It’s a privilege to be paid in advance to write a feature film script about whatever you want.
I hunkered down and opened my laptop. Not sure how other writers feel, but for me, it’s daunting to stare at a blinking cursor on a blank screen. It’s like it mocks me. So I did what I always do when I start a script – I prayed.
“God, You created everything out of nothing. If You want this script to happen, I know You can do it.” I’d been praying for weeks, actually.
As a follower of Jesus I want my films to magnify Christ. I want Him to be the focal point. The key, however, is subtlety. You don’t want to limit your audience by having too much “Jesus talk,” and you certainly don’t want to offend. Keep the messaging indirect and understated.
Well, if that’s what you’re supposed to do I totally messed up.
Approaching “Selfie Dad,” I figured if everyone else zigs, I’ll zag! I would try to keep the “Jesus talk” organic to the story, but I wouldn’t hold back, either. I resolved to write from my heart and make the message clear and unapologetic – there really is hope.
And I didn’t want a general ‘find hope in God’ story, I wanted to be specific. I believe the primary and most reliable way God reveals Himself to mankind is through a book. God has given us an authoritative source of truth, blessing, victory, power and guidance – and I believe this is where sustainable happiness is found. I wanted the film to promote the B.I.B.L.E. Yes, that’s the book for me.
At the same time I wanted “Selfie Dad” to be a comedy.
I used to be a comic actually. In my early twenties I followed the long line of Jews before me and became a stand-up (think slightly less quirky Woody Allen). Comedy was everything to me. But at twenty-five (pardon my “Christianese”) my life was radically transformed by Jesus.
I dedicated myself to the study of Scripture and set out to become a youth pastor. Fast forward 20 years… I’m happily married with four kids and never went into full-time ministry. I’d worked in sales and management and even made a couple movies, but by my mid-forties, I was in a mid-life crisis.
Did I miss my calling? Why did I give up comedy? On impulse I did what any rational, washed up former comic would do… I started a YouTube page.
I cranked out videos, one went viral, and it hit me… maybe that should be the setting for “Selfie Dad.” A comedy about a dad in a mid-life crisis who tries to relive his past by starting a YouTube page… I started writing.
Trying to write a comedy that takes the Bible seriously was tougher than I thought. But I finished the script, the producer and distributor both liked it, so… we started making it.
To play the lead I wanted someone legitimately funny who genuinely believed in the message. I always pictured someone like me (short, dorky and Jewish) – but we hit the jackpot by landing longtime comedian Michael Jr. (who is tall, cool and Black).
Casting a tall, cool Black man for a role written for a Woody Allen type was already funny! We were on our way! But we had one major issue…
I write from my perspective… my pasty white skin perspective. I had written a scene in which the character gets pulled over and arrested by the police. Woody Allen getting pulled over and comically arguing with a cop was funny to me, but a Black man?
Before filming, Michael and I met just to talk through that scene. We spent hours sharing our thoughts and personal experiences. One thing was clear – there was absolutely no way we could shoot the scene as written.
We re-imagined the premise of the police encounter, and by the time we were done, Michael said, “Maybe this will bring some healing.” On the day we filmed it, Michael took our new premise, went 100 percent improv, and delivered something so hilarious – yet so honest. We completed the movie long before the George Floyd tragedy and simply never could have known how timely that scene would be upon the film’s release.
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) June 10, 2020
In “Selfie Dad” I set out to make a heartfelt family movie that reveres the Bible. While it has many laughs, we now prefer not to call it a “comedy” as it has so much drama. But in light of current events, I hope Michael was right – however small its effect – maybe it will bring some healing.
“God, You created everything out of nothing. If You want it to happen, I know You can do it.”
Brad Silverman is a former comedian turned filmmaker turned theologian. Selfie Dad is his third Christian feature film, following “No Greater Love” and “Grace Unplugged.” The latter won multiple faith film awards, including awards from Movieguide, Focus on the Family, and the Dove Foundation. Brad received Movieguide’s Epiphany Award, which is given to creators of the best wholesome, uplifting, and inspiring movies and TV programs.