April 07, 2015
Another reason: “faith-based films,” a fairly dependable genre, weren”t in play for Abe consideration. There were too many atheist libertarians and secular (okay, atheist) Jews in the mix, who privately viewed their cross-wearing and churchgoing fellow Abes as irrational Neanderthals. There was a truce between the pro-religion and anti-religion Abes, but that armistice only survived because no one ever put it to the test.
But the main reason the Abes failed at producing “conservative entertainment” is a structural flaw within the idea itself. The minute you put any political adjective before “entertainment,” you”ve doomed yourself. This goes for the left as well: “The Green Zone,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Fair Game,” “In the Valley of Elah,” “Rendition,” “Redacted”…all left-leaning message movies that bombed. “An American Carol” was the same “ advocacy disguised as entertainment but, you know, without the entertainment part.
So badly did “An American Carol” flop that it killed the morale among the Abes to try again. Nick Searcy (of TV’s “Justified”) and I at one point tried to bring to the screen an adaptation of the autobiography of Whittaker Chambers (a better idea than “Carol,” as the source material was solid), but part of what hampered that project was a lack of awareness among the Abes regarding who Chambers and Hiss were! And if that level of ignorance exists among Hollywood conservatives, well…it would have been a hard sell to the general public.
Successful “conservative friendly” films are most likely to come from popular source material with a huge following (the Bible, Narnia), from A-listers with the clout to bring pet projects to the screen (Eastwood, Gibson, Parker & Stone), or from inspiring real-life stories (“Soul Surfer,” “The Blind Side”). In all cases, the idea is the same: start with a compelling story, and let the “message” emanate organically.
So whenever conservatives go on a tangent about “we need to make some balls-out conservative films,” the lessons of the Abes should be remembered. 1) Never start with your message and work backwards; 2) movies constructed by committee when one half of the committee sees the other half as incurably superstitious morons are doomed from the start; and 3) for God’s sake, close the bar at some point during the writing workshops.