DAWN OF A NEW DAY FOR CHRISTIAN FILMS
For 16 years, Christian filmmaker Rich Christiano
has waited for the opportunity to produce a theatrical
film with a very open and challenging spiritual message
for the Lord. The wait has ended. On Oct. 4th, opening
on as many as 500 selected screens across the country,
Christiano Film Group will unleash Time Changer, a time
travel adventure about a Bible Professor from the year
1890 who travels to present time. Never before has the
mass theater audience seen the likes of a film genre that
Christiano plans to introduce.
Christian films have been around for years. Most of the
films are 45-60 minutes in length and have been marketed
to church groups and Christian individuals. Christiano
has been one of the few successful Christian Producers
still open for business having three top releases in the
1990's that continue to do well in the marketplace:
The Appointment (1991) Second Glance (1993)
and End of the Harvest (1998). He also has produced a weekly TV series
for syndication called Family Theatre
broadcasting the best in Christian movies that
has aired continually since 1994.
According to Christiano, the most thought provoking
films he has ever seen are the Christian movies.
Often made fun of in the past because of their low
budgets, Christian movies have been greatly used to
impact people for the cause of Christ. Thousands upon
thousands upon thousands have made commitments to follow
Christ as a result of watching a Christian movie.
The quality of the productions continues to increase
"and it's high time this genre of film gets wider appeal
and be taken a little more seriously," Christiano adds.
The recent Christian movie movement towards theaters
started in 1999 with the release of The Omega Code.
The film grossed nearly 12 million dollars and proved
there was an audience for Christian movies in the
theatrical marketplace. Christiano liked the production
but was hoping for a more open message for the Lord in the
film. Other movies have followed including Left Behind,
based on the popular book series, but also,
in Christiano's opinion, fell short of its message
potential. Many other Christians voiced similar thoughts
of disappointment with the lack of spiritual content
in these releases. "There was very little spiritual
substance in these films yet they were heavily promoted
to Christians," Christiano states. "It's like making a
martial arts film without putting any martial arts in it
because we're re afraid of offending people who don't like
Time Changer is different. First, Christiano is a
Christian Film insider having been involved in production
and distribution and the advancement of the Christian
Movie industry since 1985 and his strategy towards his
theatrical release is different. First and foremost,
he wants to challenge and fire up Christian viewers with
his films. "There are over 100 million people who attend
church each week in America and this movie is for them,
" Christiano states. "We want to challenge these people
in their spiritual thinking. These people are already
interested in spiritual matters and this film will give
them some spiritual food to chew on. One guy told me that
if we just promote this movie to Christians that only
Christians would attend, we will be preaching to the
choir. I told him that was okay because the choir isn't
At the same time, Christiano feels his film can be used
to attract non-believers to consider the claims of Christ
and biblical Christianity. "We aren't trying to hide
anything here," Christiano says, "nor trying to be
subtle with a hidden agenda. This film is meant to
challenge Billy Graham. However, at the same time, we
have learned now how to present truth so that it will not
be a turn off. I think the message is presented in an
intelligent way to at least gain a hearing from those
who see it and I am hoping the audience will respect that.
Some good things have fallen for Christiano too.
He has made arrangements for promotion on Christian TV
that will greatly help his cause. He has made the movie
for less than a million and was able to attract
recognizable names to the project including Gavin MacLeod
(Love Boat fame), Hal Linden (Barney Miller fame),
Jennifer O'Neill (Summer of '42 fame) and
comedian/actor Paul Rodriguez.
Christiano says his cast is very solid, and people are
going to be surprised, especially with his relatively
unknown lead, D. David Morin, who plays Russell Carlisle,
the Bible Professor who travels forward in time.
Christiano cannot say enough good things about Morin,
a professional actor for 16 years, who a couple years ago
re-committed his life to follow Christ. "Simply put,"
Christiano states, "viewers will not know David Morin when
they walk into the theater, but they will when they walk out.
He is an excellent actor and a real professional with
Tom Hanks like appeal and ability. Hanks is good.
Morin is good. Period. And Morin is great in
Time Changer. His Russell Carlisle character
could go down as one of the all time great characters
in Christian films."
And Time Changer could be one of the most
important Christian movies ever made. If
The Omega Code opened the door to the theaters,
Time Changer can knock them down. "Christians are
a consumer group in this country, and a rather large one
at that." Christiano adds. "This doesn't mean everyone
claiming to be a Christian is born again but there is an
interest in spiritual matters. A recent USA Today poll
said that 61% of Americans feel that Religion is very
important in their life."
Another surprise for the audience will be the performance
and character played by Gavin MacLeod. MacLeod, best know
from his roles in the popular TV series like Mary Tyler Moore
and The Love Boat became a "born again"
believer back in 1985. MacLeod plays Dr. Norris Anderson,
a fellow Bible Professor who has a difficulty with
a premise that Carlisle has written in a book he is
wanting Anderson to endorse. Anderson sends Carlisle
over 100 years into the future so he can see for himself
where his premise will lead to. "I loved this script,"
MacLeod says, "this is the most important thing as far
as significance that I have ever done." Christiano is
quick to add that "Gavin is excellent. People will
love him in this movie and his character is a man of
authority. When Norris Anderson speaks, people will listen.
The audience is going to really be surprised."
Christiano also has high praise for Jennifer O'Neill, also
a Christian in real life, who plays a key role.
"Jennifer O'Neill has put her faith into action in this
film. She says some lines in this movie that very few
actors would have said. She throws some darts of spiritual
truth with sincerity and kindness but they still are darts."
Overall, Christiano is happy with the movie and hopes that
Christians will support the film. He also strongly
believes that theatrical Christian films can be here
to stay. "We are now living in a much more diversified
and dissected marketplace that allows many other ideas
and concepts to exist," Christiano adds. "Twenty years ago,
if you had said there would be a channel on television
totally devoted to weather, you would have thought no way.
But the Weather Channel exists and so can
spiritually challenging movies in the theatrical
marketplace. There is nothing like seeing a movie
in the theater. It is a great setting that really
impacts people. And this film affects every person on
the planet with its message because all of us will die
and face the Lord some day.
This films presents answers to help people find their
way out of this mess down here. If Christians will
support it, there will be many more like it."
Christiano and some of his comrades have a supply of
quality projects they want to bring to the big screen
including Christiano's next film Cosmic War,
about UFO's and the Christian response to it.
"I would like to get on a mountain top to shout a
message to every Christian in this great land of
ours," Christiano adds, "let's penetrate society by
supporting something that is positive for Christ and
offers some real answers to spiritual issues.
In Theaters October 4, 2002