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Filmmakers Try to Break Negative Stereotype of 'Christian Films'

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Interview with John Ward and Todd Zeile on "I AM"
Interview with John Ward and Todd Zeile on "I AM"
By Josephine Vivaldo, Christian Post Reporter
November 20, 2010|4:50 pm

Hollywood doesn't like to hear you say "God," "Jesus" or "Christian film," said one producer.

Oftentimes, Hollywood places Christian films in "a box," said Todd Zeile, producer of the film "I Am." But Zeile wants to change that.

"We said, 'no, that box doesn't apply to us because we understand how to make films. We still make them cool and artistic but we have a message that we want to bring along and there's a lot more people out there that want that message than you guys are recognizing," he told The Christian Post in an interview.

A former professional baseball player, Zeile and director John Ward have created a film centered on the 10 commandments but in modern day.

"I Am," released last month and screened at over 2,500 churches, follows people living in Los Angeles, living out the commandments unknowingly, Ward explained. The film was made with the intent of making God's word relevant, starting conversations about faith, and breaking stereotypes of the true nature of God.

"People will say 'well God is angry and judgmental and if I do something wrong it affects His love for me," Ward said. "We wanted to create a portrait of a film that shows that nothing can be further from the truth. God's love is a constant thing."

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Both Ward and Zeile acknowledged that in Hollywood and in the larger public square, faith-based films come with their own stereotype.

"A lot of times in Christian films, we've accepted that a Christian film can't be a quality film," Ward lamented. "We categorically and completely reject that."

Stressing the significance of the arts, Ward pointed to Jesus and how he spoke in parables.

But art and Christians have somehow become separated since Jesus' time and Ward considers it a real shame. He and Zeile and trying to resurrect the arts within the Christian community.

"We are professional artists and we felt a calling to take our art to the highest level and try to follow that parable example," Ward said.

While many are quick to differentiate a secular Hollywood film and a Christian one, Ward put it this way, using baseball analogy: "It's the same game, just a different uniform. We play just as hard and the difference is we're not playing for ourselves, we're playing for something bigger. We're playing for the name on the front (of the uniform), not the name on the back."

Notably, Ward said there are more professionals in Hollywood who are looking to venture into faith-based films. They are currently monitoring the success of such films.

"They're saying 'maybe we need to do what you're doing and put our faith in our work,'" he said. "If we're successful, a lot more are going to come from where we came from."

"I Am" is currently available on DVD.

On the Web:  http://www.iamthemovie.com/

 

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