Across Pacific & Asia


By Michael Ireland

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- In the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Church was very active in the entertainment industry in the United States, said Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, a non-profit organization committed to educating the entertainment industry and the general public on the media’s impact on its audiences. (Pictured: Ted Baehr at MovieGuide® Faith & Values Awards Gala 2005).

Ted BaehrIn an interview with Peter Wooding, senior news editor of Britain’s United Christian Broadcasting (UCB) at the recent National Religious Broadcasters’ convention in Anaheim, California, Baehr said the Church withdrew from the movie and entertainment business in the ’60s.

Baehr told Wooding that in the mid-’80s, after his involvement in producing “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” on CBS television, while he was head of the organization that made it, he started saying “Hollywood needs to be more redemptive.”

“So I started putting together a great board of people, registered as an advocacy group in Hollywood and getting the Templeton Foundation to award a prize of $50,000 for the movie with the most redemptive content,” Baehr said.

“(So) we try to commend the good. We try to help studios. We were talking to people this morning about reading their scripts, looking at their business plans, helping with their productions. We do a big gala and give them a Report to Hollywood on economics. Then also I do the other side, which is working with the most important person in Hollywood, which is the 15- to 24-year-old in England and America, whoever it is that goes to movies.”

Baehr said he tries to provide families with media wisdom, good movie reviews that cover everything with they want to know about what Hollywood is producing, but: “We don’t do ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down. We’re not telling people go or not go; we’re trying to give people a broad tool so they can make their own decision based on their level of spiritual maturity and their level or wisdom.”

Wooding asked Baehr if Hollywood is listening, and if producers are becoming more family-friendly and having more Christian values in their films and on television?

“They are listening very, very much, because we’ve gone from one movie with positive Christian content to about 45 percent movies, and this is quite extraordinary, and from 82 percent of the movies being restricted, R-rated --that’s what we call them in the States -- to about 40 percent, so we’ve had a turnaround. Not that the studios have suddenly got religion or, you know, reached revival.”

Baehr said there are all sorts of people working in the many studios in Hollywood, including Christians, Jews, homosexuals and Muslims.

“But they’ve found out that this is a large marketplace, and every year there’re more films like ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ which was the third biggest grossing film. But if you look at the top three films in the United States last year, all three of them were written by a Christian and directed by a Christian, and they did extraordinarily well around the world.”

Baehr cited “Shrek 2,” written by a man who went to Hollywood to be a minister. “You’ve got some pretty incredible people doing some great work, and people love it around the world, (but) they’re getting values.”

He said the values portrayed in the movie focus on seeking the father’s blessing, the father not giving his blessing but then learning that he has to forgive, and exposing selfishness and envy, and learning to love your wife as yourself. “There’s a lot of good stuff going on there, and it’s wonderful to see the changes that are taking place.”

What was it like in Hollywood around the time “The Passion” came out? What was the impact of that film like?

“In every area of the world, there are small number of people who like to make a lot of noise and get angry. So there was a lot of outcry against ‘The Passion.’ But the fact of the matter is I talked to several studio heads, and I shouldn’t give the names of the studios—there are only seven major studios—and many of them said they were very happy that ‘The Passion’ was coming out. They meant this sincerely, because they’re in my book, ‘So You Want to Be in Pictures,’ talking about their faith and values. There were a lot of people very happy about it, and it did extremely well, and 20th Century Fox is distributing the videotape. They’re very happy about it, and it’s being re-released this year with an edited version that’s a little bit more broad-audience, less R-rated, so there’s a lot of good things going on.”

Baehr said the Academy Awards -- unlike the British Film Awards, which are unique and well established -- were started by the studios to promote ‘studio product’ during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

“They promoted ‘Ben-Hur’ and ‘Ten Commandments.’ (But) they drifted in the ’90s. They got disengaged from their past, they started doing quirky little films, and the Foreign Press Association, which does the Golden Globes, now see that their choices affect the Academy Awards, so the Academy Awards really are almost an ‘also ran.’ They’ve become almost a secondary award, and they’re losing audience and everything else.”

Baehr said he has received calls from Business Week and the Philadelphia Enquirer and New York, from different big papers across the country in the United States, talking about what’s happening to the Academy Awards.

The Academy Awards, he said, “either have to find their purpose like the British Film Awards, or they need to say, ‘Well, we’ve been outdone by the Golden Globes and we need to shut up and close up shop.’

“They’re adrift right now, and if you look at the best pictures for the Academy Awards, out of the five best pictures, many of them are tiny little films. I mean, one of them made $8 million at the box office; that’s about a million people in a country of 295 million people. That’s almost insignificant. That would be like being less than .1 percent of the British population going to see a film and everybody promoting it at the British Film Awards. You do not do that. Actually, you chose some of the bigger films -- you’re almost doing what the Academy used to do.”

Wooding asked Baehr why he thought “The Passion” didn’t get more Oscar® nominations, and if he was surprised?

“Well, I sort of implied this in my answers, that these guys have gone off the rail, they’ve become so pseudo-intellectual and so artsy that they’re being they’re making themselves irrelevant -- I don’t want to be mean to those guys, it’s a large group -- but they’ve really lost their way. (For) many years the paper that everybody reads in the industry, the Los Angeles Times, was saying, you know, ‘Look, Toy Story, that should have been the best film. That really was the best film of the year.’ They should have been considering something really good, but they’ve gotten a little quirky and a little irrelevant, and probably the Academy members are made up of ‘young Turks’ that wouldn’t give an award to ‘The Passion’ even if it did a billion dollars worth of business, which it almost did. So God bless them, hopefully they’ll grow up.”

Baehr talked about the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” which was considered by the recent 13th Annual Movieguide® Faith & Values Awards Gala for the Grace prize and for the mature audience award.

“It’s a wonderful movie. It is up for a couple of Academy Awards. Don Cheadle is up for best actor. He is a terrific actor. So is Jamie Foxx in ‘Ray.’ There are some good people there. In fact, I think Jamie Foxx may be the best actor they’ve had in a long time in Hollywood. He did one program that he’s up for an award with us. ‘Hotel Rwanda’ is a really interesting film because it espouses so many values that you don’t usually see in films. It espouses compassion and caring just like ‘Schindler’s List,’ but it also exposes the foolishness of the U.N. and exposes the heartlessness of the international community, including the United States at that time, so it has a lot of good, strong values in terms of faith and belief.”

He said actor Don Cheadle is a committed Christian.

Baehr commented that while some of the other key actors in the movie were promoting themselves to the Academy Awards for the Oscars®, Cheadle was in the Sudan working with refugees.

“He spends a lot of time helping people, so he not only has faith but he puts feet to his faith and tries to do things that are really substantial,” Baehr said.

Baehr also spoke about the annual MovieGuide® Awards, which are “getting bigger every year.”

“We give out a prize from the Templeton Foundation, which presents one big Templeton prize for humanity, which went to Mother Theresa. It’s always given out at (the British) Parliament every year. We give the Templeton Epiphany Prize for movies and television and there’re just some great movies that are up for it, including -- we’re not afraid to say -- ‘The Passion’ is up for it, ‘America’s Heart and Soul,’ ‘I Am David,’ ‘Ladder 49,’ an incredible movie with John Travolta with five church scenes in it and a beautiful reflection on faith, and ‘The Reckoning,’ which is a British film that was absolutely terrific; it was set in the medieval mystery plays.

“Then for the TV nominations for the Epiphany Prize, we’ve got ‘A Christmas Carol’ -- every year there has to be a new Charles Dickens Christmas Carol that’s done and this was a musical with a big American star, Kelsey Grammar -- ‘Doc: Happy Trails,’ ‘Love’s Enduring Promise,’ ‘Patrick,’ ‘The Question of God’ -- some great programs.

“Then for family films -- and I’m doing these in alphabetical order, so this is not the order that they’ve won -- it’s ‘America’s Heart and Soul,’ ‘Cinderella Story,’ ‘I Am David,’ ‘The Incredibles,’ and ‘Miracle.’

“The interesting thing (is that), I can read off these names and certainly anybody can go to  and find movies that will reflect what they want their kids to see and what are really ‘broad-audience.’ But the interesting thing is (that) a lot of studio heads come, a lot of the Press comes -- they say there’s more press this year than ever before -- and people just love coming and having a wonderful redemptive time with films that are positive and uplifting. These are the biggest films: ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Shrek 2’ and ‘The Passion’ are the three biggest films of the year. If you look at our choices, the people already voted for these films at the box office.”

Wooding asked Baehr whether, as he is mixing with people in Hollywood, they ask about his Christian faith? Do they want to know more?

Baehr responded: “We get a lot of people not only asking about faith, they’re asking about connections with faith. Every year at the event I hear surprising stories at our annual awards gala where people come to Christ. Some of the people who have been most instrumental in it finally come to Christ; one of them is a big-name television star who is sending out evangelistic emails. So we get a good representation.”

If you want more information, go to or

** Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is the Chief Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Garden Grove, CA. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a US citizen in Sept., 1995. He is married with two children. Michael has also been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station.

ASSIST News Service (ANS) - -- E-mail:

Building Bridges ACROSS the Barriers

A - Across Pacific e-Magazine - 
R - Referrals - Links -  Reconciliation
O - Outreach Opportunities
S - Sponsorship Opportunities 
S - Schools
God at Work
APM logo
Soul Hut

across 2u