Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fun vs. "meaningful"

My experiences on the 48 Hour Film Project have given me a lot to think about this past week. Nearly twenty years ago when I was a freshman in college, I did a project on Christian vs. secular filmmaking. I proposed that most Christian films ... well, they came up short. Short on plot, short on character development, short on storytelling. "Message" movies. Ugh.

I'm a co-leader of a "serious" documentary discussion group. We meet in a church (much to my chagrin), and there is always a Christian element to the gathering. Prayer at the end. Looking for the spiritual element in the films. I like films that are open ended, that don't answer all the questions; the audience, from the comments I receive, does not. Truth be told, I rarely enjoy these gatherings.

Yet, I loved working on the goofy and campy 48 HFP movie. It had no message. It didn't try to solve the world's problems or answer deep philosophical questions. It was just a chase film with some pretty bad acting. But I had a blast.

I assert the following:
1. Most Christian filmmakers (cut from the evangelical cloth, that is) misunderstand the ending of the book of Job. Is the end of Job a "and they lived happily ever after" ending? I don't know about you, but my wife and daughter are irreplaceable. Job may have received many blessings from God, but do you think that there wasn't one day that he woke up and didn't think about the family that he lost?

2. Most Christian filmmaker's stories are more shaped by Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry and John Owen than by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Christian filmmakers do not write and shoot their stories in a vacuum. Their stories spring from generations of influence. I wonder what kind of stories would be told if American filmmaker's theology was shaped by Soren Kierkegaard or Jurgen Moltmann?

3. Most Christian filmmakers "light" their stories with a 18K Fresnel when they should have used a 650 Mini-Softlite. Do the metaphors candle or salt mean anything anymore? Stop shining the spotlight when all you need is a small fill-light. Perhaps God has given you a lot of light; but maybe your glaringly bright light is only blinding me, and it's washing out the scene. Put a dimmer on that puppy.

5 comments:

Brett said...

Hi Tom,

I just got back from some time at the beach with Elliot. The smell of salt water and the music of the waves are helpful to me. I have given in to the icon of beach bum to describe myself. But something else showed up on the dimly lit beach. The myth (in the spirt of Joesph Campbell) of writing a movie script with the intension of using a Celtic and Kierkegaardian approach to theology. What got me inspired was Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" script. I saw the movie for the first time last Saturday and was quite moved. It seemed like he was influenced by Jung's take on warrior archetypes (as am I) and used it effectively in his multi-layered story.

All to say, great minds think alike!

Brett

Tom said...

Funny you should bring up the Celtic issue; I've been doing some reading these last few days on Aidan's Way (I was inspired by Richard Dahlstrom's blog; sorry if that is still a sore subject?) I love the idea, Brett. And I definitely got into "Batman Begins;" fun movie. And I do say "fun."

Brett said...

Not too sore. I am supposed to see him this Sunday night. What is the link to his blog?

Looks like we will be starting a new chapter of St Aidan's way here in Edmonds this fall. I am looking forward with great anticipation.

Tom said...

Richard's blog is raincitypastor.blogspot.com. Glad you guys keep in touch; he seems to be the real thing. And I'm envious about the conversations that will come out of your Aidan's Way gatherings.

The C. said...

Could it be possible that the end of Job is that Job saw God and that was enough? that seeing God silenced Job? That the questions Job had were no longer the main issue?
The C.