This ChristianityToday article by Mark Moring reports that Christian leaders and some Narnia fan sites got a sneak peek of the next Narnia movie and liked what they saw; filmmakers admit “mistakes” on Prince Caspian, vowed to get it right this time…
(EXCERPT) The filmmakers behind the Narnia movies, admitting they “made some mistakes” with 2008′s Prince Caspian, believe they have righted the ship for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, coming to theaters in December.
After the first Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, earned almost $750 million worldwide in 2005, Prince Caspian—a big disappointment to many fans of the beloved books by C. S. Lewis—earned about half as much. Domestically,Caspian made just $141 million, far short of its reported $225 million production budget.
But since then, Walden Media (which produced the first two films) and Disney (which distributed them) have parted ways; Walden is now partnering with 20th Century Fox for distribution. A new director, Michael Apted, replaces Andrew Adamson, who helmed the first two Narnia films (and is a producer for Dawn Treader). Those changes, and a renewed commitment to the message of the books, have filmmakers optimistic.
“We made some mistakes with Prince Caspian, and I don’t want to make them again,” said Mark Johnson, a producer on all of the Narnia films. He said Caspianlacked some of the “wonder and magic of Narnia,” was “a little bit too rough” for families, and too much of a “boys’ action movie.” He said it’s “very important” that filmmakers regain that magic for Dawn Treader, now in the editing stages—and he’s convinced they’ve found it: “I want to climb on the rooftops and say we have a wonderful Narnia movie.”
Johnson and execs from Fox and Walden did the next best thing, inviting 100 Christian leaders to a “Narnia Summit” held Feb. 16-18 in Los Angeles, where they showed clips from Dawn Treader and went through the entire script. Apted was flown in from London to join producers Johnson, Micheal Flaherty, and Douglas Gresham for the presentation to an audience of Narnia fans—potentially their biggest critics.
Invitees included representatives from big churches (including Tim Keller of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian and Mark Brewer of Bel Air Presbyterian), parachurch organizations (like Young Life, Focus on the Family, and Youth for Christ), publishing companies (Relevant and Group among them), Lewis experts (like Stan Mattson of the C. S. Lewis Foundation), and online fan sites (NarniaWeb, Narnia Fans).
“You could call it the world’s largest accountability group, so we were definitely nervous,” said Flaherty, president of Walden Media. “We had folks with an encyclopedic knowledge of C. S. Lewis and the Narnia books. But we went through every line of dialogue and every scene with them to make sure it was a really faithful adaptation.”
The verdict? Decidedly thumbs up, according to those attendees we spoke with.
“What we saw on film, and some of the behind-the-scenes stuff, was pretty exciting,” said Steve Bell, executive vice president of the Willow Creek Association, who attended with wife Valerie. “It looks very compelling, a nice treatment.
“There seems to be a high level of respect for the material. My sense was that they really want to go to the authenticity of C. S. Lewis, maybe more so than ever. They’re very aware that they have to turn the corner from Prince Caspian. They know that the ball got dropped, and they’re trying to recapture that momentum.”
In an informal study I conducted a few years back on teens of the XX chromosomal variety, I found one film that rose above all others: “The Notebook”. Only these girls never just said, “The Notebook”. No, instead, their eyes would glaze over dreamily, their heads would tilt back slightly like a glamour shot, a gentle breeze from nowhere would lift their hair on the edges and they would sigh…”the Notebook” and then make coo’ing sounds. It was pretty uncanny.
Well that was SO 2004. Today, some other chick flix have muscled their way into the mix so there’s not quite the consensus what with “Time Traveller’s Wife” and “Twilight” and somehow even “Harry Potter” in the mix. I mean, girls didn’t used to fawn over Harry Potter cause he was like 6-years-old or something, but now that Harry’s a little…eh…harrier…I mean I assume he’s shaving now, the dude’s like 27….anyway, now that he’s older, there’s generally more fawning involved.
But Nicholas Sparks is one of those writers on his way to being crowned King of the Chick Lit. (So, suck on that, Fabio!) While Mel Gibson plays a guy in the movies that knows what women want…Sparks actually DOES know! And apparently Miley Montanna (…or Hannah Cyrus…wait, which is it again?) was a Sparks fan and so he was tapped to pen a Script worthy of a Cyrus Star Vehicle. And the result is “The Last Song”.
Don’t be mislead though when I say Cyrus Star Vehicle…I’m not talking about another Disney HannahMontanna Love Fest Music Video In A Film type thing. Our little Miley is growing up. And this ensemble film she helms goes to show just that. I assume. I mean, I’ve only seen the trailer, guys, c’mon! I haven’t made it to Miley’s Screener Mailing list yet. But a guy can dream can’t he. And one day when we’re B.F.F. and I bring her home for dinner and my three little girls inaugurate me “Coolest Dad For Life” then maybe she’ll add me to “the list.” Call me, Miley.
But I digress.
Camerin Courtney over at Christianity Today has talked with Sparks and Cyrus about their collaboration and faith and filmmaking and I just thought it was a great little story. So, here’s an excerpt for you:
Despite the film’s name, The Last Song—which opens this week—marks severalfirsts for bestselling author Nicholas Sparks. A number of his novels have been adapted into movies, including The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, and A Walk to Remember, but this is the first time Sparks has written the screenplay himself. It’s also the first of his 15 published works to make it to the big screen within the first year of publication, and the first time he’s written a story with a particular actor in mind—in this case, Miley Cyrus.
For all these milestones, Sparks says he’s most excited about the themes in The Last Song, a film that focuses on an estranged father and his teenage daughter, and the summer they spend trying to reconnect. “You’ve got faith, forgiveness, family,” Sparks explains. “If you get it just right, these are themes that touch viewers, because they recognize them in their own lives.”
These themes also reflect Sparks’s Christian beliefs. “Nobody’s perfect, except for Jesus. So if nobody’s perfect, then everyone needs forgiveness for something they’ve done in the past,” explains Sparks, who co-founded a Christian school with his wife and a friend, and calls his faith “fairly strong.”
“This story taps into the fact that there’s a universal need to be forgiven because you want to feel accepted, understood, and loved. It’s the idea that, ‘I’m not perfect, but from this moment forward I’m going to try my best to be better. I know I’m doomed to failure, but darn it, I’m going to try.’ These struggles are universal. And that’s what I try to write: stories that are universal.”
While the universal themes in The Last Song are familiar territory for the bestselling novelist, the path to penning these themes was a bit unusual for him. The genesis of The Last Song was a conversation Sparks had with producer Jennifer Gibgot. She was looking for a film that would provide Miley Cyrus a more dramatic role than her wildly popular Hannah Montana character.
Cyrus was a big fan of Sparks’ previous novels-turned-films The Notebook and A Walk to Remember and was hoping to star in something similar. “His work has great, positive messages,” Cyrus says. “To me, the best thing is that kids love it, but it’s also mature enough to appeal to adults. It’s unusual to find that kind of balance.” And for the singer/actress who’s made a name for herself with a young fan base and is quickly approaching adulthood (she turns 18 in November), that balance is important.
“We’ve been planning when the transition would take place, when I would leaveHannah Montana behind and do something else,” Cyrus says. “I have to be careful that I don’t lose the Miley Cyrus factor by doing other characters. But I also want to extend my audience and give myself new challenges and not be the same character over and over.”
So she met with Sparks several times to discuss her role in The Last Song, sharing specific desires for the character. The result is Ronnie Miller, a recent high school grad whose parents are divorced, who’s recently gotten in trouble with the law, and who, in her fog of teenage angst, has given up on her talents at the piano and her plans to attend Julliard. At the outset of the film she’s been forced to leave her home in New York City to spend the summer (along with her younger brother) with her estranged father in his small Southern beach town.
“Both the screenplay and the novel were written with Miley very much in mind,” Sparks says. “But I write to write a great story and I had to balance those things. The finished product is definitely not a Hannah Montana movie. It’s an ensemble piece with a talented cast that will appeal to audiences of all ages. Ronnie is a really compelling female character going through things that a lot of teenagers are going through. She’s forced to really grow and mature through the course of the film.”
For the FULL ARTICLE head over to Christianity Today.
by S. David Acuff
I think it’s time we checked in with the CCM industry because as I’ve stated in ourChristian Film Wakeup Call – as it goes with the Christian music industry, so it will be with the Christian film industry. It’s just that they are 20 years up the road from us along the journey.
But before I do that, I wanted to clarify one thing that separates Wired4Film from other Christian Filmmaking sites: We are not promoting the Christian Film Industry.
Gasp! I know, let me explain.
Bob Briner is the author of a seminal piece of writing that is one of the first books any Christian Professional needs to read called Roaring Lambs. It is simply a call to action for the Christian Community and explains how to be Salt and Light in the Secular world. In it he chides us:
“We have created a phenomenal subculture with our own media, entertainment, educational system, and political hierarchy so that we have the sense that we’re doing a lot. But what we’ve really done is created a ghetto that is easily dismissed by the rest of society.”
Today, there are some well intentioned voices out there calling Christian filmmakers to arms to build a Christian Film Media Empire or “Replacement Industry” which will in the end serve to broaden the Christian ghetto that Briner speaks of.
Wired4Film is not about funneling filmmakers into the Christian Film industry.
Wired4Film is a movement to create paths out of the “ghetto” or what Phil Cooke calls the “Christian Bubble” and into the marketplace to be that salt and light that Christ has called us to be.
To acknowledge that we are wired for a purpose: Filmmaking. And that purpose is not to preach to the choir. As Jesus said in Matthew 9:12, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” So it’s not to preach to the secular world either. It’s to heal them and tend to them and make them whole.
In early 2007, during Fox’s “On The Lot” series, this convo was overheard (and recorded) in a chatroom:
Member #1: Hope you enjoy [my film]! And let me know what you think. I am a Christian Film maker from Liberty University
Member #2: what is a christian filmmaker?
Member #3: If it’s anything like Christian Rock, it’s a film maker that sucks.
I don’t know about you, but I had to laugh at that one. Because I know exactly where Member #3 — who went by the screen name “bocephus” — was coming from.
So is Christian Film going to be the answer to our cinematic woes? Or will it be part of the problem? Well, here is where we look to the Christian Music Industry.
Currently, I’m in the process of reviewing Phil Cooke’s book,The Last Televangelist: Why the next generation could care less about religious media – I haven’t finished it, but even so, it’s already on my top 5 list of books along with Bob Briner’s that Christian Filmmakers need to grab hold of, read, and fully comprehend.
Here is an excerpt called “What About Christian Music?”:
In the July/Aug 2008 issue of Collide Magazine, Scott McClellan wrote a feature story based on music producer Charlie Peacock’s assessment that the Christian music industry is dying. According to Peacock, the five most important issues are:
1) The major labels aren’t in danger of going under anytime soon, but they’ll be forced to depend on dwindling revenue from their song catalogues
2) The term CCM, or Contemporary Christian Music, will go away.
3) Christian music that matters won’t have any affiliation with the Christian Music industry but instead will be written, recorded and released in the mainstream.
4) Worship music serves a purpose within the church, which guarantees its survival
5) The big names from CCM’s glory days (Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc.) will survive but many artists from the last decade will be left looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find their place in the world.
While, as McClellan states, the charges aren’t exactly blasphemy, they did set off quite the controversy within the industry.
David Sessions, editor of Patrol, an online music and media magazine (patrolmag.com) agreed: “The best thing that can happen is for people to forget entirely that they once specified whether their music was ‘Christian’ or ‘mainstream.’ That divide has been the single most damaging idea to Christianity in the modern world.”
Peacock echoed that indictment: “Anyone who has studied CCM knows that it’s front-loaded with a very specious strategy that is, the creation of a youth-oriented music to counteract the undesirable youth-oriented music of the culture at large. [That strategy] probably looked righteous in the beginning but proved very flawed.”
If it didn’t work for Christian Music, why would it ever work for Christian Film? This section continues…
McClellan covers both sides of the issue, but the article does point to a deep divide in the world of Christian Music. Should it continue to exist as a niche industry? Should Christians move more into mainstream music? Can the business model hold up – should it?
In a feature story in Christianity Today magazine on the issue, music marketing consultant Mark Joseph points out:
“…Think of it this way: Would a plumber advertise himself as a ‘Christian plumber’ if he wanted to serve both believers and non-believers? Perhaps, but then many non-Christians with clogged toilets might not hire him because of that designation. But if he simply presents himself as a “plumber” — still intending to do a great job and prepared to discuss his faith with any interested clients — he’s likely to get more business, earn a better living, and interact with more non-believers. Using ‘Christian’ as an adjective – whether you’re a plumber or a musician – is little more than a weapon, used to beat back people who might otherwise be interested in the service or product offered, but upon hearing that it is ‘Christian’ are no longer interested.”
Recently I was editing at the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (which was awesome by the way in their respect for high-end production value) and overhead some people giving kudos to the FIREPROOF filmmakers because their entire film crew was made up of Christians.
Someone else agreed that that was the way to go, especially on Spiritually sensitive shoots, but I don’t buy that. For one, I don’t buy that God is limited to only working through Christians. It simply isn’t so. And I’ve been on many many shoots of a spiritual nature and brought along non-Christian production members who were deeply moved by the experience and thanked me later for including them.
See, I thought that’s what our job was…not to insulate from the world, but to connect with them. To me, that’s what “love your neighbor” is all about. Bringing them on set to see Christ being modeled.
Welcome to our industry where “show it, don’t tell it” is the golden rule!
I’m gonna be honest…if I need an amazing Director of Photography, I’m looking for one that can handle the job. It’s important that the personalities mesh, but I’m not concerned if he or she is a Christian or Buddhist or Atheist. If they are a professional they’ll do a bang-up job. And if I’ve bathed the shoot in prayer before hand, that person will catch a glimpse of Christ somewhere along the way.
So, let’s take a good hard look at Charlie Peacock’s CCM assessment, because it is the writing on the wall for the Christian Film Replacement Industry as well.
We’ve been warned.
(Nov 25, 2008) A Christianity Today article by Jewel Graham introducing us to the artistic minds behind Seabourne Pictures and some of their current short film projects. The full article can be read HERE.
(EXCERPT) Ryan Smith, son of Christian music superstar Michael W. Smith, says his father never pressured him—a wannabe cartoon animator—to enter the music business. If anything, Ryan wanted nothing to do with it. The elder Smith was fine with that, because he saw film aptitude in Ryan from the start.
“He’s got so much talent and an eye for the camera,” Michael says, noting that he saw it in Ryan’s home videos and how he enjoyed French films and “artsy kind of stuff. His senior year in high school, I thought, This guy’s got it.”
Seabourne Pictures’ Demo Reel: