A Dreamer Walking

The Responsiblity of the Filmmaker

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 16, 2011

I watched something the other day that pissed me off. It was a “Christmas Special” video created by the Christian youth group I used to attend.  In the video we see a group of college students acting as cliche secret agents whose mission is to hunt down Santa Claus. Watching the video it is obvious these guys are inspired by games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and movies like Man on Fire and the Transformers franchise. In the video we see these guys load up on their share of guns and follow a lead to where Santa might be hiding. They find Santa Claus and like we often see in violent video games and movies, they murder him. There is absolutely no explanation as to why Santa Claus is dangerous and why he needs to be murdered. The guy portraying Santa acts like a stupid monkey. He is nothing like the character we associate with Christmas except he is wearing a similar suit. The driving force behind the film is a bunch of loud music taken from the soundtracks of many big budget movies and a bunch of college kids who don’t look like they know the first thing on how to actually handle a gun. They play around with objects that can KILL people like it’s the “cool” thing to do. They seem completely unaware of the example they are making for the mostly younger audience watching the video at the youth group. What boggles me is that the video was able to be played in an actual youth group (you know, the kind that claims they want to follow God). The youth group is filled with a bunch of middle schoolers and high schoolers, including my younger sister. Leadership didn’t even seem to think twice about it. One of my friends, and one time mentor in film, who works at IHOP (International House Of Prayer) called the filmmakers who created the film “cinematic geniuses”.

I wonder why movies with any kind of sexually explicit material are condemned by the church while movies with mindless violence are  not only accepted but produced by the Church. We all know what words like “frick” and “fricken” are substitutes for, yet for this “Christmas Special” it was perfectly fine to use them. I guess in this instance it was okay to break the spirit of the law as long as they kept to the letter. I stopped really caring about building based Christianity a long time ago.  However, the video I saw the other day is not okay whether you do or do not go to Church or are or are not a Christian.

I am probably not going to get many people who agree with me in this post but I need to express my opinion on this kind of ignorance in filmmaking. Film is a huge source of entertainment, but it is also something else. It’s influential. It is a powerful medium that influences the direction of nations. There are many talented filmmakers out there who create some really crappy stuff. One of the reasons I have not chosen to do a study on a talented filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino is because I so morally disagree with the glamorization of violence in his films. I have heard interviews of Tarantino saying he thinks violence is just a way to entertain. He does not think he is actually harming anyone in his films by “entertaining” people through showing  someone slashing up another mans face or carving a swastika in someones forehead. In my opinion that is like saying children who watch their fathers abuse their mothers every night are not getting harmed because the violence is not being taken out on them. What we see has an impact on us. The sexual stuff we see on television and in the movies has an impact on what the public thinks about sex. The language we hear used in the media influences the way we talk. The same goes for violence.

I have been truly impacted by the violence I have seen in film. Movies like Schindler’s List and Blood Diamond were extremely sobering for me. They allowed me to understand true evils going on in this world and they pushed me to do something about them. However games like Modern Warfare and movies like Transformers and Inglorious Bastards have done the opposite for me. Their purpose is to entertain through showing graphic violence. They have numbed me. They have stopped me from understanding the true consequences of abuse and murder. Abortion is at a all time high, there are millions of people dying from starvation each year, and we still have tens of thousands of people in our own nation committing suicide. Why? Because we have not been taught responsibility, we don’t care about death, and we are not given enough of a reason to live. Film can help change this. Film has the power to teach people about responsibility, to let them understand what it means to kill, and give them a reason to live. Yet with  every Schindler’s List caliber film, there are ten times as many Inglorious Bastard‘s. The new Modern Warfare game just past Avatar as the fastest game/movie to get to the one billion dollar mark, only taking sixteen days.  At least in movies we are just observers of the killing going on, in the game Modern Warfare we are the ones doing the killing.

It is much easier to be ignorant of what violence, vulgar language, and sexually explicit material does to our psyche. This is not a blog telling you never to use that kind of material in film. In film we see all kinds of characters. Many of the characters I see and many I create I don’t agree with. However, my motivation for filmmaking is to make this world a better place. Film can do wondrous things. Film is the art form of the 21st century. The medium gives us understanding of the past and vision for the future. So, my question is what will our future be? As filmmakers will we contribute to the kind of entertainment that numbs us to the evils of this world? Or will we take on responsibility as filmmakers and give our audiences an entertainment that gives them a vision for a better tomorrow?

It breaks my heart when I see media used in such destructive ways from people who claim to be following the same God as I am. The vision and responsibility I have as a filmmaker comes from my Creator. I along with those who made this “Christmas Special” can give the rest of this world vision and hope. We can show others how great our God is. Instead too much of Christian media seems to be full of condemnation, double standards, and lack of vision. It’s time to change. It’s time to take our role as people who claim to know the “truth”, seriously. We can be open to the world while not being a product of it. Let us be the light on top of the hill and give this world visions that reflect the heart of our Creator.

3 Responses

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  1. Jesse Koepke said, on December 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Jacob, there are several sentences that stood out to me while reading your post. The first, in regards to the Christmas video, is, “They seem completely unaware of the example they are making for the mostly younger audience watching the video at the youth group.” That is a very, very good point, one that I didn’t think about while watching the video, and I’m really glad you brought it up.

    The second part was, “What we see has an impact on us. The sexual stuff we see on television and in the movies has an impact on what the public thinks about sex. The language we hear used in the media influences the way we talk. The same goes for violence.” If we believe that sexual content impacts us, we have to believe that violent content does as well. You’re absolutely right.

    Third, “Movies like Schindler’s List and Blood Diamond were extremely sobering for me. They allowed me to understand true evils going on in this world and they pushed me to do something about them. However games like Modern Warfare and movies like Transformers and Inglorious Bastards have done the opposite for me.” This is such a good point. Violence—and perhaps more importantly, the emotions that cause it—are a part of life, so I don’t think we should make all of our movies sparkly clean and perfect. But like you said, when watching Schindler’s List you feel the tragedy of the violence. You feel the weight of it. On the other hand, violence in most action movies is usually the hero killing expendable people that don’t matter—and that’s a bad thing to teach yourself, that some people are important and others aren’t.

    When I described the makers of the Christmas video as “cinematic geniuses”, I wasn’t looking with my content-brain and instead looked at the video only from a technical aspect. I was more focused on the way the shots looked and the how it measured up to the other actions videos I had seen. On that level it was well made, but you are right, the content needed to be questioned. As someone older than those filmmakers, I should have done that. I didn’t once think of the content they produced, or the context in which it was shown.

    Thank you for calling me out on it, and thank you for reminding me of our responsibility as filmmakers.

  2. Calvin said, on December 16, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Jacob,
    I don’t have much to say. Good points all around. I apologize for any offense, and like everyone, I probably could have considered a different approach. Writing a blog about me, however, seems a little bit like going behind my back. If you have a problem in the future, I would appreciate you talking directly to me instead of venting. However, like I said, you are still right in a lot of ways…so for those
    mistakes I made, I’m sorry. Thanks for calling me out as well…

  3. Jacob said, on December 17, 2011 at 3:38 am

    Hey guys, thanks for your comments. It is obvious I was frustrated with what I saw in the video. I am sorry if you think I went behind your back Calvin, my goal was to use a negative reaction I had of the video I watched and create a productive point as a result of it. I am glad you found some good points Jesse. I used your quote not because I thought you thought the violence themes in the video were good, but to express my point that it was just entirely overlooked. We all have our imperfections. It’s not like I am a perfect guy and only watch movies that are good for me. However, when we are claiming to represent our God we need to be aware of the example we are giving others. I added the last paragraph to clarify my frustration with the “Christmas Special” video. Thanks again for the comments guys and hope you come again.


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