TOO MANY COOKS, NOT ENOUGH BROTH
So part of the fallout of The Passion is that many more people are calling me from all over who want to put out a shingle and start their own production company. "God has told us that we should make a movie." Generally, these people are collecting a couple of million dollars and are eager and willing to put it all on the red of filmmaking and spin that reel.
Few people have any real idea of what kind of projects they want to make. There is a vague sense in many religious people that we need “quality movies” but few people can really define what that means. Some religious people say they want movies without profanity, sex and violence. Others want films that “the whole family can watch together.” Most of the time, these small production companies end up making movies that are bland, overly sentimental and only slightly entertaining. Few of the projects end up finding theatrical distribution and so they end up being very expensive home movies. Examples are multitudinous.... How many of you saw The Amati Girls? To End All Wars? Children on Their Birthdays? Joshua? Damien of Molokai? Luther? And now there is the ill-fated Therese.
Production companies get in to trouble because they come to the business with a few million dollars, a gleam in their eye, and a lot of promises to the family and investors back in Ypsilanti. They reduce the all important significane of the script and seize on something way to soon in a frenzy of wanting to get something – ANYTHING! – into production. They pick up projects that are half there and then start casting and shooting, hoping with a kind of maniacal fervor that “God” is going to make a great film for them in the edit room. [Wryly] We have to remember that God is after all, only Divine.
I can not tell you how many bad screenplays I have read that are put into production by good people, basically because they just want to do something. There is a new project coming out that I saw recently that clearly was two or three drafts away from being ready to shoot. The producer is a fellow who has asked me to read several projects in the past, but this one he never sent to me. I asked him why and he shrugged, "Well, you didn't like the first three that we sent over to you. We got tired of you telling us scripts weren't ready."
Gotcha. And now you have a film that wil be an almost good, because the second act problems make it drag, all of which might have been fixed on the script stage.
Production companies need to have a clear brand in their mind before they hit the streets waving cash at all the hungry free-lancers who will execute any old vision at all just because it pays the bills this month. Christian production companies especially need to know what kind of end project they want and then stick to that even if it takes five years to find the right vehicle.
So, what is it that we should be trying to do in Hollywood? I have my own vague standard as a model for producers who are Christians: we want to make professional, artistic films that move people toward connection with God, others and themselves, and do this without violating the viewer’s freedom or innocence.