“Would you consider Hollywood a mission field?” One of the chapters in Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture begins by asking this question. The answer in most Christian circles is a resounding “Absolutely not!” Generally, Christians don’t like Hollywood. But even though we might love to hate it, we do love it as much as the secular audience does.
About six years ago, a small group of Christian writers and producers in Hollywood realized that “The protests, letter campaigns, and finger-pointing don’t do any good; change…. can only start on studio lots, in network offices, at talent agencies, and on movie sets.”
This small group started the non-profit program called Act One (www.actoneprogram.com). From its first class starting in 1999, Act One has trained “artist-apostles” to transform Hollywood rather than take it over. They have a heart for the industry, are dedicated to truth and beauty, and all the while strive to be examples of Christ’s love and truth. As a 2005 graduate of the Act One program, I can say they fulfilled their purpose and more.
Behind the Screen is written by Act One faculty, and edited by graduate-now-faculty Spencer Lewerenz along with founder Barbara Nicolosi.
News Flash! There are Christians active in the entertainment industry! And this is where you can hear directly from them – people who are the writers and producers of That 70s Show, X-Men, Joan of Arcadia, Mission Impossible, Touched by an Angel, Batman Forever, Judging Amy, the director and producer of the Hollywood Prayer Network, the assistant executive director of the Writer’s Guild of America, and more. But these people are unsung heroes. As Jack Gilbert, coordinator of Act One’s TV Track and former director of the Warner Bros. Writers Workshop writes, “I may not have had plastic surgery, several marriages, or a wing named for me at the Betty Ford Clinic, but I have been a part of this business for almost twenty years.”
“Hollywood is not only a mission field, it is also the world’s most influential mission field.” It may not look like a mission field – people there live in nice houses, drive fancy cars, and have plenty to eat – but they are spiritually starving.
Behind the Screen's 18 chapters speak to those Christians coming to Hollywood to transform it from the inside, address what we as a Christian audience can be doing to help transform Hollywood from the outside, and give practical advice and insight from those who have “been there, done that” and are still doing it.
The Hollywood attitude towards Christians is “Christians don't watch no matter what we make, so why bother making shows for them?”
Money is what Hollywood worships. Jonathan Bock, founder and president of Grace Hill Media says “…we can make any movie we want to into a hit.” If a mere 5 percent of the 120 million Christian Americans went to see a particular movie within the first three days of its release, those 6 million people would roughly add up to a studio head-turning 45 million dollars. Get the studios to realize the market and they’ll be making more pictures for that audience.
In regards to TV, Christian viewers need to speak up more. Dean Batali, executive producer of That’ 70s Show, says, “Let them (Hollywood) know when you see something you don’t like, and send them praise when they deserve it.” But let them know about what you don’t like in a polite, God-honoring way. They’ll be more likely to listen. Karen and Jim Covell, director and producer of the Hollywood Prayer Network (www.hollywoodprayernetwork.org) say “We have never met a person in Hollywood who has become a Christian because of a boycott.”
To Hollywood, Christians “who were called to be examples of love for the world, have come to represent all that is cold and hateful in the popular imagination.” Casting Hollywood as the enemy has only pushed Hollywood farther away. And the farther away it is from us, the less influence we have on our culture.”
“The world does not need a 'Christian cinema' so much as it needs Christians in cinema.” And to that end, Behind the Scenes is highly recommended. -- Leilani Wells, Christian Book Previews.com
Hollywood: Devil's playground or God's mission field?
Joan of Arcadia, Mission Impossible, Batman Forever, and That '70s Show have been some of the biggest productions in film and television. But did you know that Christians have been behind the scenes of these and other box office smashes? Industry professionals Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi have discovered that the church is very much alive in Hollywood--and making a difference!
Behind the Screen presents a fascinating look at Hollywood through the eyes of Christian writers, producers, and executives living out their faith behind TV shows, on movie sets, and in studio offices. In their own words, they will take you behind the screen to reveal what Hollywood thinks of God and what you can do to close the gap between Christianity and culture.