Friday, April 11, 2014

Adventist Film-Making - If Not Now, When?

The director managed to produce something good enough to
win an award - even though the film was unreleased. Surely
With the level of involvment by GC, they could have got
the message right.
The Record Keeper's been canceled by the General Conference. The innovative web-series has fallen victim to attempts to make a movie without really understanding how to make a movie. It's a shame they canceled the series , but I understand the reasoning. In a prepared statement, the General Conference cited biblical inaccuracies that would have contradicted the study guides that went with the film. 

If the GC were to encourage our schools to train more screenwriters, film-makers, cinematographers, sound engineers etc., perhaps we'd get some actual believers involved in these kinds of creative projects next time. We need to get more Adventist young people trained up well enough to do "quality" film work. Instead of discouraging them as in this case, we need to be empowering them.  In the name of controlling content, lets not make the mistake of trying to convert ministers into film-makers or, worse yet, producers.  Those are different skills sets.

The GC statement, killing the project, did come with assurances that the General Conference wanted to promote more such creative projects in the future. That will remain to be seen. I have my doubts. To me the GC's statement about believing in creative outreach sounds more like face-saving than a genuine desire to actually be creative in our outreach. I expect heads to roll at GC over blowing a million bucks on a failed film. If the past is any indicator, the failure of the Record Keeper series is likely to put a damper on any future church-sponsored films of this sort.

In order to get these kinds of projects done in the future, they'll likely have to be done by independent Adventist film-makers raising funds on their own.
I know of one SDA film-maker doing a retrospect on the life of Sam Campbell. It's a difficult and time consuming process even for a single one hour documentary film. A quality feature film or television series is even more so. 

Perhaps it's time to organize SDA film-makers and would-be film-makers, animators and other creative types into some sort of film studio of our own. Then if the GC wanted to do a film, they could use us if they wished. AND we could do documentaries and independent films all on their own without having to go through committee to get approval.

One of the advantages a studio run and staffed by SDAs would have is a sense of purpose, mission and, hopefully, a profound lack of the kind of greed that drives up the costs of film-making. Set up as a not-for-profit, somewhere near film services, resources and excellent locations, a self-supporting film company could grow into a powerful tool for outreach and witness. I can think of several places that would be good home bases.  The Dallas-Ft. Worth area has quite a lot of film resources with a lot of great locations for filming fairly close by.  The Pacific Northwest is fast becoming a hub for film-makers, especially in television. Check out how many TV series are being filmed in Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia. We have universities in both areas.

The idea of doing outreach through a web-series such as the Record Keeper was really quite a good one. Faith for Today pioneered such an approach through it's Westbrook Hospital series. With today's technology an enthusiastic tech-savvy youth, well-trained in the cinematographic arts, we could literally reach every corner of the Earth. We could sell material to the GC media department, 3ABN and local churches to play on their local cable community access channels. We could put up really good material on places like Youtube where we're being pounded by critics and enemies of the faith who put up almost twice as many videos as we do.

An SDA film studio with an outreach program could also provide technical support for local church outreach programs. We could develop a stable of our own actors and actresses, camera crews and technical people, drawn from churches world-wide.

Okay, now I'm excited. If anyone is interested in being a part of such a project, please contact me directly. The link will take you to my email address. Perhaps the association of Adventist-Laymen's Services and Industries needs a new member organization.  

It is too bad this effort at media outreach misfired. Perhaps from the ashes of this debacle, God will raise up something far more powerful than we ever thought possible. He tends to do that sort of thing if you look at the history. Perhaps it's time we believers went ahead and did what needs to be done and let our leaders run along behind shouting, "Wait for me I'm your leader."

Tom King

© 2014

1 comment:

  1. Here's a quote from the COO of the production company;

    "Those of us who worked on the project know there was guidance from several General Conference committees from the inception. The project development process was highly collaborative with GC representatives from the beginning.

    The scripts were co-written by a GC employee, an Adventist director, and an Adventist university professor.

    After the scripts were written, hundreds of people on GC committees reviewed and approved the scripts. There were several GC reps on set every day; their oversight and input greatly appreciated. Much care went into keeping the episodes Biblically sound and in line with Adventist principals."

    QUESTION: So how did the script result in a movie that the GC would rather eat all that money than release the film?