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Published: Saturday, 8/23/2008

Filmmakers want viewers to evaluate, not just watch

Mark Cowart, left, Michael W. Smith, and Ryan Smith are founders of Seaborne Pictures, a Christian movie company. Mark Cowart, left, Michael W. Smith, and Ryan Smith are founders of Seaborne Pictures, a Christian movie company.
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According to a 2005 survey by the Barna Group, American adults watch an average of 45 movies a year.

Twenty nine percent of those surveyed said they believe "movies have had a substantial impact on the development of their personal morals, values, and religious beliefs."

Ryan Smith saw those survey results as a call to action.

He co-founded Seabourne Pictures with his friend, Mark Cowart, and his father, Christian music star Michael W. Smith, in 2005, and recently released the first of a series of study guides on DVD titled C2: Giving Movies a Second Look.

"Our desire is to help Christians think critically about the arts in general and movies specifically," Ryan Smith, 24, said in an interview. "When you go see a film, there are so many decisions that are on screen that we don't even think about at times. Everything is intentional, or at least it should be. How do we evaluate what we're seeing? How do we evaluate rather than just consuming it?"

The first two DVDs in the C2 series, published by Randall House and selling for $14.99 each, feature 20-minute films with study guides and bonus features such as an introduction from Michael W. Smith, behind-the-scenes features, director's comments, and deleted scenes.

Relapse is an original drama directed by Ryan Smith that deals with addiction, grief, and bioethics.

Love at First Sight was directed by Mr. Cowart and features two teenage store clerks who debate whether two people can fall in love at first sight and whether a blockbuster video release or an obscure foreign film is the better movie.

"We haven't been really happy with the direction that Christian films have taken in the last few years - or ever," Ryan Smith said. "We're not out to attack anyone but we definitely feel like Christians should be making the greatest films in the world, and instead we're making the worst ones. Maybe in one small way this might inspire someone to go out and make one that measures up to the Hollywood standard."

He said C2 aims to help people evaluate all movies, not just Christian films.

"I've found truth in films that I would never expect to find it in," Mr. Smith said. "I think it's because we're all created in God's image and we all have the ability to recognize truth. I think part of what C2 is about is that there's value in films made by people who aren't Christians but we need to recognize what's true, what's fake, and learn to recognize a worldview that's different from ours."

More information about C2: Giving Movies a Second Look is available online at www.C2dvd.com or by calling 1-800-877-7030.

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SPEAKING OUT: "Raise your hand if you're not here."

That's a common joke heard when people are trying to take attendance at a group event.

But it also could apply to people who don't go to church: How do you know who's missing, and why they're missing?

Now there's a place where non-churchgoers (church non-goers?) can tell the world why they stay home: www.whychurch.tv.

The Web site went online this week as an outreach of CedarCreek Church, which wants to give people a chance to vent or explain, anonymously and freely - in 140 words or less - why they don't go to church.

The Rev. Lee Powell, senior pastor, said the comments will be posted unedited, unless the person names a church besides CedarCreek, or if the post contains profanity.

Here are a few interesting comments thus far:

•I don't believe in God.

•The church became the building instead of the (flesh/body) & the preachers (man) took over as head of the Church (building).

•I read the Bible. You ever actually read that thing? It's horrific!

•I got tired of always being asked for money.

•I went this past weekend and tried to say hello to 3 different people - all ignored me as if they had something more important 2 do. ScrewEm.

•Life gets in the way.

•Too judgmental. If I don't dress like you, think like you, act like you, then I am looked down on.

•Church is BORING!

•It's just too far away.

•I just don't make the time and I'm scared of what I might feel guilty about.

So now you know. Anyone else who wants to add their two cents' worth can raise their hands, so to speak, and speak out online. Some of the comments might help pastors and church leaders assess their shortcomings.

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SOARING SOUNDS: Keep an ear and an eye out for Seabird, a new Christian rock band from Cincinnati. The group opened for This Beautiful Republic at the Maumee Theatre Tuesday night (great show by TBR to celebrate its new disc, "Perceptions") and Seabird soared high.

The band, led by singer Aaron Morgan, has just released its major-label debut, " •'Til We See the Shore," on EMI's Credential label. The catchy, power-pop sound features lots of keyboards and rich guitar tones mindful of mainstream acts like Coldplay and Gavin DeGraw.

Toledo's This Beautiful Republic, with its steady touring, keeps rising to new heights in musicianship and songwriting. The band had the crowd leaping and jumping throughout the show, which featured high-energy performances beautifully illuminated by state-of-the-art lighting.

Spotted backstage, supporting their fellow Toledo musicians, were Chris Rohman, Matt Hammitt, and Mark Graalman of Sanctus Real - the latter two musicians with their two young children, giving mom a night off.

David Yonke is The Blade's religion editor. Contact him at dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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