Have you heard of the film “Faith-Based”? Breitbart and FOX News are calling it an attack on Christians and Christianity. The film, creators, cast and crew have been the focus of vitriol and rage in comment sections across Conservative media. But here’s the thing…no one has seen it and no one knows what it’s really about.
Rapzilla does, and we spoke to one of the film’s creators – Luke Barnett. We have a feeling this film is less about making fun of Christianity as it is showing Christians the absurdity of some of the things Christians support because “JESUS.”
The premise of the movie is – two main characters are looking for purpose and to figure themselves out. They come to the realization that ‘God’s Not Dead’ made three successful movies. It is then that they have a “eureka” moment of, “Wow all these movies make lots of money because everyone buys something with Jesus in it.”
The pair set out to make one of these movies even though they aren’t Christians or know how to make movies. The movie itself is these guys taking advantage of people and convincing the church to fund it all while learning a lesson or two along the way.
So yes, the storyline of the movie is a big con. These characters are knowingly preying on the wallets and gullibility of Christianity. These guys are shady and some would say downright “blasphemous,” but here’s the thing – it’s loosely based on a true story.
“I grew up with a very Evangelical background…youth group every Wednesday,” said Luke Barnett. “This idea started a long time ago. In high school, I played in garage bands with people and I had some friends who were really talented and I thought they would make it. They didn’t break out and years later they are making six figures playing Creation Fest, churches, colleges, and that was the first foray into ‘These guys just changed to a Christian band’.”
I [Justin] can confirm this “low hanging fruit theory.” Years ago, I conducted an interview with the Christian rock band Emery where they confirmed that nearly half of all “Christian” bands are no longer Christians or many of the members have fallen away from God. They found their fame in Christianity and with Christians, so they continue to create music for that audience until they go completely left field. This can be seen countless times on their podcast Bad Christian as former or current musicians within the Christian music industry share their stories
They have also crowdfunded a documentary called ‘What Would Jesus Sell’ that seems right up the ‘Faith-Based’ lane.
“The Christian music industry is a business that functions like any other; on the principle of profit. What makes it unique, is that the profit incentive is often motivated by religious image & language control. As the music industry has declined over the past few decades, dwindling returns have incentivized the profit-securing practice for Christian artists and labels to project an image that is often contrary to their individual values.”
In fact, Barnett explained that one of the actresses in “Faith-Based” experienced the same sentiment working on a “Christian film” prior to working with them.
“Producers offered her the most ever for a movie,” he said. “She said, ‘It was immediately clear the producers were not people of faith or cared at all about changing people’s lives’.”
He continued saying the only concerns they had were, “How do we make a movie that every Christian will go to see?”
With that, Barnett explains that producers and filmmakers only seem to be concerned about dollar signs rather than making good art and infusing the message within that.
“Some [movies] are made by pastors. They are setting out to preach. It’s hard to start at preaching and then sell a good movie. You need to set out to tell a good story, make a good movie. If someone’s life changes, as a result, that’s fantastic,” he explained. “If your initial goal is to just preach to someone, it’s going to be hard to backtrack from there.”
The actor also feels that many of these films are 100% preaching to the choir.
“No non-Christian person is seeing ‘God’s Not Dead’ or any Kirk Cameron movie and going, ‘Oh my God, I found Jesus!’ when they walk out,” said Barnett. “The only people watching these movies are the people who already go to church on Sunday or who’s church rents out the theater to see ‘War Room’ and load the people there. From the beginning, that’s a big problem.”
He continued, “On the other side of that spectrum, you’ve also got a lot of producers who have come to the realization that all these movies make money and they set out to make them because they know everyone from my dad’s church will 100% buy them. They have nothing to do with making a good faith-based movie. It’s 100% a gimmick taking advantage of the fact there are a lot of people who will buy anything with Jesus on it.”
There have been instances where churches have helped raise over two million dollars for a film.
Barnett also believes one of the biggest problems with Christian movies except for the secular made ones is there’s no cursing, or the protagonist never dies.
“These movies can’t portray real life,” he said. “In real life, people curse, do drugs, have sex. These are things they can’t put in it because it would make it PG-13 or R.”
Ask yourself the question, have you ever seen a gang banger with a clean mouth? For that matter, have you ever been around a high school where everyone is called a “big jerk” or “a twerp”? The answers to this are of course not, so his sentiment is understandable.
Relatable to Rapzilla, Christian hip-hop is now moving into this arena of thought process with artists opening up more and more about personal struggles and failures. Instead of filling their bars with theological “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” we are getting hit with bars talking about mental illness, addiction, sex, political issues, and dare we say ‘mild swearing’. Christian rap is starting to branch out into reality in a way that much of Christian media is lacking.
Barnett and his partners were trying to do the same thing. They admittedly were not making a Christian movie at all, but they feel Christians may like it. They are aware that there will be a demographic who refuse to watch this movie and want no part of it.
“Those that don’t see it will almost benefit from it because there is a positive message and hope,” he shared. “The characters are real. It feels like two guys you know hanging out and being friends. We talk like real people in the movie. It’s a buddy comedy about friendship. The faith-based and satire part of it is the backdrop and framework.”
“At the end of the day, we made a comedy.”
All of the leads come from some faith background and are in different places right now. The director of the movie (Vincent Masciale) is still a Christian. “He didn’t let me push any boundaries that made it seem like we were making fun of beliefs. He was the balance and at the same time it has some of my favorite elements of Christianity without creating a Christian film.”
In case you’ve read this far and haven’t realized it, the real main finger-pointing behind “Faith-Based” is not necessarily just Christians “eating up” everything with Jesus, it’s Christian blindly putting their faith behind everything. It’s the Christians pouring millions of dollars behind subpar products or people whose intentions are to make money off their acceptance of mediocrity without so much of a care of quality being associated with Jesus. Essentially, Christian films get the wrap of being “bad.”
“With bad Christian movies, I don’t blame the crews, camera, lighting people, they don’t do a bad job. They are working hard and trying to make something good,” he shared. “It’s pastors making movies, audiences supporting anything blindly – a theme of our movie. Christians support anything Christian blindly. Kendrick Brothers know they are going to make 30 million dollars, there’s nothing pushing them to do better. They don’t have to step up their game.”
Luke Barnett along with Tanner Thomason and Vincent Masciale began working together for the website Funny or Die. In 2016 they made the film “Fear Inc” and then went on to produce two films.
This movie got made because they were ready to do something more their brand and tone. They were originally going to do this movie for no money and film on their phones with friends. It started to resonate with people and everyone they pitched started to say “Yes.” Their favorite crew members started doing them favors, then they asked Lance Riddick to play a character and he said “yes” as well. All of a sudden he legitimized the whole project.
Then came Jason Alexander and Margaret Cho.
Barnett revealed that they treated every day like a funny or die video. “No one was getting rich. There were no egos. It was just taking what we have and doing the best we can.”
It premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on January 18th and received a great reception. Barnett says the film will do the festival circuit and then hopefully find a theater for release and eventually a streaming service.
Watch the Faith-Based Trailer Below:
So what do you think? Will you be seeing what this film is all about?