Box Office Revolution: What inspired you to first get into making Christian entertainment?
Sean Paul Murphy: I don’t know if anything inspired me to get into making Christian entertainment. I just wanted to tell stories that resonated with me. Since I was a Christian, the stories I told often reflected my values and faith. I was writing so called faith-based films before it became an established genre in Hollywood.
I find it interesting that you call it Christian entertainment. Years ago, most of people would have shied away from that term. People would say that they were making films to reach people for the Lord, not entertain Christians.
BOR: What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of movie making?
SPM: My underlying philosophy is to tell a good story well.
BOR: What do you think we need to see more of in Christian entertainment?
SPM: Since practically everyone who watches Christian films are already Christians, I would say we should make films that meet the needs of the church, and about challenges in the Christian walk, rather than just continually retelling the sinner comes to Christ story. I deal with this issue in a long post on my blog called Building the Faith-based Ghetto.
BOR: What do you think needs to be improved in Christian entertainment as a whole?
SPM: I think we desperately need to increase the level of professionalism. This hasn’t happened as a whole in the independent Christian film business because our consumers value the message over artistic quality. They would quickly have both if they stopped supporting bad films. And I’m speaking as a guy who realizes that all of his films are flawed in one way or another. I’m not just pointing a finger at others.
BOR: How do you feel about Christian entertainment creation being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?
SPM: The Christian film business is cursed with far too many one-man bands. No one person is equally gifted in writing, producing, directing and acting, and a film will only rise to the level of the weakest of those skills. Also, I tend to be suspicious of people who say “they’re doing it for the Lord” when they feel the need to write, produce, direct and star in their own films. If you’re doing it for the Lord, you would seek the most skilled and experienced people available for every job on the film. Personally, I prefer to be the dumbest person on the shoot. I want to be surrounded by people more experienced than me so that I can learn.
BOR: How has Christian entertainment improved during the time you’ve been involved in it?
SPM: The theatrical releases, like those from Affirm, are getting better every year. I liked “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” and “I Can Only Imagine.” They were both a step forward. However, technically, they were still only on the level of cable movies. We are not competing one on one with even the average Hollywood product yet. And it’s not just budget. I think the difference is that the average Hollywood filmmaker is more devoted to the craft of filmmaking. Christian filmmakers tend to think of themselves as evangelists first.
BOR: Is working on Christian movie sets any better or worse than working on ‘secular’ movie sets?
SPM: I have been working on sets since my days as an advertising producer back in the late-1980s. I haven’t noticed a real difference between secular and Christian movie sets. On the behind the scenes videos of Christian films, I always see people saying how they pray on the set all the time, but I never saw that on any of my films. Then again, I’m a writer. I never have an early call time. Maybe everyone got prayed up before I arrived.
To me, the biggest difference is between union and non-union shoots. When I was an ad producer, I was not a fan of the unions. Now, however, I am a strong supporter of them. Too many unscrupulous filmmakers would take advantage of the cast and crew if the various unions didn’t protect them. Not only that, I think crews work better when they know they are in a safe environment and that their rights are protected.
Most of the Christian films I worked on were non-union, with the exception of the Screen Actors Guild.
BOR: What are your future plans for new Christian entertainment (movies, series, etc.)? Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?
SPM: My script. “I, John,” a 2012 winner of the Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays, is currently in development. I am not working on any other faith-based scripts now. I have turned my attention to books. Touchpoint Press published my memoir “The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.” It was a great experience. I was able to discuss my faith and how it affected my life without having to filter it through the egos of producers, actors and directors. It was much more honest and refreshing. I have just finished a novel called “Chapel Street.” It is a horror story, inspired by some events in my own life, which has a strong spiritual message. You can read some samples of both books on my blog.
BOR: Thank you for your time!
SPM: Thank you!