Have I mentioned I like Indiana Jones? If I haven't then consider yourself informed. I'm a fan of storytelling, specifically visual storytelling. Pixar, Lucasfilm, Disney, Marvel, DC (comics, since the films, aren't so great) have told some of the greatest stories of all time, but do you know what makes their stories so great? GREAT CHARACTERS. I'm in love with the characters. Who isn't? We’re talking about massive cultural icons who I believe can grow beyond the actors who have helped make them great.
Consider James Bond for a moment. The character has survived seven different actors over 60 plus years. Skyfall, 007’s latest outing, grossed over a billion dollars. A BILLION FREAKING DOLLARS *touches pinky to lip. What makes generation after generation pay to see these films? GREAT CHARACTERS. We love James Bond, we want to be him, we want his girlfriend, car, watch, clothing, and muscles. That’s why we poor over the films, books, and comics.
Speaking of comics, I kind of look at it like this: If you ever read comics (or already have) you will notice that every so often the names will change at the beginning of the book. Furthermore, the art has probably shifted. It most likely is the begging of a new story arch and what you're noticing is that a new creative team has taken over the book. It's still [INSTER HERO HERE] but he maybe looks or acts a bit different. The canon is still present also. Everything that came before happened and this new story will add to that canon. You push on anyway excepting that this is still [INSERT HERO HERE] you're reading and you can't wait to see what happens. If that book flops? Oh well. The next take on the character might be better.
This is how we should look at certain legendary film characters. Not all of them, but those select few who rise above the cream and lodge themselves so deeply into popular culture that they spread like a virus through the veins of a man with a low immune system. These are characters designed more like TV, where the main character doesn't really ever change but the characters in the worlds he visits do. For example...
I'll use the easiest example first since it's a no-brainer. There have been eight actors to don the cape and cowl and fight crime as The Batman, so it's pretty easy to imagine the same thing for Cap, Thor, and even RDJ’s Irons Man. Where I’d like to see the MCU mix it up is canon. Remember when I mentioned how comics change creative teams but keep the canon? Well with the MCU you have a great opportunity to bring this to the cinema. Hey, if you would’ve asked anyone 20 years ago if audiences would accept a massively connected universe on screen that worked exactly like the comics they would’ve laughed and had no clue what you was talking about. What’s to say bringing this aspect of comics to cinemas wouldn’t work just as well?
I’m one of the rare folks who has enjoyed every Disney Star Wars, from the nostalgic fan-service to letting the past die, I’ve been right on board enjoying every minute. That being said I know the episodic Skywalker story-arch can’t last forever. For a great article on that check out Nick Doll’s thoughts here. I’m talking more specifically about characters like Han Solo or Poe Dameron. SOLO a Star Wars Story, despite it being a financial failure, was really fun and proved that characters can be more than just the actors who made them. Poe and Han can have ongoing serialized adventures within the SW universe just like...
Have I mentioned that I like Indiana Jones? Did I? Oh, yea...
Indy is another no-brainer, in that he draws heavy inspiration from Bond. Spielberg looked at Indy as his 007 and when it came time to cast his Dad, who did they look to? None other than Bond himself, Sir Sean Connery. Indy’s adventures are not really episodic, pulling from old serials of the 1930s, each is an adventure focusing on another powerful artifact in a different part of the world. We want to be Indy, where his clothes, own his whip, travel around the world to exciting and exotic places. Why should we have to say goodbye to this character because Harrison Ford is old? Indy six should be a recast and not with a girl!
GENDER SWAPPING STUNTS
I don’t mind girl Ghostbusters. In fact, I welcome them, just don’t tell me an ALL GIRL Ghostbusters isn’t just stunt casting for box office results. Why couldn’t it be half and half? Because that doesn’t make an attractive headline. GHOSTBUSTERS REBOOT RECASTED WITH GIRLS is a viral headline. Too bad it didn’t bring the box office results they hoped for. I would imagine that this kind of stunt casting for box office results would be insulting to folks. For this reason, among many others, I disagree with gender swapping (except for Bond, girl Bond would be awesome).
PASSING THE HAT
Furthermore, passing the torch (or hat) won’t work for a character like Indiana Jones either. Indy’s hat is just a hat unless it’s on Indy’s head. It isn’t a mantle to be passed on like Batman or Superman, there’s only one Indy and it’s Indy. The time setting is another problem, we like Jones pre-WW2. In other words, a contemporary Indy wouldn’t work, you’d just have folks yelling “nice hat loser” at him all the time. (I know this from experience.) We need Indy punching Nazi’s.
In the end, I imagine the current trend of nostalgia-fueled blockbusters will fade, so this may all be redundant but if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t mind seeing my favorite character return in some way shape or form every few years. Let me know what you think by commenting below or tweeting me @Indy_Filmmaker.
“So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’”
Matthew 25:25 HCSB
You have a calling on your life!
What's holding you back? Whether you're an artist, athlete, soldier, office worker, contractor, or entrepreneur God has a purpose for you. Ultimately our purpose is to bring glory and honor to God in everything we do and win souls for his kingdom by sharing his love. This is how we were designed to express ourselves... so why aren't we?
Michael Arndt, the writer of Toy Story 3, explains writing as climbing a mountain blindfolded. This is also true of living in Faith as a Christian and the enemies goal is that we die having never climbed at all.
Allot of us view Spiritual Warfare like a scene from Lord of the Rings, Angels, and Demons locked in a battle for the fate of humanity, when actually we know that the battle was already won, the enemy defeated, and humanity saved. We would be better off looking at it as a defeated enemy’s last attempts at taking as many poor souls with him as he can in a blaze of glory. The way to do this is not to simply focus on the non-believer but rather the Christian. If he can stop the Christian from fulfilling his purpose then how will non-believers ever be saved?
“Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:13 HCSB
Please know that I'm talking about myself before anyone else and for me, my biggest weakness is procrastination. Procrastination is probably the most effective tool in the enemies arsenal because it keeps us in the mindset of I WILL do it but I’ll do it tomorrow. The enemy would love to have us saying this until we die. In my film ’A Town Called Redemption’ Doc states ”there are thousands of promises in the bible but tomorrow isn't one of them.” Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
“Don’t boast about tomorrow, for you don’t know what a day might bring.”
Proverbs 27:1 HCSB
Now it’s easy to blame outside forces for our problems. ”The devil made me do it” would be too easy for us to get out of our problems. The sad truth is the enemy doesn't force us into anything. He just plants the seed and we act out on our own. We create the drama in our lives, turning every day into a soap opera which turns us into the very thing we fear. We begin to criticize, judge and gossip, getting into all kinds of trouble.
We should not accept this behavior in ourself because it's going to prevent us from our calling. We need to put the sparing gear away and actually get into the ring. We need to change our ideology of ethics. We will stumble and fall from time to time but we must work hard every day.
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,”
Hebrews 12:1 HCSB
Although we may fear rejection, which is human, the Pro doesn't let it paralyze him. The Amateur waits for his hand out. The Pro takes the day. The Amateur dreams of success. The Pro knows work breeds success. The Amateur entertains hope and disappointment. The Pro lets the chips fall where they may and trusts God. The Amateur lets adversity discourage him or victory fool him into complicity, where the Pro doesn't fall for it, he accepts what may come, presses in, and keeps fighting, win or lose. When the Pro wakes up in the morning and his feet touch the ground the enemy says ”oh, no.” The Pro doesn't take things personally and instead gives God the glory in everything he does. Because at the end of the day the Pro knows that if he just takes the first step God will meet him the rest of the way. What’s the hardest part of climbing a mountain blindfolded? Finding the mountain. We just need to forget excuses, find our mountain, and start to climb.
1 Peter 1:13
A Town Called Redemption has been nominated for an Oscar!
Just kidding, we’ve been nominated for something WAY better. The International Christian Film Festival has nominated A Town Called Redemption for Best Screenplay for a Short Film! On behalf of the cast and crew, we cannot be more honored and would like to give God every once of credit and glory.
What is ICFF? Sometimes referred to as the ”Christian Oscars” ICFF draws some of the biggest names in Christian Cinema and the most talented emerging faith-based filmmakers in the world. Widely considered the largest Christian Film Fest, they have concerts, screenings for nominated films, seminars, and an award ceremony for the winners in each category.
What is ’A Town Called Redemption’? It's a short faith-based film made by my Church and myself about a young boy who, with the help of his best friend, takes on a ruthless band of outlaws to protect his father. The film is an action adventure in the style of old Zorro and Lone Ranger serials that's sure to please fans of both Westerns and Superheroes. It's also a film about life choices and how your decisions determine your destiny.
Stay tuned for more info on screening schedule for the film and please make sure to buy your tickets and book your room through internationalcff.org
Show your support for the film by emailing them and letting the festival know you're excited for ’A Town Called Redemption’ HERE
I LOVE MOVIES.
Nothing beats getting a huge bucket of popcorn and seeing a really great movie. It’s even better when its something you can connect with, in my case ”faith-based” or films with Biblical elements. That’s why I believe Christian cinema has had a little bit of a revival as of late. Seems like there are faith-based films being released once a month almost. The only problem is none of them are connecting with anyone other than people like me, that is people of the Christian faith.
I can think of about two Christian movies within the last twenty years that are Biblical and have connected with both people of faith and non-believers: The Passion of the Christ and Prince of Egypt, and one is a cartoon. Every other film I’ve seen that I’m told is a ”must-see” Christian movie seems to get critically panned and isn't really being widely accepted. I couldn’t figure out why but then I realized its because they aren’t good movies outside of the message they're trying to convey.
In my last blog post, I wrote about the importance of Invisible Ink. This is the emotional moral hidden within every scene of a well-written film. Why author Brian McDonald calls it Invisible Ink is because it’s meant to be hidden. If not, it begins to become ”preachy” and turns audiences off. A movies primary goal is to entertain, not preach where a sermons main goal is to preach, not entertain. Now you can have elements of both in sermons or movies but when you lose focus on the primary function you lose the audience completely. Christian movies, at least to me, seem to preach to the choir. Maybe because the Choir is who mainly buys tickets or maybe it’s designed to inspire folks of faith. It’s not made to entertain so, therefore, non-believers don't want to see it and, as a result, it can not evangelize.
Ben-Hur (1959) MGM available to own or rent through iTunes, Amazon, or Vudu
One of my favorite Christian films ever made is the 1959 epic: Ben-Hur. Nominated for 11 Oscars and still considered a classic to this day Ben-Hur bolsters an unforgettable story, legendary acting, and action scenes that, considering how old it is, still wow viewers (partly because it’s Stunts, more on this in another post). The most compelling part of the story though is its message. Ben-Hur is about letting go of hate. The villain was great too. He had reasons why he betrayed Ben-Hur and honestly was hurt that he had to. He wasn’t one dimensional.
Some of the biggest faith-based films in recent history have really good messages, like standing up for your faith or what you believe. They have...acting. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to live up to Heston. The plots exist too. The villains are more or less ”facebook meme villains”. Unsurprisingly every faith-based film seems to be critically panned and NOT just because Hollywood has an agenda. I repeat DON’T BLAME CRITICAL FAILURE ON THE LEFT-WING. Don’t believe me? Hacksaw Ridge, a film about a young man standing up for and inevitably conquering through his faith in Jesus Christ, was nominated for...wait for it...BEST PICTURE.
CREDIT: COURTESY OF LIONSGATE
If you are just making a movie to make Saints nod their heads and feel good you’ll never evangelize non-believers. One note evil atheist villains and perfect Christian protagonists who have to overcome not their own flaws, like Judah Ben-Hur needing to repent of his hatred, but just being oppressed by people who disagree with them aren’t entertaining to anyone who isn’t an “oppressed” Christian. Entertaining Christian movies can exist, if they focus on being good movies that have a message, not a message that’s slapped into a mediocre movie.
Maybe they need to shake the formula that seems to be the current format or maybe we as Christians need to ask for more than feel-good mediocrity. Either way, if it's not preaching the gospel to new souls, what’s the point?
Things to Google:
1. Christian Film reviews
2. Ben-Hur (1959)
3. Hacksaw Ridge
4. Creating realistic characters
-Toy Story 3 copyright Pixar Studios
“The greatest story commandment is: make me care” -Andrew Stanton, most likely
Something I’ve had on my mind lately is good storytelling. Partly because my son watches Pixar movies 24/7 and, if he isn’t watching on TV, he’s looking up scenes from the films on his iPad (he’s two btw) (I know I’m a horrible Dad). One thing I can’t get over is how every Pixar movie, at least for me, a twenty-nine-year-old man, seems to always be able to tug at your heartstrings, no matter how silly the subject matter. I feel bad for fish, I root for grumpy old men, and I need a tissue because toys are holding hands in a furnace. What’s wrong with me? (allot but that's another blog post)
I began to look at Filmmakers like Andrew Stanton, Michael Arndt, and Brad Bird, all of whom have wonderful storytelling videos on YouTube, and they all had one thing in common: they wanted to make the audience care. They accomplish this by giving these silly characters REAL problems, relatable, that hit home for everyone that has the ability to feel empathy. The Iron Giant, for example, was built on the premise ”what if a gun didn't want to be a gun anymore.” That seems silly but think about it: We’ve all be in positions that we didn't want to be in because it just wasn't for you. Now apply those feelings to a giant weapon of mass destruction and you have a cult classic, apparently.
In my research, I discovered the name, Brian McDonald. Brian is a screenwriter, director, teacher who teaches classes at Pixar after Andrew Stanton had supposedly read his book “Invisible Ink” in one sitting. The book was said to have helped Stanton finish WALL-E (one of my favorite Pixar’s). So I picked up Invisible Ink and gave it a read. I was fascinated! The book reveals another side of writing the viewer never see’s. In other words, a story's moral, heart, or inspiring message is the Invisible Ink behind the movie or ” armature” as the book explains. It’s the single most important part of the story. This was exactly what Pixar had been doing and without anyone even knowing it.
Invinisble Ink by Brian McDonald available on iBooks and Amazon
Frankl;y, this is missing from most movies that hit theaters today. Why? It seems Hollywood is more interested in the CGI spectacle rather than a movie that can inspire a whole new batch of filmmakers. You hear/read stuff like ”Chinese box office” and ”mass appeal” or ”high concept”. Which is just code for ”money, please”. I'm not against making money, I'm actually very pro-making-money, but I believe movies with Invisible Ink actually make more money than soulless blockbusters.
Let's look at a similar, sister studio, under the same umbrella as Pixar: MARVEL. According to Wikipedia Marvel’s total box office to date is $13.511 billion after 18 films. This is fantastic. Not to mention the fact that they brought to life the first comic book universe like we had only previously seen in the books, where the story of one character would cross with another and eventually to lead to a huge event. (cannot wait for Infinity War) Most studios would have shuttered at the thought of doing something risky like that. I bet some actually said, ”how did they get away with that?” That answer is INVISIBLE INK.
Now let’s look at another huge library of heroes that, in my humble opinion, is the Pixar of the comics world: DC Comics. Who else could make a man dressed as a Bat or an alien from a faraway planet seem relatable? In fact, Brad Bird even draws from Superman in The Iron Giant. Why is it then that the attempted DC movie universe has essentially failed? No invisible ink. They rushed it, stuffed it with spectacle, and packaged it for maximum profit. They saw Avengers BO numbers and cut their nose off to spite their face, disregarding what made the source material so special.
So, as I continue to write and create my own films, I'm inspired to apply invisible ink, to make the audience care, and to speak truth into all my stories. For faith-based filmmakers like myself, I believe this subject is ten times more important. Our invisible ink should come from the truths and lessons of God’s word. How Jesus died for each and every person so that they would not perish but have eternal life. Why do you think Jesus taught using parables? They were also full of invisible ink.
Written by James Burns
Subjects to google: