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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
PEOPLE NOT PROJECTS

Here's the intro to my next column for National Catholic Register. I like it...

At a recent talk in Washington, DC, a devout young Catholic raised his hand and asked me what he should do to enter into the world of Hollywood filmmaking. He wants to be part of producing many more Passions of the Christ on the screens of the future. I felt a little like Jesus to the rich young man, in answering him, “Give away every thing that you have and are now doing so that you can throw yourself into mastering the art form. Go to a top film school. Study philosophy and theology so that you have something real to say. Read lots of classic novels and write thousands of pages so that you achieve command of the language as a creative tool. Get your spiritual and moral act together. Then, come and follow us by moving to Los Angeles. And in ten or fifteen years, maybe you’ll see your name on the screen appended to a movie of lasting value.” When I was through, I looked with hope at the eager young aspiring filmmaker, but his face fell, and he pretty much went away sad.

The Passion of the Christ did not come out of nowhere. It came thirty years into Mel Gibson’s filmmaking experience mainly at the top levels of the industry. It came almost a decade after he produced his Oscar winning film, Braveheart. It came fifteen years after his profound conversion and the reorienting of his life to Christ. The film itself took ten years of a brooding, devastating creative journey. Many people in the Church have been asking me if in the wake of The Passion’s success, Hollywood will produce many more such movies. “Hollywood” can’t! There will be no ‘other Passions’ without ‘other Mel’s to bring them into being.

In terms of renewing culture, however, even a string of movies like The Passion of the Christ will ultimately be insufficient. The industry needs people, and then projects. The ability to produce movies like The Passion is only the bait that God will use to draw more Christians to the business. He doesn’t care about movies. He cares about moviemakers.