Thursday, May 31, 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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is Hollywood the New Jerusalem ?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus’ birth was in an exact place and time? Was it by accident or design? Did it serve a greater purpose? What if Jesus had been born 500 years later? Would that have made a difference in the spread of the Gospel? What if he had been born in Greece or Rome? Would that have made a difference? These are all intriguing questions.

I believe the answer to those questions can help us to understand how we can fulfill the Great Commission in our time. Today we live in what many call the mass media age, and there are comparisons that can be made to the time and place that Jesus was born. In other words, there is a reason and a purpose why and when these events occurred.

First, Jesus was born in Judea during the reign of King Herod. Judea was a province of the Roman Empire and under occupation. Rome may have been the center of power in the world, but Judea was the crossroads of the world. Practically every major trade route crisscrossed the Judean landscape. To the north lay Asia Minor, to the south lay Egypt, to the west lay the Roman Empire and Greece, to the east lay Persia and the Far East. There was no greater strategic location in the known world. If you wanted to communicate a message or start a movement, this was the place.

Today, if you want to communicate a message, the place to go is Hollywood and Los Angeles. Every communications distribution channel lies within this small geographical area. Los Angeles may not be the crossroads of the world geographically, but in terms of media and entertainment, everything flows from there. The comparisons between Judea and Hollywood are unmistakable.

Second, by the time Jesus was born, technology had advanced to the point where the Gospel could be spread rapidly. The world had ships and a complex system of roads, all of which made travel possible. Civilization had also advanced to the point where written language was possible. Today, we possess the technology to reach any person on the planet. Thanks to the internet, satellite communications and digital technology, we are capable of communicating the Gospel to any people group on the planet.

Finally, the birth of Jesus occurred in a stable environment which offered an elaborate infrastructure of civilization. The Roman Empire had brought law and order to the known world. On this backdrop, the Gospel message would find its way into the marketplace of ideas. It would spread and grow in its influence throughout the Roman Empire. In our time, our infrastructure in comparison is the media. The media has formed an elaborate web of distribution channels such as satellite and cable networks, TV stations, movie studios, news networks, cell phones and mobile media devices.

So returning to our original question, is Hollywood the New Jerusalem? Do we now have the opportunity to reach every person with the Good News? There’s really nothing new since the days of Paul’s evangelistic trips. We are doing the same thing today, except the means have changed. We can take advantage of the strategic location of Hollywood and the technology and infrastructure that the mass media age offers. We have been given a great opportunity. We are at the right time and place to fulfill the Great Commission,

Just like when Jesus was born in Judea 2000 years ago during the reign of King Herod.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Human Condition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekend Report: 'MIB 3' Beats 'Avengers' With Solid Memorial Debut

It's not a great start, but MIB 3 got the job done by finally dethroning mega-blockbuster The Avengers over Memorial Day weekend. Chernobyl Diaries also opened, though it barely made a blip on the radar, while Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom had one of the best limited debuts ever. For the three-day weekend the Top 12 earned an estimated $147.5 million, which is off 32 percent from last year when The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2 ruled.

MIB 3
opened to an estimated $55 million this weekend, which is Will Smith's third-highest Friday-Sunday debut ever behind I Am Legend ($77.2 million) and Hancock ($62.6 million). That's not really an apples-to-apples statistic, though, given how many of Mr. Smith's bigger movies didn't opened on Friday. For example, Men in Black II opened on a Wednesday and earned $54.9 million through its first three days in theaters. Adjusting for 10 years of ticket price inflation and 3D ticket prices, MIB 3's initial attendance was significantly lower than that of Men in Black II.

That being said, the fact that MIB 3 was about on par with Men in Black II from a revenue perspective is somewhat admirable considering it hit theaters nearly 10 years after that very poorly received second entry (5.8 rating on IMDb) sullied the franchise's reputation. The marketing campaign was fairly effective in conveying that the Men in Black are back with a plot that retains the light-hearted vibe of the original movies while adding a new twist to the mix with time travel. The real credit, though, belongs to star Will Smith—his three-year hiatus may have lost him a few fans, but this opening is solid enough to suggest that his box office drawing power isn't too diminished.

Sony is reporting that the audience was 54 percent male and 56 percent over the age of 25, which indicates that families were probably not a huge contributor. The movie received a solid "B+" CinemaScore, which improved to an "A-" among moviegoers under the age of 18.

While it had to settle for second place, The Avengers was still very impressive this weekend. The superhero team-up eased 34 percent to an estimated $37 million, which is the second-highest fourth weekend ever behind Avatar's $50.3 million. On Saturday, the movie set a new record by crossing the $500 million mark in just 23 days. Through Sunday, The Avengers has earned $513.7 million, and will pass The Dark Knight ($533.3 million) by Friday to move in to third place on the all-time domestic chart.

Battleship
crashed in its second outing—the board game adaptation fell 58 percent to an estimated $10.8 million for the three-day weekend. It's now made $44.3 million, which is a fraction of recent Hasbro adaptations and is even off from star Taylor Kitsch's John Carter ($53.2 million) through the same point.

The Dictator
fared a bit better, dipping 45 percent to an estimated $9.6 million. Still, that hold doesn't portend a lengthy box office run for the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy, which has now earned $41.4 million.

Chernobyl Diaries debuted in fifth place with an estimated $8 million three-day haul. As expected, that's a fraction of producer Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity sequels, but it's also off from mediocre Summer horror offerings like Orphan ($12.9 million), 28 Weeks Later ($9.8 million) and Apollo 18 ($8.7 million). At least it opened a bit higher than Splice ($7.4 million), though that's really not saying much.

Chernobyl Diaries
never really clicked from a marketing perspective. Commercials made clear that a group of (not altogether intelligent) young adults were going to be terrorized at Chernobyl, but it was never clear who's doing the terrorizing. Are they mutants? Some kind of supernatural beings? Or maybe just angry Ukranians? It didn't help that the scares presented weren't particularly scary, and it also didn't help that the movie's low-budget look wasn't covered up with the found footage concept the way it has been in other recent horror movies.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Megachurch the Series

MEGACHURCH© is a new comedy series from award-winning director -MK- and produced by Gamma Pictures.


MEGACHURCH© is set in a huge Christian church and will focus on the COMEDY and DRAMA of the inner working and politics inside the “church”. Anyone familiar with “mega-churches” knows that they are very much like small cities, complete with facilities, programs, leadership…and a wide gambit of “saints” and “sinners”.

MEGACHURCH© will take a realistic yet humorous look inside the “church”, from pews to potlucks, long hair to blue hair, the haves and have-nots, the twice-a-year crowd to the “Jesus freaks”. It’s time to get real, be honest and be able to poke a little fun at ourselves. Come on, we all know there’s a buch of crazy stuff that goes on behind church doors. The series is designed to present a realistic image of our Lord Jesus…despite the example of His people.

Producer/Director: -MK- (Matthew Kilburn)

•Award-winning Filmmaker
•Social Media Guru
•Branded Entertainment Producer
•Biola University 1985 – Christian Education

FOR MORE INFO http://megachurchseries.com/

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Perfect Movie for Memorial Day !

Serving her country is an honor for Judith (GiGi Erneta), an army nurse whose Vietnam veteran father taught her the importance of sacrifice. After a tour in Iraq, she returns home and combats severe post traumatic stress in the form of nightmares. She and her father, Jake (William Devane) share a loving bond strengthened by military camaraderie. Envious of their relationship, her brothers shockingly rebuff her…a snub that intensifies when their father dies suddenly. Faced with the task of healing her family and mind, she relies on her faith to fight the battle. When a secret is revealed, the brothers must find a way to humble themselves and make amends.


Produced by Cheryl Ariaz Wicker; written and directed by Rodney Ray.
Starring John Schneider, GiGi Erneta, and William Devane.
Visit the official “Flag of My Father” website: fathersflag.com

FIND IT TODAY AT RED BOX

Christian Movie Connect Episode 33 - Gary Voelker

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Mighty Macs

What do you get when you cross Hoosiers with Rudy? You get The Mighty Macs, the latest in a long line of inspirational sports stories. This film is certainly in the tradition of such classics as Remember the Titans, The Blind Side, We are Marshall, Miracle, and Glory Road. This is the kind of movie that Disney loves to make. It’s reported that Disney actually offered Tim Chambers, who is the film’s producer, director and writer, a distribution deal. The only stipulation was the film needed to be rated PG. Chambers stuck to his guns and refused to budge on the eventual G-rated film.

That may very well have been a tactical mistake. Make no doubt about it, The Mighty Macs is a solid movie and deserved a much larger audience. The film, which is about the 1972 Immaculata College women’s basketball team, was shot in 2007, and Chambers struggled for years to bring it to the big screen. Disney could have made a real difference. Chambers finally got his distribution deal last year through Freestyle Releasing. However due to a lack of advertising and promotion, the film earned only $1.8 million. As I said, The Mighty Macs is a solid movie with an inspirational and uplifting story and should have been a hit.

Some people may argue that The Mighty Macs is nothing more than the same old tired formula film that we’ve seen a million times over. Yes, you can make a case that it fits nicely into the mode that made Bad News Bears a success. Yes, it’s a feel-good, faces adversities and obstacles, and in the end our heros triumphs against all odds- type of movie. Like all good sports movies, the women’s basketball team at Immaculata College, comes out of nowhere to win the championship.

Following the tried and true sports formula, the players usually start out without a clue. Nobody knows which basket to but the ball in much less on how to dribble the ball. Inept would be an understatement. But everything changes with the arrival of a new coach, Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino), who painfully whips the girls into shape through her unique style of training and coaching in one season. Did I say miracle?

With little resources, tiny Immaculata College has to go up against much larger schools such as Penn State. Against all odds, Cathy starts to build a winning team. But, along the way, she faces resistance from Mother Superior St. John, played skillfully by Ellen Burnstyn, who is more concerned about whether the school can continue to operate due to financial issues than winning basketball games.

Also, Cathy’s husband, Ed (David Boreanaz), is not thrilled about his wife’s new career choice. He would rather have a stay-at-home wife who is more interested in domestic chores. However, Cathy does find an ally in assistant coach Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton), who is struggling with her calling as a nun. Will the girls win the national championship? Well, obviously there is no surprise to the outcome. The Mighty Macs is based on a true story. In 1972, Immaculata College won the First Women’s Basketball National Championship.

Cathy Rush is a well-known figure in women’s athletics and was elected to the National Hall of Fame in 2008.

Does The Mighty Macs break any new ground? As I have pointed out, there are plenty of sports movies; however, a film about women’s basketball is a rarity. Set in the early 1970s, the Might Macs explores the changing role of women in American society. It is certainly a film about equality and believing in yourself. Many of the girls in this film were told all of their lives what role they were to fulfill in society. It’s as if their lives had already been planned out. Cathy represented a new way of thinking. Or to put it in a different way, she represented female empowerment.

It’s a great message that you can succeed as a woman in life and be the person you were meant to be. I thoroughly enjoyed The Mighty Macs.

Working with a modest budget, Director Tim Chambers has created a film that’s just as good as any big budget studio movie. As for the acting, I found it to be honest and sincere. There’s no question, everyone was putting their best foot forward. The filmmakers have done a solid job of creating what Immaculata College must have looked like in the 1970s. That’s no small task. But what really makes this film work is the authentic re-creation of  games that took place during the first women’s national championship. It looks as good as any action I have ever seen in a sports movie.

I hope you take the time to find this film. It really is that good. The truth is. There’s nothing wrong with a formula movie as long as it’s a good formula. What’s wrong with something being inspiration and uplifting? We can all use a feel-good movie once in a while and especially something with heart and a message about hope and overcoming against all odds

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

'Hardflip' Hits Theaters in 10 Days!

What happens when your life takes a hard flip? Teenager Caleb Jones goes skateboarding.

With no father in his life to guide him and his mother, Beth, working two jobs to make ends meet, Caleb believes nothing matters in life but to become a sponsored skater to get him away from all his troubles. When his mother falls ill, Caleb is forced to deal with her illness and his lack of responsibility.

Through the tragedy of his mother’s illness and the sudden appearance of the father, Caleb becomes the man his mother always prayed he’d be.

Hardflip is a story of what can happen when we let go of our anger and pain and willingness to forgive those who’ve hurt us most, just as God forgives us.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kickstarter: The Indie Filmmaker's New Best Friend

When Matthew Lillard needed a distributor for his directorial debut, “Fat Kid Rules the World,” he knew he had an alternative to the traditional Hollywood studio: Kickstarter.

“Mainstream Hollywood doesn't know how to make money on a movie like this,” he wrote on the crowdfunding website. “They don't believe that there is an audience, and we mean to prove them wrong.”

As studios become more risk-averse, filmmakers of all stripes are turning to Kickstarter, as well as other online crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo, to fund production, marketing and, in some cases, distribution.

That includes everyone from "Raging Bull" screenwriter Paul Schrader to a relative unknown like Rob Hugel.

Sundance hosted 17 premieres for films funded at least in part by Kickstarter. At South by Southwest, 33 funded films screened. At Tribeca, there were 12.

Even Cannes, the province of luminaries like Roman Polanski and Michael Haneke, has a film that got help from those on Kickstarter.

And earlier this month, Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis announced they would use Kickstarter for their next project, “The Canyons.” It has already raised almost $80,000.

According to Braxton Pope, a friend and collaborator of Ellis’ who is producing the film, the group wanted the artistic freedom using Kickstarter funding would provide.

On top of that, they wanted to be sure they could see something from the back end. Too often when selling a project to a distributor, they did not get a share -- or only a small portion -- of the movie's profits.

Even HBO has gotten into the game, purchasing "Me @ the Zoo," a documentary partially funded on Kickstarter, that will premiere June 25.

Launched in 2009, Kickstarter has broken new ground in areas other than film over the past few months.

In February, the Elevation Dock, a docking station for iPhones, became the first project to pass the $1 million mark. Since then the Pebble, a customizable watch, set a new standard, captivating many by surpassing $10 million in funding.

No movie has neared that level, but more than $60 million has been pledged to film and video projects on Kickstarter, making it the single largest category on the site.

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular and viable avenue for independent filmmakers -- and Kickstarter has taken the lead among other outlets.

“It’s been happening on a really grass-roots level for a long time," said Lillard, "but I never thought about putting it together to use on a completed project for [print and advertising] funding. That was part of the awakening at South by Southwest.”

It was at the Austin-based festival that Lillard’s film about a hefty teen who discovers punk rock earned the Audience Award, as well as a series of positive reviews.

Hollywood the Dream Factory

Do you want to reach the people who work and live in Hollywood? Are you prepared to be a media missionary? More than likely, you see Hollywood as a valid mission field. Hollywood and the entertainment industry is comprised of a unique people group with their own customs, language and rituals. In order to reach that people group, you must first understand what makes them function. What drives them? What’s important to them? What do they value? And, finally, what makes them unique from other people groups?

Once you understand a particular people group—their makeup and design—it becomes much easier to decipher their customs, language and rituals. How do you get to the heart of who the people are in Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry? I’ve worked with people in this industry for over 20 years. And there are a few things I have observed that could help us to understand the mindset of those who work in entertainment.

Hollywood has always been called the Dream Factory. You cannot understand Hollywood or the entertainment industry unless you understand what the Dream Factory represents. Hollywood is in the business of the mass production of dreams, which is represented in the art form of movies and television. At the same time, they also create dreams for the people who are pursuing careers in the entertainment industry.

The Hollywood Dream Factory and the American Dream are also closely tied to each other, especially for the people who work there. These concepts have led to a social system of mutual patterns and ideas which help to control and influence the activities of its members.

The Dream Factory’s ultimate objective is the pursuit of fame and fortune. This is a driving force in the culture that makes up Hollywood. Hollywood sells the idea that you can have it all. Anything is possible. It’s social system excels in flashiness, bigness and it’s own self-importance. It offers those who seek careers in the industry an opportunity to remake themselves into whatever they want to be.

The ideas that fuel the Dream Factory are complicated. They serve as a metaphor much like California, that if you can get there, life will be better for you there than where you came from. Therefore, those who come to Hollywood looking for opportunities to break into the business will try to achieve it at all costs. After all, who doesn’t want to be rich, famous and important? That’s what the Hollywood Dream Factory is selling, not only to their audience but to those who come looking for a better life.

But, in reality, Hollywood can be the land of broken dreams. Over 10,000 people come to Hollywood each month seeking a new life. Likewise, 10,000 people leave each month broken, disillusioned and disappointed. There are only so many jobs available. The entertainment industry is probably the most difficult business to break into. And for those who have the ability to hang in there, a career in Hollywood most often is a struggle. Few find fame and fortune. You are just another waiter, valet or parking attendant trying to break into the business. It’s a tough life. Even for the lucky few who make it, they still feel unfulfilled. The Dream Factory sells dreams, not reality.

It’s no secret that many people who work in entertainment fall into drugs, drinking or sexual addiction. The industry and the culture it creates is full of stress and pressure. You are just as good as your last project. The social system that makes up Hollywood makes it easy and convenient to fall into destructive behavior. This is easy to understand once you realize that your dreams have turned into a nightmare. You turn to whatever comfort you can find.

If you want to be a media missionary, you have to understand the contrasting realities of the Hollywood Dream Factory and the land of broken dreams it creates.

Most of the people who come to Hollywood are artists. It’s crucial to understand the mind of the artist in order to reach him or her with the Gospel message. Artists are wired differently. I would go as far to say is that their brains don’t function like most of ours. Without making too many generalizations, they are free spirited, unconventional in how they view life, and more open to new ideas.

If you have friends who are artists, you realize they are different. Wherever artists gather or migrate to, they will create a unique culture. That’s exactly what’s happened in Hollywood. This helps to explain why Hollywood is so different from mainstream America.

A few years ago, Ray Comfort wrote a book called What Hollywood Believes. It offered insight into the minds of the artists who make up the entertainment industry. It revealed their worldviews are vastly different from most Americans. They are likely to be more liberal in their views of politics, religion, social issues and lifestyle choices. However, not everyone in Hollywood will fit into this pattern. That doesn’t necessarily mean that being liberal is either good or bad, but it is merely a reality of their belief system. Comfort also states that the majority of those in Hollywood have little or no religious training or education. They know very little if anything about Christianity. That makes them a prime mission field.
 
Artists also have common personality traits. Having worked with people in the industry for years, it’s somewhat easy to distinguish these traits. Most are driven, self-centered, aggressive and downright pushy. Unfortunately, it’s part of the business. It’s the only way you are going to get noticed.


Hollywood is also a culture of mistrust. It seems that everybody is playing an angle. You never know who is on the up and up. I’m sure that in any business or industry there is a fair share of backstabbing, cut-throat tactics, and betrayal but not to the point that it occurs in Hollywood. Competition in this industry is intense, and the desire to get ahead overshadows common sense. Who do you trust? Can you trust anyone? Show your script to your friend and before you know it, he or she has stolen your idea and made a deal. So it’s no surprise that trust is an issue in Hollywood.

Perhaps, one of the most important things about understanding this unique people group in Hollywood is to realize what they seek the most—affirmation, recognition and validation. The mind of the artist is fragile, sensitive, insecure and easily broken. They are always looking for someone to tell them that their art is worthy, and often you do not hear that in Hollywood. If anything, it’s a place that tears you down. It does not validate your worthiness. We all struggle with the issue of worthiness. But artists especially seek worthiness through their art because their art defines who they are as a person, and if their art is not important, they are not important.

As media missionaries we recognize that only a relationship with God can resolve these issues. Our mission is to understand the mind of the artist and the culture of Hollywood in order to be effective in communicating Biblical truth. But in order to do this we need a specialized group of people who are trained in all aspects of the media missionary’s calling.

NOTE: It’s important to emphasize that artists are everywhere. The culture of Hollywood exists in practically every corner of the world. Film, television and media production doesn’t just occur in Hollywood. You can be a media missionary in your own home town and reach those who work in media and entertainment

Monday, May 21, 2012

Things Hollywood Won't Tell You

1. "The real nail-biter? Our balance sheet."

Picture it: captains of industry struggling to stay relevant in a world they no longer understand. It may sound like a Citizen Kane-esque cinematic saga, but it's actually the story of today's studio executives, say film-industry watchers. The U.S. box office take dropped almost 4 percent in 2011, to $10.2 billion, marking the second straight year of decline. The root of the problem, of course, is the growing popularity of home viewing via Netflix and other video-on-demand outlets. Last year, consumer spending on video streaming jumped 50 percent, to $3.4 billion, reports the Digital Entertainment Group. The change has as many implications for the movie business as digital downloading did for the music industry. Granted, Hollywood makes some money from streaming sales. But those digital dimes aren't enough. Add it up and you have a potential crisis, says Christopher Sharrett, a professor of communication and film studies at Seton Hall University: "We could well be seeing the end of motion pictures in theaters."

2. "3-D is for suckers."

So what are moviemakers doing to bring more bodies into theaters? They're revisiting an innovation of decades past: 3-D. And not everyone who tracks Hollywood is wild about the trend, saying it's a passing fad. Plus, action films don't always translate well to 3-D. Boston Globe film writer Ty Burr recently carped about the "sins against the visual cortex" perpetrated by 3-D releases Clash of the Titans,Gulliver's Travels and Green Lantern: They "aren't just terribly written, they're terrible to look at, with actors' faces separated from the backs of their heads," he wrote. Of course, Hollywood doesn't quite see it that way. In a 2010 interview, Clash of the Titans director Louis Leterrier praised today's 3-D, saying what viewers see on the screen is "exactly what it looked like on set." But either way, consumers are paying the price for the new-old technology: Admission to a 3-D flick is generally $3 extra.

3. "Movies are thinly veiled commercials."

Many moviegoers may recall how a trail of Reese's Pieces lures the alien out of hiding in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. That's classic Hollywood product placement, circa 1982. Attracting an alien nowadays would require much bigger bait: Hollywood has increasingly come to rely on Madison Avenue for income. Indeed, product placement has doubled in value since 2005, to an estimated $1.8 billion. This blurring of the lines between entertainment and advertising -- a practice consumer advocates condemn -- has become so ubiquitous someone even made a movie about it: Documentarian Morgan Spurlock, of Super Size Me fame, spoofed the trend in his 2011 picture Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (he financed the $1.5 million film through sponsorships). But Hollywood argues that it's a necessary part of doing business -- and that ticket sales alone don't cut it: "Somebody has to pay for all this content to be created," says Lindsay Conner, a Los Angeles attorney who has represented film studios.

4. "New York? Chicago? It's all Vancouver."

When Hollywood wants to use a particular city as a backdrop, it faces a choice: scout out settings and deal with potentially pricey or problematic local production crews, or head to a place that has a similar look and is eager to please, particularly when it comes to government financial incentives. Frequently, it chooses the latter, regardless of the possible visual compromise. As a result, some states, such as Michigan and Louisiana, have become hotbeds of production. And Canada -- especially the cities of Toronto and Vancouver -- has become such a hub that it's been dubbed Hollywood North. Even when a specific location is central to a plotline, filmmakers won't hesitate to shoot elsewhere. A case in point: The 2002 Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama was shot largely in Georgia, because it offered scenic locations and a solid crew of film professionals, explains Michael Fottrell, the film's executive producer. An added bonus, says Fottrell: Some New York scenes could be filmed in Atlanta.

5. "We boost sales by limiting your options."

It should come as no surprise that Hollywood times the release of youth-oriented "popcorn flicks" to the out-of-school summer months. But it might surprise people just how far studios take the timing game the rest of the year: If they deem a film unlikely to make a splash at the box office, industry observers say, they'll release it on a slow, off-season weekend -- so it won't have to compete with higher-profile fare, and so it will require fewer marketing dollars. In short, by minding the calendar (as well as the competition) and ultimately limiting options for moviegoers, studios are able to sell more tickets to movies that might otherwise be commercial disappointments, explains Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com's box office division. "The scheduling of release dates is like a giant chess match," he says.
6. "We scratch Washington's back..."
Yep, even Hollywood has a lobbying arm: the Motion Picture Association of America, which spent more than $2 million wooing elected officials last year. And its positions aren't always popular with either the public or politicians. Recently, the association, under the stewardship of former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, pushed for antipiracy legislation designed to keep films from being easily shared and copied online. But the bills were seen as restricting the overall use of the Internet and failed to garner support. After Congress put the legislation on hold, Dodd warned that "those who count on 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake." That led some critics to charge that the MPAA was bullying legislators and prompted an online petition asking the White House to "investigate this blatant bribery." The Obama administration declined to comment on the petition.
7. "Based on a true story...loosely."
Truth is often stranger than fiction, which explains Hollywood's enthusiasm for telling true stories. There's just one problem: Sometimes reality gets in the way of the narrative or spoils the tone of a film. So Hollywood changes it. Not everyone necessarily has a problem with that, though. Chris Gardner, the homeless man-turned-financial whiz whose story was chronicled in the 2006 Will Smith picture The Pursuit of Happyness, says he understood why the film's creators changed the age of his son. In real life, the events played out when his child was still in diapers; in the movie, he's 5. The reason? It's hard to capture those poignant father-and-son moments without dialogue, so the child had to be of speaking age. Overall, says Gardner, "I could not be more happy" with the film
8. "What you see isn't what you'll get."
If you've ever felt cheated after seeing a movie that failed to deliver on what its trailer promised, you're not alone. Moviegoers are increasingly sounding the alarm that Hollywood plays a game of bait-and-switch, building marketing campaigns that present a false sense of a picture's style or subject matter. And at least one film buff has gone to the courts to make the case: A Michigan woman filed suit in September against a Hollywood distributor, saying that she was led to believe, through advertising, that the Ryan Gosling thriller Drive was about, well, driving. Instead, the film "bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film," the suit alleged. And the reaction from Drive producer Graham King? "It's called marketing, you know?" he said in a 2011 interview. The suit was dismissed in March.
9. "We've got a bad case of sequelitis."
It's not an actual illness, but sequelitis is the term movie critics use to describe Hollywood's obsession of late with pictures that have a numeral in their title. Of last year's 10 highest-grossing films worldwide, nine were sequels. (The lone exception? The Smurfs -- and even that's practically a sequel, since the little blue creatures gained earlier fame as stars of an animated television series.) But if moviegoers are happy to buy tickets to these pictures-cum-franchises, who's being harmed? Movie mavens maintain it's stifling originality and resulting in the further commercialization of an industry that's already overcommercialized. "It's like, 'We can milk anything,'" says Sean Phillips, executive producer of the Yahoo Movies website.
10. "Of course we recycle. It pays."
Sequels may represent the artistic equivalent of recycling, but Hollywood also profits from its real leftovers. As recently as a decade ago, studios extracted silver from the physical prints that theaters sent back following a film's run, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in added profits, according to Edward Jay Epstein, a film-business expert and the author of The Hollywood Economist 2.0. And today, the industry channels used props and costumes to auction houses that cater to the growing market of movie-mad collectors. The only problem with the squeeze-every-penny-out-of-a-picture mentality is that it's part of the "culture of the suits," Epstein says. In that culture, extra pennies go straight into studio coffers or toward blatantly commercial projects -- say, another Smurfs movie. Sure enough, a sequel is already in the works.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Box Office Report: 'Battleship' Capsizes With $25.3 Mil Launch, Universal Faces Big Loss


Battleship's international gross of $226.8 million provides some cushion, but it needed a strong domestic performance to end up in the black. A $26 million opening means the movie might not clear $70 million or $80 over the long haul domestically, resulting in a notable loss for Universal and certain to result in plenty of Monday-morning quarterbacking within the studio about what went wrong.

There's already speculation that Battleship, starring Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker and Liam Neeson, will follow the same course as Disney's John Carter, which debuted to $30.2 million in March and topped out at $71.8 million domestically. Overseas, John Carter, also starring Kitsch, earned $200.6 million. The pic resulted in a $200 million loss for Disney.

"It is obviously a disappointment, but we will move on. And we have Memorial Day coming up," Universal president of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco said. "The studio has a picture that already has a quarter of a million dollars in the bank, and it won't die at $25.3 million domestically. We all know that."

The continuing strength of Disney and Marvel Studios' The Avengers is no doubt making life difficult for Battleship and other new product (Warner Bros.' Dark Shadows, which opened last weekend, is another underperformer) but box-office observers say Battleship faces its own obstacles as well.

The alien-invasion actioner -- based the classic board game not well known by younger generations -- played notably older Friday, with 66 percent of the audience over the age of 25. Males made up 57 percent of those buying tickets, according to CinemaScore exit-polling data.

Universal's marketing campaign didn't focus on families, even though Battleship is certainly kid and family friendly, much as Hasbro's sister film franchise Transformers was.

Avengers continues to be a box-office monster globally, growing its global gross to $1.18 billion through Sunday to become the No. 4 movie of all time. It easily crushed the competition domestically, earning $55.1 million in its third weekend for a cume of $457.1 million -- Disney's best showing ever. Overseas, it has earned $723.3 million.

Coming in No. 3 behind Avengers and Battleship was Sacha Baron Cohen's R-rated comedy The Dictator, which opened Wednesday and posted a modest five-day domestic debut of $24.5 million, almost matching Battleship's three day number. For the weekend itself, Dictator grossed $17.4 million.

While the Paramount comedy, costing at least $65 million to produce, was notablly weak in conservative flyover states, it made up ground in more liberal-minded New York and Los Angeles, as well as in Northern Europe.

Dictator grossed a pleasing $30.3 million in its international debut over the weekend from 29 territories (only nine were top 20 markets), coming in 26 percent ahead of Borat and 50 percent of both Bridesmaids and The Hangover, all of which sailed past the $100 million mark internationally ($133 million, $120 million and $190 million respectively).

Paramount belives Baron Cohen's comedy will continue to overperform with foreign audiences, helping to make up for lost ground in large swaths of the U.S.

Domestically, Dictator received a C CinemaScore and skewed heavily male (65 percent). The pic, which Paramount says cost $65 million to produce, did play notably younger, with 56 percent under the age of 25.
Lionsgate's ensemble comedy What to Expect When You're Expecting opened to No. 5 with a softer-than-expected $10.5 million. At least half the film's $30 million budget was covered through strong foreign presales.

Fox Searchlight had a strong weekend as specialty pic The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel shot up to No. 6, grossing $3.3 million in its third weekend from only 354 theaters for a cume of $8.2 million.

Domestic box office, May 18-20

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume

1. The Avengers, 3/4,249, Disney/Marvel Studios, $55.1 million, $457.1
2. Battleship, 1/3,690, Universal/Hasbro, $25.3 million.
3. The Dictator, 1/3,008, Paramount, $17.4 million, $24.5 million.
4. Dark Shadows, 2/3,755, Warner Bros., $12.8 million, $50.9 million.
5. What to Expect When You're Expecting, 1/3,021, $10.5 million.
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 3/354, Fox Searchlight, $3.3 million, $8.2 million.
7. The Hunger Games, 9/2,064, Lionsgate, $3 million, $391.6 million.
8. Think Like a Man, 5/1,722, Sony, $2.7 million, $85.9 million.
9. The Lucky One, 5/2,839, Warner Bros., $1.8 million, $56.9 million.
10. The Pirates! Band of Misfits, 4/1,840, Sony/Aardman, $1.5 million, $25.4 million

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Matter of Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 18, 2012

Does Hollywood know a thing or two about how to make movies ?

Media and entertainment is America’s number one export. I think it’s safe to say that Hollywood knows a thing or two about how to make movies and television shows. What do they know that Christians don’t know about making movies? Over the last few years, we have seen an explosion in Christian films. But has the quality increased? Many would agree that there is something lacking in the overall artistic and technical aspects. Is it the writing? The cinematography or the acting?

Perhaps if we had more money, our product would look better. Undoubtedly, the production value would increase. We’d have the time to get more shots. We’d have access to better cameras and equipment, and we could pay for better actors. Maybe, we could bring a writer or two on board to rewrite our scripts.

But I think money is only part of the answer. If we had all of the resources at our disposal, I have a feeling there would still be something lacking, something not quite right. There are many intangibles at work. First of all, are we telling the right stories? Do we really understand the filmmaking process and what films are capable of? Are we so focused on giving all of the answers, that we’re not asking the right questions? What if we focused our attention away from Christian films and concentrated more on redemptive or transformational stories?

Hollywood knows how to tell a good story. And they have been doing it for years. Here are ten secrets they have realized about telling good stories that are capable of impacting the human heart.

Here are 10 guidelines that mainstream filmmakers understand about making redemptive films.


1. Your movie must have entertainment value. People watch films to be entertained. Some Christians have made entertainment a dirty word. When people watch films and television, they are relaxed and more receptive to the message contained within the story. Often, they will reexamine their lives or be challenged to be a better person.

2. Filmmaking is an art form. The art must come first. For most Christians, the message is first. Audiences will not accept this and will see it as a form of propaganda. We must recognize that the divine can be found in art. We understood this for centuries. But, somewhere along the way, we have forgotten this. Film is not a good forum for a 5-point sermon. If we make great art, it has the capacity to move the human heart.

3. Films need to have an emotional impact. Emotions move people; therefore, our characters need to be believable as well as our dialogue. Nobody will accept the redemptive process if you are not successful in taking them through the emotional journey involved in the process of change.

4. Films work better with metaphors and symbolism because you keep the audience engaged in the story. This is a concept that most Christian filmmakers have failed to understand. Metaphors and symbolism help to forge connections between dissimilar objects and themes. We need to realize our audience has the intelligence to figure it out on their own. Stop telegraphing every story element or plot point. Remember, Jesus said in his parables the Kingdom of God is like….

5. Films are a great forum to ask questions. Christians love to ask questions, but unfortunately, we also love to give all the answers. We really don’t want our audience to have to think for themselves. This doesn’t work for film. Jesus used parables as his principle storytelling technique. He often asked questions, but he seldom gave they answers. It was his audience’s responsibility to find the answers.

6. Redemptive films need to illustrate the wonders of God. As Christians we don’t do this very well in film. When it come to miracles, angels, the unexplained, healings or the story of the loaves and fish, our stories seem to be flat, one-dimensional and lacking depth. Perhaps we’re too close to the subject material. NonChristians for some reason seem to be much better at this. For example, Jesus of Nazareth, produced in 1977 for television, is exceptional at exploring the wonders of God. It is a difficult concept to explain, but they do it with simplicity, humanity and the divine in such a way that it moves you.

The wonders of God can also be found in the small things of everyday life which are truly the miracles. We can find the divine patterns of life that exist in the smile of a child and the dawning of a new day. Christian filmmakers often don’t know how to depict the glorious, marvelous and small wonders of God’s grace and love which occur daily in our lives.

7. Redemptive filmmaking requires the ability to question God. We Christians have a tough time doing this. We don’t want to admit we have doubts and are sometimes confused. Perhaps, we think it is a sin to question God. But that’s not Biblical. Jacob’s name meant deceiver, but his name was changed to Israel meaning one who struggles with God. This happened after the all-night wrestling match at Peniel. We have to ask questions. Where is God when we are hurting? Why do bad things happen? As filmmakers, we have to be willing to ask these questions. If our goal is to be authentic, real and genuine, our audience is asking the same questions. Let’s face it. Christian filmmakers paint a world the way they want to see it. Mainstream filmmakers paint life’s complexities and the world as it is.

8. The need for redemption requires us to face sin. NonChristians may not call sin, sin, but they are good at depicting it. There is no redemption in the filmmaking process without the ability to portray sin. Our audience will not accept the fact that our characters have gone through this incredible transformation without seeing what their lives looked like before the transformation. They have to see the ugliness. We have all gone through the same experience. Life isn’t always pretty. That doesn’t mean we offer gratuitous, offensive material just for the sake of showing it. But it is part of the journey to redemption. I know for some Christians, this is a difficult concept to accept. But here is something to consider. The Bible is a story of the human condition without God and does contain content that some may find disturbing. We are afraid that if we show sin we are somehow endorsing it. Most Christian filmmakers want their hero or protagonist to be flawless not at the end of the redemptive process but at the beginning.

9. Filmmaking is a visual medium. The key to making great films is to think visual. How do we visually illustrate the personification of art? How do we express emotions—anger, frustration, indifference, internal struggles? Redemptive stories require expressing the intangible in a tangible, visual form.

10. Redemptive stories do not necessarily offer a convenient and tidy ending. Just as in life, there may not be a fairy tale ending as in “they lived happily ever after”. For example, in Bella, it would have been temping to end the movie with a happy and satisfying conclusion. However, both lead characters had their moments of redemption, which were more reflective of real life. Redemption is a complex process and is different for each of us.

Bottom Line

You can be a media missionary wherever God decides to plant you. The most important thing to discover is what God is saying to you. Christian filmmakers don’t necessarily have to go to Hollywood to make redemptive films. When we, as filmmakers, forget about our agenda or what we think a Christian movie should look like, then I am convinced God will be able to speak to us. How God is at work in people’s lives is the best inspiration for making movies and media that can reflect his glory and truth. We do not need to create Christian cinema or a Christian film industry. It serves no purpose. God is already at work in the film and media industry. As always, he requires our obedience to serve his will and his interests.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

CMC Episode 32 - Jayce O'Neal



Dr. Jayce O’Neal is an actor, writer, scholar and speaker. He is a communications professor at Regent University and is involved in film as both an actor and screenwriting collaborator. Jayce discusses with CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker the dilemma actors face in setting boundaries on film roles as well as how to be a light in Hollywood.

For more information about Dr. Jayce O’Neal, go to http://christianmovieconnect.com/videos/christian-movie-connect-episode-32-jayce-oneal/www.jayceoneal.com.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Maybe Hulu Had It Right After All

I was thinking just the other day that television has been our pal for over 60 years. But, truth be told, television is probably more like our family—the kind of family that you don’t mind coming over and staying for a while. The box has become America’s most influential piece of furniture. We have made it the centerpiece in our homes and have given it a prominent place of stature in our family or living rooms.

So, I have a question for you. Have you ever wondered how television has impacted your life? For good or bad? I was reading some statistics that’s astonishing. By the time the average person graduates from high school he or she would have spent 18,000 hours watching television. That includes over 330,000 commercials. As adults, most of us will spend on the average over 4 hours a day watching TV. That’s a lot of time. Hey, if we’re spending that much time on any given activity, it has to have some type of impact. Right?

Maybe Hulu had it right after all. A couple of years ago, they ran a commercial campaign which launched and promoted their new website. It was a funny, entertaining and facetious commercial featuring Alec Baldwin. Hulu is a web-based site where you can view television programs online. If you missed it in real time, it gives you another opportunity to view your favorite show.

Baldwin start out at the Hollywood sign where he says, “They say television will rot your brains. That’s absurd. Like a banana will only soften the brain. To go all the way you need Hulu to turn it into mush.” It turns out that Baldwin is actually an alien, and he’s using Hulu to turn our brains into mush so they can be scooped out and consumed by the master alien race. The final tagline for the spot reads, “Hulu, an evil plot to destroy the world.”

Could Alec Baldwin be right? Perhaps, he really is an alien. Just kidding. No I don’t believe there is an evil plot to destroy Western civilization or undermine the morals and values of our youth. And, I’m certain there are no aliens pursuing some mass invasion. Hollywood executives do not gather on Monday morning to discuss their evil intentions of polluting our minds. They are not in cahoots with aliens. I guess it would be more comforting if that was the truth.

However, Alec Baldwin did get something right. Perhaps, television has softened our brains. Maybe it’s just easier for television to do the thinking for us. I’m sure you’re probably thinking right now, what’s the big deal. I’ve been watching television and I’m fine.

I’m just like you. After a hard day, I just want to relax. I just want to sit down, watch the tube and chill. No heavy lifting. All I want to do is to put it on cruise control. The TV networks understand this well. They want to give you what you want. The networks are in the business to make money. No evil plot.

That’s why we get programs like Hawaii Five-O. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of this show. But the format works great for television. It’s simple and doesn’t require you to do a whole lot of thinking. Like most scripted programming these days, it follows a predictable formula. Bad guys commit a crime. Our heroes, Five-O, springs into action. They catch a break, discover the plot and who and where the bad guys can be found. And after a chase or two or an explosion, the bad guys go down hard and are brought to justice. Same formula week in and week out. Just add some pretty pictures and some pretty people for eye candy, and you’re on your way to becoming a television producer.

Network executives have known for years that most people don’t want to watch complex television shows, such as Kings or Caprica. Both lasted only one season. They required the viewer be actively engaged and understand what is actually happening. Often it’s not about what we can see on the screen, but it’s more abstract and less defined. It’s what’s occurring in the minds of the characters or in the subtext. Remember, we just want to relax and not be challenged. Perhaps, Edward R.Murrow put it best. He understood the future of television and its potential to be used for both good and bad. He warned of the dangers long before others understood what was happening in our society. In 1958, he said that television is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us from the realities of life. By watching television, you would find evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation.

Murrow said that the American public has a built-in allergy to unpleasant and disturbing information. Murrow campaigned that television should reflect and offer a public discourse on matters of public policy and issues that impact society. But he believed because of the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies, programmers and sponsors, that the positive use of television would not become a reality. Television networks understood the human condition and what we really wanted to see. We were not interested in seeing the truth because that would be too unpleasant.

As Alec Baldwin says in the Hulu spot, television has indeed softened the brain. Perhaps that’s our legacy. Maybe today we can no longer think for ourselves. Whatever the box says is fine with us. No evil plot. We’re merely doing it to ourselves.