Christians in Hollywood
About the Guest
Ted BaehrTed Baehr is the Founder and Publisher of MOVIEGUIDE® (movieguide.org), a family guide to entertainment. An award-winning media authority often on web, television, radio, and print, his purpose is to be used by God to redeem the mass media and to encourage families to use wisdom in selecting their entertainment. His many books include How To Succeed In Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul), The Media-Wise Family, Narnia Beckons, Faith In God & G...more
Ted Baehr talks about the role Christians have in making movies. Baehr addresses parents who are raising “creative types,” and gives them advice for maintaining their character while they pursue their dreams.
Christians in Hollywood
Bob: If our goal is to share the gospel with family members, friends, and neighbors, Ted Baehr says, at least, some of us are going to have to learn how to make movies.
Ted: We should be learning the craft of the 21st-century medium of communication, which is not just movies, but movies, and YouTube, and all that. That’s the 21st-century medium of communicating to people. When we don’t do it well, everybody else defames us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 27th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. There are a lot more Christians making a lot more movies with biblical themes in them, and Hollywood is paying attention. We’ll talk more about that today with Ted Baehr. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. So, what’s the last movie you saw in the theater? Do you remember?
Dennis: Yes, Churchill.
Bob: Did you like it?
Dennis: I did.
Ted: You mean The Darkest Hour.
Ted: Not the Churchill—two Churchill movies came out.
Dennis: Right, right, right; thank you. That’s Ted Baehr, by the way, who’s a movie critic. He just criticized me for—[Laughter]
Ted: No, no, no.
Dennis: —not getting the right name. I deserved it! I can own it; I can own it right there. But, I thought it was a great movie, Ted. I’ll have you comment on this—I thought they told the story of Dunkirk better than the movie, Dunkirk. In fact, I was deeply disappointed, because I had shared that story for decades, here, on the broadcast and in speaking around the country. I felt like the movie, Dunkirk, missed it—that the real heroes were the dads, who were sailing to rescue England’s bleeding sons on the coast of Dunkirk, there in France.
So, anyway—How I got off on that route?—you asked me the question! [Laughter] Welcome back to the broadcast here.
Ted: It’s great to be with you.
Dennis: To begin with, Ted’s written a new book called Reel to Real: 45 Movie Devotions for Families. It really is a fun book. He has been married to Lily since 1975; has four children—a bunch of grandchildren.
Ted: Eleven grandchildren.
Dennis: That’s good work!
Bob: And did you like Darkest Hour?
Ted: I loved it—it’s one of our winners at the Movieguide awards. Gary Oldman and I spent, oh, maybe 45 minutes talking about his love for Churchill, etc.
And then I remember the broadcast film critics, and when they choose all these terrible movies about bestiality, about pedophilia, and all this pederasty, and all this stuff, which I can’t say on air—so you didn’t hear me say that—
—I used obscure academic language so they wouldn’t know what I was talking about. [Laughter] But then they honored Dunkirk. You know, Gary Oldman and I said to the head of the Lifetime Network, who was sitting next to me: “Do you realize what you’ve just done? Churchill would have been opposed to every other movie that you honored in here. Churchill was a man of such dignity.” I’m reading The Last Lion right now—what a great book that is—Manchester [the author]—anyway, we want to go and talk about movies.
Bob: So, The Darkest Hour compared to Like Arrows—you put those two side by side—[Laughter]—
Dennis: Bob; Bob! Bob, you’re talking about—we produced Like Arrows—
Bob: —the movie that’s going to be in theaters next week—
Dennis: —with peanuts; they spent tens of millions.
Bob: Well, that’s true. Okay; dollar for dollar, how does our movie stack up to theirs?
Ted: You know, I’m going to go back—you have beautiful photography / beautiful acting.
You know, I want to introduce you, Bob, to this girl—[Laughter]—you know, she’s 17.
Bob: That’s right—she’s got a great personality. [Laughter]
Ted: She has a great personality, and a great intellect, and she—[Laughter]
—she can talk to you about—
Dennis: And Ted did give the movie [Like Arrows] three stars out of four.
Bob: You did; and you’ve seen our movie, Like Arrows. Again, it’s going to be in theaters next—
Ted: Listen—everybody out there has to go see Like Arrows.
Bob: —Tuesday and Thursday.
Ted: It’s going to change your marriage; it’s going to help your family life; it’s going to help you with your children; and it’s going to make sure you don’t fall into the same traps that too many people fall into. That is my endorsement of Like Arrows.
Bob: And budget-wise—because, you know, we spent—
Ted: Yes; it’s beautifully done.
Bob: —about a half million dollars. I was talking to a guy, out in Hollywood, who helped with the movie, Same Kind of Different as Me. He said, “How do you even start to make a movie for a half million dollars?” I said, “Well, you don’t make it in Hollywood; that’s…”
Ted: Well, I can compare you to Same Kind of Different; because they had the same type of problems as you—[Laughter]
Bob: Here we go! Alright; I’m ready.
Ted: —and you did better.
Bob: Thank you! Thank you!
Ted: You did better than Same Kind of—and I love Same Kind of Different. You know, movies are structure—that’s it.
Bob: And there are people—I mean, some people/some critics will look at a movie and say, “That was an exceptional movie,” and somebody else will say, “That was a piece of junk!”
Ted: Well, we do it a little differently. We analyze movies—we’re like building inspectors or like your doctor when you have a problem, because we want Christian movies to do better. I want Same Kind of Different as Me to do well. When a Christian movie fails, I fail. Why do I fail?—because we’ve convinced Hollywood that they can do better with Christian movies. Eight out of ten of the top-grossing movies, last year, were movies with strong—not weak, but strong or very strong—Christian content.
I tell it to these producers, writers, and directors—and they’re in touch with me for the rest of the year—trying to reach that audience; because, every week, 23/24 million people go to movies—118 million people go to church. I said: “If you want to reach the church audience, which you’ve just figured out is five to six times bigger than the movie audience, you have to make movies that are, not only exciting and wonderful, but movies that resonate with them.
“If you make a movie, taken from a Christian book, like A Wrinkle in Time, and you take the Christianity out of it, nobody’s going to go. I don’t care if you spend $100 million / I don’t care if it’s beautiful—it doesn’t do any good unless it’s structured properly.”
Bob: Are Christian movies getting better?
Ted: Christian movies have always been getting better. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s a diplomatic answer!
Ted: No; yes; I’m going to explain.
Dennis: Our production team are all doubled over, laughing out here.
Ted: There have been 150—I’m just going to take the ones about Jesus. There have been 150 / more than 150 movies that we’ve seen and rated about Jesus since 1897. In 1897, the Pathé brothers did a movie about Jesus; and the next year, there were three movies about Jesus. There was a flood of movies, throughout the years, about Jesus, including the Jesus film, which I helped John Hayman with, which was one of my favorites.
Now, there are two types of Christian movies. The Christian movies, made by Cecil B. DeMille, who was making them for DeMilleons—
Ted: —and Cecil B. DeMille did King of Kings. It’s argued—and it may still be true—that more people around the world came to Christ through King of Kings because it was a silent movie, so they didn’t need—you know, I’ve shown the Jesus film, up on the border of Laos and things like that—but because it [King of Kings] didn’t have dialogue, it was easier for people to grasp. King of Kings starts off in Rome—in a debauched orgy—because he [DeMille] understands that you have to show the effect of sin before you show the greatness of salvation—you have to be saved from something. I grew up in the entertainment industry—I was in that scene—and God saved me out of the middle of it. So I believe that that’s one of the greatest—but those are made by big movies.
You’re talking about the little independent films—Cathedral Films was doing that when I was head of the organization that did The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—we did that. The Lutherans did it for very many years, and they did great movies for a lot of years. The Methodists did wonderful movies for many years. You know, those movies are harder—they have smaller budgets—and they’re trying hard. I think some of them hit the—you know, just are terrific—
—hit the ball out of the park, and some of them are struggling.
Bob: But we have seen, since kind of the beginning of the Kendrick era, a whole development of lots of faith-based films. Do you think the quality of that genre of films is getting better?
Ted: I think Christian filmmakers are getting better. I think there is—the inhibition for Christian film getting better is—they say, “I’m making it for God.” I had one guy, who’s extremely wealthy—made a movie that bombed at the box office. I said, “Why did you make it?” He said, “To reach people for Christ.” I said, “Well, if you made a $1.7 million, at $10 a ticket, you got 170,000 people in a country of 340 million people—you didn’t achieve your goal.” [Laughter]
It’s not about money—money is just a measure of the box office. Hollywood—why they come to our gala is because they want to succeed: “How do we reach this 118 million? This is a big deal for us.”
So, even when they don’t like it, they will do it; because they’re trying to win over this constituency.
We think that we’re doing it just for God. One woman, who made a very mediocre movie, said, “Well, I downloaded it from God.” I said, “God didn’t tell you that you needed to seek wisdom, knowledge, understanding, excellence, or something?”—[Laughter]—disconnect. So, it’s harder, in that sense.
But they are making better movies. I think the Irwin brothers—each movie they’ve done has gotten, qualitatively, better. I think Alex has a heart of gold—he did my radio engineering for a few programs—and he’s making better movies every time, both of the Kendrick brothers. I think the great movies coming out of Sony Affirm—but Sony Affirm is a Hollywood company. And then Pure Flix—Pure Flix is doing very, very well.
Bob: Your favorite Pure Flix—Case for Christ—your favorite Pure Flix?
Ted: I think Case for Christ is almost one of the best films that has ever been made. It’s extremely well—now, when I say that—you know, I’m now arguing for structure and making the building stand.
Bob: We know what your argument is; yes.
Ted: But 60 percent of a movie is marketing. The way you market your movie can cover up a multitude of sins, but it can also reach millions of people.
Bob: So, with that in mind, let me just remind folks that, next Tuesday and Thursday, Like Arrows is going to be in your local movie—I’m doing a little marketing right here.
Ted: Right. And if you want to understand Like Arrows, you have to read Reel to Real—[Laughter]
Bob: —by Ted Baehr.
Ted: —which gives you all the questions to ask! [Laughter]
Dennis: And Ted, I want to go back to your origins in the movie-making business and entertainment and how you got started. There’s a reason why I want you to go there. I think the reason that Christian movies are getting better right now is the Irwin brothers / the Kendrick brothers—others are creating a pool of talent. They’re challenging young people to use their gifts to glorify God with messages on movies. I think there are parents, right now, who are raising some producers.
What was it that got your heart and bit you about the entertainment industry, where you got your start, initially?
Ted: Well, put this into context. You know, I’ve said for a long time—it’s all over my book: “We need more Christians in Hollywood, but less Hollywood in the Christians.” I grew up in Hollywood. My mother died when I was young. I went off the deep end—a lot of self-destructive behavior—we did a lot of drugs. It was all self-destructive—I mean, we would pile up the drugs—you know, like you were in a drug house—and just see how many you could take—and a lot of salacious activity.
All of that happened, and my father didn’t want me to go into acting. He was a star—he had won the box office award in ’36—that means, in 1936, he was a mega-star. He was on Broadway for years, and he won a lot of awards on Broadway. He didn’t want me to go in the industry, so he put me through Dartmouth; I graduated summa cum laude. I went to Cambridge; I went to University of Bordeaux, Telugu; I went to Northwestern University Graduate School of English; I went to Columbia University film school; and then I went to NYU Law.
When I got out of NYU Law, I was working for a hard-core leftist organization, representing the Chicago Seven. I also was asked to put together the legal work to start a company called Cannon Films that made MGM. Four women—saved by Billy
Graham / that’s why I was at Billy Graham’s funeral, because I was friends of all those people—came and targeted my father, because he was a good-looking guy; and one of them was single. But then I’d tag along with them. He’d get me as his chaperone; and finally, I just didn’t like Christians. I went to a Bill Gothard seminar and walked out; and said, after the first 15 minutes, “He’s crazy.” Later, I found out that he was crazy—but anyway—so I left after a few minutes. She said, “Why don’t you just read the Bible and tell me what’s wrong with it?” I wanted to get away; so I said, “Okay; I’ll do that.” For six months, my father would say, “Have you read the Bible?” I would say, “No.”
Finally, I read the Bible; my life turned around. I went to seminary in New York. [Laughter]
They owned the rights to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; so we did The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on CBS Television. We got 37 million viewers. I said: “I don’t want to do movies. I want to be behind the moviemaker. I want to be the coach. I want to be the person who improves their game so they can win the game. I want to see more Christians”—I said—“If I can coach ten filmmakers, twenty filmmakers, one hundred filmmakers, we can change the world.”
Dennis: So, coach the parent, who’s raising the creative type that’s driving her mom crazy / his mom crazy—and daddy too—because they’re wanting the whole family to look at all these movies he’s making with his phone.
Ted: Okay; but you have to explain to the child—and he’ll understand that: “Do they have the strength of character to actually improve?—to actually work on their talent?” It’s like—in this country, we spend 12 years of education learning the craft of writing. I’ve done 36 books. You know, you are just learning / you’re practicing.
You have to learn the craft of writing. We should be learning the craft of the 21st-century medium of communication, which is not just movies, but movies, and YouTube, and all that—that’s the 21st-century medium of communicating to people. When we don’t do it well, everybody else defames us.
Dennis: I thought, where you were going, in terms of the discipline and having the character to excel in making movies, was also to have the character that can survive the entertainment industry.
Bob: Yes; because I’m thinking, as a parent, “If my son or daughter came and said, ‘Mom/Dad, I want to move to L.A. I want to get in the film business. I want my faith to come out there,’ I’d go, ‘You’re walking into Sodom and Gomorrah, and you’re going to be called on to compromise over and over again.’”
Ted: Well, you know, it’s not as bad as walking into a cannibal tribe in Papua New Guinea, a hundred years ago.
Bob: Okay; alright; that’s a good point.
Ted: You know, we take people—we have interns there—and they go on to be very successful in the news media and elsewhere. They learn to develop self-control and learn to develop.
And there are a lot of people in Hollywood, who come to our gala, who come to Christ. We’ve had wonderful Jewish people come to Christ / wonderful Muslims come to Christ. We see these transformations all the time.
Hollywood is just a mission field. It’s like any other mission field—we need good people. If your children have a good, strong, biblical basis—if they understand the Scriptures—if they know what they’re doing, send them out. We’ll be glad to have them as interns / glad to help them understand how to succeed in Hollywood without losing their soul, and teach them what to do.
Bob: I talked to a young actress recently who has had some roles in TV and in film. She said she was in a TV situation, where she had signed on to play a character. She got her script one week, and they had written a scene for her—they’d written a story / a whole episode around her that involved promiscuity—a level of promiscuity that was just an offense for her faith.
Here she is—she’s a believer, and she’s looking at this script—and she’s under contract.
What does somebody do, as a Christian—I know what she did—what would you coach somebody to do in that situation?
Ted: John Quade once—he was the best villain in the Clint Eastwood movies—Every Which Way but Loose, etc.
Ted: He was the tough motorcyclist. He was actually a professor of physics in St. Louis, but he had a face for being a villain. [Laughter] But anyway, one day, he comes into his agent. He’s [Quade’s] Clint Eastwood’s favorite villain, and he looks at the script and he walks out. The agent runs after him and he says, “John, where are you going?”
He says: “I’m not going to do it. It has foul language.” He [Agent] said, “John, but you’re always the villain.” He [Quade] said, “I don’t have to use foul language to be a bad guy.”
Remember, in Death Wish, the most important guy would never use foul language. So he [Agent] said, “Well, why do you do this?” He [Quade] says, “I know more about evil, as a Christian, than you’ll ever know.”
Bob: So an actor or an actress can stand up, even under contract, and say, “I can’t do this”?
Ted: You can stand up and say, “I can’t do it”; of course.
Dennis: It may cost you.
Ted: Well, what I advise people to do is to say, “This is the way I could rewrite the script.”
Ted: “This is the way I can do the scene to be the femme fatale without being disgusting.”
Bob: Which, by the way, is what Daniel did.
Bob: When the king said, “Here’s what you need to do,” he said, “Could we propose an alternative?” And the king said, “Yes; we’ll go with that.”
Ted: Right; right.
Dennis: What you’re talking about, Bob, is courage. It really leads into my last question for Ted. This is my favorite softball question to toss a guest—it’s this: “Ted Baehr, in all of your life, what has been the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?” Courage is doing your duty in the face of fear. You’ve done a lot of courageous things. I think our listening audience would love to know what the most courageous thing you’ve ever done is.
Ted: Hollywood, you know—we would do the movie / got awards—we have big studio heads—we go, toe to toe, with them on their topic—I’m never afraid of that, because I grew up in Hollywood. I know what these people are like—I can talk to them / I love them. One of them—one of them at Fox, I told him my little back story—about all of my salacious [activities]—he said, “That should be a movie!” I said: “I don’t want it to be a movie, but it should change your life. Your life can change. You don’t have to be bogged down in abuse and all the rest of it.” So, that’s not an area of courage for me.
I’ve spoken in strange places—you know, in Indonesia, and Laos, and all that stuff, where— showing the Jesus film. The witch doctor in Laos was about to throw us all out of the village; it was a lone village that nobody had been to before.
I think the biggest problem—and the most courage—is facing—sometimes in the church. We had a big donor in Atlanta, who was also a big donor to CBN. He called me up one day and he said, “You know, you have to stop referencing perversion, and homosexuality, and etc.”
[Ted] “I came out of the world! I’m not afraid of the world!” He said, “I’m not going to give you…” I said, “Don’t give me any more money,”—you know—“I don’t need money. I have God. Why do I worry about your money?” And then he got the head of the Law School at CBN removed; and then, one of the biggest churches in Atlanta—he was controlling that.
Listen—this—the force problem, as Pat Robertson once said, you know, “There’s always a snake in the garden, and once you get the snake in the garden you have another snake in the garden.” Sometimes, the biggest problem is right in your neighborhood—it’s the Judas in your midst.
When I went to Princeton Theological Seminary, James McCord, who was a really committed Christian, used to keep a statue—every kid, I’m sure, asked the same thing. After ten minutes of talking, I asked, “What does that bust—who is that?” He says, “That’s Judas.”
You’re looking at Judas, and you’re saying, “Are you going to be able to stand for the faith against”—not the big things / the big things are easy, talking to Hollywood executives—“it’s the little manipulations that happen in our lives?”
Dennis: Great answer. I have no idea who you’re talking to, right now, on this radio program; but I have a feeling you’re challenging a young lady/a young man—maybe it’s a grown man or a grown woman—to, perhaps, face down the snake that is tempting them—may God give you courage to do your duty.
Ted: Yes; yes.
Bob: And the next time your family wants to have a movie night, or you’re headed out to the theater, go to Ted’s website and find out about the film you’re thinking about going to see so you don’t get surprised when you get there. We have a link to the Movieguide website at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or if you’re planning your own movie night in the living room with the family, get a copy of Ted’s book, Reel to Real. Ted has written 45 devotions from movies for families.
You watch the movie, then you go through the devotion, and you talk about the themes that you saw in the movie. You help build critical thinking skills in your children while you talk about the redemptive themes that are present in a lot of Hollywood films. Again, the book, Reel to Real, is a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I hope all of you are planning to be out at your local theater this Tuesday or Thursday for the Like Arrows movie release. It’s in theaters for two nights only, Tuesday night
at 7 / Thursday night at 7. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find locations of the more than 800 theaters around the country that are going to be showing the film Tuesday and Thursday.
Some of these theaters are already sold out. I’ve heard some theaters are adding screens so that more people can see the film, and we’re excited about that. We hope you’ll join us.
We think it will be an engaging, entertaining evening; but we also hope it will be the beginning for you of a journey. FamilyLife® is releasing a new video series called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™—it is eight sessions, on video, with a workbook. It’s designed for small group use. It’s also available as an online course for husbands and wives to go through together.
If you’d like to use this with your small group or do parenting classes in your church, can I encourage you to pre-order the video series?—because, if you order before May 1st, there’s a significant savings off the regular cost. We want to see thousands of churches, or tens of thousands of small groups, going through this material and helping to equip moms and dads in one of the most challenging and yet one of the most important assignments they have.
Find out more about the movie, Like Arrows; get tickets online / find out about the Art of Parenting, and pre-order. All of the information is available at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Please remember to pray for couples who are going to be joining us this weekend at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. We have getaways happening in Atlanta; in suburban Dallas; in Frisco; and then two in Southern California—one in Anaheim / the other in Ventura—thousands of couples, who are going to be taking part in this great weekend getaway, including some pastors and their spouses—so pray for them as well.
And “Thanks,” to those of you who have contributed this month to our Pastors’ Scholarship Fund so that we can continue to provide free registration for pastors and spouses at our events. If you’d like to help replenish the coffers and make a contribution to the Pastors’ Scholarship Fund, can do that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to make a donation at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
We hope you have a great weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday, when we’re going to tell you more about the movie, Like Arrows. We’ll talk about how this became a movie in the first place and take you behind the scenes—let you hear about how it got filmed. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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