Through the gracious invitation of Legacy Media Relations, I was able to do press coverage for the 21st Annual MOVIEGUIDE® Awards held on Friday, February 15, 2013, at the Universal City Hilton in Universal City, California. This awards show celebrates the influence and effectiveness of faith-based, inspirational, and family-friendly movies and television, and gives awards according to the quality of content resident in these works.
Dr. Ted Baehr founded and published MOVIEGUIDE® in 1985, in response to the cultural and moral decay that was becoming evident in many of the film and television shows of that time. MOVIEGUIDE® provided an in-depth analyses of current movies from a biblical perspective, and delved into the moral statements and worldviews presented in a majority of modern-day programming. For the first time, people of faith, families, and morality-conscious individuals could have a resource on what to watch for in cinematic entertainment, and what movies or television programming were beneficial for families or younger viewers. MOVIEGUIDE® is still in print, and can also be found on the Internet, and via mobile applications.
Dr. Baehr also founded (and currently chairs) the Christian Film & Television Commission® (CFTVC), a non-profit organization dedicated to redeeming the values espoused in today’s entertainment, by influencing the entertainment industry and by informing and equipping the general public on the impact that mass media has on its audiences. The CFTVC is the only active liaison between studio executives and the general public for issues of family entertainment and faith.
But the desire of CFTVC was not just to lobby or raise issues with entertainment that does not meet the values on which CFTVC was founded, but to celebrate and support film and television that does reflect these values. Thus, the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards was birthed in 1991, with the primary aim of rewarding the best family-friendly works, and the best movies for mature audiences. It is the sole family-friendly awards show, basing its statuette and prizes on the content and substance of a cinematic work, and not just on its critical success or production value. CFTVC and other organizations, like the John Templeton Foundation, sponsor cash prizes of up to $100,000 for the most spiritually uplifting works.
From this modest start, and despite some opposition and criticism from the faith-based community, as well as the traditional media, the MOVIEGUIDE® and the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards continue to grow in recognition and influence, with reproductions and offshoots in other countries.
The 2013 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards was a sold-out affair, with 450-people in attendance. Because of Dr. Baehr's intermediary work through CFTVC, studio heads and executives see these awards as much a part of their focus and agenda as the other awards shows that make up the Hollywood season. The Red Carpet saw executives from Universal, the Game Show Network, and Twentieth Century Fox, along with writers, directors, and actors from across the spectrum. Many were presenters, some nominees, while others were simply there to celebrate an awards show that gave credence to the importance of family-friendly and inspirational work.
This year's gala was indeed a family affair, with father/daughter duo Joe and Gia Mantegna acting as hosts. Joe Mantegna is a principal on the television show Criminal Minds playing Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi, and Gia is also an actor. I had the opportunity to briefly interview Joe, and I asked why he chose to host this particular event: "It's about family entertainment, and I have a family,” he said. “So I can understand why that's important, and I'm grateful to the fact that family entertainment does so well every year; so it's not going away, and it shouldn't."
Indeed, such family-friendly and inspirational fare is showing a greater profit margin than other products on the silver screen and television; though more often than not, these works sometimes do not receive the same amount of critical acclaim.
Corbin Bernsen of L.A. Law fame, and Psych expressed his support for this Awards show, and concurred with the idea of family films being profitable. “I'm here in support of the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards and Dr. Ted Baehr. Everything he's done for 30 years trying to influence Hollywood with how this part of filmmaking, this part of story telling, can be not only good for people, but good for business."
According to the MOVIEGUIDE® website, in the 21 years since the awards’ inception, the production of family-friendly and inspirational fare has tripled, and the number of R-rated movies in the Top 25 Movies at the Box Office has declined from about 12 per year to only two or three each year.
Jerry Mathers, one of the show’s presenters, and the "Beaver" of the 1950s television show, Leave it to Beaver, was delighted to support the cause. "There's a lot of films that are out now that you wouldn't want to take your family to. So I think it is a very, very nice thing that these people who do these things for family get their awards."
However, the distinction of producing an awards show that emphasizes substance over flash was not lost on many of the celebrities in attendance, and was looked upon as something to be celebrated and applauded.
Rob Pinkston, actor, writer, and co-host of Elizabeth Stanton's Great Big World echoed this sentiment: "This is one of the awards shows that I find really special, because it has to do with the meaning behind films. I find that really important, because you can make the biggest, most expensive film, but if it means nothing to you, you've kind of wasted your time. As I have grown older as a filmmaker myself, I've really learned the value of how much your film can affect someone else, can teach someone else. I think it's really cool to appreciate the films that actually have those kind of meanings behind them."
Fresh off her head-turning roles as "Davina Lambreaux" on HBO’s Treme, and as "Rosie" in the Sundance-awarded movie Middle of Nowhere, actress Edwina Findley came to represent, and soak up the atmosphere of "this grand event! I'm very excited about that because a lot of times, people think, Oh Christians, we're not doing anything, on the fringes of society, but that's not true at all. We're in every echelon of society, and I think it's great that we're celebrating these accomplishments."
Sixteen-year-old Lou Wegner, most recently seen in Trouble with the Curve, felt the work of MOVIEGUIDE® has been a catalyst toward encouraging more family-friendly films. "Over the years you watch more and more really good family films out there that make people feel really good about themselves after they watch. It's not so much about the blowing up and the violence—which is still awesome! Don't get me wrong—I love that stuff. But, I've seen a lot of good movies out there that you just watch and you're just like, WOW—that's a really good message."
After 10 years on Extreme Makeover Home Edition helping other families build and restore their homes, Paige Hemmis (nominated for a Grace award) was thrilled to be able to attend. Extreme Makeover had ended production in 2012, so Paige was elated that she was now able to spend quality time with her own family. Paige was quick to emphasize the important role the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards plays in the entertainment industry. "All the reality shows now that really want the drama, and they want fighting, and they want a message that maybe isn't the best to be sending to our kids. The fact that these guys are here, and they are complementing those who do stand up and do what's right in the media. I think that's really cool.
"It takes a lot of courage and strength, and I'm glad to be a part of that."
Farshad Farahat, came to enjoy the celebration of filmmaking and the creative process. Farshad’s role in the Academy Award-nominated movie Argo is receiving critical acclaim, so he is riding the awards circuit. “It's incredible to be here with you guys, and to enjoy the nominees."
Farshad has ties to both Iran and America, so he desires to see the creative art of filmmaking bridge the divide between the two countries he calls home. "You aspire to do that. And you hope that from the mistakes of the past we can learn and not redo them. I believe that is what, to some extent, Argo did. By not politicizing, not taking sides, by showing the story and the truth, I hope we can all look back and say, ‘Hey, that was wrong, this is right,’ and learn from it and move forward. I aspire to this in all my works."
White Collar’s FBI Agent "Clinton Jones"—otherwise known as Sharif Atkins, brought the Red Carpet interviews, and the importance of the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards full circle. "[This is] a great opportunity to celebrate films that have a family-centered theme, or just underlying themes that are uplifting and encouraging. There are a lot of movies out there in the world, a lot of different awards shows that are honoring the creativity and the skill, and things of that nature. It's cool to have an awards show that just honors content."
As entertainment moves more firmly into the digital realm and reaches greater audiences than ever before, it is essential—even critical—that family focused, values-based works have just as much promotion and attention as other offerings. The MOVIEGUIDE® continues to offer that opportunity and choice: shining the light on inspirational and culturally redeeming works, to offset what is sometimes seen as cultural diminishment and decay.
The effectiveness of Dr. Baehr’s influence, and the growing distinction of the MOVIEGUIDE® Awards will guarantee that this trend continues.
Author's Update: The taped MOVIEGUIDE® Awards will be telecast Wednesday, March 6, 2013 on the Hallmark Channel. Check your local listings for station and times.