In a compelling interview with Patheos.com, a website designed “to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality,” Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington shares opinions that Christians who want to affect the cultural influence professions should take very seriously. Barbara is a screenwriter, author, professor at Pepperdine University, and the founder of Act One, “an organization that seeks to nurture the next generation of Christian artists and media pioneers.”
Concerning breaking into the cultural influence professions, Barbara notes that Hollywood is “the major league.” If you want to compete, her advice is simple:
You shouldn’t seek to be the exception to the rule, if you’re going to make a profession out of something. You should do what everyone tells you to do. Work hard. Find the best education and training you can. This is a field like any other. The misperception is that because we make entertainment, people think it should be entertaining along the way. It isn’t. It’s grueling. But it is cool. Very cool.
If you think Christian networks like EWTN or CBN will evangelize the culture, she advises you to think a second time.
Dostoevsky said that man, in the end, will be saved by beauty — or nothing. In other words, the last voice of authority will be the Beautiful. … if we have become a society that no longer produces the Beautiful … then there will in fact be no compelling voice of authority. When there is no ultimate voice of authority in the world, then everyone is his own authority. Then you have moral and cultural anarchy. …
The Church needs to get back into the work of the Beautiful. It needs to get back into the work of subsidizing and training and mentoring artists and guilds. … Today’s Church should commission novels and movies and screenplays.
The fact that there is not a single Christian university in the top twenty film programs in the world is a sign that the Church has lost its way in modernity. We are not seeing ourselves as people of this moment.
The saddest realities to look at are not Hustler magazine and Big Love. Much more tragic is what you find on EWTN and CBN, because these things are devoid of creativity and devoid of respect for the audience. They are banal. They may be produced with the best of intentions, but they have no sense of the appropriateness of the art form, of using the medium to its full potential.
Christians, Barbara notes, have turned their backs on the arts and on modern media, becoming “uncreative, banal, boring, undynamic, and irrelevant.” She sees her role, in correcting this situation, as that of a storyteller.
My vocation is to be a storyteller to the people of my time — and if I create a good enough story, stories have a way of transcending time. I’m very preoccupied with creating a story and characters that will haunt people in a way that sends them on a journey of introspection.
I am a political animal in many ways. It’s a big hobby for me. But I have, with the rest of my generation, almost completely lost confidence that real good in society can be achieved through politics. I don’t think that’s the pathway to lasting good. I think that politics can clear the field for good to be done, but I don’t think it actually achieves anything. I think culture is what creates good in the world. That’s the realm of the artist: the storyteller, the musician, the poet. And I see myself as a storyteller.
She is also something of prophet, warning Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox alike, that if they continue on the path of disdaining the cultural influence professions, don’t be surprised when the people look elsewhere for “the Beautiful.”
I strongly encourage everyone, especially Christians interested in entering the cultural influence professions to read the entire interview. Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington, very much in the spirit of Flannery O’Connor – an author she often quotes, does not pull her punches.