There are plenty of the, “If I told you (insert lots of things) would happen in 2020 you’d have called me crazy” kind of scenarios but perhaps one of my favorites is that perhaps the most meta and most interesting films of the year is faith-based. Actually, let me be more specific, the film is titled Faith Based. Well, in fact, in the spirit of how meta it is, let me be even more specific: The film Faith Based is a film in the style of a mockumentary, about the making of a movie, a faith-based one at that.
Confused? Intrigued? You should be.
From the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis, Faith Based is the story of “…two slacker friends who come to the realization that every low budget Christian movie starring 90’s TV actors makes millions of dollars. They soon set out on a mission to make “A Prayer in Space”—the story of the first prayer ever to be prayed … in space.”
Speaking of Rotten Tomatoes, this independent film, directed by Vincent Masciale and written by Luke Barnett (who also plays the character Luke) is currently running as fresh. Seriously, this is a great film.
What makes it great? For starters, it has the best song within a movie/tv show since “Misbehavin’” from The Righteous Gemstones. More importantly though, this film does something incredibly unique. It tells a story about two people capitalizing on how shallow the faith-based film industry can be by making a trite project called “A Prayer in Space.” Yet it is Faith Based itself that, aside from language and drug use, could be the best film within the genre in quite a long time.
After watching the film, I corresponded with the writer and star of Faith Based, Luke Barnett to get some more background on the project and their thoughts about the broader themes and subjects within.
Scott Kingsolver: You’ve mentioned some of the initial press about the film as mocking Christians or faith, but I didn’t get that feeling watching the film. I do see some points of critique about the “Industry” AROUND Christianity, whether it be music or films. What are some of the things you would hope Christians would come away with from the film, and what would you hope someone who wouldn’t consider themselves within Christianity understand about these communities a bit better?
Luke Barnett: I think for “Christian filmmakers”, I’d like to see fewer Christians making Christian movies and more Christians just making movies. Less preaching, more telling good stories. And if you do want to tackle Christianity within the movie, make it about something Christians often deal with. The struggle of what exactly you believe or what it all means, simply using Jesus’ teachings to make the world a better place, etc. I’m tired of stories that make Christianity seem like some sort of magic wand, which only adds to people’s outlook on it as something silly. For Christian audiences, I understand the desire to have content that reflects who you are … consider supporting more high-quality non-Christian films (there are a lot that have many of the themes Christian audiences are looking for) and less low-quality Christian films just because they are Christian. God’s Not Dead has made almost $100M. [Instead,] see Lion, go see The Peanut Butter Falcon, go see The Impossible, go see Blue Like Jazz.
For non-Christian audiences, I hope they take this film for what it really is: a silly buddy comedy, hopefully with a little heart thrown in. That said, we did try and sprinkle in an aspect of church that we think everyone could get something out of, and that’s community. We tried to make a movie that, in a way, shows the importance of community and believing in something, even if that something is simply the people around you.
Scott: One of my observations of the film is how meta it is. In watching the film I noticed that it is a, “movie, shot as a mockumentary about guys making a movie and the entire thing is essentially a ‘faith-based’ movie in structure and elements without being a “faith-based” movie.” How much of the meta thing were you all going for?
Luke: I will say, the whole thing is VERY meta. For one, we originally wanted to get an 80’s action star to play themselves, IE JCVD, Hulk Hogan, etc. We had real convos with their agents and quickly realized a lot of them will do just about anything for $1.3M but don’t do anything for less. So, we rewrote to be a fictional action star. But literally as we’re filming “Luke and Tanner” trying to get Butch, we were also, in a way, trying to get Butch.
Scott: It is obviously early for you all, but what do you think will be the biggest lessons and things you gained making this you will apply in future work?
We’re currently preparing to take out a new project and the biggest lesson we took from Faith Based is to write a story we’d want to see VS what we think the market wants right now. Also, it’s felt pretty great to put a comedy out in the world right now, in its current state. So, we’re gonna aim to make something heartfelt and funny again. This time with a talking robot. Who doesn’t like talking robots?
This movie is a faith-based movie in that it has all the elements other faith-based movies do, but hits those notes in ways that will surprise you. I hope you’ll give it your consideration.
Faith Based is currently available to rent and buy across streaming platforms.