Monday, August 30, 2010

Joking Around with Jesus

A pair of large hand-painted inscriptions in the windows of Jesus4Less, a brand new Christian bookstore located at 906 Broadway in Tacoma, WA, urge shoppers not to get crucified by high prices and remind them that 'Christ Died 4 Your Savings.' But despite the obvious sight-gag nature of these exhortations and the items on the shelves, a number of real walk-in customers have been reluctant to accept the idea that the retail space is a testament to cinematic artifice.

"One lady would not believe that the book titles she was looking at were fake," explains Aaron Flett, stand-up comic turned writer-director of Jesus4Less, the in-production comedy feature responsible for the store's blasphemous existence, during an interview with FilmStew. "We needed books we could zoom in on without getting sued by real authors, so I Photoshopped a bunch of fake ones with comedic titles like Christian Parenting for Cowards. The lady held up a copy of The Purpose Driven Wife and said, 'You're telling me that there isn't a book in here?' I told her there was, but I just didn't know which one."

Getting more than they bargained for

"I think some people are genuinely disappointed that a Christian bookstore is not actually opening in downtown Tacoma," he continues. "I have heard more than one person say, 'This is what this area needs.'"

Sean Anderson and Adam Boyd star as Aaron and Jeremy, a pair of twentysomething atheists working at Jesus4Less in the shadow of nearby big box giant Christ-Mart. Their parables involve an attractive co-worker, a midget, a baby Jesus and any number of other elements sure to offend fundamentalist moviegoers across the nation.

"If I don't offend fundamentalists, then I didn't do my job," insists Flett, whose feature film debut is allowing him to showcase the kind of religious humor that is difficult to pull off on a stand-up stage. "Seriously, how hard can that be? Much of the script touches on hot button issues like gay marriage, pornography and what actually motivates religious people. We also send up Mel Gibson, and our bad guy is Ted Haggard-esque."

The youthful Jesus4Less gang

Back in 2003, right around the time Gibson was putting the finishing touches on a shooting script for The Passion of the Christ, Flett sold his auto collision business to pursue a career in radio. After interviewing a number of stand-up comedians, he decided to give that line of work a try. His next round of professional dates is set for October, after filming of Jesus4Less is complete, at which point the 6'5" Washington State native will pick up where he left off using what he describes as a calm, but not monotone, "blue" delivery.

The Jesus4Less store location, formerly a business called Moroccan Treasures, was made possible by a grant from Tacoma Spaceworks, an innovative city program that solves the problem of vacant storefronts by putting them in the temporary hands of artists and filmmakers. Although Flett has briefly stopped and re-started filming from scratch several times, he says he has been proceeding full bore since August 20th and that he anticipates having spent about $8,000 when all is said and done.

"We were going to film the Christ-Mart scenes in front of an empty strip mall store," Flett reveals. "I think it was an FYE store. But I rewrote the script so that we don't ever see Christ-Mart, except for an extreme close-up of the mega store owner at his desk. We couldn't afford to build two fake Christian bookstores."

A Tacoma Spaceworks transformation

"Jesus4Less is pretty propped up," he enthuses. "I went undercover to multiple Christian bookstores and took pictures on my camera phone to see how to decorate the set. Then I went to a dollar store that was going out of business and bought a ton of religious knickknacks. Our stuff is mixed in with actual bibles and religious books, Reader's Digests painted to look like bibles and miscellaneous stuff that a local bookstore allows us to take from their recycling dumpster."

Flett very seriously claims to have been an atheist since the age of eight and cites as his stand-up role models Louis C.K., Dave Attell, Joe Rogan, Doug Stanhope and Sean Rouse. Although he is new the the indie film game, he says the Tacoma filmmaking community has given him a warm welcome and that he wishes to do them proud.

"I really hope Jesus4Less comes out looking somehow related to what I’m envisioning, and not like my worst nightmare," Flett muses. "I’d hate to give Tacoma a cinematic black eye."



  1. Ill Give you a Cinematic black eye! How dare you mock the Savior!

  2. haha, i love working on the set of this movie and taking set pictures, its fun and im learning alot, and meeting new people, the movie seems awesome as well

  3. I just want to go on record as saying this is the most laugh-out-loud funny script I've ever read.... And I am so psyched to be working on this project with you guys.

  4. Hi Billy: Any narrative that starts with the premise of two atheists in a Christian bookstore has the potential to be one of the Greatest (Comedic) Stories Ever Told...

  5. Hey,
    We're a local student newspaper in Tacoma, WA and we were wondering if we could have permission to use your image of the Jesus4less cast for our article on the film.
    Please email and let us know!

    Editors of Trail News
    University of Puget Sound

  6. Hi Trail News editors:

    I'm sure that would be fine, but just to be sure, I forwarded your comment to the director, Aaron Flett. Also, he may want to send you a better quality/larger original to work from. Look for his EM.