Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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

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