Below is an interview with an up-and-coming actor who has had a lot experience in the culture of acting and speaks very wisely on some difficult topics in the Christian movie industry.
Tell Fishflix a little about yourself….
Hi! My name is Elan Nelson. I’m an 18 year old student at the University of Minnesota where I will be studying acting. I come from a family of four boys, two parents and my dog.
What is your history in acting?
My first show I was ever in was when I was about 6 years old at a theater camp called Stage Coach at Concordia University in Saint Paul. Ever since, I’ve been involved with various community theaters in the Twin Cities and a great number of plays through my high school drama department. In 2013, I auditioned for a talent organization called AMTC (Actors Models and Talent for Christ). Through my training and experience with AMTC, I’ve been able to try my hand at modeling, on-camera acting, and improv. I recently had the opportunity to act in my first on-camera role when I was involved in a short film that was shot in Chicago a few months ago called Black & Blue.
What are your future plans for acting?
After graduating, I plan to continue doing live theater here in the Twin Cities while expanding my on-camera experience. Who knows? Maybe Los Angeles or New York City are in my future. Only time will tell.
How has the Christian movie industry influenced or inspired you?
I grew up in a Christian home, so I’ve had many years of exposure to Christian movies. However, only very recently have I begun to see the effect these films have had on my faith as well as my growth as an actor. My own relationship with God has strengthened because of Christian films, whether it be VeggieTales or Passion of the Christ. Every movie, Christian or not, essentially asks the same question: What does it mean to be human? What I’ve learned to appreciate about the Christian movie industry is that, by and large, it is able to represent the human condition in a more complete way because it presents God as a key variable in the answer to this question.
What do you like/dislike about the Christian movies that you watch?
I always appreciate it when Christian movies don’t deal with faith or God like it’s a Sunday school lesson. If a movie is presented that way, it becomes very hard to reach an audience beyond those who actually did attend Sunday school; nobody is going to sit down for a two hour lecture at the movies. It is refreshing to see the Christian faith represented on screen in all of it’s complex, challenging and beautiful ways. Faith in Jesus is how Christians live their daily lives, and an accurate and moving portrayal of faith is something too often missing from Christian movies.
How do you feel you could reach others for Christ through your acting roles?
Entertainment is a huge industry. Breaking into that industry is hard enough for anyone, but it’s even harder for Christians. Christians are often viewed as religious and disapproving people and the media doesn’t give us much of a chance to break away from that stereotype. But even in the few roles I have had in Christian films, I know the amazing work that Christ can do through actors and through entertainment. I hope to be a messenger, sharing the gospel to people who have yet to hear it or accept it. It’s a big task, but I’m up for the challenge.
How do you feel Christian movies could reach others in a more effective way? What I mean is that it seems like the industry and its distribution of these movies are hard to get mainstream.
Christian movies will never be the norm in Hollywood, simply based on the nature of the business. For Christian movies to reach more people, I believe they need to stop advertising exclusively for the Christian audience. Not that it isn’t important for Christians to watch Christian movies, but most people don’t want to go to the movies to go to church. It’s up to Christian moviemakers to find a way to share the gospel to a group of people who don’t necessarily want to hear it. And that is tricky, no doubt about it.
Do you have any strategies as to how as an actor, you could have the work viewed by more people? Answer this how you feel you understand the question.
Being as respectful and open-minded as possible really makes a big difference. People don’t want to hear how they are wrong, and in the same way, Christian actors like myself should not pretend like we have all the answers, because we don’t! The way I see it, people are much more willing to accept your opinions and may reevaluate their own if you are respectful and courteous to them.
Thank you so much, Elan Nelson! Looking forward to seeing your talented work in the near and distant future!