Kevin McCreary just interviewed Christian film director Dallas Jenkins. Everything went better than expected.
Background: podcast host Kevin McCreary also hosts the Say Goodnight Kevin video channel. He reviews movies and makes occasional forays into even more perilous territory, like social issues and politics. But as he says in his podcasts, his Christian movie reviews seem to get the most attention. (May God preserve him from this particular pigeonhole for life.)
As for Dallas Jenkins, he’s director of upcoming biblical streaming series The Chosen. He also made a few evangelical movies, such as The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. I actually reviewed that film for Christianity Today‘s website, and liked a lot of its ideas:
For all its predictability, though, Gavin Stone also has charm. More than cringing, I found myself laughing aloud—and for the right reasons. And the filmmakers clearly want audiences to know that they empathize with criticisms of awkward Christian movies.
So in this podcast, I wasn’t at all surprised to find that Gavin Stone‘s director had exactly these intentions.
Behold, Jenkins also showed me a mystery. What on the late great planet Earth happened to that 1999 Left Behind movie?
Looking back on Left Behind ’99
Jenkins said he actually worked for the studio behind Left Behind. (This was 1999 Left Behind, The One with Kirk Cameron, not The One with Nicolas Cage.) He said he gradually found out the film would be low-budget and probably not good. (This after early reports said that movie-Left Behind would have a multi-million-dollar budget and A-list actors attached.) Thus, Jenkins left that job, weeks before the makers began shooting the movie.
That’s when he started his own company. He had help from his father, none other than Left Behind coauthor Jerry B. Jenkins.
Dallas Jenkins also let slip another fact. Both he and his dad figured out in advance that Left Behind ’99 wasn’t going to be that great.1
Evangelical subculture: it’s not so terrible
Jenkins strongly professes faith in Christ, the gospel, the inerrancy of Scripture, all that good stuff. However, he does say that he’s moved on from some beliefs. He doesn’t say what they are, but does mention a “strict” evangelical culture.
But even better, Jenkins says that all that subculture doesn’t bother him as much as it bothers some people.
For instance, in local church services, Jenkins says he’s not anxious about who’s “faking it” in worship. He sees how God does work through things like music and emotion, rather than suspecting these things as being exclusively “manufactured.”
This sounds exactly like my view of Christian subculture. Listening to Jenkins articulate this so pleasantly gave me a near-“worship” experience. (I suppose that means that McCreary and Jenkins “manufactured” it for me, so it’s not Authentic.)
Why did Gavin sink like a stone?
Jenkins said he intentionally made The Resurrection of Gavin Stone to follow a “formula.” That’s by design, Jenkins explained, to help make the story accessible. But he also wanted to have some fun showing a “fish out of water” in evangelical subculture.
It didn’t work, Jenkins admitted, because Gavin Stone didn’t draw audiences.
But the idea was good and Jenkins said he still likes the movie.
By the way, Jenkins observed: ever notice how few Christian movies actually explore church itself?
I have noticed this. In fact, that’s why I insist that most “Christian fiction” is actually not Christian enough. Creators tend to stick with safer topics, such as unbelievers or backsliders—or high-school sports teams.
Jenkins has made one of those movies too. In fact, he said he made one of those before the genre was cool.
He’s also busy making The Chosen, a biblical drama series on VidAngel. The first episode is free. Jenkins said the series is designed to follow the real (fictionalized) lives of figures such as Peter, Mary, and other followers of Jesus, even before they met their messiah.
Based on this podcast alone, I’m suddenly very interested in the series. That’s because biblical drama is at its best when it’s both faithful to the main course of written Scripture and willing to explore fictional side-trails.
Over the resurrection weekend, I hope to see that first episode.
And I hope to hear more from Dallas Jenkins, a chap who already knows that many Christian movies aren’t that great, and wants to make them better.
- For all the faults of Left Behind ’99, at least its makers knew their limitations. Also, they roughly followed the original novel’s story, right up to and including antichrist-figure Nicolae Carpathia. Left Behind Caged! did not. ↩