1st Draft of a Feature Length Script

blur scriptI did it! I finished the first draft of my first feature length script! I have a huge amount of work to do yet, lots of rewrites and things to add and change.

But the first draft is complete!

The script is called Flawed, and is about a shattered mega church pastor who finds himself embroiled in small church politics while picking up the pieces of his life and family after the sudden death of his wife. The underlying truth is that the Church is made up of imperfect people trying to do the perfect will of God.

Advertisements

Christian Character Honesty

fake guyOne of the biggest complaints about Christian film/TV/video is that the characters are not honest. There are exceptions to this, but many times, too many times, this is true.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no expert character developer. I’m no expert scriptwriter. I wrote 9 of the 10 episodes of my show, Peculiar. I’m writing a feature length script now. I’ve fallen into the trap of creating a one dimensional character to achieve a plot point. I’ve presented characters in my work who change little over the course of the story. I’ve created weird moments where characters are set up to preach in a conversation rather than talk like normal people. But I am working to get better. Trying to educate myself, taking classes, reading books, writing.

One thing I did not do in the show is present the main character as a perfect Christian, who knows all the answers. He is a new believer, with little religious background. He makes mistakes. He learns, he is discipled. He is trying to live according to his faith.

I think a lot of times we see religious works and the main “Christian character” is this snapshot of life. They are static. The world happens around them, and they react to it. Almost like the writers have said that this is how believers act. This moment of life, they are the Christian, and Christians act like this, so watch them be Christian.

Salvation isn’t just limited to a moment. It’s a lifetime of faith and learning. The Bible says we are justified and sanctified. Justification is like God looking at us, but Jesus steps in front of us, so God only sees his righteousness, not our sin. It’s immediate. Sanctification is a process of molding our sinful nature into the shape of Christ. It’s ongoing.

Christian writers seem to get tied up in justification. It’s like we have this story with conflict, and the character is this perfect believer with no doubts and nothing to learn. Let’s watch what a “real Christian” would do in this situation. And then we watch them make all the right decisions, and in the end… I guess we are supposed to feel convicted because we are not where the Christian character is? We are supposed to leave the film saying, “Wow. I need to get my life right so I can be like that guy, he’s a real Christian”? Or, “I sure was glad that sinful person ended up choosing to be more like that Christian character.”

But no one is like that. Not in real life. I’ve known some pastors and speakers who present their lives like that on stage, but in reality, they are just as mixed up and full of inadequacies as we are. People who try to live like that remind me of a guy sitting on a three legged stool, sawing on a leg. Eventually they are gonna fall. Christianity as a whole has a problem being real, being honest with each other. We don’t show weakness or flaws. And if we do, the most common response is not support, but attack.

And that rubs off on Christian film and story. It’s like we are afraid to let a character be raw and honest. Maybe the investors won’t like it? Maybe we think Christian audiences can’t handle it? I don’t know, but too often we set up these unreal Christian characters.

Christianity isn’t about following people. It’s about following Jesus. Believers who follow other people will always end up disappointed. Setting up dishonest characters in our story will always ring false to the audience.

Audiences don’t want fake characters. Let’s let our characters be honest and real. Let them struggle to overcome. Let them change. Let them be real.

It’s Dead, it Just Doesn’t Know it Yet

model tombstoneThe paid time/donor model for Christian TV broadcasting is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet.

I know there are program producers and stations and networks that will vehemently disagree with me on this. That’s OK. Eventually, no one will be able to deny this. There are some programs that are still working, but others are reworking what they do because of dropping donations. And it will only get “worse” as time passes.

The practice of paying non-profit, education license TV stations for a block of time, and then asking viewers to buy something or give something to your organization so you can continue to afford to make shows and buy time… is dead. Or at least on life support.

I recently described paid time/donor shows as having a limited shelf life (I’m mixing my metaphors.). These aren’t the same as churches producing teaching/worship shows. Those will always be around, because churches will continue to invest their budget into extending their ministry into their community. But the ones without the church backing, that rely only on donations from viewers, on selling things. Those will become less and less viable. Viewers who faithfully watch and support teaching programs with money are shrinking. They are literally dying off. And as the viewing and giving habits of younger audience members begin to have more of an impact on religious stations, things will begin to change.

The model to replace it hasn’t been fully formed yet. I had hoped to get in on the cusp of that new model, but those of us making shows that we are not buying time for are kind of out on the rough seas, looking for a harbor. (I know, I’m mixing my metaphors again. How about we’re in a private room in the maternity ward, hoping to check out of the hospital? No? You know what I mean.)

Today another network, CTN-Lifestyle, will start broadcasting my show, Peculiar. Not in the middle of the night, but during primetime and 3 bonus times. This cost me nothing but the time to email and ask, and then upload the programs. OK, it also cost me the time, effort, and resources to produce the programs.

This brings the number of networks (groups broadcasting the show to more than one market at a time) broadcasting Peculiar to 5. With 3 individual stations either already broadcasting, or about to start. With more in conversation. The amount of money spent by me to buy this air time is $0.00. It is possible to place programming that appeals to a younger audience on religious stations without buying it.

The flip side is that we cannot expect support from viewers who just want to write us a check. So, how can we afford to make more programs? Even at the super micro budget we had for Peculiar, that’s still a chunk to recoup… and then make enough on top of that to afford to make more episodes.

I did have one network give me a little bit of money for the show. Just enough to cover closed captioning. But that is not the norm. I really want to vent about the realities of Christian TV and it’s upside down funding model. I will restrain myself, and simply say that it stinks.

Retail? I wouldn’t bet on it. So far retails sales of my show’s DVD have been slow. It may eventually make back what we spent to create the show, but not any time soon. Unknown actors, unknown show, unknown director… very hard to reach a tipping point in publicity. For profit company broadcasting on non profit stations, so there’s no direct sales through the broadcast. Someone more skilled in marketing of this kind of thing may have better luck.

So, stations won’t buy it (cause most can’t afford to) and retail is sluggish. Netflix and the like aren’t much better. You might… might… get $10,000 for a streaming deal. That might cover your current production costs, but it won’t cover production for the future. So what’s left?

I’m not sure.

I do know that Christian radio stations sell spots… I mean, provide informational announcements for underwriting sponsors. Maybe a TV show can do something similar? Why not? I’ve spoken with one local religious stations about this. It’s possible. But likely that would be a station to station proposition, and not something that larger networks would consider. Not at this point anyway.

I don’t know the answer. But with the current model on life support, and more and more opportunity for new programming to air, we need to figure it out soon.

What do you think?