War Room Exceeds Expectations at Box Office, New Slate of Biblical Movies Upcoming

The new film from the Kendrick Brothers held its own against theory movies, on fewer screens, for the opening weekend. $11 Million earnings for the weekend was more than double the estimated amount, proving once again that there is an audience for faith based films.

Noah and Exodus notwithstanding, religious people will shell out their hard earned cash to go see films that affirm (Pun intended… Affirm Films put out war Room) their faith. For a budget of $3 Million, War Room will turn a tidy profit for Sony. And that;s one thing that will keep these kinds of films coming, profit for the companies. I used to hear that Hollywood wasn’t open to movies about faith, but if there is money in it, they are open to movies about anything.

Not everyone loved War Room, Christianity Today’s review took them to task on writing quality:

“But when it comes to screenplay writing, the genre seems stuck in a rut. It’s more committed to heavy-handed providential plotting than imaginative explorations of character or setting.”

There’s no doubt that religious filmmaking has a ways to go in terms of craft. But we have made progress. And, for all of it’s “heavy handedness” War Room resonates with the target audience, Christian women. My own church already has a War Room inspired women’s Bible study scheduled. And the overall message about prayer is solid and needed in most Christian families.

because of the success of films like these, we have seen, and are seeing more films dealing with faith and biblical subjects. Early next year we will see two more, larger budget movies:

MGM is re-booting Ben Hur, due out in February of 2016.

Sony/Affirm has another biblical epic coming out in January, 2016: Risen

It’s an interesting story idea. I’m hopeful.

When the Kendrick’s made their first movie Flywheel, I doubt they knew what they were starting. Churches and filmmakers can do films that will reach a much wider audience than they might have before this. And studios are more open than ever to tapping into the religious market. That has the possibility of helping Christian filmmakers disciple more and share the Gospel more than ever before.

Advertisements

The State of News in America

newsboy paperIt’s to the point where I just don’t believe any headline, and question every article.

Growing up, people used to trust the news to bring you facts; important stuff you needed to know. Generation X got older and we kept on not trusting authority. At some point 24 hour new TV stations were born, and talk radio got popular. And the country got polarized.

I stopped watching national TV news. When I listen to the radio I run everything through my own filter because I know whatever show I’m listening to has to get ratings first. Most of those are opinion shows anyway, but the TV news channels are in the same boat. How to make important stuff entertaining is the biggest concern. Even local news outlets fall into this.

There’s a big national story? Local news had better find a local link to that issue. So they ride the coattails of what national news tells America is important. Even if on a different day, in a different news cycle, the same story wouldn’t be important at all.

In college I took a couple journalism classes. One of the big things I look away was that every story has an angle. Every story has some approach to help make it interesting. Journalistic integrity was making sure that angle didn’t become too slanted. I’m not sure that’s a concern anymore. Do they still teach journalistic integrity and objectivity? If so, who do they use as examples?

Click bait on social media is a huge problem. I have been systematically deleting clickbait links from my Facebook feed. It’s pretty liberating. These posts are designed to make you click through, and then the site shows you advertising, a lot of advertising, while you read the story which is generally more hype than substance. “You won’t believe what…” Nope, I won’t. And I won’t click it. If you want to tell me something, get my attention, write a real headline! But even the real news stores from some of these news sites are suspect. You just can’t take them at face value.

Did that bakery get a gag order or not? That’s the latest one in my Facebook feed. One article says the 1st amendment rights of this couple has been violated. Another says it hasn’t. Solution? Go read the source material for yourself and figure it out. But who takes the time to do this? Most people, I suspect, simply latch onto whatever slant they already like and use that to bolster their current opinion of the politics, issues, etc… You know things are out of hand when joke posts from satirical sites are passed on like they are true. Because we can’t tell the difference anymore! Social media is littered with junk news posts. There might be some fact in them, but you have to dig for it. They’re almost all more slant than angle.

That’s not to say that there aren’t news stories that are well written, balanced pieces. There are. But they are not sensational and they don’t get the views/ratings.

The only solution I’ve found is to keep your filter on. Approach every story knowing that it will probably be full of someone else’s opinion and agenda. But you can probably sort through and find the facts. Then make your own judgement on what the news in that story really is.

Recent Short Films and New Projects

sl media 16x9

Thanks for visiting Scott Link Media. Stay up to date with the latest news by subscribing to our email newsletter.

If you click on the header above you will end up on the main page, where you can see 3 different video sections, Short Films/TV, Church Media, and DIY. Each contain several videos for your viewing pleasure; including links to some episodes of the award winning series Peculiar.

Here’s the latest short film from SLM:

And another of my favorites from a while back:

Mean while I’m working on some more short projects.

The major projects I’ve got cooking include a feature length movie about small church politics called Flawed, and a screenplay that’s a biblical epic based on portions of the book of Acts with the working title One Centurion. And there’s a campy comedy about church camp. And lately I’ve been drawn back to the documentary idea Gay Church. Follow the links to find out more.

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.

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.

Creativity in the Midst of Craziness: Hosea and Gomer Project

I have been wanting to get my hands on a script that I could shoot as a short film. You know, because I am not busy enough as it is with my family, and the show, and fundraising, and the freelance work, and such.

But I don’t really know where to find these things. Scripts that people who wrote them will let you shoot for free, just to experiment.

So, even though I am crazy busy, I started writing one last night. It’s based on a character in a movie idea I have. (A movie idea that could be a TV series…but I digress). And that in turn is based on the Hosea and Gomer story.

Think about it. God chooses Hosea, has him marry a prostitute who repeatedly cheats on him, and Hosea keeps taking her back. Not just taking her back, but going after her. The 3rd child they have isn’t even his kid.

Can you imagine how he must have felt every time? Not the churchy answers, but the real gritty response to finding out that your wife, the woman you love, the mother of your children, has cheated… again! 

So, of course, in my head it’s not a simple shoot. To do it right there’s multiple locations, props. You have to find just the right actors. 

But still, fun to be creative.

Blame Entertainment, Then Tell Your Own Story

I recently read “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV” by Ben Shapiro. He outlines the history of TV, and the messages we see in primetime. As I finished the book I was reminded of the power of store to impact people, and that the author/screenwriter/director/producer’s worldview is the basis for the stories we see in entertainment.

And that is why Western Civilization is where it is today.

The power of story.

Story takes the worldview of the creator/author of the story and makes it into something people will accept, ingest, maybe even adopt. Messages couched in entertainment are more powerful than speeches. A speech can reinforce an attitude or belief, but it will rarely change a mind. But a heartfelt story can go a long way toward changing a heart, and a mind.

A long time ago I took a class on Persuasion. One of the things I learned was that some attitudes and beliefs are harder to change that others. Moving from the position of not liking wheat bread to liking wheat bread is much easier than moving from liking gay marriage to not liking gay marriage. Attitude and beliefs that are more central to who people are, that people identify as self defining, are much harder to change. And they take a long time to change.

I’ve been alive long enough to have seen some of those deep attitudes and beliefs change. There are things that are accepted today that never would have been accepted 20 years ago. And that’s not completely a bad thing. Some things needed to change. But not everything.

Going back to Shapiro’s book, the people that make our entertainment, that tell the stories our culture consumes, primarily have one set of values. They have very similar world views, and their stories reflect that. Their characters interact with the world based on how they see it. When they come into a conflict, they act, and the worldview of the creator is shown to be true in the show.

It’s not a conspiracy. It’s natural. Jesus never told a story that wasn’t based in his worldview. I will never tell one that’s not based in mine. You could claim that sometimes they go out of their way to put characters in situations that undermine an opposing worldview, but Christian story tellers do that all the time. That’s what evangelistic films are. Over time, our culture is gradually adopting and accepting the worldview presented in our stories.

If we Christians ever hope to influence our culture, to see people with a biblical worldview, to see the Gospel spread, it’s true… we must learn to be great storytellers. But things don’t stop there. We must take those skills and put them to use in entertainment. If you want to change the world, don’t go into politics. In today’s politically landlocked climate, legislation doesn’t change the world. Entertainment changes the world, or at least Western Civilization.

Christian TV: Now is the Time for Change

We have the chance to show a biblical worldview to a generation that is leaving the church in droves. We can change Christian TV and impact people we have never reached before.

The current pay TV/educational license model in Christian TV is limited in reach, and the donor base is drying up. Younger audiences are not responding to this type of TV. Quality Christian TV is still shut out of the major networks. We may see the occasional show like Seventh Heaven or Touched by an Angel, but generally there are no TV shows that routinely show characters dealing with real world issues from a biblical perspective.

What if we could change that? What if we could use emerging technology to reach millions?

Television broadcasting is in the middle of the largest shift in content delivery since cable was invented. In the next few years we will see the Internet become the primary source for video consumption. Networks are scrambling to figure out how to stay profitable.
With the shift in how people get content, there will no longer be network locks at every door.

Now is the time to use new methods of delivery for quality episodic Christian content. We can bypass the network gatekeepers, and create a new funding model for TV. (Not just Christian TV, but all TV) We can bypass the networks, and make content available to millions of people. We can create shows and distribute them directly on services like Netflix and Hulu, or through YouTube or Vimeo, or any other web video outlet.

We need more people to break outside traditional Christian TV models and create programming that appeals to those who flip past the religious channels on their TV. We need a new wave of Christian media professionals to do to TV what we have started to do to the movie industry.

I am developing a sitcom that will appeal to 18-34 years olds who use social media and can bypass traditional media roadblocks to Christian content.

My show answers one question: What does it really mean to have a biblical worldview? Research shows that 18-34 years olds prefer either reality TV or comedies. My show is based on a freshman college student from a non religious family who has just asked Jesus into his heart. We follow the main character through life as he struggles to understand what his new faith really means, and see the contrasts between how Christendom views faith and how the world views faith. The style is sort of like someone took Stuff Christians Like, Community, and Scrubs and threw them into a blender.

The funding portion of this still taking shape. We will pay for it by keeping costs low and selling sponsorships and product placement. If I can successfully take advantage of the resources available to me, the production costs will be minimal. Start up costs include money for props and advertising, which could be significant.

Target audience of 18-34 year olds who use social media. Delivery through the internet. Funny, compelling comedy that views characters from a biblical perspective. That’s the dream.

How can you be involved.

– Pray
“Like” the Peculiar Show page on Facebook.
– Follow @peculiarshow on twitter.
– Send an email to scott@peculiarshow.com

This is very early in the process. There are a million things to do, and I only know how to do some of them. But every day things are moving forward.

Why I’m Not a Successful Blogger

I break all the rules in blogging.

I don’t focus on one thing. I write about anything and everything. If I want to be a successful blogger I should pick a subject: tech, ministry, or something. And write about that. I could say that I am focused on writing for other media minister types which would encompass many of the things I write about, but then I would just go write about something off the wall and blow that theory apart.

I don’t write in a consistent voice. I change up my style of writing too much. One post I’m sarcastic, another serious, another dry and technical. People never know what to expect.

I don’t post enough content. Let’s face it, a year ago I was posting four times a week, but now I’m lucky to post more than once a week. I’m not driving a lot of repeat traffic.

I don’t promote myself well. I let WordPress auto post my title to twitter, but that’s about it. I changed blog themes so that the RSS feed was more visible. I put relevant tags in the post, so search engines can find it, but I don’t always post the links to every post to Facebook, and I almost never re post them anywhere, even though I know that most people are following or are friends with a lot of people so there is a good chance my blog post got missed in their news feed. These are a few simple things, but they can really work.

If you want to be a successful blogger, do the opposite of me. Pick a topic area, write about it often, in a consistent way and then promote the fire out of what you have written. I know that as long as I break these rules, I won’t get above an average of 100 hits a day (Mostly on the tech posts). But you don’t have to follow my example.