Christians as a “Niche Market”? (Or… What I Learned at the Biola Media Conference)

My overview of the volatile conversations and debates at the Biola Conference is now published at Christianity Today Movies.

As Hollywood continues to catch the “faith wave” by making and marketing more movies to Christians, some of the industry’s major players gathered at a conference in Los Angeles last weekend to discuss the pros and cons of the relatively new trend.
While some are excited about the potential of these efforts, some are also frustrated about the “bad art” that has already spun out of these initiatives—including Dean Batali, a writer who served as executive producer on That 70s Show for six years.

“I’m quite angry at God, actually,” Batali told CT Movies. “I’m angry that he has blessed bad art—even certain Christian films that have been seen by a lot of people. It makes me angry as an artist, because they’re bad. Just because people go see it, that doesn’t make it good.”

When asked if it’s inappropriate to complain about the quality of films that present the gospel, Batali answered, “This is my frustration: The gospel written on toilet paper still saves lives. There’s power in the gospel.”

But he wants Christians to strive for excellence, rather than settling for sentimental entertainment: “I want to see movies about people who don’t get pregnant and don’t win the state championship … and who go ahead and praise God anyway”—an apparent reference to Facing the Giants, where everything goes right for the protagonist (wife gets pregnant, team wins it all) once he gets right with God.

We interviewed Batali and others at the 12th annual Biola Media Conference, which features Christian leaders in the entertainment industry, forward-thinking and creative folks who give seminars and put their heads together to ask questions like, “What’s working? What isn’t? What next?”

That’s just the beginning.

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