Monday, August 11, 2014

Eight lessons

I don't know whether — when I get to see it — I will think Calvary a good film. Quite a few reviewers like it a lot. But I do think the eight lessons for "faith-friendly" movies offered in this essay are good advice for any film maker intending to portray Christianity in a way that will gain a secular audience in our post-Christian society:
1. People come to listen to a story, not a sermon.
If your story can be summed up as “a nonbeliever learns the error of his ways,” it’s not a story, it’s a sermon. ....
2. Good intentions don’t replace good quality.
.... Message for moviemakers: Take time to learn your craft. Be willing to pay dues. Love the craft of writing, not just the message. Love the beauty of film work, not just the platform. If you don’t get excited about a long camera shot or a brilliant script, this isn’t the field for you.
3. Love all your characters, even the nonbelievers. ....

4. We’ve all got doubts. Make room for them. ....

5. Faith-friendly and family-friendly are not the same thing.
If your main goal is to make a PG rated film with no boobs or f-bombs, you’ll miss great human stories, including many of the ones in the Bible. Make great kids’ movies for kids, but make great grown up movies for adults. “Calvary” is rated R for language, brief violence, and adult themes, but isn’t salacious or graphic. ....
6. Acknowledge that believers sometimes do bad things.
.... Message to filmmakers: Be brave enough to show the downside of the faithful. God can take it.
7. Don’t pull your punches.
Father Lavelle is a priest. Who is Catholic. Like the Pope. He tells people what God has said in Scripture, calls them on their evasions, and never apologizes for what he believes. The best Christian characters are nuanced, but unapologetically Christian. It’s at the core of who they are. Audiences respect consistent characters. Don’t hint or use euphemisms or tiptoe around faith. ....
8. Go for the heart, not the brain.
Christian subculture films often focus on convincing the viewer of some sermon-friendly point. “Calvary” hits deeper. It makes the case for faith by presenting the emptiness of life without it.

When you think about it, most people occupying church pews didn’t come to belief through a logical debate. Ask people about the moment they found God and they will tell you emotional, mystic moments: The time they sat in Taco Bell and saw the beauty and diversity of the faces around them and knew there must be a Creator. The time they came to the desperate end of their own goodness in a hotel room and begged for mercy. The time they heard their baby laugh and knew there must be a soul.

Message to filmmakers: Film is about feelings. Find the emotion of faith, the dark night of the soul, the joy of being used by God, a deep love of humanity in its beautiful brokenness, or the experience of the God of the Universe touching a human heart—and you will find a movie worth making. For everyone. [more]