No, I’m not going anywhere… that’s the title of the piece. This is an excerpt from a work-in-progress that I can’t wait to share with everyone when it’s complete. I’m experimenting here with a very modern cinematic sound; lots of effects and synthesizers coloring the soundscape.
The filmmaking world is unique for a variety of reasons; the convergence of disciplines, personalities, passions and skills that come together to make a single production is staggering, and the community that such like-minded laboring forges is easily compared to the relationship of a family; the cash flows in torrents, circulating enough green rectangular blood cells through the body of the filmmaking community to support many thousands of professionals and their families; the end product will often be seen by millions of eyes in dozens of countries around the world. With such a huge industry, so much skill, so many relationships, so much money, so much exposure and influence, it becomes quickly obvious why filmmaking makes such a powerful tool for the advancement of the Kingdom of God; inherent in a tool’s power, however, is a corresponding necessity for the careful use thereof.
There are no seven day waiting periods for the purchase of butter knives.
So what are the inherent dangers and temptations facing us as Christian filmmakers? While I cannot claim to list them all, I would like to suggest three powerful lures that would love to displace Christ as the king of our hearts.
The first is money. There is nothing wrong with a desire to make money- to the contrary, we are required to provide for our own, and that implies making money. Furthermore, Scripture says that the laborer is worthy of his wages. It is not “more Christian” to work for free, nor is it somehow wrong to charge a price that makes our work profitable. But the problem arises when we see our professional pursuit primarily as a means to make money, rather than primarily as a means to serve God. We cannot serve both God and money, and in an industry so flush with cash- especially in the secular realm of Hollywood- the lure of riches shimmers bright and golden, and we as believers must remind ourselves of what is truly priceless. (1 Tim. 5:8,18, Luke 16:13)
The second is fame. Your average McDonald’s burger-flipper isn’t interested in making sure that he is known nationwide as the most talented patty artist. But step into the filmmaking community and “who you know” becomes essential to professional success. You need a brand; you need name recognition; you need a social network. And these are simply necessary considerations for a wise businessperson. But it is a very short step from Christ-focused pursuit of professional excellence and self-focused pursuit of fame. Add to this the peculiar glamor that comes from having your name (and maybe your face) playing in front of thousands of people, and it becomes a powerful recipe for self-idolatry. A good litmus test for this snare is whether or not we can rejoice in the success of other believers, especially those who share an identical professional pursuit. If my focus is on Jesus, and if I am considering others more important than myself, then when that other composer gets signed onto the awesome film project, I will be glad for him, praying for him, and excited to see God’s Kingdom go forward. I will also trust Him to provide for my needs in the way that is best for me- even if that means I need to get a job at McDonald’s! After all, if I am seeking first His Kingdom, then it is about His fame and not my own. If, however, my focus is on myself, I will struggle with coveting others’ successes, and I will not be content with the blessings God has given me. (Matt. 6:33, Phil. 2)
The final snare to beware (for this post, at least) is the idol of art. We creatives are generally quite passionate about our respective crafts, and there are few things more satisfying than making a ________ (scene, score, script, etc.) that turns out just right. But as satisfying as that is, it is ultimately empty if it is not subject to our pursuit of Christ. The goal of artistry is not just to create excellent art; it is to create excellent art for the glory of our excellent God. This doesn’t mean cramming a “pray-a-prayer” scene into every script, but it does mean that our definition of good art stems from our pursuit of Christ and our understanding of His leading on our life. It also means that if our artistic pursuit is not what God wants us to do right now, we will not cling stubbornly to our dreams, but will rather follow the leading of our King. If the question changes from “what does Christ want me to do” into “what do I want to do” in our pursuit of artistic excellence, then we have created a golden calf in the shape of our passion, and we have revealed the true attitude of our heart- more passionate about our craft than about our Christ. This can also be diagnosed with a simple question- if Jesus wanted me to quit filmmaking and go work in a gas station, would I be OK with that? (1 Cor. 10:31)
This all boils down to the simple commandment to seek first the Kingdom of God- to love Him with all our hearts. If we are doing that, then we will see that no amount of money, no amount of fame, no level of artistic achievement can ever rival the joy and perfection that is for us in the infinitely satisfying Jesus Christ. (Matt. 6:33, 22:37, John 15:11)
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Have a wonderful passion week and a blessed Resurrection Sunday; it is a great opportunity to meditate on a story so powerful, so important, so life-changing, and so easily taken for granted.
Jesus is alive. Oh that that would echo every day, every moment in my heart and mind. He is alive.
The below track was written for an album remembering the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. You can get it here.
“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4)
We talk a lot about authenticity in filmmaking and storytelling. Sometimes that seems to be a code word for rejecting any kind of Biblical content standards so that our stories are “authentic.” But it leaves me to wonder- authentically what? Authentically Christian, or authentically worldly?
If, for example, we make a rugged gangster movie or a brutal Afghanistan combat sequence without any swearing, are we failing to be authentic to the world, or are we simply being authentic to the commands of Christ- and which is more important?
It’s more important to present a holy Jesus to the world than to try to minimize the distinction that Scripture makes so clearly; obviously not meaning that there shouldn’t be sin and conflict in our films, but that our films should apply the same Biblical standards of conduct that we would apply to our lives. “I wouldn’t blaspheme God in real life; I shouldn’t do it in a movie either.” “I wouldn’t wear something that skimpy in real life; I shouldn’t wear it in front of a camera either.” And the list goes on.
This is notably different from saying that our films shouldn’t portray any sin at all- rather we as Christian filmmakers should not commit sin in the process. Our convictions don’t become magically negligible because we walked on set. I can pretend to be a murderous gangster without actually murdering or a drunkard without actually getting drunk. But I can’t pretend to swear. I can’t pretend to wear inappropriate clothing.
True relevance comes not from being like the world, but from being like Christ. If the world is not impressed with our lack of “authenticity,” then we can count ourselves blessed. The goal should be not to impress the world with our movies, but to show the world Jesus as He truly is. If we remove holiness from our productions, we damage our witness and become hypocritical, calling others to obey a Jesus we disobeyed in calling.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” (Matt. 5:11)
I am so excited to watch this project beginning to come together. This beautiful music video showcases what is one of my favorite tracks on the upcoming album Higher by vocalist Jacob Pennington. What a ride it has been, creating the orchestral backdrop for his excellent voice and richly poetic songs, all while working with an artist who so clearly has the glory of Christ as his first and highest goal.
Stay tuned, folks. It’s gonna be good.
Congratulations to the whole team behind the “Mission Underground” project, which took home multiple awards at the 2017 Christian Worldview Film Festival, including runner-up for best original score! I was blessed with the opportunity to arrange, orchestrate, and produce music for composer Josiah Fields on this project, and I’m thrilled to see the film so well received!
You can hear some of the score below:
Had the pleasure of scoring this back in 2013. Always fun to get a chance to let Celtic Gabe come out to play.
On a serious note, St. Patrick’s day is a great opportunity for us to recognize the importance of evangelizing cultures that need to know Jesus, as Patrick did. Sin is slavery and Christianity is the ultimate abolition movement.
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
– Romans 10:14
Behold the updated face of Resounding Music, mostly featuring updated pictures of my face. You’re welcome. Anyways, I’ve also added some new music in the playlist on the right; have a look around and thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for a blast-from-the-past post in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Featuring clips from some of the films in the Resounding Music Portfolio.