Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Me Again” DVD Release on January 24, 2012

Christian Movies Examiner

Pure Flix Entertainment announces the DVD release of “Me Again,” on January 24, 2012.  David A.R. White directs and stars in this film as a character who is allowed to view life from other people’s perspectives as an unexpected answer to his prayer.

By all outward appearances, Rich Chaplin (David A.R. White) has everything that any Pastor and family man could ever want. In reality he has lost sight of everything that matters the most, including his family.

When he wishes for a life other than his own, he suddenly finds himself trapped within the lives of everyone his apathy has affected. This unforgettable journey brings Rich to view life through the eyes of a diverse cast of characters including an elderly woman (Della Reese), a top fashion model (Andrea Logan White), his own wife (Ali Landry) and even a goldfish! It might even take an encounter with a strangely familiar angel, (Bruce McGill) to help him realize that he is wasting his chance to love and impact the most important people in his life.

Read more at  http://www.examiner.com/christian-movies-in-national/me-again-dvd-release-on-january-24-2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Ordinary Man’s Birthright

When we recognize that we have a media culture crisis and decide we want to respond to the crisis, we must start first with reaching Hollywood. Remember Hollywood is the most influential mission field on the planet. If we reach Hollywood, we reach the world. Consider this. Foreign missionaries will tell you that the greatest influence on their people group is the American media. Media produced by Hollywood shapes the hearts and minds of people around the globe.

Some 60 years ago, the President of Indonesia requested an audience with some of the key Hollywood executives of the day. He stated that he regarded them as political radicals and revolutionaries, who had hastened political change in the East by creating unrest. He said what the Orient saw in a Hollywood movie was a world in which all of the ordinary people had cars, electric stoves, and refrigerators. Now the Orient regarded itself as an ordinary person who has been deprived of the ordinary man’s birthright. If that was 60 years ago, you can only imagine how our influence has increased throughout the world.

What happens if we embrace Hollywood as a mission field? Not only do we influence the uttermost parts of the earth, but we get a 2-for-1 deal. We also can impact our own hometown and our own local mission. Why? Because Hollywood’s influence is everywhere. It’s the only mission field that extends beyond the physical limitations of a confined space and time. America’s number one export is entertainment. If we embrace Hollywood as a mission field, our message will be part of whatever Hollywood is exporting.

Finally, by accepting Hollywood as a mission field, we are embracing Jesus’ commandment found in Acts 1:8 which says, “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power, and you will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem (in your hometown), throughout Judea (in your state), Samaria (in Hollywood) and throughout the ends of the earth.”

We have a passion and conviction that drives us as Christians in our efforts to embrace foreign missions. No sacrifice or effort is too great. We are on board with a “whatever it takes” attitude. We need that same passion and mindset if we are to be successful in our efforts to redeem Hollywood. I know we can do it. And I’m sure it’s on God’s “To do List”. The only question is are we willing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Rant—The Media Virus

I have a love and passion for hiking and the outdoors. I especially enjoy climbing mountains. I’ve climbed to the top of Mt. Whitney, Mt. Princeton, Mt. Harvard, Telescope Peak, Mt. Charleston, and Swift Current Mountain, just to name a few.

Now my rant is not about hiking or mountain climbing in general. It's about a funny phenomena I have noticed  lately. Today a number of people seem to be more concerned about getting to the top than enjoying the experience along the way. Sure, I’m like any climber. I want to get to the mountain peak. But the real experience is the journey. Stopping to enjoy the view and listening to the wind blowing in the trees is just as enjoyable as the thrill of getting to the top.

But these day, it seems we are so goal-oriented that we forget to stop and enjoy the world around us. Have we become that results-driven that we can no longer just savor the experience of living? As the old saying goes, you have to stop and smell the roses.

Of course, not all hikers fall into this category. But it is an alarming trend. Here’s something that really absolutely takes the cake. At the top of the mountain you can usually find a connection from some faraway tower. Now, I often see people who, once reaching the peak, pull out their cell phones, I-phones, or other mobile media devices. Sure, you might want to call a friend and tell them you made it to the top safely. But these days I actually hear people doing business—calling the office, checking e-mail. Can you believe that? I just can’t explain it.

Maybe it’s just some form of media virus—the absolute need to be connected at all times. If there’s a place to drop off the planet and enjoy life, wouldn’t you think it would be on the top of a 14,000 foot mountain? Do we have to be in constant contact with the world?

Last summer, I hiked to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Utah. Amazingly, I watched some guy spend 30 minutes talking quite loudly on his cell phone making one deal after another. Why bother going to one of the world’s most beautiful places merely to make a call.

So my rant is how do we unplug, slow down and pay attention to the important things and start to enjoy life? Is it possible to leave our cell phones, our computers, and I-Pads at home for once and spend a little time connecting with the things that really matter? As I said, my fear is that we’ve all been infected with this media virus. Perhaps we can work on trying to find a cure.

Friday, January 27, 2012

An Invisible Force

Today we live in a society where media defines and creates culture. That’s why I call it a media culture. In fact, the two are indistinguishable from each other. It’s impossible to determine where media ends or culture begins. And what proof can I offer to you of its existence and impact? I believe I could get a conviction in any court of law through direct and circumstantial evidence wherein I’m convinced no one could possibly have reasonable doubt to the existence of a media culture and its impact on our society. Here are my ten arguments.

6. A new value system. What values are being communicated in our media culture? What’s important to us, and what occupies our time and interests? Today our media stars have been embraced and turned into gods. We are in love with celebrity. But what really motivates us and what we seek is what celebrity represents—power wealth and fame. This is the new value system that preoccupies our society. Movie stars, athletes, models, and TV personalities are who we emulate and desire to be.

But what about those who contribute the most to society? Teachers, public servants, social workers. Are they exalted and well paid? How we view celebrity reveals a great deal about who we are as a people.

7. We no longer have a moral compass. There was a time when there was a clear right and wrong. Today’s modern media culture has convinced us that everything is ambiguous; therefore, the individual must decide what is right or wrong based on current circumstances. How else can you explain millions of abortions since the early 1970s or the fact that over 40% of children born in the United States are from unwed mothers. Only a media culture could explain the rapid collapse of basic moral principles that have occurred in a relatively short time.

8. Judeo-Christian ideas and philosophy are fading. Whether or not America was ever a Christian nation, our nation was most certainly based and established on Judeo-Christian concepts. Whether you are a Christian or not, historically you respected the integrity and truth of the Judeo-Christian message. That’s no longer true today. We are moving from a Judeo-Christian society and transforming into something completely different. No one can say with any certainty what that will look like.

9. The rapid rate of change. Culture, in and of itself, changes over the course of time like a meandering river. In other words, it takes time for change to occur. Within a media culture, change is rapid and sudden. Isn’t that the world we currently live in? Worldviews seem to change like the sifting sands. Nothing is solid. Obviously, technology plays a part in this rapid and ever-changing media culture in which we find ourselves. But it is the ideas that really drive the forces of change.

10. The psychology of selling. We are convinced that our next buying purchase will truly lead us to fulfillment and happiness. Today’s marketing is enormously complex and dependent on psychological manipulation. A product today has the ability to transform and define our lives. We become the person we have always wanted to be through the use of the product. It can make us look younger or older. Or it can create the image that we wish to project. In some ways, we become the product. In fact, our lifestyle is based on its use. Only a media culture could create this type of influence and impact.

Final Thoughts

When we think of the media or try to understand it, we don’t view it in terms of a “media culture”. But we see it as the images on our widescreen televisions or the images projected in our multiplexes. Obviously the media and the general concept of a media culture is much more than this. The media culture can be a difficult concept to embrace, but its existence is as real as the air we breathe. Think of it as an invisible force that surrounds us. In some ways, it affects every part of our lives and the choices we make. Just like radiation, we cannot often see it, feel it, touch it or taste it. But the media culture is just as real as the damaging effects from low dosages of radiation. Both have the ability to change us from the inside out.

I have presented my evidence. Do you believe I can get a conviction? The real question is what can we do to change our current situation? A Media Culture, Crisis or Opportunity, The Rise of the Media Missionary offers five key concepts that can change our culture and the course of our media culture. They are practical and obtainable. What we don’t need are theories or theoretical solutions but solutions that are practical and obtainable.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Believe I could get a Conviction

Today we live in a society where media defines and creates culture. That’s why I call it a media culture. In fact, the two are indistinguishable from each other. It’s impossible to determine where media ends or culture begins. And what proof can I offer to you of its existence and impact? I believe I could get a conviction in any court of law through direct and circumstantial evidence wherein I’m convinced no one could possibly have reasonable doubt to the existence of a media culture and its impact on our society. Here are my ten arguments.

1. We are defined by what we own and not by our character. You may not be a fan of Jimmy Carter or his politics, but Carter made a profound statement in the late 1970s wherein he said we are defined by what we own and not by what we do. The truth is in our society today character doesn’t matter. We are defined by the house we live in, the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the schools and colleges we send our kids to and the church we attend.

The question is who are we as a people? Have we lost our identity to the things we own? How we acted and how we treated people used to define us as a person. It seems that character has become an obstacle to our success and the ability to achieve. Is it possible that our media culture has helped us to embrace this view.

2. All media has become some form of marketing. Today every aspect of our life is lived in the “marketplace”. There is no space that exists between our lives and marketing, advertising, and branding. It surrounds and engulfs us. Everything within our society has been commercialized. How do we make money? That’s the first question that’s often asked in practically everything we do. The “marketplace” concept helps to explain why every sports arena or stadium now has a corporate sponsor tied to the name of the facility.

3. Consumerism is king. Has there ever been a society that has embraced consumerism as we have here in America? In fact, we have invented it. Our big-box stores are full of merchandise beckoning to be bought. But do we really need all of the “stuff”? We are encouraged to spend, spend, spend. After the tragedy of 9/11, President George W. Bush encouraged the American people to do their patriotic duty by “going shopping”.

Our economy would collapse without maximum spending by the American public. We have built a society based on consumerism. We have boxed ourselves in. We are not encouraged to save but to spend. Only a media culture could convince us to accept this idea.

4. Runaway debt. Not only are we encouraged to spend, but we are equally encouraged to charge, charge, charge. They make it easy. Swipe that card. Individual credit card debt is out of control in our society. We hear so much criticism of our politicians who have run up record-breaking deficits. But, in reality, we have all engaged in the same practice. Congress is no different than the general American public. We want everything. And if we can’t afford it, we just put it on credit. The media culture has helped form a narrative that has made this practice acceptable and convenient.

5. The redefining of the American Dream. For decades we have debated about the origin and the definition of the American Dream. For many the American Dream is about family, home ownership, justice, freedom/security and fair play. But many argue that today the American Dream is more about wealth, power, materialism and consumerism. Today we believe in a “bigger is better” concept. I’m convinced that today’s media culture manipulates images from the traditional American Dream to create a new mythology that supports and reinforces a new American Dream, which is “You deserve to have it all”. Or in other words, it is my right as a human being.

Therefore, the American Dream must always be expanded. It’s not enough to own two cars. Now each member of the family must have a care. There’s no stopping this expansionist view even if it’s detrimental to the development of our society. Those who argue against this concept or believe that we should live within our means or perhaps live with less are branded with severe criticism.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No, I don’t believe that aliens crashed in Roswell in 1947

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you probably know I write a substantial number of articles revolving around the subject of the media culture. But what exactly is a media culture? The media is pretty straightforward. Practically any form of electronic entertainment makes up the media. This would include television programs, movies, internet content, video games, news and virtually all other forms of electronic images.

The concept of culture is more complex. It certainly involves more than going to the opera. Culture is a shared consciousness of a particular society. It affects our behaviors, attitudes and beliefs. Culture, by its nature, helps to define our worldview and point-of-view. This process helps us to interpret the world around us and acts as a lens through which we view politics, religion, philosophy, and lifestyle choices. Culture also plays a major part in the development of our institutions such as government, schools, and churches.

Put quite simply, culture provides the framework in which society functions and operates. Obviously, not everyone within our culture thinks alike or has the same view of our world. But culture provides a baseline or foundation in which acceptable behaviors or customs are allowed to occur.

In theory, culture should drive and define our society. That’s the way it has worked throughout the history of mankind. But in the past few decades, something unique has happened to American. Where culture should drive media, today we live in a society where media defines and creates culture. That’s why I call it a media culture. In fact, the two are indistinguishable from each other. It’s impossible to determine where media ends or culture begins.

The media culture has had the added effect where we have created a society which is more uniform and harmonious. I’m convinced we are far more compliant and willing to conform to the central message driving today’s media culture. Many may argue how is this possible in light of a society which seems to be divided. Obviously, there is a great debate about the future of America. There seems to be a great divide between Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives and Progressives. There is also a generational divide between baby boomers and millennials. But are we really that different in our philosophy and thinking?

I believe that below the surface of our public discord we will find a society that is far more influenced and controlled by the media culture than anyone can possibly believe. Although we may express our feelings and viewpoints differently, we are motivated by the same forces. Whether we are on the right or the left, we have embraced a philosophy that positions us in the center of our own universe. In other words, we are self-centered. Without a doubt, this is the core message of today’s media culture.

So some questions remain. Why do we have a media culture? Who benefits from it? The short answer is business primarily benefits from the existence of a media culture. In order to maximize profits, business must control the culture. But business cannot do this without the help and support of the media. It’s through the use and the manipulation of the media that business controls and dominates our culture.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not one to believe in conspiracies. No, I don’t believe that aliens crashed in Roswell in 1947 and the United States government participated in a massive cover-up. Nor do I believe in Bigfoot. And I certainly do not believe that JFK was assinated by the CIA or the FBI. And I don’t believe business leaders gather to discuss how they are going to dominate and control our culture in order to sell us their goods and products. Whether intentionally, unintentionally or organically, a media culture has emerged in our society.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is Family Friendly Programming the Cure?

If you are in pain or feeling sick, you usually go to your family doctor. You want a proper diagnosis. It’s not enough just to treat the symptoms. You want a cure for what ails you. In some instances, your life may actually depend on a correct diagnosis.

What about the media? Some say the media is sick. Obviously, you can find plenty of violence, sex, nudity and bad language. But are these just mere symptoms or the actual disease? Is there a cure? Recently, there’s been an increased effort to produce more family-friendly programming that emphasizes traditional family values. Several individuals, along with various organizations and foundations, are spearheading the effort with increased funding to create both family-friendly movies and television series. The goal is to restore the traditional family hour back to network television.

It’s a lofty goal. But, again, are we treating the right patient? Is the media really the issue? I would agree that family-friendly programming is part of the answer; however, it’s neither the beginning nor the end of a real cure for what ails our culture. The real patient is the media culture, which I define as a force that is capable of creating our reality. Often this is a false reality that we accept as normal and routine.

The media culture can be expressed in four broad concepts. First, it is a life that is lived in the marketplace where everything becomes a form of commercialization. As a result, our worth and value is determined by the size of our bank account. Making money has become our first priority. It seems like everything in life has to be monetized.

Second, the media culture is driven by consumerism. We are convinced to spend all of our money on things that we really don’t need. We are told that our next purchase will bring fulfillment and happiness; however, seldom is this ever the case. Consumerism drives our society. Without it, our entire economy would crash.

Third, the media culture is powered by advertising, marketing and branding. We become the products that we use. Our identity and lifestyle are wrapped around the media we consume and the products which are advertised within that media. It’s a form of psychological brainwashing.

Fourth, the media culture is attained through celebrity. We have been conditioned to want our 15 minutes of fame. Because “it’s about me”, we want to be noticed and exalted. We want to be important just like the people we see in the media. We are taught that we can be just like them; therefore, we seek status, power and recognition. The media culture has an overwriting theme that ties all of these elements together. Its central message is whatever you want or need you should have regardless of the consequences. Everything revolves around what you want; therefore, you are the center of your own personal universe.

When I talk about a media culture as the patient, most people’s eyes sort of gloss over. They want simple answers. It’s just easier to blame the media. Many people believe we can solve our problems by changing the face of media and entertainment with more family-friendly programming. However, the truth is that complex problems require complex solutions. There is no easy answer. As I said, programs that emphasize traditional family values are a good start. But our real problem is addressing the media culture, and that requires a completely different approach than just trying to fix the media.

The reason I wrote my book, The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture, is to address these issues in detail. I believe it offers a correct diagnosis with real solutions. I hope you’ll take a look at it. It’s going to require some time and effort on your part; however, it will change your perspective and view of how you see God at work in your life as well as in every aspect of our society. Putting the principles that are within the book into operation won’t be easy.

It involves awareness, understanding the real issues, coming to terms with how we have been influenced as people of faith by the media culture, educating ourselves, changing our perspective on Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry, understanding how God is at work in Hollywood, redefining what a mission field is, the power of prayer, rethinking how we deal with artists in the church and, ultimately, the raising up, equipping, training and supporting media professionals who think and work as missionaries.

The bottom line is unless we deal with the media culture and its impact on our society, we will continue to have a challenging and difficult time fulfilling the Great Commission and building the Kingdom of God. At the moment, we are stuck in neutral and slipping backwards.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Does God have a Plan for Hollywood ?

Over the years, people have asked me what is God’s heart for Hollywood and is he at work there. Maybe the question should be why would he not be at work in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. I’m convinced that God is at work in every area of human activity. So let’s examine the heart of God in Hollywood.

There are three things I believe that God desires for Hollywood and the entertainment industry. First, he wants the people of Hollywood to know him. Is there any question that God desires all of mankind to be redeemed? And that would include Hollywood and the entertainment industry. That will only happen if the Body of Christ changes its current view of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. We must stop condemning them and see Hollywood as a mission field. They are no different than us. The people of Hollywood need a savior. Most of the people who work in Hollywood are hardworking people who have families and they don't live lifestyles of the rich and famous. Let’s stop blaming them for all of societies ills.

The Body of Christ must commit to prayer. We need to pray for the people of Hollywood to come to know Christ as Lord and Savior. It’s safe to say that the vast majority of the Body of Christ has not committed to praying for Hollywood. And some may believe it is a complete waist of time. And if we are going to reach Hollywood, we must take the next bold step of sending media missionaries. How will they know Him if someone does not tell them about Christ.

Depending on which study you read or who you talk to, only 4 percent of Hollywood and the entertainment industry attend church. Hollywood is a vast mission field. It’s obvious that we need media missionaries to create art that reflects Biblical values. But it is just as important that we need media missionaries working in Hollywood so that they can be a witness and testimony to their fellow peers. Who is going to reach them unless we send people into the mission field of Hollywood and the entertainment industry?
The second key point for God’s heart in Hollywood is that he desires art that reflects his truth. God will do whatever it takes to tell his message. And that includes using nonbelievers. The facts speak for themselves. Over the years, some of the best Christian movies with Biblical truth have been made by nonbelievers. It is quite a list from Truman, the Matrix, Juno, American Beauty and Magnolia. There have been countless testimonies of people’s lives being impacted by mainstream movies created by nonbelievers. God will use and inspire anyone to reflect his truth and glory. If Christians aren’t willing to go to Hollywood, this will not stop God from completing his mission. He is at work in Hollywood, whether we realize it or not. But he is inviting us to join him in his work.

And finally, God wants to impact the audience. The reason that God has inspired artists to create art that reflects his truth is to impact the viewers. All of these efforts would mean nothing unless the art that filmmakers and media makers create can challenge the audience to consider what truth is. It must be thought-provoking and lead viewers to explore the decisions and lifestyles they are currently living. Art should draw the audience closer to God and not further away. It should encourage us to start a dialogue and ask questions about the meaning and origin of what we have encountered at the movies or in the media.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend Report: 'Underworld' Fends Off Soarin' 'Red Tails'

Underworld Awakening sunk its teeth in to the top spot at the box office this weekend, though that didn't stop Red Tails from also putting up strong numbers in its debut. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Haywire were less impressive, though, and The Artist failed to gain much traction in its nationwide expansion. The Top 12 earned an estimated $111.7 million this weekend, which is up a whopping 26 percent from the same period last year.

The latest entry in the Underworld franchise opened to an estimated $25.4 million, which is just a bit behind Kate Beckinsale's last entry, 2006's Underworld: Evolution ($26.9 million). It did at least mark a slight improvement over 2009's Underworld: Rise of the Lycans ($20.8 million), though that was sans-Beckinsale and didn't receive a boost from 3D premiums. The 3D format accounted for 59 percent of Awakening's ticket sales, while IMAX represented 15 percent (most or all of which is included within the 3D figure). Distributor Sony/Screen Gems is reporting that the audience was 55 percent male and 60 percent 25 years of age and older, and they awarded the movie a solid "A-" CinemaScore.

Red Tails cruised in to second place with a very respectable $19.1 million. That's above comparable fighter pilot movies Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow ($15.6 million), Stealth ($13.3 million), and Flyboys ($6 million), though it was about even with Sky Captain in estimated attendance. The audience breakdown was 51 percent male and 66 percent 25 years and older. The movie received an "A" CinemaScore, which improved to a fantastic "A+" score for those below 18 and above 50. Also of note: Red Tails marks distributor 20th Century Fox's best opening for a non-franchise title since last April's Rio.

After a strong first place start last weekend, Contraband fell 50 percent to an estimated $12.2 million. With a $46.1 million total so far, the movie has passed Mark Wahlberg's Max Payne ($40.7 million) and will eclipse Shooter ($47 million) by Tuesday.

Following a month in limited release, Sept. 11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close expanded to 2,630 locations and earned a disappointing $10.5 million. That's the least-attended nationwide opening in two decades for Tom Hanks, and is the least-attended in the last 15 years for Sandra Bullock. Even with a ubiquitous marketing effort, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close clearly wasn't able to overcome poor reviews and tough subject matter, though there's always a chance it hangs in well in coming weeks.

Haywire debuted in fifth place with an estimated $9 million. That's a bit off from recent similar female-oriented action movies Colombiana ($10.4 million) and Hanna ($12.4 million), though in just one weekend it almost earned as much as Domino did in its entire run ($10.2 million). The audience was 55 percent male and skewed a bit younger (64 percent under the age of 35), and it was 54 percent non-Caucasian. As reported yesterday, the movie received a terrible "D+" CinemaScore.

Beauty and the Beast 3D plummeted 52 percent to $8.56 million. That doesn't compare favorably to The Lion King 3D's 27 percent second weekend decline, and with $33.4 million in the bank so far Beauty has no chance of coming anywhere remotely close to Lion King's $94.2 million.

Following its three Golden Globe wins on Sunday and ahead of what's sure to be a ton of Academy Award nominations on Tuesday, The Artist expanded in to 662 locations this weekend. That wasn't enough to really gain much momentum, though, as the movie wound up in 17th place with a weak $2.37 million (an average of just $3,579). The Artist has now earned $12.1 million, and it's looking more and more like the black-and-white silent movie is not going to be able to attract a significant audience outside of the cinephiles who were already able to track it down in limited release.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Battleground will be the Media

The battleground will be the media. Whatever direction the media culture ultimately points to will be the determining factor on how our current generation will view Christianity. That’s why we have no choice but to enter into this arena. As difficult as this may sound, in the future God’s truth and glory may reside in the media culture and not in the Church itself. It could provide a refuge for a remnant of the God’s truth.

The media culture presents unique challenges to the future of Christianity. But it also has given us an incredible opportunity to reach out to a new generation who live and breathe in today’s media church. How do we maximize our opportunities? How do we meet the challenges? And what’s our best strategies? With an uncertain future, one thing is clear. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. We must make certain that our message is pure. There is only one God and one way to heaven.

Romans 10:9 says “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” NLT Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” NLT

The media culture has exerted an enormous amount of pressure on the fundamental teachings of Christianity. Members of the church of media are searching for spirituality and are likely to see Christ as one of the answers but not the ultimate one. We must be clear. Christ is the only way. There is no second option. All roads do not lead to heaven.

The emergent church and the market-driven church are both examples of how the media culture has impacted the Body of Christ. If we put our interests and wants ahead of God’s purpose and plan, we will fail. The media culture teaches us that we are more important and can decide for ourselves what is in our best interest. It would be easy to accept philosophies and beliefs that suggest that whatever we believe or whatever God we embrace would lead us to the truth. We must reject this.

Elements of the emergent church have elevated other religions and beliefs to the level of authority of Christianity. We must reject this. The market-driven church is teaching us that it’s our happiness and well being that are important and that as long as we feel good about ourselves, there is nothing to be concerned about. We must see through these strategies. God alone and not ourselves is to be at the center of our lives.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Today’s Fertile Soil is the Media

How can we start a dialogue with a culture that has become foreign and resistant to Christian concepts?

We need a strategy. We can apply the concepts presented in the parable recorded in Matthew 13:3-23. It is the story of a farmer who scatters seed among the fields. Jesus talks about seed falling on many places that fail to take root, but in verse 8, some of the seeds fall on fertile soil that produces a crop that is 60 to 100 times what has been planted.

A harvest does not magically appear. It requires preparation and strategic planning. It must be put in the right soil, one that is broken up and moist so that it will grow. It must also be nurtured and watered before it will produce a harvest.

We are throwing seeds in many places with little or no return. The key to reaching this generation for Christ is determining what fertile soil is. Today’s fertile soil is the media, and it can be used to reseed the culture with a Biblical message. The media can only be part of the solution, along with many other things, including the power of prayer, unity in the Body of Christ, and racial reconciliation, as well as teaching that emphasizes the Bible as the source of all truth.

What we do in the next ten years will affect what Christianity and society will look like in America for the remainder of the 21st Century. Christianity has always been a moving target. God’s Word never changes. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. But Christianity has evolved over the centuries. It has constantly been a work-in-progress. Christians have therefore interpreted the Bible differently for each generation according to the current cultural perspective.

Today’s media culture presents a unique challenge to the Christian faith. No one can accurately predict what Christianity may look like in the next 20 or 50 years. A significant amount of truth has been added back to the faith over the last couple of centuries. We believe Christ is the only way to obtain salvation and that salvation is only available through grace. Is it possible these teachings could be lost again to future generations?

The market-driven church and the emergent church, along with the media culture, is changing the face of Christianity. If we don’t respond and maximize our opportunities to reach out to this current generation, we could very well see a different Gospel preached in the future.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Transmedia—Is It the Last Great Idea?

We love our buzz words. In fact, every industry from business, science, manufacturing, to marketing all have their own unique set of buzz words. You probably use them in everyday language—out of the box, forward thinking, face time, core competency, boilerplate, and monetize.

Now comes along a new one from the world of marketing and media. The new buzzword that is sweeping Hollywood and the entertainment industry is transmedia. Just like all other buzz words, sometimes its meaning gets lost in the translation. Some people within the entertainment industry, especially at the studio level, are calling transmedia the last great idea. It would seem that the industry is betting the future on this new and emerging concept.

So what exactly is transmedia? It starts with a big idea or concept, which is developed into a story. The question is how do you deliver it in a form of a movie or television show that can maximize its life expectancy and profits? In other words, how do you turn it into something besides a movie or television show?

Transmedia storytelling is about creating multiple platforms and formats. The goal is to use mass media to develop a media franchise. It’s more than just merchandise. That’s been around since the days of Star Wars. The goal is to create an open source where the fans actually take ownership and help create content. You become the artist, and you add content to the original story. Or you enhance the original story.

A perfect example is the hit television series, Lost. Followers created countless websites that catered to fans of the series. The users of the sites created their own mythology, storylines and explanations of Lost. The writers of the show were amazed at the depth and the analysis that the fans brought to the discussion. In reality, the fans had gone beyond the show and created their own world, which was more entertaining than the actual television series.

Transmedia storytelling involves the concept of creating multiple platforms such as video games, books, websites, and spinoffs. But it goes beyond that to include social apps, messaging, phone apps, media plug-ins, and social networks which help create a sense of community. These days, the average Hollywood film costs about $103 million to produce and market. For that kind of money, the industry expects big returns. Although there is a danger in promoting an open source concept, such as transmedia, Hollywood believes it’s a necessity in our current business environment. They are convinced they can create an overreaching narrative structure by implementing the principles of multimedia storytelling.

Today’s “tent Pole” movies are an example of where Hollywood and the entertainment industry is headed. It’s clear that the end game is all about creating the next media franchise, whether that’s Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, or Twilight. Hollywood is interested in creating the next media sensation. Who will step up and fill the shoes of Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, or Star Wars?

For better or for worse, transmedia storytelling is not only today’s reality but the future. The days of stand-alone movies without the prospects of a sequel or franchise may very well be a fading memory or a distant view in our rear view mirror

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Truth About Ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 16, 2012

John 3:16 and Tim Tebow

This past weekend during an NFL playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, Focus on the Family aired a 30 second commercial. It featured adorable children reciting the Biblical verse John 3:16. It took me by surprise. In fact, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first. Then it hit me. Tim Tebow. The reason Focus on the Family was airing the spot was Tim Tebow.

Over the past few weeks, he’s become sort of a cultural sensation. As the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, he went on a hot streak that got the Broncos into the playoffs. In the first round, he threw a winning touchdown pass in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, he threw for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per pass completion. Coincidence?

After the game, it was reported that there was a significant number of searches online about the meaning of John 3:16. Obviously, Focus on the Family saw an opportunity. Tim Tebow has openly given praise to his Lord and Savior as the source of his strength. He has knelt down and thanked God in a very public manner during football games. It seems like everybody has an opinion about whether or not this is appropriate behavior. I’m not sure what the big deal is. During his days at the University of Florida, it didn’t seem to be a problem.

If you ask me, I believe that some people in the media are just looking for a story and want to stir up controversy. It increases ratings as well as circulation. But, in reality, this is nothing new in professional football. I’ve seen players thank God during games and after games. Most of the football teams have chaplains and pray before and after each game. I think some people just want to jump on the Tim Tebow bandwagon for one reason or the other.

This takes me back to Focus on the Family. I know I might get into trouble for asking this question. But was it the best use of resources? I don’t’ think they called the local cable company to shoot this spot. It was well done, professionally produced, and looks big league. And I’m sure it cost a pretty penny to buy a 30 second spot during an NFL playoff game.

Hey, I thought the spot was great. Who wouldn’t love a bunch of cute and adorable kids reciting one of the most beloved scriptures in the Bible? But what did it accomplish? First of all, I think it’s a good thing any time you can proclaim the Word of God. I guess the question is how do we do this in an effective way.

The Barna Research Group tells us that 84% of Americans call themselves Christians. Furthermore, 56% state that their faith is important. However, when Barna asked 19 key questions identifying our lifestyle choices, they determined that there was little difference in how Christians and nonChristians lived their lives.

Putting it another way, we say faith matters; however, the way we live our lives say something completely different. The point I’m trying to make is we live in a postChristian society that is familiar with the concept of John 3:16 and have heard the words “you must be born again”. I think it’s become a cliché for many and has lost its power.

Here’s what I wish Focus on the Family would have talked about. What does it mean to be a Christian? Maybe we should have started with Mark 12:29. When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he said that you must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength. And, second, of equal importance is loving your neighbor as yourself.

The reason why I think John 3:16 doesn’t work in our culture is the world doesn’t see our love. They don’t believe we really love God, and they certainly don’t believe that we love people who think differently from us. They don’t see the power and the passion of our faith and convictions. We need to make our faith real and demonstrate that it can be lived out. That’s what we’re going to have to do if we want to build the Kingdom of God, fulfill the Great Commission, and be a witness for Christ. Now, I don’t know if we can do that in a 30 second spot.

In the end, I don’t care how many 30 second spots we run featuring adorable kids reciting John 3:16. It isn’t going to change the current course of our culture. It may make us feel good. And I’m sure we can slap each other on the back and say “hooray” for our side. But the best thing we can do is live our lives in a way that reflects the very nature and attributes of Christ. If we can find a way to do that, honestly there isn’t enough room on Sunday morning for the people who would show up.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Art of the Pitch - Part 2

Whether you’re a director, producer or writer, at some point, you will need to learn the art of the pitch. No matter if you are a low-budget or independent media or film maker, or whether you work in the studio system, you will need someone to either greenlight your project or fund your film or TV project.

I want to share what’s worked for me over the years. I have been in countless pitch sessions whether it’s to raise money or to pitch a program idea to a network or TV station, it’s all basically the same approach.

I’ve nailed it down to five points that’s helped me. By following this formula, you concentrate on the big picture. If you do that well, the small things will take care of themselves.

Number 3

Are you knowledgeable? Have you done your homework or your research? Trust me. If you don’t know what you are talking about, almost any professional in the business will be able to detect that you don’t have any idea of what you are doing. You might as well head for the door because the pitch session is over. Being knowledgeable means you must able to handle any question that is thrown your way. In other words, think it out before you get to the meeting. I’ve had questions asked of me that I never saw coming. Don’t be a deer in the headlights. As you gain experience in pitching, it does get easier. Here’s one thing that can help. Know something about the people you are pitching to. I understand this sounds extremely basic.

Over the years, I can’t count the times that people have come to me with an idea, concept, or script or were looking for a job and didn’t know anything about me or my ministry. There’s no other way to put it except to say that this indicates that this is someone who’s not on top of their game. If they had just spent ten minutes online looking at our website, they would have been light years ahead. If they had done their research, they would have realized we were not the right organization or ministry to be pitching to in the first place. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Know their interests and passion and what they will support before you ever schedule a meeting.

Number 4

Have a plan. If you’ve been successful in establishing your credibility; you’ve been capable of projecting confidence, and you are knowledgeable about your project or idea, you are in the game. They have listened to the concept or the big picture, and they like what they’ve heard. Now they want the details. Have a plan. Have something in writing. This is the part of the presentation of the who, what, where, when, why and how.

You can do this by PowerPoint, video, flip charts—whatever you are comfortable with. The important thing is that it look professionally produced. In every pitch session, you have to read your audience. Some people like a lot of information, and other don’t. So it’s important to know when to stop and not overwhelm them. The best advice is to come over-prepared. But don’t use it unless you need it.

Number 5

Closing the deal. It’s amazing that you can do all the above steps flawlessly and still walk out of the room without a yes. The final step is the most critical in the entire process. Almost anyone in a pitch session will have some reservations no matter how good your project or idea sounds. Your goal is to close the deal. Don’t put yourself in a situation where they can say yes or no. If you give them that choice, chances are you’re going to lose. Give them a choice between Option A or Option B. Both lead to the answer you want.

For example, if I was pitching my show to a network, I would ask them do they want the program in a 28:30 format or in a 30 minute format. Somehow, this approach just works. By suggesting in this manner, it’s as if everyone in the room has agreed that the project is a go. Obviously, it doesn’t work every time, but I have had success with it.

Let me say it one more time. Never give them a choice between yes or no.

Bottom Line

There’s no easy answers on how to know the art of the pitch. You just have to do it and keep doing it. The biggest challenges are getting over your nervousness and getting feedback. Sometimes you never know what you are doing. It’s those nervous habits that can sometimes destroy a pitch session. Maybe you’re taking your hand to your mouth or you’re fidgeting with your tie.

Practice makes perfect. Work with some friends. Pitch your ideas or concept and let them critique you. Just try not to get too overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and just breathe—easy in and easy out.

Friday, January 13, 2012

There Be Dragons

There was a time when religious epics ruled Hollywood. They were big and expansive in practically every detail, and the public loved them. The Robe, The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Story Ever Told and Ben Hur are classics that helped define the Golden Era of Hollywood. By the 1970s, audiences were looking for something different, and religious films fell out of favor.
But thanks to director Roland Joffé (The Mission and Killing Fields) the religious epic is back. Shot in Argentina and Spain, this film looks absolutely gorgeous. The production design, costumes, art direction, and cinematography are stunning. Did I say epic? Yes. There Be Dragons is epic in scope and design.

The film is complicated to say the least and encompasses every imaginable theme, including betrayal, hatred, love, friendship and forgiveness. Ultimately it’s an exploration of man’s attempt to find meaning in everyday existence. And, within that meaning, we find the nature of God at work. It’s an interesting topic considering Roland Joffé, who also wrote the screenplay, considers himself to be an agnostic. I’d say he’s a man definitely looking for answers to life’s perplexing questions.

Joffé has found the right topic to have a profound discussion about the human condition and how God fits into both the ordinary and the extraordinary. The film is based on the true story of Father Josemarià Escrivà, the founder of Opus Dei which means work of God.

There Be Dragons is told from two points of view in two different eras. In 1982 Robert, a Spanish journalist (Dougray Scott), is researching a book on the life of Father Josemarià Escrivà (Charlie Cox), who will soon be canonized as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Robert discovers that his father, Manolo (Wes Bentley) with whom he has had an estranged relationship has a connection with Father Josemarià. Apparently, they both grew up in the same village and attended seminary together. However, as time went on, the two men grew apart and chose two vastly different paths.

Manolo follows a life filled with jealousy and hatred, while Josemarià embraces love and forgiveness. Both are tested by the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939), and each will have to make life and death choices. Manolo has many secrets hidden in his past that he has kept from Robert, including a relationship with a Hungarian National who fought on the side of the Republican cause in the war. Lidiko (Olga Kurylenko) is caught up in a romantic triangle with Manolo and the heroic revolutionary Orial (Rodrigo Santoro). What results will change everybody’s life, including Robert’s.

Most of story plays out on the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Father Josemarià struggles to feed his flock while at the same time his life is in danger. Priests are being subject to execution at the hands of Republican forces that fight for the leftist government. Father Josemarià asks God to give him direction and purpose. God’s response will forever define his life. God also helps him to understand the importance of forgiveness, especially for those who are determined to do him wrong.

Some believe the Spanish Civil War was a dress rehearsal for World War II. Over 500,000 people perished in the conflict. But this wasn’t just a civil war; it was a war of ideas. Foreigners from nations throughout the world participated and fought for either the Republicans (Communists/Socialists) or the Nationalists (Fascists) that were lead by General Franco who was ultimately the victor.

As I said, this is a complicated film with weighty subject material. For most Americans who know little or next to nothing about the Spanish Civil War, There Be Dragons may be a challenging film to watch. It’s unfamiliar territory for most of us except for die-hard history buffs.

This isn’t a perfect film. There are times I wish the narrative could have been a little tighter and more focused. Several of the characters weren’t fleshed out enough to feel genuine and authentic. Perhaps I should say there were a little bit too many stereotypes for my taste.

Essentially, There Be Dragons is a film about reconciliation and forgiveness. When we forgive, we are the ones set free and allowed to fully embrace life.

The film has spun a movement of sorts. The filmmakers have received a lot of positive feedback about people forgiving past wrongs—sons forgiving fathers, husbands and wives who have been estranged for years reuniting, and all sorts of other relationships being mended.

There Be Dragons refers to the Latin phrase “hic sunt dracones”, which means here there be dragons. This is a reference that was used on maps that indicated danger, an unknown place, or a place to be explored. I would have to say that is an accurate description of this film as the filmmakers are exploring that thing we call the heart, which is often a dangerous and unknown place that cannot be fully understood.

There Be Dragons is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. This is a film worth checking out. As director Roland Joffé states, There Be Dragons “is a story about people trying to find meaning in their lives.” I think that’s something we all can relate to in our time as well as in the traumatic era of the 1930s.