Friday, April 29, 2011

The Human Condition

Have you seen the 2001 film AI: Artificial Intelligence? I recently saw it on Blu-ray. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and posed some interesting questions about the human condition. Science fiction movies have often been used as a vehicle to probe into social issues. Artificial Intelligence (AI) follows the journey of David, a new prototype robot child, who is seeking answers on how to become a human being.

The film is set in a futuristic world which has been ravished by global warming. Resources are at a premium as major cities have flooded, resulting in drastic social change. Robots now fill major roles in the life of humans. Couples can no longer have children without a license from the government.

Manufacturers start producing child robots to fulfill the need for parenthood. Through a few simple commands, child robots are imprinted to love their parents. Through a series of events, David is forced to fend for himself as he embarks on a 2,000 year journey.

AI, like many other science fiction movies and television shows, use robots and androids as a means to ask questions about our humanity. AI poses interesting questions. What is the nature and purpose of life? What does it mean to be a human being? Is there something more than flesh and blood? Is there something within us that defines our existence beyond the physical body?

David is certainly intelligent, and his programming has allowed him to feel and express emotions. He only desires his mother to love him. He believes that will only be possible if he can become human. But what makes us different from any other species on our planet? Is intelligence merely enough? David is really not that different than any of us. We are all looking for answers. Is there more than just me?

AI provides a perfect platform to explore such mind-bending questions. It’s a perfect place to explore our own humanity. But where do we start? First, we must see ourselves as more than just a physical being. We must recognize there is something bigger than us. We are only a speck on the backdrop of a gigantic galaxy. Like David and many other Sci-fi characters such as, Data from Star Trek: the Next Generation; the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica; Viger in the first Star Trek movie, and Hal from 2001. They are looking to connect to their creator.

We too, in order to discover who we are, we must know who God is. Somehow, we all know there is a creator. It’s instinctive. As the androids and robots search for meaning, we also search for meaning. Our humanity is found in God. As we connect with him, we discover his nature and character. We find our purpose and destiny. We are made in God’s image. And it’s through his image that we become fully human. So what does our quest teach us? Our humanity does not revolve around our wants and needs but is defined by our love for others.

David may very well have been human because of his love for his mother. Without self-sacrifice and the capacity to love, we can never fully understand or embrace what it means to be human. Therefore humanity has nothing to do with intelligence or with being flesh and blood but has everything to do with the spirit.

The next time you watch a science fiction movie, perhaps you will see something more than aliens, robots, or androids. Perhaps, there are legitimate questions being asked about you and me and our future.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Small Things Can Make a Real Difference

I’m sure you would agree that most of us want to make a difference. Today we face difficult challenges. There are many hurting people searching for hope. But changing the world can seem overwhelming. What can one person really do? And, if you’re a Christian, how can you make an impact? It seems as if our culture really doesn’t want to hear about Christ. Perhaps, the best way to start making a difference is to take small steps, which can really make a huge difference over time. Of course, we all know about servant evangelism. Small acts of kindness can open hearts.

But there’s something else you can do that can be effective in communicating the Gospel. Have you considered hosting a film night? You’d be amazed how watching a film can open up an opportunity for dialogue and discussion. There’s just something about movies that lowers people’s defenses. They are often more open to receive a message.

What is it about movies? They have an ability to express our wants, fears, hurts and desires. There’s no question that for years cinema has shaped public perception, while educating and enlightening our society. I’m convinced movies can challenge us individually to consider our lifestyle choices as well as the pathway we are currently pursuing. More importantly, God can use movies to move us toward the truth. So why aren’t we using movies in small groups or church settings?

Recently, we started Friday Night Flicks at the Vineyard Community Church in Springdale, Ohio. This event is open to everyone whether or not you go to the Vineyard. We meet once a month on Friday nights at 7:00 p.m., watch a film, have some popcorn and refreshments, and discuss the movie. It’s really not a complicated format. It works because it’s a safe, non-threatening environment—no preaching, no heavy-handed evangelism, no expectations, no commitments. We just allow God to do what God wants to do, which is usually planting seeds. I encourage you to consider starting a film night at your church. Better yet, invite a few friends over for popcorn and a movie at your home. This is a simple and effective means for outreach.

I know you’re probably thinking, what movies should we watch. What about content, ratings, and other issues? We’re here to help you at Media Missionary School. Under film reviews, you will find a list of films that I believe have something important to say. They will provide you with ample opportunities for a lively discussion.

If you want to get started now, here are some suggestions—Like Dandelion Dust, The Spitfire Grill, Bella, and Get Low. I think you’ll be amazed with the results and how something as simple as watching a movie with friends can make a big difference in your life or someone else’s.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The King’s Speech

I absolutely love period piece films, especially historical dramas. One of the most fascinating decades from the last century was the 1930s. It was an intense time—The Depression, the world on the edge of war, the rise of Adolf Hitler. But it was also an age of class, style and glamour. All of this serves as a backdrop to The King’s Speech, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. There has been much written about this film, and it has become a darling of the movie critics.

If you haven’t seen the movie, the basic story is about the speech impairment that King George VI suffered from childhood. It’s based on a true story that has been forgotten over time but was brought to the screen by writer, David Seidler.

Seidler spent years researching this story and finally got permission from the Queen Mother to bring it to the stage and ultimately to the screen, but only after her death. Seidler’s motivation for the screenplay was due to his own speech impairment that he suffered as a child as a result of his grandparents death in a concentration camp during World War II.

Prince Albert, the Duke of York, who will be the future king of England (King George VI) is played by Colin Firth. Prince Albert has tried every notable speech therapist to overcome his debilitating stutter but to no avail. In fact, he struggles to put two words together that make any sense. His anxiety of public speaking only intensifies the condition. As a last resort, his wife Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, (Helena Bonham Carter) convinces Prince Albert to see Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Lionel’s methods are unorthodox to say the least. Other therapists have treated the mechanics of speech impairment, but Lionel dives into the psychological disorder which led to Prince Albert’s stuttering. At first, Prince Albert is taken back by Lionel’s casual approach. Prince Albert resists the treatment because Lionel insists on calling Prince Albert “Bertie”, a name that is used only by his wife. This is a serious breach of protocol by a commoner.

Only after King Edward VIII’s marriage to divorcee Wallis Simpson, which results in the King’s abdicating the throne, does Prince Albert accept the responsibility of becoming the King and Emperor of the British Empire, which encompasses over 25% of the world’s population. Can the future King overcome his disabilities and lead his nation during a time of crisis as World War II nears?

Ultimately The King’s Speech is a two man show. It’s much more than a movie about speech impairment. It’s about an unlikely friendship between a future King and a commoner. More importantly, King George VI must find his confidence. Lionel is helping the King to discover his voice, not only literally but also the voice from within to lead the nation. The chemistry between Rush and Firth is electrifying. I was especially amazed at how quick-witted and funny the script was at times.

Under the steady hand of Tom Hopper, the director, The King’s Speech has an abundance of visual style, atmosphere, tone and superior art direction. It’s a visual delight. Considering that the budget was a mere $15 million, this is quite an accomplishment. Most major Hollywood movies spend more on catering.

The interior shots help to create a mood where Prince Albert feels trapped and confined, which helps to emphasize his hopelessness and despair. If there is a message in this film it is we all need help in order to find our inner voice. Prince Albert/King George VI has the help of Lionel and loyal and trusting wife, Elizabeth, the Duchess of York. Without their support, the course of history could have been dramatically different.

One of the final scenes of the film where King George VI must address the British Empire after their declaration of war on Germany is especially dramatic. He has not perfected his speech but with the help of Lionel, he manages to give a compelling and heartfelt appeal to his people.

The King’s Speech is worthy of its Academy Awards and the acclaim it has received. If you have not seen it, do yourself a favor and see it. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. A note of caution: The film is rated R for some language.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Biola Media Conference

This week I will be in Los Angeles at the Biola Media Conference. I would appreciate your prayers as there is much to accomplish. I plan on doing several interviews with Christians who work in mainstream media and entertainment. We’re going to use this content for both our website and a new, proposed television program, Media Missionary TV, to be aired on several Christian television networks.

If you’re not familiar with the Biola Media Conference, it’s considered to be the largest gathering of Christians who work in mainstream media. It’s held annually on the CBS lot in Studio City. It’s a great opportunity for networking and meeting new people in the industry. I plan to extensively cover the event.

My friend, Cheryl Wicker, who writes for, wrote an article concerning this year’s conference. Please take a look at it. And if you’re considering attending, online registration is open until April 26 at the discount rate.

16th Biola Media Conference goes 'beyond digital' on April 30th

Cheryl Wicker Christian Movies Examiner.

Media professionals from all over the country will once again gather together on Saturday, April 30, 2011, at CBS Studios in California for the 2011 Biola Media Conference (formerly Christian & Media).

With this year's theme, 'Beyond Digital: What Matters Now', the Biola Media Conference will try to examine how the social media is radically changing industry perspectives in connecting with a target audience. These 'disruptions' in the media and entertainment industries have become widely accepted as the "new normal" by industry practitioners, and pose the thought-provoking concept: 'The world has gone digital, but in that world, what matters now?'

Considered the biggest national forum for Christian mainstream media professionals in the country, this year's Biola Media Conference keynote speaker is 'Wired Magazine' co-founder and futurist Kevin Kelly, widely regarded as one of the most authoritative voices in the digital revolution. Kelly is the editor and publisher of the Cool Tools website, which attracts a whopping half a million unique visitors every month.

Continue reading on 16th Biola Media Conference goes 'beyond digital' on April 30th - National Christian Movies

Friday, April 22, 2011

Los Traficantes - Behind the Scenes

They say there are over 5,000 Christians working in the entertainment industry today in Hollywood. Whether they are making a difference or living a missional lifestyle is a matter of debate. However, from my own personal experiences, I have met several people who are the real deal. One of those is Kurt Tuffendsam, who has been working professionally in the industry for over seven years. He may not be a household name, but Kurt has worked on numerous film and television projects in the roles of producer, editor, post-production supervisor and line producer. One of his recent films was the stylistic and film noir interpretation of The Job, which was shot in Detroit, Michigan.

Tuffendsam is very good at what he does. But what he excels at is embracing a lifestyle and a missions approach to his work. He is passionate about sharing Christ with the world and believes filmmaking is the universal language which can impact people throughout the world. That’s why he founded Rise, a nonprofit missions organization made up of Hollywood filmmakers who are using their skills, resources and expertise to bring compelling stories of Gospel transformations to the Body of Christ worldwide through filmmaking and social media.

Back in January was a first for Rise as a group of filmmakers from all over the world came to Tijuana, Baja, Mexico to produce their first motion picture under the Rise label. The film, Los Traficantes, retells the story of Esteban Mendoza Cruz, who was the former chief of drug trafficking for the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. Cruz committed his life to Christ while serving time in one of Mexico’s most violent and corrupt Federal prisons and has since led thousands of men to Christ and to freedom from drug addiction and their former lives of crime. He has planted more than 40 churches and mentored hundreds of leaders and pastors. It is an amazing story and, needless to say, life changing. The film will be primarily aimed at a Latino audience. Kurt just posted this behind the scenes look at the making of Los Traficantes.

Los Traficantes - Behind the Scenes from Kurt Tuffendsam on Vimeo.

Get a sneak peek at our new film Los Traficantes before the film comes out later this year. We shot this feature length movie on location in Tijuana, Mexico in January, 2011. For more information, visit our website at:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is America Finished? - Part 2

Seems like everybody is talking about the decline of America, especially if you are watching the news networks. Every night, there is a parade of gloom and doom—out of control deficits, trade imbalance, wars, talk of wars, financial collapse, and oil prices. And those are just a few of the ongoing topics. So is America Finished? Are the glory days gone?

I go into great detail about these issues in my book, The Red Pill: The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture, so I am only going to cover a few key points. Television has re-engineered the way we think and view the world. We desire to have the things we see in television programs and commercials at all costs. I believe this has transformed our society. We work longer hours, weekends, and sometimes even during our vacation time. Pursuing this unending appetite of consumerism has required both parents to work.

Of course, I know the argument is that we only want to provide the best for our families. But what does that mean, and how do we define what the best is all about? There is a price to pay—a bill that’s coming due now. For the past few decades, all over America generations have received an abundance of material goods, but they haven’t received the spiritual goods. I’m not sure we can do both. Time at the office has its consequences. The question is: Who’s raising our kids, really? Could it be today’s mass media culture? Have we created a society that is self-absorbed, unwilling to sacrifice, and is always looking for “what’s in it for me”? Is that the America that Colonel Andrei Denisov described in Amerika? We could be well on our way.

Practically every study conducted has indicated a sharp decline in morals and values in our society today. Each generation preceding from World War II has been less likely to embrace a Biblical worldview. Our media culture has taught us that it’s all about me and what I want. Burger King says, “Have it your way.” Right?

If America fails, it will be from within. And it most likely will be a spiritual decline, not a military or financial collapse. My formula for success is to forget about the second or third car, and spend more time at home and less time at work. Model Christianly and the attributes of Christ as an example for your family. Live the life that Jesus talked about in the Gospels. Become real and transparent to yourself and your community. Put others first, reach out to your neighbors in need, and do the right thing. Make sacrifices. You are not the center of your own universe. It’s a lonely place there.

Let’s stop fighting among ourselves and start learning to cooperate. These are the steps that lead to a re-emergence of the American Dream.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is America Finished? - Part 1

Seems like everybody is talking about the decline of America, especially if you are watching the news networks. Every night, there is a parade of gloom and doom—out of control deficits, trade imbalance, wars, talk of wars, financial collapse, and oil prices. And those are just a few of the ongoing topics. So is America Finished? Are the glory days gone?

I recently watched an old television mini-series from 1987 that gave me some insight on this topic. You probably don’t remember “Amerika”. It was one of the most controversial mini-series ever produced. In fact, it’s never been aired again. And it’s almost impossible to find it on DVD. Amerika is about the collapse of the United Stated as we know it. It starts ten years after a bloodless coup d'état, which leads to Soviet occupation. The mini-series follows the final days of the breakup of the United States. What emerges are several new countries, which are created in the image of Eastern Bloc satellite states.

What strikes me about this mini-series is the basis for the American decline. Colonel Andrei Denisov, the KGB Soviet administrator for the Central District, describes to Peter Bradford, a local county administrator from Nebraska, the reason why America collapsed. He says you lost your country before the Soviets ever landed on your soil. America had lost it's passion and it's willingness to sacrifice. You were self-absorbed in your own world. He goes on to say how could we not win.

So what does this have to do about current events? Yes, we no longer have to worry about a Russian or Soviet invasion. In fact, there is no military power on the planet that can challenge our capacity for military supremacy. And contrary to what other people may tell you, we are still an economic powerhouse. There is no nation on this planet that can match our wealth. But there is something inside of us that is destroying the very fabric of our society. It’s like a virus that’s eating away at us from within.

This isn’t about Obamacare. And it’s not about whether the Democrats or the Republican control the Congress or about a $14 trillion deficit. Of course, these are important matters that must be addressed. But the issue I speak about concerns the soul. It’s in the spiritual realm and where it is being manifested—the basic family unit. It is the destabilizing, the fragmentation, and the disintegration of the family that has the potential to destroy America. Have we forgotten the most important roles in life—to be a good husband, a good wife, a good father, and a good mother.

You can start all the companies you want and make all the money you want, but if your family is a mess, you have nothing. You may not agree with my conclusions. But I believe we are consumed and infatuated with materialism and consumerism. Today’s media machine is nonstop in its description of the so-called American Dream that has been redefined. Here are the things you need and must have to be happy and content. Thanks to television, this is the message that’s been drummed into us for over 60 years.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Trying to find a comedy that’s actually funny these days is just as difficult as hitting the lottery. What actually passes for comedy is most often crude, stupid or, quite frankly, sick or lewd humor. The bottom line is I don’t really find anything funny in today’s so-called comedies.

We’ve forgotten what comedy really is. Wait a minute! I’ve actually found a movie that is genuinely funny and will make you laugh. The movie I’m talking about is It’s Kind of a Funny Story. It’s based on the 2006 novel by Ned Vizzini. His motivation for writing the book is based on his own personal experiences being hospitalized for depression.

Stay with me. I know a book about depression doesn’t sound funny. But remember, the movie is titled It’s Kind of a Funny Story. After all, what doesn’t kill you will make you laugh. This film is a true gem. It’s not often I watch a movie that I thoroughly enjoy. This film is the type of movie that often flies under the radar screen. It doesn’t receive the type of attention that it deserves. There is so much truth about life and its complexities packed into this story that it’s almost difficult to know where to start.

The plot follows Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist), a sixteen year old Brooklyn native who’s dealing with depression and contemplating suicide. He checks himself into a nearby hospital, which lands him in a psychiatric ward. He realizes his mistake, but he is now forced to spend five days with an assortment of oddball and dysfunctional characters. That’s where the fun really starts.

Here he meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a middle-aged man who seeks refuge occasionally in the psych ward as sort of a vacation to get away from life. Bobby ultimately becomes Craig’s mentor and shows him the ropes in the mental ward. Of course, there’s a girl involved, Novel (Emma Roberts), who is also suffering from depression and attempted suicide. You’re probably thinking, “How could this be funny?” Trust me. It’s funny.

So what’s Craig’s problem? Why is he depressed? Craig says it’s complicated. You see, Craig goes to an elite high school for pre-professionals. He’s also trying to get into an advanced summer program. You get the picture. He needs to have an impressive resume to get into the right college so he can get the right job that will lead to the right car and the right girl and, of course, a big stack of cash—in other words, the American Dream. His parents have high expectations and already have laid out his life. The problem is this isn’t the life Craig wants. He faces the same problems that many teens find themselves dealing with. They don’t know how to express themselves or how to talk about the things that are bottled up inside of them. They often feel forced into life-changing decisions. They feel their lives are out of control, and they can’t do anything about it. And, of course, the expectations of high achievement also lead to anxiety and depression.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is both funny and serious. It uses comedy as a vehicle to explore difficult and dark material. At its heart, this film is a commentary on the complexities of becoming an adult and a coming-of-age story wrapped into one. Craig describes the day everything in his life was carefree. And then it was as if overnight someone threw a switch and everything changed. Life became serious. Everything mattered. Every decision had consequences. This becomes the source of Craig’s depression. How do you deal with life?

The fact is we’re all dealing with the same issue. It’s Kind of a Funny Story provides insight into why kids are depressed. But, despite all the talk about depression and suicide, this movie presents an optimistic and hopeful outcome to life and the joy and satisfaction that life offers. Craig’s real healing starts when he begins to help others in the psych ward, which leads to his recovery.

It’s amazing how this little comedy has so much wisdom to offer. For example, in one scene, Craig is talking to Novel. He is able to be comfortable around her because he can be himself and doesn’t have to be what other people expect him to be. Well, isn’t that a message we all need to hear and embrace?

Everything in this film works. The acting is spot on with perfect casting. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is creative and innovative in how it moves the narrative forward. You will be amazed to see just how funny depression can be.

One therapist in the movie pretty much summed up the entire theme in this well-known prayer: Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beyond the Christian Movie - Part 2

Thanks to the latest development in digital video, it seems that everybody has become a filmmaker.
Here are three questions you should ask yourself before you invest in a movie or decide to produce one:

3. Does this movie have opportunities to train and mentor the next generation of Christians pursuing a career in media and film. Are we disciplining future media missionaries? My experience has taught me that most Christian filmmakers are pre-occupied with the process of making the movie. They don’t see this as a golden opportunity to help the next generations of Christians who want to be filmmakers. I realize working with interns and students who don’t have experience is a time-consuming process,. But I believe the whole point of making the movie in the first place is to provide opportunities for future media missionaries. That’s big-picture thinking.

But making the time and effort to train people requires first a determination to do it. You need a plan on how things get done. You need a buy-in from department heads such as the director of photography, production manger, production designer, etc. You also need a budget because it will take more time to work with inexperienced interns. You also will need to think about designating an education coordinator who’s responsibility is to oversee interns and students. They need to create a discipleship model as well as providing training before the production process starts.

The final ingredient is access. The best education you will ever receive is on-the-job training. That means the key people on your production must make themselves available and be willing to teach as they are in the process of making a movie? Unfortunately, none of this is easy. Few people do it because it is just easier to make the movie.

Final thoughts

One movie is just one movie. Today most films have a very short shelf life. You get your 15 minutes of fame, and you’re off the stage. What is going to last and stand the test of time is the impact that we have on the lives of the people who worked on the film. Let me put it this way. Future filmmakers can go on and have a career spanning 40 years. Think about the number of projects and films they will work on throughout their career. How many people will they come into contact with who are nonbelievers? How many opportunities will they have to share Christ? Yes, making your film is important. But there is a bigger picture to think about. So the next time you are approached to give or invest in a movie, maybe, you should ask the questions: Does this film go beyond just making a movie?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Beyond the Christian Movie - Part 1

Thanks to the latest development in digital video, it seems that everybody has become a filmmaker. That’s especially true in the world of Christian filmmaking. I’m sure you know the story of Sherwood Baptist Church. They have written the book on how to make low-budget Christian films.

What if you were approached to donate or invest in a Christian movie? What would you look for? How would you know if it was a good investment with tangible results? If you’re a filmmaker ask yourself if there is more to this than just making a movie? In other words, is there a bigger picture beyond the Christian movie?

Here are three questions you should ask yourself before you invest in a movie or decide to produce one:

1. Does this movie have the ability to point people to Christ? Of course, that’s the main reason most Christians get involved in filmmaking in the first place. But it’s more than just making a Christian movie. To be more effective requires us to expand our horizon. A redemptive, transformation, or cautionary tale can be more Christian in terms of its nature than most Christian movies are in terms of their content. You want something that’s effective and has an impact. Forget about just reaching a Christian audience. Can you go beyond that and actually attract a mainstream audience to your movie?

2. Does this movie provide opportunities to reach out to nonChristian media professionals? Most often Christians only want to work with Christians. What an opportunity we miss. Filmmaking is a collaborative process that presents opportunities to build trust, relationships, and friendships; therefore, our movie crews should have both Christians and nonChristians working together. Looking for outreach opportunities? Well you just found one. I can’t think of a better way to have an impact on the industry.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

So You Want to Be a Filmmaker

How many of us really do what we want to do in life? Do you feel that you’re trapped in a job that you hate? Do you think you’ve missed your calling as a filmmaker? Well, get in line. What if you really could pursue your passion? Perhaps, you’re in your late 20s, 30s, 40s or older, and you have always wanted to be a director, producer, writer, or actor. Is there any hope for you?

Media Missionary School will soon be offering a unique program that could put you in the driver’s seat to become a filmmaker. Are you willing to invest three hours per week of your time over a six-month period to learn the art of film making? This program allows you to keep your day job as you explore the possibilities of a career in the film and media industry. The real payoff for you is you will have a significant part in the production of a real motion picture. The movie will be shot in June 2012 somewhere in the Greater Cincinnati area. You will be required to be on set for two weeks. That means you will have to take vacation time in order to be involved in this film.

Classes will start in January 2012. What will you learn? Everything you need to know about how to make a movie, particularly in the area of low-budget filmmaking. Classes will be led by industry professionals who have worked in both the film or television business. You get all the inside information from pre-production to distribution. You won’t find this type of knowledge through any online 2-day program or a $30 film school. There are plenty of people who will tell you how to make a movie, but the only way that you are ever really going to understand the process is to do it.

Do I have your attention? Are you interested? Would you like to see your film screened at film festivals? This is a golden opportunity. Currently, Media Missionary School is recruiting 20 students who are serious about their future. You will work with state-of-the-art equipment and will have access to resources necessary to make a film that has real possibilities for distribution. Become the producer, director, writer, or actor that you’ve always dreamed of.

Feel free to contact me for more information at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Film camp set for July 11 - 15

Media Missionary School is offering a digital film camp for high school students and young adults in the summer of 2011. The camp will be a joint effort with the Vineyard Community Church in Springdale, Ohio.

This year’s camp will take place July 11 – 15. If you are interested in filmmaking or considering a career in media, this camp is perfect for you. Students will have access to the latest in digital technology. During the week, you will write, produce, shoot, and edit your own short film. Classes will be lead by industry professionals, including several who are involved in producing and creating motion pictures. This is the chance you have been waiting for, your opportunity to explore your passion for media and filmmaking.

What makes Media Missionary School unique is that all classes are taught from a faith-based perspective. If you believe you may have a calling to be a media missionary, this class is a must. For more information, you can contact Harold Hay at

Space is limited on a first come, first serve basis. No prior experience is necessary.

film camp registration...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On the Other Hand

Most of us have seen the 1971 film, Fiddler on the Roof. Do you remember the scenes where Tevye learns that his three daughters, Tzeitel, Chava, and Hodel, have chosen whom they will marry. In each case the situation gets worse because it challenges Tevye’s concept of tradition. He has a discussion between himself and God. He continually used the phrase “on the other hand” as he makes the argument for tradition as it applies to marriage, but then states the case for his daughters’ happiness in his conversation with God.

We too have that same discussion with God as we look “on the other hand” between two contrasting viewpoints or situations. We have all been there. Two months ago, I published my first book, The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture. It was an enormous burden that was finally lifted. On one hand, I’m excited about the possibilities and opportunities that this book will lead to. Who knows what will happen? What doors that might be opened. Each day is a new day filled with anticipation. Sounds good, right?

But on the other hand, there is a great amount of apprehension. Yes. I got the book published, but I still lack the promotion and marketing to get the word out. Over all, I am still lacking the resources necessary to get the ministry on a solid foundation. So here lies my paradox or on the other hand. I can say on the positive side that I have a book, but on the negative side I have no resources or funding. How I see this in my heart and mind will be a major deciding factor. Is it victory or defeat?

Which one do I listen to. And which one do you listen to in your life because I’m sure we all have some kind of dilemma to face. We constantly have an ongoing internal argument. Do I have the faith to stand despite the circumstances? Do I believe God has called me to do a certain thing no matter how difficult or impossible the situation seems to be? Which side will win the argument. We know all things are possible through God. But there is still worry. I would be lying to you if I told you that some days seem hopeless.

However as Scarlett O’ Hara said from Gone With The Wind “after all, tomorrow is another day”. Anything is possible. Right ?

Monday, April 11, 2011


We are still trying to understand how Nazi Germany could have happened. How could an entire nation go absolutely mad? Historians continue to struggle to make sense of it—six million Jews murdered and wiped off the face of the earth. Maybe no one can explain genocide or why men do the things they do. Over the years, Hollywood has produced several movies and television miniseries that have tried to address the subject, such as the Holocaust, Schindler’s List, Conspiracy, The Hiding Place, and Hitler: The Rise of Evil.

Could there be anything new to add to the discussion? Good, a 2008 film, starring Virggo Mortensen, was released on DVD last year. I recently had an opportunity to take a look at it. This film is based on a stage-play written by C. P. Taylor. It played for a number of years on the London stage starting back in 1981. Good is about a German literature professor, John Halder (Virggo Mortensen, who in 1933 writes a novel about euthanasia.

Four years later, he is approached by The SS (The Schutzstaffel, Protection Squadron), concerning his writings. They see this as an opportunity to use Halder’s writings for propaganda. Because he is an intellectual, the SS believes Halder gives them added credibility for the cause.

Halder has never been supportive of the Nazi movement and avoided joining the Nazi Party. He was offered an honorary position in the SS, which is in direct contract to his views. Further complicating Halder’s life is his relationship to his best friend, Maurice (Jason Isaacs), who is Jewish. Halder is also concerned about keeping his job at the University. His problems go away when he accepts the position and joins the Nazi Party.

Halder’s life is anything but simple. With a sick mother, a wife who is dealing with depression, and a mistress who is urging him to embrace Nazi philosophy, Halder is walking a fine line between two worlds. Halder is what many call the “good German”. He is a liberal, mild-mannered intellectual who somehow gets mixed up in the century’s worst crime, the plan to exterminate of an entire race of people. Is Halder to blame? Or is he a victim of mere circumstances.

Perhaps, it would be comforting to believe that all Germans, as well as the Nazis themselves, were totally evil. But Good offers a slightly different view—is it possible that good men by the act of doing nothing are capable of being part of evil acts. Is Halder naïve or totally stupid? Does he see only what he wants to see? He is on a slippery slope. One thing leads to another. Then everything spirals out of control.

Good serves as a cautionary tale for us today. Halder only wants to get ahead and be successful. Does he realize what price he is paying? Perhaps, we can learn from this tale. We don’t necessarily set out to do bad things. But the decisions we make can put us in a position where we are morally compromised. Good is a very thought-provoking movie. Although we may never be in the same situation as Halder, we may make choices that could lead us down a destructive path.

Good is not a perfect movie. At times, it is slow, feels out of sync, and lacks pace and action. The world we see is through the eyes of Halder, and we never quite get to see the bigger picture of what is actually taking place in Germany in the 1930s. That’s because it is only a snapshot of Halder’s very personal story; therefore, it lacks a more grand scale that could have made this a better movie. There is not even a hint of German accents in this film. To make matters worse, the actors speak with eloquent King’s speech. That sort of takes away from the overall effect of the film.

With that said, Good still gets my recommendation as a film that is worth viewing because this is an important subject which offers insight into the human condition. Matters of good and evil are far more complicated than we ever can imagine, and sometimes they become blended together. Good is rated R for some language, so a word of caution. It is available on DVD but will be difficult to find.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Line in the Sand

If there’s one thing that we’re good at as Christians, it is drawing a line in the sand. The question is whether or not that’s what God wants us to do. Or are we doing it because of something we think we want God to do. To be honest, I think we do it because it gives us comfort. On one side is right. On the other side is wrong. This gives us a clear sense of how we should live our lives and clearly defines sin. But it’s just not that simple. We especially have problems when we apply this type of thinking to movies, music, television, dress, customs or other lifestyle choices. Sometimes the Bible is clear, such as in the case of murder, adultery or putting God first in your life. Other times, it requires the ability to listen to that still, small voice inside of us.

I had an encounter a few years ago that helps illustrate my point when we draw a line in the sand that makes absolutely no sense. I was producing a television program called The Zone which was airing on major cable and satellite outlets across the United States. The program had a live audience, and I was talking to a youth pastor about bringing his kids to be part of one of our tapings. Now mind you, this was a fairly large church located in the suburbs of a major city. This wasn’t in the backwoods. The youth pastor told me I was wrong to produce a program such as The Zone. And he had no interest in being part of it. He believed I was leading kids to commit sin.

We were playing contemporary Christian music. That doesn’t sound sinful to me. He didn’t have a problem with the lyrics. His problem was with the beat. He was convinced it would lead to the moral degradation of our society because it encouraged our youth to fornicate. I can’t make this stuff up. He had drawn a line in the sand. Does the Bible have anything to say about the style or the beat of any musical type. I don’t think so. Is this any way to engage the world?

Here’s another example. When I was in Bible college, during daily chapel, the President of the college made these remarks: He had stood on the corner in downtown Cincinnati and observed the coming and going of the daily commuters. After one hour, he had concluded that he had not seen one Christian walk by. He went on to make his point that our society was turning away from God. What did he base his conclusions on? What evidence did he see? His standard was on personal appearance. What type of clothes were they wearing? Makeup? Jewelry? Hairstyle? That was his standard for holiness. He drew a line in the sand. If you were on the wrong side, you were in sin. Did God ask him to do this? I suppose it makes our job so much easier if we can just look at somebody and determine if he or see is a believer. Perhaps, it gives us some comfort.

Final thought.

Yes these are radical examples. But I’m sure on some level we’re all drawing a line in the sand when it’s not necessary. I know we do it because we want to know what we have to do to be right with God. Just give me a list and I’ll follow it.

I know the Bible is our guide, and the Holy Spirit does instructs us. But we have to be part of the process to understand how to live our life in order to honor God.. And often, there is no clear line in the sand, but that doesn’t give us a license to do anything we want. I also don’t have any interest in creating obstacles for those who are seeking a relationship with Christ. Maybe this will give us fresh eyes when we think about movies, dress, and other such issues.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Film School—Is it Your Best Choice? - Part 2

One of the biggest questions you will face is whether or not you should go to film school or some other media program. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Film school is no guarantee at success or employment.
Here are the questions I think you should be asking:

2. Is your equipment state-of-the-art? Chances are you’re paying anywhere between $20,000 to $40,000 per year for your education. I think you deserve to use state-of the-art equipment. If your school is using equipment that has been donated recently by the public access station, you might want to consider a new program. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate so the equipment has to reflect this. Does your program offer the red camera, 16 mm and 35 mm production capabilities, or whatever new technology is currently available? Make sure you get the opportunity to see the equipment before you decide to apply to the program.

3. Is the program based on practical application? It’s great to know the history of the film and entertainment industry or the Golden Age of Hollywood. And, sure, who doesn’t want to know about the techniques and strategies of major directors such as Alfred Hitchcock? But none of that is going to get you a job. It’s great knowledge, and I’m sure some day it will come in handy. Your school or program and has to be about one thing and one thing only—teaching you practical skills which make you employable. That’s one of the major faults I see with so many graduates from film schools. They have not been taught any tangible skills. This is a discussion you must have with your prospective film school. How are they going to make you employable within the industry? What is their plan? If they don’t want to have this discussion, then you don’t want to go to this school. Don’t take their word for it. Talk to post-graduates to find out their experiences.

4. Do they offer quality internships? Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. A significant number of film and media graduates find work in the industry through college internship programs. if your school doesn’t have good internship programs, you may be throwing your money away. Are they connected with the television networks, major studios, and production companies? Find out what you have to do to qualify for an internship program. Before you graduate, you need to have your foot in the door.

5. Does your school or program have contacts in the industry? Let’s face it. The single most important reason that you go to film school or other media program is for contacts. You need to know people who work in the business. What does your school contact list look like? Do your instructors or teachers have active contacts in the film and media industry? Are they willing to use them for your benefit? Does the school or program have alumni who work in the industry? Are they willing to help current students? Does the school have friends of the program? The time to find out is before you sign on the dotted line. Contacts are everything. They are your entry point. Chances are if your school has a good internship program, they probably have the contacts that can help you.

Final thoughts.

In all honesty, no one is going to tell you the truth about their program. I recommend you do your own research and dig around. Don’t just accept the prestige of any school or program based on face value. They could be living off of their reputation. You deserve better. If you want to work in this industry, you have to do everything you can to increase your odds. No matter if you go to film school or a four-year traditional college, or whether you decide on a different course, the one thing you must do is volunteer your time. You need to work on projects and gain experience. One of the mistakes I’ve seen from students I’ve talked to is that they tried to do the minimum. Sure, they got their degree, but they never really got the experience they needed. In other words, this isn’t the army. You need to volunteer for everything. That includes student projects, public access, local film production, school projects, etc. These will give you opportunities for employment. They certainly won’t hurt your resume.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Film School—Is it Your Best Choice? Part 1

One of the biggest questions you will face is whether or not you should go to film school or some other media program. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Film school is no guarantee at success or employment. It’s amazing how many people I have met who work in the entertainment and media industry who don’t have film or media degrees. Over the years, many college graduates have come to me with film degrees looking to break into the industry. Many had been out of school for several years without gaining employment in the industry. The reality is there are too many programs across the country graduating too many students.

Most students believe that if they get a degree in film or media they will get a job. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But there are things you can do to increase your chances for employment in the industry.

The question of going to film school in the first place is certainly based on your individual situation. What are your goals and objectives? What role do you want to play? Are you interested in being a director, producer, writer, editor, unit production manager or production designer? There may be other alternatives to a traditional four-year college.

My best advice is to get around people who are experienced in the business. Find a mentor. Most people in this industry are interested in you knowing how to get the job done versus your educational background. I’m not discounting film school or other media programs. They help to open doors and to provide opportunities. But, before you ever think about going, you should already be practicing your craft.

The reason I think that most people get degrees in film and media and fail to find employment in the industry is because they don’t ask the right questions. Don’t just assume the program is good because they say it is. Of course, everybody is going to put their best foot forward and make it sound like the greatest program in the country.

Here are the questions I think you should be asking:

1 Is the program hands-on, and how fast do I get my hands on the equipment? Do you really want to spend your hard-earned money talking about making media or do you want to actually produce media? A friend of mine recently graduated with a media degree from a prestigious four-year college here in the mid-west. He chose not to go to the main campus but elected to attend a satellite campus because it offered him access to the equipment in his first semester. If he had gone to the main campus, he would have had to wait until his Junior year to actually work with the equipment. He felt that he had a far better education because he got to the equipment early. Ask the questions straight up. Don’t be afraid. You need to know how soon you get to use the cameras, editing bay, sound gear or lighting equipment.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Media Missionary’s Dilemma

Getting from Point A to Point B can be difficult even under the best of circumstances. It’s especially difficult if you’ve been called to be a media missionary that works in mainstream media. I’m sure this comes of no surprise to you. In my case, I was called to start a ministry that will help those who feel led to go to Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry as media missionaries. The purpose of Media Missionary School is to inform, educate and empower the Body of Christ concerning the issues of media, faith, and culture. For years I’ve said that whoever controls the mainstream media will control the spiritual direction of our society.

A friend of mine recently summed up what I call the Media Missionary’s Dilemma. I think it’s something that we all struggle with. He put it this way, “It’s an abstract concept. Although you’re right in what you are talking about, it’s difficult for people to grasp. Because of that, as media missionaries, it’s challenging to find supporters and the resources to do the work.” Our challenge is to find a way to take abstract concepts and turn them into tangible realities. Unfortunately, the media missionary’s journey cannot be summed up in a 30-second sound bite nor can it be reduced to one paragraph. No snappy mission statement can do it justice.

As in life, things that truly matter such as substantive issues require time and effort to fully comprehend their scope and meaning. For example, our mission statement here at Media Missionary School goes something like this: We provide Biblical answers to the Body of Christ concerning the impact and influence of today’s mass media culture. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But what does that really mean? Without seeing Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a valid mission field or seeing the need to raise up, equip, train and support media missionaries to Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry, it really means nothing. That’s the dilemma for all of us as media missionaries.

Let’s face it. There are easier areas to minister in. However, God called me to this one. Finding support for feeding the poor or building orphanages in third-world countries doesn’t require much of an explanation. But try talking to people about Hollywood as a mission field or raising support to send young people to be filmmakers in the mainstream industry and see how far you get.

The calling of a media missionary is just as valid and important. So what do you do? How do you engage people to see the relevance and significance of a media missionary? After all, Hollywood doesn’t look like a third world country. When I talk to most people, they are often very polite and agree with the concept of a media missionary, but they believe there are more important things to put their time and resources toward.

People aren’t getting it. So how do we convey this very abstract concept of engaging culture by using mainstream media to plant Biblical and Christian concepts into movies, television programs, and all other forms of electronic media? I think that’s why God called me to write The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture. Unfortunately, it took me 244 pages to explain the need and why the Body of Christ plays a major part in God’s plan to transform our culture through media.

One thing I’ve learned, and perhaps this will be helpful on your journey as a media missionary, is it’s the Holy Spirit who does the convincing. Yes, you have to do your part, your due diligence, and preparation. But ultimately it’s the Holy Spirit that moves people to action. It’s really this simple. Either the Holy Spirit is talking to someone or not. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit is talking to a potential supporter, but he or she is unwilling to listen. If you have the discernment that God has spoken to someone to support you, you have to continue to pray that they will respond to what God wants them to do. You’re also going to need the wisdom and discernment to know when it’s time to move on and when God is not speaking to a person to help support your ministry.

I wish I had some easy answers for you. But you have picked a difficult journey. Like me, you’re probably still wondering how you get from Point A to Point B. Well, if you have any suggestions or if God has spoken to you, I can use your help as well. But take comfort. If God has called you to be a media missionary, it’s going to happen somehow. Just don’t expect it to be easy. But remember, God says he equips those he calls.