Producer Dismisses Claim that Christian Movies Should Compete with Hollywood Quality

In his article, Joseph Bardwell argues that Christians need to produce films on par with that of Hollywood. While that is a lovely goal, I completely disagree with his argument.

First of all, who is "Hollywood?" It seems that by that most people mean Hollywood blockbusters, their top of the line films, such as Spider-Man and Titanic, yet films of this caliber are only a small percentage of the films Hollywood actually produces. What makes a movie a blockbuster? It is that nearly everyone in America and the world watches the film. The reason so many people watch these films is because they are films that reach the masses; they have universal appeal. Let's think of Christianity, Christ himself said that He came to divide (Luke 12:51) so a film that is Christian will, by its very subject matter, not be something that unifies everyone into wanting to support and watch it.

Secondly, I believe that a production studio's production quality should be compared with other production studios of like situation. If we are comparing Christian films to secular films, then we need to compare them horizontally not vertically.

There are three major tiers of studios in Hollywood, the Big Six, the mini-majors, and (what I call) the "real" independents. The Big Six consist of: Sony, Fox, Disney, Time Warner, Viacom/Paramount, and Universal. The mini-majors include companies like Lionsgate. The "real" independents you have never heard of. They are those filmmakers that have to fund their own projects or ask family and friends for money. They are the filmmakers that borrow equipment from each other and pull themselves and each other up by their bootstraps.

In Christian film, we do not yet have a Big Anything. There are not any production studios only production companies. This is what Mr. Bardwell is attempting to create, a production studio that could compete with the Big Six. Christian film has a few mini-majors like Sherwood Pictures but even at that one must realize the comparison can only be made based on the 2 completed films and the soon-to-be-released 3rd film from Sherwood Pictures not the 30 years worth of infrastructure that Lionsgate has accrued. In reality, most Christian filmmakers are "real" independents. They do not have a secured distribution deal until the very end of the film making process if they get one at all. They have no funding to speak of and no name recognition to play off of.

How can any person, especially those with knowledge of the film industry, compare the bootstrap pullers to Disney? If comparisons are going to be made about the quality of Christian film compare them within the tier in which they belong. There are no secular "real" independent filmmakers that are having to defend themselves from critics who ask why their $10,000 film wasn't of similar quality to the estimated $140,000,000 Pirates of the Caribbean. That is just common sense. So why are Christian filmmakers expected to be able to make films of similar quality with next to no budget?

Mr. Bardwell applauded Facing the Giants for what it was able to accomplish with their small budget of $100,000 - $300,000 then he criticized Facing the Giants for not being of high enough quality. First of all, Sony decided that Facing the Giants was of good enough quality to distribute under its name. Second, what are we comparing it to? Hollywood? Which films in Hollywood? Those made with such a small budget? Facing the Giants would blow them out of the water. It was an incredibly well done "real" independent feature that catapulted Sherwood pictures into the mini-majors which is wonderful since the Christian film industry doesn't have very many in that tier yet.

Mr. Bardwell telling Christians that they should be critical of the quality of Christian films is really only shooting our industry in the foot. The only way that the Christian film industry will ever be able to compete is if Christians go out and support these films by watching them, which will increase the supply and force distributors to carry Christian films, which will allow Christian filmmakers to make better films each time, which will in turn have a greater impact on our society.

I sincerely wish Mr. Bardwell the best in his endeavor, it would be wonderful to have a Christian production studio that could truly compete with Hollywood studios.

Regardless of the fact that I do not have millions of dollars to fund my films, I will obey God and continue to make films to the best of my ability with the funds and resources that He provides me with.