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INSIDE STORY: Hollywood seeks — and needs — Christian screenwriters

I adore — and collect — embarrassing moments.

So, when preacher’s wife and author Serena B. Miller said “I wanted to crawl under the table” during our interview, I had to know more. 

Inside Story | Kimberly Mauck
This particular painful moment came as Miller — a grandmother from rural Ohio with no college diploma — found herself in a Hollywood screenwriting class peopled with Ivy League graduates, Los Angeles natives and people half her age. 

Hence the desire to hide. 

Miller, however, wasn’t an aspiring screenwriter living on a prayer. Already a published author, she was invited to the class by Ted Baehr, founder of MovieGuide.org, an online guide to movies — with faith and family in mind.

Baehr met Miller at an American Christian Fiction Writers conference, where the website founder had come to recruit Christian writers to become Hollywood screenwriters. 

In the mid-1980s, only one or two films produced in Hollywood portrayed explicit Christian values, Baehr said. That number has risen exponentially in the years since. Now MovieGuide counts about 65 films per year with Christian messages. 

Even the most casual movie consumer can detect the “God trend” at theaters this year (from “Son of God” to the controversial “Noah” and my personal favorite, “Moms’ Night Out”).

In fact, films with strong moral, patriotic and family values make more money than films with lots of profanity and sex, according to MovieGuide’s 2014 annual report on the current state of the film industry. 

“Contrary to popular opinion, sex does not sell,” the report notes. 

I said earlier that I love embarrassing moments. 

That’s not true always. 

I’m embarrassed when I watch couples being intimate onscreen. I’m embarrassed when I have to explain to my kids why they can’t watch certain TV shows with me (and, of course, I question whether or not I should be watching them myself). And I’m embarrassed when I’m not able to find a moral movie to share with my husband.

Christians can’t hide under the table. We must instead be salt and light — even to the realms of entertainment and media, which have so much influence in today’s world.

Miller didn’t hide her light. 

Despite her moment of supreme apprehension, she had plenty of reasons to be in the screenwriting class. Her book, “Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio,” had just been adapted into a movie for the UPtv network. 

That movie broke records for the network, and Mission Pictures International, which produced the film, has sold it to TV channels in France, Spain, Germany, Australia and Poland. 

Now, Miller is equipped to work as a screenwriter herself.

Baehr, who encouraged her to take the class, said that Christians shouldn’t “abandon the mass media” because of its negative influences. 

When they do, “they abandon their culture and their fellow man,” he said. And, “when Christians get involved in the mass media … God honors that commitment with success.”

That may seem hard to believe, but it should serve as a call for us to “hold fast to what is good” — as Paul urges the church in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 — as we engage with mass media. Let’s honor the work of creative Christians by supporting their work with our dollars. 

And, if God has given you the ability to write, now is the time to take a cue from Serena B. Miller. Dive in to popular culture, holding on to what is good and true. 
Let your story light the path. 

is reviews editor for The Christian Chronicle. She and her family worship with the Northwest Church of Christ in Durant, Okla. 

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary Inside Story National Reviews

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