Ralph Winter was in his office, on the phone, battling through the final stages of the head cold that’s been going around this season.
“It’s probably the same one,” Winter sniffed.
Readers could be excused for not knowing who Winter is. Producers of Hollywood films are, by and large, an anonymous bunch to the public.
But Winter’s list of films would grab anyone’s attention: “Star Trek” III-VI, “X-Men” I-III, “Fantastic Four” I and II, etc.
In genre films, Winter has been a major player for more than 20 years. What many fans of those films may not know is, Winter is a devout Christian.
[UPDATE: Ralph Winter speaks with Indiana Public Radio during his visit to Anderson University. Winter discusses, among other topics, the relationship between Hollywood and the church. Click hear to listen to the interview.]
Though he has maintained a long-standing connection to Indianapolis’ Heartland Film Festival, Winter had no ties to the Hoosier state until he became friends with fellow filmmaker Cory Edwards, an Anderson University alum who with brother Todd created the 2005 animated comedy “Hoodwinked.”
“Cory contacted me and said that the school was looking for someone to speak,” said Winter, 57, a native of Pasadena, Calif. “Hopefully, I won’t completely irritate them.”
Winter said he plans to talk on the meanings found in movies, meanings that many audiences don’t even pick up on.
“There’s a difference between Sundance (independent) movies and studio movies,” Winter said.
“Sundance movies are really about discomforting you, and studio movies are about comforting you. I find an interesting correlation there.”
Winter compared indie filmmakers to Old Testament prophets.
“They’re more than willing to set their hair on fire and run around naked to get attention about different issues and different truths of life,” he said.
“I think there’s a buried road map in every movie, as to why it has meaning and why it has value. When you understand that buried road map, you can understand why movies are emotional, why they make sense.”
Winter also said his interests were mostly with films whose messages might appeal to a Christian audience, as opposed to movies made specifically for that Christian audience.
Winter said his faith came first, when he was a boy in Pasadena. He headed off to college intending to be a history professor, or even to go to seminary. A job creating industrial videos sparked a love for film.
“That just took me off in a new direction,” Winter said.
Winter lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Judy. They have a married daughter who lives nearby and a married son living in Columbus, Ohio, while his wife pursues a Ph.D. at Ohio State University.
His plate is full these days with mainstream Hollywood films, like “Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein” and “In My Sleep,” as well as films closer to his faith, like adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” and Flannery O’Connor’s “The Violent Bear It Away.”
In the balancing act between Christianity and Hollywood, Winter says, he renders unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.
“I don’t lead with my faith,” he said. “That’s not the issue for me. The issue is about doing great work, making entertainment, telling great stories that ask good questions.
“Also, I don’t think it’s any different in Hollywood to be a Christian than it is to be an investment banker on Wall Street. I don’t think it’s much different. I think we all face the same struggles.”
As far as where his priorities lie, Winter is clear. “It could all go away tomorrow,” he said. ”And I’m always aware of that.”
—Rodney Richey is a feature writer for The Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.
If you go ...
What: Talk by Hollywood film producer Ralph Winter (“Star Trek,” “X-Men”), part of Anderson University “Vision-ReVision” series
When: 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 30
Where: Chapel at Reardon Auditorium, Anderson University
Info: (765) 641-4203, anderson.edu
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.