Archive for January, 2011

Would I Write the Music For…

Posted on January 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm, by Ben

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Here is an excerpt of a letter I recently received from a young composer. As it turns out, I am a young composer as well, but I digress.

Dear Ben,

Would you score a “non-Christian” film? Would you score How to Train Your Dragon? How about Inception? The Dark Knight? Star Wars? Why or why not?

I think you see where I’m going with my questions. I don’t want to compromise on principle, but at the same time I don’t want to go further than God would have me to, and myopically pursue my own standard of holiness.

Just as a Christian mechanic would fix a non-believer’s car, would I as a Christian composer grant the gravity and power that good music gives to a film to a non-Christian filmmaker?

Dear _______,

I understand where you’re coming from, as these are questions I have had to (and still do) ask myself.

Would I fix an unbeliever’s car? Assuming I knew anything about fixing cars, needed the money to support my family, or thought it was a good opportunity to minister to someone, then yeah. Sure I would.

But would I fix an unbeliever’s TANK that’s threatening Christian homes?

No way! But in reality that is what many Hollywood films are built to do. They’re spiritually deadly, often directed toward taking down Christian families, and are generally effective in that goal.

If I was a mechanic I should instead work to build a bigger, better tank to defeat Hollywood’s and defend what is right and true. This is what a “replacement” film industry would mean.

Would you score a “non-Christian” film? Would you score How to Train Your Dragon? How about Inception? The Dark Knight? Star Wars? Why or why not?

It is tempting to just accept the culturally defined labels “Christian” and “Secular” and let them decide for us what our involvement in film is going to be, but we really need to test both definitions against the standard of the Word to see where they stack up. Thus, every project will need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

I would not score Inception, Dark Knight, or Star Wars because the messages of these films are not ones I could promote or advance through my involvement–at least not in good conscience. Not only do I think that these particular movies are destructive, but they drive me crazy on a personal level because the messages those films promote are ones I have had to deal with or fight against in real life and now have a very biased position against.

If I was offered How To Train Your Dragon, that would be a tougher decision–the same goes for Pixar’s Up. Both of these films have some elements I really like (notably, their music, which would not be there if I was), and both of these films include messages which seem to align more closely to the messages of scripture than those of, unfortunately, many “Christian” films I have seen! This is not meant to be a “kudos” for Pixar or Dreamworks as much as it is to be a rebuke for the Christian film industry.

But there are some obvious problems with these films. For example, in HTTYD I would have to decide if the father-son and Hiccup-Astrid relationships in the film were handled in such a way that I could associate myself with them and be comfortable facing my Creator on judgment day, expecting to hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.” I mean, the director would ask me to compose this big romantic swell when the teen lead gawks at the modern, domineering, and feministic love interest. The problems with that image run several layers deep.

But even if a film project is not thoroughly putrid and heinous, that doesn’t mean I have a sworn duty to accept the job. I run into a lot of Christians who don’t seem to believe that they’ve been given the authority to say “no” to a political candidate, job offer, or just the world in general… missing a key principle of Christian ambassadorship: Christianity has never been about doing what was merely “okay” but what was RIGHTEOUS and best.

“Can I justify investing the Lord’s time in this endeavor?” is at least as important a question as “Does this movie have problematic and immoral content?” and possibly more so. Any three-year old can be taught to point out objectionable elements X,Y,and Z, but few truly cultivate the discernment to know how to maximize their time on earth.

I’m an ambassador of Christ, and I can’t afford to spend my life solely doing stuff that any non-Christian can do—even if that “stuff” is not “bad.” Let the dead bury their own dead, and let’s be about the reconciliation of the world to Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:18,19,20), and be the leaders of projects that WE have control over and an industry that WE have control over. Let’s put ourselves in situations where WE can be the ones who choose, and the world has to settle.

My suggestion for you is this: dig into the Word more and more to discover what things please the Lord and what things don’t. This will build in you the right theological and moral framework for making those life-and-death decisions that will affect your life… and death.

What on earth would compel a film composer to turn down a $400,000 composition contract from PIXAR (!) besides religious conviction? Study to show yourself approved (2Ti 2:15), and make sure your religious convictions (everyone has them, atheists included) are sound.

Recently I’ve had to re-think my time-allocation paradigm as I’ve been convicted of these very things, primarily at Vision Forum’s Independent Christian Filmmaker’s Academy. For a long time I had just kind of assumed that I was going to be a music guy for… always, but I can’t be a slave to that assumption if the Lord would have more important things for me to do elsewhere.

As a result, I’ve turned down some composition opportunities recently that, in earlier years, I would have leapt for joy at. I didn’t say “no” because those projects contained grossly unacceptable content, but so I could tackle some non-musical endeavors that I believe are a more important investment of my (the Lord’s) time.

I’m glad you’re asking these sorts of questions now in your life instead of later. The man who plans to stand before kings (the skilled in their work [Pro 22:29], something every Christian must be) should determine where his convictions lie before he’s asked to be Hollywood’s cupbearer, mechanic, or musician.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Ben