Features, Documentaries, Shorts, Student Films, Music Videos, etc
Over the last 4 years, I’ve hosted screenings of faith-based films here in Buffalo, New York at my event called the Great Lakes Christian Film Festival. I have reviewed over 500 films so far that were submitted and have been more than impressed with what I have seen. Many of these films may not get a distribution deal or even break even on the money spent on production, but these projects are among the most talented actors, directors, producers, and crew that you have ever seen. The quality of these indie films has blew me away, not to mention, built up my faith through these inspiring stories and documentaries. Every year as I binge watch the submissions, I have an emotional roller coaster of a ride – laughing out loud, crying like a baby, shouting for joy, and even loving people around me better. I even learn something new about the lives of Christians around the world. This festival has changed my perspective on what a Christian film is and what it can be, separate from the stereotypical cheesy storytelling of faith. As I was inviting people to come to attend the film fest, one lady said, “Nah, I’ve seen all of them.” My only reaction was to snicker and respond by saying, “You have NEVER seen THESE films, I guarantee it.”
In the general marketplace, faith-based films has had limited releases of these types of projects due to a low marketing budget or low demand on mainstream services. The modern era of Christian films really began with the release of Left Behind (2001) starring Kirk Cameron, which made just over $2 Million opening weekend. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004), starring James Caviezel, by far has been the most successful opening weekend with over $83 Million (US) at the box office and is the #40 all-time of all films with over $370 million domestic / $611 million worldwide. However, in the past decade, the industry has seen Christian films grow to a $5 Billion Box Office juggernaut. Some films have had more commercial success than others with theatrical releases, like, God’s Not Dead (2014), starring Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain, and The War Room (2015) starring Karen Abercrombie and T.C. Stallings, reaching nearly over $60 Billion in box office sales each. This year, I Can Only Imagine (2018), starring Dennis Quaid and Cloris Leachman, soared to an opening weekend of $17 Million (3rd Only to Passion of the Christ and Heaven is for Real), and currently at $83 Million. In the 1950s, Christian author C.S. Lewis wrote a series of fictional fantasy novels called The Chronicles of Narnia adapting numerous traditional Christian themes. The books were made into 3 theatrical releases and was is the first of it’s kind to do so reaping the largest success worldwide with nearly a billion dollars overall. [Box Office Mojo].
Streaming services, like Netflix, are slowly embracing the Christian films, but there are wonderful platforms to get independent faith-based projects on sites like ChristianCinema.com and PureFlix.com. Most of the released material focuses on feature length narratives, but you also can see some documentaries like Genesis: Paradise Lost (2018), currently listed as best seller on ChristianCinema.com, which was featured at my film fest, winning Best Producer and Best Narration.
I hope more and more people realize that there are many more options in Christian Entertainment, including movies, music, live shows and festivals. In our region alone we have one of the biggest Christian Music Festivals called Kingdom Bound, held every summer at Darien Lake Amusement Park.
How Did I get into Film?
In the early late 1990s, while working in radio in Central Florida playing traditional Gospel, Southern Gospel, and Worship music, I discovered alternative Christian genres, like, Rock, Techno, and Hip Hop music, and later became a promoter of such genres. I got more heavily involved in Christian Hip Hop music when my brother. known as Legacy, released his debut independent CD entitled Green Light (2004). It was my first time marketing to radio, and I soon became a well know promoter in the market. Legacy was part of a Christian Hip Hop event in Tampa called Flavor Fest Urban Leadership Conference, now celebrating nearly 20 years since their first event. I also got involved in booking for small cafes several artists throughout the state, including Contemporary Christian Artist Francesca Battistelli, who was originally an independent artist that had released an independent album, Just a Breath, in 2004. I also was privileged to host live concerts, introducing many Christian Rock artists, including Fireflight, another independent group before getting a major record deal.
After moving back to New York State my interest in film began, and in 2009 I was cast as an extra in John Gray’s independent film White Irish Drinkers (2010). Other opportunities arose moving back to Buffalo with featured extra roles in several films, including scenes with Michael Madsen, William Fichtner, and Kim Coates. I was also part of the Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project, with an award winning local film. We didn’t make it to Filmapalooza or The Cannes Film Festival, but it was a fun experience.
Desiring to be in more faith-based films, I started the Great Lakes Christian Film Festival, in 2015, to learn about the movers and shakers in the faith-based film industry. There are a plethora of films to see covering topics such as domestic violence, abortion, homosexuality, missions, current events, and more. I hope you consider attending our film fest next summer. The future is bright for Christian Filmmaking!