Filmmaker with ties to Region 8 finds success on the silver screen

by Diana Davis email | bio

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The face of Christian film-making is changing. Thanks to the success of movies like "Fire-proof" last year, Hollywood is taking notice.  And at the forefront of this movement is a filmmaker with ties to Northeast Arkansas.  The curtain goes up on his latest venture this weekend.

"From Director Rich Christiano comes an inspiring story about the bond of friendship," states a booming voice found on a movie trailer for "The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry," a movie debuting now. The movie is the latest work of Christiano, a Christian filmmaker challenging Hollywood's concept of entertainment.

"We watch movies with nudity and all this stuff that we know we shouldn't watch and I'll tell you why," explained Christiano.  "It's because Hollywood rules, not Jesus."

Christiano, once a student in the Mass Communications masters program at Arkansas State, along with his twin brother, began writing and producing Christian films in the 80's.

"Got to get the saints of the ministry to do the work of the faithful, amen!" stated Christiano.

They worked several years here before making the move to California.  Their message then and now: Hollywood is corrupting america.

"This is what's going to steal your youth group. This is what's busting up your marriages," said Christiano to a group of pastors.

Christiano wants to send "the faithful" to the ticket counter and that has gotten him national attention.

"Are you a filmmaker or a preacher?" asked national correspondent Aaron Katersky.

"A filmmaker with a message," stated Christiano.  "Why film?" asked Katersky.

"You know George Lucas said the church, which was all-powerful, has been usurped," explained Christiano.  "He's right. The devil knows all this and he's used films to just break down this country, it's a very powerful tool."

Christiano teams up with actorm Gavin MacLeod, star of "The Love Boat" and "The Mary Tyler Moore show, in this latest film.  I spoke with him by telephone about the opportunity.

"It's so strange, Diana, there was always one scene and every time I read it, the tears just came out in me and it continued continued until we finished the movie," said MacLeod.

MacLeod claims this is his best work yet.

"In 1985, I gave my life to Christ and almost became a different person and your values start changing," said MacLeod.

MacLeod plays a pivotal role in "The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry." He becomes the spiritual mentor for three twelve year old boys in the summer of 1970. These days, MacLeod sees himself as more of an ambassador for God.

"I've worked with some of the biggest stars that ever were in the entertainment business, but I tell you from my heart, nothing, nothing comes as close to be humbled, to be used by God in a film like this," said MacLeod.

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