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On-Screen Inspiration . . . Beauty and the Beast

Agathe: . . . As punishment, the beautiful enchantress transformed the young prince into a hideous beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there.

If he could learn to love another and earn their love in return by the time the last petal falls, the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?_______________________________________________

Beast: Your father . . . is a thief!

Belle: Liar!

Beast: He stole a rose.

Belle: [to the Beast] A life sentence for a rose?

Beast: [leaps down to her section of the tower, but remains hidden in the shadows] I received eternal damnation for one. I’m merely locking him away. Now, do you still wish to take your father’s place?

_______________________________________________

[The Beast enters the dining room, sits down and sees another plate set up across from him.]

Beast: You’re making her dinner?

Lumière: Well, if this girl is the one who can break the spell, then maybe you can start by using dinner to charm her.

Beast: That’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. Charm the prisoner.

Lumière: But you must try, Master. With every passing day, we become less human.

Sin has put the entire human race under the curse of existing in their basest, most animalistic nature. Only Christ, by His sacrificial love, can defeat the curse and set us free to be fully human, created in God’s image and restored to be the people He created us to be.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” —Romans 6:22 (ESV)

Wrestling with Our Core Beliefs

by Terry Botwick

People always act on what they truly believe, not what they say they believe. The Bible is full of stories that are true to the experiences of the people who lived them. Life can be messy, full of mystery and, if I am honest, leaves me with many more questions than answers. In that is the stuff of conflict, which is drama, which is story.

My fear is that what has now been defined as the “Christian market” may confuse a couple of important points. The first is that all our energy should be about evangelism; film must be a tool for conversion. That leads to beginning the story with a superimposed agenda. It’s important to stir up questions that cause us, as humans, to wrestle with core beliefs. But often “Christian” films are answering questions nobody is asking.

The second is that the “culture war” is about morality, and it is easy to confuse wholesome with biblical. The Bible is “R” rated, and faith-related film is not at its core about wholesomeness. Stories must ring true. We should hold ourselves to standards of good taste, not be gratuitous or exploitive, but commit to the truth of our common experience, where we all wrestle with life and what it means to be human. Our morality reflects our values as a community and our values emanate from our core beliefs. Films help us face and confront our core beliefs.

In 2015 I produced Captive with David Oyelowo and Kate Mara. It was based on a true story that took place in Atlanta in 2005, when Brian Nichols broke out of jail during his trial for a rape he claimed he did not do, killed four people, and took Ashley Smith hostage in her apartment for seven hours. Each was confronted with life and death, purpose and forgiveness. It was not squeaky-clean. It was authentic and rough, but in the end, quite powerful. It rang true to the struggle of a single mother fighting drug addiction and a killer who felt like life had victimized him. In that mutual brokenness, they found a connection . . . Ashley found redemption, and Brian decided to live.

My challenge and hope is that we all see movies and TV, laugh together, feel together, hope together, and wrestle with the questions of our common human experience.

Terry Botwick, CEO of 1019 Entertainment, is a producer and former television executive in leadership positions at networks like CBS and The Family Channel. Most recently, he produced “Captive,” starring Kate Mara and David Oyelowo, distribution by Paramount Pictures.

In the Room Where it Happens

By Dan Rupple

In the Broadway mega-hit Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are behind closed doors, deciding on foundational policies that would still have major ramifications today . . . and all behind closed doors.

On the outside stands the excluded Aaron Burr, bemoaning that he’s not in on the conversation. When George Washington asks, “What do you want, Burr?” Burr replies, “I wanna be in the room where it happens!”

“I wanna be in the room where it happens!”

To have our voice heard, for individuals to have the ability to speak into conversations that affect their lives, to be represented . . . all go to the heart of our democracy. However, in the media world—which consists of private for-profit corporations—many influential decisions are being made, and often only the loudest voices get “in the room where it happens.”

Second only to profits, perhaps the leading influencers that dictate what the world sees on its screens are the numerous, diverse voices representing many of the demographic threads of the American fabric. These voices speak for fragments of our culture divided by gender, race, political leanings, lifestyle, ethnic background, or other special interests. Some are large and some are small, but their objective is the same: to effectively urge, and often vehemently demand, that their factions be favorably reflected in TV and film characters and storylines.

What is our voice? . . .

  • Ours is an absent voice.

Why isn’t the Christian voice being heard? In a previous Median (February 17, 2017, The Church and Hollywood . . . in the Beginning), I chronicled how during the infancy of Hollywood, America’s Christian community was the deciding voice. But a few decades later, offended by what Hollywood was offering, people of faith pushed back their chairs, walked out of the room, and cocooned themselves in the sanctuary of our churches. The generations that followed were discouraged from entering the media business. As the church relinquished the responsibility of providing or supporting positive, life-affirming films, the secular film culture filled the void!

So for many years, the term Christian media professional became an oxymoron. The Christian light in Hollywood dimmed and was in danger of being extinguished. However, America’s largest people group—followers of Jesus Christ*—is all too often not “in the room where it happens!” The closest we get to the decision-making process is when we decide whether or not to turn on our TV. (*75% of Americans identify with a Christian religion, Gallup Dec 2015)

Christians will often complain that the “religious” people they see in movies or TV are either pious hypocrites or insane serial killers who claim that God spoke to them through their dog. Where is the portrayal of a compassionate, thoughtful, caring person of authentic faith?

There’s an old adage among screenwriters: “Write what you know.” So, what if the screenwriter doesn’t know any Christians? A good writer who does his research may be pleasantly surprised by what he finds. But a lazy (or perhaps already biased) writer may simply fall back on prevalent unflattering false portrayals . . . and the cycle continues.

From the screen, this image spreads throughout our culture, leaving many who are without a sincere Christ-follower in their lives to buy into the not-so-Christ-like stereotypes of Christians as portrayed in today’s media. Jesus called us to be the light of the world . . . where is light needed the most, but in the darkest of places? We are the salt of the earth . . . where does righteousness need to be preserved more than in a powerful, often godless, influencer?

  • Ours is an assumed voice.

“Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, [a man lame from birth] asked to receive alms . . . expecting to receive something from them.

“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”’ (Acts 3)

As the lame man did with Peter and John, people often have an expectation of what they are going to get from a Christian. These expectations are usually based on preconceived assumptions. Some have a positive notion of a person of faith, much like this lame man did . . . that Christians are a generous, compassionate, giving people. But sadly, many have a much more negative perception of Christians, that we are a hypocritical, judgmental, mean-spirited group.

In the media world, the assumption adopted by many media leaders has been built by years of hearing a voice of anger bouncing off the pages of hate letters or the shouts of protest outside their office windows.

But what if a kindhearted, thoughtful Christian voice displaced this erroneous assumption? What if the Christian voice, like Peter’s and John’s, offered something so much better than protest . . . something that was reasonable, affirming, and beneficial to our culture, as well as their financial bottom line?

  • Ours is a needed voice.

Films are often promoted as “The Feel Good Movie of the Year.” These are films that touch our hearts, bring a smile to our faces, movies that make us cheer or shout with glee! Films whose happy endings conclude with scenes of redemption (Les Miserables), self-sacrifice (It’s a Wonderful Life), good triumphant over evil (Star Wars), standing courageously by your convictions (Chariots of Fire), “right” winning the day (High Noon), or that which was lost is found (Finding Nemo).

 Isn’t it interesting that all of these themes which so resonate with the human spirit are values of the Kingdom of God? It’s the way God wired us! These movies give us a glimpse of how the world was supposed to be! We are spiritually transported back to the reality of walking through a garden in the cool of the day, conversing with our Creator.

Films that inspire us to be our better selves are not only successful; think of the positive effect they have on our culture.

The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.  —Harold Goddard, U.S. Educator

Entry into “the room where it happens” is earned through compelling creativity, excellence of craft and being a constant, genial, reasonable, beneficial voice.

Mastermedia has been and continues to be that kind of voice into the hearts of media’s decision makers. And we endeavor to expand our voice . . . to deserve our seat at the table . . . to always be “in the room where it happens!”