Top producers, writers and filmmakers in Hollywood have spoken of their desire to see more faith-based movies that promote spiritually uplifting content as an alternative to the frequent violence for violence sake movies.
by Courtney Lee
Some of the biggest behind-the-scenes names in Hollywood film production have shared their dream to make more faith-based movies that eschew violence for violence sake and instead embrace great spiritually uplifting stories with positive content. Movieguide, an established family guide to movies and entertainments in the US, brought top producers and filmmakers in Hollywood together to share their thoughts on faith-based moviemaking at two special Movieguide Panels, reports Assist News.
"I want to do something that I can be proud of, that my children can be proud of," said panel member Leo Severino, formerly with the Producers Guild of America and the Fox Networks Group and first-time producer of Bella, a family-friendly Christian movie that became the surprise winner of the Audience Award at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival in September. "Good stories with good content. Beauty, art and morality go together,” he said during the panels, held at the recent Screenwriting Expo 5 in Los Angeles and sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. Severino pointed out that filmmakers spend huge amounts of time working on perfecting the colour and lighting of each shot but challenged, “How much time is spent on the moral content of a movie?"
The founder of Movieguide and author of So you want to be in pictures, Dr. Ted Baehr, led the panels. "People want to see good news at the movies. People don't want violence for violence sake,” he said, adding that China and Muslim countries, which represent at least 50 per cent of the world’s population, do not allow sex or violence in their movies or on TV.
Joel T. Smith is a writer, producer and distributor who has worked on the TV movie Merlin and the TV series Tarzan. "There's a universality to Christian ethics that can be appreciated by many people," he said. "Christian products have universal themes that people in Spain, Germany and Scandinavia can relate to." Dr. Baehr also pointed out that films with morally and spiritually uplifting content and with positive Christian values and elements enjoy the greatest success at the box office. "People want good to triumph over evil. The average person wants to see people with hope."
Smith said, however, that it was pointless to criticise the Hollywood studio executives for their overriding interest in money. "You don't criticise a tiger for having stripes," he pointed out. "Ninety per cent of independent movies don't make money [but] the Internet will open channels that aren't there just yet."
Dr. Baehr ended with a core message for writers, producers and filmmakers who dream of making more faith-based films. "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever,” he said, citing Daniel 12:3 and Ephesians 5:1-3 of the Bible. He continued: "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." Dr Baehr said: "Don't stoop to conquer.”
Members of the panel included:
- John Dahl, director of Red Rock West and The Great Raid
- Will Davies, screenwriter of Twins starring Arnold Schwarzeneggar and a writer on Richie Rich, Beverly Hills Cop III and the upcoming Flushed Away from DreamWorks Pictures
- Penney Finkelman-Cox, producer of The Prince of Egypt and Antz and Vice President of Sony Pictures Animation, which made the recent animated family hit Open Season
- Denise Guerin, Senior Vice President of Film for alternative, specialised and digital film programming for Regal Theatres, the largest theatre chain in the world
- Rob Hudnut, Mattel's executive producer for entertainment production, including the popular Barbie in the Nutcracker, the first Barbie movie, and executive producer of the 1996 US TV series Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys
- David Sams, marketing and producing guru for such TV hits in the US as Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and the Oprah Winfrey Show, the popular CD compilation Keep the Faith, and president of a new company that will produce and distribute faith-based, Christian movies and digital entertainment
- Leo Severino, formerly with the Producers Guild of America and the Fox Networks Group and first-time producer of Bella, a family-friendly Christian movie that became the surprise winner of the Audience Award at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival in September
- Joel T. Smith, a writer, producer and distributor behind such works as the TV movie Merlin, the TV series Tarzan, the upcoming Paradise Bound and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, and producer and script supervisor for eight TV movies for ABC Family Channel, the Lifetime Network and the Sci-Fi Channel
- Casey Wolfe, a top creative executive at the Walt Disney Company