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Can Films Appeal to Faith and Non-Faith Audiences?

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Kylie Rogers and Jennifer Garner in “Miracles from Heaven”

“For some filmgoers, hearing a movie described as ‘faith-based’ makes it a must-see. But just as many others find the term a turn-off,” suggests Associated Press entertainment writer Sandy Cohen.

Sandy observes that to reach beyond the Christian audience, “. . . some producers of faith-based films are ramping up the star power and tamping down the evangelical messages.”

Hollywood has a long history of biblical blockbusters—classic films like Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, Mel Gibson’s 2004 epic drama, The Passion of the Christ, and the current Affirm release, Risen, to name just a few.

But some of the more recent faith-based films seek to engage more than just the Christian audience. The Blindside, starring Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock, Paramount’s Captive, released last fall with David Oyelowo, and the 2016 spring release Miracles from Heaven, starring Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, are all based on true stories and include a faith perspective, but are not “religious.”

“Audiences flock to well-made films that deal with stories of optimism and renewal, even if there is suffering and there is loss,” says Maria Elena de las Carreras, a professor of international cinema at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. “That was true in classic Hollywood cinema and it’s true today.”

Professor de las Carreras recognizes that marketing a film as faith-based means nothing if the content doesn’t speak to religious audiences. “It’s a label, but it’s not magical. It doesn’t guarantee box-office turnout,” she said, citing Paramount’s 2014 big-budget biblical film, Noah.

Alex Ben Block (BlockandTackle.biz) shares Ms. de las Carreras’ view, noting that producers who want to see their faith-based fare appeal to broader audiences can’t obscure religious themes too much “because as soon as you try to make it more viable, you alienate the core audience.”

The challenge for filmmakers seeking to reach the “faith market” is finding the balance between engaging nonbelieving moviegoers without alienating believers.

The Media Land of Opportunity!

by Dan Rupple, Mastermedia CEO


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A few weeks ago, I was speaking to 25 Christian university film students who were visiting Hollywood. One young man asked me the all-too-familiar question, “How do I get into the business?” My standard answer a dozen years ago was, “Get yourself to Hollywood or New York and build as many relationships as you can. Then begin the arduous task of knocking on the doors of the five or six studios and the four TV networks, and then visit as many production companies as will let you into their lobbies.”

All part of making the rounds to the Hollywood powerbrokers—the men and women who create and control what the world will and won’t see on our screens. And if there weren’t any openings, you had few alternatives. They were the only game in town!

Still a good strategy. These traditional media companies continue to wield a powerful sword of influence. But no longer are they the only game in town . . . not by a long shot!

The digital explosion has flung the doors of opportunity wide open. With the flood of new digital platforms, the rise of independent film festivals dotting the map, and vast international audiences racing to the box office, the possibilities are limitless for the next talented Spielberg “wannabe.”

Supply and Demand
What created all of these new opportunities? Innumerable channels, websites, streaming companies, digital platforms, and expanded global audiences—all of which sparked an insatiable demand for content to fill the world’s screens in our new “screen dependent” culture.

According to an internet analyst at Morgan Stanley, in 2015 Americans spent 7 hours 44 minutes a day gazing into a screen. Assuming we sleep the national average of 6.8 hours a night, 43 percent of our waking life we are engaged in the virtual world—and disengaged (at least partially) from the real world.

Today the influence of this expanded media landscape has soared to an all-time high. To apply a digital-age paraphrase to Plato’s statement regarding the influence of storytellers, “Whoever controls the ‘screens,’ controls the culture!”

Walking through Open Doors
As today’s generation navigates this wild media frontier, it often finds itself stumbling in the dark, trying to make sense of a fallen world, and searching for answers to the big questions in life. Undoubtedly, our greatest impact will be offering hope and a solution for the spiritual hunger of these emerging cinematic voices . . . leading them, through intentional relationship, to “the way, the truth and the life.” This has been—and always will be—the mission of Mastermedia!

End of Wonderment in the Information Age

 

by Dan Rupple

 

Liam arm around Zayden (002)Growing up in the shadows of Disneyland, throughout my childhood I visited the Magic Kingdom two or three times every year. The absolute wonder engendered by my first visits filled my imagination for months afterwards. My amazement faded over time as the magic became familiar and predictable.

Twenty-some years later, I became a father. As I took my kids through those colorful gates and raced towards “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the excitement of my own childhood returned. Seeing Disneyland afresh through my kids’ eyes, I was reminded of the wonder that captivated me as a child.

I even welcomed with gladness that insidious repetitive song, “It’s a Small World After All!” As the boat turned the corner into each new land, the charm of the tune crept back into my head, resulting in my unbridled, at-the-top-of-my-lungs vocal stylings.

Another twenty-some years later, I returned once again with my grandkids. A whole new generation of wonder was launched. Wonder is a precious gift from the God of all creativity.

But in this age of information, where the answer to every question we ponder is just a click away, is wonder doomed to extinction? After all, if I wonder when—in his head-first flight towards his feast—does a mosquito turn his body to land his rear-end stinger deep into my arm, Google’s answer is immediately displayed on my omnipresent smart phone.

What if I wonder who was the first person to think it was a good idea to drink whatever came out of a cow’s udder?

Wikipedia doesn’t leave time for the milk to sour before I know it was the Central Europeans about 7,500 years ago (although I believe that the Bible would suggest that the “land of milk and honey” knew about milk much earlier).

The kick-off question that sparks the story of most writers is “What if . . . ?” That question is interchangeable with “I wonder what would happen if . . .”

Wonder ignites imagination, which finds its expression in creativity. We must pause every now and then to look to creation with wonder. Wonder about the answers to the big questions in life.

Let’s never lose the WONDERment of our childhood.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1).