The year 2006 was a turning point in Christian cinema history. With the release of “Facing the Giants” churches and individuals across the country decided that if Sherwood Baptist could make a movie, maybe they could too. Now, hundreds of faith-based films are produced each year, many by folks who’ve never before even handled a video camera. The market is flooded with these films, all fighting for an audience of Christian and secular buyers.
Making faith-based movies is a good thing, but it’s not an undertaking that should be entered into rashly, and it’s definitely not for everyone. Before embarking on a film-making journey, first ask yourself a few simple questions.
1)Why do you want to make a movie?
If you’re searching for fame and fortune, keep searching. Only a minuscule percent bring in the big bucks. A lucky few recoup their expenses and make a small profit. The majority never even make it to the break even point.
Independent Christian filmmaking isn’t about the money. It’s about using the strengths and experiences that God has blessed you with to encourage, convict, enlighten, or otherwise impact lives for God’s glory. It is not for the weak of heart or the easily discouraged. It is only for those who are sure that this is what God has called them to do, and even so it will be one of the hardest tasks you ever attempt.
2) What is your goal for this particular movie?
If you’re consumed with creating a perfect artistic creation that will be the toast of the critics and a recipient of an array of impressive awards, you’re missing the point. Yes, you should strive for artistic excellence and giving God your very best efforts, but if your focus is on you and your vision and agenda, your movie’s impact will be severely limited. You must move out of the way to allow God to do His best work.
There are movies the critics love. There are movies the film festivals love. And there are movies the consumers love. And there’s not always a direct correlation between the three. The critics hated, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It was a box office flop. Yet God has used that movie to bless and encourage several generations of audiences. Our goal as filmmakers should not be to garner awards but rather to be a mouthpiece for God to share His message.
3) Do you have the skills and resources to produce this movie?
Writers are told to “write what you know”. Independent filmmakers should take it a step further, “write what you know, using the resources that you have available.” Obviously, before undertaking a feature film, you should develop your filmmaking skills. Read books, take classes, get on the job training with other filmmakers. Once you’re proficient in your skills, then, and only then, should you attempt a full-length movie.
If you’ve never produced a movie before, and you have a micro-budget, don’t plan a movie with big name stars and high speed car chases. Instead, incorporate the resources you do possess – historic home, friend who owns a luxury corporate office, beachfront property, actors from the local community theater, a friend who loves to cook. Plan your movie with these resources in mind. Plan simple scenes that don’t require fancy camera work or dramatic lighting. Once you’ve established yourself as a filmmaker, you can progress to bigger, riskier projects in the future.
Always keep in mind who you are and what you have available to work with. God gives each of us abilities and experiences that enable us to tell a unique story in a way that only we can tell. Don’t be afraid to tell a simple story. The key is in finding out what you’re called to do and doing it to the best of your ability to bring glory to God. Then trust Him to take it from there.