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  • Movie Recommendations

    An Open Letter to Christian Movie Makers about Good Art

    January 7, 2016


    images (4)Dear Kendrick Brothers and Other Christian Movie Makers:

    Our church watched War Room last night. We served sheet pizzas and popcorn in a sanctuary lit only with holiday lights, and cozied up on cushioned seats to hear a message that modern married couples desperately need to hear.

    I am writing to ask–no, beg– you to please keep doing what you’re doing. Please keep sending the message. Families depend on it. Porn-torn marriages need Fireproof,  deadbeat dads need Courageous. Please don’t stop.

    And please don’t stop listening to your critics. Keep improving your art form. War Room was the best-acted film you’ve made yet. I don’t know if that’s because you started reaching beyond the walls of Sherwood Baptist Church to bring in more experienced acting talent, or what. But this time, I had no complaints in the acting department. That dialogue with the mom and daughter on the bed–priceless. I wish every busy career parent would watch that scene.

    But I must ask–no, beg you (and I am in my “war room” praying you can humbly receive this), please hire  professional screenwriters. Do with writing what you’ve done with acting. Be   excellent. Strive for the skill called for by the Psalmists. Because the world depends on it.

    Think about it: if your films are mostly only viewed (and reviewed) by church people because the films can’t compete with what Hollywood puts out in terms of good art, you are defeating your whole purpose in making movies.

    And I can think of few things more tragic than a life-saving message not received because of poor packaging.

    I realize you may not even be aware there is anything wrong with your script writing. I don’t have room here to elaborate on that. Ask the pros for a brutally honest critique of your films in the way of writing. Or for that matter, ask a teenager. Learn what it means to “show-not-tell”. To portray, not preach. Don’t state; demonstrate (My mind can’t help but drift to that cringe-inducing infomercial for homeschooling in the rooftop construction scene in Courageous, for example). 

    Study and observe, through a wide variety of highly-rated-film watching, how characters are developed over time–not zapped with a magic wand and transformed into Insta-Saints. Learn how to show reality, not some fantastical form of Christian transformation that never happens in real life. Give people hope by telling better stories–realistic ones that match their own lives. Don’t ignore the complexity of our lives and pretend things are really that simple. Most people who are “Facing Giants” don’t end up with everything they wanted just because they got right with God and started praying. Show–through unpredictable and spell-binding stories written by true artists–that God is worth getting to know for Who He is–not for what He can do for us.

    I don’t mean to sound insulting; please forgive me if I do. I’m just reminding us all to do what we each do well, and leave other things to others who do them better. 

    I still want everyone to see your movies because of the truths they contain. They are obviously helping a lot of people (I want to take my prayer life more seriously now).

    I have taken the time to write because I believe in what you’re doing. The world desperately needs your message, the Gospel. Please, do it well, “that the world may know.”

    P.S. Dear Kendrick Brothers, please read what others are saying. These are big, influential voices that affect movie-goers’ decision to view your films:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/august-web-only/who-does-screenwriter-say-that-i-am.html

    http://thestorymonger.com/filmmaking/the-problem-with-christian-movies/

    http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/film/features/23250-why-are-christian-movies-so-bad

    http://www.churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/156564-why-do-christian-movies-suck.html

    http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-problem-with-christian-films

    3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Christian Movie Makers about Good Art

    1. Cynthia Paliotta says:

      An honest appraisal, meant to encourage…I heartily agree. Hopefully it will be received in the same spirit with which it has been shared.

      1. Anita Moore says:

        I’m so glad you wrote this. I so hope the producers of these kind of films will listen. Look how long it took for a story about Jesus to be truly well done. It took an award winning actor/directer to do it right and he has greatly suffered for it. I don’t ask non christian friends to watch some of these films. They are good, but not professional.Thanks for stepping out in faith.

    2. Laura McCormick says:

      Thank you for writing this.

      You expressed truth without being cruel. I intentionally avoided “War Room” because I expected it to be lame. After all, that’s what its predecessors were. But, considering the comments I’ve heard and read from friends, I will brave a showing.

      You’re right, presenting Christian values is important and Christian movie makers should strive to create professional, convincing, challenging, God-honoring films. I hope they don’t give up.

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