What led to you blogging about Christian movies
One of the film/studio pages mentioned that bloggers could receive dvds of films to review. Since I was fairly interactive with that page, the admin of it suggested several times that I should do a blog. Once I figured out how to set up a blog…and how to find it again, I applied to the program and was accepted. Eventually, I signed up with several companies that wanted bloggers to review media.
How do you decide which movies to review?
At first, I simply reviewed whatever was offered to me through one of the blogging programs or there were times I would be contacted by a marketing team member or a producer of a film. I actually have reviewed many more books than I have films through blogging programs, but have recently been adding more film reviews. Sometimes I will get an email from someone who has noticed my blog and asks if I will review their film. I can think of 3 films (that I will not name!) that were sent to me and I just could not write a review …because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. Since I am writing personal opinion rather than professional opinion, I try to be fair, even if a film isn’t one I enjoy. However, some are so poorly made, it doesn’t take a “pro” to spot the errors.
How do you review movies? Do you take notes as you watch them or just write your overall feelings afterwards?
I do keep paper and pencil next to me as I watch a film and will make a note if something really jumps out at me [positive or negative], but I generally just do an overall review since I prefer to write shorter reviews. I also try to watch a film a minimum of 2 times. I can be distracted by something early in the film and lose concentration. Some people prefer to know as little as possible about a film before seeing it, but I am the opposite. My second viewing is more relaxing for me and I am more focused on the film.
What do you consider key in a really good faith-based film?
Having a story that engages my attention is vital, and I want characters I can care about. I don’t have to like the characters, but I want to be able to relate to them or be interested in why they do or think the way they do. I also believe that faith-based films can cover a variety of genres and be directed toward different audiences. There are films I love, but would never share with a friend who does not believe. I also love some that would upset a few believers, but I think would be perfect for those who are not Christian. I love a film that will show the difference it can make to be a follower of God, but the whole plan of salvation does not have to be shown every time. For me, it is enough to have a film that may point you in that direction and simply give you something to think about.
What are some of your favorite movies that you’ve reviewed?
“Amazing Grace” is one of my very favorites. The story of William Wilberforce is powerful anyway, but his story fits into what Jesus prays in John 17 about His disciples not being part of the world, but being sent into the world. We know that we are not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2), so this film exemplifies using your Christian faith to make a difference in the world. Although it was more controversial, I liked “Blue Like Jazz”. It left me thinking about how I treat those who are different than me, especially those who do not share my faith. “Hidden Secrets” is a well done ensemble piece, as is “Marriage Retreat”. Of course, “October Baby” was very good. Several others popped into mind that I haven’t reviewed yet, but loved. I can forgive many films that may not be great if they have great music or can make me laugh. [I honestly do not understand why so many think causing people to cry is the mark of a great film because it takes a lot to make me cry.] However, I really love a film that makes me think, and perhaps look at something a bit differently. Other times, I simply want to be entertained and I merely find the Christian world view to be more relatable.
What is it about “Beyond the Farthest Star” that makes you such an intense fan?
The title caught my attention because I have always loved the nighttime sky, so I wanted to know more. What I discovered was that the basic premise is a story of a politician burning a public nativity set and waging a legal battle with a pastor who also saw a chance to regain the national celebrity he had previously enjoyed. That fascinated me, so I immediately became a fan. As I got to know more about the film, I learned that some of the topics were Separation of Church & State, Teen Depression & Self Abuse, Abortion / Sanctity of Life, Bullying, Family vs Career/Fame, Redemption & Restoration. Benjamin Dane (producer & has the role of Deputy Jimmy Wilkens) and Andrew Librizzi (director/writer) shared a lot about the background process and I enjoyed learning more about the process. They also had a system that is still heavily in play called Bring It! City/Metro areas that get the most votes have the greater probability of getting the film in their theaters…and I do have competitive tendencies. You can find it on their website atwww.beyondthefartheststar.com
When Bodie & Brock Thoene wrote a novel based on the screenplay, I was able to read an advance copy of the book through one of the blogger programs. Although I had been assured I would love the film, the book reinforced my anticipation of seeing this story on screen! Basically, BTFS has a multilayered story, fascinating topics, gifted actors (& crew), excellent musicians, and I appreciate that they place quality over rushing a film to an audience before it is ready. I have a feeling that “Beyond The Farthest Star” is going to have a profound effect on the viewers.
Tell us a little about what you do with Premier 1 Studios.
Cheryl Ariaz Wicker is the owner of Premier1 Studios and I am her Social Media Assistant. I help make sure that her Christian Movie Connect interviews get shared with others and help spread the word on other people and projects she is helping to promote. I sometimes help to find content topics for her to write for her Examiner articles or blog, create ads, and help maintain pages of groups or people who hire her to do their social media. During events she is attending professionally, I coordinate with Facebook and Twitter to make sure coverage being sent out by attendees is being shared with those unable to attend. If someone shares a photo, I make sure it is posted for all to see. When she is in the middle of a publicity campaign or producing a film, I may do most of the Sharing of info to groups or other social media sites and other times, I am basically another set of eyes to make sure it is all covered.
What led to you writing reviews for Christian Film Database?
In a nutshell, Roger and Annelie Rudlaff asked me. I have done a bit of social media for them and am available to read books an author is considering as a potential film as part of their Script Critique service. They began to notice a need to give more info, though, as their website has grown steadily and more people are relying on it as a source of what is available in faith-based films. The number of films, past & present, are astonishing, and the market is growing at a tremendous rate as new filmmakers are coming along. It would be impossible for 2 people to review all of them, and I was asked if I could assist. They set me up with a Netflix account and told me to watch the ones I want to see and share the review with them, plus I can use it on my blog. Having others add reviews serves a dual purpose and is ultimately beneficial to those trying to find a film. Obviously, more films can be reviewed when the load is shared. A synopsis only can be useful, but doesn’t always tell you much. Even if we review the same film, we don’t always have the same reactions. They may love a movie I loathe or dislike one I find intriguing.
How do you feel Christian filmmakers can best use social media to promote their movies?
The best way I think filmmakers can use social media is to get their name out before potential fans and then to engage their interest. I believe having a core fan base has the potential to keep your film on people’s minds. Keeping your page active and updated is vital. When I first signed up for Facebook a few years ago, Kyle Prohaska was working on “Standing Firm”. He kept me interested in his film and praying for all aspects of it. I like fan interaction myself because it gives a sense of community. We are now being inundated with so many films that each filmmaker really needs to find his or her unique voice. Video updates, background info, questions, and contests are always fun. People want to know what is going on with your film, but simple demands to “Like” it without telling me why are usually ignored. I also prefer short updates. If you can’t say it in 2 or 3 sentences, I’m probably going to get bored and quit reading your posts. It is getting harder to standout now, so it’s going to be interesting to see what new methods arise.
If anyone is going to do reviews, be honest. I will not be unkind, and I don’t have the expertise to judge some of the technical merits of a film, but I am not going to rave over a film I dislike or tear apart a film because it wasn’t done exactly how I would have liked. When I see a film that is good, but not great…or awful, but is filled with reviews giving it minimum or maximum stars, I find it hard to trust the reviewers. Often, it is obvious that the film wasn’t even watched first. And for filmmakers, my review is simply my opinion. I’m not going to love them all, but I will continue to pray for y’all, your projects, and for faith-based films to increase in excellence.