"If Wash O'Hanley didn't cover it, it probably wasn't that important anyway."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Guide to Christian Filmmaking


We can sit here all day and come up with lists of things we don't want in movies until the cows come home, but that isn't going to stop Hollywood from putting them in their blockbuster movies. The fact of the matter is that graphic sex, the naked human body, profanity, violence against white people, and blasphemy are all cornerstones of the film industry and they put butts in the seats. Hollywood studios make billions of dollars a year putting out films that are not safe for the moral fiber of this nation and nothing is going to stop that until the public stops paying to see these films. Some Conservatives have bemoaned the lack of censorship, but unless you're willing to curtail our First Amendment rights given to us in the Bill of Rights this will never happen. Other Conservative Christians wondered why there aren't more Christian Conservative voices within the Hollywood system (hint: it's the same reason there aren't a lot of homosexual voices in the industrial farm equipment industry). With all of that in mind, it shouldn't be the goal of the far right to censor the voices of Hollywood screenwriters, directors and actors because they will never bend to our demands, not as long as the mouth-breathing masses are willing to pay $10 to watch the same black cop/white cop movie, the same Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Aniston-driven romantic comedy, or teen movie starring Michael Cera as a socially-awkward teenage boy that wants to lose his virginity to a hipster vampire. No, the answer to the problem of the moral vacuum that is Hollywood is not to encourage the blind who are holding the reins to do as we please, but to take the reins and make our own films that glorify Christ, instill viewers young and old with the moral standards that God wishes of us and uplift the spirit. It's entirely likely that a Christian American will spend more time in their life chained to the door of a theater, preventing teenage girls from seeing the new Vampire-Romance movie than they will inside a theater watching movies, but it doesn't have to be like that and Christians should not have to publicly embarrass themselves to evoke social chance.

Below is a list of ideas and themes that I believe must be found in every Christian film. Hopefully this will open a dialogue and possibly lead to some great things. Who knows, maybe one day our humble church, sitting upon what little we bring in on a week-to-week basis will be able to make a film that will rival even the most CGI-heavy films coming out of Hollywood and convince producers that a film doesn't have to be crass, distasteful, or competently-made to make a lot of money. I mean, just look at movies geared toward black audiences if you aren't convinced that people will see any piece of garbage movie as long as it is geared toward their social group.

Aesthetics of Christian Filmmaking: The Necessary Aspects
By Wash O'Hanley

So you've decided you want to be a Christian filmmaker. It's not going to be easy and the road to success is littered with the carcasses of utter failures. You're going to need a script, but everyone has a script and getting it read isn't going to be easy. Most screenwriters are abject failures that never make a cent off their creativity and spend their adult lives waiting tables and drinking themselves to an early grave. Don't be one of them! Below are a handful of helpful steps that you must follow if you wish to get your screenplay or movie into the hands of people that will put it in the theaters. Just remember, while the odds may be tough, you have a ghost on your side: the holy ghost.

1. Story and Characters

Story is the second most important aspect of determining how good a film is after computer-generated imagery and is pivotal in the movie culture war.

All movies should include the following key points:

- The story must glorify God and must instruct the viewer that the only way to salvation is through his only son Jesus Christ: who died for our sins and rose on the third day in fulfillment of the Scripture. Alternative, fringe, new age cults such as Islam and Buddhism must be presented in a negative light and characters that have not found Christ should feel empty and depressed. Also, all villains must be non-Christians.

- The views of the Republican Party must be shown as a positive character trait. The hero of the film must be politically active and should be seen participating in political rallies for right-wing candidates, going door to door handing out fliers, and defeating liberals in debates, even if it slows down the pace of the film or has nothing to do with the plot in any way.

-The hero of the film should always have easily recognizable traits so viewers don't get confused and root for the wrong guy. The hero should be a white male or female. He or she should be a Born-Again Christian that is an active member of his or her church. He or she should be active in local government and believes in the policies of the GOP. Your hero should be sexually pure and never gives into temptations; audiences are hungry for a hero that never has sex outside of marriage.

- Villains, on the other hand, should be non-Christians that believe in Liberal policies and actively look to destroy the American dream for everyone else. Villains are often obsessed with greed, jealously, and perversion. Bad guys should have curly hair, giant hooked noses and big moles on their faces so viewers know they are bad guys. They should also be seen rubbing their hands together and laughing constantly in a wicked manner all the time. Villains should also have darker skin complexion than the hero so they are easy to tell apart. Because showing a character sinning is sinning you can't actually show or talk about your bad guys doing bad things, but by alluding to it with shifty eyes and big ugly noses and dark skin complexions your audience will know these guys aren't to be trusted.

- If the film is centered around a character that starts as a bad guy, but through the power of the holy ghost turns into a good guy, have his skin change from dark to light. The transformation will prove to be a powerful metaphor that will surely not be lost on the audience.

The plot should always involve a hero that does extraordinary feats because of his love of Christ. This is the part where the true creativity of the writer comes out. The possible plots for Christian films are literally endless, and here are three original frameworks that all Christian movies must be based around:

- A character is thinking about killing himself, but then an angel shows him what the world would be like without him.

- A man loses his son while on a camping trip, prays to God, then finds him.

- A group of futuristic scientists working for an off-planet mining company seek to mine a coveted element that is located underneath the city of an ancient alien race. They convert the aliens to Jesus, tear down their occult tree and mine the element.

- Leviticus: The Movie

The possibilities are endless!

2. Dialogue

Dialogue is defined by Webster's Dictionary as the process in which the cervix widens in anticipation of childbirth, but in the movie world it is the stuff that the characters say. Dialogue in Hollywood movies is filled with bad language, sexual innuendo and comedy: all of which are frowned upon in the Christian community. Without dialogue your characters don't have a voice, and here are a few examples of how a Christian screenwriter can spice up their dialogue:

- Characters should often talk about Jesus. Let's say you've set up a scene where a group of characters are having a business meeting. While talking about accounts and mergers, have one character bring up Jesus Christ and then have all the other characters accept him as their savior. This is especially useful if you run into a roadblock and don't know how to finish a scene.

- Cliches are cliches because they are popular. Characters should constantly be saying cliches because cliches are proven to be effective dialogue that viewers enjoy to hear.

- Villains should speak languages like Russian, Spanish or Islam so the viewer is skeptical and distrustful of them.

- Don't use foul language. If you must, use euphemisms. Have characters say things like "I'm gonna kick that mother frazzle's butt" or "I want you to deepthroat my ten inch corndog." That's dialogue the whole family can enjoy!

- God doesn't have a sense of humor. I don't remember there being any jokes in the Bible, so don't put them in your script. No one likes humor.

3. Use and Overuse Computer-Generated Imagery

Audiences love movies that are heavy on CGI. Whenever possible, include a scene that would involve some CGI. Even if you're writing a serious dramatic screenplay about the strained bonds between a young girl and her emotionally-distant alcoholic uncle that she must live with after the death of her parents, include a hilarious Jamaican-sounding, back-talking, CGI Pandacoon (a raccoon-panda) that follows the girl around all the time. The audiences will love it!

- Every scene should include at least one explosion. If it doesn't seem like a scene needs an explosion, you're wrong: throw one in there.

- CGI popular characters from other movies into your movie. Audiences will love seeing made-up characters like Jack Bauer, Neo from the Matrix, or Ray Charles on screen.

Also, everything must be in 3-D.

4. Shake the Camera All the Time!

Shaking the camera is the new hip thing to do and no film is complete without it. Name one action movie that has come out since Saving Private Ryan that hasn't used this technique. But don't think that only action, sci-fi and horror films are limited to using the shaky-cam aesthetic. During the dramatic dinner scene between the young girl and her emotionally-distant uncle where she confronts him about his lack of faith and alcoholism, put the camera on a paint shaker and watch as your sequence becomes grittier and more realistic. It's like your audience is right there in the room watching the events unfold and they have severe Parkinson's.

5. Ending Your Movie

The ending of the movie is the part that everyone remembers the most, and your script needs to end with a bang that leaves viewers sweating, panting, unable to walk straight for a few days, and wanting more. This is the final showdown between your hero and his enemy, and is the point in the film when he finally defeats him!

- Once your hero has killed the bad guy, have the bad guy come back to life no fewer than 4 times. Audiences love it when the good guy thinks the bad guy is dead but then the bad guy lunges at the good guy and the fight must continue. Milk this concept for all it's worth and have the bad guy repeatedly come back from the dead, only to be vanquished again.

- Your hero must find the strength to defeat the odds through Christ. When he's at his lowest point, your hero needs to recognize that all truth and power comes through the one true God and his only begotten son, giving him the strength to finally overcome the odds and defeat the ultimate evil. In fact, have you hero in a situation where it is impossible for him to get out of and then have God help him get out of it. It's called "Deus ex machina" and it literally means "God in the machine." For example: have your character tied to a chair while the bad guy points a gun at his head, but then have a bolt of lightning strike the bad guy dead. The story ends on a good note and it's just good writing.


Well there you have it, folks: a comprehensive guide to movie making for the Christian filmmaker. This is everything you need to be the next great director, who will harken a new era of moral filmmaking that will inspire the mind and fill the soul. Now get out there and change the world!

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