“Gun and A Hotel Bible” is not your typical faith-based movie and the creators want viewers to know that God is big enough to handle “all of our feelings and all of our questions” regardless of how strongly we express them.
Now available on global digital HD internet, cable and satellite platforms, the play “Gun and A Hotel Bible” is pegged as the first faith film for “skeptics and doubters.” The indie drama took home seven top awards in the LA Live Film Festival including “Best Feature.”
The movie tells the story of a “desperate man (‘Pete’) who's on the verge of a violent act and his encounter with a personified hotel Bible (‘Gid’). The movie creatively explores themes of betrayal, spirituality, and loss as Pete comes face-to-face with everything he once believed in. Pete and Gid are relatable and at times even humorous as they bond and battle and are ultimately forced to deal with their inadequacies. Can Gideon sway Pete before Pete pulls the trigger?” the synopsis reads.
“Gun and A Hotel Bible” was written by Bradley Gosnell and Daniel Floren and was first a play that ran in Los Angeles. The story became a movie because of the conversations that ensued on the sidewalks of Hollywood after each performance.
“Each performance was followed by post-show dialogue with the audience, and we would see groups gathered on the sidewalks engaged in deep discussions every night,” Gosnell and Floren told The Christian Post in a recent interview. “After each show, inevitably, someone would ask us to quote a certain line to jog their memory; for this reason, our conversation guide has prompts and reminders of what you might have missed in a fast moment.”
Co-directed by Raja Gosnell (“Home Alone,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”) and Alicia Joy LeBlanc (“The Convergence: Mission”), the film’s lead performances are done by Bradley Gosnell (“The Smurfs”) and Daniel Floren (“The Influencers”).
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with the filmmakers, Gosnell and Floren, who collectively explain why they brought faith-themed existential questions to life through this cinematic dialog.
Christian Post: What inspired this unique story angle?
Filmmakers: We have been having late-night debates for our entire 10-year friendship. But always it’s done with love, trust, and respect. We try to understand and empathize with each other’s point-of-view, even (and especially) when we disagree.
Sometimes we debate God, sometimes it’s relationships, sometimes we discuss the cosmic importance of improv comedy. “Gun and A Hotel Bible” was inspired by a Beatles song. We sent some long emails back and forth about the themes we thought would be honest to our characters and went from there.
The writing process for this film was no different as we tried to empathize with and represent both characters’ perspectives. Our goal was to make a good piece of art. Sometimes, art does a better job of teaching us the questions to ask rather than answering the questions we have. Sermons rarely make good movies and movies rarely make good sermons.
Plus, conversations about faith are hard to start and close in an hour. We didn’t want people walking out feeling like they “won” or “lost.” We wanted to give language to how many people really feel and what many people really think. That way, people will be a bit better prepared to do the hard work of having these conversations with the people with whom they are in relationship.
CP: The film shared specific topics such as unlimited choice, judgment and morality. What were you hoping viewers took from each of those topics?
Filmmakers: Our hope was that people would feel both represented in their point of view and challenged to consider new thoughts. We hope people can empathize with both characters, and talk about these tricky topics with the people they love and trust.
CP: Did you have reservations about how Christians would respond to strong language? Why did you decide to include it anyway?
Filmmakers: We aren’t looking to ruffle feathers or offend people, we just want to honestly tell the story of Pete’s character as well as possible. By doing that, we can more honestly give validity to the points of view he represents. In all art, we’re hungry to tell stories in a way that is simple, true, and beautiful. With “Gun and A Hotel Bible,” we feel the grit and tension help accomplish those things. We use the F-word, because that’s how some people talk — and it’s definitely how Pete’s character talks.
There is a place for all kinds of films with faith as the subject matter: Kids films, family friendly, young adult, gritty, etc. We don’t see grit and tension as being in any contradiction with movies about the Christian faith. The Bible is full of violence, sex, tension, questions, and pain.
Grit and tension are a part of life, and art is a reflection of life. As long as the audience is mature and well-prepared, we think there is an acceptable space for mature content in faith-centered art.
CP: Who are you hoping to reach with "Gun and A Hotel Bible"?
Filmmakers: Well, first of all, this film is for anyone who loves great writing, quick comedy and drama. And we think it will resonate with people of faith, especially those who've had thoughtful struggles in their faith journey. But anyone who has walked away from the church, been let down by the promises made by a church, or ever wanted to ask hard questions about faith will hopefully find something special here. We also think theater fans and philosophy nerds will enjoy it.
The film isn’t for the little ones, but for educators who feel their students are ready for mature conversations about faith, “Gun and A Hotel Bible” will be a fun resource, which is why we created a conversation guide to aid these discussions. College students, (maybe) high school students, and young adult groups will have a lot to chew on as they wrestle with the hard questions of faith and God.
CP: Do you think your film will inspire millennials to engage with their Bibles?
Filmmakers: We think it’s more likely to inspire millennials to engage with each other about biblical topics. Most people don’t have a talking Bible and it’s the friction of important dialog that drives our story. It’s worth saying that having a tough conversation in a loving way can be hard for anyone in any generation. That said, this story does ask the "big questions" that young people might be asking themselves for the first time. In that way, I think our movie can be useful in showing the scope of what the Bible has to offer.
CP: What would you say is the importance of dialogue versus dogma when engaging doubters?
Filmmakers: We don’t think you can have good answers without good questions, and it’s important that we, as humans, get comfortable with living in the unknown with each other. People of faith can be just as guilty as anyone else of having an addiction to control, perfection and “knowing everything.”
We struggled with all of this when writing and it’s hard! We tried to let go of “knowing the answer” and relax into the truth that we are all limited in our perspective. Leaving a piece of art with ambiguity helps encourage a comfort in the unknown that we think is important.
CP: What do you want viewers to take from the film?
Filmmakers: The main ideas we hope viewers leave this movie considering are: Seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Have friends that disagree with you? Value their differences! We hope that people who see our movie will feel represented and challenged. If people walk out feeling “wrong” or “right” about everything they currently believe, I will feel like we went amiss somehow.
Finally, no questions are off-limits, especially with God. If He claims to be the substance of truth, you have the right to ask Him anything.
God is big enough to handle all of our feelings and all of our questions. We will never know everything. If we have a need for perfection and control for everything we believe, it will strangle us and those around us. It’s all mysterious and a lot bigger than us.
Yes, there is definitely something that is absolutely true … and we should seek after the full knowledge of it! But from our vantage point, there will never be perfect vision. Be kind and patient with those who are different than you, and allow for the possibility that you, too, might be wrong.
Visit the website for more information on “Gun and A Hotel Bible.”