A global movie distribution company is making sure Tinsel Town takes stock of Christian moviegoers and their families.
Mission Pictures International (MPI) began in 2008 as the brainchild of Cindy Bond and Chevonne O'Shaughnessy, two seasoned movie executives fed up with seeing violent, negative films on screen. Now located in Los Angeles, the fruit of their combined labors is a company that makes movies for both entertaining and educating about traditional domestic values.
"Storytelling is the most powerful way of communicating a message to another human being," said Bond, one of MPI's presidents. "I want to communicate hope and God's love to people. Hollywood is the absolute center of the spiritual battle for this planet. I believe I have a calling to use the media for kingdom purposes as a Christian."
Bond said she started her film career producing and distributing films before realizing the openly spiritual films of her childhood had disappeared. Gone, she said, were movies about Moses and the Ten Commandments or Jesus sacrificing himself on the cross. In their place, she said, were movies made ugly by darkness and depravity explored in pursuit of art.
"As filmmakers, we have a great responsibility to not only entertain but also have a point of view," Bond said. "I choose to use my position in the industry to foster the Judeo-Christianity ethic in my work."
O'Shaughnessy, for her part, said she faced the same personal decision when she began distributing action films overseas 22 years ago. Faced with the prospect her work was upsetting viewers rather than uplifting them, she decided focusing on inspirational family fare would best serve her values.
"Family is the basis of our communities," MPI's second president said. "People are hungry for this kind of film. They want movies where they can sit down as families and feel good together."
The duo developed MPI to fulfill this need and have since developed or distributed over 20 films and television specials. One release, this year's Hallmark special "The Shunning," became the second most watched television movie during the week of its airdate. It examines an Amish community struggling in the modern world, and like many MPI movies, deals frankly with hope, family and faith.
"When you watch an inspirational movie, you feel safe and cared for," O'Shaughnessy said. "Movies can create so much good. We try making them to help others out."
Bond said such a goal can be difficult in an industry mainly driven by profit. The entertainment world's desire for the dollar, she said, had left many Americans feeling Hollywood is far removed from their homes.
"The people that control Hollywood for the most part have the capital to control the vast amount of material on the marketplace," she said. "The bulk of content is thus made by those who in my opinion don't represent the bulk of society. They're not interested in family values but breaking new ground in art, shock value and being edgy."
Bond said that with the rise of the internet and social media, independent film companies like her own could break new ground on their own. By reaching Christian families online, she said MPI and companies like it can hear what counts in their households and give Hollywood a subsequent makeover.
"We want to be in a place where we can make studio-quality films with our worldview," she said. "Christian entertainment can be a viable commodity. We are already thankful and grateful for what God has done for us so far."