LOS ANGELES, JAN. 7, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Christians should work to change Hollywood from the inside, instead of spending so much time criticizing it from outside. This is one of the main ideas in the recently published "Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film and Culture" (Baker Books).
The collection of essays, edited by Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi, stems from the activity of Act One, a group set up in 1999 by Christian writers and producers active in Hollywood. Act One aims to train "artist-apostles" for the movie industry, and to transform it from within. The essays are written by Act One staff and stem from the curriculum prepared for the students.
In her essay on the theme of a Christian cinema, co-editor Nicolosi, the executive director of Act One, observes that producing more films like Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is no easy task. In fact, Gibson is somewhat of an anomaly, as artists of that level rarely believe in Christ, and Christians who have a mature faith rarely succeed in the entertainment business.
The community of the faithful, Nicolosi contends, also needs to rid itself of the idea of creating a "Christian cinema" in the sense of making products all by itself for a separate audience of believers.
Instead, Christians need to work with Hollywood insiders, and to learn from them professionally so as to ensure they are capable of producing well-made films, Nicolosi insists. Moreover, Christians cannot limit themselves to producing material based on the Bible and the lives of saints.
"Christians in entertainment don't have to be always talking about God," writes Nicolosi. "They should be talking about everything in a godly way."
Christians also need to be more sensitive to the artistic demands of cinema, notes Nicolosi. Many Christian projects fail because they force the medium by insisting on an overly theological content.
But entertainment works best when it engages in a dialogue with the viewer, rather than just being an academic lesson. Thus, rather than "delivering the Truth" Christians should imitate the trust of the sower who casts seeds on the ground and moves on.
So, what is a Christian movie? asks Nicolosi. For a start it is something more than just avoiding bad language and sexual immorality. A Christian movie should affirm spiritual realities and show viewers that there is more than the immediate material world.
Then, it should also be imbued with the certainty that we are not alone, but are connected both to one another and to God.