Hollywood may seem like a dark, far-away land to many traditional churchgoers. Entertainment headlines celebrate celebrities who are comfortable with drinking, drugs, sex and pregnancy outside of marriage. Many movies and television shows are so violent or racy that many Christians avoid them.

There is light in the dark world of film and television.

Christian actors, scriptwriters and filmmakers gathered April 14-18 for the inaugural Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. Aspiring artists and writers sat under the leadership and teaching of entertainment veterans to learn how to combine faith and films.

Conference speaker Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide® and chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission in Hollywood, knows many Christians who have made it in the film industry, and many who have not.

“A tremendous number of people crash and burn in Hollywood because they never learned their craft,” said Baehr. “What destroys people in Hollywood more than anything is pride. If we want to succeed, we must humble ourselves, listen to criticism, and know our craft.”

Baehr encouraged Christians to take back the film industry and use the medium to communicate Christ and faith to the lost world.

“Ninety percent of children ages 12-24 are abandoning traditional values,” he said. “We are losing the next generation. We aren’t using the media well.”

Many Christian scriptwriters avoid controversial topics and may provide surface answers for issues their characters face. Professional filmmakers encouraged up-and-coming artists to keep Christ real in the movies they produce.

“Christians are dysfunctional,” said Ken Wales, a producer of Amazing Grace, a movie based on the life of William Wilberforce. “We are just like everybody else with conflict, but hopefully the resolution is different. As you tell your story, be real, be honest.”

Author and speaker Steven James writes suspense novels and joked about how Christians can be overly sensitive to uncomfortable story lines.

“If the Old Testament was turned into a novel, most Christian bookstores wouldn’t carry it. If it was turned into a film, most Christians would ban it.”

Actor and director Michael Albanese shared about his personal struggle to keep things real while living in grace as a Christian in the film industry.

“I’ve been on the frontlines of the entertainment industry for a long time. As a Christian and an artist, we have freedom we don’t take advantage of because we are trying to be ‘good Christians’ in a dark industry,” he said.

VeggieTales founder Phil Vischer learned the hard way that a relationship with God is more important than work for the Lord. A believer since childhood, Vischer did not fully understand what it meant to walk with the Lord until his company Big Idea went under in 2003.

“Young people think they will change the world by making films,” said Vischer. “If they would just walk with God, the world would change because the world doesn’t learn about God by watching Christian movies. The world learns about God by watching Christians.”

Vischer was kicked out of Bible college for missing chapel, something he has in common with another film producer, Kenny Sailors. Sailors and his brother Kyle have produced videos, movies and television shows in Los Angeles for more than nine years. Two guys from Texas, part of their work has been producing rap videos for noted artists such as Master P.

“Some Christians from our hometown have criticized us for being in L.A. and working with rappers,” said Sailors. “People always quote John 3:16, but they forget verse 17. We don’t condemn those in Hollywood. They know what they are doing is wrong. We aren’t there to change them. We are there to be Christ in the middle of all of that.”

Growing up in a conservative Christian home, Sailors did not see his first movie until the 10th grade when he snuck out to see Home Alone with a friend. Since then, God has instilled a passion in Sailors for producing films and videos. He said he sees his time in Los Angeles as an opportunity to take Christ to people who need it the most.

Sailors said he responds to his critics from within the church by saying, “These people are definitely not going to show up at your church. How are you going to reach these guys? How are you going to influence those who influence?’”

Many Christians become filmmakers with the hope of making a difference for Christ. In addition to feeling a call to spread the Gospel, script consultant Linda Seger encouraged artists to pursue excellence in their work.

“Christian filmmakers come with great intentions, but those aren’t enough,” she said. “Learn the craft, learn who you are, and learn what you can contribute.”

Dr. Lorene Wales, a film production veteran and chair of the cinema-television department at Regent University, challenged Christian moviemakers to persevere while striving to make a difference in the culture through films.

“Media is extremely powerful in our society,” she said. “Cinema has become so cynical. We are called to be salt and light in a postmodern world. How do we do that?

“In this cynical world, don’t give up hope. Don’t give into cynicism,” she said. “We need to say to God, ‘We will continue in the faith, be steadfast and grounded, and we will not move in the faith.’”

From Transworldnews.com

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