Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” died of natural causes on “Good Friday,” April 6, 2012 at his home in California. The irony of the timing of his passing has inspired me to share with you a personal conversation I once had with Mr. Kinkade.
A week or two before I met him, I had read a magazine article on his work that made the claim that Kinkade was trying to reflect a utopian world. The author said that Kinkade wanted to demonstrate what life would be like if there had been no original sin, or no Fall.
If you think about it, you hardly ever see any tragedy in his work. It’s all very lovely and picturesque.
So I asked him if that was an accurate reflection of his goal in creating Art; to show us what life might be life if sin had not entered the world. He paused for a moment, obviously considering if that was true. Then he said, “No, definitely not. In fact, the piece that I consider to be perhaps my most definitive work is ‘The Cross.’ If that isn’t a reflection of sin entering the world, the fallenness of humanity, and our need for redemption, than I don’t know what is!”
Once again he became thoughtful. “No, I think that every artist, within the body of their work, has a responsibility to reflect the world as it truly is; broken. However, as a Christian, I don’t want to dwell on that brokenness. There are plenty of artists who do that, I’m not making judgments about their work. For me personally though, my desire is to give people a message of hope. You can see despair everywhere you look. If I am going to take the time to paint something, I want it to reflect beauty and give people hope.”
His line about despair made me think of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, and his teachings about the Christian and artistic expression. I asked Kinkade if his work had been influenced by Dr. Schaeffer, and if so, in what way.
“Oh, most definitely. I’d say the thing that I gained the most from Dr. Schaeffer was the concept that beauty has value in itself; because it reflects the nature and character of God. Beauty is an inseparable part of God’s nature; of who He is. So when you create Art that is beautiful, you are reflecting the nature of God.”
I think it is ironic that Mr. Kinkade, whose pivotal artistic work was “The Cross,” was able to enter a world that TRULY has no pain or suffering (a perfect world), on the day when we celebrate his Lord’s payment for sin and death. I’m sure that he will be amazed to find his resting place to be far more beautiful than he could ever reflect in his paintings.
Rich Christiano, of Five & Two Pictures is a follower of Jesus Christ who makes quality films for the glory of God. His movie Time Changer is one of my all-time favorite movies. It is a very solid, God-honoring film that is great for audiences of all ages. He is also the producer of Unidentified, another very popular Christian film. Rich was gracious enough to spare some time to share with me about his views on filmmaking and also his new feature film, to be released later this year.
Israel Wayne: How did you first get involved with film making?
Rich Christiano: In the late 70’s, when I was only 20, my brother Dave and I went to Hollywood. We wrote a script and tried to sell it. We got two offers but never made a deal. In 1980, I became a born-again Christian that totally changed my life. My brother did also.
Israel Wayne: What inspired you to make Christian films rather than working in the secular film industry?
Rich Christiano: A lot of people think that when they become a Christian, they need to move to Africa or something to minister. My brother and I wanted to make films and we felt the LORD saying to us to make them for HIM! We left California and went to graduate school for Radio-TV-Film at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR. My brother Dave eventually got a teaching job in San Antonio where he met a guy who was making Christian films and encouraged us to do the same. We made our first film in 1985 and now have produced 12 movies between us.
Israel Wayne: What are your primary goals when you make a film?
Rich Christiano: First, to please the Lord. John 15:5 is my film making verse. Jesus says ”Abide in Me and you will bear much fruit because without Me, you can do nothing.” I believe this. If we really want to reach people for Christ with our ministry, we must first please HIM. Second, I want to make films that will motivate, challenge, and inspire the believer. Give him some food for his soul. Third, I want to put the gospel in our films so that a non-believer may consider Christ as a result of seeing the movie.
Israel Wayne: What are your thoughts on the new Independent Christian Film movement?
Rich Christiano: I think there are some major issues. It seems most Producers are just wanting to make films that are family oriented with a God message. I call them crossover films. They say they want to hit the mainstream and to try to “reach” the non-believer so they water down the message. But this doesn’t work, especially if you believe that only God’s Spirit can reach people and HE must be pleased first. There are very few filmmakers that want to put a real message for the Lord in their films. And to me, this is what a Christian film really is, a film with a message that points to Jesus Christ. Other films may be wholesome and family oriented but that does not make them Christian. Mormonism is wholesome and family oriented but surely NOT Christian. It is sad to me to walk into a Christian bookstore or to go to Christian websites and see some of the movies being sold as “Christian” films.
Israel Wayne: Tell us about your latest project.
Rich Christiano: We are super excited about our new film called THE SECRETS OF JONATHAN SPERRY. We really believe this film is going to make a real impact and do well. This will be our biggest release to date. We are hoping to release this film into hundreds of theaters coming Sept 18th. It’s a story set in 1970 about a 75 year old man named Jonathan Sperry (played by Gavin MacLeod) who starts talking to three 12-year old boys about the Lord and mentoring them. This film has tons of heart and we have received great response in the screenings we have done. And this is not false hype either, this film is delivering. We are very confident about this movie and what it can do. People can check out the trailer and more info at www.SperryMovie.com
Israel Wayne: How can God’s people be praying for you right now?
Rich Christiano: Pray that the Lord will raise up Christians and churches that will sponsor our new film(s) and help us get the word out. We do plan some national promotion but we need the local grassroots to be really effective. We are trying to set up a network of Christ-centered churches and believers that want to get behind solid Christian movies so I would ask for the Lord to raise up these believers and churches that will partner with us. It can be a win-win situation for everyone involved.