This article appeared in the December 2013 Colonial Crier.
On Thursday, December 5th, the Fairfax Christian School was honored to host a seminar by Dr. Ted Baehr, founder of the Christian Film and Television Commission (CFTVC), entitled “How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul,” for the 11th and 12th grade students.
Dr. Baehr has been involved in the world of film since his youth. In addition to founding CFTVC in 1986, he began publishing Movieguide, a collection of movie reviews from a Christian perspective in 1985. The mission of Movieguide is twofold: to assist families in making informed media choices, and to encourage young Christians with an interest in filmmaking to become a cultural force for good in Hollywood.
Thursday’s talk focused on how to use the moviemaking industry to transform our culture. Dr. Baehr told our 11th and 12th grade students that storytelling through film is a powerful medium for truth; anyone with a great story to tell has the opportunity to change the world. With media consumption at an all-time high, we have an unprecedented window into the souls of a worldwide viewing audience. In Dr. Baehr’s own words, “He who controls the media controls the culture”; he urges students with an interest in film to actively take part in influencing the media toward Christian culture.
The “Golden Age” of Hollywood, beginning in the 1930s, was its most Christian era. Organizations like the Protestant Film Commission and the Catholic Legion of Decency discouraged filmmakers from padding their films with meaningless violence, sexual content or other aberrant behavior. When the Motion Picture Code, the moral predecessor of the modern MPAA, was dropped in the mid-1960s, the resulting shift from wholesome to unwholesome movies precipitated a breakdown of values that continues to plague our culture to this day. Only by cultivating a positive culture of spiritual soundness and family values can the filmmakers of today and tomorrow stem the destructive tide.
Drawing on decades of experience within the film industry, as well as the insights of other Hollywood insiders, Dr. Baehr demonstrated for our students the essential elements of a successful movie. The general recipe for box-office success is a great story well told, with a positive worldview, which is spiritually uplifting. A strong story features classic structuring of story dynamics, plots, themes and conflicts; elements such as characters, music and especially humor influence the way movies are received by the public. This information is vital for young screenwriters who wish to learn the craft in order to break into the business.
Dr. Baehr also told students that they could apply for Movieguide internships. Opportunities include internships in television and radio production; marketing and advertising; reviewing; and other areas that bring interns into contact with the realities of the film industry. Movieguide also conducts scriptwriting classes that delve into what makes a strong, successful, Christ-oriented screenplay. His organization incentivizes the filmmaking industry by hosting the Movieguide Awards every year, celebrating actors, movies, television programs and screenplays which exemplify Christian values and have a spiritually uplifting influence on our culture.