Spencer T Folmar has a clear mission when making his movies, including “Shooting Heroin,” the one he begins filming on this week — they must be real, show redemption, and not be sugar-coated.
BY ALEX MURASHKO
This article is the conclusion of a two-part interview with Folmar, who is a filmmaker and TogetherLA contributing writer. In this part of the interview (below), he shares more about walking the line between Faith Based and General Audiences entertainment.
After his film company, Hard Faith, released “Generational Sins” last year, a story that touched on alcoholism, suicide and redemption, Folmar began the early production stages of “The Beast in Me,” but recently shifted schedule to begin “Shooting Heroin.” The need to tackle the opioid problem in the U.S. via his film, sooner rather than later was too great, he explained.
In his interview, Folmar shares why it’s important for him to make films that aim for an audience that mirror the “public square.”
TOGETHERLA: When did you decide that your movies weren’t necessarily going to paint stories of life in a rose garden?
SPENCER T FOLMAR: I always had a passion for film. I was a filmmaker in the beginning, had already made a couple feature films, and I had worked on a lot of commercials and corporate work, all before I came to Christ. And then, I had this amazing experience in New Zealand, and I couldn’t put this book down — the Bible. I was learning all about God and about all these crazy, complex characters, and these scoundrels that God was using in his story.
At that point, I was just trying to imagine what a movie might look like if was going to use my skills and passion to glorify God. I was dreaming while in Bible school what a good movie could look like that was informed by this amazing book and about the character of God. Since I did not grow up in the Christian church I wasn’t familiar, at all, with the library of faith based films.
So, it was quite an education when I came back to the states and started watching “Faith” films.
Whenever I said I wanted to make movies about God, my new family in Christ would point me to these faith based titles. So, I watched a couple of these titles, and then I had to quickly clarify that I was in fact not making these traditional faith-based films at all. It helped me recognize what I didn’t want to do. I’m not trying to create content only for Christian consumption that paints the world with rosy colored glasses.
Many of these faith-based films I really still can’t get into. Most of them depict such a foreign world and false reality. Most of these faith-based films don’t reflect the world in which I live in, or have lived in, or most of my friends and family are still wrestling with.
It’s just that the stakes aren’t that high. I also don’t find that most faith-based films reflect the reality of the Bible either. The films are so self-censored that they are unrecognizable to my own life and my own struggles. And if I was going to make films now, with this revelation of God, I want them to be honest with my own struggles and depict the world as it actually is. To be truthful. In fact, in a lot of ways, life can actually become more difficult after you’re a Christian.
TLA: How long has “Shooting Heroin” been in the works? When did you start writing the script?
FOLMAR: I started writing “Shooting Heroin” just a few months ago, but the idea was inspired by many true events and stories.
In this movie, theologically speaking, I wanted to deal with the demons of addiction and of judging others too harshly without empathy. But at the same time, I also wanted to explore the call for responsibility, not only for ourselves but for the love of our neighbor.
TLA: It doesn’t sound like this movie will be on Pure Flix. Am I right?
FOLMAR: Hah! No, it won’t be on Pure Flix. My last film, “Generational Sins,” which was about two brothers’ return home to reconcile with an alcoholic, abusive father, also is not on Pure Flix. But that’s okay because that’s not our target audience. We’re making films for the main, public square, and general audiences. At the same time, we’re talking explicitly about Jesus Christ and his Gospel. And yet not censoring, the R-rated nature of the world.
So, my movies will most likely not be on Pure Flix, but we definitely have an evangelistic mindset and mission so we can get these messages of salvation to the people who need them most outside the church.
TLA: As a Christian, are there points during the making of a movie where you’re thinking, okay, well this is over the line, and this is not, or this is edifying or this is not? How do you navigate the edges?
FOLMAR: Yeah, it’s tough. It’s definitely a difficult balancing act because I don’t want to ever glorify sin, or be indulgent.
There’s enough graphicness and senseless sin in most media. But I don’t ever want to take the audience out of the story or out of the reality so that they’re less empathetic to real-life figures.
You know, sin should be difficult to digest. That’s one of the biggest issues with so many faith-based films: The sin is never that vile. There’s never truly a beast. You never actually put flesh on the bones of sin or of sin nature because it’s so easily digestible. It’s been so censored for family audiences.
For the sin that I show in my films, I want it to stay with audiences. I don’t want them to easily move on from those scenes or onto the next scene without feeling the weight of sin.
There should be a long pause because sin is an eternally, weighty matter.
TLA: I often ask this question even though sometimes it feels cliché. What do you want viewers to come away with from ‘Shooting Heroin?’
FOLMAR: I want viewers to come away from “Shooting Heroin” as I hope they came away with from my last film, “Generational Sins,” awakening to the fact that despite what may seem like insurmountable despair or darkness that the movie’s characters face and maybe audience members face as well, that there is genuine hope in Jesus Christ. That they can see the light in even the greatest of darkness.
Director Spencer T. Folmar’s theatrical debut, “Generational Sins,” has spurred a national debate surrounding the interplay of faith and film. Folmar coined the term “Hard Faith” to describe this new genre of film, written for audiences who are hungry for hope in the midst of gritty real-life stories. Folmar’s films are now released under his Los Angeles production company Hard Faith Films, which is currently developing several projects that will reflect today’s multifaceted culture and audience.