Monday, December 10, 2012

An Interview with Lisa Walker England

Here is an interview that I had with Lisa Walker England. England is author of an e-book Rise of the Tiger (the book can be read on  She also works at Storyteller & Strategist at Flipeleven, the world’s most incredible digital agency mentors new storytellers at the Art Institute of Wisconsin.

1. How can you present a Christian worldview through books and films while still producing a quality product?

Well, I'm going to differ  here from what most people would tell you. In my experience, there are two necessary things we must do, to do present a Christian worldview AND produce a quality product.

The first thing is for Christians to quit lying about the realities of life in a sin-cursed world. Most Christian art is fundamentally dishonest. (Not intentionally, but it's a byproduct of Christians trying to whitewash realities so their "sensibilities" are not "offended.") The reality is, most of us (particularly fundamentalists) live in a bubble we've created. We shut the world out, rarely rub shoulders with unsaved people, and hide from all streams of secular media. 

Then, for some reason, inside that bubble, we try to write fiction that speaks Christ's truth about the very ugly world we literally know nothing about. The result is a fundamentally dishonest kind of art that portrays the world as we wish it would be--not as it really is.

This doesn't mean art has to be gratuitous. But it does need to be honest.

In real life, people rarely fall on their knees and get saved in the third act. Sin issues like rape, drug addiction, murder and other serious wrongdoing are rampant, and good doesn't always triumph over evil (at least in this life). But these types of perspectives are rarely ever examined in Christian art, for fear of offending parents with small children, or very conservative churches. Most unsaved characters are reduced to mere caricatures, with "alcoholism" being the prevailing vice that demonstrates their degenerate state. (As a Christian profesional working in a secular environment, I can't help but chuckle when I read many Christian novels. The portrayal of secular life is incredibly naive.)

That is not the world I live in. The world I live in is far, far worse. And by contrast, the Gospel is all the more beautiful when it shines into that darkness. We write about good people who get better, not dead people who need life. 

Simply put: The Bible doesn't lie about depravity. We shouldn't either.

The second way to create a quality Christian-infused product is to learn what a quality product is. Unfortunately, most Christian novels and movies are poorly constructed and shallow. But Christians study those novels and movies as their guide to creating their own art. The result? More shallow art. A well-told biblically honest story deserves the highest level of craft. In order to master that craft, an artist must be willing to study the great art -- both fiction and film -- from around the world, and see how that art touches the heart of humankind to leave a lasting impact. Often times, a single classic secular film or novel offers more beautiful depictions of biblical truth than an entire shelf of bad Christian fiction or movies.

2. What are some difficulties in creating such a product?

Well, I think some of the difficulties. I covered that above. Overall, the Christian community (in my experience) is afraid to truly honest Christian art, and truly beautiful Christian art. We want shallow, sugar-coated stories that conveniently bend all of the events to reinforce the spiritual point we've already decided for the story. That's not art, that's propaganda.

I've found it far more powerful, spiritually engaging and effective to create honest, gritty art that speaks the realities of Biblical truth through a portrait of our fallen world. The art may or may not portray people going to church, reading their Bibles, etc. Regardless, it's the kind of art that opens doors for me to talk to unsaved people about spiritual issues and about my own faith.

Unfortunately, it's also the kind of art that is not welcome in many churches, schools and Christian organizations. it's just not black-and-white enough.
3. What benefits can be reaped in producing a Christian product of good quality?

Our God is a God of order, beauty, perfection, and holiness. He deserves nothing less than the best quality offering we can give him -- and as writers, our work is an offering, a sacrifice of time, talent emotional investment and toil in the footsteps of his creative act. The main benefit of producing this product is that we do our best service to God.

From an economic perspective, though, it's somewhat sad we even have to ask this question. Because: in the secular world, quality is rewarded. Period. In the Christian world, if you have "good intentions" or a "heart-warming message" people will overlook bad quality. Try that in Hollywood, and you'll be laughed out of the office. While Hollywood can also be overly harsh and a very difficult place to do art, it is also a great crucible for refining your talent and being driven to create the highest possible art you can--because nothing less will be accepted than the best among all options.

**Note: If I sound terribly cynical about the state of Christian art, it's because I am. I've had numerous experiences--shocking ones--with Christians who wanted me to literally be dishonest about a particular situation, or force a biblical moral into a story that was more spiritually powerful using metaphor or even silence to convey the point. As a Christian artist, I've turned my efforts to working on quality projects that honestly convey my faith -- whether or not they portray an overtly Christian main character. I also love the fantasy genre for its aptitude to present spiritual allegory, and I find ways to work on fantasy projects wherever I can, to be a light and testimony to the people I collaborate with. And it's worked -- I've had so many opportunities to witness to people through these means. When it comes to fellowshipping with other Christian artists, I tend to gravitate toward those who share similar concerns for the state of Christian art, and have chosen to work in the secular industry 1) to be a witness and 2) because they simply get to work on better-quality projects. I'm affiliated with a community doing just that. It's called Act One, and it's located in the heart of Hollywood. You can read more about their amazing ministry here:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

TAE: Cool Runnings (1993)

Well, I might as well get it out now: I don't like sports films. After all, what's not to enjoy about cliched plot points and cardboard cut-out underdogs that always manage to win the final game and the respect of both bullies and love interests? In my mind, "You've seen one, you've seen them all."

But there's always a few films that for one reason or another, you can't help but like despite it being from a genre you dislike

For me, one of those films would have to be the 1993 film Cool Runnings. 

Plot: Jamacan sprinter Derice Bannock has recently lost his chances in competing in the Summer Olympics. But as luck would have it, Derice finds a possible way of getting to the Olympics...but in the area of Bobsledding. With a disgraced Bobsled athlete as their coach, Derice and three other Jamaican athletes begin to train for a spot in the '88 Winter Olympics. Not only does the team have to learn to survive Canadian weather, but they must learn how to work together to overcome the prejudices of the other athletes and remember their heritage.

Review: I grew up watching this film, so I have fond memories of watching it. I still quote lines with my siblings and marvel how anyone could have had a childhood if they haven't seen this movie.

 Of course, my main problem with the film are the cliches. This film gives all the patterns a 90s sports film has to offer: They have a team start from nowhere. They get into the big game, There are bullies that want to them to quit. The coach gives a rousing speech. The team competes and wins the heart of everyone because of their unique charms. There are even two separate training montages. (Now to be fair, the montages do have funny moments.)

But despite the cliches, the film does have some great moments. The comedy holds ups from multiple viewings. John Candy gives a good performance as the coach, being more of the straight man role to contrast the team (though he does have wonderful moments - including a scene where he demolishes a radio with a pool cue.) While the four bobsledders are essentially cut-out characters, the actors do a good job making the characters their own. And by the end of the film, you grow to like the characters.

Final Thoughts: Even though the film is filled with numerous sport film cliches, I still recommend it (though I might be biased) The jokes are good, the main characters are likeable and it has that certain 90s nostalgic charm that can never be hated. So I give it a rating of 3 and a half out of 5. If you like sports films, 90s films, or films with lots of humor and heart, then this is for you.

Feel free to comment below

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Findings on Vimeo

After I posted about the Indy Christian Reviews, I wondered, "What are some other Christian films that I could find?" So I decided to search around Vimeo. The result: I found a Vimeo group called 'Christian Filmmakers." The purpose of this group is so that, "Christian Filmmakers from all over collaborate, share ideas, group think tank scripts and make Christian film making happen. Join the fray, glorify God and be spent!"

One of the films I found is a short film called "In the Grey." The film follows a naive Confederate solider who struggles with the idea of justification for killing in war. This film is a great example of how to make a good short film. The cinematography is beautiful, the characters are good and it brings up complex questions that actually made me stop and think about war. My only complaint about the film is the fact that it's too short. I wanted to know more about the characters and how they came to this situation. But nevertheless, it's still a film I highly recommend to others.

To look through the Christian Filmmakers page, follow this link:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tips for Watching Silent FIlms

When someone mentions Silent Films to a typical modern crowd, their reactions usually consist of eye-rolling and shudders as they think about the 'goofy acting and cheap sets.'

As for me, I enjoy silent films. I consider them the foundation of films of today: without them, we wouldn't have the films we have today. I'll admit that silent films are a acquired taste. But like most relationships, audiences need to see past the imperfections of silent films in order to find the beauty underneath.

So for those who're interested in watching silent films, I have a few tips to make their silent film experience better

  1. Remember that these films were made in a different time with different equipment and expectations: They didn't have computers or sound mixing to make stories come to life: they had to rely on their actors and whatever set they could build.
  2. Remember that silent films originated the genres and cliches you see today: It can be fun to watch a silent film and discover "Oh, that's where the twist ending came from," or "So this is where the sci-fi genre came from."
  3. Make sure that the film you're watching has appropriate music: Since Silent Films had 'mood music' played at movie theaters, Silent Films don't have their own unique soundtrack. So often, cheap DVDs will place any music with the film - and often times, the music has nothing to do with the action of the scene. So invest in a film with a score specifically written for the movie.

Here are some silent films I recommend for beginners:
  • The General with Buster Keaton
  • The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney
  • The Patsy with Marion Davies
  • The Wind with Lillian Gish

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spotlight on Indy Christian Review

In my mind, there's such joy in finding blogs or sites with similar content/messages. It's like finding out your new acquaintance has the same interests as you. During my search of Christian Film reviewers, I found a series of videos on Vimeo called Indy Christian Review. Zack Lawrence reviews Independent Christian Films; judging the overall content, effects and acting of the film. I'm glad to have found someone who covered this topic as I am illiterate in the area of Independent Christian Films.

Of course, such reviews as these must be shared. So I've posted a link to a review. If you like them, he has more on his account and on his website

My Top 5 Indie Christian Films - Indy Christian Review from Indy Christian Review on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

If It's Broke, Fix It: Film Cliches I Can't Stand

It's a truth universally acknowledged that cliches are old as time (pun intended).  Joking aside, cliches are a staple of everyday life. Without them, we would have nothing to describe or compare situations with. And nowhere are cliches more prominent than in films. (i.e.; the good vs. evil battle, the damsel in distress, etc.) For the most part, film cliches are tolerable and helpful to the plot.

However, there are some cliches that I personally can't stand. These are cliches that ruin films and make the film-watching process unbearable. So of course, I have to write about it.

So to change things up, I've included a Prezi that presents some cliches I hate and include a short description of why I think they're bad. Also, I added films that have included these cliches and films that have used them in a good/different way.

So watch and enjoy. What are some film cliches that annoy you?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Alternatives to Little House on the Prarie.

Last October, I wrote a review to the popular 'Little House on the Prairie' series. [Yes, I still hold to my belief that those books are overrated.] Last May, I'd checked out two books. So if you're looking for alternative/similar books to LHOTP, this is a list for you.

The Jumping-Off Place by Marion Hurd McNeely
Newbery Honor 1930

Synopsis: Four orphaned children set off to fulfill their late uncle's dream of homesteading in the Dakotas. They had planned to have their uncle with them. However, an untimely stroke and his resulting death left them setting off on their own to "prove up" his claim. This story is about their determination to make it through 14 months despite hardships common to homesteading, unexpected trials such as a contest on their claim by neighbors intent on causing trouble, and the Dakota weather.(Source:

Review: In my experiences, books released in the 20s often have the problem of the writing being outdated and difficult to read. But with The Jumping-Off Place, I was surprised by its writing style. For the most part, it's easy to read. And Unlike LHOTP, I enjoyed the main characters and wanted them to succeed. While the ending is predictable, it's still a good read for children ages 9 - 14.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Newbery Honor 2007

Synopsis: Alone in the world, sixteen-year-old Hattie courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim near Vida, Montana. With a stubborn stick-to-itiveness, Hattie faces frost, drought and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, her backbreaking quest for a home is lightened by her neighbors, the Muellers. But she feels threatened by pressure to be a "Loyal" American, forbidding friendships with folks of German descent. Despite everything, Hattie's determined to stay until a tragedy causes her to discover the true meaning of home.(Source:

Review: This story was based on the experiences of Mrs. Larson's great-grandmother. Even though many events of the story were created, there's still a sense of believability to Hattie life and struggles. Larson gives so much dignity and respect to Hattie that the reader grows to not only admire Hattie, but also the woman who inspired the story in the first place.While aspects of the story are cliched [i.e. one farm standing in the way of the greedy ranch owner], the story makes up for it by creating a likeable yet imperfect heroine, believable supporting characters and offering some unexpected twists. This book would be good for girls (and even boys who like historical fiction) ages 13 - 16
Rating: 4 out of 5