The National Religious Broadcast (NRB) National Convention, now in its final day in Orlando, has brought together some of the key leaders in Christian broadcasting and entertainment. While at the conference, The Christian Post was able to meet up with one of Christianity’s more outspoken Christian directors, Dave Christiano.
Christiano is recently premiering his new TV program, the 7th Street Theatre, on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), which boasts to be the first ever Christian primetime drama series. Apart from his busy schedule, he was able to speak not only about the new project, but also about faith, media, Christianity, and the difficulties that come with it.
CP: First, can you just explain what 7th Street Theatre is about?
Christiano: 7th Street Theatre is a weekly dramatic Christian series about five Christian actors that put on a weekly stage show for the community. Most of the episodes take place during the week where the actors prepare for the weekend show. So it’s just different storylines and developments that we did with the characters. That’s basically what it’s about.
For the actors, it was exciting for them, because they got to play different characters. For example, Hugh McLean, who I’ve worked on in a few different projects plays the character Gates. But also in the show, Gates plays a Jamaican cab driver. He plays a sheriff. He plays a Southern coal miner. In other words, the actors play other parts, because they are preparing for a weekend show and they’re doing skits on the weekends.
It kept it interesting for them to be in a TV series. There were no complaints. I didn’t hear one actor say, ‘Man, I’m tired of this role.’ They’re not going to say that in 7th Street Theater.
Now we’re getting ready to shoot season two here in April, and they’re going to say, ‘Hey, what do you got for me this year?’ So that was good in that regard.
CP: I know you feel very strongly about 7th Street Theatre, so why is it important that you made this?
Christiano: I was actually getting ready to shoot another movie called The Gospel Minute. But I thought, ‘I could shoot another movie, or I could shoot this television series and 24 episodes.’ I thought that the 24 episodes would go a lot further.
The initial commitment that I began with when I started shooting, when I contacted my actors, I said, ‘I’m in it to do 65 shows.’ The reason why I picked 65 shows is that is the magic number to do reruns. If you do 65 shows Monday through Friday, you can run 13 weeks without any repeats. So I told all actors, ‘I’m in for 65 shows.’
After I started shooting the second day, I told all the actors, ‘I’m in for this! I’m in for more than 65.’ Because I just saw the immediate chemistry and camaraderie from when I first started doing it, and it just thrilled me inside. I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I’d rather do that TV series than any movie. The TV series has been the most enjoyable thing that I’ve ever worked on.
And I don’t want to diminish any of the work done on the films, because I like working on the films. But the television series, I think it could reach further. The idea is that we want it to be a long-running series, and obviously we’ll just have to see where it goes. I’m not planning on stopping the show. I have every intention of shooting season two.
CP: During your session you just spoke at, you talked about the struggle of trying to reach the market with Christian material. Can you expound on that?
Christiano: I found that the Christian media is more interested in with what Hollywood’s doing rather than what the true born-again Christians are doing. And that’s sad to me. It’s very difficult to get any kind of promotion. I’m looking for awareness. I just want people to know that 7th Street Theatre is coming on the air.
The Christian media seems to be more in touch with the world than in the few Christians, so that’s been very difficult. It just goes back to Jesus. Jesus Christ said it’d never be easy. I don’t think the devil’s against the Hollywood producers. I think he’s against us, and what we’re trying to do. He’s got people in our ranks.
I’ll give you a quick example of what it’s like living the Christian life. Where are you from? Where do you live now?
CP: I live in New York City.
Christiano: You live in New York City. Let’s say I’m the quarterback for the New York Giants. The New York Giants are going to play the Dallas Cowboys in football. Now as quarterback, I’m going to line up, and the Dallas Cowboys are lined up. They have eleven guys on their team. Now I have eleven on my team, but unknown to me, six Dallas Cowboys are dressed in my own New York Giants’ uniforms. So not only do I have the eleven Dallas Cowboys on the other side, but I got the six on my side working against me. That’s how I feel on Christian films.
You got people within Christianity and broadcasting and Christian film industry that are trying to work against you. They are trying to keep Christ out of your movies and from going forward. That, to me, is an accurate portrayal of what I feel I am up against.
It’s been very hard. I don’t think people realize how hard it was to shoot 7th Street Theater. I mean, we shot 24 shows. It took time to do it and effort, but it was a commitment. You had people committed to the project. I had a good few, solid people committed to doing this.
So, now I hope that God can use it. I don’t look at success the way that people look at it. My goal is not to be famous. I’m going to try to be successful, but I don’t have to be the most successful Christian filmmaker. That’s not my goal. I want to be faithful though. I can be the most faithful. I can be the guy that is true to Christ. I say that humbly.
I can be true to Christ, so that when I stand before God, before Jesus, I don’t want to feel ashamed of the works.
CP: When I look at a lot of critics and their sites, often they are really turned off by preachy media. How would you respond to those critics that say, ‘Your movies missed everything? It’s just way too preachy.’
Christiano: Here’s my thing about Hollywood film critics. First of all, I don’t send my Christian films up to a Hollywood film critic. I have a new film coming out, Me & You, Us, Forever, Feb. 15, 2008. I won’t send it to one film critic. Why? Because I know they are going to bash the message. You’re sending a Christian project to a non-Christian film critic, for the most part, and they are going to look for ways to pick apart your project. I’m not trying to please film critics. I’m not trying to get a good word from a film critic.
Here’s another thing. I never have put on my website a comment from a film critic, whether it be good or bad. In other words, you can look at my DVD box on any of the movies that I’ve done. You will not see a comment from some film critic, even if it’s something good. Because if you go to any Hollywood film, they all got good stuff on them. I’m just trying to reach a regular audience. And you know, the idea is that when I produce a film … for example, I’ll use the love story example [Me & You, Us, Forever].
I think there’s interest in a love story out there. This is a love story with no nudity, no sex, and a message for Christ. The emphasis was, ‘Did we write a good story?’ The film, if they like it, they’ll tell others about it. I’m just trying to bring awareness to people. Say, ‘Hey, this thing is available. It’s coming. Here’s what it’s about.’
But I know for example a film critic in Seattle who blasted Facing the Giants, and I read it. The film critic made such a fool of himself. You can tell he had no idea about Christianity. You can tell.
A guy from Variety wrote a critique about Time Changer, my brother (Rich Christiano)’s film, and you know, I wrote back to the guy. I got his email address after he killed Time Changer. I wrote back to him and said, ‘Thank you for writing your review about Time Changer. You brought awareness to our movie.’ He wrote me back, and wrote me a very nice email saying, ‘I actually really did like your film.’ Totally opposite of what his critique was. I thought that was interesting. You know, even though this guy wrote a review that killed Time Changer, it brought some attention to the film.
But I’m not playing with Me &You, Us, Forever. I’m not handing out any screeners to any critics. I’ve already made up my mind. They’re going to kill it any way, just because it’s about a Christian man.
I think the devil hates Jesus. I think Hollywood hates Jesus. How many times did we see them curse his name this year? Hollywood hates Jesus.