Friday, February 20, 2009

Some older blogs taking us to the present

Below are some blogs I'd written that had gotten deleted...these give a decent rundown of how we got to the place we're at now, which I'll update tomorrow.


I'm starting to wonder if Mountain is ready to be made. Maybe I've just been pushing a square peg into a round hole, I don't know. I love this project, I think it can be great, but if it can't be made the way I want to make it, then perhaps I need to do something else.

I've always said that I want to make movies that are mainstream and treated like normal films but that also come from my worldview and perspective of faith. Not traditional "Christian" films. But right now the market doesn't seem to have room for that. Even the studios want to package and label something that they can sell to the hardcore evangelical community. They don't know how to find and market to people like me. And it's making me wonder if I just need to embrace the beast and be part of it for awhile. If I can still make decent movies that I can care about, maybe I should go ahead and "go Christian" and make a little money for awhile before I try getting nuanced or artsy. I don't know.

What I do know is that Hollywood is a business, and the people who succeed are those who find a hole and fill it. Our company has something to offer Hollywood that they want, but we've been holding it back in favor of doing something different. Was that the wrong move? Am I gambling instead of playing it smart?

Maybe I can change the way Hollywood and audiences look at faith-based films. Maybe I can make them better; satisfying the core audience but creating something of artistic value that slowly buy surely raises the bar. Is that selling out? Maybe not. As a good friend of mine said, "It's not selling out as long as you tell the truth."

Either way, I'm working through it, and we should know more about what we're doing next in the next few weeks. And if it's not Mountain, I may have to deal with that.

Well, it looks like my passion project "Mountain" isn't going to happen. The project has simply taken too long, and a good chunk of our funding was withdrawn.

I'd normally be pretty depressed about this, but in a way, I'm feeling pretty settled. This project is obviously not meant to be right now. I've fought it for years, and perhaps this is for the best; perhaps this is protecting me from a mistake, I don't know.

So what's next? I'm thinking I may have to embrace the beast and try to hit a few singles and doubles instead of trying for a home run. The Hollywood industry is telling me they want stronger, faith-based product, stuff they can really market and sell more easily. So far, I've been doing stuff that's more nuanced and difficult, and it hasn't worked. I've got to accept that. I've got to make my investors some money, and there seems to be better ways of doing that than what I've done so far. So I'm ready and willing to do a few lower budget, more "faith-based" films than what I've been doing.

Is that selling out? I don't think so. I still plan to make good movies, and I certainly plan to vastly improve the quality of movies that have come from the Christian market. And I'm never going to lie in my films, telling stories that don't reflect reality. But part of being a filmmaker is making smart business decisions, and so far, I haven't earned the right to take big risks and try to change the market. If I can make a few movies that make some money and earn us some status and trust in the industry, then perhaps I can push the envelope a little more. I'm in this for the long haul, so I guess I'm going to have to pull back, start again, and this time start small and build up.

Was this my original intent when I got in the business? Not really. But that doesn't necessarily make it wrong. I'm on a journey, and this is part of it. Hopefully, I'll be able to follow God's plan for my life, whatever that may be. I'm not very good at hearing God's explicit voice, so I often have to rely on open and closed doors. The "Mountain" door seems pretty clearly to be closed.

As I mentioned, "Mountain" is in a coma for awhile, and we're moving on to something else. I would be sad about it, but it's been obvious in the last few weeks that we're doing the right thing.

Right now independent movies are becoming increasingly squeezed out of the marketplace. They simply don't have the marketing dollars to compete with the big studio releases, and many of these films, even the good ones, are going straight to DVD and not making much money. Additionally, the studios that have shown interest in "faith-based" product, which is one of the unique things we can provide, are only interested in or able to go after one segment of the faith market, and that's the hardcore evangelical crowd that typically is interested in one kind of film.

Because of all these factors, I don't think "Mountain" would have had a chance to be very successful, at least at this point in time. So we've decided to partner with Pureflix Entertainment to do a couple of smaller, faith-based films, and really work within the system that's currently in place. My long-term goal is to do some films that can really resonate on a larger scale and to a wider audience, and perhaps some of these early films can do that. But our primary, short-term goal is to simply make some good movies that have a strong message that can make a little money through the channels that Pureflix has been setting up.

If we can make some money and get a little attention, perhaps we can build on it and take a few more risks. But we're going to go one small step at a time.

The cool thing is, we've got a project that's currently in development that we're pretty excited about. Pureflix introduced me to a writing duo that is fantastic, two guys who had the exact same urge I had to go in this direction. Our primary objective is to make higher quality films than what the Christian market has provided thus far, and these guys can help us get there. If the films get better, hopefully the market will grow and mature, and we can really start to compete with what's out there in the mainstream. And ultimately, we'd love to be a valid and legitimate part of the mainstream. Anyway, these guys are going to take the next month or so to rewrite an already good script, and we plan to be in pre-production by early 2009.

The current plan is to start shooting in the spring, and while we're making this first film, we'll be getting another one written. Then, while we're marketing this first film, we'll make the second one. And so on.

I'll have more details for you when we make the deal official, and once we start pre-production, I'll be blogging daily like I was going to do with Mountain. And when shooting begins, we'll be doing video blogs from the set. It'll be very cool and give you a chance to see a film get made step by step, with behind the scenes looks at the cast and crew and all the details that go into getting a film done.

Stay tuned!