Films Take Center Stage at Proclaim 18

Jim Caviezel speaking at Proclaim 18NASHVILLE (NRB) – Film professionals shared about living out their faith in the industry and creating movies that reach people during Proclaim 18, the National Religious Broadcasters’ International Christian Media Convention. 

The annual conference included interviews with or speeches by actors, as well as sessions on the film business, spread across the February 27-March 2 meeting at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. NRB’s Convention also featured six movie screenings and an opportunity for potential filmmakers to pitch their ideas to distributors face-to-face.

Jim Caviezel, best known for his role as Jesus in the 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ, said in a March 2 interview, “At best, my industry can like you, because love does not come from them. It does not come from us. It comes from God. So, the question is: Do we want to be liked by many or loved by one?

“Our salvation is everything. We have to live like it is. So, let’s love.”

He told the audience, “If you preach fear, people who don’t believe already have fear. What do you have to offer? The only thing is love.”

Caviezel answered questions from attendees after a screening of the forthcoming movie Paul, Apostle of Christ. The actor, who plays the New Testament writer Luke in the film, said, “The whole goal here was: bring as many souls to Jesus [as possible]. So, I need your voice to get it out there.” 

Actor Stephen Baldwin, who has appeared increasingly in faith-based films in recent years, told Christian communicators March 2, “I’m trying to be a part of content that is real, and I’m blessed that I feel like I’m on the right path because I feel like I can’t give what I don’t have.”

Baldwin – who portrays a martyred missionary in the new movie Staines – said, “What my Father in Heaven wants most from me is me.” While God wants Baldwin’s movies and books, the actor said, “He wants those things according to His will after I’ve gone through His will to create those things by His Spirit.”

Dennis Quaid, a movie actor for more than four decades, told interviewer Eric Metaxas during a February 27 session that faith-based films meet a particular need. 

“I haven’t noticed like a hostility in Hollywood towards what you call ‘faith-based movies,’” said Quaid, who is in the soon-to-be-released film I Can Only Imagine. He said, “[W]hat you would call ‘faith-based films’ are really films for the under-served audience out there. 

“You know, my mom has been complaining of this since the ’70s,” Quaid said, adding his mother would say, “Why can’t they make movies that the whole family can go to that have substance to them?”

He said, “Each film is based on its own merit. If it’s a good story, it’s going to get seen.  . . .  It’s either good or it’s not. It either says something to you or it doesn’t.”

Like Paul, Apostle of Christ, I Can Only Imagine and Staines were among the movies screened during NRB’s Convention. Other films screened during Proclaim 18 were One Nation Under God, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, and Beautifully Broken.

Panelists during a February 28 session described some ways the film industry has changed and not changed.

Jon Erwin – co-director with his brother Andrew of I Can Only Imagine – echoed Quaid’s comment about faith-based movies, saying they are for “an under-served audience.”

A film for theatrical release now “has to be an event” to draw people to leave their homes, Erwin said before explaining films now fill slots. “[T]he trunk of the tree is gone. . . . It’s gone out into its branches. Everything in essence is a niche. I dream of a day when there can be many branches, and there can be great diversity.”

He encouraged Christian filmmakers to produce a movie for a purpose, serve a group “and enrich their lives.”

Rick Bonn, head of development and acquisitions at Pure Flix Entertainment, told the audience, “I do agree the ‘event’ word is key, and that’s because movies cost so much money to make and market when you’re talking about making studio films.”

The most common script he receives is about a loved one who suffers from cancer and trusts in Christ, he said. 

“And that’s a beautiful story, but you have to ask yourself if someone’s going to make that as a movie, is it an event? Is it a story that people want to see? Is this story an event worth telling that people will want to go to?” Bonn said. “Stop thinking of your screenplay as just personal therapy.” 

Filmmaking has not changed in at least this way, Bonn said: “Know your stuff and tell great stories.”

Phil Cooke, a producer and writer who moderated the panel discussion, told the potential Christian filmmakers, “Lead with your talent not with your faith.  ...  If you lead with your talent, you will get their attention and they will listen to anything you have to say.  ...  Make sure that screenplay is extraordinary. Make sure that movie idea is imaginative.”

The movies previewed at NRB’s Convention were:

  • I Can Only Imagine – a true story of forgiveness based on the hit song of the same name by the band MercyMe.
  • Paul, Apostle of Christ – a portrait of Paul’s final days as a prisoner in Rome.
  • Staines – an account of the killing of Australian missionary Graham Staines in India.
  • God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness – a sequel about a church’s response when it is removed from a university campus
  • One Nation Under God – a portrayal of the faith struggle of a politician and student over the relationship between God and government
  • Beautifully Broken – a true story of three families, seemingly world’s apart, whose lives become intertwined, learning the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.

During NRB’s Pitch-a-thon on February 28, prospective filmmakers were able to pitch their movie ideas or scripts to a lineup of distributors. This year, there were 18 distributors to choose from, including Pure Flix Entertainment, Sony Provident, Affirm Films, Cinedigm, Mission Pictures, and Spotify.

By Tom Strode

Published: March 8, 2018


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