Last month, I reviewed You Are What You See: Watching Movies Through A Christian Lens by film critic Scott Nehring. I had the privilege of hearing Christian film critic Scott Nehring on Chris Fabry live (3-5pm on WGNR-FM, 97.9). Nehring's reviews have been syndicated on several websites including Reuter's, USAToday, FoxNews, and The Chicago Sun Times.
This book has a lot to say about how we look at movies as a Christian, but I also saw elements that spoke to writing. This month, I have the privilege of interviewing Scott Nehring.
JR: How did you get started writing movie reviews?
SN: I began in 2004 when I started my first site. I had gotten tired of the usual reviews I found online. It seemed most critics either didn’t have any idea what they were talking about or they were insufferable snobs. I thought I could step in and try to fill that gap.
JR: What are the most memorable responses (positive or negative) you've received to either your book or to your reviews?
SN: My personal favorite was having a woman named Tessa telling me she hoped I “get raped and contract A.I.D.S.” for my negative review of The Constant Gardner. The flood of responses for my calling Avatar the worst movie ever made (it is – and unbelievably racist to boot) is also another feather in my cap. It's always nice to receive compliments, but it's also fun to get someone riled up enough to slam your work.
JR: Have you ever tried your hand at writing fiction?
SN: Yes. I have been writing screenplays since I was child. I wrote my first screenplay when I was 12. I moved into writing stage plays in my late teens. I have been produced and enjoyed some minor success, but nothing to put a roof over my head. I’m living proof that just because you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t mean you have the talent and luck to pull it off. I backed away from fiction writing in 2004. Since then, I have found that my talent rests more in deconstructing stories and helping others learn how to see the components of a properly told tale.
JR: This leads into your book. The second section deals with the structure and character types common in movies. What do you think a budding Christian novelist can learn from that section to help their writing?
SN: As explained in my book, the structure and character archetypes found in story are engrained in us. These structures are instinctive to us and are used to influence how we communicate and understand concepts. By understanding how these narrative mechanics work and how they can be applied to our stories, the Christian writer can improve their work and make their tale more enjoyable to the reader.
JR: If you were to write a novel or screen-play, how would your experience as a film critic and writing You Are What You See influence it?
SN: The process of writing You Are What You See forced me to consider how I watch film. It also forced me to think about the kinds of stories I used to write and how I went about writing them. I went through a serious maturing process in regards to how I look at my work while putting the book together. I believe that would come through in my writing. I would be far more conscious to the messages I was weaving into the narrative and more aware on how those messages would play in the final script.
JR: Picture hundreds of Christian novelists listening for any advice/exhortations in reaching today's culture. (Okay, make it more like a dozen novelists.) We're all ears. How would you like to challenge us?
SN: The Christian writer has a responsibility to do more than simply write – they need to express their faith in their work. If you call yourself a Christian then your work inescapably reflects your faith. This being the case, you need to do your best to release works that glorify the Lord and the gifts He has provided to you. In short, we don’t glorify God by making crap.
Look at the culture we live in today. It is hollow and stagnant. This is because it is secular and only serves itself. A hundred years from now – I take that back, 20-30 years from now, how much will remain from this moment in cultural history? The Arts and the culture they produce have become disposable and ultimately useless.
Christian artists need to realize that when people complain about the state of our culture, it is their fault. The Arts have fallen into disrepair because over the last 60 years we have failed to fight for and protect them. We have handed over our role as cultural leaders and now see the results of that surrender. The time has come for Christian artists and writers to work towards reclaiming the culture. This is done by creating valuable works that aren’t just mimicking the latest fads or playing to the most sensitive and restrictive members of our audience. If we make works that are intellectually and artistically fulfilling -- ones that challenge the artist and the audience -- we can begin to make the changes in this society towards a more fruitful and productive future.
JR: Thank you very much for your time, and also for writing this excellent book.