Ben-Hur Part 2: My Tips for the Remake

Dear Timur Bekmambetove, Mark Burnett, MGM, or anyone who could help the Ben-Hur remake.

Ever since I heard that they where remaking Ben-Hur, I have also heard people say how Hollywood should let this movie alone.  I am sure you have heard them too.  Don’t listen to them.  What they don’t realize is that the 1959 version WAS a remake, and a remake of a classic that had a huge fan base as well.  I am sure there were people of their day saying you shouldn’t touch their classic.   New generations need to know who Ben-Hur is! I am thrilled that you are doing another Ben-Hur movie.  If you don’t mind, I have a few suggestions that I think would make this movie the best it could possibly be.  I have also tested many of these ideas on some diehard fans of the 1959 version and they have said that if these suggestions were followed that they would be much more inclined to be excited about this film.

I am a fan of the novel.  I love the 1959 version as well! Really, I even love the 1925 version.  I have a few tips I would like to share first

Tip #1 – Start with the book, not the 1959 movie.

One fear I have is that you will look at the 1959 version and then try to take liberties from it.  It is not the source material.  Doing this would result in a story that is even further from the novel then the older versions of the story.  My hope is that it will be closer.

Tip #2 – Aim High!

The movie you are remaking holds the record for most Academy Award wins.  Shoot for that! This shouldn’t just be a good movie.  This needs to be a great movie!  Only the best will due.  If you use CGI, make sure it is the best CGI out there.  The costumes should be awe inspiring.  Everything needs to be great.  If I feel you at least shot for this quality I will tend to be more gracious.  I don’t feel you need to win 11 awards… I just want to know you gave it everything you got!

Tip #3 – MUSIC

Something that both the 1959 and the 1925 versions had was spectacular music! The sound track was epic! It was triumphant! It was large! It was strong! It was not simply background music.  The only composer that I know that is working today and can do music of this caliber is Hans Zimmer.  That is not to say no one else can.  I would give anybody you pick a shot.  However, Hans Zimmer is someone you should be trying to get right now and everyone else should be a second choice.  Also, I think it would be really cool to also let them do an overture like the 1959 version.  I know it would probably only be for the album but I still would like it.

Tip #4 – Give us an old style movie poster!

I don’t mean make it look just like the old one.  What I mean is, the 1959 movie had such an amazing movie poster.  Painted, it was a work of art.  Give us a work of art like movie posters used to. Don’t give us Photoshop non-sense.  Give me something I want to hang on my wall!

Tip #5 – Do not add things if you had to take things out.

The BBC miniseries began with Ben-Hur racing Messala in a wagon as they were children.  Why? The Novel didn’t do this.  It is established through the return of Messala that they were childhood friends.  It adds nothing for me to see them playing. In fact, many of my favorite aspects of the book were removed to make room for this scene that adds nothing to the story. Not to mention that it was corny seeing them race… as if they both always wanted to be chariot racers.  The original story is fantastic! Stick to it!

Tip #6 – Make it two movies!

I will lay out my plan in Ben-Hur Part 3, but I really think that making this in two movies would be ground breaking for this story.  It would give the viewers something they never saw before and it would take this remake out of the shadow of its predecessor.

I know these tips are not anything big.  (well, besides #6) but these are things I would like to see.  To find out more specifically about what I would do to make the story great, check out my post Ben-Hur Part 3 coming soon.

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Ben-Hur Part 1: The History and Personal Reviews

I have always loved movies.  Even as a child.  I had several movies that as a child I watched over and over again.  It is a relatively long list.  However, I think if you were to tally the amount of times I watched each movie I am fairly certain that you would find in the top 5; Superman, Star Wars, Iron Eagle, The Ten Commandments and Planet of the Apes. From those last two you could probably figure out that, even though Charlton Heston was before my time, I knew who he was and I viewed him with the same love that a child growing up in the 50’s and 60’s would have viewed him.  I knew his voice, I knew what he looked like, I knew how he acted.  It is baffling then, that I made it to my 30’s without ever seeing Ben-Hur in its entirety.   I do remember going to the Video Rental Store (you might need to look it up to understand what I mean by Video Rental Store) and seeing that huge box that consisted of two VHS tapes and a beautiful cover. I remember picking it up several times just wondering what was inside.  I even remember renting it a few times but I know I never watched it.  Something always came up.  Something that would prevent me from sitting down in front of the only TV set we had with a VHS player for 3 hours to watch this film.  I grew up knowing the name of Ben-Hur.  I grew up knowing it had something to do with Chariot racing.  I grew up knowing it stared Charlton Heston but that was it.  I am fairly certain that I was in my 20’s before I found out that Jesus played a part in the movie. I think I was also in my 20’s when I discovered that the movie was based on a Novel.  How could this be? It is one of the highest selling novels of all time!  I found a copy of Ben-Hur several years ago at a garage sale.  It was fifty cents. I picked it up.  It was an impulse buy but this past year I became extremely thankful that I did.  I finally read Ben-Hur.  I read it before ever seeing any of the movies.  After reading it I proceeded to find every incarnation of this story.  I have now seen ever adaption put to film and below you will find my review of each one.  This Blog post will be divided into two part.  The first part being my review of these adaption and the second part will consist of my dream plan for the remake.

1880 – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace

Here is what started it all.  The original novel by General Lew Wallace, a Civil War veteran.  I knew going into reading this book that Jesus played a part and that the most famous scene was the chariot race.  I devoured this novel like few others! What a fantastic story! The scope of the writing and the story are so huge yet the characters are so compelling.  It is written in such a way that you feel very connected to Judah Ben-Hur yet you get this feeling that he plays a part in a much larger story that he himself can’t see.  It is magnificent and I highly recommend it.  If you have never seen any of the following movies I urge you to go and read this book before you watch any adaption.  Some of the following I feel did the story justice, some of them did not. However, none of them completely capture the magnificence of the story.  That is not a slam on any of the following but rather a testament to how grand this novel it.  It is impossible to create a movie that is as wonderful as this novel… so…. Yeah, I am a fan.

A novel that some credit as the first “Christian fiction” sure makes me wonder how we got all these Amish romance novels and so few epic novels!

1907 – Ben Hur –  Directed by Sidney Olcott

The first attempt to bring this story to film was in 1907.  Film was young.  Film makers where just beginning to understand this new format and that fact is very evident in this 15 minute combination of random, unconnected shots of people standing around or walk that are then pieced together with title cards that give you a very general outline of what the scenes are suppose to represent.  They needed to do that because without those cards you wouldn’t know.  The outline was so brief that you would do better by reading the listing of chapters at the front of the novel.  There was no mention of Christ, that aspect was left out completely and the movie ends with Ben-Hur winning the chariot race.

This movie is a part of cinematic history, as it was made without the film rights.  It was an important case that lead to the 1909 copyright law.  Over all, this film is nothing special.  I would personally rather watch a fire place then watch this version ever again.

1925 – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ – Directed by Fred Niblo

I knew how many people hold the 1959 version in very high regards.  What many do not realize is, that the 1959 version was a remake of this 1925 movie.  This movie was every bit as wonderful as the 1959 version, if you can view it for what it is.  The chariot race that is much talked about from the 1959 version was actually almost a shot for shot remake of the chariot race from this version.  So if you were impressed with it for 1959, how much more would it have been impressing in 1925.  It was the most expensive movie ever made of its time and during its first run actually ended up losing money.  A few years later it returned to theaters and had better luck, pulling the total to a bit of a profit.  This version put MGM on the map and set them on track to become the large studio they are today.  Many plot points that were left out of the 1959 version where included in this version and I have to say that the portions after the chariot race were more in line with the novel then the 59 one was.  In the novel the chariot race takes place at the midpoint of the story, not towards the end. If you can deal with the fact that this is a silent film made about 90 years ago, I think you would consider this a real treat as it is a fantastic telling of the story.

1959 – Ben-Hur – Directed by William Wyler

Here is the movie everyone has told me about.  The one that surprises people when I used to say I never saw it.  Let them be surprised no more! I have seen the masterpiece known as Ben-Hur from 1959 and it certainly lives up to the hype! They just don’t make movies like this anymore! And I think that is a shame! All you need to do is watch it and you realize this wasn’t a movie, it was an event! A cinematic experience! Oh, what I wouldn’t do to go back in time and watch it in theaters in 1959.  The electricity in the room must have been awesome! The colors! The scope! The music! How could such an experience have been created in 1959? It gives film makers little excuse today.

It was again, the most expensive film of its day.  It was also the winner of 11 Academy Awards which was a record held for decades until Titanic tied it in 1997.  Yep, Titanic tied it, but did not break that record.  This movie pulled MGM out of serious financial problems, once again, Ben-Hur helps make MGM what they are today!

If you have not seen this film, do it.  If you watch one version on this list, make it this one!

2003 – Ben Hur (animated) – Directed by Bill Kowalchuk

I won’t spend too much time on the next few movies.  This film was not made for the cinema and really it doesn’t seem to be made with much heart at all.  The animation is horrible, the story rushes through.  I had hopes that this might be a good way to introduce my son to Ben-Hur, but it was not.  If he saw this version he might get the impression that Ben-Hur is a boring story.

2010 – Ben Hur (miniseries) – Directed by Steve Shill

Don’t bother! Seriously, there are times this doesn’t even feel like the story of Ben-Hur.

2016 – Ben-Hur – Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

This has a lot to live up to.  For almost 100 years the movie of Ben-Hur was done perfectly for the cinema.  To mess up now would mean that you did something that no one has done in 100 years.  Yes poor versions were made, but none of them had the force behind them that a Blockbuster movie has.  I have high hopes.  Some of those hopes are that they look to the 1959 version and the 1925 version to let them know the legacy they are getting themselves into but I hope they look to the 1880 novel to adapt the story.  I would like to see a retelling that strives to be closer to the novel than any version before it. I hope they take as much care as generations before have done.  I hope they show as much passion for the source material as the previous cinematic versions showed.  I hope they realize that both the 1959 version and the 1925 versions had off the chart cinematic scores.  An average score will not due.  The music must be magnificent.  The scope must be huge.  It must be wonderful! These are my hopes for the 2016 versions!

If anyone involved in the making of the film would like any ideas of how to make this remake special, check out Part two that I will post in a few days!

Was the Gospel Left Behind?

I began this blog simply because on my down time I like to research what Christian movies are on their way.  I often find bits of information that I think would be interesting to my friends and family.  I am not a good writer.  I am not good with grammar or typing as many of my friends and family have known for decades.  Good writing was not why I started this blog.  I started this blog to share my reviews of Christian movies coming out, share the news that I find on Christian projects in the works and to give my opinion on Christian movies as a whole. This is what I am about to do.

Now, if you read any of my other posts you will know that I did not care for the new Left Behind movie starring Nicholas Cage.  It was a project I was extremely excited about but it really disappointed me.  The other day I went on Facebook and saw that Paul Lalonde had posted an encouragement to purchase the Blu-ray or DVD if you would like to see more films in the series.  I will not be buying it any time soon as I did not like the film, but I do encourage you, if you liked it, BY ALL MEANS GO BUY IT! And buy one for a friend or family member.  This is how you support a film.  However, this is not what caught my attention.  At the end of the post Paul writes, “I’ve got a few minutes here, anyone have any questions they’ve been dying to ask?”  I read these words and had a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Not because I didn’t like the movie.  Not because I don’t like Paul… in fact, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach because I love Paul Lalonde and his brother Peter.  I credit them as pioneers.  If not for the work they did we would not have had the year we did with the success of God’s Not Dead and Heaven is for Real.  They had nothing to do with those movies but they paved the way for wider releases of Christian movies.

As I read down the list of comments, some comments began to stand out to me… because they were repeated over and over again.  The comments began to reveal some misunderstandings that the general Christian public has about this Left Behind movie.  You might see several comments like “The movie was horrible! I’ll stick to the one Hollywood didn’t ruin!” What do they mean by “Hollywood?” I use that term (much to the dislike of one of my good friends, sorry Eric.) I don’t see anything wrong with using that term.  However, when I do use it, I am referring to the giants in the industry.  I am using it as a collective term for Fox, WB, Sony, Disney, etc.  The funny thing about these comments in regards to the Left Behind reboot is, the driving force behind the project is the same as “the one Hollywood didn’t ruin.”  It was still an independent project headed by Paul LaLonde.  It was not backed by a major studio, it was not backed by Nicholas Cage, he just acted in it… or, in my opinion… he… kind of… showed up… As Christians, shouldn’t we speak truth? How can we when we talk about things we don’t know anything about? How can we say things like, Hollywood ruined it if we don’t even define what we mean by “Hollywood.” (I am not saying that the people who used this as criticism are not Christians, I am just saying that we need to watch what we say and how we say it.)

There was another criticism though, this one is the one that spurred me to write this post.  It was said in many ways at many times.  “no doctrine in the movie at all!” or “The Gospel was not shared!” or “no scripture references!” And as I read these comments I shook my head.  Paul responded to one of these comments by sharing that in his office he has hanging two articles.  The headline of one (and I am paraphrasing because I can’t find the comment again) is “Left Behind, Not a Christian Movie” and the other headline “Left Behind, Nothing but Heavy Handed Christian Propaganda.” He points out that these are two articles about the same movie that have completely different views on what the Left Behind movie was like.  The Christian article thought it was not Christian enough, the secular review saw it as very heavy propaganda.  There is a line to walk there.

I liked Paul’s response to this accusation.  It got me thinking.  I am a Pastor, it is not just the title of my blog.  I began to wonder why some Christians demand scripture references in movies.  You see, as a Pastor I work very hard to focus completely on Scripture.  I have been accused of not being a Preacher but more like a Biblical teacher.  Some say it in a negative way but I take it as a positive.  Some people, when they say this mean they want to hear more personal stories or more jokes but I refuse to change.  Teaching scripture is what I do and I am doing it in an age where Biblical illiteracy is at an all time high. So why should I stop? Biblical teaching is needed now more than ever.

With all that said, you might be tempted to say “That is exactly why the movie needs more!” and I would say that you are wrong! That is exactly why it is important to make a movie that is not a sermon or a Bible lesson.  My job is to teach scripture and encourage my congregation to further their study on scripture.  A movie maker’s job is to make a movie that entertains.  A Christian movie maker’s job is to make a movie that entertains and makes you ponder Christ. A Christian movie is something that allows me to sit down and have a fun time with a non-Christian friend that will lead to a conversation about God and about Christ after the movie ends.  It is during that time after the movie that scripture is shared.  Not by the movie but by the fully equipped and prepared Christian.  It takes time.  It takes preparation.  It takes commitment.  It takes learning.  It takes work…. And that is why we would rather have the movie do it for us.  We would love it if the movie did all the work and then when the movie is over we say a prayer with our Non-Christian friend, He becomes our New Christian friend, we send him home without a meaningful, relationship building conversation and we go to bed feeling like we just won a battle for the Kingdom.  When the reality is we just stayed home during “the time Kings go to war” if I can make a comparison to the fall of David.  We didn’t fight, we allowed others to do the research, the equipping, the work. We have become lazy Christians. Movies that act as a springboard for Christians to share create opportunities for Christians to grow in their knowledge of Scripture.  What good would it be if parents did their children’s homework for them? Would they every learn themselves?

Mr. Lalonde, I may not have liked this Left Behind movie but I am a fan of yours.  I will be seeing the follow up, if there is one.  I will be seeing whatever project you do next.  Personally, I would like to see you expand from the “End Times Thriller” genre but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what you have done already.  I propose we stick to our jobs.  My job as a Pastor is to teach the Word.  Your Job as a Christian film maker is to make movies that allow us to build a conversation around (it is not your job to do the work for us.) My fellow Christian brothers and sisters, your job is to prepare yourselves for battle, study scripture, build relationships with non-believes, live lives that point to Jesus. Be kind. Be positive.  Don’t attack fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Do everything to build each other up…. (to add scripture reference or not… ummm…. Look it up, why should I do all the work for you.)

And to all, Grace and Peace from our Heavenly Father!

THIS STORY NEEDS A MOVIE: The Story of Adam Crooks

Every once in a while I will be posting a piece like this where I discuss a novel, a biography, or a life story that I feel would make a superb faith-based movie.  Usually, I will post it because I feel the story would be a perfect blend of spreading the message of the Gospel while at the same time not preaching.  Keep in mind, I feel people use the term “preachy” too often. For example, if someone has a life changing moment at a Billy Graham crusade and the message that was given was so impactful it changed the trajectory of their life.  To include a portion of this message is not preachy, it is part of the story.

This post won’t deal much with this dilemma though, it does include the life of a preacher.  I was reading a denomination magazine yesterday and stumbled on a brief paragraph that discussed a preacher by the name of Adam Crooks.  Immediately my imagination said “This needs to be a movie!”

ADAM CROOKS

Why do we as Christians spend $16 million dollars on a fictional movie that only appeals to a segment of Christianity that subscribe to a very specific eschatology when we could chose a hero like Adam Crooks who can begin unifying conversations within the church and appealing discussions about our faith outside the church.  It seems a better strategy to me then making a movie on a subject that sparks more than lively debate within the church and focuses on fewer in a society that views the church as a group that thrives on fear mongering.

What would it have been like if instead of $16 Million on left behind, that same money was spent on an Adam Crook movie?  In 1840 a group of Christians in North Carolina requested that the Wesleyan-Methodist Church send a minister to them.  The Wesleyan-Methodist church was one of the first denominations to make it a point of their church to be a church that stood against slavery.  By requesting a minister from this denomination was to ask for an abolitionist minister to enter the south years before our nation’s Civil War.  Church leaders were reluctant to send any of their ministers into, what they rightfully saw as a hostile environment.  Adam Crooks heard of the request and responded to his denomination by saying “Sustained by your prayers, and in the name of my Savior, I will go.”  Adam Crook went and founded Freedom’s Hill, the first Wesleyan-Methodist church in the slaveholding south.  Upon arrival he faced ridicule, persecution, assassination attempts and he was dragged from his pulpit on a Sunday morning and thrown in jail for anti-slavery activism.

Even though this story is about a particular denomination, the messages of freedom and of acting out your faith in the face of adversity are messages that can begin unifying conversations within the church and would celebrate victories that the church has had historically instead of focusing on the times in history where the church was lead astray by various leaders with their own agenda. We hear so much about the churches missteps that many feel that those missteps have outweighed their good but that is simply untrue.  We need to remind the world that the church is and has been a force for tremendous good in this world and is capable of that today!  A movie that takes this strategy can do so much more good for the kingdom then a movie focusing on people who get left behind.

Christian Movies Nominated for Awards for 2014!

It is award season! And after the “Year of the Bible” two Christian movies have been nominated! You might ask “What movies? What awards? An Oscar? Academy Award? Critic’s Choice?” No, none of those.  I hope one day, but that day is not today. The Award that has seen the nomination of two Christian films is… The Razzies, or The Golden Raspberry Award.  What is this award? Well, the categories are things such as “Worst movie of the year””worst actor” “worst actress” you get the picture.

How does that make you, as the reader, feel? I am going to make a case for why that is a good thing and it has nothing to do with “any publicity is good publicity.” Let me start by sharing the nominees.

And The Nominees for the 35th Golden Raspberry Award for worst picture of the year are….

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Legend of Hercules

Left Behind

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Before I share why this is a good thing let me share something I take issue with.  You see, I completely understand Left Behind, but Saving Christmas? Let me make one thing clear, I did not see Saving Christmas, so I am not saying that it was or wasn’t bad.  The reason this one surprises me is because it was a much smaller release that would have been more in line with former Christian movies.  Not to mention that I feel that fifth spot could have easily been filled by The Amazing Spider-man 2 or Transcendence, both of which were highly anticipated and disappointed across the board.  Spider-man was so disappointing that it has caused the entire franchise to be called into question.

The temptation for Christians might be to look at this and accuse “Hollywood” of choosing these because of their Christian slant.  I considered this for a moment but there are two major reasons why I feel this has nothing to do with their Christian message. The first reason is that if it was because of the Christian message, God’s Not Dead is low hanging fruit.  It’s message was bolder and still very low in quality.  So if the point was to make fun of Christians God’s Not Dead would be the way to go… The Rolling Stone Magazine included it in their 10 worst films of 2014. The second reason I don’t think this decision is religiously motivated is because the Razzies have been around for 35 years.  I could not find a single other Christian film that was nominated in the past 35 years and I promise you that there are plenty that could have been.

So why is this a good thing? Well, because, for the past 35 years Christian movies have been left alone by the Razzies.  Why had the Razzies gone this long before they nominated a Christian film? Because they were not taken seriously before! The same reason that they nominated these movies this year, is the same reason I began this blog! The film industry knows that there is money in Faith based movies! Now that it is known that faith based movies make money it should be easier to find investors but with that, quality should begin to rise.  Why is it good that Left Behind was nominated for a Razzie? Because with the Left Behind budget and content it should have been a better movie and the Industry knows it.  They are treating the Left Behind movie like any other film in the industry.  They are calling them out and saying “If you want to run with the big dogs you got to run harder!” I see these nominations as a message from Hollywood saying “Come on! We know you can do better than this!” In this light, suddenly it does not seem like the movies are being included to make fun of them on the grounds of religion, but rather they are finally getting the respect of being acknowledged! They aren’t being ignored anymore!  This is fantastic news! This is a great time in Christian film making! It is now very important that we respond by respecting our own work.  Lets produce work worthy of respect.  Let’s demand a product from our Christian movies that is worth of respect.

I am so very happy that two Christian movies were nominated for awards and I can promise you I will be rooting for Left Behind to win Worst Picture of 2014…. Because it deserves to win! Even the Dove Awards decided to ignore it!

The Dovekeepers Trailer

The year of the Bible fizzled away but it is not the end of faith driven projects.  Beginning on March 31st we will have the opportunity to see The Dovekeepers, a two night event that is based on a novel that takes place during the First Jewish-Roman war.  Yes, that is right! I said Jewish-Roman War! If there was any Jewish historical event that was not part of the Bible that would be ripe for the cinema it would be this time.  So, obviously I have been very excited for this event! Add to this that the producers of this mini-series are Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the same people who brought us The Bible Mini-series. Personally, I am more excited about that more from the potential of it and not really because I liked the Bible mini-series.  The fact that the director is Yves Simoneau, a man with a lot on his resume but not much really note worthy, makes me wonder about the quality of the mini-series.

The first promo for the series was just released, an event that I felt would calm my fears about the project.  Unfortunately, the trailer really didn’t do anything for me.  My personal opinion is that, for a mini-series about people trapped in a fortress during a roman siege it looks way too clean.  I will also say that if their target audience is the faith based community, the addition of certain scenes that imply sex I feel will do more to hurt the interest in the project then help it.

I will tell you though, I am still very interested in this project and hope that I am pleasantly surprised by it!  Take a look at the trailer below and share your thoughts!

Dear Christian Movie Industry

Dear Christian Movie Industry,

I wish there was a shorter name for you like there is for the secular movie industry but there isn’t so I will need to stick with this address.  As a fan of movies I have been rooting and cheering for you for quite some time now.  I remember spending near $40 of my Christmas money to purchase a movie I didn’t really even care for just because I wanted the Christian movie industry to grow and I knew it wouldn’t happen if people didn’t buy the movies that were out there already.  I have defended you in many arguments.  I have a pretty large collection of low budget films on DVD (and a few on Blu-ray) because I support your efforts.  I have been doing so for over 10 years and I will continue to do so.  I believe in you! I can see the benefit in what you do and I use it whenever I can.  In my church, I like to promote your movies through Church Movie Nights and I have had great success with these events.  I am picky though in what I show.  Out of all the films I have, only a handful would I deem worthy to show to a large audience.  I see progress in your section of this industry, I really do.  However, I am tired.  I have worked so hard on my part to promote your work and even though I have seen progress, the progress is not as much as it should be.

You see, I saw the remake of Left Behind.  It is said that the budget for this movie was $16 million.  With that budget, these days you can produce a very decent movie.  Yet somehow it came off worse than the one back in 2001.  I understand, a lot of money probably needed to go to Nicholas Cage but I still feel like the product should have been better for that type of money.  God’s Not Dead was said to have a budget of $2 Million dollars and I know that by the standards of film making that is not a whole lot but it is enough to make a decent film.  I know a lot of people enjoyed it.  Part of me did as well.  But if you compare it visually and compare the acting to other films in the same price range it still seems inferior.

Now, I am a Pastor, not a film maker, and I know you could say “I won’t tell you how to do your job and you don’t tell me how to do mine.” And you would be right but could I share with you some things I would like to see as a fan? Some things that I feel would help me see the progress I want to see?  This is my opinion,

  1. FIND TALENT

This is a big one that I am not going to spend too much time on because I am going to talk more about it in point two but I have seen movies with the same budget as many of these films have far superior acting.  I have seen movies with similar budgets with far superior writing.  The same goes for directing.  Seek out new people.  I need to believe that God has given talent to people who would also believe in these projects. Find them.

  1. BE WILLING TO LET PEOPLE BETTER THAN YOU DO THINGS

It seems like there is a trend in Christian film making, the same people who do the producing and the writing also do the directing and the acting.  These are a lot of hats to wear.  I would like to suggest that you don’t pick too many jobs.  I know it can make things cheaper to make but it can also make it cheaper to watch as well.  Pick one Job and do it to the best of your ability.  Be willing to allow people better then you improve on things.  If a movie is a passion project for you, I do understand but what will make your passion project the best it can possibly be? Maybe if someone else polished up your script? Or someone with a better eye directed it? I understand it might be hard to let other people play in your sandbox but you must be willing to work with a team in order to produce quality.

  1. SPEND REAL MONEY

Some of these Christian films are starting to make real cash at the box office.  God’s Not Dead made $60 Million, take some out for the movie theater and promotion you still made out very well, your next film should reflect that.  The budget should get higher, the quality should rise.  You can now begin to play in the big leagues because many movies per year make $60 Million and are considered successes. You start to raise the quality and you might have a shot at making even more then that!  I understand you have been doing better in this area, but things could still be improved.

  1. LETS TRY SOME TRUE STORIES

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a story, a testimony and thought “This would make a great movie.” What would be great about a true story is that you can let the story tell the message instead of a monologue by the main character.  Stories about real people can be done very well and you don’t need to think “how can we make this message clear” you can let the life speak for itself.  I think of movies like 42, or Unbroken and I think that in the hands of a Christian these stories could have been told in such a way that the life could have spoken louder.  Not preached, but more prominent. It really is a fine line.  Some lives to look into, Reggie White, Dietrich Bonheoffer, any of the thousands of Christians who escaped persecution in other countries… really, just go to a Christian Book Store and stroll through the Biography section.  Try to look past the “Popular Christian Athlete of today” books.. not that there is anything wrong with them but try to find a story that lasts. Let’s even have a remake of The Cross and The Switchblade! But let’s do it right!

  1. MAKE MOVIES WORTHY OF CHRISTIANITY

I think Christianity is not only true, but when lived out correctly is the best religion and philosophy out there.  As the best I feel it should settle for nothing short of the best.  Take pride in your work.  If a certain take didn’t look right or feel right, don’t use it.  Reshoot it, it shouldn’t cost that much more since most of the independent studios are shooting with digital anyway.  It will take more time but everything worthwhile does.  Take advantage of the fact that you can now review each take on the spot. Don’t take for granted that you will make money with subpar films.  You might, but sometimes respect is worth more than money. You are an ambassador of Christ, as a Pastor I know that our church service represents Christ to unchurched people.  I want it to be quality, I want it to be loving, I want it to be a positive experience, yes, it won’t be for everyone but if I do things the best I can at least if someone doesn’t have a good experience it isn’t from lack of trying.

I will always give you the benefit of the doubt.  I will always give you a chance.  I will always look forward to what comes next with optimism. All I ask is that you continue to improve, learn, don’t settle.  Reward my years of support by giving me quality!  Grace and peace to you from our Heavenly Father.

(If you agree with these points I ask that you share it.  Maybe it will impact someone with the ability to make a difference.)