Saturday, January 23, 2010

Redux: Pink Slip at the Cheesecake Factory

I'm packing up the powerpoint and heading to North Church in Carrolton for the CMA meeting. One of the most popular posts this blog has had was a year ago with "Pink Slip at the Cheesecake Factory." Here it is, version 2.0.

I went to Nashville last year in February. 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 25 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? (Perhaps they're trying to force some noble, or even God message out of their own ego or flesh?) 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 like 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. Another thing that irks me about most Christian films is that everything is too precious or earnest. Again, doesn't ring true.

    BTW - from your earlier post about fund raising. Can you recommend a good book to get me started on understanding that better, especially the legal issues?

  2. Hmmm... can't think of a book. Mark Litwak has one out on movie law and contracts, but not sure it is a primer on how to. I do cover that stuff int he "Greenlight..." seminar, but I'm guessing you're not in Texas (or south Florida, where I'll give it end of Feb).

    The way I did it was to find a good entertainment attorney and he pointed me in the right direction.

  3. Yes... or Fort Lauderdale/Palm Beach area.