‘Audience of One’

4 Apr

Yesterday we watched “Audience of One.”  The entire day was coordinated to revolve around discussions of ethics.  One might think that Christians don’t need to have conversations about ethics — but after watching this documentary it’s pretty obvious that we do.

I was so angry when I finished watching.  You know — the kind of angry I would normally get at Michael Moore, only this time it was directed at the “Christian” filmmakers this film is about.  Steaming.  Hot.  Red-headed.  Angry.

Our class exercise was to make four columns on the page: Artistry, Professionalism, Prayer/Meaning, Spirituality.  Then while watching write down observations about the filmmakers in the story as it applies in each column.  To give you a sample, I’ll share with you a few of my notes.

Artistry:  “What artistry?  The only artists hired acquired by the first-time filmmaker were the cinematographer, the crane operator, and one local amateur actor.”

Professionalism:  “SAFETY IS NOT FIRST.  NOT PAYING BILLS OWED.  HE LIES TO PEOPLE.  No respect for others.”

Prayer/Meaning/Spirituality:  “Lots of faith…in the wrong things.  Less integrity than the non-believers on the project.  Sin is something other people do.  The scary thing is that rest of us Christians are only one step away from doing the same things he’s doing.  What will prevent us from going over the edge?”

Our facilitator asked a profound question:  “Have you ever wanted something so badly you were willing to do anything to get it?”  Just think about that for a minute.  I can honestly say that I have.  But I didn’t.  I came to the edge of the cliff and said, “That’s far enough.”  But what’s to stop me the next time?

Our class discussion produced some helpful insights.  Accountability, for example.  That’s part of the answer to spiritual pride and the twisting of the Word to meet our own personal ends.  In the film, no one around the pastor (except for the non-Christian actor) ever told him he was off his rocker.  I suspect that his mother may have tried.  Keep in mind that the person who made this documentary, though not a Christian himself, did not intend any malice toward the church or the pastor…and that the pastor is aware and in full support of everything shown on the film.

I don’t want to spoil the film for you, so I will not reveal any more than that.  Really — you’ve got to see it.  You’ve got to see it if you are a filmmaker because you wouldn’t believe me if I told you what happened.  You’ve got to see it if you are a believer in Christ because we all need to wrestle with our own ethics.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to hunt him down like an armadillo in the night.  But do the exercise for yourself and watch it with someone you can discuss it with afterward.  Be real.  Be as honest as you wish he had been.

And then remember that this very public “Christian” filmmaker is the only Christian many San Franciscans and Hollywood filmmakers have ever seen.

If someone were making a documentary about your life and work, what would it reveal to a lost and dying world?

Additional questions to discuss with the film:

– What responsibility do I have when I am called by God to do something?

– If God calls you to make a film, is it ever ok to cut corners to make that film?  Does it have to be professional?

– What does it mean to be a Christian filmmaker?

– What is the role of the Church in film?

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