Chuck Colson profiles Philip Anschutz in today’s Breakpoint commentary. If you’ve never heard of him you’re not alone. I didn’t know who he was either until I read the article. He is the founder of The Anschutz Company of Denver, CO whose Walden Media divison is responsible for producing the upcoming film adaptation of C. S. Lewis’ "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" which is, of course, the first of the Narnia books.
His current project is the latest in a number of films designed to bring positive messages to a culture bombards our children with sex, violence, and drugs. In a 2004 speech at Hillsdale College he explained his reasons for getting into the movie industry:
Let me mention the ideas that I’ve run across in Hollywood and that define a kind of Hollywood mindset. One of these is that the way to be successful is to be hip and edgy. A second is that to be noticed and therefore successful, you need to utilize shock value to gain attention. A third is that sex, language, violence and bad taste always seem to find a market. Another is that you have to grow up in the film business in order to understand it and have the right creative instincts for it. Another is that to earn respect from your peers within the Hollywood community, you have to make at least potential Academy Award films – which in recent history have predominantly been R-rated.
My wife and I now have a number of grandchildren who are growing up surrounded by the products of this culture. So four or five years ago I decided to stop cursing the darkness – I had been complaining about movies and their content for years – and instead to do something about it by getting into the film business. Fortunately my wife said, “Phil, this is one of the nuttier things you’ve ever done, so at least keep your day job.” Which I did. But I knew that the best way to get to know a business – and maybe to affect it – is first to dive into it, and second to invest in it so that you get a seat at the table.
My reasons for getting into the entertainment business weren’t entirely selfless. Hollywood as an industry can at times be insular and doesn’t at times understand the market very well. I saw an opportunity in that fact. Also, because of digital production and digital distribution, I believe the film industry is going to be partially restructured in the coming years – another opportunity. But also, yes, I saw a chance with this move to attempt some small improvement in the culture.
Let me tell you a few things that I’ve learned about the movie business: First of all, you need a clear vision of the kind of movies you will make – and an equally clear vision of the type of movies you will not make. People in the industry need to know that they needn’t bring you certain kinds of product because you’re not going to be interested. Just as importantly, your own people need to understand the kind of movies they are going to be held accountable for producing. Our company, by the way, makes G and PG and, occasionally, very soft PG-13 movies. They are primarily family films – films that families can see together. We expect them to be entertaining, but also to be life-affirming and to carry moral messages.
I’m looking forward to the release of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" this December. In the meantime, I’m going to go back and check out Walden Media’s other movies such as "Holes", "Because of Winn-Dixie", "Around the World in 80 Days", and "Ray". Because now I know more about the man who is the driving force behind making these movies and I applaud him for his effort to bring positive messages to movies and produce movies that my family can feel good about seeing together.