With the success of such films as The Passion of the Christ, Christian and faith-based films have seen a sharp increase in production within the past years. Inside of this movement is one of the most prominent Christian film directors, Michael Landon, Jr., son of Little House on the Prairie star Michael Landon.
Ahead of the upcoming DVD release of his first FoxFaith film, The Last Sin Eater, on May 15, Landon spoke to The Christian Post about the movie and about the experiences that come with being a Christian director.
The following are excerpts taken from the interview:
CP: How was your experience directing The Last Sin Eater? Did you feel that it was any different from past movies you've made, especially since you released it under the FoxFaith label?
Landon: No, you know the good news was… well first of all, when we first got into business with Fox, it was actually prior to the FoxFaith label. Basically, we pretty much had complete autonomy once they approved the script to make the film as we saw it – "we" meaning my partner, Brian Bird, and I. So the new aspect for me, in terms of the approach, is that I was fortunate to be able to make the film from my personal company and not someone else's.
CP: I was reading through some of your past work experience and I saw that you really have had extensive experience in the moviemaking process besides directing. You've taken positions such as a film loader, the director of photography, an apprentice film editor, and even an actor. Do you think these experiences have helped you now that you are a director? Also, did you know all along this process that you would be interested in focusing on Christian entertainment?
Landon: OK, yes, it's definitely been helpful learning all the other disciplines and paying my dues while doing that. Absolutely no regrets. I did it a long time. And at the same time, I just feel very blessed to be working as a director right now, because it's a very competitive business, a very demanding business. And I'm just so grateful to be working.
To answer your other question, no, I did not know that I would be making Christian films. I've always approached it in a way that if the material resonates with me, then I'll pursue it, and that's pretty much in the guidelines as I move forward.
CP: Do you find it difficult to be a Christian director out there in the market, because it seems that film critics are usually kind of rough when they give reviews of Christian films? Do you think that they are fair with their critiques?
Landon: You know, when you read a review, sometimes you can read into the intent of the critic. It's hard not to take some of the criticism to heart. Some of it does end up being painful even though you hope you won't be affected by it. At the end of the day, however, it's really the audience that you're hoping will get something out of the film. That's who the film is being made for, not the critics.
So, for example, for The Last Sin Eater, what was very heartening about that was the exit polls. In both genders and age groups, the lowest grade that it got was an A-. So that's very strong, and that tells me a lot.
The other thing that was very important to both Brian and I was pleasing - or at least hopefully pleasing - Francine Rivers, the author of the book the film was made after. You hope to please the author, and it's not always possible but you hope to. And she was extremely pleased with the outcome of the film.
CP: Are there any budget restraints that come with creating Christian films? If so, are there different methods you have to use to compensate for that or do you just have to kind of take what you can get?
Landon: Well, Christian films are definitely in their infancy again. It used to be that Hollywood would spend their largest budgets on Christian films, use their biggest stars, and win Academy Awards. And along came the 60s, and they stopped making them completely. It's only been in the last few years the ability to actually make them again. So I think it's a matter of the studios becoming more comfortable in believing in extending the money again. I think there is going to be an art to that process.
But yeah, the dollar's definitely going to tell you what you can do, and what you can't do. You just try to be creative and show up everyday trying to do the best job that you can.
CP: Do you feel that the crew and the actors are any easier to work with on Christian films, or is it the same as anywhere else?
Landon: It is pretty much the same. It is definitely pretty much the same, because I'm actually not hiring anyone because they are Christian. I'm hiring, because they are going to become that character in the film.
Just as if I needed surgery, I wouldn't go, because he's a Christian. I'd go, because he's the best surgeon. And if he happens to be Christian, then you have that strong connection with that person.
'The Last Sin Eater' comes to DVD on May 15.