Christian Movies and Pornography

I thought I’d bring this one back from when I originally posted it in 2009 – because I think it’s worth re-considering.  I know I’ll get some hate mail with this one, and certainly don’t want to be offensive.  But it’s been said that from production and storytelling perspectives, many “Christian” movies of the past years are not that different from porn movies.  Here’s why:

1.     They’re both usually ultra-low budget.

2.     The stories are not well developed (Because that’s not the point of the films).

3.     The characters are usually shallow and poorly crafted.  (Again, not the point of the films).

4.     The acting is pretty terrible – usually way over done.

5.     It’s all about the money shot – in Christian movies, it’s about the salvation moment or altar call, and in porn, well, you know…

Hey – I didn’t say it, but it IS worth thinking about….

When you don’t create a well crafted, compelling film FIRST, then no matter how important the message, your response will always be forced, and it’s real potential will never be realized.

What do you think?  

 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 at 12:00 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Karen Covell

    Phil,  I’m going to get in trouble by agreeing with you, but I think that both types of films are Agenda films and that’s tnot the best use of the medium.  Also, the only difference is that they attract a different audience….. sometimes!  However, if we’re listening to the statistics of what pastors are doing on-line, then maybe it is the same audience……  Oh, I can’t wait to read other comments! 

  • http://www.godawa.com Brian Godawa

     

    I have some sympathy with the criticism of “Christian movies” because it makes the point that meaning without quality in art has moral ramifications. If we create art that does not value excellence of craftsmanship, we dishonor God (Exodus 36).

     

    However, I fear the “porn again” analogy may be excessive rhetoric that may overstate the case and become more of an insult than an edifying exhortation. Perhaps a better description of “Christian movies” would be not as “pornography” but as “propaganda.” There is some place for propaganda in culture, but its weaknesses are weighty: It sacrifices the complexity of life to an oversimplification which may result in a distortion of the truth, It stresses a singular viewpoint that often lacks the diversity of wisdom, and it tends to manipulate action without contemplation through formula.

     

    Of course, there is well-crafted, excellent quality propaganda, like the Obama “hope” and “change” iconography. And those offended by the porn analogy may argue back that excellence of craft without moral meaning can be just as “pornographic” as moral meaning without excellence. After all, consider the highest quality craftsmanship illustrated in the soft core porn of some advertising and hollywood movies.

     

  • Eric T

    Phil, I actually heard you talk about this very thing way back in 2000.  I just recently saw a blockbuster Christian film that made a ton of money this last year.  It was low budget and starred someone who regularly appears on TBN.  Enough said.  I saw through the whole thing.  And it finally occurred to me that what I was seeing was a teaching tool and not a real story or film.  And I think that is part of the disconnect with Christian film in general: they are not films that tell a powerful story that naturally illustrates God’s truth, they are tools meant to evangelize.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  But we should be clear that there is a difference and the two are not the same thing.

  • Sara

    “Criticize by creating”

  • Patrick Knock

         I know what you mean.  It seems like Christian movies start with the question, “What excuse can we have to make a movie based around an altar call?”  I think if we focused more on making a universally interesting story, and doing it with excellence, then who we are as a Christian and how we think would naturally permeate the script.  For example, insead of all the Christians in the movie being lunatics as in most movies, we would show them in a more positive light.  Instead of the liberal mindset  being promoted, there would be a different slant.  Instead of the “free sex, drugs, etc.” themes, there could be  “look how foolish and destructive that type of lifestyle is” themes.  The stories would automatically have more meaning, and be based in truth, which is something I believe people would gravitate to.  After all, the highest grossing films are not the filthy cussing violent rated R films, but, believe it or not, the family films.

  • Voyager529

    I’m with you 100%, Phil.

     

    I’ll even go a step further and say that Christians need to take a look at the gay/lesbian movement over the past 20 years. In 1990, being gay was socially unacceptable in the vast majority of circles, and the concept of national acceptance of gay marriage was almost laughable. There were very few gay characters in movies or on TV, and anyone marching for gay rights was almost newsworthy. Today, it’s almost the reverse, while saying that you’re a Born Again Christian feels almost taboo.

    Christians as a whole seem to think that the way to “take back America for Jesus” is through legislating morality. Clearly, that doesn’t work. The gay community started a shift in the thinking of the culture as a whole FIRST, and THEN the legislation followed. That’s the way it worked in the 20′s with women’s suffrage, that’s the way it worked in the 60′s with civil rights, and that’s the way it’s working now. Culture first, legislation reflecting culture. And mediocre-at-best movies don’t count.

     

    Joey

  • LIGHTSup

    “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

     

    In other words, go and make a world changing CHRIST CENTERED movie and then repost all your criticisms, then they’ll actually mean something.

     

    THINK.ABOUT.[IT]

  • Rebekah

    Amen!  As a would-be filmmaker who speaks and learns best through story, imagery and emotion, it’s frustrating when my church continually tells me that I’m using my talents for God if I do watered-down, preachy skits for the choir, but if I aim to do something for a broader audience, I’m being vain and conceited.  It’s like being caught in the cruelest of traps to sit in a church where one moment the preaching of the word is inspiring soaring stories that I’d love to see on the big screen, moving audiences to draw closer to God in a way that only a story can do, and the next moment I’m told by non-artists “that’s nice–you know what you should do is…” [followed by suggestions for announcement-time commercials or a perscription to follow the template created by "those people" from "that church" who made the only good film that's ever been made, "you know, the one that told everyone how bad 'that' sin is."] 

  • Danny Vargas

    Hi Phil, Danny Vargas from Peru

    There are many factors like :

    Religiosity, which implics b can’t hire Director of Photography , beacuse is no Christian person and God doesn’t like nothing False

    There is no good history “scripts”

    The way to tell the story is not the better “Narrative”•

    We manage Christian codes that the no christian people doesn’t understand

    The image processing “Edition and Post”

    The Secular interests is very diferent to the christian interests

    we may continue whit the long list….

    and finally i think that the solution to this

    is in divide 2 things :

    Christian Movies which identifies them more

    and movies for no christian which can show the love of God

    the viewer can feel a sense of recognition

    The viewer can see his nakednessand sin

    Are new times, new codes should be handled

    It’s time to give the opportunity to “New Directors”

    I’m one of them “Danny Vargas”

  • Patrick_Knock

    Isn’t it interesting that movies have been around for over 100 years, yet if you asked 99.999% of Christians how one is made, they couldn’t tell you the first thing.  Just a thought.

  • James McMann

    Phil, I agree but you are missing a few more issues.

    -Both tend to abuse/exploit those that work for them.

    -Both prey on people’s emotional and tangable need for Love but denying true intamacy and fulfilment.

    -Both are usually produced it build up a man’s kingdom and not God’s.

    -And no matter what they promise their investors, they are purposely creating content for a nich market thus marginalizing themselves, preventing them from influencing the mainstream culture and then blaming/demonizing others for their failure to do so.

     

    Blessings,

    James McMann

  • island girl

    Both make me feel ashamed when I watch…

  • Patrick_Knock

    There truly have been some well made Christian movies.  I enjoyed “Fireproof”, “A Thief in the Night,” and TBN’s “Omega Code 2″.  But you have to admit there have been a few bombs out there haha.

  • http://russds.com Russ Smith

    Unfortunately I agree.  It’s sad but true.  I like your message that good production and story telling should come first, then a message.  That’s so true.  Jesus is a good example.  Stories first.  Lessons and principles second.

  • Beverly

    A few years back — probably when LOTR came out, The Lord told me that all the major blockbuster films from here on out would carry His message. He would use any film maker to convey His message, but you do have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to see it and hear it, and above all, have discernemnt.  Despite the fact that most Christian film makers can’t do a great job creating a Christ centered film, He will use others to do just that. And I must note that this has held up true. Some of these blockbuster films are made by Christians, such as Ralph Winter, but most aren’t– they are simply made by people who God chose to use. Too often our own Christian preconceived ideas get in the way of good film making and good story telling.

  • Gary Dowd

    A number of years ago, while traveling on a flight from Hawaii, my seatmate was a very talkative Christian lady who couldn’t stop gushing over a recently released “Christian” film. I had seen the film. It was really bad and I was hard pressed to say anything positive about it – so I basically smiled and nodded at the appropriate places. As long as there are people who will watch and buy poorly made movies – and like them – we’ll always have bad Christian films, Hallmark movies, and unfortunately, porn. Sad.

  • Gary Dowd

    LIGHTSup. Why are you shouting? (I’m assuming you know that CAPS mean shouting in Internet language).

    Would you also suggest that one would have to make a pornographic movie to earn the right to critcize them?

    While I wouldn’t discount for a minute the motives and intentions of those who produced Christian films in the past, I think the frustration many are feeling today is that the genre just hasn’t evolved very much and I doubt their effectiveness in today’s culture. Could God use one of these films to reach someone? Absolutely – God can use anything for His purpose. But is there a more effective way to spend $1,000,000? I think so.

  • Anthony Peterson

    Mmm - I get where you are coming from, but I think poltical advertising might be a more appropriate comparison.

  • Josh Jacobs

    The agenda for a movie should be as Walt Disney put it, “Story, Story, Story”.  The problem I’ve seen with movies that they promote oftentimes in Christian media is that there is an agenda about sending a message to Hollywood.  I’ve also found that Christian film reviewers give a great review to a film if it is known that Christians have made it, no matter how bad the product is.

    The fact is that the message has been sent to Hollywood.  Family friendly films with a great story do well.  Even films that critics pan such as Disney-Pixar film “Up” have done well because the story is something that people can identify with and word of mouth spreads.  Films with an agenda, whether political, religious or otherwise just don’t do as well.  Granted films that I wouldn’t want myself to see do well, but the family friendly do the best.

    I remember back in 1995, there were two films with a pig as the main character.  The first one was a film that advertised mainly in Christian media. Rather than talking about the story, they emphasized how bad Hollywood was and that this film doing well would send Tinsel town the message; the film’s producer even voiced a radio ad for the film talking about the film’s agenda in a way that was a turn off because it came off sounding angry.   This film was called “Gordy” and opened up at number 9 at the box office and was forgotten soon after. 

    The second film about a pig had a great storyline and the trailers were not about agendas, but a story that tugs at your heart strings and “Babe” became one of the biggest hits of the year.  Hollywood got the message, but not with a film promoted by Christians, but a film everyone could identify with.

     

     

  • Dana Harding

    Saw a trailer for a Christian movie (unnamed) several years ago, and thought “Wow, this looks like it could be pretty good”. Went to the movie, and found out that every exciting clip in the movie was in the 2 minute trailer.

     

    You make a great point, Phil.

  • merryfiddler

    Great point Phil. If there’s an “agenda” it shows and ruins the whole thing. Films like “Up” & “Babe” are great. People identify with them easily because they are made of the nuts & bolts of what life is about: places we’ve all been, heartaches we’ve all had and, hopefully, solutions we’ve all found.

  • Diane

    hear! hear!

  • Jeremy

    I couldn’t agree more with your points, Phil.  Story is a powerful tool to communicate a message only if that message is dramatized through the action of the story. This requires characters that fail, struggle, and grow.  Neither Christian movies nor porn do this.  Rather, their characters are merely puppets for their agenda.  If characters are not genuine, the message they share is lost.

  • http://www.montevistapictures.com Dean Krueger

     

    The thing about Christian movies is that they tend to preach to the choir. The choir knows the preaching. They move their mouths along with the preacher. You can see the boredom in their eyes.

     

    Where’s the good news in most faith-based movies? Audiences are moved by atmosphere much more than teachings, and most faith-based films are heavy on the teaching and light on the atmosphere. What if filmmakers created an atmosphere of heaven in their films? I’d love to see that. I think the audience might want to see that. And so would the choir.

     

  • Courtney Joy

    The thing about the creation of porn movies is that those producing them aren’t necessarily attempting to grab a non-interested audience and “convert” them to porn addicts; they are satisfied with appealing to those who already qualify for their target demographic. They already have a tremendous audience so marketing outside of that isn’t necessarily their main objective.

    Contrariwise, Christian movies (at least in the beginning) have an objective to market to unbelievers hoping to convert them through their efforts. In other words, their target audience is outside of themselves; it’s outside of their culture.

    It’s just interesting that there are SO many reasons why Christian movies and porn movies are comparable, yet there’s this one huge difference. If we took marketing out of the equation and saw where the impact was regardless of their marketing efforts, the porn movies would actually make it to their target audience without even trying; the Christian movies definitely would not. 

    The bottom line is that Christian movie producers aren’t taking their target audience into account in every step of the creation process. A good producer will not only identify WHO their target audience is, but they’ll also identify WITH their target audience. They’ll put forth the effort to relate to them, they’ll find out what passions drive them, they’ll determe the core and foundation of what their beliefs are and build an appealing argument/story from this platform. Which, number one: isn’t going to be moral and number two: isn’t going to be biblical. And since these two seem to be the defining, conspicuous traits of Christian movies, they’ll ever only be sitting in the homes of already Jesus-followers. “Here’s a gift for you, my African-American friend – have a tanning bed.” #Irrelevancy.

    The question is, can we relay the gospel in a way that appeals to the core identity of non-believers without being blunt or smothering with our Law and morals?

     

  • Andrea Turner

    I agree….Besides a relatively few good quality Christian movies….the film directing and production quality is usually lacking…and it’s probably not all to do with a low budget…they just come across to be so cheesy sometimes…..as does porn! Another minority group whose films fall into this category….are the gay and lesbian films. CHEESY!!!!!

  • http://www.cregentertainment.com Dean

    I’m all for the use of modern production in our church services and in our entertainment endeavors but this constant push to make the gospel “relevant” is futile.

    God’s own word calls it foolishness. No matter how clever we make it sound – unless you are changing the core message the gospel will always be foolishness to the naturally minded person.

    Just make your project look and sound good on a technical level and leave the reception of the message to the viewer up to the Holy Spirit.

    I will add, foolish or not… we don’t have to be lame and cheesy. 

  • http://www.facethereckoning.com John

    Dean, in her defense, your statement “I’m all for the use of modern production in our church services and in our entertainment endeavors but this constant push to make the gospel ‘relevant’ is futile” sounds rather defeatist and contradictory.  It sounds as though you support something already determined to fail. I did not get the feeling that her idea of making the Gospel “relevant” meant changing the message, but rather being creative with how it is communicated. This is not a personal attack leveled at you by any means.

    “God’s own word calls it foolishness” I disagree and this is a rather harsh generalization of the Gospel in the context of how it resonates (or not) with the naturally minded person. Otherwise, why do we even try? The Gospel is never foolishness, although God’s wisdom in certain things most certainly will be to the naturally minded person, the GOSPEL is not. The most critical voices of the “futile” attempts at relevance in the church comes from its own members, myself included. I find it, albeit generally, more effective that the naturally minded person appreciates the church’s “futile” attempt at relevance because it communicates the inclusivity of the Gospel rather than the exclusivity mindset that naturally-minded people see from MANY of today’s churches who remain culturally, technologically stagnate. A common question I hear from people who take note of a church’s lack of upgraded technology is this: “Can they not afford a projector, or do they not believe in that sort of thing?” While the latter may be a joke, it implies a serious perception that current non-believers feel concerning the Church and its relationship with Multimedia.

    “Just make your project look and sound good on a technical level and leave the reception of the message to the viewer up to the Holy Spirit.” If I may add to it, I would add this:  Ministers, creative arts directors and the like, need to be the Christ-example in how they relate and participate in the rules/trends of the day, and that includes the methods by which any message, whether it is the gospel or another message, is presented using the most effective mediums available. The Church is the one that should have been leading this technological charge all along as it is.

    @Phil Cooke: I can’t watch a Christian movie ever again now that I will have in my mind the idea that it is the same format as a Porn film.

  • http://www.thechurchonthe.net Joseph Bruno

    Just cause it isn’t a popular opinion, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

  • Paul Rose Jr

    You are aware, LIGHTSup that Phil Cooke and his colleagues have created more movies, television and faith-based media than just about anyone else out there, right?  I’m sure you are – why would you level criticism without having all the facts, right?

    Speaking as someone who HAS made a film (in post-production now), as well as worked in the Christian media industry, let me tell you – those criticisms are right on the mark.

    What have YOU done lately?

  • Christian Munch

    True!, but… I belive the Holy spiriy uses sincere people with little knowlage, rater than no one!

    In my world its not the Pastors job to make a movie, don’t wait for your pastor or churches, to put you to work and give you money to make a good craftet movie. Thats like David waiting for Saul to help him kill Goliat.

    In Denmark were I live, people don’t now about Christian movies and christianity at all, but all know about porn big time, also in “mainstream” movies! we have mentally sick people in our media world that often make top quality art movies, that gets awards in Cannens and toronto, but still they just fokus on getting porn and the indside evil human, out in public with no hope for future! I think the movies you talk about would do better in a black and white world like things are becomming in here. All the news and movies are about the devils works, and the positive, story is often neglected.

    I belive every little video can save people just by telling simple stories about Jesus and his work today (not always 2000 years ago). Again don’t wait for the big production teams to come and help you! then i gurrante you won’t reach anybody with your movie, not even the porn addicted people!

    Remenber, David was NOT a soldier when he won his first war!

  • http://www.inthatdayteachings.com Robert Winkler Burke

    Christian movies bomb when they have no parabolic truth in them.

    One is tempted ask how much Christian truth is in the authors of such.

    For example, is Rapture a lie?  No argument can be positively made against rapture, other than that most films made about it stink, hence they have no parbolic truth, hence rapture is a lie.

    It’s sort of an “eyes to see, ears to hear” conjecture.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    DUDE!  SOMEBODY ELSE NOTICED THE RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN CHRISTIAN (TM) MOVIES AND PORN!  I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE!

    And it’s not just movies.  It’s Christian (TM) Fiction, Christian (TM) TV Drama, pretty much Christian (TM) anything.  Money shot every X pages (Bible Verse et al) and the Big Money Shot (Altar Call ending) at the Climax.  Whumpa-Whumpa-Whumpa-GRUNT, Whumpa-Whumpa-Whumpa-GRUNT…

  • John

    In an extraordinarily simple way, though, there is at least one aspect of American life that could benefit from Pope John Paul II’s message about the home, i.e., “make your home a haven of peace”. I remember learning styles in the 1960′s that approached the idealism of political peace by denying the need for participation in Vietnam, after going through the Korean War, but you can’t easily lock down human desire! The Church emphasizes non-pre-marital sex and post-marriage unions between men and women, and that is traditional.

    Adultery has well-known definitions not stated here. New manifestations of “open marriage” and “free love” are becoming socially acceptable to the point where the actions appear to be the norm (especially to many American children) as opposed to an exception. So, if one believes and has faith, peace can be maintained by following the law of Moses and the Gospels of Jesus – but – what does Jesus (and St. John) say about marriage?

    Today, in the 21st century, culture influences sexuality in much the same way that freestyle dancing influenced 80′s subculture. Namely, by producing a social style of living that became so entrenched in that generation’s way of life that the memory of that time causes us to sometimes make reckless decisions about what we can bodily tolerate as we approach late middle-age. Denying that fact is difficult, and many innocent-looking people might actually be prostituting themselves in one form or another using technology and privacy to earn money and make a living.

    The Church has even addressed the situation by changing the Rosary decades and adding “The Mysteries of Light” and changing Mass prayers using substantial changes in wording, in accordance with what perhaps is a “changing world view” amongst Roman Catholics. But, once a personal decision is made to either conform or not to conform to Church canon and law – where does one go from there? Do people still believe in good vs. evil? Is human desire a human construct, and mostly, are humans made in a way that denies us any attempts at complete control over our human desire?

    If only St.’s Paul and Jude were alive today to help us out with definitions about spiritual rewards and speaking about the benefits of a nominally Christian lifestyle! As opposed to the fear of public ridicule (and even detentions and arrests for illegality) that comes from accepting as part of human nature, our own sexuality, avoiding repeated forms of disorganized and bad decision-making, violent accusations in favor of Jesus Christ’s way, and street demagoguery, seems reasonable.

    Loathsome stagnation in our own personal life, and on behalf of those of our loved ones might lead ultimately to frustration, self condemnation and ultimately, if an attitude is assumed that is “righteous”, to peace, but, again, self-control can be difficult!! Definition might be everything here! Sacraments and even blood-letting were used in the Middle Ages. Today, we attend seminars and watch comedy. Where do we really go from here, trendwise, and what gives?

  • John

    Correction to below, P2 should read “do” and not “does”. Sorry!

  • little praiser

    I will have you write about something that many can say once more you are wicked. Yes I will teach you something that is wicked in their eyes yet you will still be loved in mine. Don’t write a thing until I fully prepare you. Now I have put together material from other projects that he assigned me to do in the past years.
    Yes just as we saw no one being able to stop Christian rock music. I see Christian sex games and porno making its way into Christians peoples lives. Yes just as the rock music was tried to be stopped so is sex games and porn. Read the bible cover to cover and you will read that no matter a husband and wife does is not a sin. Only sex outside marriage and marital unfaithfulness is a sin.
    Apple- It is a symbol of fertility, ecstasy and abundance. The root of this symbol again lies in Greek history. The Greek god of wine, Dionysus, offered apple to Aphrodite and win her love. Even, Gais supply them to Hera, signifying love and union. Moreover, apple stands for feminine love and beauty. Satan the third party tempted Eve. American Mandrake, or May Apples, is medicinal and edible fruit. The fully ripe fruit is eaten raw, cooked or made into jams, jellies, marmalades, and pies. It is very aromatic, and has a sweet peculiar but agreeable flavor. May Apples seeds and rind are not edible, said to be poisonous. Yes it is true without the knowledge of the good and evil the apple could kill.
    Mark 9: 38 -41 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
    Therefore if anyone makes a Christian couple sex game and digital sex games or even somehow could make Christian porno that is acceptable to God should not be stopped. I would not be against anything that saves the family and marriages. For married couples what goes on in our bedroom is no ones business. Even if you have nude videos and pictures of yourself and spouse in this digital age then your life has become a little more difficult. For you need to guard them with your life although there is many ways to protect them with security code and parental protection. If anyone get a hold of them without your permission or break your security code should be treated as a thief for it is like breaking into your home or bedroom. God abhors nakedness when it is forced upon a person against their will. No one should ever post your privacy to the public against your own will.
    As an artist it makes me feel great when people are in aw of my work. Therefore glorify God with aw of your naked spouse. Sex itself is not a sin and nudity in itself is not a sin. Many times as we read the scriptures public nudity is not condemned. How long shall we continue allowing divorces and babies being born out of wedlock as the new norm? Isn’t it about time we save the families and marriages?

    • Wil Phu LeMaul

      Huh?

  • Alan T

    Don’t forget bad lighting…

  • http://www.facebook.com/samuel.adler.714 Samuel Adler

    Good points Phil. All very true. I hear the excuse alot from Christians that “its all about the message. Not the production quality” rather it be films, music, and media in general. Sadly they dont have the same attitude when purchasing everyday products. BTW, looks like you have some passionate followers.. ie “little praiser”.

  • http://twitter.com/JoshReidMedia Josh Reid

    I remember reading this a few years ago, and it gave me a laugh, but also also made me seriously decide the type of films I wanted to make. – …so my next porn film is….

  • saintdepraved

    I hate that I agree, but I agree.

    The agenda does tend to overshadow the message.

    And as you stated, the quality (or lack of it) most certainly overshadows the message!

    That’s is why with http://www.reelparables.com I tend to stick with non-Chrisitan (secular) movies when teaching the bible.

    With the “agenda” out of the equation I find that my friends are more willing to listen to the (biblical) truth.

  • Tony

    wow good points Phil. Unfortunately from a financial perspective, these low budget porn films manage to create a billion dollar industry.

  • Paulo

    I agree 100%. I really feel that we need authenticity in whatever we do as believers. Thanks for being real Phil.

  • JustJoni

    Don E in LA area wrote a great book on the importance of quality in the Christian Arts. I think you may know him. Worth mentioning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jprush1 Jeffrey P. Rush

    In the words of Rush, “Right on! Right on! Right on!”

  • DJ Clare

    HI absolutely correct most Christian movies are simply boring!!!!!! No story line and the pastor dominates in so many. When are churches finally go to realize the best investment is in video and media not the not the new pulpit!

  • Deborah Dessaso

    Oh, how I agree! As a writer, I am constantly amazed by how many movies–Christian and nonChristian–almost seem to consider it a bother to tell a story. Even the much-heralded Passion of the Christ was boringly told. If you didn’t know who the disciples were before you went into the theater, you certainly didn’t know when you left. For those Christian movies who manage to get a story in, the plots are mediocre, same-as-the-last-one, plodding, you name it. Of course, the ultimate bad movie is the one based on a book–the Good One or otherwise–that is done so badly, you can scarcely recognize the story. (I’ve heard such criticisms about the recent Bible miniseries and the one on Noah a few years ago.) Somebody needs to tell today’s filmmakers, Christian and otherwise, that humans like well-told stories, and if filmmakers find storytelling boring, they need to find another line of work!

  • GordonMarcy

    Phil, I align closely with your thinking about the need for Christians to make good art that is God honoring and excellent. But I seriously doubt that the risks of watching bad Christian art are analogous to the risks of watching porn. Though you get a ten for shock-value in your headline.

    • http://philcooke.com Phil Cooke

      Great point Gordon, but the post wasn’t about the “risks” of watching either, it was about the comparison between the two.

  • Marc

    By answering this, do I have to admit that I’ve watched enough of either type of film to state an informed opinion? lol

    Phil, shame on you for picking on the Christian filmmakers. ;) You could make the same comparison about almost any type of movie. There are plenty of low budget movies produced every year with different genres and poorly developed characters. Horror movies, sports movies, dancing movies, movies for animal lovers, documentaries, kids movies, etc.

    For once, It would be nice to see you call out more of the good in some of these Christian films. Which ones have you liked? What is worth calling out and lifting up? The quality is improving, the writing is improving, the acting is better, the distribution is improving, and the kingdom benefits from it. It’s just easier to be a critic?

    Not hate mail, of course, meant with all due respect.

    • http://philcooke.com Phil Cooke

      Valid point Marc. I feel another blog post coming on…. :-)

  • Rachael

    People get so mad at me when I say things like this about Christian films! Thank God someone is seeing it too!

  • ProfLisa

    I’ll even add to that comparison.

    5. Bad dialogue.

    6. Are only viewed by people who already agree with the message.

    7. Most artisans in the craft don’t crossover into mainstream.

    Hey – if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

     

     

  • http://rmjcommunications.com/ Rick Wilson

    8.  Poorly written.

    9. Poorly produced.

    10. Artistically irrrelevant.

    There!! Now we have a top ten list Phil – “Top 10 reasons why Christian films are like pornography.”  I double dog dare you to bring that up adult Sunday School Class at church.  CHICKEN IF YOU DON’T!!

    Great use of a left field metaphor to make a great on the money point.  Let me get autobiographical for a moment.

    I was born into a family of communicators – writers, Advertising AE’s, producers, PR people, Media Managers.  In Detroit and New York City, I hung out in movie theaters, TV studios, broadway shows and radio stations.  Can you imagine what an extreme culture shock it was to come into the faith community where “we just don’t go to movies, brother Rick,”?

    One day someone showed me a copy of a “powerful film” called “A Thief in the Night,” that they just “knew would lead people to Jesus.”  Getting through it was hard enough – dealing with the sincerely naive person who showed it to me was even more challenging!

    I’m hoping and praying that someday we are delivered from the cultural monasticism that produces cultural pornography!  God help us!  We need your help too Phil!!  Great post!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I heard about Thief in the Night in the Seventies, when I’d heard (from Rich Buhler’s afternoon radio talk show) that it had freaked out a LOT of Christian kids, BAD.  After hearing that, I had no desire to see it.  (I’m not wrapped all that tight to start with, and my head got seriously messed up by an end-of-the-world cult in the early Seventies.)

    Well, many years afterwards a PBS documentary had three clips from Thief in the Night.  Here is my impressions of the clips, word-for-word:

    1)  That’s Thief in the Night?  Looks more like Manos, Hands of Fate.

    2)  Where’s Joel and the Bots?  They should be at the bottom of the screen…

    3)  AAAAAAGH! WE HAVE MOVIE SIGN!

    (Since then, I have heard about the sequels to Thief in the Night.  Including the infamous Rubber Scorpion Stinger scene.)

  • http://jonathanbrink.com Jonathan Brink

    True.  True.

  • http://ondomedia.com John Ondo

    I completely agree…and to carry the similarities further

    both are only distributed inside their own “culture” ie Christian Book Stores or Porn Stores, not general market.

    and most people are embarrassed to discuss that they watch it regularly because of the stereotype it leave you with.

     

     

  • Anthony La Fleur

    I agree with you Phil about the lack of story and character development in Christian films.  I came to a realization not too long ago that the reason this problem exists is that we as Christian film makers try to make the films stand alone.  What I mean by that is if someone watches the film we think that the viewer has to walk away with a deeper understanding of the gospel.  This is actually a very difficult thing to do with a visual medium.  Film is not meant for preaching in my opinion because the use of dialogue at times weakens the power of the images.  My conclusion is that we should be trying to arose an emotion rather than trying to educate our viewers.  We should think of film as a tool to point people in a direction.  For example The Day After Tomorrow feeds on the emotion of fear of global warming but really doesn’t educate people on the science or specifics.  The film children of men has a great pro-life message that makes you respect and understand the importance of life.  If you showed films that were made in this manner to an audience they would be entertained, but they would also have emotions that could later be built upon with studying the word, prayer and fellowship.  Just as in mission work you have to win the heart before you can win the mind.  But unfortunately there are some the believe that a turn in this direction is considered blasphemy.  I just hope that one day the majority of Christian film makers can see outside of this box that we have put ourselves in.     

  • http://hahnjd.wordpress.com Daniel Hahn

    The insult is irrelevant.  People don’t like to hear the truth, but sometimes you gotta call it like it is.  I’m to the point that I despise church production all together (and I’m a tech guy, so that’s a big deal) because I think it’s pointless.  Several other commenters have already pointed out that the audience is a small niche of people who already agree with the message.  What if the church actually presented media that was engaging?  What if we could show the production (commercial, tv show, movie, whatever) during primetime on NBC or FOX and it actually challenged people rather than made them roll their eyes, ignore it,  and make fun of it’s low quality?

    It is what it is, Phil.  Way to call it out.

  • Danny Orser

    When you watch a “Christian” movie, you can tell it’s a “Christian” movie within the first five minutes.

    The “Passion” was rated R and I dare say, none was more effective in it’s message.

  • http://gkfields.blogspot.com Walt the Lesser

    I’ve found that the most “Christian” message is delivered by characters who honestly live their lives in a Christian manner. They don’t stand on a street corner screaming the good news at people. Rather, little things tell the audience they are watching real Christians–in a war movie, a young paratrooper opens a letter from his mom and a rosary falls out; a man closes a small bible and puts it aside as a scene opens; a chaplain makes the sign of the Cross just before a brigade marches into battle during the Civil War while the commanding general and his staff sit their horses with their hats removed out of respect though not Catholics. This is visual shorthand. It tells the audience from where these people are coming and their future actions teach what the character believes.

    In my own writing, some characters are Catholic, some are Protestants of various flavors, some are Jews. The one thing they have in common, they act in a manner that draws from their deeply held belief. They don’t declaim, they just try to live as God expects them to and get on with it.

  • Paul Stanier

    Christian films should express Christian virtues but not overtly ram these down the throat. Its about bringing people back to the profound need for all mankind to know and abide in the boundaries God has lovingly set but doing so in a compelling, non religious way.