For the previous many months, I've been following the Christian film industry, or what I like to call Godlywood. I've done extensive research into Christian film companies such as Cloud Ten Pictures, Sherwood Pictures, Fox Faith, Big Idea, etc., as well as various start-up and growing filmmakers. For the purposes of this article, I'll give an overview of this quickly-spreading industry, and the forces behind it.
As can be read in my short writer biography, I am an editor on Wikipedia (a "Wikipedian"). In my collaborative research on the topic of Godlywood, I've come across a handful of up-and-coming film production companies, one of which is Believe Pictures. Believe, founded in 2005 by Brian Bird and Michael Landon, Jr., has created such films such as The Last Sin Eater, Saving Sarah Cain and the Love Comes Softly film series.
Also a start-up film group, Uplifting Entertainment, which has also completed television productions, created C Me Dance. This film has had a largely mixed reception from film critics and Christian groups alike. A third newly established film company, Advent Film Group, has focused on training young filmmakers in Christian cinema. Founded in 2007 by George Escobar, Advent created Come What May. This film focused primarily on the issue of overturning Roe v. Wade, as its main characters compete in moot court.
Among well-established organizations, Big Idea Productions is famed for its several children's series in VeggieTales, Larry-Boy, and 3-2-1 Penguins. Cloud Ten Pictures is renowned for its end-times film series Apocalypse and Left Behind. World Wide Pictures, founded by Billy Graham and Dick Ross in the early 1950s, has created various films such as The Climb. Finally, ChristianCinema.com has fashioned numerous films such as The Moment After and Time Changer.
Concluding my list of major Godlywood filmmakers, anyone who follows Christian film at all will have heard of Sherwood Pictures. Founded in 2002 by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Sherwood is considered a leader of Christian film. Its latest movie, Fireproof, was a dynamic box office success. Their two previous films, Flywheel (2003) and Facing the Giants (2006), were also successes, but Fireproof was to a greater extent.
In a January 27, 2009 interview with Focus on the Family's CitizenLink, co-founder Alex Kendrick said a Fireproof sequel was unlikely, but they were "considering a movie set in pre-Reformation Europe" (although no known production has begun). Regardless of the setting, it is hard to imagine Sherwood producing a failure, and if their current progress continues, there's no telling what may come of it.
Angels & Demons, a sequel to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, is on the brink of release. Such films raise the question, what defines a "Christian film"? Some common ideas about Godlywood movie criteria are: a) the film is marketed to Christians, b) has a strong Christian message, or c) is relating to Christian history. Upon my research, I believe it to be a collection of these standards. Films relating to Christian history (such as The Passion of the Christ), or which are marketed for and promoted by Christians (Fireproof, The Chronicles of Narnia), or the film's message is regarding a common Christian belief (Come What May, abortion), would be considered "Christian" films, whereas The Da Vinci Code, which does cover topics relating to Christianity but doesn't meet the above criteria, wouldn't be a part of Godlywood.
To a non-Christian, Christian cinema probably appears to be nothing but religious propaganda. As a professing Christian, I can understand this view and probably have similar beliefs about Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist movies. But Godlywood seems to hold a greater stake on American production, above and beyond other faiths. Nonetheless, media fads come and go every few years. Consequently, will the Christian film ("Godlywood") trend stand the test of time? I suppose only God knows.