Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Experiencing God

Experiences in knowing God are not limited to a physical building or a worship service. We can know God anywhere because he is constantly revealing his presence in every aspect of life. That’s how God speaks to us through movies, television programs or other forms of media. Dr. Paul L. Cox, an ordained Baptist pastor and co-director of Aslan’s Place, said that he and a few friends went to see Star Trek. During the movie, he felt waves of the power of God come over him. As he later contemplated what that could have meant, he realized that the Lord was speaking to him in a dramatic way. The theme of Star Trek is daring to boldly go where no man has gone before. He felt the Lord was asking him if he dared to go where God wanted him to go?”

If you are earnestly looking for God, he will reveal himself to you. God uses whatever means it will take to get to your heart. That is an example of how people can have a profound experience with God at the movies.

God is at work in the world. Our experience with God can occur at any time of the day throughout the week. He will choose whatever means he desires to speak to us whether it be through people, places, nature, objects, etc. Is it fair to say that many of our church leaders want to control how people experience God? Perhaps it is a frightening concept to consider that God can work outside the walls of the church building and outside of the pre-constructed box in which we have placed God.

I believe today's society can better understand a God that they can experience in whatever way God choices to reveal himself. We have limited God and made him fit into our framework. This helps to explain why many in our culture can have a profound spiritual experience watching media because God is speaking to them though it. We must be open to how God chooses to speak to people. God works differently with each generation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

THE BUS STOP produced during the 2010 Media Missionary School Film Camp

THE BUS STOP produced during the 2010 Media Missionary School Film Camp from Media Missionary School on Vimeo.

"The Bus Stop" was produced by high school students while participating in the 2010 Media Missionary School Film Camp. To learn more visit

Monday, August 29, 2011

Finding Your Calling

When I became a Christian in 1976, people told me right from the start that God had a plan for my life. I was made for a purpose. There was a reason why I was alive. There was something that God wanted me to do. In other words, I had a destiny and a calling to fulfill. That made me special and unique in the sight of God. I soon learned that all of us are special and unique because we all have a calling that is tailor-made for each one of us. Over time, my views concerning a calling have not changed.

But finding your calling is by no means an easy process. It can be downright difficult. Why? Because we have to get ourselves and what we want to achieve in life out of the process of God using us to fulfill His purposes. It has taken me years to discover my calling and purpose. So what have I learned along the way?

Your view or opinion of a calling will depend on how you see God. Is he a personal God involved in our daily lives, active in the affairs of this world? Or is he a distant God who created the universe and turned it over to man? If God is a distant God, that means you really have no purpose other than to do what you think is right. And, frankly, that’s a recipe for disaster. As far as I can tell by studying the Bible, God is clearly involved in the affairs of man and desires a personal relationship with his creation. The Bible says that when we diligently seek Him we will find Him. If he is a distant God, he would be inaccessible.

Many Christians also believe that only some have been called, but that’s not true either. Galatians 1:15 says, “But God had special plans for me and set me apart for his work even before I was born.” NCV Isaiah 49:1 says, Before I was born, the Lord called me to serve him. The Lord named me while I was still in my mother’s womb.” NCV Sounds to me like we all have a calling; however, our view of a calling is rather narrow. It depends on how we view the world. For some of us, the world is divide into two parts, secular and sacred; therefore, a calling must be sacred, such as being called to the priesthood or becoming a pastor or a missionary in Africa. That would exclude a career in film or television or becoming an electrician or even a politician. But God has no division. Everything in life is sacred. That makes finding your calling even more complicated.

However the one thing that is not complicated, if you are a follower of Christ, you are called to spread the Word of God. The how part of spreading the Gospel takes into consideration your unique calling as well as the part that you will play in the Body of Christ. Therefore you can be a missionary working in Hollywood producing mainstream films as well as working as an engineer in NASA. We each have a specific, unique skill set to fulfill the mission of spreading the Word of God through our vocation. How do we get started in discovering God’s will for our lives? Am I called to be a media missionary? Should I go to Hollywood or make independent Christian movies? I believe the question we should be asking ourselves is what is God’s will and where is He at work? If we are going to know God’s will, we must have a relationship with him that is authentic and personal. Unless you spend time with him, you cannot know his character, his motives, or his purposes. Just like in dating, you spend time with a person to get to know him/her. God is no different. By reading the Word, spending time in prayer and meditation, and spending time with fellow Christians who have a committed relationship with Christ, we start to understand who God is.

You cannot accept Christ as your Savior, walk away, and expect to understand your calling. By developing a personal relationship with God, you will come to know what you believe and why you believe it. In doing this, you will realize that God’s first plan for your life is to turn total control over to him. For most of us, this is a difficult concept to accept. We will resist and fight this. We will try to make a deal with God. We will turn over some parts of our lives in order to get what we want. In other words, we try to bargain by saying, if you let me go to Hollywood and make movies, I will give up this or that.

As time goes on we either do one thing or the other. We give up more control of our lives or hold on to our control. But if we are willing to allow God to control more of our lives and the decisions we make, he will invite us to join him in his work. We will reach a point where we really want to know what God’s will is. God will begin to speak to us through the Holy Spirit, through his Word, prayer, circumstances and the Body of Christ to reveal his purposes and his ways.

God will do whatever is necessary to get our attention. We will have to decide if we are willing to make the adjustments in our lives to do what he is doing instead of what we want to do. Some people call this a crisis of faith. I believe that it is when we totally surrender to the will of God that are willing to give up our passion and our dreams in order to do and accomplish the will of God. For some of us, that might mean accepting the fact that we are not called to go to Hollywood and make movies. It’s at this point that we truly experience God by obeying him. He then accomplishes his work through us. In the end, you might very well be called to be a media missionary to go to Hollywood and make movies and TV shows. The question is, are you willing to give it up to serve God. That’s the central issue that surrounds the crisis of faith.

Discovering God’s calling and plan for your life is always a process. It will take time and sacrifices, but, in the end, you will ultimately have to readjust your life and join him in his work and not yours.

Another thing to consider in discovering your calling is the intersection of your passion, your dreams, and your strengths. When the three come together, this can help you understand what God’s plan is for your life. But looking only at your passion and not considering your dreams and strengths can be misleading. Passion speaks to the heart. For example, when I was in high school, I had a passion to be a ball player. In my heart I wanted to be a major league baseball player. I certainly had the passion, but I lacked the talent. It was not my strength. It was my dream because it is all I thought about. Dreams are a matter of the mind. But, again, I lacked the talent. Only when the three come together can we begin to see how God is working. You must look at the complete picture.

Finding God’s will is dependent on a life focused on God, his activity, and our decision to deny self. No one can tell you what God’s will is for your life. Only you can find that out by diligently seeking him and being purposeful in how you live your life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Editing Theory

Editing has a theory and history that dates back to Russia and the silent era. It is called “montage”. “Montage” is a French term that means “edit” or “put together”. Soviet filmmakers felt that, above all else, it was a film’s ability to change images that made it an art form. In editing, a shot can go from one person’s point-of-view to another’s – we can be a killer in one shot and the victim in the next. We can also instantly move from one location to another or through time (see how cleverly the Winona Ryder film “Girl, Interrupted”, shifts back and forth in time).

Soviet filmmakers believed that montage gave cinema its art and power – that shots in isolation were meaningless, but intention emerged when shots were combined and juxtaposed together.


In the 1920s, a soviet teacher by the name of Lev Kuleshow experimented with montage by shooting an actor looking at something off screen using a neutral expression. In sequence one, he cut from the actor to a bowl of soup and back to the actor’s reaction. In a second sequence, he cut from the actor, to a girl injured, then back to the actor’s reaction. Audiences shown the scenes believed that the actor’s face was able to express hunger in one scene and pity in the other. In fact, the actor was expressionless in both scenes – the effect was created only through the art of editing.

Sergei Eisenstein

No discussion of editing theory is complete without mention of the Russian filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein. It was Eisenstein who claimed that film space and time was constructed by editing and by the space photographed by the shot. For example, an actor looks off screen. We cut to a fire, followed by the actor’s reaction shot. The audience assumes the hero is looking at the explosion, but, in reality, the explosion could have occurred somewhere else in the world and at another time.

In the 1925 silent classic, “Battleship Potemkin”, Eisenstein further demonstrated that although an event might only take a few seconds in real time, its importance might be significant enough that it could – and should – be lengthened through editing. (Real time, of course, could also be condensed.)

In films made today, the viewer is rarely aware that an edit has occurred. Movie action, for the most part, is presented in a progressive and continuous manner. Editing theory, however, is useful in understanding the power and effect editing has on moviemaking. Many of Eisenstein’s theories are used in commercials which routinely juxtapose beautiful, happy people with soft drinks, cars, beer, and other consumer products.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Juxtaposition is the Core of Editing

Editing is based on the principle of juxtaposition. By the way, it is the most powerful tool that filmmakers have on their creative palette. By statically placing two visual ideas next to each other, you can create a separate third idea in the viewers mind. The two shots by themselves may be meaningless but together they can create a higher psychological meaning. Their combination can create values and serve a purpose.

This was first proven in the 1920s, when a Soviet filmmaker shot an actor with an expressionless look on his face. Next he shot a bowl of soup and an injured girl. He cut to the bowl of soup and then cut back to the actor’s reaction. Then he cut to the injured girl and back to the actor’s reaction. He showed this to audiences who believed in the first shot that the actor was expressing hunger and that in the second shot he was expressing pity. In reality, the actor was looking at the camera and at no time was expressing any emotion. The audience made this determination on their own based on how the segment was edited. Editing has the power to create meaning based on the arrangement of images. This is a profound concept, one that most of us are probably unaware of. Editing is capable of creating truth, but is just as likely to express untruth.

Juxtaposition – By strategically placing two visual ideas next to each other, you can create a separate third idea in the viewer’s mind.

• Juxtaposition shows thoughts and emotions.
• Juxtaposition can be used between two symbolic shots.
• Juxtaposition can be used between two scenes, thus linking
them together.
• Juxtaposition can link two stories to show theme.
• Juxtaposition – between voice and image.
• Juxtaposition – between music and image.
• Juxtaposition – between two ideas.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Its all about the Subtext and Context

Media communicated multi-layers of different messages, values and meaning. They often are not noticeable to the viewer but are hidden in the subtext of the story. What is often not said is more important than what is actually being communicated. Subtext is one of the most effective ways filmmakers can communicate their point of view. Another reason subtext is used by a writer is to invoke strong emotional reactions from their audience. For example, a character does one thing but means something else. He takes his kid to the park to play and meets a potential girlfriend, who is in trouble with the law. The character says one thing but means something else. For instance, he says “I am going to get you out of this mess” rather than saying “I love you so much, I’m willing to risk my life to save you”. Character A does something nice for character B instead of saying how he feels about her..

It’s impossible to interpret content or subtext unless we understand the context in which it is presented. This requires a commonsense approach.  First, it is important to understand the relationship between the content and context. How is the content used in the storyline? Does it fit? Does it make sense within the context of how the story is being told? Does the content provide an ultimately redeeming social message? Do the characters change or grow because of the content? Is there redemption? Does truth ultimately prevail?

For example, the movie, Saving Private Ryan contains graphic images. The action is intense and personal. The film received an R rating based on the content of brutal, violent images. Is this content justified as it’s applied within the context of the film? Most would argue, yes, because if you are going to recreate the invasion of Normandy on D Day, it must be realistic. Survivors of the experience felt the filmmakers had told an accurate and realistic portrayal of the events of that day. Saving Private Ryan would not have worked unless it offered an honest and unflinching look at wartime violence. We now have a better understanding of what our veterans suffered through and the sacrifices they made on that fateful day. The content of this film proved that.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Guerilla Code

The Guerilla Code is low-budget filmmaking for film school in the real world. Know the following code.

Simple, Small-scale Stories

Remember, you are not making a blockbuster. But that doesn’t mean your stories have to be simple in plot, subtext, metaphors, or symbolism. Just pick a story that can be told with minimum effort.

Single Location

Find a story that can be told in three or less locations. And remember that 80% of your shoot should be centered around one single location. Each time you move from one location to another, you’re burning time and money.

Handful of Characters

Have no more than five characters in your story because you don’t have the money to pay for a large cast. Following the guerilla code is primarily a three-week, 18-day shoot. The less characters involved the easier the process.

A Plot with Twists and Turns

Most low-budget films are designed to keep you guessing Without multiple locations, special effects, car chases, and a host characters to keep things interesting, you have to rely on your story to drive your project. Without a great script, the independent filmmaker is dead on arrival. Your screenplay needs to feature plenty of twists and turns. Get the viewer to think the story is going one way and then take the story in a completely different direction. Then surprise them with an unexpected complication. You get the picture. It’s the double-cross, the triple-cross, etc. Remember the only thing you have going for you is your story.

A Strong Story

Not only should your story have twists and turns, but it also must be compelling. Is your story intriguing, mysterious, or dynamic? Does it deliver an emotional impact? Chances are you don’t have the money to show a lot of action on screen. You must create action through your characters by the emotion they are expressing.

Interesting and Quirky Characters

Characters in big-budget films often look generic and uninteresting. Hollywood actors don’t necessarily reflect what real people look like – too handsome, too attractive or too young. Most low-budget films are character pieces and character-driven. Your characters are your friends. Make them interesting. Who wants to be normal? There is nothing in life that can be described as average or normal. Make your characters unusual and quirky, just like real life. Never commit the crime that Hollywood is often guilty of—stereotyping people into neat categories. There is nothing more interesting than depicting so-called ordinary people in your film.

Unique Setting

You are going to shoot 80% of your project in one location, so find someplace unique. Yes, I know that it requires effort and research, but it will help you stand out from other media projects. What do you have in your home town that that nobody else has. Find something unusual. Have you ever seen it in a movie? This could be your location. Low-budget and guerilla filmmakers based in Los Angeles often use the Mohave Desert for their locations. It’s simple and accessible, but it also serves as a character in their films. There is something intriguing and mysterious about the desert. It’s also a cinematographer’s dream due to the texture and moods that the desert scenery creates. You may not live near a desert but chances are you have a unique location at your fingertips. Your goal is to discover it and build a story around it.

Keep Night Shots to a Minimum

Guerilla filmmaking works best with simple-shot setups. When you decide to shoot at night or use atmospherics such as wind, rain or fog, you are violating the guerilla code. You don’t have the time or money for the complexity these shots require. If it’s in your script, you may want to consider a rewrite. If you cannot find a way around it, keep it to only one occurrence in your project.

Use Natural Lighting

The golden rule is to use available lighting so find natural lighting sources. When you set up complex lighting elements, it will require a significant amount of time. Low-budget filmmaking works best when moving quickly from scene to scene. When you build your story around daylight shooting, it will save you time and money. If you are shooting indoors, use sunlight from windows and doorways.

Find a Niche

Build your story around a topic that is fresh and original. Maybe your character has an interest in building and flying model planes. Perhaps, there is an annual competition. This could make an interesting story. Find a niche—something that has never been on the screen before. Maybe your story is about a comic book writer who views the world as a comic book. So create a world in which his comic books becomes reality. As an independent filmmaker, you have to think differently and see the world in a different light than the big-budget filmmakers. Look for the unusual.

End Game

So where does the Christian fit into this process? For years, most Christian filmmakers have been making low-budget features. But the problem is they have violated practically every low-budget principle and every element in the guerilla code. That’s why the films often look cheesy and one-dimensional. We need Christians who can embrace low-budget principles and create a new kind of film.

What if we stop making Christian films and decide to make redemptive films. What would they look like? Would they speak to a broader audience? By applying low-budget principles, we can use the same strategy that the independent film industry has been using for years. We now have the keys. All we have to do is present Biblical truth and tell stories that will engage our audience. Isn’t it time that filmmakers who have a passion for Christ make their entryway into Sundance or the Toronto Film Festival. The independent model could provide a better way to reach our audience than the big-budget studio system of Hollywood.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The System - part 2

I wish I can tell you that if you went to film school, you would learn all of the inside information about how the Hollywood system works. Chances are you’ll get a good education on cinematic theory but not on practical business knowledge. There are two primary systems, the studio system and the independent model. More than likely, in the beginning you will work in the independent model. As time goes on, you will work in both the independent and studio systems.

So how do you prepare now and learn about the system? First, you need some training. Whether that’s film school or some type of film academy, it’s essential that you get some professional, competent training. I suggest further that you get some practical work experience in your home town. If you want to direct, start directing now. If you want to produce, start producing now. If you want to be a cinematographer start doing it now. Odds are you will have to put in a lot of hours with little or no pay to learn the business. Eventually, if you are serious about learning the system and working in the industry, you will have to go to Los Angeles. That’s what everyone inside the industry has told me if you want to work full-time in the business. Contrary to what other’s may tell you, the industry still takes place in Los Angeles.

But, don’t ever think about going to Hollywood without the right preparation Otherwise, no one is going to take you seriously. I’m assuming that most of you who read my blog are Christians and perhaps consider yourselves media missionaries. I suggest you follow Hollywoodconnect.comThey provide good intelligence and resources about job prospects, where to live, support groups, and further training in Hollywood. They also conduct quarterly orientation sessions for newcomers to the industry. This is a great opportunity for you to connect with working professionals in the industry. They suggest that before you think about coming to Los Angeles to live and work, you first should plan a vision tour. In other words, go out to Los Angeles for a week, attend the orientation session and meet some people. I recommend that you meet with several of the ministry leaders which you will find on the Hollywood Connect website. I am convinced that within a week you will have more than enough information to decide if you have been called to Hollywood. You will also have a better understanding of how the system works.

And, finally, industry insiders say that there are three primary ways that you can break into Hollywood and the entertainment industry. First, become an entrepreneur and make your own movies. If you can raise your own money, write your story, direct your film and produce it as well, you are on your way. Many well-known filmmakers who work in Hollywood have followed this pattern. One example is the Jay and Mark Duplass, who have made a number of successful low-budget independent films including Baghead, which helped their career. They have gone from a $15,000 budget to their current movie Cyrus, which has a budget of $7 million. Of course, not everybody can write, direct and produce their own material. So the following next two options may be your best choice.

Second is through the internship program. If you are in the right school or program with the right connections, you can very well be at the front of the class. It takes about three internships to get your first real job in the industry. The Los Angeles Film Study Center has over a 70% placement of its graduates within the industry. They are obviously connected. They have a relationship with practically every major studio and production company in Los Angeles. Before you decide which program or college to enroll in, take a hard look at the internship program and the connections that your school or program offers.

The third way to break into Hollywood and the entertainment industry is through the role of the production assistant. Find out who hires the crews, which are the production managers, unit managers, and the director of production. Get to know these people and build relationships. Obviously, this means you are starting at the bottom, but that’s the way the system works. If you can be the best production assistant possible, then chances are you will be rehired for the next project. Go beyond the call of duty and become a problem solver. Then the next time you might actually move up to being the assistant to the production manager. And then you may become the second assistant director on the next project.

Not everybody who works in Hollywood or the entertainment industry fits conveniently into the above categories. You’ll find that many people have a somewhat unconventional story on how they broke into the business. One example is Ralph Winter, a well-known producer for films such as Star Trek, X-men and Wolverine. Winter did not go to college to pursue a career in film. He has a degree in history. Winter worked for a department store producing educational and training videos. With that type of background, it would seem that he would be an unlikely candidate to become a major Hollywood producer. So how did he do it?

There are three concepts that Winter followed. First is the rule of proximity, which is being in the right place at right time. You can’t learn this in a textbook. Some people just have a knack for seeing opportunities. In Winter’s case, he worked in Los Angeles near the industry. That’s a huge advantage. Second, as they say in this business, it’s not what you know but who you know. Ralph Winter had a friend who worked at Paramount Studios. When a job opened in the editing department, he recommended that Ralph pursue the opportunity. With his help, Winter got the job. The truth is people like to work with people they know and trust.

Third is the rule of leverage. It’s a long way from the editing department to being a producer who makes movies with over a $100 million budget. I’ve heard Winter talk often about leverage. When you have something that somebody needs, and they have something that can help you, you work together to achieve the results that both parties want. Doing so helps you to move forward. By using leverage, Winter eventually made his move and became a producer on the Paramount lot. It’s a very unorthodox story.

The bottom line is Winter applied all three principles to turn his story into a success story. He worked in industrial video making training videos. There are thousands of people across the country who do that job every day. Many of those people could be in Ralph Winter’s shoes today. Sure, Ralph’s talented, but there are talented people everywhere. But in Winter’s case, he was in the right place at the right time, which gave him an incredible opportunity. This is how the system works. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. The best advice is to give yourself the best opportunity you can. Have a plan and be in a position that when the opportunity arises you can step into it. Don’t make the fatal error of being complacent or just trying to slide by. You need to be proactive and seize the moment.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The System - part 1

Recently, someone asked me how the system works. What they were referring to is how Hollywood and the entertainment industry functions. To narrow it down further, how do I get a job in the business? How do I get my movie made? And how do I get a distribution deal? Those are basic questions that everyone trying to break into Hollywood and the entertainment industry struggles with. Is there a system? If I know the system, will it lead to my success in the industry?

First of all, there is no one-stop place that can tell you how the system works or how the entertainment system functions. But, thanks to the internet, blogs and social networking, there is an abundance of information available. It just means that you might have to dig in order to find useful information that’s applicable to your situation. Here are five things that I have learned about the entertainment industry and Hollywood throughout the last few years.

First, Hollywood and filmmaking are businesses. Second, Hollywood is about marketing. Third, first make the film then make the deal. Fourth, you have to start at the bottom. Fifth, talent is not a guarantee of success.

Let’s start with filmmaking is a business. I’m sure this is not a revolutionary concept to most of you. That’s why they call it show business. There’s no show without the business. To understand the system is to understand how movies are made, financed and distributed. One of the best resources I have found for practical information is a book written by Dov S-S Simens, From Reel to Deal. Simens’ book is worth its weight in gold. It’s primarily written for anybody who is interested in learning what it takes to create a successful independent film. You won’t find a lot of creative, artistic or cinematic concepts in this book, but you will a find common sense approach to filmmaking. Simens is a Hollywood insider who understands how the system works.

Second, Hollywood is about marketing. For every dollar Hollywood spends on producing a movie, they will spend 51 to 57 cents to market the film. What that should tell you is that a significant amount of the people who work in the entertainment industry do not make movies, but they are involved in the business and marketing side of filmmaking and media making. So if you want to understand how the system works, you must first understand how films are marketed. That requires you to read the trades such as The Hollywood Reporter and Box-Office Mojo. These are good resources that analyze box-office results and trends that are occurring in the industry. Know what’s hot and what’s not. If you want to find out how the system works, you will have to do your homework. The more you do your research, the clearer the patterns become visible.

Third, first make the film then make the deal. I used to think that Hollywood worked like this: Make the deal or, in other words, get your distribution lined up. Find your money and then make the film. Guess what? The system does not work that way. Most want-to-be filmmakers never make their film because they are trying to make the deal first. Dov S-S Simens’ book goes into great detail about how to make the film first and what’s required for first-time filmmakers to make the deal.

Fourth, you have to start at the bottom. Once in a while, you will hear about an incredible success story in which a recent film school graduate gets a three-picture development deal from a major studio. Sure, somebody does win the Lotto. But it’s usually a one in a billion shot. Nobody gets to make a $30 million film in their first outing. Here’s the truth about the system. Make a $20,000 digital feature, then make a $200,000 low-budget movie, and then make a $2 million art house film. And, if you have been successful in these projects, perhaps you will get the opportunity to make a studio feature. Start at the bottom and work your way up. In order to get to the next level, you must at least break even or return a profit to your investors. Otherwise, they will not continue to finance your next project. In reality, most filmmakers make their first film by raising money from their friends and family. But that can take you only so far. At some point, you have to be successful in returning an investment. That’s how the system works.

A few months back, I had a first-time filmmaker send me a script and perspective for an $800,000 budget feature. I seriously doubt they have any hope of ever raising that kind of money. It’s a simple formula. Start at the bottom and work your way up.

Recently, a friend completed a full-length feature with only a $2,000 budget. He shot his film in eight days with limited locations, actors and resources. He was able to get all of the equipment, crew and talent to donate their services. If he had to pay for everything out-of-pocket, his expenses would have been $50,000 to $75,000. But, thanks to his entrepreneur spirit and ingenuity, he found a way to get it done.

Here’s how it works. Most people write a script and then try to raise the money necessary to turn the screenplay into a movie. But the smart money is to start with what you have. If you have $2,000 or $5,000 or $100,000, write a story that fits your budget. That’s exactly what my friend did. I have a post on my blog about low-budget filmmaking concepts. You can find the formula that explains this concept and how it works. ://

Fifth, talent is not a guarantee of success. Most people in Hollywood are extremely talented. Likewise, most people in Hollywood are extremely unemployed. Talent can take you only so far. It might get you in the door, but it’s no guarantee it will keep you there. I have written an article on my blog on what it takes to work in this industry. The article will provide you with the insight and formula that can help guide you in your career development.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Simplifying the Message

Recently, Media Missionary School acquired new space to launch our new media training center. Although there’s much work to be done, we have taken the first steps to make this dream become a reality. A friend of mine offered some advice. He said we had all of the right ingredients. But we needed to simplify the message, clarify our value propositions, and define our revenue streams. In all honesty, it’s good advice. 

Perhaps, our message has been a bit complex. In the simplest terms, here’s what we’re trying to communicate here at Media Missionary School. In order to redeem culture and change the direction of our society, we must develop media missionaries so that we can inject Biblical principles into mainstream media and entertainment.

First, as Christ’s followers, I think we can all agree that our culture is in sad shape. The second part of our message is the action part, which requires the development of media missionaries as the solution. The third part of our message is our primary mission which is reseeding culture with a Biblical message that fulfills our vision—to change the course of our society.

Next are our value propositions. In other words, what do we bring to the game? Is there anything special that we offer? Do we offer real value? First, we have created an original and innovative educational and training program for the development of visual storytellers for global outreach. Second, we provide specialized training to equip media missionaries who will learn how to live a missional lifestyle. Third, we produce cost-effective feature films that allow our students a hands-on and real world experience.

Do I think we offer value? Absolutely. Because it all ties back to our central message. The solution to redeeming culture is to raise up, equip, train and support media missionaries. Our value propositions make that a reality.

Finally, what are our revenue streams? Can our ministry sustain itself for the long haul? I’m convinced our prospects are excellent. The bulk of our income would come from tuition and the work we do as a production house. Our feature films could also provide additional income. I believe that for Media Missionary School to be successful, we must build a model that does not rely on donor support. We want to be able to stand on our own two feet and pay our bills.

However, for that to happen in the short run, we will need to rely on donor support. That’s why we need your help. Because we are an innovative and, in some ways, a start-up ministry, the odds of receiving major donor and foundation support may be limited. We believe small donors can make up the difference and help to launch Media Missionary School. We’re counting on small gifts of $20, $50 or $100. The reality is if enough people believe in this ministry, we will get this new media training center up and running.

Consider making a donation today. Because we are a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, all donations tax deductible.

Thank you and God Bless.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

JC Schroder talks about his experiences as a Filmmaker

I asked JC Schroder the director of the new film Forever's End about his experiences in Los Angeles trying to build a career. He told me "that as a producer you have to have multiple projects in development in various stages. Just one project will not get it done. The key to this business is making connections". But he is convinced that if you’re serious about your career, you have to start in Los Angeles.

He also told me his faith is important to him. "Finding a good church community is essential". Although he’s not interested in making Christian movies, he believes he can have an impact with people by living his life in a way that honors God. "If your quality of work is good, and you have solid morals, you will get noticed in this business".

He went on to say, “People will notice that you’re different, and the subject of your faith will come up at some point." JC sees himself as a Christian who makes movies. One place where JC has had the opportunity to build relationships is a weekly poker game that he hosts. “Although it’s a no money game, it’s a great place to get to know people who work in this industry”.

He says that it takes a lot of effort to break into this business. "In the first year, I was eating a lot of noodles and did whatever I had to do to get on the set”. In fact, he often worked as an extra making only $60 a day. But again he had an opportunity to meet people and make connections. JC said, “It takes an “all in” approach.” He knows of a number of people who finally made it in this business after suffering many years of hardships—in some cases living in the back seat of their cars and eating one meal a day, if lucky.

JC believes that if you are going to make it in this business, you’re going to have to wear many hats. “Just don’t count on one thing”. Because he served in multiple roles as a PA, an extra, and other jobs, he learned how a set works in Hollywood. He also took acting classes so he could better understand the needs of actors. This has helped him to be a better director because he understands the roles each person has to play in order to have a successful production.

His final advice to those interested in pursuing a career in the entertainment industry - is to realize this is a business first and for most and it will always be about the money. “So in order to be successful, it’s important to understand the business aspect”. I have a feeling JC is going to be successful in his role as a filmmaker because he’s built the relationships, knows how to squeeze a dollar, and understands the necessity of returning a profit to his investors. But, more importantly, he hasn’t forgotten about the importance of finding Christian fellowship.

JC Schroder is a Director and Producer of award-winning independent film, live event, and commercial media productions. He is the key producer and owner of Star Com Productions LLC, a Los Angeles-based production company formed in early 2000. As a continually growing company, Star Com was restructured in 2009 (moving main offices from Cincinnati, Ohio where the company was founded, to Los Angeles, California) and now has three primary divisions: Film & Television, Live Events, and New Media production.

Over the past decade Schroder has produced more than 35 film and television productions (from commercials and music videos to independent short and feature films) as well as written and directed over a dozen more, including PCFMF’s 2008 Gold Medal winner “Freedomland” and PCFMF’s 2009 Gold Medal winner “The End of All Things

Monday, August 15, 2011

JC Schroder Shares His Thoughts on His New Movie, Forever’s End

The psychological thriller Forever’s End has just completed its principle photography here in Cincinnati. I recently had an opportunity to sit down and talk with JC Schroder. He served as the film’s producer, director, cinematographer and writer. You might remember JC as the founder of the Oxford International Festival. He started his career in Cincinnati and has since moved to Los Angeles.

I asked him about his latest movie Forever’s End and why he decided to come back to Cincinnati to shoot it. He said the budget made sense for the Cincinnati area because he could stretch his money further here than in Los Angeles. Plus he had the perfect locations which worked for the film. This is JC’s directorial debut as a featured film director. He’s been busy since he moved to LA doing music videos, commercial projects, short films, and working on other film projects in a number of roles. He considers Forever’s End his chance to move to the next level.

He described the film as an Alfred Hitchcock type psychological thriller. The film unfolds as Sara, the lead character, hasn’t seen a living person in six years. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where apparently Sara is the only surviving soul left on the planet. But surprisingly, Sara’s sister and other people start to appear. The question is is Sara insane? Has the world truly experienced a catastrophic event, or is it in Sara’s mind? Or are the people appearing to her nothing more than a figment of her imagination?

JC says the film starts slowly but builds with intensity and tension. The audience really never knows what’s happening. He further says Forever’s End is essentially a character piece. "I love building characters and allowing them to interact with each other". JC also says "Forever’s End has a mood and atmosphere much like last year’s critically acclaimed Winter’s Bone".

Forever’s End has already lined up distribution. Rivercoast Productions will handle the domestic distribution for the home video market. JC also believes the film will receive a limited theatrical release.

JC plans to submit the film to Sundance, Toronto, South by Southwest and other major film festivals. He expects the film to be in theaters by the middle of next year. JC believes Forever’s End will be successful because he picked the right story to fit his budget. “The production values will look like the film cost millions of dollars.” He was determined not to sacrifice the entertainment value of the film due to budgetary concerns.

I had a chance to see some of his work, and it looks outstanding. Forever’s End is a film that you will want to keep on your radar screen. I have a feeling this could be JC’s big break.

JC Schroder is a Director and Producer of award-winning independent film, live event, and commercial media productions. He is the key producer and owner of Star Com Productions LLC, a Los Angeles-based production company formed in early 2000. As a continually growing company, Star Com was restructured in 2009 (moving main offices from Cincinnati, Ohio where the company was founded, to Los Angeles, California) and now has three primary divisions: Film & Television, Live Events, and New Media production.

Over the past decade Schroder has produced more than 35 film and television productions (from commercials and music videos to independent short and feature films) as well as written and directed over a dozen more, including PCFMF’s 2008 Gold Medal winner “Freedomland” and PCFMF’s 2009 Gold Medal winner “The End of All Things

Friday, August 12, 2011

Storytellers Media Training Center

Opening soon our new facility at 1530 Tremont Street, Cincinnati, Ohio in the old Lunkenneimer building. The new center will include office space, classrooms, a production studio, a kitchen, and future student housing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are There Better Options?

According to Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, there are better options to the movies currently being offered by Hollywood. You know things have gotten bad when a political columnist starts to notice the decline that’s taking place in the type of films Hollywood produces. He states, “This summer’s celluloid epics have mostly been as limp and flavorless as wet popcorn. Here are 2011’s summer blockbusters thus far. Scream 4, Thor, Bride’s Maids, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hangover Part 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Fast Five, Green Lantern, Cars 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows Part 2, Captain America, and Cowboys and Aliens.

“That’s a pretty depressing list, if you ask me: 8 sequels, 3 comic book heroes, 2 lame cartoons, 1 film inspired by a ride at a theme park, another inspired by a toy. This is what Hollywood presented this summer as its peak cinematic offerings.”

Ignatius went on to say that other than the Harry Potter final, it was a sorry array. The only place where he found better options was in the quality of foreign films. I would have to agree with his assessment. Foreign filmmakers are doing what Hollywood used to do—making movies that are about something. Most of the stuff Hollywood makes nowadays is fairly forgettable.

There was a time when we cared about characters. Movies expressed emotion that gripped us—that gave us something to think about that would linger days, weeks and months. I recently watched The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This is storytelling at its best. I had forgotten just how good these films are. They express big themes while at the same time offering plenty of action, adventure and amazing special effects.

Unfortunately, in Hollywood the art of storytelling seems to be a fading memory. In today’s multiplex America, the only game in town is selling popcorn and sodas to teenagers. But if you’re a serious movie buff, David Ignatius suggests taking a look at foreign films as an alternative. I would add that we still have a vibrant Indy industry right here in America. Last year’s Winter’s Bone and Get Low proved that.

There are alternatives. It just requires you to dig a little deeper. You may not be able to find it on the big screen, but thanks to Netflix and other online services, there are quality smaller films to be found.

One thing’s for certain, Hollywood is not going to change its current course. The industry has made a decision to embrace franchise types of films such as Scream, Transformers, etc. Serious movie fans need not bother looking at the current content being offered from the big studios.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do movies matter?

By JOHN PODHORETZ The Weekly Standard

Movies make plenty of noise, but don’t speak to us.

When I first became interested in them, in the 1970s, they seemed to matter very much indeed. People with cultural interests talked about movies, argued about them, studied them, loved them, emulated them. Highly regarded directors of foreign films—Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Fran├žois Truffaut, Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray—attained an elevated cultural standing in the United States that surpassed the poets and novelists and painters among their own countrymen. And small-scale movies that today would be consigned to art houses and tiny grosses and limited runs—M*A*S*H, American Graffiti, Midnight Cowboy, Shampoo, Network, Coming Home, Kramer vs. Kramer, even The Graduate—not only provoked general conversation among the chattering classes but became major popular successes.

That doesn’t happen any longer. For the most part, moviegoers are uninterested in provocative depictions of the way we live now. Consider The Hurt Locker, which won the 2009 Oscar for best picture. Without question, this piece of highly kinetic and suspenseful filmmaking on the literally incendiary topic of an American bomb-defusing squad in Iraq would have been a huge hit in the 1970s. Even in the mid-1980s, Oliver Stone’s disgustingly pernicious though admittedly exciting Vietnam melodrama Platoon made $138.5 million. But The Hurt Locker earned an astonishingly paltry total of $17 million.

The year that The Hurt Locker won its Oscar saw the release of Avatar, which has grossed more money worldwide than any other movie ever made by a large margin—nearly $3 billion. When the blockbuster age began in the mid-1970s, the movies that exploded into the marketplace the way Avatar did—Jaws and Star Wars, especially—were basically seen by everybody. People stopped going to the beach out of fear the summer that Jaws premiered, and that summer’s cultural echo can be heard 36 years later in every hot-weather story about big fish scoring a human snack, or whenever the Discovery Channel announces it’s time for SHARK WEEK.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How can you help ?

By Harold Hay, President of Flannelgraph Ministries and the founder of Media Missionary School.

It has been my dream and vision for years to open a media and training center for the development of visual storytellers for global outreach by utilizing visual media. Now that dream is within reach. We have recently acquired space for our new training center. It will be located right here in the Lunkenheimer building near downtown Cincinnati.

The new site is a fulfillment of what God has put on my heart concerning the need to raise up, equip, train and support future media missionaries entering into the mainstream media and entertainment industry.

We all recognize that today’s culture is in a crisis. Frankly, nobody is happy about the direction our society is headed. In fact, I believe that the media is primarily responsible for the state we currently find ourselves in.

Today, I believe the media culture defines our reality and certainly helps to create our worldview. In other words, it drives culture. In 1998, USA Today said, “Today’s culture can be best described as a culture gone toxic.” I would add that things have only gotten worse over the years. And I would describe our culture as one that has moved from toxic to deadly.

But there is hope. If media can be used in a negative fashion, then it most certainly can be used in a positive fashion. That’s why we need this new media training center.

We have moved from a word-based society to an image-based society. This has enormous implications.

In order to fulfill the Great Commission and reach the world for Christ, we must now speak the language of media, the language of visual image, and the language of visual storytelling.

Some have said that today’s cinema has become the new church, a place where people are finding meaning, purpose and spirituality. If that’s true, that means that today’s filmmakers are the new priests and ministers. Our vision here at Media Missionary School is to raise up future media makers, who are grounded in spiritual principles, to become the new priests who will speak the language of media.

For years, we have focused on faith-based training and film camps. Although they have been highly successful, this new media center will allow us to take it to the next level. Our plans call for an extensive six-month comprehensive training program.

Our students will live, work, study, and create media in a community setting. We certainly want to emphasize the hands-on approach to training. But we are primarily committed to the development of the messenger as well as the message because I’m convinced it’s the only way we can change and redeem culture.

You could say we are the new frontier of missions for the 21st century. Our ultimate goal is to support the media missionary on a practical, spiritual, and emotional level.

There are many ministries which help and support foreign missionaries. But who is there to support the young person who believes he or she has been called to the mainstream media as a missionary. Well, that’s all about to change.We are answering the call. If Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry are mission fields then we need missionaries.

How can you help make the vision a reality? There are many roles you can play. You can provide financial support.

Phase 1 calls for basic renovations, construction of office space, painting, cleanup, and new carpet. Phase 2 entails equipping our primary classroom. Phase 3 will allow us to acquire the needed video, audio and editing equipment necessary to equip our students.

Phase 4 entails the development of a working studio with a lighting grid, switcher, and set construction. Phase 5 will entail the construction of student housing.

Please consider making a financial donation, not only to support one of the phases but my own personal mission support as well. You can also give “in kind donations”, such as couches, chairs, desks, flat screen televisions, computers. We have a detailed list online at Media Missionary

You can donate your time to help with construction and cleanup projects or offer your expertise in areas such as graphic design, web development, accounting, teaching, and mentoring.

You can also consider hosting an event or party at your home, where I can come and present the ministry to your family and friends.

You can also consider having me come to your church to speak and teach on issues concerning media, faith and culture. We have an extensive list of workshops and seminars listed on our website.

You can encourage your church to become a monthly supporter by adding Media Missionary School for missions support.

Consider purchasing my book, The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture, to learn more about the media crisis and how it affects you and your children. A special rate is available for orders of 20 or more books.

As you can see, there are many ways you can help. The good news is there is hope. We can redeem and change the course that our society is currently following. But your participation is essential. The media culture can best be described as an invisible force much like a low dose of radiation. At first, it may have little or no effect, but over time it will make you sick and will eventually kill you.

However, we now have the cure for today’s media culture. This new site and the launch of our new media center will make Media Missionary School a force for positive change. Thank you and God bless