This book is close to my heart. Where some friends used Donald Miller‘s words, one man’s story, to justify smoking pot for Christ, for me it was at the time a breath of fresh air that threw open the closed doors of the church.
I wrote my first screenplay based on stories from that book. It was a tribute, a reckoning, an outlining, a recognition of story. His story. My story. They intermingled and I wrote it all down for the first time.
I found a piece of myself, not in his life but in writing.
I admit I turned this film on with some trepidation. My fear, I suppose, was that despite Miller’s own work on the screenplay, the beauty and art of his first work would be bullied into Hollywood submission.
It was worse than I suspected. Budget perhaps forced the indie feel, but the film collapsed in execution. Characters, though well acted for the most part, became caricatures. The film should not have used the same title as the book as it was not an adaptation, but a tight angle focus on a piece of Miller’s Reed College experience. So much of it felt exaggerated, almost cartoon, especially in its representation of Christianity, more like an office episode than a purposeful glimpse into one man’s conversion story.
Life is messy. Christians are expected to look perfect or the world must face the truth that no one is. If Christians need a Savior, all must.
Christian filmmaking, unfortunately a genre, has given itself a bad name for many years by promoting poor art.
I personally believe that Jesus performed miracles. And if He turned water into the best wine, his films would be phenomenal. Beauty, professionalism, story, art.
Miller is not oblivious to any of his film’s failings, I am sure. His recent book is an honest journey through the making of this film titled: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. In the book he says, “When something happens to you, you have two choices in how to deal with it. You can either get bitter, or get better.”
So despite my own despair after seeing this film, I had to take Miller’s advice and start writing again, more and better stories. And so did he. It seems our journey continues, together and separate, learning from our mistakes as all of humanity must.
“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.”
- D. Miller