Are we passionate about movie making so people will be inspired, educated, transformed, or entertained? Or, do we make movies because we want to see results and enjoy some success from our hard work? Would your answer be the first? The latter? Maybe, both? If you lean towards the second answer, does that mean you are self-absorbed? Scripture says a workman is due his wages. After all, you’ve worked years on your movie, pouring time, money, blood, sweat, and tears into the project. So, is it too much to want people to enjoy your labor of love? Even if you were able to make it, that doesn’t mean anyone will see it. Ouch.
Maybe they won’t see it because you couldn’t get it made. You can’t find anyone to produce or fund it. Perhaps you’ve had dozens of “thank you, but we feel your work isn’t a good fit for us at this time” responses from studio execs, producers, directors, or agents.
Gasp. Could it be that people think your beautiful baby that you’ve labored over and birthed is ugly? Could it be your story is not interesting enough? Or, might the script be just plain bad? What about the acting? Or the music? It could be any of the above. But, what if I told you that it might not be any of these reasons? It might only be a matter of timing.
Consider these artisans: Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Anne Frank, Henry David Thoreau. Johann Sebastian Bach, Zora Neale Hurston, Oscar Wilde, John Kennedy Toole, and Vincent van Gogh. These individuals were all called to create and were gifted with divinely inspired ability, but none of them achieved success or recognition for their work while alive.
Some of them tried their best to achieve success but failed at every turn. One wrote for the joy of it and stuck 1,800 poems in a drawer for someone else to publish. Three of them were driven to suicide by despair – one of them before winning the Pulitzer Prize for his novel. But what is the one thing not like the others (besides a painter and a composer in this list of authors)? Only one of them professed to write with unimaginable energy and joy, unfazed by the lack of recognition he received in life. He only cared about giving credit to God for his work, signing it ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ (Glory to God alone). Today, he is known as one of the greatest composers in history – J.S. Bach.
What if God doesn’t intend for an audience to appreciate your work while you’re still around? Maybe the people for which He has inspired you to write won’t be born for a hundred years? Would you still be willing to work at your craft, knowing you will never get your film on the screen, your story on television, or ever find the funding for that movie that is screaming at you to be made?
God is teaching me this lesson. While I am blessed with a nice readership, the marketer in me knows I’m barely scratching the surface. When I get letters from parents who tell me their children have fallen in love with Jesus, history, or reading because of my books, it makes me greedy for more – not more money, fame, or recognition, but for more readers to fall in love with Jesus history, or reading.
“God, if I can bring ten kids to Christ, wouldn’t it be even better to reach a hundred? A thousand? A million?” Makes sense to me. “God, if I can inspire three kids who now love American history and understand how our great country was founded, wouldn’t it be even better to have every kid in America do the same?” Makes sense to me. But, He is telling me to work with excellence, pour my all into my writing regardless of who will ever read it, and leave the readers to Him. This is liberating.
Lori Marett wrote the screen adaptation for my first novel, The Ark, the Reed, and the Fire Cloud, before the book even went to press in 2008. For over a dozen years we have sought funding, the right partners, and the perfect time to create this animated feature film, but things have not fully come together to see my book come alive on the big screen. God has been taking His sweet time, but with every passing year we have been grateful that the project has not yet taken wings before that time. Technology has improved. The right partners have emerged. Above all, Lori and I have learned that we weren’t ready to take on the reality of seeing our dream come to fruition. We needed to have our naïveté trimmed and our skin toughened. We needed to be emptied of our personal agendas for this project so God could act. God has had us in extended boot camp to prepare us for what is to come. C.S. Lewis and J. R.R. Tolkien didn’t get to see their books hit the big screen; so, if I’m a blue haired old lady or dead and gone by the time it happens, so be it! I’m not interested in making this film unless it’s made with excellence and has God’s favor. As of this writing, God is seriously stirring the waters, and He may finally be ready to bring our film to life. We are remarkably relaxed about it, which is a far cry from how we were when we began this journey. We’re content to allow God to open the door wide or bolt it shut. It’s His movie, not ours, so let Him do what He wants.
Through my career, He has taught me two things:
If you’ve given your work to God for His glory alone, then the results are none of your business. If you make a big deal about God, He’ll make a big deal about you, but in His time, not yours.
Write your scripts. Do your best to find funding. Make those connections in the television and film industry. And if you’re approaching your craft Soli Deo Gloria, you’ve already got the only audience that truly matters.
I’ll take the solitary applause of nail-scarred Hands over the #1 box-office hit any day.