In a Horizon Q&A, Director Luke Barnett dove into the inspiration behind “FAITH Ba$ED,” his new film that satirizes the Christian film industry that premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this week.
Q: How does your studio’s mission statement about focusing on stories that are risk-taking and character-driven influence how you choose which projects to further develop?
A: It’s easy to feel the need to write something you think will sell, but at the end of the day that rarely makes a good movie and by the time you make it, the trends will have changed. Everybody told us we shouldn’t do a comedy because they don’t sell overseas, and we shouldn’t tackle religion because it’s controversial. But this was a very personal story to us and one we wanted to tell. At the end of the day, I think that’s what has made it what it is. No one did it for the money (because we barely had any).
Q: How did your experience growing up in a faith-centered household affect the way you wrote the characters?
A: I grew up in the world of youth group and went to a Christian high school. When I moved to LA, I immediately got involved in a super hip, popular church. While I don’t go anymore, I feel like I’m extremely familiar and felt confident I could write those words. Between myself, Vince (director/producer), and Tanner (actor/producer), we’re all at pretty different places when it comes to any sort of spiritual journey, and I think that’s what (hopefully) makes the movie feel balanced. It never feels mean spirited but also isn’t a Christian movie. We never wanted to make fun of belief, more so believing in something blindly.
Q: What do you think people should take away from Faith BA$ED??
A: Probably the best compliment I’ve heard on the film since it premiered was someone who said, “This isn’t a Christian movie, but it’s what I wish Christian movies were.” I hope more Christian filmmakers decide to put story first. I think often Christian movies are made by people who simply want to preach, and the art is secondary. You can write a great story with some of the best themes of the Bible without preaching to the choir.
“FAITH BA$ED” explores the Christian film industry by parodying how a Christian movie is made. Two friends, Luke and Tanner, find out that Luke’s dad’s church cannot pay its upcoming mortgage. Since they hear that Christian movies make a ton of money at the box office, they decide to make their own Christian movie to help the church pay their mortgage. And, in the process, they’ll hopefully get rich themselves.
Luke Barnett and Tanner Thomason, who play the aptly-named characters Luke and Tanner, are, Christian puns aside, a revelation. Their friendship grounds the movie and provides the biggest laughs. Luke is determined and desperate to succeed, while Tanner is supportive but often has his head in the clouds.
There’s a stretch where Luke and Tanner are not in many scenes together, and it’s here where the movie’s energy fades. While a cameo from Jason Alexander keeps the laughs going, there’s more movie magic to be found in the headlining bro-duo.
The portrayal of some of the Christian characters also muddles the movie’s message about embracing community. Because the Christian characters in “Faith Ba$ed” are one-dimensional parodies of the Christian lifestyle, their friendships and drama with Luke and Tanner lack depth. While the story is creative and the quippy leads keep many scenes fast and fun, the message of “FAITH BA$ED” could have been more impactful if its Christians were portrayed less like a punchline and more like fully-realized people.