GCN Radio - November 23, 2004
Transcribed by Vombatus

To listen to this episode, visit http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio

[GCN Radio Intro]

BRIAN: Justin, this is just about the time of the year I go, “Where has the year gone?” It’s practically the end of November and holiday time is just around the corner…

JUSTIN: That it is…

BRIAN: …and I’m thankful I’m going to get a little time off and I’m going to visit my sister in the Washington/Baltimore area. But what kind of things do you have coming up as we head into the latter part of 2004?

JUSTIN: Oh, well, you know I have stuff going on every week, but I’ll tell you, I was just in a couple of malls this weekend, because I actually took the weekend off from work. And all the Christmas decorations are up. It’s not Thanksgiving yet, and all the Christmas decorations are up. I don’t know, I’m not quite ready for that…

BRIAN: You don’t have to put any up, now, until the 24th of December. You could just wait, that’s your prerogative.

JUSTIN: That’s true…

BRIAN: So, we have a really, really good show today, I know we want to get right to it.

JUSTIN: We do! We’ve got a great guest with us today. His name is Brian Dannelly, and he is the co-writer and director of the film, Saved! Brian, thanks for being with us today.

BRIAN DANNELLY: It’s my pleasure.

BRIAN: Brian, by way of starting off here, why don’t you explain for those who haven’t seen the movie what Saved! is about and how it came into being.

BRIAN DANNELLY: Well, Saved! is about a girl who has faith, loses faith, and finds faith again in sort of the most unexpected places. The story came about because I had gone to a Christian high school, and a Jewish summer camp and a Catholic elementary school. I was really interested in the subject matter, and also I kind of loved John Hughes movies, and I thought, what if you incorporated these elements in that kind of film, only make it a little bit more subversive and have things that you would never see in a John Hughes film, you know, or a contemporary teen comedy.

JUSTIN: It’s really a fascinating film. I really enjoyed it. It takes place in a Christian high school and it satirizes elements of the conservative Christian subculture. It’s become rather controversial with some of the Christian reviewers, I’ve noticed. I was reading a review today from a Christian movie review website and they rate it “Extremely Offensive.” Have you gotten a lot of controversy?

BRIAN DANNELLY: It’s been both. I mean, if you type my name, Saved!, and homosexual in on the Internet, there’s a site that basically says that our movie is bringing about Armageddon. [laughter] That’s particularly one of my favorite ones. And I had to debate Jerry Falwell, and I had to sort of debate someone else on the Today Show. So they were pretty harsh. What was weird was that the guy that I debated on the Today Show, after he was really hateful about the movie, when the interview was over he was like, “Actually, I kind of liked your movie, I laughed a lot.” So, that was sort of bizarre. But there’s also magazines like Relevant, I’ve gotten letters from evangelical pastors in Seattle who really embrace the film, and think that it should be shown in every youth group. So, it’s kind of been back and forth. I think when people find it offensive, it’s odd to me because it’s really a film about love and tolerance and people trying to understand who they are in relationship to God and their place in the world.

JUSTIN: Well, yeah, I mean, I found, for me at least, so many elements of the film in the way that—I mean, it’s very over the top, the way that you look at this Christian high school and these kids—but the thing that struck me the most, I think, is that I know these people. I grew up with these people. And there’s a scene where the pastor, Pastor Skip, they’re having this sort of rally and playing Christian music and he’s saying, “Are you down with G.O.D.?”

BRIAN: You know, I think I have a clip of that right here… we can listen to that. This is Pastor Skip and he is the principal of this Christian high school:

{“All right, all right. Let’s get our Christ on; let’s kick it Jesus-style! Y’all want to walk with the ultimate rebel, right, the ultimate CEO? The biggest celebrity of them all? Who’s down with G.O.D.?!” [cheers, chant begins, “Jesus Rules! Jesus Rules! Jesus Rules!”]}

JUSTIN: I think that what’s so funny about that is, you know, I watch that scene and I know that there are people that are going to say, “Oh, that’s just really unfair to make fun of Christians that way.” And I was thinking, that’s really not very over the top. Because I think I was at that rally at some point in my life. [laughs]

BRIAN DANNELLY: I can tell you that everything in the movie comes from either something I experienced, or something I witnessed, or something I researched. I don’t think I made anything up. I didn’t make up the speaking in tongues… I didn’t make up—I spoke to this Christian girl who told me that when her friends were speaking in tongues, the whole group is speaking in tongues, and sometimes they don’t feel it, so they say things like "untie my bow tie" or "I bought a hyundai," they have like these little code things so that they can feel like they fit in. So literally, even the Interior Christian Decorator was right from the phone books. I don’t think I made up anything.

BRIAN: Well, you do such a nice job of presenting these characters in an entertaining way, and I’d like to ask: Justin and I, of course, and you do too, come from a very Christian upbringing and we understand that this movie is supposed to be humorous and funny but a lot of people—as Justin was saying earlier—misunderstand it and don’t get that side of it. Why do you think this movie is so misunderstood?

BRIAN DANNELLY: It’s sort of misunderstood on both sides. I mean, I think that secular viewers wish that it had been more satirical. And I never thought of it as a satirical film, I thought of it as a subversive film. And then Christian viewers, many of them thought that it was too hard on Christians. But ultimately I think that there is that whole middle group that can find something that appeals to them from both ends. But there were those two extremes as well.

JUSTIN: Well, it’s a film that speaks very powerfully to people who are Christians and who love the church and certainly who are on fire for God, but who have been alienated and ostracized within the church.

BRIAN DANNELLY: Absolutely, absolutely…well, it’s funny because I’d go to Christian rock concerts, I went to this huge one in Anaheim, this huge revival, and there’s Christians outside protesting the Christians inside. So…

JUSTIN: Hmmm…. Well, there’s also a character in this film, at the very beginning who confesses to his girlfriend that he thinks he’s gay. His story is sort of a minor subplot in the overall context of the film, but he ends up going to this place called Mercy House.

*door opens*
Girl: “Hey, is Dean ready?”
Father: “I, um… I found this under Dean’s bed last night.”
Mother: “He’s on his way to Mercy House this morning, he could be gone a long time, we thought you should know.”
Girl: “But….?”
Father: “I’m so sorry.”}

JUSTIN: Was there an inspiration in people that you knew or things that you research for that…

BRIAN DANNELLY: There was. I remember there was this one guy who was gay, and he went away, and came back, and would invite us over to his apartment. And it was the weirdest thing, because he would sing all of these kind of girlie Christian songs with a Mr. Mic for us. And I remember thinking, “This is really weird, and I’m not sure if it worked.” So, that was kind of inspiring. And I was this gay kid in a Christian school, so I certainly had those experiences. I didn’t get anyone pregnant, but, you know…

BRIAN: Well, it’s great that you have this character, Dean, this gay character, but you’ve got some other great characters. Mandy Moore plays Hilary Faye, Jena Malone plays Mary, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri, Mary-Louise Parker, an all-star cast, and they all play great characters, including Macaulay Culkin playing someone in a wheelchair. That impresses me that you would have such a diverse cast and include someone with a disability.

BRIAN DANNELLY: Yeah, that was really important to me. I mean, I think all of the characters sort of had disabilities, so to speak, but it seemed right for the story. Mac and I talked a lot about that character; he actually spent two months working with the wheelchair and he met a kid on the set who kind of guided him through how he moved in the chair and also even Eva and Mac sort of worked out how she would relate to him in the chair…

{“When you left yesterday, I was stuck on my own. I was okay.”
“So, I realized that I might just be relying on you, the same way I was relying on Hilary Faye. I don’t want to be the guy who’s with the girl because he needs her; I want to be the guy who’s with the girl because he wants her… and I want you.”}

BRIAN DANNELLY: I mean, I’m all for diversity. In fact, I have three other films coming out, or other scripts that I’m writing that I’m directing, and I always look for someone, for a character that you don’t see on film all the time, that there are people out there who are just like anyone else. I think it’s really important. There are a lot of people who don’t have their voices heard, especially in Hollywood.

JUSTIN: I was listening to your commentary on the DVD of Saved! We should mention your co-author of the film, Michael Urban. I’m not sure which one of you said this, but I think it was you, that said that you wanted to make a film that “affirmed faith.” Do you think that message is getting across in the film?

BRIAN DANNELLY: I think the journey is really clear. Her faith is affirmed. She says it when she’s in the room, that there had to be a God, something out there or something inside you just had to feel. The next turn in her journey starts right there, where she’s traveling down the same road, just with a different understanding. When Dean says, “I know in my heart that Jesus still loves me,” I think his journey of faith is ongoing.

JUSTIN: Yeah, somebody mentioned on the commentary that that was one of the most controversial scenes in the movie for a gay kid to say that Jesus still loves him.

BRIAN DANNELLY: Yeah, we got a lot of flak for that line.

JUSTIN: That’s obviously something that resonates very deeply with a lot of our listeners.

BRIAN DANNELLY: I think it’s really awesome.

JUSTIN: And that’s something that so many of us struggle with, really, to find that love, because unfortunately the conservative or fundamentalist Christian community is not providing it. And I think the Church as a whole is often failing to provide that. But hopefully things are changing.

BRIAN: Justin, I know we’ve talked and you’ve commented to me about how much you admired all of the symbolism and imagery in the film.

JUSTIN: There are a lot of great images in the film, especially, I have to say (and I’m sure I’ll take flak for this) but I rather appreciated the giant Jesus. We could probably have a whole conversation about just that image.

BRIAN DANNELLY: Well, the whole idea behind that was that in the beginning of the film you have these two characters, Mary and Hilary Faye that construct their idea of who Jesus is. And at the end, Hilary Faye literally tears it down and they have to build it again. The idea is that they have to rebuild their idea of who they think this is. So, sort of a stand-in for that idea.

JUSTIN: Yes. And I have to tell you that my personal favorite moment is Hilary Faye throwing the Bible.

BRIAN DANNELLY: [laughs] Yeah…

{Hilary: “Mary, turn away from Satan. Jesus: he loves you!”
Mary: “You don’t know the first thing about love.”
Hilary: “I am filled with Christ’s love!” [thud]
Mary: “God!”
Hilary: “You are just jealous of my success in the Lord.”
Mary: “This is not a weapon, you idiot!}

BRIAN DANNELLY: Yeah, I love that scene. That was also a really fun scene to shoot. It was the perfect afternoon and everybody was really into it, and it was just kind of great. And Mandy was so …I mean I love her so much, she’s like one of my favorite people in the world.

JUSTIN: She’s great in this film, she really is.

BRIAN: Well, we’re coming to the end of our show but we’d like to ask if there’s anything that you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about so far.

BRIAN DANNELLY: Yeah, I’d really encourage people to go see an off-Broadway called Bare in New York. I saw it two years ago in Los Angeles. It’s about this kid who’s gay in a Catholic high school and sort of how all of these characters deal with it. Plus, it has the best music of any musical I’ve ever seen. I know they’re struggling right now. I think that you guys can get the Bare web site and put that online, but just encourage people to get this up on its legs, because I think it was just fantastic.

JUSTIN: Yeah, I haven’t gotten a chance to see Bare yet, but I’ve heard it’s good…

BRIAN DANNELLY: You can download the music and it’s really great.

JUSTIN: The music is really good and also some of the questions that the characters ask are just excellent questions. And you know, with productions like Bare and movies like Saved!, it is so good to see the struggles of gay Christians represented in the mainstream.

BRIAN: We’re breaking the silence.

JUSTIN: We are, because certainly gay people have been portrayed before on Broadway and in movies and so on, but hardly ever do you see their faith being dealt with.

BRIAN DANNELLY: Well I think that as gay Christians, it really opens the door for all for the other people that don’t fit into a certain specification that the fundamentalist community demands. I think it’s really interesting that this is the one sort of card that is really hard for them to get around, because who can say you’re not a Christian if you’re gay? It’s such personal experience and a personal relationship with who your God is. I think it’s not only good for gay people, it’s good for everyone who doesn’t fit into that community.

JUSTIN: Absolutely. Well, thank you again, Brian, for just a fantastic film. I very much enjoyed it, and thank you again for being on the show today. We really appreciate your taking the time to talk to us. And again, I’ll encourage everyone out there to go see Saved! or rent it or however you can get your hands on it.

BRIAN DANNELLY: Thanks for doing the work you do.

JUSTIN: Oh, thank you… we appreciate that.

BRIAN: And again, thank you, Brian Dannelly, the director of the movie, Saved!, and this brings us to the conclusion of another GCN Radio. As always you can reach us on the Internet via e-mail at gcnradio@gaychristian.net. And you can also visit our website and download any episodes past, present and everywhere in between at www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio.

JUSTIN: And so until next time, I’m Justin…

BRIAN: …and I’m Brian. We’ll talk to you later.