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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.

Incubus

Thursday, October 31, AD 2013

Well that was odd.  Last night my bride and I watched the film Incubus.  Released in 1966, it is notable today as being one of the very few feature films made entirely in the made up language Esperanto and for starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner.  It is a horror film about succubi and temptation.  By our standards today it is pretty tame and virtue triumphs in the end.  The true horror in the film mainly resides in the ghastly overacting, so bad that Shatner, a man whose entire career has rested on histrionics, actually seems restrained throughout most of the film.

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Khaaaan!!!!

Wednesday, August 3, AD 2011

Apparently it is all the rage at conventions where geeks, my people, gather, to engage in the Khan scream of Captain Kirk from The Wrath of Khan (1982), the best of the Trek movies due to the superb performance of the late Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh.  Here is Shatner giving the Khan scream at the Los Vegas Star Trek Con 2010:

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2 Responses to Khaaaan!!!!

  • Ricardo Montalban was Catholic and was married to his wife for more than 50 years too!

    I used to have a Captain Kirk poster in my room when I was in high school. I wish I still had it!

  • I claim ignorance regarding anything relevant to Star Trek. First time I saw the “KAHN!!!!!” yell or what-have-you, was in reference to the former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Kahn), most recently of Bayern Munich. Since then, that “yell” has always been associated with world class German soccer. Now, that is spoiled. Thanks. 😉

Servant Of God Father Patrick Peyton CSC, Leader Of Rosary Rallies, Founder Of Family Theater

Wednesday, February 9, AD 2011

Many have heard the term, The Family That Prays Together Stays Together. Yet, how many are familiar with the life of Father Patrick Peyton, his rosary rallies which drew millions, and Family Theater which he started in Hollywood in 1947 and is still going strong today?  How many are aware that Father Patrick Peyton drew over 1,000,000 people to several rosary rallies in the 1950s. He even drew over 550,000 to a 1961 San Francisco Rosary Rally, six years before the city became a focal point for the 1960s counter culture revolution and subsequent 1967 Summer of Love. As you can see, when we turn our back to faith, we find ourselves going down a very slippery slope. Yet, Father Patrick Peyton was a true visionary. He saw the slippery morals in tinsel town long before the 1960s and knew he needed to do something to counterbalance what was going on. He knew of Hollywood’s bad influence and moral collapse long before most realized it, and yet he truly believed that Family Theater would one day bring faith back to Hollywood and all who are influenced by her.

Who was this Renaissance man, a man of wealth and privilege, a man of many letters? Hardly, Father Patrick Peyton CSC came to the US during his teen years, penniless, uneducated and according to the world’s precepts harboring little potential. However, before he left the docks of Ireland his mother told him in no uncertain terms that with the Blessed Mother’s aid, he could do great things. After doing manual work for the Holy Cross Fathers he was allowed to enter the seminary at Notre Dame. Yet, shortly before he was to be ordained, he received a dire medical prognosis and it appeared that not only was his ordination in question, but his life itself was in peril. He did the only thing he could, pray unceasingly. His prayers were answered and he thanked the Blessed Mother along with St Joseph, both of which he had a strong devotion. He along with his brother was ordained in 1941.

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3 Responses to Servant Of God Father Patrick Peyton CSC, Leader Of Rosary Rallies, Founder Of Family Theater

  • Why are there no Rosary Rallies?

    In the early 1950’s, as a small child, my father brought me to a Catholic rally in the Polo Grounds in NYC. Not sure if it was a Rosary Rally. One never hears of anything like that in 2011.

    Also, as a child, we lived just north of Yankee Satdium. Each year the Jehova Witnesses would hold a rally there.

    I recommend we Catholics say the Holy Rosary (soup to nuts) each day.

    Today, it is the Glorious Mysteries.

  • T Shaw, good idea about more Rosary Rallies. In 1985 in the twilight of his life Father Peyton led almost 2,000,000 in praying the rosary in Manila. In 2007 Family Theater was part of the Rosary Bowl at the Rose Bowl in Pasedena, even though the stadium was filled, it barely garnered a peep in the mainstream media. Finally, there was another Rosary Rally in Manila in 2009 to mark what would have been the 100th birthday of Father Peyton. Something tells me more people are familiar with him there than here.

    Father Peyton was an amazing man, I heard about his legend first hand when I spoke to Family Theater in 2007 and again last December. There are endless documentaries celebrating what happened in San Francisco in 1967, but barely a peep about the 1961 Rosary Rally. The Archdiocesan Historian for San Francisco named it as the most important event in the Archdiocese’s history. Yet, you can barely find any info on it even from the Archdiocese. This paradoxes amaze me.

    I have been to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and there is plenty there about San Francisco, Monterey and Woodstock, even though Woodstock was by all accounts a logistical and an acoustical nightmare. Yet, the pop culture gatekeepers would have us think it sounded as if you were in Carnegie Hall. Have you ever seen a documentary from Catholic sources or otherwise on the 550,000 who came to the Rosary Rally, six years before fewer came to Haight Ashbury?

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Palin vs. Shatner

Saturday, December 12, AD 2009

Shatner has been giving dramatic readings of some of Palin’s twitter tweats, so Palin was returning the favor.  Alas, Shatner has reached the stage in life when being mocked at by a beautiful woman is about all the former Romeo of Star Fleet can hope for.  It was a funny bit and demonstrates yet again that the old political campaign rule book has been tossed out the window by her.  And rest assured this is a campaign. Polls this week showed a single point separating her and Obama as to favorability, with Obama falling and Palin rising.  I think Palin is rewriting the old Klingon proverb of revenge is a dish best served cold.  I suspect she believes it is a dish best served laughing.

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14 Responses to Palin vs. Shatner

  • Well, I’m not sure if having an approval rating similar to President Obama’s says much at the moment.

    It is interesting to note that RealClearPolitics has hypothetical 2012 match ups and if there were an election happening today, Sarah Palin would not succeed against President Obama. Could things change? Sure.

    I think there is a difference in liking her as a national personality (which I don’t) and a difference in wanting her to hold elected office, particularly the presidency (which I don’t).

  • Eric, the direction is all important in politics. Obama has fallen considerably this year, as Palin has risen quicly in the past 30 days. He has a long way to go until 2012. He could bounce back, or he could make Jimmy Carter look like a master political strategist. Also, don’t underestimate likability. That is a key asset in politics, as Obama is finding out now as he finds his diminishing like sand through his fingers.

  • If Palin wants to run in 2012 (and we don’t know that she does), there are 2 big hurdles she needs to overcome. One is the trashing she received at the hands of the MSM during the campaign. The other is the perception that she simply doesn’t know enough or has thought deeply enough about the issues facing the country both domestically and globally to hold the office of president.

    Her appearances on the Tonight Show and Oprah are helping immensely with her “image problem.” She’s coming across as a warm, good-humored woman who is utterly unlike the Tina Fey caricature. Like Reagan, she is a “Happy Warrior.” Likability is very important in politics. So is toughness. A woman who was treated very brutally last year dusted herself off and came back with a smile and a quip.

    And if it’s hard policy you are looking for, her Hong Kong speech, her recent WaPo article on AGW, her Facebook criticisms of Copenhagen, healthcare reform and other matters are excellent starts.

    Let’s see what she does in 2010. I suspect those numbers will continue to shift in Palin’s favor.

  • Ramesh Ponnuru made a good point about not getting *too* excited about the polls, in that they compare Palin’s likeability to Obama’s job approval, two very different metrics… I didn’t see the numbers, but Ramesh indicated that Obama’s likeability rating is considerably higher than Sarah’s.

    Frankly, I hope she *doesn’t* go for Pres in ’12… I’d rather see her attempt to make a more indirect impact, perhaps analogous to what Oprah has done (Sarah’s impact being for the better, of course). Focus on the culture, Sarah!

  • I recommend Palin as Energy Czar, with Jindal as President and Ron Paul as Veep.

    Sadly I don’t think Palin can be an effective President because the has an entire branch of government opposed to her personally.

    Our five branches are: Executive, Legislative, Judiciary, K Street, and Media. It is the fifth branch (column?) which is personally opposed to Palin. This fifth branch is set up to represent a powerful check on the Executive, and a partial check on the Legislative. (It exercises no day-to-day check on the Judiciary, but it does represent a check on the Executive’s ability to populate the Judiciary with jurists of a conservative stripe.)

    With such a powerful branch of government against her, I’m not sure Palin would be able to do anything effectively unless there were another, and more long-lasting, Republican takeover of Congress as well. (Not, I think, very likely.)

    Honestly what’s needed is someone who’ll govern like Palin but speechify like Obama: A mix of movement conservatism and libertarianism and traditionalism in actual policy, but camouflaged in a smokescreen of just enough mealy-mouthed liberalism and apologizing for America and Christian-bashing to make the Mainstream Media think he/she is “one of them.”

    Not sure how likely that is.

  • I’ll admit it up front. I like Sarah Palin.

    It is only partially because I think she has true moral and ethical values (as much as any politician around nowdays).

    Maybe it is more because I can’t stand all the liberal swipes at her for no good reason other than the fact that she is a conservative woman. The fact is if the mainstream press is for something it is probably wrong and if they attack someone it means that person has personal values and threatens liberal principles – and they are once again wrong.

    Sarah Palin is really endorsed for me by the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Katie Couric and other “liberati” who don’t have the intellectual credentials to carry Ms. Palin’s bags.

    Would she be a good president? I would say yes as she is a lot smarter that people think and even if she is not a member of Mensa it does not take a genius IQ to run a good team. Just the ability to pick good people. In fact, some of the presidents considered to be the smartest were not good at all for the country. Take Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (who actually gave us this recession) and now Obama versus Ronald Reagan who was vastly underestimated.

    As to the question of whether she can be elected? Right now I would say no based on the fact that she would be running against other candidates, the mainstream press and Hollywood. On the other hand, I will never underestimate the ability of this current President and Congress to screw up and push the American voters over the edge between now and 2012.

  • RC: When push comes to shove, the media will always side with the pols with D’s after their names, as John McCain discovered in ’08. The trouble with a conservative candidate hiding behind a “smokescreen” of mealy-mouthed liberalism is this: how can us ordinary folks know if it’s a smokescreen and not simply a squishy pol discarding conservativism for the liberal conventional wisdom? When conservatives became libs, the media say they’ve “grown in office.”

    Besides, your suggested approach signifies that there is fundamentally something wrong with being a conservative, and a conservative pol needs to dissemble and misrepresent in order to get elected. (In fact, that is truer for liberals than it is for conservatives. Both Obama and Clinton had to present themselves as moderates during their campaigns. One of the reasons Obama’s poll numbers are dropping is because independents in particular are realizing he isn’t a moderate.)

    What we need is someone who can stand up for conservative principles and eloquently explain why they are sound. Reagan did that – I don’t think anybody who voted for him was under the impression that he was secretly liberal in many ways. Palin has been far from eloquent in the past, but then, this is a woman who was abruptly dropped on the national stage a little over a year ago and then mismanaged by the McCain campaign. I think she’s been doing a wonderful job of finding her own voice lately.

    As far as the mainstream press – well, they’re having their own problems these days, aren’t they? After the election last year, I would have agreed that the damage done to Palin was fatal on the national level. I am coming to believe though, that their role in selling Obama might very well have been their last hurrah. Fox is far ahead of its’ competitors. Daily papers, including the NY Times, are experiencing serious financial problems. Maureen Dowd sneered at Palin, but it’s Dowd who might exit the national stage long before Palin does. The MSM doesn’t have the power it had even a year ago. And Hollywood? If voters really listened to Tinsel Town moguls and actors, we would have become a one-party country 40 years ago. Gay marriage would have passed in 31 states rather than being voted down in 31. I think even the celebrity-striken among us realize that movie stars live in a lala land bubble, and their pronouncements and decrees have nothing to do with the real world.

  • Polls this week showed a single point separating her and Obama as to favorability, with Obama falling and Palin rising.

    This is incorrect. Palin’s favorability rating is 46%, compared to 55% for President Obama.

    As Chris notes above, the ‘almost tied’ meme comes from comparing Palin’s favorability rating to Obama’s job approval rating (which is lower than his favorability rating).

  • As far as the mainstream press – well, they’re having their own problems these days, aren’t they?

    I think the worst case scenario for them (that their economic position resembles that of vaudeville houses ca. 1930) has a passable chance of coming to pass. From 1948 to the present, you have had three national newsmagazines of consequence: Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. U.S. News has adopted a monthly format and emphasizes subject matter that has been derisively referred to in other contexts as SMERSH* and Newsweek has reconstituted itself as an opinion magazine (thereby making explicit what a complacent crew had been writing for and editing the publication, not to mention clarifying (by way of contrast) the talents the sort of journalists who have been producing opinion magazines for decades). The word is that Newsweek‘s ad revenue (like that of many other publications) is in a free fall. Another report has it that the New York Times has laid off 30% of its staff. Editor & Publisher is ceasing publication after 125 years. Our ol’ buddy Rod Dreher is departing the newspaper business for a position on the staff of the Templeton Foundation. I am going to miss newspapers and magazines (even though their product was often mediocre) and it is difficult to see what sort of trades their staff can enter with their extant skill sets. There cannot be that many jobs in PR and advertising.

    *Science, medicine, education, religion, and all that sh**

  • Art Deco: I think many of them would be well qualified for positions in Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

  • A good point BA, although I imagine Obama finds his personal approval rating fairly cold comfort today when Rasmussen has him at 46% job approval, with 42% of respondents strongly disapproving as opposed to 23% who strongly approve.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/13/rasmussen-obama-passion-index-hits-new-low/

  • I imagine Obama finds his personal approval rating fairly cold comfort today when Rasmussen has him at 46% job approval

    True. But if favorability ratings tend to be higher than job approval ratings, that suggests that were Palin president right now her job approval numbers would be even lower.

  • Would depend upon what she did over the time since she took office BA. Any president finds it tough to remain popular during rough economic times. The problem for Obama is that virtually all of his policies have a negative impact on a robust recovery, certainly one that will make much of a dent in unemployment figures.

  • This was really funny, and everyone involved was surprisingly gracious to Palin considering all the flak she’s been getting of late. As I’ve said before, I’m not quite ready to bet on her (or vote for her) for president, but she certainly has a future as a public “face” of the conservative movement, provided she just decides to be herself and let the chips fall where they may.