Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pink Slip at the Cheese Factory

I went to Nashville last weekend. The National Religious Broadcasters convention. Talked about "The Imposter". Worked on getting buzz going. So what's the most common comment when mentioning a Christian movie?

"Most Christian movies are cheesy."

Well, you're right. Christian movies are where Christian music was 20 years ago. Almost any Christian movie you pick up and watch will be high in the cheese factor. Why?

Let's first start by defining "cheese." In this context, it means hokey, on the nose (OTN), predictable and the most accurate-- doesn't ring true. Wait a minute! Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, the life..." If He's the truth, why are most Christian movies not ringing with that truth? Now that's a good question. I've got some ideas, but I'll save that for another blog entry.

So what is OTN? That's where you actually say what you mean. What's wrong with that? Well, in scriptwriting, it's a rookie mistake. People actually *don't* say what they mean. It's the difference between "text" and "subtext." If I say "sure I'd liek to have lunch with you," I could actually really mean, "I really don't want to have lunch with you, but I'm trapped and will look like a bad guy if I turn you down." Hokey, cheesy writing in this scene would be for the character to actually say "I hate you and don't want to have lunch with you." It's much more interesting for him to say something else and just mean that underneath. But then to do that, you'd actually have to have some actors with chops. And that's something you usually don't find in a Christian movie.

So, the bottom line is STORYTELLING. And as more and more people learn the craft, I think you'll see the quality of Christian movies increase. But it will take courage to write stories that aren't OTN, that don't require brain-checking at the door, and might actually make some people uncomfortable. BTW, Jesus was a Master Storyteller.


  1. Those are great points. I've never understood what's 'wrong' with the Christian movies I've seen. But you're right - the industry is going through growing pains, and it will take some growing up for the art form to really mature and become mainstream. It will be good for everyone when it does do that, and I applaud you and anyone else who is helping to push the industry to maturity.

  2. I came across you blog about six months ago and really enjoy it. I agree, it all starts with story. I've been writing screenplays for 15 years and recently started our own Christian production company and the #1 failure of most Christian films gets down to bad storytelling.

    They're either too wordy or not cinematic or fail the basic 3 (I need to see it, hear it and believe it).

    I think your analogy of Christian film being where Christian music was in the 80s is right on the money, or OTN :) I was in college listening to Petra back then and it has improved greatly.

    We'll get there, one film at a time. The Lord loves making the impossible look possible so I'm certain we'll succeed in the end.