Friday, February 23, 2007

Movies that Make You Want to Read

The Desiring God blog recently featured this post about Michael Flaherty, the president of Walden Media, the production company for "Amazing Grace," which opens in theaters today. I am thankful for Walden Media's commitment to making good stories into good movies. In this speech Flaherty explains why his company makes the movies they do.

He began by noting the problem:

You are what you read. We are shaped and influenced by the books that we read. They prepare us for more than interesting conversations—they actually prepare us to face real crises that we encounter in life. Few people would dispute this simple statement, so let's ask a simple related question: What are we reading today?

The short answer is: Not much.

How can movies help?

Cultural restoration, Russell Kirk said, begins at home. Certainly the same is true of literacy. And in today's media saturated culture, I dare to say that it may also begin at the movie theater.

Walden Media was started several years ago by myself, Cary Granat, and Phil Anschutz. We wanted to create a company dedicated to recapturing imagination, rekindling curiosity, and demonstrating the rewards of knowledge and virtue. All of our films would be based on great books, great people, and great historical events. They would be made by the best talent in entertainment and they would all be linked to educational materials developed by some of the best talent in education.

And how do they decide what stories to turn into movies?

Rather than turn to the usual parade of agents and Hollywood producers, we launched an unusual campaign that continues to this day. We enrolled in as many educational conferences as we could find. We spoke to tens of thousands of teachers and librarians and asked them what books they most enjoyed teaching and recommending. After seven years, the only thing that seems odd about this strategy is the fact that our company is the only one doing it. After all, who knows stories better than teachers and librarians?

But how does watching a movie translate into wanting to read?

In conjunction with every film, we launch an ambitious educational campaign that places the book at its center. Since starting Walden, we have distributed hundreds of thousands of books, mostly to Title One Schools that are not able to afford them.

Finally, why did Walden Media make "Amazing Grace"?

Today we desperately need more leaders like William Wilberforce and the Kings and Queens of Narnia who will fight to make good laws, keep the peace, save good trees from being cut down, and encourage ordinary people who want to live and let live.

We are all familiar with the problems that good people face, both nationally and globally. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that we have two options when faced with such problems. We can act like a thermometer and merely make a record. Or we can act like a thermostat and correct what is wrong.

HT: The Point

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