Conservatives should not cede the precincts of popular culture.
Mar 22, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 26 • By ED GILLESPIE
Ralph Winter, who produced Wolverine and the X Men series, has joined with Terry Botwick, who helped launch the Family Channel, to form 1019 Productions. The firm will seek to bring to theaters entertaining movies that make money, but also make a positive impact on our society.
Although not explicitly conservative, a relatively new effort called The Wedgwood Circle Institute brings investors together to fund “cultural artifacts” that are “true, good and beautiful for the common good.” Wedgwood Circle has religious roots, but its efforts are geared toward general audiences. Its projects are intended to have broad appeal and carry basically conservative messages of faith, family, and personal sacrifice.
Movies targeted to Christian audiences also tend to do well. Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, has made a series of successful movies rooted in Christian faith, including Facing the Giants and Fireproof, a movie about the importance of commitment in marriage that was the highest grossing independent film of 2008.
Religious or not, the emerging conservative culture makers seek to make commercially profitable entertainment, building on past successes. Steve McEveety produced with Mel Gibson the classic paean to human freedom Braveheart and the smashingly successful The Passion of the Christ (surely the only blockbuster ever made in ancient Aramaic).
MPower Pictures, founded by McEveety and others, is now working to bring to film the New York Times bestseller Left to Tell, the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Tutsi who survived the Rwandan genocide by being hidden in the tiny bathroom of a Hutu pastor with seven other women. The harrowing drama of her survival, her faith throughout her captivity, and her forgiveness of her family’s killers is intended to be inspiring to general audiences. Janine Turner of Northern Exposure fame (along with my wife, Cathy, a veteran of decades in politics) is working with the producers.
Conservatives can curse the darkness or light culture candles. Thousands of conservatives rightly donate to candidates and political action committees, think tanks and other market-oriented and right-leaning groups, but investing in quality films, television shows, plays, and music can have an impact at least as great as a trainload of white papers.
Ed Gillespie is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and founder of Ed Gillespie Strategies in Alexandria, Virginia.