Tracking the Christ Files - blog #1

Mark A. Hadley

Where did he go?

This is the question that is soon going to be popping up in the minds of those people who generate the dozens of emails and telephone messages I seem to have to deal with each day. The answer is, "Far enough away to not have to worry about that stuff for awhile."

I'm currently tapping away on my keyboard about ten kilometres above the earth's surface, somewhere over the Indian Ocean. The dull ache in my head tells me that I've already spent far too long folded into this seat like some origami version of myself. I try not to think about the eight hours behind me or the nine hours left to go. But the destination is not such a bad image to distract myself with"

I'm on my way to Cairo sandwiched between cameraman Mal on one side and sound recordist Andy on the other, where I'll be rendezvousing with our director, Allan and one of Christian Australia's favourite authors. A little over a year ago John Dickson published an analysis of the historical evidence for the life of Jesus called "The Christ Files'. By doing so he set in train a process that was going to consume the better part of twelve months of my own life.

It began as a fairly simple conversation in Allan's office.

"Have a read of this " tell me what you think," or words to that effect. He handed over a slim volume with a fairly unimpressive cover. But the contents were sublime. John had managed to cram an inordinate amount of information detailing the historical reliability of the Christian faith. But, more importantly, he'd managed to do so in a way that dove-tailed neatly with the questions beginning to emerge in the secular world about the foundations of the faith. He was scratching just as people were beginning to realise they had an itch. Conversations began, meetings were held and thanks to not a little enthusiasm on Al's part, I found myself in front of my laptop with the instructions to translate this literary gem to the small screen.

And six months later I'm on a plane to Cairo " the first stop in a discovery tour of ancient documents and aging professors that will see us cover eight countries in three shoots over the next five months. What is supposed to come out the other side is a documentary series that will justly deserve the term "definitive'.

I've been writing for television for (a quick tally on the fingers is necessary at this point) sixteen years now, and one thing I know is that "definitive' is not a word that sits well with this industry. Audience memories are short, formats are quickly recycled and story-lines that were "done' three years ago are regularly dragged from the vaults to serve new masters. How could a bunch of Christians hope to produce a historical documentary series that could answer the ultimate question, "How do we know what we know?' and have any hope of longevity in this ephemeral industry? The key is integrity. There are a few series that people use as the basis for comparison with others, and it is these ones that beat the television time-trap. They don't pull any "fast ones' or provide favourable settings for Professors who know how to support a pre-chosen conclusion. And most of all, they pay attention to the medium. They use television in a way that sharpens the experience rather than dulling the intellect.

That's what were setting out to produce. And for that, I'll need more sleep. But over the next few days I'm going to share not only the details of the work were undertaking but my thoughts on how we're meeting that goal. Hopefully the result will faithfully reflect the twin concerns of Jesus' own preaching: "My Father has told me what to say, and how to say it."

See you in Cairo.

Mark Hadley

Photos Andy Postle