This episode features a fantastic conversation on film and the many roles it plays in human lives and communities, especially religious ones. Along the way it wrestles with the tensions that are always present in films for niche audiences, especially when filmmakers try to tell compelling stories while at the same time hoping to make money, which often means making many decisions based upon their sense of what their target audience expects (and, in so doing, sometimes lessening a story’s potential impact). How does this environment of tension between art and commerce hinder (or help) foster great storytelling and a film’s ability to rise to a high artistic level? Are there lenses (other than “Is it ‘great art’?”) that we should use in judging a film’s merits?
Panelists Arthur Van Wagenen, head of Excel Entertainment (Deseret Book’s film arm), Sterling Van Wagenen, co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival and the Sundance Institute, filmmaker, teacher, and former administrator in several LDS film and television organizations, and Stephen Carter, writer, editor, filmmaker, and insightful commentator on the role of storytelling in our lives, join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a wonderful, far-ranging discussion about these and other questions. What are the various entities that create or distribute films and visual media content under the auspices of the LDS Church? What are their missions and commissions (the parameters set forth for their work)? Going forward, can we expect similar films and projects to what we’ve seen in the past? What criteria are Excel using as it seeks new projects and works with the films it distributes? What are the roles that film play in communities large and small? What are the panelists’ favorite religious-themed films—especially ones that that might serve as models for LDS filmmakers?
Please listen and then share your thoughts and comments below! And what are your favorite religious-themed films, or at least ones that led you to wonderful spiritual or life-changing reflections?