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.