As filmmakers who are Christians, I believe our mandate goes further than to just tell a good story. We must live a good story. This truth came alive for me two years ago on the set of our film The Christmas Candle. Based on a Max Lucado novella, the film is set in England in 1890, and follows a kind, but disheartened reverend who moves to a rural village where he experiences a rather miraculous legend. One of my favorite aspects of this story is that the biggest cynic in the village is the reverend himself—after a tragedy in his past, he no longer believes in miracles. We were honored that our script and story attracted such an amazing cast of beloved British talent, including Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks, and singer Susan Boyle. As is the case on any film set, not everyone in the cast and crew share my same beliefs, but what a great opportunity this presents! It was paramount to me and my core team that we represent our faith throughout the film-making process, which at times can be exhausting and utterly punishing. In spite of the long days and heavy lifting, I was thrilled to have a hand in creating the culture of our set — one that respected the themes of the film. I have found that when grace and humility are promoted and applauded, there is little room for ego and agenda. Friendly collaboration becomes commonplace, and the occasional disagreement is resolved with respect. In my experience, this atmosphere has opened the door for prayer, encouragement, and meaningful conversations about faith with my fellow filmmakers. Why? Because the making of the movie is consistent with the message of the movie.
C.S. Lewis had a famous saying about stories. He said that a story can sneak truth past what he called “the watchful dragons” of a hardened heart or unreceptive audience. And judging by his book sales and the box-office haul of the Narnia films, one might argue that Lewis not only sneaked past these “dragons”, he slayed them. I hope this will serve as a reminder to other artists, authors, and filmmakers who are Christians that desire to express eternal truth to this generation. In 1988 and 1989, our company was given the remarkable opportunity to slip past the “watchful dragons” of Communist Russia with the live dance show “A Toymaker’s Dream.” Before we came, I made sure to clearly outline the symbolic, Biblical meaning of our show to the Russian officials who would allow us entrance into their country. I even told them that our reason for coming to Russia was to tell the Soviet people that God loves them. “Do you think we are stupid? We could see all that from watching your show,” they said. “But you cannot say those kinds of things in our country. Do you understand?” Of course we gladly accepted an offer that allowed us to demonstrate the love of Jesus through a story, rather than just telling the Soviet people about it. To this day, I am still amazed at the warm embrace we received from this strictly atheist nation.
As a Christian, it saddens me to see our countless Christian protest stories and lower budget un-imaginative approach to a forceful gospel tract. These seem to leave a funny aftertaste in people’s mouths. We often pack so much message in our stories that strip them of enjoyment or effectiveness. Though such heavy handed efforts have been applauded in years past, in many ways it has only encouraged others to tell even more stories through such ineffective means. John Akers, publisher of Christianity Today, bluntly asks, “Where are the creative men and women – the writers, artists, filmmakers – who will capture the imagination of our confused world in the name of Christ.” I pray that many young people will begin to answer this call to the media and engage a new generation with well told stories. And only when this happens will we reach a sight and sound generation.