This week I had the privilege of teaching screenwriting at the Writing For Your Life conference. In addition to my two workshops, I also got to attend fabulous sessions by authors and editors. One of those was “Loving Your Readers” by author, editor, and publishing consultant Ami McConnell.
In her class Ami stressed how important it is for authors to love their readers and to write with them in mind. The same could be said for filmmakers, except we need to take it a step further by also loving our cast and crew.
Every day on social media I see filmmakers complaining about actors, crew, or critics. I hear talk about filmmakers who take advantage of their cast and crew, failing to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. I hear stories of promises made and promptly forgotten.
How can we hope to minister to audiences, if we’re not first ministering to our cast and crew? Several years ago at an industry event, a woman introduced herself as a background actor in one of our earliest movies. Then she said, “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve worked on many faith-based film sets since yours, but you’re the real deal.” She went on to explain that she wasn’t a believer, and that the other faith-based film sets were no different than secular films, but that she could tell that our faith was real.
I’ve always felt it was important to have a Christian witness on set, but from that point on, it took on even more importance. We began praying for future cast and crew as I wrote the scripts. When casting and hiring for our movies, we sought out those individuals who were passionate about the story and whose lives would be positively impacted by the experience.
With each movie we form a film family, supporting and encouraging one another, praying for each other, working together to get each movie to those who need it the most. Most importantly, we join in collective prayer for each audience, beginning with the film festival screeners, the theater audiences in each city, and for the unknown individuals reached as the movie spreads out to DVD and streaming.
As faith-based filmmakers, it’s especially important for us to love our audience. If we’re using film as a way to spread the gospel, we must love the lost. We must seek to understand them and their needs. We must come to them where they are and speak to them in a language they understand. We need to get rid of the attitudes and words that pit us against them. We need to humble ourselves and tell our stories with a contrite spirit.
Our films may never be box office success stories (or maybe they will), but if we begin and end with love, we can present them as offerings to God, and someday hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
That will be the ultimate success story.