There’s many reasons people criticize bad movies, and when it comes to Christian films, in most cases, all the reasons can apply. But there’s one over-arching problem with most Christian movies that come up short:
The truth is, real acting isn’t about acting at all. It’s the art of being natural in a very unnatural situation. Acting is difficult, and professionals spend their entire careers perfecting the art. Just think of the difficulty playing an emotional scene with the challenge of hitting your marks, knowing where the camera is, and a 20 person film crew standing around.
That’s why if there was one thing I’d recommend to Christian filmmakers it would be to understand acting and become better at knowing the difference between what’s authentic and what’s not. In fact, my wife Kathleen addressed this subject in “Acting or Being?” – the first chapter of her devotional “Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture.”
One of my greatest professional regrets is that I didn’t take more acting classes early in my career. I never had a desire to act, so I focused on other aspects of production. But years later as a director, I quickly discovered that I didn’t have the vocabulary and experience to understand what they were going through, and how to get the performance I needed.
Another issue is that because of budget considerations, Christian movies are often forced to hire non-union or less experienced actors, which usually doesn’t help.
If you’re a filmmaker, I strongly recommend you find someone like Judith Weston. Many years ago I took her class, and it was filled with other television and film directors trying to understand the world of acting because we all wanted to be able to help actors on the set navigate their performances. Judith’s classic book is called: “Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television” and I highly recommend it. It’s so helpful because it’s written not for actors, but for directors.
So directors – put over-acting at the top of your list of concerns when you walk on the set. It’s the most obvious and embarrassing reason your movie could fail.