There has been a great deal of hubbub this week about the new movie Noah. Somewhere in the coverage, it came to my attention that the executives at Paramount Studios may have believed they were trying to reach a Christian audience with this film. They went to the trouble of inviting Glenn Beck to a private showing. They even went to the trouble of explaining in all their radio promotions that they believed the content of the film was true to the message of the Biblical story that inspired it.
Roughly 75% of Americans, and roughly one-third of the 7 Billion people on this planet claim some affiliation with Christianity. Even accounting for those more casual about their faith, that is a large market. It makes sense that as more big-budget films have underperformed the studio executives would seek to appeal to an audience that is increasingly vocal about its disdain for modern entertainment. I am going to take these folks at their word and assume they just do not quite understand this vast, untapped market. I have a few insights into the minds of most Christians I know (and probably quite a few of them I do not) plus a couple of suggestions for reaching this audience.
The latest marketing in the age of social media requires knowing your buyers. What makes them tick, their deepest concerns and desires, how and where they gather and process information. These are all important factors. For Christians here are a couple of keys.
- Who – Christians come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are children, teens, young adults, families, or older adults. Some of us go to church every Sunday and some of us don’t. Some of us are deeply rooted in our faith, and some of us are still riding along on the surface. We are by turns nice, mean, gentle, harsh, filled with grace or falling. It depends on the day for most of us. But, we all hold one thing in common, we are striving to be better, to aspire to the example Christ set for us.
- What – We also have a variety of interests, concerns and passions. When it comes to entertainment, more often it is concerns that win the day. We like to be entertained and we like complex character. But, we believe good and evil exist, and we take that pretty seriously. The rise of the anti-hero hurts us. Good actions need to be portrayed as good and bad actions need to be portrayed as bad, even if we relate to the brokenness of the character.
- How and Where – As Christians, especially in the area of entertainment where we feel led to filter what our children watch and set the example for them in what we watch, we tend to get our information from friends and family and from sources we trust as Godly. We will watch the trailers and read the reviews, but many of us will wait for someone we know to see a movie, read a book or watch a TV show before we spend our time and resources.
- Why – This is the real key. Why do we decide to spend our time and money on a piece of entertainment? Why do we recommend them to others? The simple answer is that something in it inspires good and glorifies God. It does not always have to be about God. It can simply be that it communicates hope, it communicates overcoming our baser natures. That is why in a lousy movie market films like Iron Man and TV shows like the early episodes of 24 do well. They inspire us to be better, and show us flawed people overcoming their flaws to be righteous.
How to Reach Us
Now that you know a bit more about who we are, I have a couple of suggestions about how you might begin to produce more films that reach us. You can weigh these suggestions against films like God’s Not Dead or Son of God that did much better than expected in theaters.
- We take the Bible seriously; your directors and writers should too. Hiring an anti-Theist probably will not get you a Christian audience. You promoted Noah as true to the message of the Bible story, yet the fellow who directed it bragged about it being the least Biblical Bible story in history. If you want a great science fiction story, that’s fine with us. Just don’t try to sell it to us as true to the message of the Bible. We try not to lie, and we appreciate it when others show the same respect.
- We like a good story; your writers should too. The Bible is an epic saga, filled with drama, hilarity, grand characters and romance. It highlights millennia of the story of the most amazing being and His relationship to man. The stories are there, and we actually do like them.
- Be creative; really, we like creative. The stories are the highlights, they need filling out to make them movies sometimes. Bring the characters to life: their struggles, their circumstances, their relationships, their cultures. Fill in the details: show us the landscapes, build the dialogs, and bring in extra characters. Just actually be true to the story you are telling, and the larger story of God.
Many of us out here really miss being able to see a good movie or watch a great TV show. We hope you are serious about wanting to give us that, and we will be happy to spread the word every time you do. One more suggestion… take time to pray for your projects, you won’t be disappointed with the results.