Alyssa Farah is a special Washington correspondent for WND.
Two prominent Christian filmmaking organizations are partnering in search of the next rising star in faith films.
EchoLight and 168 Film announced earlier this week they will offer an award of $1 million to the best short film in this year’s 168 Film Project contest to be put toward producing a feature-length film.
EchoLight and 168 Film are Christian filmmaking organizations that are dedicated to making high-quality films aimed at impacting culture.
WND spoke with EchoLight Studios co-founder Bobby Downes about the vision of his company and the goal of the filmmaking award.
“168 Film Festival has seen a 300-percent increase in entries to their program since we announced the $1 million dollar EchoLight Award,” Downes explained.
“So, we know it is working and motivating anywhere from seasoned storytellers that haven’t been given an opportunity to someone curious who just picks up a pencil or camera and gives it a try to see if they have what it takes.”
Downes formed the Dallas-based Echolight Studios in 2011 as the first vertically integrated Christian movie studio to offer production financing, marketing and distribution across all releasing platforms worldwide to reach families of faith. Downes is a veteran filmmaker who has produced more than a dozen feature films, four of which are distributed by Sony Pictures.
Downes explained that he sees EchoLight as a ministry, both in front of the camera and behind it.
“We are planting seeds in strategic places where the soil has been cultivated by our partners and we are providing the resources and experience to grow up a generation of storytellers who are called to filmmaking as a ministry where quality is of utmost importance and an ethos of ministry behind the camera being just as (if not more) important than in front of the camera,” Downes said.
“We know that cream rises to the top. EchoLight wants to work with the best storytellers this generation has to offer,” he added.
The film industry is a huge untapped market for Christian filmmakers. Every weekend, roughly $130 million is spent at local theaters in the U.S.
“Films for families of faith is a hugely underserved market. The size of this market is 250 million people in the USA alone. We’ve found that families on average have the capacity to watch between one to four movies per month. So, we are ramping up to meet the demand for quality inspirational films for families of faith,” Downes said.
EchoLight is set up with the ability to meet all the challenges filmmakers encounter. Downes said he believes Hollywood’s system of distribution is broken.
“Over the last decade, our experience has been that Hollywood isn’t funding Christian film projects,” he said. “And we believe Hollywood’s distribution model is broken.
Down highly successful recent franchises built on the backs of believers have just gone towards building bigger buildings in Hollywood rather than be poured back into Kingdom work. EchoLight has solved that problem with its proven full service distribution platform across all outlets (theaters, DVD, TV and foreign) and now we are planting seeds into programs that encourage storytellers to hone their skills and gain experience making movies (like Liberty University, San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival and the 168 Film Festival).”
When asked if he believes Christian films struggle to find mainstream appeal. Downes explained that in his experience quality storytelling, production and acting creates quality work that will universally resonate with people regardless of their faith.
“Our focus is on edifying the Body of Christ. Mainstream appeal will happen when we make movies with quality stories, quality production value and quality acting,” Downes said.
“The message we have is something we want to celebrate, it is the real value in our movies…. and when the message is woven through a story in an honest way that ministers to the viewers soul, impact is made that will reverberate to others.”