Barbara Nicolosi and Spencer Lewerenz, the executive and associate directors, respectively, of Act One, a training program for Christian screenwriters and executives, have edited a new book of essays by Christians in Hollywood, "Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture," and it may serve as something of a wake-up call to those who see Hollywood as Satan's backyard. These believers mourn the lack of awareness of the divine among so many of their colleagues, but do not view themselves as infiltrators into a debauched world, dedicating their lives to smuggling God into an atheistic culture. As each of the writers in "Behind the Screen" individually reflect on their careers, or the role of faith in film, they speak in unison about one thing: the only way for issues of faith to make their way into Hollywood films is for more people of faith to work there.
While "Behind the Screen" marks a call for Christians to take a step toward embracing Hollywood, Hollywood is doing its utmost to embrace Christians. Having discovered an enormous, previously unnoticed audience for Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," the film industry has begun to reach out to Christian audiences, in the hopes of attracting them to faith-friendly films. This has taken some odd turns, as when Columbia Pictures made a big push among religious audiences and church groups for last year's "Christmas With the Kranks," a slapstick holiday comedy starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis whose main religious selling point seemed to be that it took place on a Christian holiday.
Having grown more sophisticated in their marketing to Christian audiences (or maybe just having better films to work with), major studios are making a big push this holiday season and onward for religious moviegoers to embrace their films. This trend is visible on television as well, with the recent success of NBC's miniseries "Revelations," and upcoming programs like "The Ten Commandments."
20th Century Fox has leapt to the forefront, launching a faith-friendly version of their website (www.foxfaith.com) that features religious- and family-oriented films, and announcing their commitment to produce a baker's dozen of films for this audience. Fox also announced the establishment of relationships with born-again actors like Judge Reinhold and Stephen Baldwin, making an appearance with Baldwin at this year's Christian Booksellers' Convention to promote his new film "Midnight Clear."
Other upcoming or recent movies and TV series being marketed to Christians include:
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe": One of the most anticipated films of this holiday season. Disney held a reception for the film at the Christian Booksellers' Convention, and a slew of new books on the Christian aspects of the film (and the C.S. Lewis book on which it is based), being released. Speculation has run rampant about how faithful the film and its planned sequels will be to the Christian allegory at the heart of Lewis' adventure tale, and Disney has marketed the film heavily in faith communities. Trailers are currently in theaters, and the film will open December 9.