"The Ledge" Director Matthew Chapman Calls On Atheists; Is He Preaching To The Choir?

The thriller, out today, borrows a page from Bible-toting film supporters to market a movie with a godless message.

The Ledge

When it comes to promoting his new thriller to an atheist audience, writer/director Matthew Chapman isn’t waiting on a miracle.

The "long-time atheist and pro-science activist" does has faith that an underserved audience, atheists, will support The Ledge, out today from IFC Films, the same way believers support the Christian film industry. Even though he was never as dogmatic in his marketing.

"IFC was neither for nor against marketing The Ledge as the work of an atheist," Chapman tells Fast Company via email. "I think they believed, rightly, that you can see the film as a flat-out thriller which just happens to be propelled by an argument between an atheist and a believer, or you can see the argument as central."

The Ledge is about an atheist named Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) who is about to commit suicide because of a dispute with Joe (Patrick Wilson), a Christian. At the middle of it all is Shana (Liv Tyler) and a policeman named Hollis (Terrence Howard), who is trying to get to the bottom of the matter before it's too late. With grave matters of life and death and morals clearly at play, you might forget this is a pro-atheism film. Christians don't have the exclusive on those matters, Chapman argues with the film. But that's admittedly a hard sell for some audiences. Exhibit A: the film adaptation of the first book in Philip Pullman's famous His Dark Materials series, The Golden Compass. It incited protests and some buzz, in part, because of roles played by Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and Sir Ian McKellen. But it was a domestic flop.

Even outside of the grassroots Christian filmmaking world, studios are taking on movies with varying levels of overt religious themes, from The Blind Side to Soul Surfer. Frequently, these movies are marketed to churches, with suggestions for sermons and talking points for later. One marketing firm, Grace Hill Media, specializes in targeting the religious audience, going as far as to provide a half-dozen clips from The Blind Side, paired with "sermon outlines," to 22,000 megachurches, where the films would be shown on huge screens, according to The Daily Beast.

There's no similar organization for atheists. So Chapman turned to the Internet to spread the message about his movie. "I made it clear to IFC that I was happy with the way they were marketing The Ledge—as a somewhat provocative thriller—but that I believed I had a unique access and expertise that they lacked."

Chapman's site urges people to see The Ledge in NYC or Los Angeles at the "test run" theaters, either alone or in groups. It's also available on demand and through iTunes or Sundance Now. It encourages viewers to get involved through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and even encourages bloggers to "create a controversy!" with suggested topic ideas.

Whether or not these strategies will help the film gain traction is another matter altogether. "I have worked hard to reach out to non-believers, agnostics, and people questioning the concept of faith, but there's no reason why a believer or someone who doesn't think a lot about religion should not enjoy the film just as a thriller," Chapman says.

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3 Comments

  • Sam Duck

    I would also have to disagree with the atheists having no organization, per say, they have much format in the area of film making, television etc.., as there have always been comments, especially from the comedic side, to support their point of view quite well. As far as having a 'church' of atheists, the satanists have theirs, so if they do not have groups that get together to congratulate each other on not believing in God, that might be difficult, what would they discuss, that is not worn out by science so-called? A challenge for such 'clubbery' might be to come together and discuss those items in television and movies that do support their point of view, but you do know that as soon as they form clubberies, they will then be called the religion of atheism, just like the agnostics of Paul's time found in Acts 17:
    "For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."
    Of course, they could discuss what the Christian community has agreed is the greatest work outside that of the Bible, and that being the works of CS Lewis, especially, Mere Christianity, to debunk it.
    They, the agnostics, even made capitalized lettering for their unknown 'deity'. While the atheists have not a club, or at least at this moment, I cannot name one, they do have a voice and a format, why would they want to be 'like' their arch-enemy, the 'church'? This is like that of the 'gay lifestyle' wanting marriage, to be like the ones they hate, the true church, who will not perform marriage for them, now the fake church will marry them all day long, and even take joy and pride in doing so, however, the 'true' church, the one that really matters will never marry what they consider to read in Romans 1 an authorizations to perform such a wedding. This would make no sense for either case.

    To the editor: I really like the way you have this paragraph area enlarge as the typists does, this is now absent in so many other venues like that of yahoo and blogger. Kudos.

  • Sam Duck

    Postee Notee: Atheists with organization is what I would
    call a 'religion', but two mistakes were made in the article, somewhat, that is.
    While it is true Christians are 'believer's' which the article points out, they
    are 'only' believer's by 'faith'. This is not the case, however, as pointed out
    by the article in the line, "The "long-time atheist and pro-science activist"
    does has faith that an underserved audience, atheists,". If indeed, the
    writer/director Matthew Chapman is an 'atheist', he is not such by faith, but by
    'belief'' as the definition for 'faith' is a substance which comes from God, all
    men have believed or belief, but only the Christian community can lay true claim
    to 'faith', a sticking point perhaps, and maybe mute to others, however, it is
    misunderstood terminology that leads to misbelief by agnostics and atheists,
    which has, unfortunately, been miscommunicated by the 'church' and
    ministers.The biggee, among those proclaimed to be atheists, would have to
    be that of Dr. Stephen Hawking, whom I respect greatly, and admire his
    perserverance in tragedy. In his most recent work, he has declared that mass was
    created by the 'law' of mass, which I found very disappointing by such a sharp
    mind, this is no different than the claim (rightfully so) of the Christian
    stating that God spoke all things into being. Dr. Hawking has come to the end of
    his research venue by stating that we can hold out for science to reveal more
    about the truth of creation/big bang in time. Time, however, has become elusive
    for Dr. Hawking and his religious devotees, as 'time' was Created for
    man/womankind, in other words, we are in a place which some call a 'dimension'
    but I refer to simply as a measured unit, which we call time. Now this may seem
    'tupid' to the casual observer and mocker, but where God is, there exists NO
    time, God is absent of time. There is no stop or go, today or tonight, there is
    only God and whatever God has or chooses to Create. Consider the dilema for Mr.
    Chapman and others like unto himself, by looking at the case of Bhuddah,
    Bhuddah created Bhuddah created Bhuddah, ad infinitum, or use in other religious
    view of creation and you have the same effect. This is not the case for God,
    just as in the Bhuddah case for his being-there must had been one Bhuddah that
    created all, so trash the Bhuddah concept and there is God, and God exists
    outside of what we call time, but He, God Created time for us. And how in the
    Creation view did 'time' begin, it began with the first sin as sin has a formula
    that leads to death, 'eyes or vision-lust-sin-death' so what we see as 'death'
    is in actuality called 'time', and time regulates humanity worldwide. It was not
    or is not a chess game, but was a predetermined matter to bring forth in God's
    Creation of man/womankind something called 'Love', a greater love, not one for
    another in humanity, although it does, but a greater love of the human to his
    Creator, which love is given by the Creator Himself. Can any have this love,
    while debated in the lab called theology, it remains true what God stated to
    Cain, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not
    well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt
    rule over him.".There remained in Cain a problem, the same as that of
    man/woman today, we want to do well, persay, but that is for our own
    self-respect or gain, so we must have an outside source to accomplish such not
    based upon our pride, and the ONLY way to do well, is to receive Christ as our
    Savior. Now the real question today, is the same as it was for Cain, why do we
    not want to receive Christ as our Savior, why is that so hard? Some say they do
    not want to become robots, but this is a lie, for if God had placed within Cain
    the ability to 'behave' correctly, if you will, then that would have become
    robotic. For more understanding, read, CS Lewis Mere Christianity, or read the
    book of John and Romans, but first ask God to give you understanding like that
    of James chapter one. Sorry for the lengthy overture.

  • Tim

    I think the title encapsulates this film (based on viewing the trailer) very well.  I am a Christian, but I think this article brings up a good point about atheists not having a single 'voice' with which to question things.  Just like the antagonist in this film, I believe that some Christian organizations can become tyrannical and 'un-Christ-like' when they feel like they are in a powerful situation.  Of course, an atheist organization could fall to the same fate, but having two opposing organizations establishes some balance (hopefully not a hateful one).

    When looking this trailer, I actually see 3 antagonists and 1 protagonist.  The male-lover should have lived his life and used discretion and wisdom.  He should have been a 'man' for this woman instead of seducing her into a horrible situation.  The wife should have either divorced her husband for abuse or not have married him (making a vow is a big deal, and it means something).  The husband is NOT a Christ-like character and does not know the meaning of loving others as he loves himself.  His faith is a shield for his own selfishness.  Guilty or not, the wife is a victim.  The lover is a victim of his own emotions, and as a man who wants to protect women, this makes me mad.  No one in this film, except the police officer, seems to act on wisdom to make the world a better place.  If you're familiar with the concept of a 'red herring' and you're going to this movie because of it's 'theist' connotations, you may want to bring a large net and a gallon of miracle whip.