Sound of Music, and Life is Beautiful.” Those words are very powerful and will surely send many more people to the theaters to watch the film, or at least pick it up on video.
However, those words are polarizing and very large like daddy’s big shoes that can’t be filled. When a person watches the film and realizes that Little Boy is not really a strong story like E.T. or The Sound of Music, they will be forced to decide that either Burnett doesn’t know a good film from a great classic or he lied to sell more tickets – Neither response will be welcome.
I love when controversy forces more people into the theaters, especially when the film doesn’t disappoint. However, when the story has specific flaws that cause many to miss the point that the director intended and couldn’t pull off, the controversy looks like a desperate attempt to survive rather than an attention getter to alert audiences so they don’t miss out on a great story.
Recently I spoke with several faith-based film producers to get their viewpoint on the latest trend of marketable lies. They told me that it was hype, not a lie. They defended and justified their choices by stating that everyone does it. The implication makes me uncomfortable – After all, don’t they need to live up to their own messages?
I mean, consider this…
Some faith-based producers state that the message is more important than the story, while I state that a great story allows you to salt in a strong message.
Other faith-based producers tell me that false advertising is not a lie, but just hype that’s okay to do because everyone is doing it, while I believe promotions must to be true to the story or product.
Several faith-based producers told me that they wouldn’t hire anyone who is living in sin and will trust God to make up the difference in lost quality, while I’ll hire masters of the craft regardless of their shortfalls in order to create the best quality story for the audience.
Numerous faith-based producers and screenwriters will write only one or two drafts to keep the screenplay to as close to the original vision God gave them, while I’ll take God’s vision and work it dozens of times until I actually get God’s version of the story without my mess included.
Based on the trends in the faith-based genre, I see no reason to participate in it. I’ll continue to work on projects that are great for all audiences and continue to develop my craft to the point of excellence. And yes, I’ll fail a few times along the way, but I’ll at least be able to hold to and live out my convictions while doing it.