If bringing Christian films to Christian audiences in churches and abroad seems like a recent development, think again. A whole host of Christian films and TV shows were produced by Hollywood filmmakers in the mid to late 20thcentury to show in churches, use in mission work overseas, and even broadcast on television to secular audiences which, at the time, embraced Christian values. So if modern audiences are looking for spiritually uplifting, engaging, and inspirational films that don’t need to be pre-screened for objectionable content, they may not have to wait for the next new release.
Besides famous classics like Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments, there are many high-quality, encouraging and timeless films, TV series and Christmas movies already available for viewing. But how can Christians access these classics? Today, we are talking with Bob Campbell and Ron Hall of Gospel Films Archive.
What is Gospel Films Archive?
BC: GFA is a growing library of Christian films, TV series, and TV specials that were produced between the 1930’s and 1980’s. Some better, some worse, these productions all helped spread the Gospel of Christ. Few people know these great films even exist, and our mission is to find the best ones and reissue them to modern audiences.
How did GFA get started?
RH: Bob and I, and third partner, Derek Myers, have collected classic films for years. We began working together seven years ago to bring back the popular PBS series, Matinee at the Bijou. We released many secular films on DVD, but two years ago, we issued a Christmas collection and noticed how many Christian movies we had collected. We had many lost and rare religious films that folks would love to see once again.
Why is your work important?
BC: These lost films retain their power to entertain and inspire. The messages about the life of Christ are timeless. We expect audiences today to love them like we do.
RH: We think the historical aspect alone will interest many. These forgotten films did spread the Gospel to millions around the world.
Tell us about the projects (Film Collections) that are already complete.
RH: We just released the first 5 themed DVD collections:
- The MISSIONS COLLECTION includes four films about missionary work, including a rare documentary on Albert Schweitzer.
- FAMILY FILMS specializes mostly in short films about Christian problems in the world, particularly as related to family relationships and struggles.
- LOYOLA FILMS is a series of sixteen half-hour Bible stories. These films were commissioned by Loyola University in 1946 and produced by veteran B-movie filmmaker John T. Coyle (find more about his intriguing life one the website).
- The CATHEDRAL FILMS collection is a series by James Friedrich, who collaborated with film industry talent to create shorts, features, and some impressive animated stories that minister to the church.
- The CHRISTOPHER FILMS are the works of Father James Keller, who in 1945, founded a movement called “The Christophers” to be a positive influence in the post-war world. He enlisted the help of Hollywood filmmakers and stars to produce films that inspire people to make a difference in the world around them.
Each of these collections has a fascinating story behind it, and they include some of our favorite films so far. I encourage readers to go online and check out the intriguing and relevant story lines behind the films in these collections.
How many films are there to restore and reissue?
BC: There are literally thousands of Christian films and hundreds of Christian TV programs (and series) in the time span we set for the Gospel Films Archive. I would estimate that at least two out of every three films that we uncover are truly worth preserving.
Why do some of the films need restoration?
RH: Before videotape came along, programs were originally distributed to churches and TV stations in 16mm film format. Since most of the studios and production companies have long been defunct, there are no 35mm master negatives to access. The 16mm prints that survived often have splices, scratches, faded color, warpage and other problems.
What is involved in that process (and can readers see examples)?
BC: The restoration process starts with original film prints. We use a transfer lab that can both remove scratches and restore color in quite dramatic ways. A restoration sample from Man on a Skateboard can be seen on the home page of our website: gospelfilmsarchive.com. The "before" clip shows a red, faded picture and in the "after" clip, the color is magically restored! Of course, such miraculous technology can be costly depending on how much of the film needs fixing.
What is the Adopt-A-Film project
RH: To get the project this far along, Bob, Derek and I have contributed what time and resources were needed. However, we now need a way to continue funding the project. We wanted to find a unique and fun way to cover restoration costs, so we created the Adopt-A-Film program. Through it, an individual or organization can choose a specific film to support. When the film is released on DVD or shown on television, their name will appear in a special slate added to the end of the film.
BC: If you visit the GFA website, you can see scenes from six inspirational films that are now up for "Adoption." Just click on the Adopt-A-Film button.
What is the Gospel Films Archive Presents TV series and how can we view it when completed?
BC: We are currently working on a Pilot episode for a TV series called Gospel Films Archive Presents. It will be an hour-long episode which showcases one or more of these Christian films, and the series host will introduce the works in a historical context. Updates on our progress will be posted on our website and Facebook page.
How can readers get involved in the Adopt-A-Film program and your ministry in general?
RH: There are several ways readers can help:
1. Buy one or more GFA DVD collections right here at Christian Cinema.com.
2. Help spread the word about this lost body of Christian films. Like us on Facebook, leave a Comment, and Share GFA with your FB Friends: https://www.facebook.com/gospelfilmsarchive?ref=br_tf
3. Visit our website and consider ADOPT-A-FILM. The process is simple and fun. http://www.gospelfilmsarchive.com/rest.html
Thanks to Bob and Ron for telling us more about their unique project. You can view the GFA trailer below.