Should Christians Even Try to Break into Hollywood?

Christian-Catholic-filmmaking-cinemaSo you’re a screenwriter, director, actor or producer, and you’re a serious Christian. Is working outside the Hollywood system the only way to find success?

It’s one way — but it’s definitely not the only one.

After all, Christ teaches us that everything is possible, if we’re oriented properly.

In the first daily Mass reading for today, April 28, from the Acts of the Apostles, regarding the failure of movements that rose up against nascent Christianity, we hear (emphasis mine):

So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

So, what is a Christian Hollywood hopeful to make of this? Will Jesus descend from the Heavens with an army of angels and help you storm showbiz?

Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we should necessarily abandon the entertainment industry to rampant secularism and the dictatorship of relativism. If you really want to influence the culture and evangelize for Truth, Beauty and Goodness, why not use the megaphone that already exists?

Is Indie Film the Only Way to Go for Christians?

Not at all. You can work within the system, but first, you’ve got to identify your strengths and your niche, and become great at what you do. That’s the advice Catholic screenwriter Jennifer Dornbush gives in this video.

It’s not easy for anybody to break into the TV and movie studio system. But it can be done, as seen with the success of Sony Pictures’ faith-based Affirm Films division.

From a November 2016 piece in Deadline.comhere’s a selection from an internal memo by Steven Bersch, president of Sony Worldwide Acquisitions, who oversees the label. The occasion was the promotions of two executives to work under Rich Peluso, who has run Affirm since 2007, and who was also promoted to Executive Vice President.

These well-deserved promotions come at an auspicious moment for AFFIRM Films. In the past few years, our studio has become the industry leader in films for audiences of faith; by forging powerful connections with incredible reach, AFFIRM has no peer in reaching the core audience for these films. Behind films like War Room, which hit #1 on the domestic box office chart on the way to $68M and RISEN, and as the faith-based marketing partner for the Columbia Pictures Miracles from Heaven and Heaven is for Real, which became the #2 faith-based film of all time, the studio has now notched seven of the top 10 faith-based domestic openings of all time and is currently the most profitable faith-based studio, delivering over $420 million in domestic box office.

And, by the way, according to his LinkedIn profile, Peluso is based in Nashville, so not all of Hollywood is in Los Angeles.

OK, But are Big Studios My Only Alternative to Independent Film?

No. All big studios were once small studios, or even other businesses that grew studio arms. That process is still happening. In the digital space, look at how streaming content suppliers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have quickly become major players in production.

Netflix has just leased Hollywood studio space; Hulu is making strategic partnerships, such as this one with A&E Studios for an Afghanistan War drama; and Amazon Prime’s latest pilot slate even includes a Christian-themed science-fiction drama called “Oasis.” 

At the same time, faith-based service PureFlix has become a substantial studio itself, including its recent $3M “The Case for Christ,” which has a 79% rating at secular site Rotten Tomatoes.

Hollywood Hasn’t Given Up on Faith-Friendly and Family Fare, So Don’t Give Up on Hollywood

By all means, if you want to make a film on your own, go for it.

Successful TV producer Chris Brancato even endorses the idea:

But just because the existing entertainment industry seems hostile to Christians, remember, in one way or another, it’s hostile to everyone.

If you are talented, excellent, persistent and determined — and you’re lucky enough to have Christ on your side — you can find your voice, and you can find your place.

Just look at Father Patrick Peyton’s Family Theater Productions — we’ve been on Sunset Boulevard since the 1950s, and we’re still here.

It won’t be easy, but nothing’s ever easy in the TV and movie business. You may fail spectacularly and wind up taking another road, but the only absolute guarantee of failure is not to try.

To further your education in the Hollywood area — with a Christian influence — try programs offered by Act One, John Paul the Great University, the School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University, the Cinema and Media Arts Program at Biola University, or the Cinematic Arts department at Asuza Pacific University.

Image: Adobe Stock

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.