Making movies is more than a hobby for my husband and I. It is what we were born to do. It may take us longer to get there than we hoped, but one day, you will see our films on the big screen. This fierce determination is driven by more than simple passion. Our intention is to bring to life beautiful, visual stories that are both entertaining and thought provoking. Whether we are creating a comedy like Kitty's 9 Lives currently in pre-production or an epic drama, our art will be done with excellence.
We are no longer okay with sub-par and mediocre stories. Both visually and literary, the films we hope to create must be held to a higher standard. If a picture can speak a thousand words, moving pictures should speak 1000 words per frame. Visual storytelling should be just that- the use of visuals, not words, to tell a story.
At it’s heart, art is an expression. It is supposed to convey beauty, illicit emotions, inspire the soul and reveal glory. Art should bring freedom. Art should liberate it’s creator and captivate it’s audience. The best art comes from an experience. It can be a witness of great truth and affirmation of a things only felt in the deep places of the heart.
Things go askew when people use their art to promote propaganda in an attempt to manipulate people with an agenda. Both are powerful to change people, but propaganda stems from an unhealthy desire to control others by manipulating their thoughts and ultimately their behavior. People may not always realize what is going on, but they do feel something is amiss. Something inside them can sense it; everything about what they are watching is rubbing them the wrong way.
Though people may occasionally be ignorant about some things, by in large, they are not stupid. If we treat them as such, they will quickly catch on to our pride and dismiss our arrogance. They will resent the artist and reject the art. So, the real question is, “what message are we trying to send?”
As artists, as filmmakers, what kind of story are we offering? A cautionary tale? An adventure? A moment of comfort and understanding? Humor? Light heartedness? Laughter? Or are we trying to get people to believe something? Are we trying to use our art to make them think like us? Why? Are we somehow afraid people will misinterpret our art and come to the wrong conclusion about our intentions?
We at speropictures want first and foremost for our art to be entertaining. We want our audience to laugh, to cry, to feel, to be entertained. We want people to walk away from our films with a sense of awe and wonder. We want people to simply enjoy the experience of watching a well crafted story - from the script, to the cinematography, to the acting, set design, lighting, and so on. We want to tell amazing visual stories that move people, inspire them, give them hope and a belief life is worth living.
We recently watched two very different films with our daughters. Both dealt with hardship, struggle and our fundamental beliefs about a higher being and the afterlife. The first film was Heaven Is For Real. It is considered a “faith based” film based on the book with the same name. Directed by Randal Wallace, the director of Secretariat and the writer of Braveheart. We love both of those films and had high hopes Heaven is For Real would be a good story, not preachy or superficial.
We felt it had potential, but defiantly missed it’s mark. Granted, the film did its job and made money (it is called show business after all. But even then, how much of that money was from Christians “supporting the home team”?). However, overall we felt it lacked a certain j’ne ce quoi. The dialogue was on the nose. The visuals didn’t always further the plot. The overarching theme was bland and blatant. The characters lacked a likability that invited us join them for the journey. We did not really feel the hardship the family was going through emotionally or financially. Sure, they showed us mounting bills and we got the gist of what the scriptwriter was trying to communicate. What we did not feel was the weight and burden of a father strapped for cash. Here was a human with the weight of his world crushing down on his shoulders, yet we do not connect deeply with his hardships. Some of the events shown felt disconnected and easily dismissed as if they were no big deal.
The second film was A Fault In Our Stars and would be considered “secular” amongst those in Christian circles. It also dealt with questions of God, heaven, angels, and afterlife. When I was sitting in the theater with my two preteen and one teenage daughter, I was delighted knowing this film would spark wonderful conversations. Though fictional, it came across as real. It comforted those who can relate, and it made those who could not, have empathy.
Obviously the movie is a tearjerker. As the girls and I walked into our home with tear stained cheeks, Matt looked over at me and said, “So, was it good?” My answer was a torn. On one hand the film was filled with truths: every person can leave their mark, love is worth the cost and though there is pain in this world it doesn’t have to debilitate us. However, though it was a beautiful film I was disheartened at the overall helplessness the characters felt about their destinies. Granted, Hazel Grace went from “life sucks and then you die” to “life is worth living until you die.”
However, I was still perplexed as I sat and talked with my children after watching each of the films in question.
One film overtly says, “Heaven is real.”, yet lacks any relatable qualities. I may walk away thinking “alright, so the boy interacts with heaven.” I didn’t walk away believing anyone can interact with heaven. The other film kinda leaves that question unanswered at best. It does, however, allude to the fact that we are on our own and have to make the best with what we have. I got the impression “if there is a God he’s not going to help me. He doesn’t care, and he has no use for me anyhow.” While I enjoyed the film, I wasn’t left with much hope. On one side we have film trying give hope but I didn’t care, and on the other there was a film that made me care, but left me with little hope.
I am disappointed that we have Darren Aronofsky, a professing atheist, making a better Biblical film than people who believe the Bible is true. While Noah had its flaws from a story telling perspective and had some pretty ridiculous contrivances, it was visually stunning. However, Aronofsky’s perception of God was one filled with was anger and sadism. But who can blame him for his perception of a being he doesn’t believe exists in the first place? Yet on the “flip” side we have Christians making films like Left Behind, essentially manipulating people to believe in Christ or else suffer the consequences. Flee the wrath of a punishing God! Call me silly, but I thought we were supposed to be showing a different side of God that those who claim not to believe in Him.
Matthew, myself, and those we are partnering with us do not want to create “faith-based” films. We find those films have a very limited audience. We have no interest in preaching to the choir. Conversely, we are not into using shock value, gratuity, and distasteful means to gain an audience. We desire to make films that draw people in with good stories, well told, with great characters. We don’t want an audience that watches us because they have been shocked or manipulated. We want an audience to follow us because we tell a good story.