by C.J. Darlington
Rich Christiano Interview
"People are into the world's entertainment too much." -- Rich Christiano
Writer and director Rich Christiano has been involved in Christian filmmaking for over twenty years. His first full-length theatrical release, the popular Time Changer, hit movie screens across the country in 2002. But ever since he and his brother Dave moved to Hollywood in 1977, he’s had his hand in the industry. His film credits include The Appointment, Second Glance, and End of the Harvest. Rich’s most recent movie, Unidentified, is now available on DVD and can be purchased at Rich’s website, Christianmovies.com.
C.J.: When did you first realize you wanted to make movies?
Rich: When my brother Dave and I were in high school, we both used to try and come up with movie ideas.
You and Dave have been involved in Christian film making for many years. Can you give us a brief overview of how you got started?
We had wanted to make secular movies. In fact, I was living in Hollywood trying to break in as a writer. In 1980 we both became born-again believers and our lives changed forever. Eventually I left Hollywood and went to Jonesboro, Arkansas to pursue a Masters degree at Arkansas St. University. We started shooting local TV commercials, and my brother Dave landed a teaching job at San Antonio College teaching film and TV courses. They had a 16 mm camera there, and he started to play around with it. We wanted to make movies but didn’t know what we were doing. A friend of Dave's suggested we make Christian films. So Dave wrote The Daylight Zone and we filmed it in 1985. That was our first film.
What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome along the way?
We’ve had to do a lot of this ourselves. We have had very little staff or help, especially in distribution.
Your first theatrical release, Time Changer, featured a Christian man from the 1890's traveling forward in time to our age. Where did you get the idea for this movie and what did the creative process look like in bringing it to film?
I guess I was influenced by the Back To The Future movies that were popular in the 1980's. I got the idea for Time Changer in 1989 and wrote about a 60 minute version of the movie. I love time travel films and wanted to make a Christian one. Time Changer was an exciting film for me to make because I had a very professional crew and some key personnel that made my job as the Director easier. I thought we had a good team, and for the most part, the production went very smoothly.
Your second feature was a movie about UFOs called Unidentified. How did this movie come about and how is the movie doing?
This was an interesting film to make. My former Pastor in Arkansas came up with the idea for the film and then we wrote a script based on it. It was not easy to do a film about UFOs and glorify the Lord, but I think we did it. I am amazed at the number of people and Christians confused about this issue. People really believe in aliens and life on other planets. I think the film can set them straight. Unidentified is the most evangelistic film I have made to date, and I’m hoping the Lord will use it to make people consider their own eternity after watching it. It got off to a slow start because we just don't have the promotional means, but the movie is picking up some steam and I think it is going to do well. The DVD is Available at my website www.ChristianMovies.com.
In an article on this site, you talk about how you feel the church has entered a lukewarm age in the arts. Why do you feel this way?
First, I feel there are few Christians and that the church is full of professing Christians---people who claim to believe in Jesus but have never received Him. This is sad but true and the Bible backs it up. Jesus said few there be that find the narrow way. The media has been the biggest problem the church faces. People are into the world's entertainment too much.
In the same article you say that some people have called your films “too preachy”. What is your response to that statement?
I'm not worried about offending anyone with the message of Christ. Jesus Christ Himself was perfect, and the people of His day hated Him. I don't try to cater to a certain crowd. My objective is to put forth a message for Christ for all to hear, and hopefully, some will respond.
What is lacking in the Christian film industry today?
People who want to make real Christian films that FIRST please and glorify the Lord.
Tell us about some of your upcoming projects.
I am filming a movie this summer called The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry. Gavin MacLeod is scheduled to play the lead. It’s a film set in 1970 about a 75 year old man (Gavin) who influences 3 thirteen year old boys to want to follow the Lord. I have wanted to make this film for about five years now. I think this film can be very inspiring, emotional, and has great potential to be used of the Lord.
What is your favorite part of the movie making process?
I like the post production process the best, working with my editor (Jeff Hollis), my composer (Jasper Randall) and my sound designer (Matt Waters). All three guys are fun to work with, very talented, and bring a lot to the table. They make the film better. Plus, we have become good friends through the process.
What would you love to write/direct/produce someday but haven’t yet?
After Jonathan Sperry, I would like to make the sequel to Time Changer. If I can get the script right. I have the idea and some of the parts, I just need to work on it.
Why didn’t you go see The Passion of the Christ?
I did not go watch it because I am not into violence. I have seen some of it on DVD though, and skipped by the violent parts.
Which brings us to a recent survey conducted here at TitleTrakk.com asking, “Should Christians watch R rated movies?” What do you think?
I think we all should just watch films that please the Lord and watch the ones that we think Jesus would watch. And if there aren't many of those, then maybe God doesn't want us watching that many films.
What actor or actress would you love to work with someday and why?
I'm not into the Hollywood stars. I like Gavin MacLeod. He is a believer and was a joy to work with on Time Changer.
What is your ultimate goal as a Christian film maker?
Just to make films that first please the Lord and that will make people think about their lives and eternity.
Any advice for someone interested in breaking into the industry?
Try to work on a film. Even if for free as an intern. We use them. You will learn a ton. Also, watch the solid Christian films so you can see some of the messages in these films. You will be motivated and blessed.
Tell us about your vision for Christianmovies.com.
I am working hard to grow the website into a source for Christian movies that people can trust. If we carry a film, it has a good message for the Lord. There may be one or two exceptions, but for the most part, I like everything we sell. We pass on all the God films and family stuff. We're trying to promote Jesus on our site.
But isn't there a place for having clean family entertainment simply for entertainment's sake?
What do you think God thinks? People have to decide where to draw the line, but from God's perspective, I think he would prefer every film glorify Christ. There is a war at hand here. This is why we think the message in Time Changer is important. The devil is trying to eliminate Jesus from society. If he can do it by just presenting good moral family films, then so be it. Christ is eliminated, and that is his agenda.
What’s your favorite movie (Christian or secular) of all time, and why?
I like a lot of the Christian films. For a short one, watch Late One Night. My brother Dave did this film and I love the script he wrote. Great truth in that film, and it’s only 33 minutes. I really do not watch many secular films anymore, mostly out of conviction.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
First, that my brother Dave and I are twins. Second, that Dave thinks he is the better looking one. That is just not the case.
When you’re not making movies, what do you enjoy doing?
I really like to play golf. It is my favorite R & R. I like cruises also. I have been on six so far.
You’re at the checkout counter in Barnes & Noble and are purchasing one item each from the books, music & movie sections. What are you buying?
First of all, I don't buy movies at all. I have a collection of Christian DVDs, but they were given to me. I don't read books much either outside the Bible. I rarely buy music either BUT, if I was in line, I am sure I would be buying the Time Changer novel for the book, the Time Changer or Unidentified DVD for the movie, and a worship CD for the music.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Toast, a banana and I juiced some carrots and celery. Really.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Oat bran. Water. Carrots.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
I don't drink coffee at all, so if I’m there, I’m buying a gift card for someone else.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
I am pretty much doing what I would like to do. I would just like to see it happen in a bigger way. Make a greater impact. On a personal level, there are some trips I hope to take at some point.
What’s currently in your CD player?
I have 6 CD's in my car changer. A WOW worship CD. One by Sandi Patti. One by Jami Smith (she's terrific). One by Michael W. Smith, and two demo movie music CD's. Steve Wiggins is my favorite artist though. He was the lead guy in Big Tent Revival. I went to school with Steve in Arkansas and we became good friends.
Three words that best describe you:
Tough question. How about three phrases? Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always passionate about the faith.
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
I think you are trying to do a good thing here. We need awareness and promotion. We need people to be excited about the true Christian films that are coming down the pipe. There aren't many, but there are some. Stay tuned.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.