I was quoted in an article that appeared in the recent issue of Daily Variety's bi-monthly magazine, V-Life. The article was on a marketing company owned by my friend, Jonathan Bock, Grace Hill Media. Grace Hill is playing an advisory role to Columbia Pictures as it produces and markets The Da Vinci Code.
It's a risky business Jonathan is in. I'm on the record as supporting Jonathan, as opposed to supporting the movie. ["Split hairs much, Barb?"] I couldn't find the piece on-line, but here's the piece of it with my quote in it, courtesy of a friend who sent it to me with the exclamatory question, "Are you smoking crack?! Have you lost your mind?!" Or something like that.
When Grace Hill markets a film, one of its first tactics is to contact heavyweight Christian pop culture blogs like Hollywoodjesus.com and Holycoast.com, providing free screenings for mentions in the blog, and--like Universal did with its recent 'In Good Company'--a direct link to the film's trailer. All of which is important because the Internet has created a tight-knit religious community, more organized and more in touch than ever before.
By hiring Grace Hill to work a film like the 'Code,' Columbia's not only trying to arrange proactive damage control but also to positively motivate this demographic.
"And Grace Hill seems to believe there are possible positive benefits that 'Da Vinci Code' could bring. Barbara Nicolosi, exec director of Act One... has talked with exec director Bock about why he accepted 'Da Vinci Code' as a project. 'Jonathan believes the Church has nothing to fear from discussion,' she says. 'He feels that people talking about who Jesus was and why he is still important 2,000 years later is worth something, even if the thing that's spurring the discussion is a project like 'Da Vinci,' which says Jesus isn't divine and that the Church is basically evil. I think the book is particularly repulsive, but I agree I would rather have people talking about Jesus than ignoring him.'
"Not everyone is of the same mind. Fr. Frank Desiderio, president of Paulist Productions, who consulted on the History Channel's 'Beyond the Da Vinci
Code,' says, 'It's just going to be tough to turn this into a positive for the
Catholic Church. The best thing that can be done is for the Church to say 'Ouch,' then back away. Otherwise you're going to have what happened with the Jewish Defense League and 'The Passion of the Christ'--when their protest turned into one of the greatest free marketing campaigns in film history.'
Actually, what I said was something more to the effect of, "For the last forty years, Jesus has been ignored in the mainstream culture. And from where I'm sitting, it was a really bad idea. So, now, we have the opportunity to have Jesus be at the center of cultural discussion. Even if it starts with a posture of irreverence, like in the Da Vinci Code, I'm going to say we try it. At least, we'll be talking about Jesus."
I have a friend who is always insisting, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." I agree.
P.S. (added Wednesday, June 1)
I am dismayed by how quick some of you have jumped to the conclusion that Jonathan Bock and Grace Hill Media are completely mercenary in their motives concerning Da Vinci Code. I don't suppose it would help if said, "Just trust me, Jonathan is a good man, and this is about more than money." It is much more about bringing the People of God and the Hollywood power-brokers into dialogue. ([drily] ref. JPII, Letter to Artists)
I haven't seen the script yet, so I can't say whether I will be able to recommend the movie. There are a few changes that could be made in the story that would make the project acceptable to me as a believer...or at least merely risible, but not protestable.
I do know that the studio involved is seriously concerned about offending the Christian audience. They have committed to spending a lot of money for public dialogues about the historical issues in the film. My sense is, the filmmakers are hoping to have the movie be anti-establishment Church, but not anti-individual Christian. Of course, we have seen that attempt before, and we know that, like Jesus, we all associate ourselves with any attack on any part of the Church.