Homeschoolers: Future Directors of Christian Movies in Hollywood?

New film group by an AOL Executive looks to train homeschoolers as Christian movie directors

The Christian community has not done a good job of raising "superbly qualified" Christian filmmakers to direct big-budget movies, according to George Escobar, the executive director of AOL Video.

Two of the most recent successful Christian-themed movies, "Amazing Grace" and "The Chronicles of Narnia," were both directed by secular directors.

Escobar, who is a born-again Christian and homeschooling dad, is hoping that the launch of Advent Film Group, LLC (AFG), a new film production and distribution corporation, will help change the filmmaking landscape in Hollywood by adding more Christian directors who will produce more big-budget films with moral integrity.

He also said the group would be looking to homeschoolers as its primary target.

"Our mission is to change culture for Christ through media," said Escobar. "We are drawing from the outstanding talent and strength of the homeschooling community."

In recent years, the homeschooling movement has been growing. The U.S. Department of Education estimates there were 1.1 million home-schooled kids in 2003, with growth at 7 to 12 percent annually.

Studies by the U.S. Dept. of Education also suggest that homeschoolers may be ideal candidates for directing films with Christian or moral messages.

When parents were asked for the most important reason for homeschooling, around 31 percent expressed concern on the environment of other schools, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure. Thirty percent had parents who said the most important reason was to provide religious or moral instruction.

"People want a good solid academic education for their children," said Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, in a Family News in Focus report. "They want a safe environment for their children, safety from drugs and alcohol, safety from pre-marital sexual pressure."

A common misconception about homeschoolers is that they are cutting themselves from the outside world by not having the experience of education in public schools.

But Laura Derricks, president of the National Home Education Network, insists otherwise. She says that her children enjoy a rich extra-curricular and social life with other home-schooling families around Austin, Texas, where the family resides.

Her kids, 14-year-old Jackson and 11-year-old Sarah, are involved in a number of organized group activities with others, such as gymnastics, drama and city parks programs, reported the ABC News.

"If homeschoolers can turn the public education monopoly upside down, they can do the same for cinema," said Escobar of homeschoolers' qualifications.

Advent has been endorsed by several high profile homeschooling advocates, including Dr. Michael Farris, founder and chancellor of Patrick Henry College, the nation's only Christian liberal arts college established to serve homeschooled students; Dr. Graham Walker, president of Patrick Henry College; and Michael Smith, president of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

Escobar believes the timing is right for Christian directors as new digital technologies are giving independent filmmakers, such as the makers of "Facing the Giants," the ability to make an impact in an industry dominated by multimillion-dollar budgets.

"Facing the Giants," a film on the triumph of a community and its high school football team, was made by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. The film earned $10 million in box office sales and sold over 1 million DVDs, all with just a $100,000 filming budget.

AFG's "budgets are 'right-sized' to our self-distribution campaign and network," according to Escobar. "It's sustainable."

In the next three years, AFG plans to produce five films touching on themes with a biblical worldview important to family audiences. Participants will eventually direct future films on the AFG production slate.