Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of Movie Guide, aptly sums up the meaning and purpose of a Christian film: “A good movie story is a journey toward God. It reminds us of the Master Story-teller. A good story is a holy thing.”
Dr. Linda Seger, who served as script consultant on such films as Luther, Billy The Preacher, Deadline, and The List, says that movies with values tend to do better in the marketplace than movies that don’t seem to have any over-riding value system. “Christians are still working to find their voice as Christian filmmakers,” she says. “That means showing stories with Christian content, rather than telling sermons.
“Filmmaking is a perfect, natural way for Christians to get their message across, if they remember that Jesus is the Word made flesh, just as characters flesh out the words and the values. Christian filmmakers are getting better at this, and I expect we’ll continue to see this market expand.”
“Even non-Christian Hollywood is interested in Christian content, thanks to the fantastic success of The Passion of Christ, Blind Side, and Alex Kendrick’s low budget movies,” notes September Dawn screenwriter Carole Schutter. “With churches and Christian filmmakers suddenly realizing they can make movies that get noticed, Christian film festivals had to follow. It is a superb way to learn the business, network, and find a home for your screenplay, movie, or idea.”
There are a growing number of film festivals that highlight filmmakers working from a Christian worldview. Here are some notable examples.
Cindy Saab of Christian Film Festivals of America, is very excited about their next festival, the 20th Annual Merrimack Valley Christian Film Festival from April 1-8, 2012, particularly since that’s the site where it all started for them.
“It began in 1992 in a New England town on Route 28 in Salem, New Hampshire,” Saab explains. “We rented two theaters and showed four Christian movies—The Prodigal, Jesus, The Hiding Place and Caught—free of charge for eight consecutive days and nights. We expected perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 people to attend the 36 shows. But we ended up with 11,000. We were thrilled with the success of what we thought would be this one-time evangelistic program, as well as humbled and honored to see how God took an ordinary movie theater and transformed it into a sanctuary.”
Each viewing was followed by a closing message and the opportunity to pray with trained prayer counselors and receive a New Testament. “We also instituted a follow-up program, where local pastors and churches invited these individuals to attend a Bible-believing church and get connected to a church family.”
In addition to continuing the Merrimack Valley festivals, the group now has 39 Christian film festivals going on around the country, with a combined attendance of 375,000 to date and over 23,000 decisions for Christ. “We continue to show the films free, including children’s matinees, followed by altar calls. We have featured the following titles as World Premieres: What If…; Jerusalem Countdown; The Encounter; Blink of an Eye; Sarah’s Choice, and have hosted several major name celebrities as guests. We also provide free Christian literature, including magazines, tracts, and brochures, in the lobbies, as well as Christian DVDs for sale at a discounted rate.”
The Christian Film Festivals of America, Inc., is a non-profit organization supported by the donations of local individuals, business men/women and churches.
Under the direction of Emmy-winning director Steve Feldman and novelist and publicist Rebeca Seitz, film industry individuals and churches in the Naples, Fla., area banded together with Reload Pictures to host their first Christian Film Festival in February.
With a distinctively different approach from the Christian Film Festivals of American, Inc., model, Spirit of Naples (SON) and southwest Florida Film Festival began their two-day event with a dinner and keynote address by Michael Flaherty, President of Walden Media. Walden is known for its films The Chronicles of Narnia, Bridge to Terabithia, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Ramona and Beezus, and Nim’s Island. The event also included screenings of the films The Grace Card and Of Gods and Men, plus panel discussions of a Christian filmmaker’s responsibilities and choices for the big screen.
With the first annual festival now under their belt, Spirit of Naples (SON) and southwest Florida Film Festival plan to make this an annual event.
Last December saw the second San Diego Christian Film Festival, which included workshops devoted to various aspects of filmmaking and taught by industry professionals. The fest also devoted one night to issues surrounding global persecution of the Christian Faith, with Dr. Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA, and Rev. Majed El Shafie of One Free World International from Canada.
“Our long-term plans are to continue to grow the festival in both stature and prominence in the Southern California region,” says festival director Richard Bagdazian, “with the goal of becoming a landmark event that seeks to promote the best that emerging filmmakers have to offer to the Christian community. We seek to provide a unique opportunity for attendees to learn from film industry professionals and to support those Christians already in the mainstream film industry, as well as provide exposure to the best new faith-oriented films each year. We hope to grow the festival over the coming years to become a substantial force to affect society for good.”
Christian Film Festivals
Merrimack Valley Christian Film Festival
April 1-8, 2012
Seattle Christian Film Festival
April 4-5, 2012
HolyWood Christian Film Festival of New York
April 20-21, 2012
Life Fest Film Festival
May 4-6, 2012
Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival
August 11-16, 2012
Kingdomwood Film Festival
More listed here at Christian Film Database