The Church of the Masses
How do you perceive your vocation and what God might accomplish through it?
My vocation is to be a storyteller to the people of my time -- and if I create a good enough story, stories have a way of transcending time. I'm very preoccupied with creating a story and characters that will haunt people in a way that sends them on a journey of introspection.
I am a political animal in many ways. It's a big hobby for me. But I have, with the rest of my generation, almost completely lost confidence that real good in society can be achieved through politics. I don't think that's the pathway to lasting good. I think that politics can clear the field for good to be done, but I don't think it actually achieves anything. I think culture is what creates good in the world. That's the realm of the artist: the storyteller, the musician, the poet. And I see myself as a storyteller.
Christianity is communicated to us via stories. How do you perceive your role as a storyteller in relation to the Word, and the divine storyteller?
That's a lovely question. All Christians have the mandate to tell the story of how God has saved them. That seems to be the Christian vocation. There are two kinds of stories that interest me now, and this has changed. When I first came to Hollywood, I was not interested in telling explicitly Christian stories -- stories dealing with Christian heroes, Christian history, or overtly featuring Christian characters or saints. That was not what I was interested in doing. First of all, I thought, everyone knows those stories. Second, it will always come across as being preachy.
I have come a long way now. People really don't know the story anymore. With a group of twenty-somethings not long ago, I threw out an introductory comment, "Well, you all know the covenant with Abraham..." They just looked at me. I said, "You know, the sacrifice of Abraham..." This was a group of twenty-somethings did not know what I was talking about.
It's amazing how the stories can be lost in one generation. But I think they have been. So we have an obligation to make sure that the stories of salvation history are handed on. And the screen is the preferred method of receiving stories among the people of our time. So somebody had better be telling our stories so they are not lost.
But I was more interested in telling a kind of story that would leave a lot of work to the viewer, so the reader would be prodded into thinking about uncomfortable realities. I guess you would say a more prophetic kind of storytelling is what I am interested in. I'm always reminded of Plato, when he speaks of man as a thoroughbred who needs a stinging fly to get him galloping across the field, so that he can realize he is a thoroughbred.
The technology of storytelling is changing, as we see with Avatar. How do you perceive the potential positives and negatives that might come out of increasing our ability to immerse the audience in imaginary worlds?
Virginia Woolf said that you could never have a pure cinema criticism, because it's an art form tied to technology, where the technology is always outstripping the artistic achievements of the artists using it. It's an interesting suggestion. It's almost impossible to compare fairly John Ford with Steven Spielberg, because Spielberg has an entirely different palette available to him.