Faith Is Not Dead In Hollywood

Friday, April 29, AD 2016

Faith based films have seen a marked increase in Hollywood in the last several years. Critics were quick to dismiss the success of the Passion of the Christ some 12 years ago claiming its success was only caused by controversy, and the bankrolling of the picture by a celebrity like Mel Gibson. However, a few short years later came Fireproof and Courageous.  Both these films had an estimated budget of 1-2 million dollars and they grossed about $33,000,000. In 2011 a subtle pro-life film October Baby came out and moved the genre along to more success.

This set up the wildly successful 2014 which included films like God’s not Dead, Heaven is for Real, Mom’s Night Out etc.  The success continued in 2015 and 2016. Word is the big studios are now reaching out to small faith based companies to see if they forge partnerships, which while helpful also presents some serious concerns for faith based companies.

In full disclosure, the writers and producers of God’s not Dead are friends of mine who a few years ago came to a talk I gave at Family Theater in Hollywood, and then took my wife and me to dinner after reading one of screenplays. In a faith based world filled with Evangelicals, Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, as well as the crew at Family Theater in Hollywood are Catholic.  For those interested in Family Theater, you might want to read my past article on the late Father Patrick Peyton , the Rosary priest who is on the road to canonization.

In secular 2016, it is hard to believe how well received Father Peyton was in Hollywood.  Family Theater is where James Dean and William Shatner got their starts. A trip inside Family Theater affords one an array of pictures from Hollywood’s Golden Era when Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and Grace Kelly all starred in Family Theater production films. A side note, tucked away in closet at Family Theater is an old film splicer. Rumor has it a young film student from USC named George Lucas used it to edit a Family Theater production film featuring a recently arrived young Canadian actor named William Shatner.

Everyone has their own story on how they ended up in the faith based realm. Chuck and Cary worked with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and other action oriented films for years until they could no longer resist the call to do faith based films. While they like Stallone, too few other people had the heart or character of Rocky Balboa in Hollywood. The initial years were tough, especially when hardly anyone was doing faith based films, they literally went into the valley before they could get back up to see the Promised Land. Needless to say, many thought they had lost their minds saying goodbye to the mainstream and taking the road less traveled.

Some readers might recall my initial 2014 review of God’s not Dead. The film made on a budget of $1,000,000 that initially generated a US box office figure of $60,000,000 and when all the worldwide receipts were accounted including foreign box office, DVD, movie subscription services etc totaled over$100,000,000. Generally writers and producers don’t see the kind of big money on an out of the blue success story like God’s not Dead. It comes later. If one thinks politics can be dirty, one needs to understand how the movie and music industry works.

Some film critics, even those in the faith based community complain that some of the scripts can be predictable, and perhaps the faith based angle needs to be more subtle, grittier and more provocative. Most faith based writers have no qualms with this argument. They are often put in a Catch 22, they either write a film that would be approved by faith based film companies like Pure Flix or risk the big studios saying a more subtle faith based approach is still too “faithful” for them.

Some secular critics showed nothing but venom for God’s not Dead, ( a Variety review actually used the words “Nazi propaganda film” to describe a scene) and the just released God’s not Dead 2 claiming Christians aren’t persecuted by the secular world. Then stories emerged that literally came right out of the plot lines of both films. Yet, these militant secularists give no apology.

While the critics of faith based films will always be sharpening their pens and swords, there is reason to believe that some of the Big Studios are seeing the light–or at least the financial possibilities. As mentioned above, some of the big time Hollywood studios are beginning to reach out to smaller faith based studios. Also, more faith based film companies are emerging. In addition up and comers like Nathan Leon, a talented writer, producer  and director received some notice for his film/documentary Sidewalk Chronicles on Unplanned Pregnancies which led to adoptions that positively changed the lives of so many. He and many others like him are generating some buzz in Tinseltown.

Indeed I met Leon and many other young talented men and women, while I was out in Hollywood a few weeks ago. I had been invited invited by Chuck and Cary for their premier party for God’s not Dead 2, over dinner they shared with me their big plans. They are literally this week putting the fishing touches on God’s not Dead 3 which should start to film in a month or so and be out in theaters next March or April. Also, they have an ambitious blueprint for the future and are seeking investors for their own studio and several projects are already in the works. Who knows where there this will all lead, but there are shoots and blossoms being seen in Hollywood. In a town known for fully embracing the dark side, shoots and blossoms of faith are a very good thing.

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8 Responses to Faith Is Not Dead In Hollywood

  • It’s so typical that the true fascist call foul and use discriptions like; “Nazi,” when they feel threatened, yet the freewheeling extermination of babies is freedom.

    “Work is Freedom,” the sign above the entrance to Auschwitz.

    Freedom to Kill. The new sign put up by our soul-less liberal neighbors. Poor lot.

  • Hollywood….TV, movies, popular music, I would argue has not embraced the Dark Side, but is an agent of the Dark Side.
    Seth McFarlane is at the same trims a talented and disgusting man. His adult cartoons are wildly popular and sickening to anyone of faith. He mocks his Catholic upbringing and he is worth over $100 million.
    I rarely see movies. I wish the best for the Christian filmmakers.

  • … claiming Christians aren’t persecuted by the secular world. Then stories emerged that literally came right out of the plot lines of both films.

    Oh, but that doesn’t count, because it’s not persecution if the target is double plus ungood.

  • Faith based films have always been an excellent way to evangelize. Hollywood is finally waking up to the financial possibilities which bodes well for those of us who long for the high quality production values of a well financed film project. Hurrah for Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman as they tap into what is undoubtedly a deep well of spiritual story telling and a wealth of great subject matter. Truth sells, especially when it is done right. Let’s support these films and other projects like them by promulgating their use in our parish PSR, CCD, and social halls, as well as in our family homes!

  • It’s instructive that great Hollywood actors can portray all different characters in any scenario, but they stay away from portraying the true character of people involved in the abortion holocaust. Hollywood loves sex, violence and death, along with a good scandal and coverup story but they can’t muster up the means to put the truth about abortion on the silver screen even though abortion is all about sex, violence and death and the biggest scandal and coverup of all time.

  • It is clear that fanboys will dole out huge wads of cash to see their favorite franchise even when they know ahead of time it will be just pure garbage, which is why the built in target audience has been so successful.

    The biggest builtin target audience would be the Abrahamic Faiths, of course. I think the general God awfulness of the movies and their critical success proves that people are so starved for faithbased cinema, they will put up with anything.

    Imagine the profit margins if Hollywood really invested in faith based films and made something faithful and not crap. The huge crossover hit that would be.

    The Coen Brothers made films like O, Brother Where Art Thou, and A Serious Man to critical and commerical success, and then of course, Jackson made millions and ade Oscar records with LOTR, so subtlety does well too.

    But i think the success a well done Biblical epic would have today.

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  • I find it very interesting that most of Hollywood will continue to produce trash in large amounts with the hope that, like spaghetti, some will hit the wall and make a profit when all evidence indicates that a relatively inexpensively made film with a traditional theme will almost always do quite well at the box office. Of course they will be ignored at the Oscars as not PC enough. Does anyone seriously think that any of today’s directors will be compared to John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock? Or that today’s actresses can stand up to Betty Davis or Olivia de Havilland? Today’s self absorbed entertainment industry turns out product geared precisely to its idea of itself, creating an endless circle in the process.

Sly, Bruno, and Arnold Together Again

Saturday, December 17, AD 2011

Action films have always been a favorite of mine and nothing comes close to action as those from the 80s.  With Expendables 2 coming out any man worth his salt will make a beeline to the nearest theater to watch an ensemble of some of the best of the 80s and today’s action stars.

In addition to Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger you see my personal favorite Jason Statham along with Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Chuck Norris, and Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Of course there are more, but I’ll let you all figure the rest out in this trailer.

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Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis Together Finally

Saturday, July 3, AD 2010

Sly, Ahnold, and Bruno finally make my dream action flick I’ve been waiting for since the 1980’s called the Expendables.

Unfortunately, Ahnold and Bruce only make a cameo appearance.  But the film is packed with 80’s and contemporary action stars, from Dolph Lundgren to the under-rated Jason Statham.

The rest of the film looks real good, so I’ll be watching this movie at my first opportunity.

Here is a preview from Reuters:

It is the action hero dream team. Sylvester Stallone will shoot a scene with Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger soon for his upcoming adventure “The Expendables,” due to hit theatres in 2010.

The man behind the successful Rambo and Rocky franchises has also brought Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke and Dolph Lundgren on board for the story of a team of mercenaries who head to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator.

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8 Responses to Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis Together Finally

  • Stop beating around the bush Tito! We all know the real question here! Who would win in a fight: Rambo, the Terminator or the cop from Die Hard? One of the burning unresolved philosophical questions from the last century!

  • This movie is a must see for me. That’s a hard one to answer Don. My pick is Rambo. I have to be honest my favorite isn’t among the actors- Chuck Norris. I believe that Chuck could kick all their butts.

  • It’s a draw between Ahnold and Sly.

    I just find it hard to see an NYP hardcase beat up on two weapons and survival experts.

    As for Chuck, that’s a different universe.

  • Wow, that is great news. I usually can’t bother with the expense, dirt, noise, crowds of a movie theater, but for this I will make an exception. But that question. Tough.

    I think that the Terminator can be defeated – after all Sarah Connor ‘killed’ him once, in the past, or is that the future? Whatever. As for Rambo and McClane, I suppose that has to do with the setting. I mean Rambo ran circles around Brian Dennehy and David Addison couldn’t stand a chance against him, but McClane, he is more like Rocky, he keeps getting his behind kicked, he bleeds, he gets knocked down and yet he keeps coming. Drago said of Rocky, “He’s not human. He’s like a piece of Iron.”

    Rambo is better than Commando.
    Arnold did beat the Predator, but I think Rambo can take the Terminator.
    Cobra would lose to McClane.
    Since McClane is more like Rocky than Rambo is – I give it to John McClane – yippee ki-yay!

    In any event, I am pretty sure that Clint Eastwood could beat any of them. And we all know that John Wayne kicks Eastwood’s behind.

    So the winner is Hondo or Rooster G.

  • From Rick Atksinson’s second ETO book, a GI (in Naples) asked Bogart how he could buy a pistol like the one Bogie used in “Sahara” that could fire 16 shots without reloading. Bogie said, “Hollywood is a wonderful place.” That was before the Glock 9mm.

  • Wayne? Are you kidding me?

    “You feeling lucky, punk?!?”

  • hi folks i cannot wait 4 the expendables to come out! It’s going to be awsum!