Filmmaking is an Artistic Lifestyle

Set on Sound StageBeing artistic means numerous things, but most consistently it reveals a single truth about the artist — He sees life differently than most. All artists, especially filmmakers, see life from a unique perspective based on daily observations of the human condition. This continuous attack on his senses drives him to express what he sees in hope of awakening the public to a life of greater insights and happier living. He is driven to peel back the irony and reveal the redemptive kingdom at hand.

Crucial to this passion is the filmmaker’s lifestyle that is filled with art on a daily basis. He is not able to function unless he addresses certain aspects of his art every day. In fact, he is forced by his own passion to find a way of incorporating film into his lifestyle, as no artist is able to set his art to the side on any given day. His very being is wired for artistic expression, but more earnestly he is compelled to observe what must be brought to society’s attention.

The artist is to be pitied and exalted. Pitied because he can never turn off his drive to observe the human condition and exalted because he must share his passionate findings with those around him. He is trapped and blessed to see the reality of society and struggles to express the human condition in a way that all people will take note and assertively address the issues portrayed within their own life — Raising the human condition toward enlightenment in the realms of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of humankind.

But how does this happen?

Filmmakers have an eye for the Aristotelian tenet that all good stories have a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is the backstory or set up and is easily presented along with new characters and their situation. The ending is simply the fulfillment of the set up. It’s the middle that determines the artistry of the filmmaker and his ability to “sell” the audience on his view of the human condition and the answers he’s observed.

In other words, the entire film is an argument that brings an awareness to the audience and persuades them to consider the answers the filmmaker found. If embraced, the audience will rise from the depths of the human condition to something more profound and alive. They will move from a sorrowful state of sin, loss, or loneliness to a redemptive level of love, hope and faith.

The artist lays out the middle of the story in beats. Not in a rule oriented way, but in a way that the audience understands the distinct steps or premise of the argument and how they’re connected to each other. The filmmaker then carefully walks the audience through the argument in a logical process, giving the pros and the cons, in order to squash mental and emotional objections, while inspiring the consideration of the redemptive answer.

Filmmakers that don’t follow these century old standards, to enlighten their audience about the human condition and point them toward answers, are not true artists. Instead they are guys with a camera and cool ideas who have no understanding on how to open the eyes of the audience to new insights and point them to the right solution filled with hope and inspiration.

The Kendrick Brother’s “War Room” came up in conversation last night. My daughter-in-law heard from her friends that it was a really good movie. The artist in me cringed, as the story is a preaching tool to inspire people to pray, not a piece of art.

How can I tell its not art?

First, the middle of the film doesn’t walk the audience through the arguments associated with prayer. An artistic version of the film would have explored what happens when prayer fails. Further exploration might have touched on how to work through weeks of travailing prayer followed by it being unanswered. Another argument would’ve looked at our response to prayer regardless of it being fulfilled or not. This idea might then be extrapolated into whether or not someone is more or less spiritual based on the number or size of their answered prayers compared to others.

It takes a well crafted artistic screenplay to entwine these issues into a two hour argument that helps people to pray regardless of their circumstances or results.

Second, the Kendricks admit they aren’t making films for the general public. They are specifically addressing people who already know the arguments and just need encouragement to take action. In the vernacular, they’re preaching to the choir. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that Alex and Stephen are first and foremost pastors — Another “career” that is not a career, but a lifestyle.

Third, their stories focus on good people becoming better people, while artists focus on the messy human condition and salt in the redemptive silver lining available to all who seek it. I would be shocked if a Kendrick Brothers picture ever showed the darkness of sin in its true form. They would certainly allude to it, but their focus would be on the light to make sure they never cause someone to stumble.

A true artist, on the other hand, has observed that everyone has already fallen short of the the glory of God and no one can become more of a sinner than they already are. Your life is either stained or not. The amount of stain makes no difference on a person’s position in life concerning their redemptive value. Someone either pays a price to redeem them or they do not. The amount of stain doesn’t matters.

The artist therefore reflects reality in their film hoping that the person watching will see the truth of their situation and consider the argument unfolding in the middle of the story. This acknowledgement of ones own corruption or messy human condition is the first step in a person being open to seeking some form of redemption and the new life that it brings. Without the truthful display of the human condition, no audience will ever have a reason to buy into a redemptive solution they don’t perceive is needed.

These profound differences between preachers who make a film and artists are polarizing. It’s no wonder that Hollywood can’t stand what the Kendrick Brothers produce. And, it becomes clear why those who follow the Kendricks have a hard time watching great redemptive films that reveal the truth about the human condition like Les Miserables, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and The Man in the Iron Mask.

When the dust settles on the differences, the artist is still compelled to open the audience’s eyes to the human condition and passionately argue their need for a redemptive solution. He has no choice. The artist is wired that way. He must share what he’s observed and point the culture toward a redemptive solution at all cost. The artist must be who he is — That weird person with a unique perspective that can change cultures across the globe with one compelling well crafted story.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

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