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)