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FIRST-PERSON: A link between Christians & Hollywood

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–When I first began this column, one of the objectives was to spotlight Christians in the entertainment world. This I planned to do for two reasons. First, to congratulate brothers and sisters working to strengthen the body of Christ. And second, to let you know that although much of Hollywood is governed by dark forces, there are those dedicated to bringing the Light to that world.

That said, let me highlight an unusual business nestled in the suburbs of Tinseltown called Grace Hill Media. It’s a publicity firm established to work between production companies and the Christian community.

Jonathan Bock heads Grace Hill Media (named after a street in Belfast, Ireland, where his mother-in-law grew up). His purpose is to help studios and networks promote their projects to the religious community. But that’s not to say Jonathan promotes every film or TV series that comes along. “There’s been about six films this year that I’ve turned down. A couple of them were just dogs. They weren’t interesting films. One, however, was a terrific film. But the amount of swearing in it was just too much. The message of the film got lost amid the objectionable language.”

Asked about what criteria he uses for choosing a project to support, Jon said, “I consider the message. What’s the ultimate point of the story? Is it a nice family film? Is it uplifting? Is it fun or funny? What are the filmmakers striving for?

“But then I also look for a deeper, more compelling message. I search to find something of value that may either uplift or teach the viewer, as well as amuse him.

“Every weekend, 43 percent of Americans attend church or synagogue. That’s over 121 million people. If just 5 percent of those people went to their movie on a Friday night, the film could register a $45 million gross at the box office. That’s a number that catches the eyes of studio executives,” Bock says.

So how does that help the Christian community? “While banning and protests may have a place in stating dissatisfaction, they don’t seem to get the picture across to studios what the Christian community is looking for in films. Want to send a message to movie moguls? Support a film with positive messages.”

Grace Hill Media was instrumental in bringing “A Walk To Remember” to the attention of the Christian community. This generation’s “Love Story,” A Walk To Remember focuses on a teenage Baptist girl whose faith eventually has an effect on the school bad boy and others around her. Although the film was not designed to proselytize, Christian moviegoers were delighted to discover a film that presented a Christian not as a caricature, but as a fully realized person, one we’d like to know.

Warner Bros. is now offering a newly cut version of A Walk To Remember to Christian bookstores. “Warner Bros. has gone beyond the airline cut. They actually changed the content of the ending of the film to make it much clearer that the character of Landan not only was changed by Mandy Moore’s character, because of her love, but he has also taken on her faith as well and that he has become a Christian,” says an enthusiastic Bock.

“Warner Bros. has seen the light. This faith-friendly version is being marketed directly to Christians. If it does well, you’ll see a lot more of this kind of response from movie studios. And that’s how you get Hollywood to change.”

Some of the projects Bock and Grace Hill have promoted include “Pay It Forward,” “The Family Man,” “The Rookie,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Big Fat Liar,” “Signs,” the IMAX re-release of “Apollo 13,” and the PAX network’s “Doc” and “Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye.” Upcoming films include “The Lord of the Rings” and “Gods And Generals.”

Jonathan began his career in publicity at Warner Bros. Prior to that, he was a sitcom writer for many years. He formed Grace Hill Media in August of this year and has just helped Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., launch MovieMission. Dedicated to expanding religious America’s rapport with the entertainment world, MovieMission helps you target your entertainment dollar, thereby helping to shape culture for the better. Check out this informative and interesting website at www.moviemission.com.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know both Jonathan Bock and his able assistant, Ted Gartner. As a matter of fact, I spent one of the most enjoyable lunches I can remember with these two men. Down to earth, indeed earthy, both are sharp-witted, funny and knowledgeable. But more importantly, both are dedicated to our Lord. I’ve seen their dedication in their professionalism and in their personal concern for others. Pray that they will be able to serve Christ and his followers in their chosen field. They provide a worthwhile and much-needed work.
Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective. For more information about his service, go to www.moviereporter.com.

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  • Phil Boatwright