It Began with a PASSION
How THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, as the 2005 Winner of the Annual MOVIEGUIDE® Epiphany Prize, Inspired the $50,000 Kairos Script Prizes
By Tom Snyder, Editor of Movieguide®
MOVIEGUIDE® started its Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry in the early 1990s. The new endeavor was fueled by conversations with billionaire philanthropist Sir John Templeton and others.
At that time, only about 10% of the major theatrical releases by Hollywood, including the major foreign and independent releases, contained any Christian values or references to Jesus Christ, the Bible, or Christianity. Even fewer of those releases had a strong Christian worldview where the movie’s basic view of God, ultimate reality, faith, and morality was Christian, redemptive, and spiritually uplifting.
After discussions with Sir John, Dr. Ted Baehr created the Epiphany Prizes for Inspiring Movies and TV in 1995, to promote movies and TV programs that “greatly increase man’s love or understanding of God,” the percentage of movies with at least some Christian, spiritually uplifting and redemptive values and references had increased to 15% of the market. Also, the number of movies with strong or solidly overt Christian, redemptive content or worldviews had increased to 12, or 4.6%, including such movies as Epiphany Prize winner DEAD MAN WALKING, BRAVEHEART, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, FATHER OF THE BRIDE PART II, and WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING.
At the turn of the new century, with several Epiphany Prize competitions supported by grants from the John Templeton Foundation (www.templeton.org) under our belts, the number of strong faith-friendly movies had more than doubled, from only 12 to 30, including such hits as REMEMBER THE TITANS, Mel Gibson’s THE PATRIOT, the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movies, and a smaller movie called RETURN TO ME.
Then, came such huge redemptive hits as Peter Jackson’s version of the great epic THE LORD OF THE RINGS written by Christian author J.R.R. Tolkein (which still has a higher box office average per movie than the HARRY POTTER series) and Sam Raimi’s faith-friendly SPIDER-MAN trilogy inspired by Stan Lee’s take on Jesus Christ’s words in Luke 12:48, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
All this time, MOVIEGUIDE® founder Dr. Ted Baehr steadfastedly continued consulting with filmmakers and helping beginning screenwriters with improving their scripts and movies, not only making them stronger, more entertaining stories but also making them more family friendly and faith-filled.
In the wake of all this, Mel Gibson decided to bring back the Biblical epic with THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. On Feb. 24, 2005, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (which earned $611.90 million worldwide and $372.27 million domestically) was honored at the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards and Report to the Entertainment Industry with the $50,000 Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring Movie of 2004.
Mr. Gibson and his team requested a return of the cash prize for this film’s faith-based, religious story. Thus, MOVIEGUIDE® was faced with an unexpected decision:
What to do with the prize money?
After exploring different options with Dr. Jack Templeton and others, Dr. Baehr and MOVIEGUIDE® decided to use these monies to establish the Annual $50,000 Kairos Prizes for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays for new and beginning screenwriters.
Based on this decision, the John Templeton Foundation subsequently expanded grant support for an ongoing competition process to inspire first-time writers to produce compelling, entertaining, spiritually uplifting, redemptive, and faith-friendly screenplays. Each year, it awards three winners with cash prizes of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000. Also, the Grand Prize winner is sent to more than 80 leading studio executives, producers, filmmakers, and television artists in Hollywood for their consideration and/or feedback.
Now in its eighth year, the Kairos Prize competition has made tremendous strides in bringing talented new voices to the entertainment industry. In fact, the first Grand Prize winner, JOHNNY (originally titled JOHN, THE REVELATOR) was released early last year on DVD. This year, there are no fewer than five Kairos Prize winners in production, or set to go into production!
This has greatly helped MOVIEGUIDE® in reaching out to more and more filmmakers every year. Today, it seems as if not a day goes by where Dr. Baehr and the MOVIEGUIDE® staff are getting inquiries about consulting with scripts and movie projects or teaching people how to write, produce, make, distribute, and market spiritually uplifting, family-friendly, and faith-friendly movies.
Thus, the impact of Mel Gibson’s team’s decision continues through the Kairos Prizes to foster a much larger diversity of morally and spiritually uplifting movies. It is dramatically changing the lives of these young writers, not to mention the lives of future moviegoers and television viewers yet to come.
Therefore, Dr. Baehr wishes to express great appreciation to Mel Gibson and his team for this tremendous gift that laid the groundwork for the largest screenwriting competition of its kind in the United States.
“We continue to encourage positive and spiritually uplifting, redemptive movies that are faith friendly.”