As an aspiring screenwriter, I was listening to a screenwriting podcast called “On the Page.” And in one particular episode, the host of the show Pilar Alessandra, who is also a professional screenwriting instructor and author, invited two experts from some Christian media group as guests. And they were talking about screenwriting for a niche market of religious films. (Pilar’s podcast is secular. Faith-based films is just a subject of this one particular episode.) In that episode, they were talking about the faith-film market, and how religious people among the listeners could break into that niche outside of the Hollywood mainstream. And one of the things that the guests said that surprised me (if I correctly remember how they said it) was that even they themselves were dissatisfied with how most Christian movies tend to alienate general audiences because they tend to get too preachy. And as an atheist, I totally agree.
To be honest, there have been some Christian-themed movies that I have enjoyed even as an atheist. One of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies was Wall-E which was written and directed by Andrew Staunton and Pete Doctor – both of whom are devout Christians. And as devout Christians, during the story’s development process, both Doctor and Staunton took creative liberties to instill Christian themes into the story for Wall-E. But in spite of the Christian themes, they were still able to make Wall E into a successful movie with mass appeal for the general audiences worldwide and generating half a billion dollar in revenue. In fact, Pete Doctor once said in an article about his role as Pixar’s storyteller is that his Christian faith is his own private business, not anyone else’s. Which I admire.
Another Judeo-Christian themed movie that I enjoyed was Darren Aronofsky’s Noah movie. Aronofsky (He’s is an atheist Jew) and Paramount Pictures didn’t have an agenda to preach the Bible. They just want to entertain broad audiences, Christian and non-Christian alike, by presenting the story as a Jewish mythology (which, to my understanding, the Jews actually ripped from the Babylonians).
Now… I think the reason why some Christian-themed movies like Noah and Wall-E are enjoyable and appealing to broad audiences as opposed to hardcore Christian movies like any of Kirk Cameron films is because Walt Disney and Paramount Pictures’ business is to entertain people in order to make money. And in order to cash in and make as much money as possible, studios need to produce movies that are generally appealing to a broad range of audiences. Disney and Paramount’s agenda is to make as much money as they can by entertaining wide range of audiences by making widely appealing movies.
The problem I see with a lot of hardcore Christian movies is that many of them tend to have preachy storytelling with an “in-your-face” approach to conveying Christian themes. You know, where it has things like:
– Christian characters, like a preacher, going “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” or “The Bible says this and Bible says that” almost every 10 minutes.
– Stereotypical (and often deliberately misrepresenting) caricatures of LGBTQ people, atheists, and other non-Christians
For those who read this post, let me ask you:
Why do you think people go to the movies? Why do YOU go to the movies? You go to the movies because you want to be entertained, right?
I think most people go to the movies because they want entertainment first and foremost. And a hardcore religious film with a preachy in-your-face message would be a HUGE turn off. Thus, wasting $10 – $15, plus, you cannot refund the 2 – 3 hours you could have spent on watching something more enjoyable. General moviegoers want to be entertained, not preached to. If they want to be Preached to, they’ll just attend church, mosque, synagogue, etc.
Apparently, unlike mainstream Hollywood, it seems like most hardcore Christian movie studios have their agenda backwards. Their movies appear to be produced to preach to audience first, rather than to prioritize on entertaining them. It’s no wonder that most Christian movies only tend to appeal to their core Christian audiences, even if it stars Hollywood heavyweights like Nicolas Cage. And there are people like Ray Comfort whining and complaining about Aronofsky’s Noah movie not “being Christian enough”. And speaking of atheists and Christians, Kirk Cameron blames atheists for his Saving Christmas movie’s spectacular failure. (Kirk, it’s not our fault that your movie sucks! It’s YOUR fault that you can’t make movies that are appealing broadly beyond your core Christian audiences!)
Here are two quotes I found interesting that I think relates very well to this thread:
“Out of our years of experimenting and experience, we learned one basic thing about bringing pleasure and knowledge to people of all ages and conditions, which goes to the very roots of public communication. That is this: the power of relating facts, as well as fables, in story form.” – Walt Disney
“Orestes is made to say himself what the poet rather than the story demands.”