Why Every Movie is a Sequel

Last Friday saw the release of the new movie Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This sequel to Man of Steel would usually be a big summer movie, but it was bumped up to avoid a head-to-head conflict with another sequel (Captain America: Civil War).

Other series that will continue this year include: Star Trek, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kung Fu Panda, Jason Bourne, Ice Age, Finding Nemo, X-Men, Zoolander, and even God’s Not Dead. Then there are some throwbacks being revived this year: Independence Day, Ghostbusters, Bridget Jones, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

This kind of slate usually leads to a collective groan — why is everything a sequel? Why can’t there be anything new or different? Why aren’t studios willing to take risks?

Craig Mazin, a Hollywood screenwriter and co-host of the Scriptnotes podcast, says we have it all wrong. He shared his thoughts on an episode of their podcast in October 2015:

Studios are willing to take all sorts of risks. It’s the audience that’s the coward. And I understand why. Going to the movies ain’t cheap. And, you know, the easiest thing in the world to do? Stay home. So, people are afraid to risk two hours of their life and maybe $50 when all is said and done between you and your date to see a movie that they kind of don’t know that they want because they’ve never had [one like this] before. (quote at 24:07)

His comments can be applied to almost any organization or industry, including ministry, because this is really all about change. Change is both natural and necessary. Part of our job is to lead people out of their comfort zones. But we can’t just run up and shove them out every time we have a new idea.

Compassion and understanding shouldn’t stop us from making change, but it should help us implement it with empathy. Craig’s perspective brought to mind three strategies and one major challenge:

1. Understand the cost of the change for the people — not just the organization.

As Craig said, going to the movies is an investment, and going to church is too. You may get there earlier and stay later than most people, but everyone else still has to wake up, get ready (don’t forget families with kids!), drive in, go to worship and perhaps a class, fellowship afterward, and drive home too. Remember: the easiest thing in the world to do is stay home. When seeking to implement a change, get feedback from folks concerning what it will “cost” them.

2. Find ways of relating new ideas to familiar ones.

In the movie business, if it is a truly new story, you often hear things like, “From the director of…” This helps connect the new idea with something we already know. Consider how you could describe the change in terms and experiences that are familiar. Is it similar to something else? Is it a mashup of concepts? Is it a new approach to an existing event?

3. Get brave early adopters to share about their experience.

Have you ever been unsure about a movie but then heard that a friend loved it? Word of mouth is the most valuable form of marketing because there is no one we trust more than our family and friends. Encourage those that take the risk to share their experience with others who didn’t come. Consider having them share in a service or record a video for your website or social media channels.

The Challenge: The change may not be for the people who are already there.

For Hollywood, there is very little incentive to try something new if they can keep the same people coming back and paying. The Church, on the other hand, exists for those who are not yet a part of it. The three points above are about facilitating change for current members, not avoiding it. But at the end of the day, some changes we are called to make may not be for the current group. What if the new project is truly that? A new thing that attracts new people!

After all, we are called to make disciples, not simply maintain them.

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