Lighting Candles -- Outside Hollywood
Last weekend�s Oscars have the newswires abuzz with the academy awards. While trophies for Best Male Actor go to Sean Penn for his portrayal of Homosexual activist Harvey Milk and Best Actress to Kate Winslet for her role in The Reader as a female Nazi war criminal seducing a 15 year-old-boy, National Public Radio (NPR) covered a very different film festival in the heart of Texas.
The San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) and Jubilee Awards are �Dedicated to filmmaking that will not tear down the biblical family. �Films, according to SAICFF founder, Doug Phillips, which are �made completely outside Hollywood.�
To listen to the NPR story, �Christian Filmmakers Creating an Industry of Faith,� click here.
Culture and Film
�Culture is religion externalized,� Phillips reminded participants. [A people�s] �Religious commitment is evidenced in the music they play, the way they dress, and their vision of family life.�
And no where is a culture�s faith better demonstrated then in the arts. But for many Americans, the culture coming out of Hollywood leaves something to be desired.
�The fact is that America is discontent with Hollywood�s negative, monopolistic stranglehold on film and culture.� Philips stated in a press release, �The humanistic religious worldview of Hollywood elites and their intense hatred for Christianity and the value system which it embodies has created a rift in American culture and profoundly damaged the American family. We intend to respond, not by cursing the darkness, but by lighting candles. Building a community of independent Christian filmmakers is one such candle.�
That candle burns brighter every year with 550 students attending the Christian Filmmakers Academy and 2,400 at the festival January 5-10.
2009�s SAICFF and Jubilee Awards held in downtown San Antonio included Fireproof; a firefighter�s battle to save his marriage, that became 2008�s top grossing independent film. And Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the year�s #1 documentary, featuring Ben Stein�s international search for free speech vs. Darwinism in academia.
Some of the 50 accepted competing films included PenDragon, an Arthur era epic, The Meaning of "Choice" a drama on abortion, The Trojan Horse, Throw a Few Things on the Ground, (French with subtitles) and The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry by veteran filmmaker Rich Christiano.
But the goal of this festival is more than awarding films; it�s growing a new generation of independent filmmakers. A three day Christian Filmmakers Academy breaks students in on color correction, building suspense, soundtrack composition and how to appropriately portray violence with veteran stuntman Jimmy Broyden.
Funding For a New Industry
Film budgets ranged from Expelled�s over two million, The Sound of a Dirt Road to The Sound of A Dirt Road, written and directed by college student Graham Alexander for only $900.
How is this new industry funding itself?
�I think we ask that question because we are just use to Hollywood�s wasteful ways!� Dr. Voddie Baucham, speaker, and film festival judge, told the Porterville Post.
�No matter how tight things get, people always seem to find a way to go to a movie.�
Fireproof, made for $500,000, models an unorthodox advertising method. Instead of spending millions on advertising, Provident Films, a subsidiary of Sony, gave special previews to influential pastors and ministry leaders who would in turn promote the film for their audience.
Though many films are done by beginners, �We are not to despise the day of small beginnings.� SAICFF founder, Doug Phillips reminded festival attendees.
Some things at this festival are not small. SAICFF gave away the largest grand prize in of any film festival in America, at $101,000.
Donated by a private foundation, who wishes to remain anonymous, the grand prize invests in a God honoring film culture.
The Jubilee award, named for the Biblical year of Jubilee, celebrates freedom from indenture and bondage, in this case, freedom from bondage to Hollywood elites.
The Best of Festival Jubilee Award went to The Widow�s Might. Written and directed by 19-year-old John Moore of Kaufman Texas. It tackles oppressive property taxes, in a comedy adventure. When a widow�s home is about to be taken, local families work together, making a film to influence their town. Moore calls his film �A light look at a very dark topic,� and said he was inspired to take on the project after a widow in their town lost her home due to tax foreclosure.
�We never saw this coming.� Said Moore, who won Audience Choice Award last year for his film Heartstrings, but did not expect to win Best of Festival, competing with frontrunners Fireproof and Expelled.
Moore is an example of a new model of filmmaking. After researching the cost of film school tuition, Moore�s family opted to hire professionals to teach them on the job. Instead of spending $200,000 for one student to graduate from film school, they hired three film professionals to train Moore and several friends through each step of production.
�It was a very interesting process where about 10 of us young guys were educated from front to back with the creative process of the feature film,� Moore told the Post, �in a way that is infinitely more productive than a film school would have been -- for less than the cost of a single student.�
Dean Jones received the Jubilee life achievement award. �I wouldn't trade this for an Oscar,� The veteran actor remarked. Jones has performed in 46 movies and 10 Broadway shows including 10 with Disney. Best known for his role in Love Bug, and more recently Beethoven, Jones told attendees that �A change is coming� to filmmaking, �It�s a matter of time until one or two of ten of them in North Carolina or Utah or Texas catch hold of Walt [Disney]s pattern and bring some quality work to the force. [They] are going to be doing films that will once again give an occasion for the children and dads and moms to gather together in a theater or around a television and see something that brings them together, that teaches them to love one another �films of quality, films of morality.�
SAICFF broke new ground in independent film distribution by offering downloadable media contracts to all finalists and semi-finalists competing for the Jubilee awards through Behemoth.com
�For years, independent Christian filmmakers have struggled to find financially viable distribution streams for their films,� noted Doug Phillips, founder of the SAICFF. �We are pleased to announce that an important step has been taken to meet this challenge.�
Filmmakers who used this option had their films for sale the week of the festival. �Kiosks will be provided by the sponsor at the event for festival attendees to download the semi-finalist films onsite,� Phillips explained. �If a festival attendee views a film and likes it, he can purchase the film right then, right there.�
Hope for the Future
In a world often dominated by negative news and international turmoil, speakers and students seemed infused with vision for time to come.
�We are beginners, but in a couple of years we will not be beginners.� author and producer, Geoffrey Botkin told academy students, �Our films will be impacting [nations]�
�We�re talking about serving, the kingdom of Jesus Christ serving the entire world by teaching them what is true and right.�
Botkin has not always thought this way, as a former Marxist, he is familiar with Marxist anti-family influence on Hollywood. But now he is out to change that along with his wife and seven children, who�ve made films together and written several books, including Return of the Daughters, and Outside Hollywood.
�If you want to reach your culture,� Botkin said, �you must speak its language and the language of our culture is film.�
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