Film producer, author and motivational speaker DeVon Franklin has helped bring several inspirational films to global audiences, including this year's "Miracles From Heaven" and 2014's "Heaven is For Real." He recently spoke with Cheryl Wetzstein, manager of special sections at The Washington Times, about the future of faith-based filmmaking.
Faith and Film: The (bright) future of faith-friendly films - and filmmaking
Faith and Film: The (bright) future of faith-friendly films - and filmmaking is a Special Report prepared by The Washington Times Advocacy Department and Inspire Buzz.
The continued success of big-budget films with Christian themes like Miracles From Heaven, War Room, Heaven is For Real, and Son of God, and TV miniseries like The Bible continue to follow the trail cut by The Passion of the Christ 14 years ago.
Far too many in entertainment share the misconception that the so-called "faith-based" audience is a niche market.
Do we have faith in film? There are two ways to answer this question and both of them matter. Here's why.
What is it that makes a great faith-based movie? Scriptural citations? A conversion scene? The spreading of the Gospel? No, none of these.
I love start-up companies.
There's a powerful new movie coming out that tells the truth about abortion, and honestly portrays the sacrifices made by hard-working volunteers who give of their time to stand outside abortion mills—winter and summer, rain and shine—and offer women better options. Voiceless opens in theaters across America October 7, and you should bring your friends and family to see it.
I've never considered myself anything more than a simple storyteller ... and all my life I've always believed that storytellers define the culture.
Movies have the ability to change lives and transform culture. Every movie gives us insight into some value system. The question is, which value system?
The era of bad marketing is over, to rephrase President Clinton's famous 1996 State of the Union line.
Will you be angry with us forever?
As a person of faith reflecting on one of the most powerful and influential biblical films of all time, it is a daunting task to say something fresh, something new about such a well-known classic as "The Ten Commandments." But maybe that's wrong. Maybe that's the problem. At the heart of our culture is a rejection of all things old, a reception of all things new. The new is the true, the good and the beautiful. The old is out of date, antiquated, archaic, old-fashioned, so yesterday — and therefore irrelevant.
There's been a tremendous explosion of Christian faith and values in movies and television programs. Our work in the entertainment industry, especially the Christian Film & Television Commission and Movieguide, has been leading the way.
Great storytelling embraces the chaos of life and doesn't try to wrap up all crises as the credits roll, observes Hollywood veteran Rebecca Ver Straten-McSparran.
Recently, Cheryl Wetzstein, manager of special sections for The Washington Times, interviewed "The Young Messiah" director and co-writer Cyrus Nowrasteh, and Vincent Walsh, who played "Joseph." The movie was based on Anne Rice's novel, "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt." The interviews were edited for space and clarity.
How did you prepare for this iconic role of playing Joseph in the Holy Family?
Two factors primarily fostered my decision to make so-called "faith-based" films: One, I grew up in the Christian community and was dissatisfied with the nature and quality of Christian films, and two, I grew up a big movie fan and was frustrated by the fact that I never saw stories that reflected my life experience.
The largest problem with many so-called Christian films today is their inability to connect with audiences who are not already Christian. These Christian ghetto films, such as "Fireproof" or "God's Not Dead," have found success in reaching a segment of the Christian audience, but they have had little impact outside of the Christian bubble they operate in.
Meteor 17 producer and content creator Spencer Proffer strives to make a difference in pop culture with projects aimed at adding meaning for people's lives.
"I Hope You Dance: The Power and Spirit of Song" is the first full-length film to explore how one extraordinary song transformed some people's lives in profound, meaningful and sometimes-startling ways. It is a film about hope, faith, optimism and the power of music to inspire and heal.
The best of film touches on our primal fears and greatest victories. We are omnipresent, observing our favorite actors charging across megaplexes, televisions and cellphones. Looking down into their little worlds of make-believe sets and CGI co-stars. Watching their struggles and dreams from afar.
The recent headline in Variety said it all: "Box Office: 'Ben-Hur' Flops with $11.4 Million."
Let me begin this discussion about how faith and film relate to each other by making an observation. People always act based upon what they truly believe, not what they say they believe.
One of the greatest needs within the Christian community today is clear thinking about how the Bible relates to entertainment, the arts, and Hollywood.
Although my articles are usually written for moviegoers, I thought it would be interesting to pull back the curtain and let you see what's happening behind the scenes with faith and family filmmaking.
What does it mean to be both a moviegoer and a person of faith in today's society? Most faiths have some kind of a ritual of communal storytelling. Every weekend for thousands of years, worshipers of all faiths have gathered together for weekly service, often to ponder about and revel in the most epic stories of all time, like Noah's Ark or Moses crossing the Red Sea; teaching lessons about life and faith.
There is transformative power to stories. The stories that we tell as individuals and as a nation define us and help shape our destiny. You can change a life or shift a nation through stories that are told, received, and believed. Movies and the entertainment industry, in general, are powerful for this reason. Film and TV are great influencers on moral values and cultural norms.
Christians have been trying to "co-opt" the arts for decades for evangelistic purposes. Back in the 1930s, Christian magazines and conferences were launched, and shortly afterwards, Christian radio programs and stations. In the '50s and '60s, Billy Graham and Oral Roberts started having crusades that were televised, so we started into television, birthing the PTL, CBN and TBN television networks in the '70s.
I am writing this piece not as a creator of film content, but rather as a passionate consumer. I am a husband, father of seven (ages 8 to 20), former NFL middle linebacker and devoted follower of Jesus Christ. And I am a sucker for a well-made movie that contains a redemptive plot.
In 2004, Mel Gibson did something remarkable: He detonated Hollywood's expectations of what a "Christian" movie could do.
Our family loves movies, all kinds of movies: art-house indies, blockbuster sci-fi, action thrillers, epic historical dramas, documentaries and last but not least, animated musicals. We love films. We love watching them, discussing them, and for as long as I can remember, we have wanted to make them. Together. As a family.
Ever since the record-smashing success of Mel Gibson's "The Passion Of The Christ," Hollywood, who initially avoided the film like a leper with AIDS, has been clamoring to tap into America's largest demographic -- the faith audience. Since then, dozens of "faith" titles have released with wildly varied results, leaving Hollywood perplexed. Some historically overachieved ("Fireproof," "God's Not Dead") and some historically flopped ("Exodus: Gods and Kings," "Ben Hur").
Hollywood's interaction with faith over the generations has been very fluid. In the middle of the past century, there was a level of reverence and a desire to apply the proper level of splendor to stories of a biblical scope. The counterculture 1960s began the departure for studios, giving way to outright opposition toward faith as the independent film mindset of the 1970s.
The modern era has been so rapidly altered by advances in technology that it is genuinely difficult to appreciate how constant such changes have been for human life over many centuries.
A decade ago, something happened in the filmed entertainment world that I believe has been both a blessing and "a curse": The advent of the modern "faith" film.