… at the Fitzroy Town Hall (Melbourne Aust). This is a free event
Campfire presentation by Richard Leigh at 2:40
Looping films from Campfire all day, showing:
Not many teachers have to deal with discussions about God and faith on a daily basis; but some do. This week, I’ve been invited to present a workshop for those that do, at a conference for Religious Education teachers in Catholic schools. So I thought it was time to explore a question that got me thinking deeply about all this not long ago. I’d received an email from a teacher in an independent Christian school asking what has to be the most difficult film search request. Common questions are “do you have anything on music?” or “what about psychology?”
This was in a class all its own:
I need any films about why it’s not possible to NOT believe in God.
Apparently this was really a question from some Year 9 students, but it did get me thinking, what would I say to a student who asked this? What would I show? Effectively the request was…
Find me a short film to prove the existence of God
This was my response.
The current lecture series with Raimond Gaita for the Wheeler Centre got me thinking about the persuasive power of short film. Back in 2010, a series called Gruen Nation helped us unpack political TV ads — the most overtly persuasive of all short films. Thanks to shows like this, we’re all getting better at understanding the manipulative power of ads and promotional short films.
But how much do we understand the power of short films dealing with religious or faith perspectives? Are they just ads too? What are the similarities and differences? Here’s a short analysis; a quick drive-through introduction to understanding ‘faith-shorts’.
POLITICAL vs REGULAR ADS
Before we hit the faith-short analysis, it’s worth considering the unique way that political ads work on us. They are different, after all, to regular ads. Neil Lawrence, creator of the Kevin ‘07 campaign, explained it best in the first episode of Gruen Nation:
There’s similarities and differences between political ads and normal ads. Strategy is much more important, much more pre-eminent in political advertising. You really need to be on-strategy and on-message. If occasionally you break through with a great creative execution, that’s a bonus. But the opposite is also true. You can have something that looks creative and is really interesting and may even win awards. I’ve seen political ads that have gone on to win at Cannes, that — I’ve seen the research –- were devastatingly bad because they were off-message and off-strategy.
So message trumps art in political ads, according to Neil Lawrence. While I’m no expert in political advertising, I have spent 15 years professionally making short films in related areas: education, TV commercials, and promotions for faith-based organisations. What I find fascinating is the overlap between these very distinct forms of short film. Neil has defined the essentials of the political ad, so here’s my list of similarities and differences to help define the essentials of a good faith-short.
It’s time — 1972 political ad campaign for the Australian Labor Party
Mr Deity & Lucifer — faith-short, an episode from the Atheist web series Mr Deity
POLITICAL Ads vs FAITH shorts: SIMILARITIES
Political ads need to cut-through and make an impression
Faith shorts need to have on-going reverberation
Political ads need a base-level of moving-image savvy to be credible
Faith shorts need to embrace good cinematic quality to engage
Political ads with a song are powerful (eg. It’s Time, 1972)
Faith shorts with a song are also moving (eg. A Land Called Paradise)
The Heart of Stone — faith-short, from the Christian film festival Ignite
A Land Called Paradise— faith-short, Muslim music video and Campfire ‘People’s Choice’ winner 2009
POLITICAL Ads vs FAITH shorts: DIFFERENCES
Political ads are primarily about message
Faith shorts are primarily about revelation
Political ads have no place for ambiguity
Faith shorts need to explore ambiguity
Political ads are relevant for an upcoming election campaign
Faith shorts can be relevant, well… for a lifetime… or more
As Raimond Gaita says in the introduction to his lecture series, we’ve become a lot more wary about religion since Sep 11, 2001.
In the last decade, thanks to shows like Gruen Nation, we’ve become a lot more savvy about the role of political advertising.
So what about faith-shorts, those religiously-based short films?
I can only say that now, in 2012… it’s time :)
The Campfire Film Foundation has a special role to play here, promoting discussion and understanding, not only using faith-shorts, but shorts across a range of subject and curriculum areas in schools.