I’m Making an Indie Movie

September 30, 2009

One thing’s for sure: ‘indie’ films are on a roll.

You know, those quirky little movies that supposedly were made with $20 in change that then make a billion dollars because they’re so dang charming?

I shouldn’t have said ‘one thing’s for sure,’ because another thing’s for sure too. Emergent churches are on a roll. They’re everywhere, even though they refuse to call themselves ’emergent.’ That’s part of the magic. I’ve loved some emergent churches. I met my wife in one. They contribute some good things. Some emergents like to hope I’m emergent when I say I pastor a house church.

Well, when I see a good idea, I like to copy it and pretend I was the first to come up with it. So I’m producing my own indie film. I’m also starting my own emergent church. That seemed like a lot of work for two hobbies, but then I realized I could streamline by combining my two projects.

Four Steps to a Perfect Indie Film/Emergent Church

Think up a really baffling name.
This is the first step to any good indie movie. An ironic title is the perfect way to wake up movie watchers dazed by the latest High School Musical preview. Perhaps you should name your titular character something really “radical,” because she’s such a crazy “individual.” Something like Juno, or Napoleon. If the title confuses or bewilders audiences, then they’ll know they have to see it! Be sure you get your graphic designer to print the title like it was drawn by a high school algebra student too. It may cost you more, but it’s instant indie street cred. People say, “Wow, that title looks like a no-talent high school art nerd drew that inside his Trapper Keeper, so the movie must be awesome!”

Same with an emergent church’s name. Right off the bat, throw out the word church. “Church” = crap. While you’re at it, don’t call your movie a “movie.” The less your church sounds like a church, the better. People should not know you are a church until they walk in, thinking they’re going to buy a dishwasher…or a hammock.

Write a script everyone says they understand, even though they don’t.
The best indie films are the kind no one understands. Because everyone feels like they have to understand it, or they’re stupid. Watch The Royal Tenenbaums. Right now, I dare you. Did you understand what on earth was going on? Did you laugh at even one stupid deadpan line? That’s how good your movie should be. The kind that people pretend to enjoy.

If you’re starting an emergent church, you’ve got to learn a lot of big words…not necessarily their definitions, just how to pronounce them. Then write your script – your sermons, books, everyday conversations. They should all use these words, often. Your mental word bank should include: paradigm, organic, missional, narrative, postmodern, Rob Bell, to name a few. You don’t have to know what they mean, because everyone will think you’re smart if they don’t understand you either.

Hire Michael Cera.
Every indie film needs a cute, awkward, stumbly-bumbly teenage boy to be dominated by his female costar. You need a guy who talks and talks, yet the more he talks, the more he talks himself into a hole. By the time he finishes talking, he confused every other character, including himself about exactly what his point was supposed to be.

That’s where Michael Cera comes in. From Juno to Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (notice the titles), Michael Cera has been tripping over his words and into our hearts. Know why Steve Carrell was in Little Miss Sunshine? Because Michael Cera didn’t like the coffee some studio intern served him. There was no mistake about what he had to say that day.

That’s exactly what every emergent church needs. Not the stumbly teenage boy; but a grown-up version. You need a guy who talks and talks, who’s articulate and impossible to not want to be friends with, but the more he talks about theology, the more you end up wondering what exactly he’s saying because he insists on speaking in a lot of abstract terms, and because of his devotion to our previous point.

Take yourself really seriously.
You can’t go to all the trouble of crafting a fine indie film and not take yourself seriously. If I didn’t want to take myself seriously, I’d hire Woody Harrelson.

Even better, the movie should encourage viewers to take it too seriously. They should say to themselves, “I’m sorry, I just can’t stomach another travesty from Warner Brothers. I’m just too much of a film connoisseur. What’s this? Finally, a REAL film from an indie studio, not one of those popcorn flicks from those big box ‘Wal-Mart’ studios. Thank God for Fox Searchlight.”

Nothing’s better than Christians who take themselves really seriously. Make sure your members are constantly reminded of the evils of evangelicals and how their church is really a ‘conversation.’ Because even though the emergent church is new, it’s still made up of old Christians who discovered a long time ago that every church looks better with a liberal dose of self-righteousness.

Once you’ve done all these steps, congratulations! You now have a successful indie film/emergent church (though by being successful, you ironically cease to be either of these). Now just repeat until you are a huge cliche parody of yourself that can be summed up into a four-part to-do list!

What would you add to the list? What would you do if you could make your own film or open your own church? What would your title your movie or church?