hollywoodconnect.com, a web-based ministry that provides resources and information about where to find housing, job opportunities, classes, workshops and how to navigate around the Los Angeles area.
After nearly a year in development, hollywoodconnect.com has revealed its revamped and redesigned website. If you have used the old website, you will find this one easier to use, more interactive and far more engaging. There is more media now available to browse through. And you now have three options. You can watch video clips, read articles or listen to audio files. There are several interview clips with working Christian professionals who discuss the ins and outs of working in the entertainment industry. I’m sure there will be more clips added in the future.
The new redesigned site also offers a timeline approach on how web material is organized. It’s broken down by three sections: your arrival in Los Angeles, how you survive in the industry as a Christian, and a section that tells you how to thrive in the industry. As always, there’s an abundance of resources on this site that deal with Christian community, spirituality, and ministries that serve the needs of Christians in the industry.
hollywoodconnect.com provides newcomers to the industry with what they call their Navigation Sessions. These are usually hosted by industry insiders and take place at Hollywood Presbyterian Church on Saturday mornings.
Bottom line: If you are thinking about pursuing a career in television or film, this website is a must. Even if you are in high school or film school, begin now to learn from the material they offer. There is no better place on the web that will provide you with practical information about the mechanics of living and functioning in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. But, more importantly, they provide information about fellowship opportunities and spiritual connections that are essential to your growth as a media missionary working in the film or television business.
Obviously, hollywoodconnect.com cannot answer all of your questions or provide you with every resource you need, but it is definitely the best starting place you will currently find. My advice is to start using the website on a weekly basis even if you are not planning to go to Los Angeles in the foreseeable future.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Hey, I love technology. But it seems as if technology has had the opposite effect. So many of us are just trying to figure out how to use it while others use it so much they have no time for anything else. We really don’t have the time to think about the important things in life. When is the last time that you contemplated, defined or gave thought or direction to what your purpose or vision is for your life? Those type of thoughts take time. It requires us to slow down and be attentive to the moment. That’s something that’s not occurring in today’s media culture.
I’m not telling you shouldn’t watch a television program or movie. The media culture is much more complex. Our mass media has now reached a point where it creates and defines culture. And by doing so, it has the capability of distracting and filling our time with the things that often are not important in life.
Maybe it’s time we get off the treadmill. Slow down and start thinking about our lives and what’s really important. Cut some hours. Learn to live with less and enjoy life. It’s just a thought.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The other day, I was thinking about this in the context of how much the media has changed since the time when I was growing up in the 1960s. I was on Facebook, and it occurred to me that I could communicate to anyone on the face of the earth. I could upload my photos and videos and share them with the known universe. That’s enormous power that everyone of us now possess. That was unthinkable in 1975 when I graduated from high school. Hopefully, this won’t make me sound like a dinosaur. But we had no cable television, internet, VCR or DVD player. All we had were four or five television stations. Seems rather primitive.
My have the times changed. Today we live in a world of mass communication on a level hardly imaginable. Media images are everywhere streaming at us on multiple levels. I have so many channels on DirectTV, I don’t even know what I have. Even the other day, President Obama actually used the words that we live in a media culture. So what does all of this mean to you and me?
Second, now that we are capable of creating our own media and sharing it with the whole world, thanks to UTube. What are we saying to each other, and what is our message? Do we have anything meaningful to share with the world?
Third, how is living in a media culture impacting you and me? It’s something to think about. It has to have some type of impact, doesn’t it? Have you really given it any thought?
Fourth, what is the message being communicated from all of this media we are consuming today? Makes you wonder what you believe and why you believe it.
And finally, what should my response be to today’s media culture? Should I accept it or reject it? Do I have a responsibility to think for myself and not be told what to think? If you are going think for ourselves, that means we are going to take responsibility for what we see and hear. All I am asking is for you to think about it.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
First of all, I am not writing this article to suggest that gay and lesbians do not have the right to be on cable and network television. I believe in freedom of speech as much as the next guy. Everybody has the right in this country to get their message out even if you and I don’t agree with it.
Not only does GLAAD study how much gay and lesbian characters are represented on television, but they also assist in supporting future filmmakers at prominent film schools. It would appear that their investment is paying off. Not only do they support gay and lesbian filmmakers but any filmmaker that will accept their support. This offer comes with no strings attached. But it is a subtle way to buy future influence.
Here’s what surprised me. On cable television, ABC Family had 37% of its content reflecting gay and lesbian characters compared to only 26% over at HBO. Again, the point here is not to say that GLAAD doesn’t have the right to promote their cause or wheel whatever influence they can exert on broadcast and cable television networks. Obviously, they have been very successful at accomplishing their goals.
We as the Body of Christ could learn a thing or two from them. Here’s the bottom line, GLAAD fully understands the importance of portraying gay and lesbian characters on television. Whoever controls the media controls the culture. And GLAAD is fully committed to having a piece of the action. If your message isn’t on television or the media it’s obviously not relevant.
Let’s take a page out of GLAAD’s playbook. It’s obviously working
Monday, July 26, 2010
First is church media. Anyone who makes media specifically to be used in church would be a media missionary. Many large churches today employ fulltime media directors who create videos which are often used in worship services and later repackaged either for internet or television broadcast. Some parachurch organizations, for example, City on the Hill, in Louisville, Kentucky, create media that’s used in small group studies.
The third area that most Christians would agree upon as the work of the media missionary is family-friendly programming. Media that reflects morals and values and speak to the family are considered to be safe territory. Perhaps those in this type of work may not be able to preach a blatantly Christian message but are often capable of presenting some Biblical concepts.
But I want to add a fourth area that most Christians have not considered. Can the media missionary be someone who creates commercially-viable products for a mainstream audience? In other words, can we go to Hollywood and make movies and television programs for Christ? Is that possible? For most Christians, this is usually the time that they want off the boat. This concept is just too crazy. How could this fit into our theology? After all isn’t Hollywood the devil’s playground?
We often say here at Media Missionary School that the work of the media missionary is speaking of Jesus the least but having him most in mind. That’s not the easiest road to follow, but I’m convinced that in the end it is the most effective.
Friday, July 23, 2010
For the last two months, I have been in a holding pattern waiting for God. This is always a difficult place to be. God always requires our patience as well as our obedience to his will. So I am waiting to get the book published. I know God is moving and doing things I cannot see. Perhaps, someone I do not know in a distant city will be moved by the Holy Spirit to release the resources needed to publish this book. So I will continue to hold steadfast and wait for God to move.
In some ways this is also a very difficult time for me. July 24th was my last day at the ministry that I founded back in 1987. It is a bittersweet moment. I am thrilled to be doing what God has called me to do. I have an enormous passion for the work of Flannelgraph Ministries and Media Missionary School. And I am convinced that if I was still at my old ministry, I would not have written this book. But it is also difficult to no longer be at a ministry that came out of the vision God had planted in my heart back in the 1980s. In some ways, it is as if I was never there. That’s difficult to accept even in the best of circumstances. In life, people change and ministries also can evolve and change over time.
So what has God taught me over this past year? These experiences are not unusual. We all face them at some time. They can either make us stronger or destroy us. God has revealed three important things that have helped me get through these challenging times.
(1) We will all face some type of challenge in our lives, whether we lose a job, a ministry or a business, it’s bound to happen. It’s how we handle these situations that will define our character and our relationship to God. In fact, how can we grow spiritually without trials and tribulations?. The Bible makes it clear that we are not to remain static. We are challenged to grow into the fullness of Christ’s grace and image. That can’t happen without a few bumps in the road.
(2) You have to believe in yourself and what God has called you to do. When you start doubting yourself or what God is saying to you, then you’re in trouble. In the past year, God has reignited my passion for his calling. He has put people in my life who believe in the vision God has given me. I can’t tell you how important that is. Doubt will destroy you.
3) You must be willing to forgive even if the people don’t believe they need to be forgiven. The point is, it’s not for their welfare, it’s for yours. Unforgiveness only hurts you not the person that you believe has wronged you. Here’s something I learned a long time ago but is difficult to put into practice. You must make a decision every day to forgive, and it cannot be based on your emotions. Forgiveness must be a decision. Don’t trust your emotions. They are usually the last thing that lines up. So make the decision to forgive and move on.
The bottom line is I am in a much better spiritual place today than a year ago. And for that I am grateful. I welcome God in my life and what he is doing. So I will continue the journey out on the old road where I know God resides.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Do you remember the truth? I’m not sure either network really cares about the truth other than to promote its own agenda. Fair and balanced? You’ve got to be kidding me. Whether the news is from the right or the left or Democrat or Republican, it is now all about spin. I’m not saying that everything on these networks is necessarily unfair. But it seems to be the general direction each is headed. It’s just part of our culture and a reflection of the media culture that we live in.
Would you really watch if you didn’t have people yelling at each other? I realize that conflict drives story. But we are talking about things that impact the future of our nation and the welfare of our children and grandchildren. This is important stuff. It’s so frustrating to see people get criticized who want to sit down and have an actual dialogue or discussion. Compromise had become a dirty word. The news networks seem to be interested only in demonizing the opposition.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
So how do you prepare now and learn about the system? First, you need some training. Whether that’s film school or some type of film academy, it’s essential that you get some professional, competent training. I suggest further that you get some practical work experience in your home town. If you want to direct, start directing now. If you want to produce, start producing now. If you want to be a cinematographer start doing it now. Odds are you will have to put in a lot of hours with little or no pay to learn the business. Eventually, if you are serious about learning the system and working in the industry, you will have to go to Los Angeles. That’s what everyone inside the industry has told me if you want to work full-time in the business. Contrary to what other’s may tell you, the industry still takes place in Los Angeles.
Hollywoodconnect.com. They provide good intelligence and resources about job prospects, where to live, support groups, and further training in Hollywood. They also conduct quarterly orientation sessions for newcomers to the industry. This is a great opportunity for you to connect with working professionals in the industry. They suggest that before you think about coming to Los Angeles to live and work, you first should plan a vision tour. In other words, go out to Los Angeles for a week, attend the orientation session and meet some people. I recommend that you meet with several of the ministry leaders which you will find on the Hollywood Connect website. I am convinced that within a week you will have more than enough information to decide if you have been called to Hollywood. You will also have a better understanding of how the system works.
Second is through the internship program. If you are in the right school or program with the right connections, you can very well be at the front of the class. It takes about three internships to get your first real job in the industry. The Los Angeles Film Study Center has over a 70% placement of its graduates within the industry. They are obviously connected. They have a relationship with practically every major studio and production company in Los Angeles. Before you decide which program or college to enroll in, take a hard look at the internship program and the connections that your school or program offers.
Not everybody who works in Hollywood or the entertainment industry fits conveniently into the above categories. You’ll find that many people have a somewhat unconventional story on how they broke into the business. One example is Ralph Winter, a well-known producer for films such as Star Trek, X-men and Wolverine. Winter did not go to college to pursue a career in film. He has a degree in history. Winter worked for a department store producing educational and training videos. With that type of background, it would seem that he would be an unlikely candidate to become a major Hollywood producer. So how did he do it?
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
First of all, there is no one-stop place that can tell you how the system works or how the entertainment system functions. But, thanks to the internet, blogs and social networking, there is an abundance of information available. It just means that you might have to dig in order to find useful information that’s applicable to your situation. Here are five things that I have learned about the entertainment industry and Hollywood throughout the last few years.
First, Hollywood and filmmaking are businesses. Second, Hollywood is about marketing. Third, first make the film then make the deal. Fourth, you have to start at the bottom. Fifth, talent is not a guarantee of success.
Let’s start with filmmaking is a business. I’m sure this is not a revolutionary concept to most of you. That’s why they call it show business. There’s no show without the business. To understand the system is to understand how movies are made, financed and distributed. One of the best resources I have found for practical information is a book written by Dov S-S Simens, From Reel to Deal. Simens’ book is worth its weight in gold. It’s primarily written for anybody who is interested in learning what it takes to create a successful independent film. You won’t find a lot of creative, artistic or cinematic concepts in this book, but you will a find common sense approach to filmmaking. Simens is a Hollywood insider who understands how the system works.
Second, Hollywood is about marketing. For every dollar Hollywood spends on producing a movie, they will spend 51 to 57 cents to market the film. What that should tell you is that a significant amount of the people who work in the entertainment industry do not make movies, but they are involved in the business and marketing side of filmmaking and media making. So if you want to understand how the system works, you must first understand how films are marketed. That requires you to read the trades such as The Hollywood Reporter and Box-Office Mojo. These are good resources that analyze box-office results and trends that are occurring in the industry. Know what’s hot and what’s not. If you want to find out how the system works, you will have to do your homework. The more you do your research, the clearer the patterns become visible.
Third, first make the film then make the deal. I used to think that Hollywood worked like this: Make the deal or, in other words, get your distribution lined up. Find your money and then make the film. Guess what? The system does not work that way. Most want-to-be filmmakers never make their film because they are trying to make the deal first. Dov S-S Simens’ book goes into great detail about how to make the film first and what’s required for first-time filmmakers to make the deal.
Fourth, you have to start at the bottom. Once in a while, you will hear about an incredible success story in which a recent film school graduate gets a three-picture development deal from a major studio. Sure, somebody does win the Lotto. But it’s usually a one in a billion shot. Nobody gets to make a $30 million film in their first outing. Here’s the truth about the system. Make a $20,000 digital feature, then make a $200,000 low-budget movie, and then make a $2 million art house film. And, if you have been successful in these projects, perhaps you will get the opportunity to make a studio feature. Start at the bottom and work your way up. In order to get to the next level, you must at least break even or return a profit to your investors. Otherwise, they will not continue to finance your next project. In reality, most filmmakers make their first film by raising money from their friends and family. But that can take you only so far. At some point, you have to be successful in returning an investment. That’s how the system works.
Recently, a friend completed a full-length feature with only a $2,000 budget. He shot his film in eight days with limited locations, actors and resources. He was able to get all of the equipment, crew and talent to donate their services. If he had to pay for everything out-of-pocket, his expenses would have been $50,000 to $75,000. But, thanks to his entrepreneur spirit and ingenuity, he found a way to get it done.
Here’s how it works. Most people write a script and then try to raise the money necessary to turn the screenplay into a movie. But the smart money is to start with what you have. If you have $2,000 or $5,000 or $100,000, write a story that fits your budget. That’s exactly what my friend did. I have a post on my blog about low-budget filmmaking concepts. You can find the formula that explains this concept and how it works. http://mediamissionaryschool2.blogspot.com/p/guerilla-filmmaking.html
Fifth, talent is not a guarantee of success. Most people in Hollywood are extremely talented. Likewise, most people in Hollywood are extremely unemployed. Talent can take you only so far. It might get you in the door, but it’s no guarantee it will keep you there. I have written an article on my blog on what it takes to work in this industry. The article will provide you with the insight and formula that can help guide you in your career development. http://madiamissionaryschool4.blogspot.com/p/do-you-have-what-it-takes.html
Part 2 on Wednesday
Monday, July 19, 2010
All parties involved believe each movie can lead to the development of future TV series. The ultimate vision is to resurrect ABC’s popular TGIF or “Thank God It’s Friday” concept. You might remember starting back in the late 1980s and running through 2000 ABC had a successful lineup of family-friendly shows such as Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, Different Strokes, and Full House. We welcome NBC, Procter & Gamble, and Wal-Mart’s efforts. It will undoubtedly be an uphill battle thanks to a recent court decision where “the FCC's regulations on indecency were struck down by a federal appeals court that termed them "unconstitutionally vague," essentially loosening strictures against profane language on the small screen.”
A lot has changed on television since the days of the TGIF concept. For one thing, most of the networks have abandoned Friday and Saturday nights. They practically consider it a wasteland. They put little effort, money and resources into reaching Friday and Saturday night audiences. Perhaps Brian Wells and his team can change that.
So the bottom line is the programming has to be excellent and intelligent. If this thing is going to work, the adults are going to have to want to watch. However, people have gotten out of the habit of reserving Friday and Saturday nights for family movie time. So Brian Wells and his team have their work cut out for them.
Friday, July 16, 2010
On Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., we had a gala showing of their efforts. Nearly 60 people attended, including family and friends. We here at Media Missionary School and the Vineyard wish to thank everyone who made this week an enormous success. Hats off to all of the media professionals who gave up their time to work with the students throughout the week. But, most of all, I want to thank the students themselves for their passion, energy, creativity and determination to reach the goal of producing a film. And, finally, a big thanks to the parents and family who support the ambitions and dreams of their young filmmakers.
Here are the films produced throughout the week as well as some of the behind-the-scenes photos.
SWITCH - produced during the 2010 Media Missionary School Film Camp from Media Missionary School on Vimeo.
SERVED - from the 2010 Media Missionary School Film Camp from Media Missionary School on Vimeo.
THE BUS STOP produced during the 2010 Media Missionary School Film Camp from Media Missionary School on Vimeo.
COFFEE TALK from Media Missionary School on Vimeo.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Now that Blu-ray players have dropped dramatically in price over the last year, perhaps you are ready to make your move. Before you rush out to the store, here’s a few things you might want to consider. Yes, Blu-ray discs are amazing. But they come at a price. New releases are typically priced anywhere from $25 to $35. Catalogue titles, which are movies five years and older, will run you somewhere between $20 and $25. Ouch! That’s expensive. So when does it make sense to buy Blu-ray vs. standard definition DVDs?
Here are five buying tips you should think about before making your next purchase.
1. Does the movie you are planning to buy have repeatability? Let’s face it. Most movies are a one and done deal. You’ve seen it once, and you have no interest in taking another look at it even if it was a good movie. But there are some films that demand repeatability. Obviously, this is subjective to the viewer. For example, I can’t wait for Star Wars to be released on Blu-ray. I’ll be there on the first day of release. Do you have personal favorites that you watch on an annual basis? Then purchasing a Blu-ray disc would make sense.
2. Is the film you are considering visually interesting? Obviously films heavy on special effects and CGI (computer generated images) are always good candidates for a Blu-ray purchase. Science fiction, action-adventure, and movies shot in exotic locations are the perfect reason for you to upgrade to Blu-ray. All of these films are classic examples of eye candy. Avatar, Up, 2012 and Out of Africa make perfect sense for Blu-ray compared to small-budget, independent dramas that offer little in visuals.
3. Is the film you’re considering purchasing epic in scope? Movies that span time and distance and operate on a huge canvas were made for Blu-ray. Any movie over 150 minutes in length and tells a big story requires a big screen, high-definition television and a Blu-ray player to do it justice. Most of these kinds of movies were made in the heyday of Hollywood, and they are just starting to make their way to Blu-ray. If you are going to buy Doctor Zhivago, North by Northwest, Gone with the Wind, Godfather or Patton, why would you buy it on anything other than Blu-ray?
4. What is the quality of the video transfer? Here’s a dirty little secret about Blu-ray. Not all Blu-ray discs are created equally. In fact, some are only slightly better than their DVD counterparts. It all depends on the quality of the video transfer and the compression rate of the video file to create a master. Some studios, for example, will not create a new master for catalogue releases. They will use the same DVD master, which may or may not be a high-definition transfer. That’s a rip-off to the consumer because they are charging you $25 to $35 for a slightly better DVD. The reason they do it is because it is expensive to commission a new video transfer master. The good news is that most new movies do offer an excellent video transfer and compression which leads to an outstanding image and resolution.
To date, there have been about 1,600 movies released on Blu-ray. Only 100 movies have scored a perfect five-star rating from Hi-Def Digest, the rating which is considered to be reference quality. If Blu-ray is done right, it will offer a 3-D pop. In other words, it has a three-dimensional look and feel. I recommend that before you spend your money you check out the films rating on Hi-Def Digest. Anything less than four stars may be questionable. Why spend your money if you’re not getting the resolution and detail you expect?
5. What about the artistic intentions of the director? Frankly, some movies will look no better on Blu-ray than they will look on DVD. If the director intended the film to have a dark, dim or dingy look, that’s exactly what it will look like on Blu-ray. Bright colors, well-lit scenes and outdoor shots look great on Blu-ray. But some films just don’t offer that type of content. There’s no question that there’s better resolution on movies like The Road and The Book of Eli, but they have a toned-down color palette and an over-all bleak appearance due to the director’s intention of creating a post-apocalyptic world. You might want to consider saving yourself some money and stick to the DVD version.
Finally, currently only 16% of the home video market belongs to Blu-ray. That means that 84% of all discs sold are still good ole DVDs. In fact, DVDs are the most successful electronic product ever produced. I don’t see DVD going away any time soon. DVDs offer consumers good quality and, for most people, the picture and resolution still work. I’m convinced if Blu-ray discs are going to be universally accepted, the prices will have to fall. The studios are waiting for the consumers to change their minds, but most people are not willing to upgrade to Blu-ray.