Okay, I can HEAR the eye roll. If someone asked you to write one (for pay) would you do it-- and if not, why not. And if yes, where would you find inspiration for your plot & characters?
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Yes. I would find the inspiration by going where people have less than me, yet they thrive! I enjoy reading! And if you're looking for "inspiration for - plot and characters," I recomend the first step would be to read, "Resilience" by Eric Greitens. That book (like so many others) changed my life!
I wrote for a Faith Based group a year or two back. The people were wonderful to work with and did not put undue restraints on my creativity. When writing or speaking, I try to keep in mind the audience and their filters for receiving the story. One cannot always know the audience; however, in this case I can guess certain parameters. I would certainly speak with the buyer to understand their needs and desires before accepting or rejecting the assignment. Faith Based does not necessarily mean anti-Art. If I chose to accept the assignment, I would find inspiration from writers such as Evelyn Waugh, Annie Dillard, Flannery O'Connor, and contemporary authors who are Christians--if the audience was Christian. Given the need for conflict, all of my characters would have flaws and the main characters would live along the nuanced spectrum of 'good/evil'. I would turn down the assignment if the piece required heavy-handed proselization or the characters to be exclusively good or evil. Thanks for the question Kathleen.
I would. I love metaphysical drama done with artistic, professional polish and universal appeal. I'm not into promoting the benefits of any one religion. So I"m not going to write about Jehovah or Jesus in that slant. I would write about the magic of believing, of dreaming, of aspiring to overcome difficulty. If I wrote about Jesus, I would loosely base it on his metaphor and not his life. Jesus would carry a knife and know how to take care of business and bastards. Jesus would be gangster. Gangster Jesus.
Yes I would! But I personally have no interest in just writing faith-based films that only cater to the faith-based audience. My script "The Descent of the Gods" was just accepted into the International Christian Film Festival, and I was worried they might reject it because of the controversial topics it addresses. There are a lot of untapped potential in this genre, amazing stories, themes that transcend any one belief system and can be universally enjoyed... I just posted a blog post entitled "Writing Biblical Fiction - What are the rules?" to my website that isn't quite yet public... so here's the private link :-) Please share if you find it helpful. http://goo.gl/4qpOSX
I have to admit I'd pass too. I don't know the audience and have no faith in the source material. You always have to put something of yourself into your work, so this wouldn't be a good fit for me. Religion is such a fractured topic nowadays, that it'll be very difficult to pinpoint what the word, faith actually even means. For example, I was watching a clip about a PHD scientist, who was also a "man of faith". When he was questioned about how he manages to balance the two his answer was that he will believe science right up to the point that it conflicts with his faith. After that he will take his God's word instead of any evidence. That mindset just boggles the mind. It would be practically impossible to write a faith based story and put it into a good light if belief nowadays has reached this level.
Sure, even though I'm not religious. If someone is offering me money to write their screenplay, damn straight I'll do it. Whether or not it ever gets made isn't my concern. Adding another item to my resume, however, is.
The Bible and science do not conflict with each other. ???????????????????? So did we evolve billions of years ago, or was we created 6000 years ago? I will only ask this one question by the way, we don't want to highjack the thread. :)
Is it a myth that these films MUST be proselytizing? Or to put it another way-- if someone is a person of faith- or Christian to be specific-- is there only one kind of film they would endorse?
Here's the thing: there's religious films and then there's "religious films." The former category includes Andrei Tarkovsky and Terrence Mallick, the latter category is cheap dreck like God's Not Dead. I definitely want to include themes of religion in my work. I don't want to pander to Evangelicals.
This is similar to the other thread about being asked to write about things you disagree with. While I'm a spiritual person, there are many things about organized religion that I find distasteful. Doesn't mean I wouldn't write a screenplay about it if paid to do so. As long as it isn't sending a message I find morally corrupt (example: I couldn't ever portray same sex relationships as wrong or evil) if I'm being paid to write about Jesus, then I will.
As writers in our prose, and as potential sellers of our scripts to potential buyers, don't we all proselytize? Some of you make it sound like it's a bad thing. I love religious and faith-based movies - from the epic Bible movies to bio-pics to works that question and test man's faith. The Robe, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Agony and The Ecstasy, Exodus, Holocaust, Schindler's List, The Da Vinci Code, The Exorcist, The Passion of the Christ, Water, Stigmata, Signs, are some of my favorites. I don't know if any of you remember Submission, a Dutch short film made about ten years ago by Theo Van Gogh. The film was about abused Islamic women. Van Gogh was then murdered by an Islamic extremist. Riots and violence rocked the normally peaceful Dutch country. What a tragedy. Films that tell the tales about atheists, or atheists and theists, are quite entertaining as well. Sunset Limited, Letting Go of God, Whatever Works....there's a lot of great films with those themes, too. If offered, I'd write a script for a film about religion or faith (or lack of it) - or pretty much any other subject. I love telling great stories, and accepting challenges.
Bill thanks for that great list of your favs. Patricia and Owen, what is fascinating to me is that there is so much controversy around religious issues, and in the Bible so much rich material, it's amazing writers (even Christian ones) actually avoid getting a grip of this audience. I thought conflict was the basis of story.
Kathleen - there are a lot of faith-based films being made. The majority don't get theatrical releases. The faith-based genre is probably the fastest-growing movie genre. The Mother Teresa Letters film was one of the releases on DVD last week. Here's a link to the Christian Film Database. There's probably at least 50 films being released just over the next few months. http://www.christianfilmdatabase.com/
I write screenplay's hoping to get noticed, and of course paid, period. I have no problem writing a faith based motion picture -- however here's the caveat, my ego and self-centeredness as to being convinced that my way of thinking is the only way might just be a hinderance. After all most people think their way of thinking is the only way, until money comes along. Then Personal ethics and morals go by the way side.
I'm not certain if what I wrote is faith based or simply biblical, lol - I wanted to write the "big" Hollywood action film with a religious aspect to it, what I didn't want is another "God is real and I went to Heaven" effort, so I co-wrote GOD AND THE IMMORTAL - did I nail it? Dunno, but I enjoyed the writing experience where the story is set today, but we flashback to Cain and Abel before, during and after the FIRST murder - mm, sounds more biblical, but there is a faith element - why is faith/biblical juxtaposed with "action?" I find most faith films too saccharine for my taste, so I added a Michael Bay element, more mainstream, lol cheers.
Bill, thanks for that link. Robert- LOL your post would make a great theme for a faith-based film :) ! Chanel- I really like the idea of going back and forth between now and early biblical times. You also bring up a good question- what is the difference between a film based on a biblical narrative and a "faith-based film?
Ms Ashley, Hollywood is a business, not a faith based organization, every couple of years they'll make a few strong faith based motion pictures, depending on slowing sales, it's a great way to get people back.
Books. After I finish my second feature in the coming weeks the next couple I'll be focusing on will involve religion. One a mix of film noir and demons set in an alternate past, and another an adaptation of Paradise Lost.
Peter- Amazing questions regarding time. I did study Einstein's Theory at some point in high school but I never really thought about it with regard to earth's aging. Christopher- congratulations on finishing your second feature! I look forward to hearing more about your films. Condensing Paradise Lost into a film will be quite a challenge, are you thinking feature for that or mini series?
My adaptation will most likely focus on Satan's rebellion and Michael's rise from ordinary angel to Archangel to confront him in the Angelic war.
Christopher that sounds great!
I have written three screenplays for the Faith-Based audience but they were all different types of stories. One was a present day comedy, the second was a drama based on the crucifixion and the Spear of Destiny and the third was a present day drama set at the Indiana Dunes State Park. The key to writing a good Faith-Based screenplay is to create that balance between the message and being "preachy". And have a three-dimensional objective for the Main Character, don't make the theme(character arc) the objective. I have also written screenplays that were not intended for the Faith-Based audience. Good Luck on this project and I would be glad to help if you want feedback on your ideas.
Thanks Duncan for offering future feedback :) William, good question. I think the Faith Based Film Audience is code for Evangelical Christians. However it has been whispered around the industry that there is a large general audience seeking films with a "spiritual" or "religious" tone or theme, perhaps those desperate about the state of affairs of the world- seeking comfort or inspiration or hope.
Patricia, Peter, I've read your comment but as I said, better to leave it there. Back on topic.... When I was growing up one of my clearest recollections of my time of being with Christians (my mother still is), was their attitude towards other christian factions. She would NEVER open the door for Jehovah's Witnesses fro example, and told me not to either. Come Sunday, the church Pastor would warn me to stay away from them too and not talk to them, or be polite and walk away. I found this odd. At the end of the day, they are all apparently reading from the same book. And I have always wondered how the conversation would go IF the Pastor or my mother had actually invited them in to talk about what they believe and why. There have been many many TV shows and debates where Atheist squares off against Theist, but I don't remember one where different factions of Christianity tried to clarify their beliefs to each other. Now, as much as I completely detest reality TV, I would be absolutely fascinated to see one where the house was filled with ONLY religious people (not different religions). So have JW, Fundamentalist, Baptist, Evangelicals etc, there must certainly be a gay priest (there are plenty of them), and maybe a female one too. There are also Priest who have ACCEPTED Evolution and not creation, so put him/her in too.....and just let them co-exist. Going by my own experience of religion, I'm pretty sure it would not be a question of who wins after 12 weeks, but who actually survives.
Owen, I think you've hit on a great idea for a reality tv show...get that in to a producer right away!
Remember Peyton Place? We could call it Pious Palace (just kiddin guys ) Haha! But it'll never happen IMO.
Owen!! It might happen in a New York minute if you get the producers to award the winning team's church a huge donation.
Kathleen, my best advice would be to study Stage 32's webcast "Developing & Financing Faith & Family Based Projects" by Nikki Hevesy and Anne Marie Gillen. (I believe Nikki is also a Fuller grad). It will enumerate for you the many different types of faith-based projects and the dangers/potential inherent in each category. If you haven't already, you should subscribe to the MovieGuide and ChristianCinema.com weekly newsletters. There is a great demand right now for faith-based scripts. At least every other week InkTip.com sends out a request for an f-b script in their weekly newsletter.
Eric thanks! I listened to the podcast, it has great info. I will also check into Nikki's Fuller alum status, that would be a great connection. I will subscribe to ChristianCinema (on MovieGuide already).
Let's please return to the thread topic: Films for the Faith-based Audience; If someone asked you to write one (for pay) would you do it-- and if not, why not. And if yes, where would you find inspiration for your plot & characters? Thanks. :)
I am actually reading a book about this right now. I'm almost half way through it and it's worthwhile if you are interested in this market. "How To Write a Faith-Based Script" http://www.amazon.com/How-To-Write-Faith-Based-Script-ebook/dp/B006HVGY6U
So a priest who accepts the possibility of Darwinian evolution is OK, but a scientist who accepts the possibility of creation is not? I didnt say it was OK, I didnt say it was not OK. I dont even know what OK means in that context. It was just an idea for a subjective TV show and an example of the type of people who would make very it interesting......OK
It's an interesting topic, and even in this thread we can see differing sensitivities. What is faith? Why the focus on evangelicals? Etc. The fact is, real life has religion in it, so if you're going to write about real life, you will have to address religion. The real question is how. Some folks go all OCD in their pursuit of religious validation. I don't think that's most people, and I can say with certainty that's not the evangelical market ("I are one"). You come up to these experiences in life, and you just want to know what it means. When we buried my brother some years ago, I'm looking at him laying there totally still, and I'm asking, do I really believe I will see him move again? My own answer is yes. Will I adopt some pattern of rituals to try and influence unseen forces? No. Superstition and faith are, in my view, not compatible. As for the main topic, making faith-based stories, the story I am working on now involves faith, but I hope to set it in a context where people can experience how natural and organic faith is to the totality of human experience, and at the same time have a rollicking good time watching the show. For those who wonder if that is possible, I will share something I heard on the radio years ago. It was an interview of a husband and wife who were writing a story on the days in Germany just before the holocaust. They happened to be involved in a film project with John Wayne. They doubted themselves, so they asked him, should we even do this this project? He replied something to the effect, "Well, you've got to. It's the Jewish Alamo." Then they asked whether people would accept the message of their story. What he said next has always stuck with me. He said you can tell people anything you want to, as long as you tell them in a story. So there it is. We all live on the same planet, and we all have stories to share. If you want to tell a faith-based story, I'd say go ahead and tell it, but tell it well.
I think I would look for inspiration in the world around me, not in a large, but in small. At arm's length.
I think you're either being deliberately argumentative or just stupid, Peter. You've taken my comments out of context and I have no interesting in continuing this conversation with you.
Peter, Owen, Patricia, c'mon... If you'd like to argue about religion, science or beliefs then please take that discussion elsewhere. Thanks.
To answer Kathleen's topic question, I would probably say "no" I would not wish to write a Christian-based story or something from the Bible. In the context of familiar, well-known stories and characters—ONLY—it does not interest me creatively. Plus, these subjects are heavily influenced, loaded with preconceived notions, they're personal, sometimes volatile, and many people are unable to consider them objectively. There is a firm "expectation" from Faith-based audiences. For example, some Faith-based audiences were upset with the latest film "Noah" starring Russell Crowe. They didn't like that "God" was not really present nor referred to much within the film. Anyway, I'd rather focus on subjects where there is a wider audience and more creative freedom. :)
I wouldn't because it doesn't excite me. I have to be excited about something before I would write about it.
Miracles from Heaven had a nice line at the theater last night. Mostly Hispanic families. I think there will continue to be an increase in Faith-Based films in the U.S. as the Hispanic population continues to grow. Most of the Hispanic people that I know are very religious, and even the teens and young adults. It seems that white Christians are the only major Christian group in America who have declined in active church participation over the last couple decades. Black people remain to be pretty religous across generations, too, at least in my world. Miracles from Heaven even had a budget (over $10 million) that was higher than the average $3-$5 million budget that most Faith-Based films have. God's Not Dead 2 had a pretty full house, too. I'm glad the Faith-Based film genre - or any genre - is actually making more films year over year. Screenwriters, crews, and actors could use the work. The few scientists I've known over the course of my life tend to echo Arthur C. Clarke's views on religion - they don't believe in "a God", but they don't "disbelieve", either. I think a lot of people who don't believe in a God feel that way, too, based on my own experiences.
I would if the story was so unique that it immediately sparked my interest and the producer was open to my ideas. Another draw for me would be the fact that inspirational, f-b scripts/films I've done in the past have had a great impact on lives around the globe. It's hard NOT to be interested in the genre after you've received thank you letters from prison inmates, school principals, desperate teens, Mexican farm migrants, a suicidal man in Nigeria, etc. For inspirational ideas within this particular genre, I would suggest checking out this link from ChristianCinema.com, the nationwide, faith-based equivalent of Netflix, listing their Top 100 best-sellers from 2015 (bottom of page) : http://www.christiancinema.com/catalog/newsdesk_info.php?newsdesk_id=3439.
Beth, as a matter of creative collaboration rather than argument, I'd like to make a few observations about the "Noah" debacle. True, I'd love to have that kind of box office result for anything I write. But the criticism of "Noah" was much broader among evangelicals than just the connection of God to the plot, although that is a legitimate issue. If one is designing a plot for a faith-based audience, one needs to be aware of some of the belief dynamics in that audience. For example, within modern Christianity, you have probably two major divisions of thought regarding Bible stories. Some regard the Biblical text as largely mythology, perhaps carrying true spiritual ideas, but with no connection to real history, and not even necessarily demonstrating anything true or false about God. Whereas many others, and I would speculate the majority, hold a relatively traditional view of Biblical history, that the events described are somehow factually true, and that the point of Biblical history was precisely to reveal how we may have a relationship with a real God. So if a screenplay is written like "Noah," where it is in-your-face obvious that the traditional view of the Bible as real, revelatory history has been utterly abandoned, that author should expect the traditionalists to reject the story premise. It doesn't make sense to me to make a Biblically based story that rejects the faith-premise of the audience most likely to watch it. Truthfully, I think "Noah" got good box office because a lot of folks just wanted to give it a chance, and of course there's Russell Crowe. But I know a lot of folks were eventually turned off to it because it effectively insulted their most cherished beliefs. Not a good way, IMHO, to build a long term audience for a franchise. So the "Aesop" is this, I think: If you want to write a story that involves faith, go for it, because there is an audience for that. Just don't do a bait and switch. If it isn't real to you, it will be tough to make it real to them. Do, or do not. There is no try. :)
Joe, personally, I feel indifferent about that film. It was just meant as an example. From an artistic standpoint, anyone should be able to write or create or express a story in any manner or how they choose to tell it. Regardless.
Sorry to have inadvertently distracted the thread. Not my intention. Let's return to the topic. Thanks.
I don't think it would be possible for me to write a faith based screenplay as I don't respect the subject.
Kathleen: I wouldn't write this kind of film, HOWEVER, I have a great true story on how I get Jehovah Witnesses to run away from ME when they preach to me on NYC subways. It's not crude, it's very funny. If you need an idea for a short film, I'm happy to tell you about it.
Well, I never expected this level of response! Thanks to all of you who responded, I have a lot to ponder.
Faith is an abundant commodity among writers, Kathleen.
Without a doubt, I would take the assignment. Faith is something we all struggle with or find inspiration from, it's part of who we are. Stories of miracles and survival are all around us if you just look for them. In my own life, I have experienced so many valleys and mountains. Many of my scripts are sci-fi thrillers but they also bestow a life lesson or spiritual message for a culturally-diverse audience. In a world that is divided by religion, we are all connected by the human journey called life.
And, we're venturing off topic again... Perhaps I should move this to "Anything Goes."
Patricia, I don't believe the essentials of traditional Christianity are so disconnected from the Biblical text as you suggest. Quite the opposite, I believe too many modern analysts take the text and read back into it ideas that were never there. I also doubt whether this is the correct forum for debating this. If you wish to do so privately, I am open to that. But I think it is inappropriate to take a legitimate question about faith based writing projects as an opportunity to bash an entire faith community for not understanding their own sacred text. Speaking for evangelicals, while there are some areas not well settled, for the most part our beliefs line up very well with the historical and grammatical sense of the text, and I would defend that position against all comers. But preferably not in this forum, in which such a debate would hijack and derail the educational benefit intended, providing guidance for writers. IMHO.
Yes, please, let's keep this relevant to the OP's original question.
I find it fascinating that this is a heated discussion and deep beliefs one way or another make for great conflict in a movie. I can see a character running up against something in real life that might not affirm their belief and watching them cope with it. Do they change, refine, expand their belief? Do they do something contrary to their belief in order to save another person who they love? Does that lead to disaster or loss of community or even death for them? Do they stick to their belief and regret the consequences for a loved one? Hmm... good stuff to think about.
Structured religion is one of the great dividing points amongst people of the world - it might be the single-most divisive factor, globally speaking. Think of all the great wars that have been fought since the beginning of time over religion. It's a bit mind-boggling to me. It's no surprise that anti-religion proponents would have something to say in a forum topic about faith-based films. Next up - politics! Heh-heh.
Yes, Bill, my great Aunt, a real stickler for manners, is probably shuddering in her grave over my asking the question in the first place. At least I didn't do it at a dinner table. ;)
I came across this article today. Seems fitting for this discussion. :) http://www.scriptmag.com/features/cross-road-war-room-christian-filmmaking
Lora - that's interesting. The author of that article, Dan Goforth, wrote a script that, if I recall correctly, placed high on the Blacklist. The Chronic Argonauts was based on an H.G. Welles story and featured a time-traveling priest whose faith is tested. I think he even turned down a big deal because the producer wanted to turn his PG-13 script into a R-rated film.
Thanks for the link, Lora. Interesting article!
My yes is yes.
Bill, Thanks for tagging me on this conversation. To clarify a little, "The Chronic Argonauts" was not written as a faith-based project. Its origins go back to the original 1888 story by H.G. Wells, a science fiction "buddy adventure" published by the Royal College of Science years before Wells became famous. New Baby Publishers recently "rediscovered" Wells' early work and expanded it into a graphic novel. The screenplay for TCA was written for audiences of "Sherlock Holmes" and similar films. It also shares audience similarities with "Man of Steel", providing action and adventure along with provoking thoughts on there being a higher power. The fact that one of the main characters is a minister made that an integral part of the plot, but not the main focus (in the same way " Kung Fu" had a Shaolin origin for Caine - it provokes discussion, but exists to flesh out the character). In TCA, the focus is on the interactions between the "mad scientist" and "priest", but in a buddy action/adventure sense. I also have to say that it was not my decision to not go forward with the mentioned producer. Since this was an assignment, I do not own the project. But I was consulted. Ultimately, the publisher opted not to go that route because they felt it was too dark. Not sure if I would categorize the budget as a big deal, as it was in the under $20 million range. All that being said, I am still proud of that work, as a Christian screenwriter, and it would be my hope that perhaps the audience would not only be entertained, but also perhaps inclined to entertain thoughts on higher issues. :) Just for reference, here's what The Black List reviewer had to say about this top script: "The Chronic Argonauts” is excellent science-fiction. Cook is a wonderful protagonist, our intrepid everyman, observing the journey with the wonder of the audience. It is refreshing and interesting that Cook, the clergyman, is the voice of reason in the superstitious village, but holds onto his faith even into the secular future. Cook has a brilliant and thought-provoking discussion with Medea about how he can still believe in God even while surrounded by extraterrestrials and clones. It’s one of many such monologues and dialogues. The script clearly has a mind to it, articulating its themes, but it does not get overly wordy and the discussions do not detract from the spectacle or the action. In fact, the script has the potential to be a great display of special effects and thrilling action. It can sometimes be a challenge for a movie to be both cerebral and visceral, intellectually stimulating and simply entertaining, but the script pulls it off.”
I would say covering topics that relate to the belief systems the action and dialogue rather than direct religious preaching would appeal to a wider audience. Demonstrating the underlying positive qualities without the need to directly preach makes the message more accessible, in real life and in film. I find inspiration can be found in the core texts of those faiths ... Koran, Christian Bible, Torah, Buddhist texts, etc. Maybe it's a topic that could be developed, or a story that can be converted into something modern and relevant, or sprinkling the beliefs throughout a story that already exists with character traits, actions, and dialogue. Fun topic! Thanks for bringing it up.
Dan - thanks for the clarification and insights. Kudos for getting high praises on Blacklist - that's quite an accomplishment in itself. And I always enjoy your articles in ScriptMag. Has anyone seen the film Risen? It looks pretty interesting. I saw the trailer for it. It's interesting how "big" of a film they made with a $20 million budget. That's one good production team. www.movieguide.org is also a nice website for family-based/faith-based films.
I saw risen. I did enjoy it, but I felt some plot points were a bit hard to accept, and I'm not talking about the miracles. In the escape through the canyon, the encounter between the two Romans is not what I would expect to happen. For one thing, I doubt the pursuer would have been isolated like that. For another, they didn't lay any foundation for me to expect him to let the protagonist off the hook without a serious struggle. It was one of those moments that jarred me out of the story. Maybe just me. Otherwise, a good story with an interesting story-telling device, creating a Roman to be the representative skeptic right there at the epicenter.
I enjoyed Risen but didn't think it realized its full potential. Like Joe, the canyon encounter scene left me scratching my head. It was too convenient, a shortcut that raised more questions then it answered. And the interrogation of the paid-off soldiers who'd been guarding the tomb was never fully developed to my satisfaction. After all, from a Roman standpoint, they were the main witnesses.
Glad I'm not the only one who felt the canyon escape scene drew me out of the movie...
Just thought I'd throw this out for anyone who might be interested in the working behind the graphic novel: http://www.cosmicbooknews.com/content/hg-wells-chronic-argonauts-be-revi...
Dan thanks for your comments and references. Lora your references have been very helpful too. Everyone here inspires me to keep writing. You all also remind me that there is massive material "out there" to write about. No end to great stories. Let's get some on the screen!!!!
I also enjoy films that have a spritual crisis as their theme. Maybe they are not geared at the faith-based audience, but Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant and Mary are pretty powerful films. And the Plastic Jesus scene and the church scene of Cool Hand Luke....wow.