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How to Get Started In Christian Films
By Dave Christiano
A guide for actors, writers, and filmmakers.
Many people write and ask questions about how they can be involved in Christian films, either as an actor, actress, writer, or filmmaker. Here is some information that hopefully will be helpful.
The Christian film industry at this time is not set up like that. First of all, there are only a select few filmmakers in the country shooting Christian films. I define a Christian film as a film with an intended message for Jesus Christ. Secondly, these producers work on very low budgets compared to Hollywood. The Christian film producer wears many hats as most write, produce and direct their own projects.
Trying to find a full time job in Christian movies is a difficult task. You can't just apply for a job with a Christian film producer. This is the unfortunate part because there are a number of Christians interested in this industry, they just don't know how to get started or become involved.
For a Christian film production, the producers usually hire actors and crew people within the region they are filming, although there are exceptions to this. The major reason is because of budget.
How do you get started?
If a person wants to act in a Christian film, they can do two things. First, they can send their head shot and/or resume to the existing Christian film producers. This is not a waste of time or effort. Producers are always looking for actors/actresses because you never know who is needed for a particular project. Also, the producers talk among themselves and also help each other greatly with information. There are a number of actors who have been in more than one Christian film. A producer works with an actor, likes the work that they did or the ease they were to work with and as a result, that person is cast again in another film. Also, there are crew people who have worked on several Christian film projects. A producer finds a chemistry that works and continues with the same people from project to project. (This also makes it harder to break in).
Acting in a Christian film is contract work at best since there are so few Christian movies being produced and only a handful of producers. It's not a full- time job and the pay is not like Hollywood. For the Christian film industry to grow and really be a force, more Christian people are needed to get involved in the production and distribution of the entire Christian film process. This will take sacrifice on the ground floor to help lay the foundation for those to come.
Locating the few Christian film producers is not easy. The best way is to note the production or distribution company of a Christian film and try to make contact starting there. Most producers have their own website. You could enter their name in a search engine and see if something comes up. You could also track down a movie release of a particular producer and note their address for where to send your information. Also, as mentioned above, you must be aware that most producers cast and crew within their own region. (Note: Many people write to us and ask if we would send them the list of the Christian film producers. Sorry, we do not do this).
Second, another avenue an actor or actress could try is to raise the money to finance a project which they could act in. This is a very real option because then you know you will be in the film as you could make sure you have a major role or even the lead role. If you can raise the money, the film can be made because there are quality filmmakers who can do the work. Also, if you can raise the money, you'll be one of the "producers" and this will also mean a return of income coming back for you once the film is released.
For a filmmaker wanting to produce a Christian film, finding your own financing is a major key. You can either save up enough money from other work or find investors. If you don't have a story, there are many scripts floating around waiting to be produced.
For writers, you can write to a producer and ask if they are interested in seeing your script. Actually, what is requested most is a one page story treatment. This tells the basic story. If the producer likes the idea, then they'll ask to read the script. Even though most of the current Christian film producers that we deal with on this website write their own scripts, some are open to looking at outside material.
After the film gets produced, distribution becomes the major key and that is really harder than shooting the film. Most producers release their films straight to DVD and for TV, trying to distribute them wherever they can. Christian films have for the most part been an underground movement in the church and therefore not surfaced into the mainstream. Times are changing though and Christian films are gaining more awareness among the public.
Christian bookstores, catalog distributors, Christian television and websites are main sources of distribution outlets. Homes and churches are places to sell the film to. None of this is easy. Some producers have tried to get a Hollywood actor in a Christian film to help with some name recognition in the secular market for the distribution of it. This can be very helpful if the casting is correct. Another angle is also establish known Christian actors. This would give the film some instant name recognition among the Christian circles and help with the distribution process.
If you are really interested in producing or acting in Christian films, pray and ask the Lord for clear direction. I am convinced that God wants films made that glorify and honor Him. He wants films that proclaim the gospel and His word. Ask the Lord to help guide your steps along the way. He certainly can do it. The Bible says nothing is too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14).
Looking ahead, there is really a bright future for Christian film productions and the Christian film industry. As the quality of work increases, and the distribution base widens, more and more people will likely get involved. As that happens, there will be more opportunities for filmmakers, writers, and actors who want to produce or be involved in Christian films. Also, it looks as if Christian films are going continue to be released in theaters and as this comes about in a bigger way, a much broader awareness will come to Christian movies.
If you are truly want to be involved in Christian films, stay the course for Christ, don't give up, and pray hard. God can show you a way.
I want to add a section below I'll call questions and answers. These are frequently written or asked questions that people email or call in.
Q: The Lord has put a great desire in my heart to act or produce Christian films. I really want to see the gospel proclaimed. I know God has called me to this. Can you give me any advice?
A: I understand completely your desires. Here's what I have noted about how God works. He may put a desire in your heart to do a great thing for Him (and working on films with a direct message for Jesus is a very good thing), but please beware, the Lord may take 10 years or longer for you to fulfill that dream. This is what I have noticed. God builds great patience in all of us and for most, patience does not come easy. The road He takes you on may not be the one you would prefer to travel. But I have seen how God takes us from point A to point C via a great detour through point B. It doesn't make sense at the time or add up in our minds, but we must trust the the Lord knows what He is doing. He is able to give you the desire of your heart and get it done. It just takes time, His time, and we must walk with Him during the process. Most times we are ahead of God, and frustration is usually the result.
Q: How can I act in a Christian film? I believe the Lord has giving me talent and I want to use it for Jesus.
This could be the most common email we get. Let me answer this way. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, that feel the same way. And when you have only a few films being produced, it makes getting roles very hard. Life is all about building relationships. First, we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That should be priority and number one. Second, we have relationships with family, friends, and business relationships. It takes time to get to know people. You have to try and build relationships on a business level with people that have a common goal as you. For the actor who wants to act, you have to do what you can to get seen by the producers. Like I said, this is hard because there are so few films being produced at this time and not many to act in. But, there are some being made. Therefore, audition whenever you can. Send out a headshot. The more you get seen, the better. Audition by video. This is very helpful cause the producer gets to see you act. Act in a church play. Stage play. Try to get in a commercial (that doesn't compromise your beliefs). The key is to get seen and known. It takes effort on your part but also the Lord will help you if this is His will for you.
Q: I would like to meet the producers. How can I do that?
The best way to possibly meet with people in the industry is to attend a conference like the Christian Booksellers Convention and the National Religious Broadcasters. These are the two major ones that most of the Christian film people are involved with. Try to attend and meet people. Networking with other people is fun and also helpful. You can do a search on the Internet for film related ministries. Persistence and perseverance are two key elements here though.
Q: I'm very discouraged. Can you please help me?
A: As a producer, this work is hard. People think wrongly that a producer has it made. On the contrary, it is very hard and that is why there are so very few people producing Christian movies. But, again I will say, it is not impossible. Secondly, I completely understand any discouragement. If God wants people to hear about Jesus and the gospel, then why doesn't He make it easier for Christians to be in films. Good question. I've asked that many times myself. All I can do is take what God gives me and work within the doors He has opened. You too. We have to proceed one step at a time and sometimes those steps go backward (which none of us like). But God is God and He can and will do everything He said He would in the Bible. He knows what He wants you to do in life and knows how to get it done. It takes trust and faith in the Lord. It is not easy, but you can do it with His help.