Wednesday, June 9, 2010


1979.  Jimmy Carter is nearing the end of his presidency.  Us teens are wearing bell bottoms and funky color combinations.  As a church-going teen, I'm listening to cassettes and records (never had but a few 8 tracks-- hated songs being broken up in the middle) from Amy Grant, the Imperials, Dallas Holm and Praise to the harder stuff-- DeGarmo and Key, Petra and even a little Rez Band.  A friend at school introduced me to Keith Green's music and he quickly became my fav over the next year.

A quick side note-- Dana Key of DeGarmo and Key passed away a few days ago.  He produced a lot of music at Ardent Studios in Nashville and we were fortunate to use some of that music on "A Promise Kept."

So the Christian Music industry was at the first stages of massive growth.  Within the next few years after 1979, the record sales, as a genre would overtake Jazz/Blues and start being taken seriously in Nashville.  After 79, it wasn't just a fad that would die out.

So Big Record Business (BRB) took note and jumped in.  Large secular labels started buying the small independent Christian labels.  Budgets became bigger, quality improved.  But Business kills the Ministry aspect and today, it is hard to find (not impossible).  But back then, you had Sparrow being run as a ministry first (thank you Billy Ray) and other labels like "Lamb and Lion" and even Keith Green's own label "Pretty Good Records."

Christian Film is in 1979 right now.  Sony has been buying up some of the key Christian film companies on the distribution side of things.  Fox created Fox Faith, but they've struggled as their strategy of playing it safe by mainly making adaptations of Christian best sellers hasn't exactly worked out.  But Hollywood, like Nashville in 1979, is seeing big dollar signs in the church audience.

So for all those who lament the quality of Christian movies-- don't worry, that will begin to change.  But expect safe messages and production in those movies.  Edgy is going to go away (or be mainly ignored because the indie filmmakers who make it will have no money to do it and will not get any help finding an audience).

I believe you'll start to have some Christian Movie Stars emerge, just like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith did back then.  It might be the actors, and it might be the filmmakers.  Alex Kendrick is one already.  Rebecca St. James is making strides in crossing over from Christian Rock Star to Christian Movie Star. 

But what worked in 1979 was the engine behind these names.  You might have the odd viral hit, coming up from a groundswell.  But for the most part, the stars of the Christian Film industry might look like a naturally occurring phenomenon, but you'd be surprised how calculated it just is.

You see, even right now, there are huge marketing firms, who look like viral web entities, that make their money by getting paid to promote this Christian movie or that Christian movie star or filmmaker.  Doesn't matter if a film is really good and special-- if that film doesn't hand over some bucks, they won't be pushed in a large organizations Facebook status.  Which is all okay-- it's good business strategy.

I guess the troubling thing is the deception-- pretending to be all about Christian films, but more accurately-- all about the Christian films that have paid to be clients. 

Welcome Christian Film, to the eighties of Christian music.

1 comment:

  1. Kind of depressing, but it was bound to happen. I don't have a problem with the business side of things, it's just the masquerade that kills me. The pretense that this is all a ministry and everyone involved is doing it for Jesus makes me sick at my stomach.

    I don't know that the "edgier" fare will be completely drowned out, but it will be challenging to find the niche within the niche. Maybe I am just optimistic.