They Got It Backwards

I love the juxtaposition of talking with a horror filmmaker and a faith-based filmmaker over the same weekend. The former asked why I sometimes wrote about faith-based films. She couldn’t comprehend why I’d even broached the politically incorrect subject of religion. The later questioned me on educating horror filmmakers who bring evil into the world. He rebuked me for not separating myself from “the likes of them.” I chuckled at both perspectives.

Filmmaking is an art, which both people had forgotten. It’s also a craft that requires thousands of hours to master. Since I’ve worked several features and 300 plus television episodes, I’m willing to share my knowledge and hope to learn something new during the exchange of ideas and craft secrets. I’m a people person, what else can I say.

The conversations opened my mind to just how backwards both filmmakers got it. Let me start with the faith-based filmmaker.

There is an interesting trend in the faith-based market niche. Churches have gotten so good at entertaining that its congregations are dropping off. Millennials aren’t interested in a polished presentation in their services, but instead in an authentic person sharing how to do life. They also want to sing during worship, but the loud music and professional singers leading the congregation stops them from sharing their untrained voices in song.

Christian filmmakers are creating films with authentic stories that are real and rough around the edges, the exact thing Millennials want from their services. But, they don’t want that in their movies, instead they long for highly entertaining and professional films. The church and Christian filmmakers have it exactly backwards from what their audiences demand.

Horror filmmakers also have it backwards. The genre started out as a tool to launch great, unknown filmmakers into the mainstream movie making system. Those with good stories rose in the ranks and transitioned to thrillers and later to action films. Today, most horror filmmakers aren’t concerned about story. Instead they focus on the latest FX to make mutilation more realistic.

Without a story about characters you learn to care about, the scary aspects of horror films hold little fear in our heavy CGI based world. The lack of story makes the film appear campy, just like unprofessional faith-based films. In fact, the relationship between horror and faith-based films is so close that I’m surprised no one has done a high quality Christian horror film that causes the audience to consider their own mortality.

The bottom line is that genres only work well when done in the way the media demands. Since high quality technical equipment is now readily available to both genres, storytelling becomes critical to sort through the noise of the thousands of bad films. Even TV has hit a glut of programming and most people aren’t aware that over 400 new series were released last year. The support of an audience is still critical to the health of a series. Without the right audience the shows get cancelled or make little to no profit.

It’s time our churches give up the professional entertainment for the authentic sharing of life. Our faith-based films must also turn around by creating professional and highly entertaining universal stories. And, our horror films must get back to the core work of storytelling, as movies without stories are a waste of everyone’s time.

Let’s turn around these backwards trends.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

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