The miracle of 'Blue Like Jazz': what’s your story?

The miracle of 'Blue Like Jazz': what’s your story?

It’s one thing to dream up our ideas, and another to accomplish them. Like I wrote in my “motivation” post yesterday, it’s important to have a game plan, but how many of us are truly interested in making the story of our lives professional cinematic quality?

Last Friday, at an advance screening of Steve Taylor’s silver screen adaptation of Donald Miller’s best-selling autobiographical novel, “Blue Like Jazz,” Miller made the following comment: “Have you ever thought about what scenes are going to be showing when the credits roll at the end of the story of your life?”

And I was convicted – am I living every day the best that I can, in a way that would inspire the masses?

For Taylor, Miller and cinematic director Ben Pearson, life for the past few years has been a roller coaster ride of overcoming opposition from conservatives and conflict within the filmmaking community in an attempt to put the inspirational story of Miller’s life and faith out for the public in cinematic form. According to the team, the journey has been totally worth it, and it’s made a good story, as recorded in another Miller’s most recent novel, 2009’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

In short, the movie initially lacked sufficient funding to go forward with production. After Miller announced to his fans in a September 2010 blog post that the film had lost an investor and production wouldn’t be able to happen, a Kickstarter fundraiser was instigated online by fans and in only 10 days, $125,000 was raised, enough to re-start production of the film. By the time a month had passed, over $345,000 had been raised by 4,500 contributors, making Blue Like Jazz: the Movie the biggest crowd-sourced project in American history.

The leaders of the off-campus Bible study group I attended during my time at Wheaton, Quench College Group in Wheaton, Ill., contributed a significant donation to the production of the film on behalf of us students, and Quench's name now rolls in the credits (here we are as a group at the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in January 2011, a few months before the Blue Like Jazz donation). Praise God for my generous leaders, Eric and Dee Pierce, and the immense blessing it was to meet Miller at a private visit last fall in thanks for Eric and Dee's generous donation.

Quench Passion

Donald Miller quench

WHAT'S YOUR STORY?

During the first scene of the movie, the four elements of story were presented as the framework for the film: Setting, Conflict, Climax and Resolution. When the movie ended, I realized that these four guideposts are great ones to apply to our daily lives.

Everyone has a story, but it’s up to us what it looks and sounds like. What are our desires and settings, our conflicts and climaxes, our resolutions? If the camera turned on us, what would our thoughts, words and deeds have to say about who we are? Are we living out our faith and convictions authentically in freedom, or are we sitting on our butts, captive to complacency and fear?

Lucky for us, Jesus came to show us how we can all play a part in the greatest story ever told. If our lives were Kickstarter campaigns, the price has already been paid - Jesus gave his life at the cross to overcome the vices of sin and death that grip us so tightly, and thanks to the resurrection, we all have the opportunity to live life with reckless abandonment that comes with trust in Jesus – lives full of adventure and freedom and excitement every moment of every day.

SO, I encourage you to take part in a bit of self-analysis and apply the four elements of story to your own life. Thanks to the miracle of modern filmmaking, we all have capability to artistically express ourselves and our creativity on screen for millions of people to see - just look at Sophia Grace and Justin Bieber, lil' tykes who have benefited HUGELY from their tech-savvy mothers uploading videos from their living rooms!

So, what’s your story? Maybe it's a YouTube channel, maybe it's a perfect golf game...whatever it is, Jeremiah says that Jesus is rooting for you from the sidelines, and will be waiting with open arms at the finish line.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

-Jeremiah 29:11-

Marshall Allman Blue Like Jazz

With Marshall Allman, who plays Miller in the film

Blue Like Jazz screening

Talking with Donald Miller post-screening

Blue Like Jazz screening

With Director Steve Taylor post-screening

Blue Like Jazz screening

Post-screening Q&A talkback

BLUE LIKE JAZZ: THE MOVIE – THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF STORY

SETTING:

An advance screening of Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson’s screen adaptation of Donald Miller’s 2003 best-selling novel, “Blue Like Jazz.”  The film's promotional tour began March 13 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and is currently traveling across the country until the film opens in 25 cities nationwide on Friday, April 13.

CONFLICT:

The film is based loosely on Miller’s autobiographical account of his attempt and struggle to cling to Jesus during his time at Reed. The movie, somewhat altered and fictionalized from the print version for the silver screen, depicts Miller’s encounters with drinking, drugs, and secular academia during his college years, and some people would define these scenes as “non-Christian.” Director Steve Taylor wished to tackle these issues head-on, however, and justified the film’s “edgy” content in his pre-screening comments by candidly mentioning that there are plenty of biblical passages that he would “feel uncomfortable sharing with his family,” yet, are important themes within the canon of the biblical text.

When the lights went down in the theater, the audience was met with an honest and vulnerable film depicting the challenges of staying devoted to Jesus in the midst of moral conflict in secular college culture. In my and director Steve Taylor’s opinion, the film successfully eliminated all stereotypes of Christian media needing to be “family friendly” to get the gospel message across.

As Miller said in his post-screening comments, “If you avoid conflict, you can’t live a good story. We wanted the movie to be bold – not pulling Jesus out of it, but not pulling out the drunkenness either.”

CLIMAX:

In the film, after experiencing encounters with beer, whiskey, lies, put-downs, vandalism, racism and activism, Miller comes to realize his reckless actions, ignorance and careless comments have been hurting the people that mean the most to him in life. He discovers, through the encouragement of his friend, Penny, that the only things worth pursuing in life are being true to God and sharing the values of forgiveness and redemption with others. As Don says in the movie: “Sometimes you have to watch someone love something before you can love it yourself.”

RESOLUTION:

According to Miller, “Life is like jazz music: it never resolves.” In the film, conflict was temporarily resolved with a student “priest” in a makeshift confessional booth in the middle of “Renn Fayre,” Reed’s raging end-of-year campus-wide party when he apologizes to his atheistic classmate dressed satirical papal garb for not sharing the truth with him earlier.

Blue Like Jazz confessional

When the lights came up after the screening, Taylor and Miller said that the main messages they hoped the film would project to audiences were the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation and the fact that nobody is alone in their struggles in life.

So, don’t be alone – go check out the movie release on April 13! Before that, go check out the book, or Don Miller's blog - it might just change your life.

Blue Like Jazz poster

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    So excited that this movie actually got made! I got to be a small part of this film through the Kickstarter campaign as well, and I can't wait to see it when it comes out next month!

  • Got to see this last weekend and I was VERY impressed. I'm usually very skeptical of films that might be categorized as "Faith-Based" as the quality is usually dubious in all regards, but this was a SOLID, SOLID film and everybody needs to get out and see it on April 13th. Thanks for posting this and keeping it on my radar! Great collection of info about it and Miller too!

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