The following is part of the Film and Faith Blogathon, sponsored by Strange Culture
For many, Christian films are thought of as either the films you talked and napped through during Sunday School, or Mel Gibson's PASSION OF THE CHRIST.
In between those two extremes is the work of Dave Christiano.
I wrote a while back of my discovery of Dave's work. His films are regularly shown on the religious television networks. As someone who never watched these channels before, I often found myself tuning in to them to see more of his work.
The films are all beautifully made that would probably work even if you removed the message (but then what would be the point). He always seems to find the perfect cast, and tells the story in an interesting way.
The dialogue is very smart as well. Rather than just preaching, issues are debated with intelligence. Even for those who may not agree with what is being said, the characters are clearly passionate and believable.
PAMELA’S PRAYER, for example, is a film that, by all accounts, shouldn’t work for many audiences. It features a high school girl whose father won’t allow her to date. As difficult to believe as that subject matter may seem to be, I dare you to watch it and not be moved by the finale.
Currently, he has a series, 7th STREET THEATER airing on TBN. This series follows a group of performers on a Christian stage show. They meet together and plan out the weekly show. Think of it as STUDIO 60, with the message being religious in nature rather than whatever Hollywood cause the writers of STUDIO 60 wanted to work into the show that week. While STUDIO 60 lasted only one season, 7th STREET is working on its second.
He also has a film to be released February 15th 2008 called ME YOU US FOREVER. This is a love story, starring Stacey J. Aswad of 7th STREET.
I contacted him about doing an email interview about his work and the industry, and he agreed.
How did you get involved in Christian Films?
I've wanted to do films since I was in college and became a Christian in 1979 at age 22. I started studying filmmaking in 1984 and finally shot my first film in 1985. After becoming a Christian, the desire came to make movies that had a direct message for Jesus Christ. So, that's how I got started in Christian films.
Do you consider yourself a filmmaker first, or a Christian filmmaker?
I consider myself a Christian first, then a filmmaker who makes films that have messages pointing people toward Christ. It gives me real purpose and direction.
Could you ever make a film without a message? Or, would you even want to?
I have no interest in doing any projects that do not have a message for Christ. I feel this is my purpose and so don't want to stray from that...and have no desire to stray, thankfully.
7Th STREET THEATER has one of the single most likeable casts on TV. Where did you find the cast? While I know that you worked with a few of the actors before, were these primarily “Christian actors” or just actors who wanted to be part of the project?
The search for the 7th Street Cast was long and after many different avenues pursued, I found who I have now. I really like my cast because they are all so very talented and gifted, and they all understood the type of project I was trying to do. None of this has been easy and the cast has been dedicated to the work. They, to me, have done a super job. Also, I did not set a criteria that everybody working on this series had to be a Christian, my criteria was trying to find people who supported what I was trying to do. My hope is always though that people become believers in Christ.
What sort of an impact did THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST have on the industry?
I have not seen this movie, but the one thing it did do was show that there is an audience for religious based films...it is a theme that people are interested in, as evidenced by the box office results.
You have an upcoming film ME, YOU, US, FOREVER, releasing next February. How are you handling the release? Is this, like other Christian films, being self-distributed, working with churches?
My brother Rich and I formed Five & Two Pictures for our theatrical releases back in 2002. So, we are working this along with a few others that work with us. Linda White is a person who had helped a lot, she is based in Missouri. We contact churches in the area of where the movie will play to let them know a project is coming. We also try to get the word out through traditional media. Our goal is to reach people with our films - all people. We don't feel are projects are just limited to church people, but they are mainly the people who would be most interested in what we're doing. For "Me & You, Us, Forever", I feel very strongly this film will reach both a secular and church audience because of the nature of the film being a love story and the message of it trying to help people going through tough times or divorce. It's a film that I think singles, seniors and youth can all relate to.
Your brother Rich Christiano directed TIME CHANGER with Gavin MacLeod, Hal Linden, and Jennifer O’Neill. His new film, THE SECRETS OF JONATHON SPERRY stars MacLeod and Robert Guillaume. Is it getting easier to attract “name” talent to these type of films?
I would not say it's easier, but we have been blessed to attract these people and found that they all were very easy to work with and very kind toward our project. Rich has certainly enjoyed working with this list of talent here. For my next project, "True Champion", I am going to try and get a couple of name actors that people might recognize, if they are right for the roles. That is always key, trying to find who is right for the role. Most important.
For more about Dave Christiano and his films, check out his website, www.christianfilms.com. Several of his films are also available on Netflix.
Look for 7th Street Theater on TBN and ME YOU US FOREVER in theares February 15, 2008.
You can read our interview with his frequent star Stacey J. Aswad here.