(Photo courtesy of Clash Entertainment)
Last week I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference and met screenwriter, producer, and director Zena Dell Lowe. Lucky me. Below is a part of one of her lectures. I like to bring a little bit of faith and God into my stories, but sometimes I get nervous about how much is too much or what’s not enough. I found Zena’s questions helpful (below) and hope you do too.
Zena graduated from Cal State University Northridge with a BA in English Literature, and Biola University in La Mirada with a Masters in Apologetics. She works as a writer, director and filmmaker in the entertainment industry, and co-owns Skirt Films, an independent film production company based in Bozeman, MT. Zena also runs the Mission Ranch Beef side of the business with her husband, Zach, a civil engineer for DOWL HKM in Bozeman. The boxed beef enterprise sells Mission Ranch Beef directly to consumers and has had a three-year growth rate of 500% per year. To find out more about Mission Ranch Beef, see our website at www.missionranchbeef.com.
Below is a part of one of Zena’s lectures:
Is Your Story Good Before God? – A Christian story is anything that leads men into truth. We do not have to be speaking of God, but we do have to be speaking in a Godly way. Not every story has enough truth in it to justify going through the hell of bringing that story to the screen. (Happens a lot when Christians try to be “edgy.”) In evaluating your story, ask yourself the following questions to determine if it is worth doing:
1. Does my screenplay connect viewers to others?
- Does it confirm in me the conviction that, regardless of whatever divides us, all men and women are my brothers and sisters?
- Does it build in me the sense of responsibility for other?
- Does it confirm in me, the certainty that the summit of human achievement is to be found in charity, in service, in generosity, in kindness, and in bringing out the best in those around me?
- Does it make me realize I’m not alone?
- Does this screenplay connect me to others?
2. Does my screenplay connect viewers to themselves?
- Does it give me an amplified view of the potential that I bear within me for both darkness and light?
- Does it give me a mirror of my inner self, my patterns of self-deceit or self-aggrandizement or self-loathing?
- Does it show me what I am, and what I am not?
- Does it make me laugh gently at my own inconsistencies?
- Does it fill me with a desire to fulfuill my potential as a creator of good things in the world, and as a hero?
- Does this story connect me to myself?
3. Does my screenplay connect viewers to God?
- Does it establish in me the certainty that no matter how chaotic our world gets, there is a Mind somewhere who comprehends it all?
- Does it give me hope for the condition of mankind, and cause me to look inward to answer the question, why am I here?
- Does it save me from despair and cause me seek a greater Truth?
- Does this screenplay connect me to God?
COMMITMENT TO TRUTH TELLING. – Christian fiction is very often characterized as banal. It doesn’t get too deep. Whatever you do, tell the whole truth, including consequences, and you will have a screenplay with substance. I’d rather see an R-rated Truth than a G-rated Lie.
PORTRAYAL OF GOOD AND EVIL – Be sure at the end of your screenplay, the good comes out better than the evil is bad. And make sure the evil isn’t the mustache twirling villain. Be real. Tell the Truth.
POSSIBILITY OF REDEMPTION – There is no pit so deep that God’s love isn’t deeper still (Corrie Ten Boom). We must leave open the possibility of the character choosing the good.
LIMITS OF VOYEURISM (vs. INVOLVEMENT)– Just because we can show everything on a screen doesn’t mean we should. Don’t violate your audience. Be a better artist than that.