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Behind The Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film and Culture
Edited by: Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi
Publisher: Baker Books
Pages: 216
 
Most Christians donít associate Hollywood with wisdom. Since wisdom can be defined as scholarly knowledge or learning, and since many in Hollywood are at the top of their craft, this may not be a fair assessment. The writers of Behind The Screen point out that when it comes to movie making, Christians can learn from Hollywood. People who work there have mastered the art of filmmaking. It requires a humble attitude for Christians to be willing to learn from those who have different values, but thatís what the writers of this book advocate. 
 
Christians tend to think of wisdom in terms of speaking and act wisely and rightly so. This book contains a wealth of practical instruction from Hollywood insiders on how Christians can be an effective influence and have a positive impact on the film industry. Christians who have been successful behind the screen serve as wise guides as they take us behind the scenes.
 
How did this book come about? A small group of Christian writers and producers in Hollywood formed Act One in 1999. They shared the vision that change must come from within. Protests, letter campaigns and finger-pointing were ineffective. They sought to transform the industry by being ambassadors and artists. They would devote themselves to truth and beauty, while being examples of Christís love and truth. The 18 essays found here are written and edited by Act One faculty and staff and developed from their curriculum. They could not have assembled a finer textbook to achieve their aims.
 
Though essential reading for those who want to live and work in Hollywood, this book is an important contribution for all who seek a thoughtful engagement with modern culture. Those whose attitude toward TV and film is primarily hostile should read this if they want to explore a different point of view. There may be disagreement on some of the finer points, but there is a lot of useful information and background. It points toward seeing Hollywood as more of a mission field than a battleground.
 
Consistent throughout the varied essays is a mature, seasoned perspectiveóa well-thought Christian view of arts and entertainment. Itís entertaining and written with warmth, and provides a refreshing alternative to the ranting thatís so easy to adopt. We also get a sound basis for film criticism from a Christian perspective. 
Are movies fundamentally dangerous and irreconcilable to the Christian life? James Scott Bell briefly answers the question in the delightful "In Defense of the Christian Movie Buff." The title gives away his answer. 
 
Barbara Nicolosi discusses what elements make for a film that is truly Christian in "Toward a Christian Cinema."  Some may find her thoughts surprising.  Her main point is this: "Borrowing from St. Paul, Christians in entertainment donít have to be always talking about God. They should be talking about everything in a godly way." Many of the essays are variations of this thought and explore it in more detail.
 
Ever wonder why there are so many bad movies? That question and many more are answered in this well-written and engaging book. Put this in the category of one of the best books written for Christians on the subject of cultural engagement. In addition to film, the lessons are also relevant to writing and music, but there are many possible applications. If I were to summarize the theme from just one Scripture, it would be this: "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls" (Proverbs 11:30 NASB). 
 
Michael Dalton
January 22, 2006
 

 
 
 

 

 
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