Monday, January 31, 2011

The Ides of March

If you live in the Cincinnati area, you probably already know that a major Hollywood movie will be shot right here in our hometown starting in February and running through March. According to published reports and Kristen Erwin, Executive Director of the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission, the movie will be shot in as many as 26 locations. That sounds like a big deal.

Not since the days of Rain Man has Cincinnati seen anything like this. The movie is titled, The Ides of March and will be directed by George Clooney. Clooney will also star in the picture as a Democratic Governor who is campaigning in the Presidential primaries. It appears there will be an abundance of backroom deals, backstabbing and an assortment of dirty campaign tricks. The plot sounds like what basically happens in everyday politics.

Along with Clooney, joining the cast will be Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachael Wood, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hofffman, Jeffrey Wright and Max Minghella. That’s an impressive cast. And, just like Rain Man, the Ides of March could be an Oscar contender.

Dare to Dream Casting issued a casting call for anyone interested in appearing as a background performer or extra. They received over 15,000 e-mails. The producers of the film will need several hundred extras. So if you are interested, casting is open to anyone 18 or older. You should bring a photo and your contact information to Dare to Dream Casting on Saturday, February 5, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Longsworth Hall, 700 W Pete Rose Way, downtown Cincinnati. However, if you have already sent in an e-mail, please do not come to the casting call.

If you can’t make it, you can e-mail a photo and your contact information to It’s your opportunity to star in a major motion picture.

George Clooney is somewhat of a hometown boy. Although he was born in Maysville, KY, he grew up here in the Cincinnati area. His father Nick, was a well-known and respected news anchor on WKRC Channel 12 for years. He also hosted The Nick Clooney Show, a variety/talk show. My guess is that Clooney has been looking for an opportunity to shoot a movie where he grew up. And thanks to the recent tax credit passed by the Ohio Legislature, it now makes financial sense.

Clooney personally toured the area back in October looking for shooting locations. It’s rumored that Memorial Hall and Lunken Airport will serve as primary locations. It’s more than likely that some locals will be hired as crew members, office staff, and drivers. So if you’re looking for a possible break into the film business, this could be your big opportunity. I suggest making your inquires to Smokehouse Pictures, which is George Clooney’s production company.

It’s great to be back in the limelight. A film can do wonders for your city’s image. I remember back in the 1980s when Rain Man was filmed here. Some people were talking about the possibility of a film renaissance or a film industry right here in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, that never materialized. But still, anything’s possible

Friday, January 28, 2011

Filmmaker Terence Berry - That Evening Sun

Filmmaker Terence Berry - That Evening Sun from Media Missionary School on Vimeo.

The Exorcist, Getting the Hell Scared Out of You - Part 4

Can mainstream Hollywood movies made by nonbelievers have the ability to change your life and lead you toward God? Can they communicate truth? Do they have the power to challenge the decisions we make and the life we pursue? Absolutely. I am a living example. (see part 1 ) Yes, it can do all of the above and more. Here are just a few other examples of films that convey truth and have the potential to lead viewers toward a relationship with God.

Lars and the Real Girl from 2009 portrays one of the best examples of Christian community that I have ever seen in any film. The film is a reflection of I John 3:18 which says, “My children, we should love people not only with words and talk but by our actions and true caring.” NCV Lars is a lonely, shy and socially inept young man living in a converted garage behind the house of his brother and sister-in-law. Lars is suffering from some sort of emotional and psychological disorder. As crazy as the plot sounds, he believes that a life-like doll that he orders online is actually a real person. His family and, more importantly, his Christian community rally around him in love and grace to help him in his recovery. It’s a beautiful story and a perfect example of Christian love at work. What we find in Lars and the Real Girl is a Christian community we all hope for—unconditional love, acceptance, and redemption.

And finally, Dogma offers a view of Christianity, especially Catholics, that some may find offensive. Many believe that it mocked and questioned conventional theology about the nature of God. The film was directed by Kevin Smith who is well-known as an edgy filmmaker. Kevin Smith has given many interviews where he has stated that he is a devout Catholic and a believer in God. Although this film offers an irreverent view of the Church and organized religion, it does affirm the existence of God and the importance of faith. It affirms the benevolence of God and the divinity of Christ. For some Christians, it will be impossible to see God at work in this film. However, it spoke to an entire generation of post-modern youth who are trying to understand who God is.

The film presented an opportunity for dialogue and discussion with the Church. Unfortunately, for the most part, we couldn’t get past some of the more disturbing elements of the film to see the truth that Dogma was presenting. Most people in our society want to have an honest and frank discussion about the nature of God. Who is he? How do I find him if he exists? Dogma presents opportunities where we can enter into such dialogues but only if we are willing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Exorcist, Getting the Hell Scared Out of You - Part 3

Can mainstream Hollywood movies made by nonbelievers have the ability to change your life and lead you toward God? Can they communicate truth? Do they have the power to challenge the decisions we make and the life we pursue? Absolutely. I am a living example. (see part 1 ) Yes, it can do all of the above and more. Here are just a few other examples of films that convey truth and have the potential to lead viewers toward a relationship with God.

Smoke Signals from 1998 and Magnolia from 1999 are redemptive stories about forgiveness. Smoke Signals’ main character, Victor, must deal with his pain and inability to forgive his father, who abandoned the family when Victor was a child. The film poses thought-provoking questions. “How do we forgive our fathers? Do we forgive our fathers in our age or theirs? Saying it to them or not saying it?” What would appear on the surface to be a simple movie about two characters on a road trip, in reality, is a movie that offers us a perspective into our relationships with our fathers. Magnolia is a three-hour film into the very heart of the human condition. I can’t think of one emotion that is not expressed somewhere in the film.

In Magnolia we can all see ourselves in the characters portrayed. The film presents nine different story lines which ultimately merge into one story. What drives the heart of this film is the idea that there is nothing you have done or not done that cannot be forgiven, no matter what your past is or what acts you have committed that you believe are beyond redemption. It’s a powerful statement that embraces the idea that in order for human beings to find peace, they must seek forgiveness.

American Beauty is a film that most Christians found extremely offensive. Lester Burnham is a middle-aged man who has lost the ability to feel anything in life. His existence is defined by the mundane aspects of everyday life until he has an encounter with his teenager daughter’s best friend. Although he never acts on his impulse, he does lust after her. The film offers a hard look at life in America’s suburbia. The story is really about our own self-made imprisonment in cages that we build ourselves. What our character discovers about life is that the mundane things are really the things that we should be most grateful for but are often the things we overlook. It’s the daily experiences of life that define who we are. Beauty therefore can be found in just the process of living. Needless to say, audiences identified with Lester’s character and in his pursuit to find the beauty of life. The movie is a search for purpose and meaning. American Beauty uses the catalyst of an improper relationship, which finally wakes Lester up to realize that fulfillment cannot be found in the lust for flesh . It can only be found in the pursuit of living life.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Exorcist, Getting the Hell Scared Out of You - Part 2

Can mainstream Hollywood movies made by nonbelievers have the ability to change your life and lead you toward God? Can they communicate truth? Do they have the power to challenge the decisions we make and the life we pursue? Absolutely.  I am a living example. (see part 1 ) Yes, it can do all of the above and more. Here are just a few other examples of films that convey truth and have the potential to lead viewers toward a relationship with God.

The Truman Show from 1998 and The Matrix from 1999 depict a world in which man lives in a false reality but is unaware of it. What they see before them, they accept as reality.

In Truman, Jim Carey’s character, Truman Burbank, discovers he is living in a constructed reality soap opera televised 24/7 to the entire world. Everything in his life has been a lie. In the final climatic battle, the executive producer of the show, Christof, tries to convince Truman to stay by announcing, “You will find no more truth in the real world than there is in your own artificial world.” Is that not the same message that satan tries to convince us that the world we live in offers more than the world God promises us?

In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves, plays Neo, a Christ-like Messiah, who attempts to free mankind out of bondage from the matrix. Neo lives in a world created by a computer program that mankind is unaware of. He lives with all mankind in a dream state of reality. Neo is given a choice to take a red pill or a blue pill. One will reveal the truth. Or he can take the other pill and continue to live in the false reality. It is his choice or his “free will”. However, he seeks the truth and soon discovers that everything he believes to be true is a lie. As Neo seeks the truth, others try to convince him that he is wrong or deceived. When he continues his pursuit, immediately the others try to keep him from exposing the truth (because the Truth will set you free) to mankind and ultimately try to destroy him. In many ways, The Matrix is a metaphor for how God is trying to reveal His truth to mankind. We are deceived by satan or the matrix to believe that the world we live in is the real world when, in fact, this life we believe is truth is satan’s matrix for mankind.

The Forgotten from 2004 and Juno from 2007 both embrace the sanctity of life. In The Forgotten, Telly Paretta believes her son, Sam, died in a plane crash. Her family and doctors are trying to convince her that she is suffering from a delusion because Sam never existed. The Forgotten offers a surprising twist in this clever science fiction film where we discover that an alien race is conducting an experiment to determine whether the bonds between a mother and child can be broken. Obviously, they cannot. There is a spiritual connection between mother and child. It goes beyond the physical to the soul. The Forgotten is one of the best examples about the sanctity of life ever produced. I’m sure that’s not what the filmmakers intended; nevertheless, that’s the result.

Juno is a story about a teenager with an unwanted pregnancy. Helen Page plays Juno MacGuff, who contemplates what her choices are. She seeks a family to adopt her child. Diablo Cody wrote the screenplay for the film based on her own high school experiences. Juno is an endorsement for adoption over abortion.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Exorcist, Getting the Hell Scared Out of You - Part 1

Can mainstream Hollywood movies made by nonbelievers have the ability to change your life and lead you toward God? Can they communicate truth? Do they have the power to challenge the decisions we make and the life we pursue? Absolutely. I am a living example. Yes, it can do all of the above and more.

In the early 1970s as a teenager, I saw The Exorcist with a few of my friends. At the time, The Exorcist was a big hit. It was provocative and cutting edge. It was the rage, a must-see film. The movie deals with God, demons and exorcism. Before watching The Exorcist, I wasn’t sure that to think about God. In fact, I had only been to church once in my entire life. I knew nothing about the Bible. And I wasn’t sure if God even existed. In other words, I was a nonbeliever. I did not have the opportunity or the good fortune to grow up in a Christian home. Call me a heathen.

But after seeing The Exorcist, something changed. Yes, it was the scariest movie I had ever seen in my entire life. But it was more than that. Its seemed so real. Perhaps, for the first time, I had the sense of what evil looked like, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. I could actually feel its presence. It shook the very foundations of how I viewed everything in life. If the devil was real, there had to be a God, right? And if the devil had that much power, shouldn’t that be something I should be concerned about? And if there was a war between God and the devil, which side did I want to be on?

That was a lot for a teenager to think about. In one sense, I felt like hell had been scared out of me. I’m not sure that’s what the filmmakers intended or the message they were sending. But it was clear to me that there was a spiritual world after all. No. I didn’t immediately give my life to God or convert to Christianity or, for that matter, start going to church. But it did start me on a pathway to seek the truth. And that, my friends, is the power of film. It would be another four years before I would become a Christian and a believer. But I have no doubt that it all started very innocently on a Saturday night at the age of 16 watching The Exorcist at the old Showcase Cinemas in Erlanger, Ky. It was a life-changing moment in my life.

Returning to the original question, can mainstream movies have the ability to lead us to God? Here are just a few other examples of films that convey truth and have the potential to lead viewers toward a relationship with God.

1999’s Fight Club spoke to an entire generation of post-modern youth. It is a search for meaning. The film follows the life of Jack, an upward, mobile executive, who wanders through a variety of twelve-step programs, until he meets Tyler Durden, a mysterious stranger. Both embark into a world of underground fight clubs where members enter into brutal and nonstop violence. Fight Club’s rallying call is “I Bleed. Therefore, I am.” This film speaks volumes about youth’s hidden pain. They want to feel something, even if it hurts. Jack cries out “Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers fail, what does that tell you about God? In all probability, he hates you. We’re God’s unwanted children. So be it.” Fight Club is a call for help. It is a desperate appeal for love and God’s intervention. I doubt that many people could look past the violence and bad language to see the true meaning of this film.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Devil’s Playground - Part 3

Recently, I talked to a young lady who was working in church media. She shared her experiences while she was in Hollywood. She had graduated from a Christian school in Los Angeles that offered an excellent film program. She had landed an internship with a major studio and was on track with her career. By all counts, she was in the process of making it. But she had problems dealing with the people. Many of the crew members used crude and suggestive language, and even though it wasn’t directed toward her, she had difficulty dealing with the situation and decided she couldn’t work in Hollywood. Obviously this is not good behavior nor do I condone it. I’m not saying she didn’t love the people, but you have to be able to work with people who do not follow Christian morals and values. How else will you be able to influence them if you are not there. That’s the whole purpose of a media missionary.

Third, you need resolution and determination. You will have the door slammed in your face countless times. Can you live with that and continue to fight on? Breaking into Hollywood and the mainstream industry is a challenge. Your resolution and determination has to be rock solid. It could take you two years just to get your foot in the door and another two to three years to have a legitimate shot at making a living in this business. Can you live two years without an income? That’s what it might take.

Fourth, you will need energy. There is no 8-hour or 10-hour day in the world of media, TV or film. No weekends off and little or no downtime. Most of the shoots I have been on are typically anywhere from 12 – 16 hours. Can you do that for weeks at a time? It looks fun from the outside, but once you are there, it’s hard work.

Fifth, you will especially need wisdom. If you are going to navigate successfully in this industry, it requires wisdom. Which jobs do you work on? Which jobs do you not work on? How do you balance your faith in a hostile environment? No easy answers here. You will need to ask God for wisdom every single day.

You’ve started your journey, and this is your road map for success. This book won’t answer all of your questions, but it will get you started in the right direction. If God has called you to be a media missionary, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. You know there’s something inside of you that you may not be able to explain to other people, but it’s driving you towards something bigger than yourself.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Devil’s Playground - Part 2

A Road Map for Success in Hollywood is about learning to fully embrace a missional lifestyle. We are called to be missionaries and reach the people around us whether we’re a plumber, electrician, an accountant, etc. For the media missionary, our mission field is media, TV and film. We’re called to go there and reach the people. It’s always going to be about reaching the people first and creating the product second.

Industry insiders tell me that 10,000 new people arrive each month in Hollywood looking to break into the industry. They also tell me that approximately 10,000 people also leave every month broken and disillusioned. Somewhere in those numbers are 200 individuals who believe they have been called to go to Hollywood and transform the industry. Those Christians who work in various ministries in the industry also tell me that less than 10% have a real chance to make it in the business. Those are sad numbers. So what can you do to improve your chances? How can you have success in Hollywood both professionally and spiritually?

This book is your roadmap. After talking to industry insiders who are on the ground, I am sharing with you their collective expertise and knowledge. Obviously to break in, you need talent, knowledge and training. That’s a given. But there are five other traits that are absolutely essential.

First, you must have a solid relationship with God. If you don’t, the media industry, especially Hollywood, will chew you up and spit you out. If you don’t know who you are in Christ, don’t ever consider pursuing a career in mainstream media. If your relationship with Christ is close and personal, you will know without any doubt if you have been called to Hollywood to pursue a career in media. Don’t move on unless this is crystal clear. A strong relationship with God will also lead you to seek fellowship and support groups who can help you in your spiritual and career development. I’ve talked to a lot of Christians who thought they could make it on there own. We all need help. There are Christians who work in Hollywood who can help and support you.

Second, you must love the people in this industry. People who work in entertainment and media whether in Hollywood or any other town, quite frankly, are different. Artists often don’t fit into the mainstream model. They are a different breed. More often, they will be more liberal in their views on politics, lifestyle choices, philosophy, and religion. You won’t find many Christians working in Hollywood and the mainstream entertainment industry. You will undoubtedly be a minority. They will talk differently, react differently and will be self-centered. Can you deal with that?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Devil’s Playground - Part 1

I have worked in the media for over 25 years in every capacity imaginable from writer, editor, director and producer. I have also created several television shows that have aired on 15 plus networks and on over 200 stations. In that time, I have had many young people approach me asking for my advice and help on how they can pursue a career in media, TV or films. The usual questions are: How do I break in? What school do I go to? Can I help them find a job? Most of the young people I have worked with are primarily Christians. So they are usually seeking careers as Christian filmmakers, looking to land a job in church media, or working for a Christian television station or network.

When I asked them if they ever considered working in mainstream media, they often had a puzzled look on their faces. It is as if they have never really thought of the concept. What about working in Hollywood at a movie studio or a television network like ABC or CBS? They seemed to have a one track mind. Because they are Christians, they think they can only work in Christian media. After all, isn’t Hollywood and mainstream media the devil’s playground? How could they live and work in such an environment?

For many young people I talked to, this is the first real discussion of the possibilities of a career other than in Christian or church media. There’s no question that there are several obstacles to overcome. Generally, there is a lack of support from the Church and, more importantly, from their own families. To consider such an option as to go into Hollywood or mainstream entertainment for most parents is a hard case to make. The resistance can be overwhelming.

Could Hollywood be a valid mission field and be just as important as reaching any nation? What exactly is a mission field? The U. S. Center for World Missions in Pasadena, CA, defines a mission field as a unique people group with its own culture, customs, language, and rituals. I think Hollywood certainly qualifies in every category. And, for the most part, Hollywood is still unreached with the Gospel.

But for a lot of other young people I talk to, the light does come on? Perhaps, this is not such an outrageous idea. Could a Christian be called to Hollywood to make mainstream films? I fully believe that God has a plan for each of us, and we are all called to do something. It could be for some of the young people I talk to a burden and passion to reach people, but they don’t understand the calling or how it can intersect with a passion for media, TV or film. It’s possible that God has combined all of these passions into one package. That’s why I have written a book called The Media Missionary, A Road Map for Hollywood Success to explore the possibilities that your passion for Christ and your passion for media can intersect and coexist. Quite frankly, most people won’t understand the desire God has put in your heart.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is Hollywood Listening?

There is panic in Hollywood. I’m sure in the offices of Hollywood executives there must be a feeling of doom and gloom. The latest attendance figures for 2010 have just been released, and they are not good. The number of people who are gong to the movies has dropped 8% from 2009. To make matters worse, 2010 was the lowest year in attendance since 1995.

That kind of news will spread panic. As I write this article, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood executives have called in the six-figure experts—marketers, gurus, and pundits—to get their advice and expertise. So what can be done to reverse this troubling trend? I could save Hollywood a lot of money. They don’t need to drop six figures on their so-called experts. In fact, anyone who goes to the movies can tell them what’s wrong and how to correct the problem. The question is are they listening.

First, it’s about the product. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad economic times. People want to go to the movies. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want a night out. And movies are still the cheapest form of entertainment available for the masses. But it all comes down to the product. If you put movies in the theaters that people want to see, they will come. It’s that simple. But the reality is that the product that Hollywood is currently offering the public is not up to speed. They make the same movies over and over and offer a constant stream of reruns, retreads, sequels, and remakes. Today’s audiences want something new, original, and fresh.

Look at the recent success of The Social Network and Inception. They were both new and creative concepts. What Hollywood is afraid of is failure. That’s why they are unwilling to take chances. They want to continue to go back to what has worked in the past. That doesn’t work any longer. Audiences have figured it out. They are tired of paying their hard-earned money to see the same movie over and over.

Second, it’s about selection. At best, moviegoers have the choice of two new movies opening on any given weekend. It wasn’t that long ago that Hollywood was releasing four or five new movies every weekend. The numbers don’t lie. In 2010, 141 movies received major distribution compared to 158 movies in 2009. The number of new releases has been decreasing throughout the last ten years. The major studios are no longer interested in acquiring independent films. That’s one of the major reasons why the numbers have dropped dramatically.

A recent seminar I attended in Los Angeles revealed the studios attitude toward small-budget and independent films. The studio guy said that 9 out of 10 indies from major studios failed to make money. They were now focusing and concentrating their resources on what they call tent-pole movies—films aimed at a mass audience. What I think Hollywood has failed to understand is the “one independent film” that made money for them is usually a hit and that one movie makes enough to offset the cost of the nine who failed to generate a profit. But, by not releasing more films in the theater, they lose that energy of the audience who would have gone to see those films.

Let’s say you go see an independent film and view a trailer in the theater for one of the studios’ tent-pole movies and it motivates you to see it the next weekend. Guess what? By not acquiring independent movies, you just lost that opportunity.

Third, the price. As we all know, ticket prices continue to increase. But that’s only part of the problem. It’s the total price that continues to go up. There’s the cost of gas to get to the theater, concession prices and the cost of a babysitter. At some point, it could price the average moviegoer out of the market completely. It could be just more convenient to stay home and rent a movie to watch on your big-screen TV. Here’s one example that doesn’t make any sense. My local theater offered discounts on Wednesdays, but recently they have posted a sign that states that because of contractual obligations, they can no offer discounts within the first two weeks of a movie’s release. Hey, that’s when people want to go see new movies. And you wonder why attendance is dropping.

Final thoughts. Right now Hollywood is living on borrowed time. Thanks to the recent craze of 3-D, overall revenues have offset the declining attendance figures; however, 3-D will not save the day. It’s impact will wear off, and the $4 surcharge will start to discourage some moviegoers, especially since Hollywood is converting films shot on 2-D into 3-D. The bottom line is that it will come down to a better product, innovative storytelling, selection, and a determination to hold the prices to a reasonable level that will bring back movie attendance. So, is Hollywood listening to the audiences, or are they listening to their six-figure experts? I hope, Hollywood executives, I have saved you some money. And if you are so motivated, feel free to send me a check.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Social Network

It was bound to happen sooner or later. With one out of every twelve people now a member of Facebook, someone was bound to do a movie about its origin. I have to admit that I was late to the game and just recently jumped on the bandwagon. But now with over 500 friends (and honestly I didn’t realize I had 500 friends) I have become a fan.

By now, you realize the new movie, The Social Network, has become a phenomena of sorts. Some observers are going so far as to say that it defines an entire generation, much like The Big Chill did in the 1980s for baby boomers. It certainly is a leading candidate to take home a ton of awards at the upcoming Oscars. But is it as good as advertised? Should you go out and rent or buy a copy? At least, in my opinion, it has to be one of the best films of the year. It’s intelligent, smart and thought-provoking.

It’s much more than just your standard corporate double-dealing and manipulation. Friendship, loyalty, jealousy and betrayal are portrayed in just about every facet of The Social Network. The film is constructed in a fashion that constantly keeps you guessing as it cuts between present day and past events.

Who doesn’t know a little something about the Mark Zuckerburg story? As founder of Facebook, he is the world’s youngest billionaire. In The Social Network he is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, a brilliant computer wiz who is working on his undergraduate studies at Harvard University. We never fully understand why he starts Facebook other than an opportunity to meet girls. For that matter, we never fully understand his motives or why he is driven to do the things he does. That’s what makes this film so brilliant. The viewer will have to determine that based on all the available evidence.

Zuckerburg is approached by fellow Harvard students, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, thanks to the magic of computer wizardry are played by Armie Hammer. He is asked to build a social network for college students. At the same time, his best friend Edwardo Saverin, portrayed by Andrew Garfield, helps to finance the new site and provide his business expertise. To make matters worst Napster founder, Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake, complicates matters by dividing the loyalties between Zuckerburg and Saverin. Obviously, the end result is a series of law suits and disputes over who is the real founder and owner of Facebook.

This kind of stuff can be really complicated. But the script somehow makes the details less important than the emotions that surround them. Is there a message to be found in The Social Network, perhaps a lesson to be learned? Often filmmakers themselves don’t realize what kind of movie they are making.

The Social Network serves as a cautionary tale for all of us. It is a lesson we will learn at some point in our lives. Hopefully, we can learn from The Social Network and not in real life. Money has a way of changing everything. Put a few bucks on the table and see how people go absolutely crazy. Whether it’s in relationships, ministry, or business, as soon as real money becomes part of the landscape, everything fundamentally changes. Often our humanity goes right out the window. The Social Network is a perfect example of how friendship and loyalty no longer matter. Now it’s about backstabbing and getting the upper hand.

The real question is how does anybody justify and find a way to live their lives once they have committed such acts. We know there is a price to be paid for it. Late at night it has to eat at the very soul of Mark Zuckerburg. Gee, wasn’t there enough money to go around for everybody?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Golden Globe Awards

Last night was the official kickoff to the award season with the broadcast of the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Over the past few years, the Golden Globe Awards has grown in popularity and status and is now considered an early predictor for Oscar nominees and winners. The awards are given by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a small but influential group consisting of 80 members.

Last night’s top winner and leading prospect for this year’s Oscar for Best Picture was The Social Network. This film won four Globes—Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Musical Score, and Best Picture in the Dramatic Category. With many of the nation’s top critics embracing The Social Network, this film will undoubtedly be hard to beat at the Oscars.

Other films that will be in the running for Oscar consideration and also had a solid night at the Golden Globes were: The Fighter, with Christian Bale winning Dramatic Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo winning Best Supporting Actress; The Kids are Alright won Best Movie in the Comedy or Musical category with Annette Benning winning Best Actress; Natalie Portman won Best Actress in a dramatic role for her portrayal of a disturbed ballerina in The Black Swan; and Colin Farth won Best Actor in the Dramatic Category in The King’s Speech. Suspiciously missing from last night’s awards was True Grit. It failed to receive any nominations. The question is can it now find support to make a serious run at the Oscars.

The Golden Globes are long on categories and awards and short on production values, musical numbers and film montages. Outside of presenting the Cecil D. DeMile Award to perhaps the greatest living actor today, Robert DeNiro, there’s not much on entertainment value. That means the host for the show has to deliver and make the award program entertaining. However, comedian Ricky Gervaris has to be the world’s most irritating person. Is there anyone he didn’t insult last night? It’s one thing to make fun of someone in a lighthearted manner but when it become mean, malicious and downright despicable, that’s when you cross the line.

You know you’re in trouble when your award presenters Tom Hanks and Tim Allen decide to hit back. None of this was funny and was, frankly, embarrassing for the audience as well. Hopefully, next year the producers of the golden Globes will have the good sense not to invite Ricky Gervaris back next year.

Producer, Karen Covell offers her advice to Christians who are looking for a career in film or tv

Producer, Karen Covell offers her advice to Christians who are looking for a career in film or tv from Media Missionary School on Vimeo.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Maybe the Atheist Have It Right

On January 4, 2011, I saw one of the most fascinating discussions I had seen on television for quite some time. It was on Bill O’Reilly’s nightly television show, The Factor, which airs on the Fox News Channel. O’Reilly was interviewing the President of the American Atheists Association, David Silverman. Silverman’s group had recently launched a billboard campaign in the New York / New Jersey area. The campaign’s main purpose was to reveal all religions as scams. The billboards posed the comment, “You Know They’re All Scams”.

If you know anything about Bill O’Reilly, he wasn’t just going to sit there and take this type of stuff. He was definitely upset and was practically coming unglued. He considered it an insult to all people of faith. Bill O’Reilly believes in God. He asked Silverman why he would launch such a campaign to mock and insult Christians as well as other religions.

As I watched the segment, I had to agree with Bill O’Reilly. On all accounts it seemed to be an insult and unnecessary. Could there be any justification for such a campaign? As the exchange continued between O’Reilly and Silverman, the real truth behind the campaign began to emerge. Silverman stated that he and his group believed that churches are filled with people who are atheists. And the billboard campaign was an attempt to encourage those people to come out of the Church because it was now socially acceptable not to believe in God. It seemed to be a preposterous statement, an outrage to all believers. But, perhaps, from his viewpoint, it makes sense. Perhaps it is a reasonable argument.

Silverman certainly has support for his views. A well-respected Christian researcher, George Barna, stated in his 2004 landmark study that faith seemed to have little or no impact on lifestyle choices. He summarized that the attitudes and behaviors of Christians, nonbelievers, followers of other religions and atheists were similar. Ouch! That’s obviously very troubling.

So what’s going on here? From Mr. Silverman’s perspective, he sees little or no difference between members of his organization and people who attend church. So it makes perfect, logical sense that he would come to the conclusion that they must not really believe there is a God. Obviously, going to church doesn’t make you a person of faith, a Believer or a follower of Christ. But there should be something different about our behaviors and how we live our lives.

Mr. Silverman has picked up an obvious pattern of a disconnected Christian community. Somehow, Christians today are reflecting more of the general culture than they are of the attributes of Christ. The general culture reflects the values of today’s mass media culture, which is the glorification of wealth, power, and materialism. It puts the individual at the center of his or her own universe. We understand this is in direct contrast to the Christian message. What Mr. Silverman and the American Atheists Association don’t see in significant numbers are Christians who reflect the nature of Christ.

The only evidence that is indisputable to the existence of God is the reflection of the nature of God inside the individual. If we do not reflect Christ and are capable of living the life he has called us to, then Christianity is indeed a scam. That’s why Mr. Silverman believes the churches are full of atheists. We might say all the right things, but our actions indicate something entirely different. If enough Christians fully embraced Christ’s teachings, we would have the critical mass necessary to shake the foundations of our society. And, by doing so, David Silverman and the American Atheists Association would have all the evidence necessary to prove the existence of a living God.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Truth About Ratings

A few days ago, I went to see a movie and couldn’t help but notice a brochure that was strategically placed in the lobby. It was called “The Truth About the Ratings” and subtitled “The Ratings are Your Friend”. It was published by Motion Pictures Association of America. The question is, is it really the truth. It states that ratings are assigned by a board of parents who consider factors such as violence, sex and language. And they assign a rating they believe a majority of parents would give a film. The brochure states that the rating boards are made up of parents who represent a diversity of American parents who are not affiliated with the movie industry.

Sounds good. Right? But there is something missing from this brochure. That would be the truth. I don’t want to sound cynical but somehow I’m not sure the rating board is your friend. Yes, they have made some improvement in the past few years because of criticism that has been directed toward how films are rated. But the reality is film ratings are nothing more than a marketing tool used by the film industry, especially by the major studios. They get the rating they want.

You cannot talk about Hollywood unless you understand the rating system. Much of what the film industry does is based on what rating a film receives. This wasn’t the original intent when the rating system was put into place in 1966. The system was designed to help parents make informed decisions about the nature and content of films. Today Hollywood has used it to their advantage. Today PG-13 has become the rating of choice because it can guarantee a broader appeal and higher profits. The criteria for the rating system has changed and evolved over the years. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health finds that today’s PG-13 films have more content that is similar to R-rated movies from the early 1990s. Hollywood has made PG-13 cool. They have quietly lowered the standards in order to increase the content that will appeal to a younger demographic.

As eager as studios are to embrace a PG-13 rating, they are equally determined to avoid a PG rating. Therefore, filmmakers must increase the content in order to receive the higher rating. That usually means adding bad language or suggestive sexual content. The PG rating is no man’s land. After the initial theatrical release of a PG-13 or R-rated film, studios may re-edit the film for home video. The industry calls this an unrated version because it is not resubmitted to a ratings board. Unrated versions contain more graphic nudity, language, sexuality and violence. By going this route, studios have the best of two worlds. They have access to a broader audience during theatrical distribution, but they can also create a mystic or cult following with a home video release.

One of the primary audiences for theatrical distribution is teens and young adults. They buy most of the movie tickets. Manipulating the rating system serves the studios’ best interest in maximizing profits that can be generated from this audience. Re-editing films is primarily directed toward teenagers for home viewing.

The rating system is a mystery. No one can adequately explain what the criteria is for a PG, PG-13 or R rated film. The criteria is a moving target. A film is submitted to a ratings board. The process is subjective, and each board has different members. It is possible that a film can receive a PG-13 rating from one board and be resubmitted and receive an R rating from a different board. There is no clear, defined line. Movies are rated on sensuality, nudity, language, rape, drug and alcohol usage, smoking, violence, gruesome images, disturbing images, dramatic content, war violence, sexuality, suggestive language, etc. The rating system is unreliable. It can serve only as a tool but cannot be counted upon for accuracy

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Matter of Prayer

Our mission here at Media Missionary School and Flannelgraph Ministries is to encourage you to pray for Christians and nonbelievers who work in the entertainment industry. We believe Hollywood and entertainment in general is a valid mission field. It is perhaps the world’s most influential mission field. America’s number one export is entertainment. So the question is what do we pray for.

Pray for all Christians who work in film, TV, media, internet—whether they be in Hollywood or the broader entertainment industry, church media, parachurch organizations, independent Christian filmmakers, educators, industrial video or local television stations. Pray that God’s will be done in their lives and that they seek and understand their purpose and role in the industry. If God has called them to be elsewhere, pray that he will reveal that to them. But no matter the outcome, pray that they embrace a missional lifestyle, reaching those that God places in their path. Pray that they reach their friends, neighbors, relatives, business associates, vendors, or work associates. Pray that God gives them wisdom, discernment, knowledge, provision, favor, open doors, blessings, anointing, and that God place a hedge of protection around them and their families.

For those who are to be in the industry, pray that God will use them to reach producers, writers, directors, to production assistants and every one in-between. Pray that God will use everyone in the industry to create media that reflects God’s truth and glory. Pray that God will use movies, television programs and other forms of media to reach audiences worldwide.

Pray for a new awakening and revival to sweep our nation and the world. Pray that God will raise up a new generation of media makers as media missionaries. Pray that he will equip, train and support media missionaries to Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry to create entertainment that reflects his truth and his message.

Pray that God will give this new generation wisdom, discernment , knowledge, favor, provision, and that God will place a hedge of protection around them as they enter into mainstream entertainment. Pray that they reach above and below the line in the industry, including, management, legal, distribution, marketing, promotion, and every other aspect of the industry.

Pray that God will use this new generation of media missionaries to transform and change the face of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. By doing so, they will transform our culture and the world itself. Pray that nonbelievers accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and dedicate their lives to pursue His truth. And, ultimately, pray for entertainment that causes people to reflect on their lives, the decisions they make and the pathway they have chosen to follow.

It’s a big prayer and a big vision. It’s what we have dedicated our lives to pursue here at Media Missionary School. Remember that nothing is accomplished except through prayer.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Journey—The Gift of Time

January is usually the time that we reflect on last year to see what we have accomplished. Did we meet our goals and objectives? Was it a successful year? What did our hard work bring us?

For the past 30 years, I haven’t experienced living the standard 40-hour week. I think it is safe to say that you haven’t either. No one will ever be able to accuse me of letting the grass grow beneath my feet. Anyone who works in media and ministry knows that it is a time-consuming job. For the past 20 years, I have produced a weekly television program, taught students, worked with interns, and ran and managed a ministry. All of that came to an end in 2009 as the ministry I worked for decided to go a different direction. As I evaluated 2010, it seemed to be a disappointment. What did I accomplish? From my point of view, it seemed as if I had taken a step back. But as I reflected upon it and prayed, God revealed to me that he had given me a gift—the gift of time. Perhaps, one of the greatest gifts that anyone can receive because it provides perspective and insight.

This past year, I had time to read, time to pray, time to reflect, time to write, time to diligently seek a relationship with God, time to get into the Word of God, and time to think. I didn’t realize I had been given a real opportunity and blessing when I lost my ministry. Having time, gives you the ability to see the big picture. It’s like having an aerial view. You can see the entire landscape and how it fits together. God decided it was time for me to have time. We all have the ability to give ourselves the gift of time, but often we don’t believe we have permission to do it. Unless something dramatically changes in our life, we are often stuck on a treadmill.

We live in a society that values work and the work ethic. We are driven to success. In fact, we feel guilty if we do not fill every minute of the day with some activity. It is as if we feel we are slackers when we are not constantly busy.

Here’s what God has revealed to me about time. First, we spend a lot of time on things that are a waste of time. Why do we invest our time on temporal matters when we should be pursuing things that are eternal? I’m not telling you that you can’t enjoy life or pursue recreational activities. But our focus and our time have to be on things that will last forever. Second, we spend a great deal of time pursuing our own agenda. I’m as guilty as the next person on this one. I realize I have failed in this matter. We often ask God to join us in what we are dong. But I have learned an important lesson this past year. We must diligently seek to find where God is at work and then join Him in His efforts.

And finally, you’ve heard the saying that we make time for the things that are important to us. And that’s true. But the problem is, how do we know what is really important? There’s only one way that you will ever fully understand what is important and what is not important. And this will require time. Only by pursuing a relationship with God can we know this. And if you are too busy filling your time with other things, that relationship will not pursue you.

My final thoughts. No matter how hard you work, you can never add a 25th hour to the day. The older I get, the more I realize that time is truly a gift—a gift from God. We must use it wisely. Find the time to reflect, to pray, to think and to pursue Him this coming year. I now realize that this past year has not been a failure but an opportunity for growth and insight. Without the gift of time, I would never have been able to write my book, The Red Pill, because I would not have been able to hear from God. Unless we are willing to slow down and give ourselves the time, how will we ever hear the voice of God?