Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Downside of Christmas

First, on a personal note, what a year this has been. For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know I’ve been on a personal journey to rediscover God and how he is at work in my life as well as in the world. All of that has led me to write a book called A Media Culture, which I recently re-titled, The Red Pill, A Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture. I never set out to write a book, but as I have discovered, God has his own plan and purposes. I thank God for giving me the words and inspiration.

I had hoped to have the book published back in September, but the process is much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. However, the delays have been helpful and perhaps even a blessing in disguise. With my wife’s help, the book is now better organized and, frankly, a lot more readable. As this year comes to a close, it appears that the book will soon go to press. With God’s help The Red Pill may be available in early Spring.

What has all of this taught me in light of the Christmas season? It has been a year of ups and downs, valleys and mountains. After losing the ministry that I founded 11 years ago, I have had to learn to make many adjustments in my life. Rediscovering God is one of those adjustments and probably the greatest blessing.

Second, what does the journey have to do with downside of Christmas? After watching several Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel this week, I noticed that in most of the movies, the final shot would be a slow pushback crane shot revealing a happy and content family sharing a bounty of food and gifts, the perfect picture of an old-fashioned Christmas with all of the trimmings. As the shot continued to pull away, it would reveal an exterior wonderland of fresh falling snow. It’s the perfect Christmas with every piece in place. All the problems have been solved and there now is harmony and peace.

Of course, this is the Christmas we want. And somehow we think everybody is living this perfect Christmas except us. It makes us feel depressed and missing out when we look at our situation and realize that’s not the picture of our families. I think the first thing that we need to realize is that there is no perfect situation or family. No matter how perfect you think your neighbors are, trust me, they all have issues that are not noticeable on the surface but nevertheless are present.

Realistically, perhaps you’ve lost a job or a loved one, or you are experiencing financial difficulties or maybe you have no family to celebrate Christmas with. This time of year has a way of emphasizing our loses. Let me put it this way. God never guaranteed us a life that will be comfortable, safe or convenient. However, he did promise to always be with us and be our comfort in grief, our protector and defender in trouble. He is always just a prayer away. Jesus came to earth as a babe, he lived his life here on earth experiencing what we all go through, and He promises there is nothing we experience that he is not able to be a help to us. Dealing with the problems of life help us to grow into the likeness of Christ and move closer to the Savior.

With all of the hustle and activities of Christmas, we often lose sight of the things that are truly important. What’s helped me this year, especially this Christmas season, is to take one day at a time. Remember we’re not promised tomorrow. My goal is just to get through today. Tomorrow will have it’s own issues and problems. What God has also helped me to realize this year is to find joy in the small things. These are the things we often overlook. And it will be different for every person. Perhaps it’s watching the sun rising on a new day and knowing God is with me today. Or, for me, it’s just the joy of having a cup of coffee and reading the paper before the day gets started. The point is to slow down and enjoy what God has put before you. We’re often so consumed with the big issues that we forget to live our lives in the moment.

And, finally, I realize that you know this and have been reminded countless times that Christmas is about the birth of a Savior. He is our only hope for redemption. This life will soon pass, but what we do in it and the decisions we make will have eternal consequences. To truly celebrate Christmas is to embrace what Jesus has taught us and to accept his sacrifice for us so that we may have a future and a hope.

Merry Christmas to you and may you rediscover God on your journey in the coming year.  

The Best Of Christmas - Part 1

This past week, I sat down and watched a couple new Christmas movies on television. It got me to thinking what exactly makes a good Christmas film. Without naming names, the ones I watched would not make my list of the best Christmas movies. Here’s what ingredients work best: you need a sense of wonderment, a magical feel, a movie that makes you feel like a child again. I’m looking for something that restores my faith in mankind that we all have the desire and ability to care for each other. A good Christmas film should instill hope for a better tomorrow.

So what are my top ten movies that capture the essence and the spirit of Christmas?

1. National Lampoons 
Christmas Vacation

This one is my guilty pleasure. I know it’s crude, but it’s ridiculously funny. And we are all guilty at some point in maybe going a little bit overboard with the holidays like Clark Griswold. He’s a good guy, and all he wants to do is the right thing and provide a great Christmas for his family. But as you can imagine, complications arise just as in real life. No big message in this film, just a lot of entertainment value. I make a point to watch this movie every year. It’s like an old friend. Somehow it just gets better with age.

2. The Santa Clause

This one is definitely an original. Of course, it’s been copied countless times. But forget about all of the counterfeits. The Santa Clause has heart and passion. It offers a look at the modern family and the difficulties it presents during the holidays. Not everything in this film is sunshine and happiness. Tim Allen’s character is an absentee father who is self-absorbed in his work. He’s in desperate need of an attitude readjustment. The film is magical, funny, and has all of the right elements. Absolutely a perfect holiday film.

3. It’s a Wonderful Life

How can you go wrong with Jimmy Stewart. This is absolutely a “must see”. Recently, I talked to someone who has never seen this film. How is that possible? This is a story about a man who thinks his life has been a waste until he gets an opportunity to see what life would have been like had he never been born. Sometimes we never know what kind of impact we make on people’s lives and what a positive influence we can have on the people around us. George Bailey discovers that he really does have a wonderful life. This film offers us a timely message that is still relevant today.

4. The Homecoming, A Christmas Story

You don’t often see this one on television. The Homecoming was the pilot for the successful 1970’s series The Waltons. The Homecoming is a celebration of the joys of family and the struggles that we all must endure. Set in rural Virginia during the height of the depression in the 1930s, The Homecoming feels like a warm memory from our childhood past. At times you feel like you are actually there. It’s amazing considering they shot the exteriors in the Grand Teton National Park and the interiors on a sound stage in Los Angeles. They captured the nuances of this historical period from the 1930’s depression in an authentic manner. There is nothing more universal than the desire to be home with your family at Christmas. I think this is a film everyone can relate to.

5. A Christmas Story

Everybody loves this film except my wife. I don’t understand why she dislikes it so much. I love this movie. Who hasn’t wanted a Christmas gift as a child and schemed on how to get it. Ralphie is determined to get a Red Rider carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle at all costs. Obviously, mayhem ensues as a result. A Christmas Story has been made famous because of TBS who airs it continuously 24 hours starting on Christmas Eve. There’s no way you can miss this one. A Christmas Story was released in 1983 and feels like it could have

The Best of Christmas - Part 2

6. One Magic Christmas

You’ll have a hard time finding this on cable television or at Wal-Mart or Target. It’s probably one of the least known on my list. But it’s worth the effort to find it. One Magic Christmas takes a tough look at the holidays. Not everything is peachy. In fact, I think many people can relate to this film thanks to the tough economic times we are going through. Mary Steenburgen’s character is dealing with lost dreams and disillusionment during the holidays as her husband is laid off from his job. Sometimes we don’t know what real loss is until we are reminded. One Magic Christmas has the wonderment and magic with a sense of realism that It’s a Wonderful Life offers.

7. Miracle on 34th Street

No way can I leave this one off my list. I’m sure everyone has seen this one. There’s at least three versions available. For my money, I would go with the original 1947 edition. What I find interesting about this film and what I think a lot of people miss is that it is a discussion of the issues of the modern family as the lead character is a single mother struggling to balance career and family. Miracle on 34th Street is based in fantasy in one sense but has a realistic view of life in another sense. The question is how do we balance the two while retaining our childlike ability to dream and to use our imagination to believe that anything is possible?

8. White Christmas

This film is a total joy. Shot in beautiful Technicolor, how can you go wrong with the talent of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney? This is a celebration of all things American. I absolutely love the music of Irving Berlin. The musical numbers are sensational. This film has never looked better because there is a restored Blu-ray edition available. White Christmas is a sentimental journey of song and dance. The plot goes something like this. Two army buddies who have hit it big on Broadway decide to help their former army commander who is danger of losing his Vermont Inn. Of course, along the way, there will be a series of complications and romantic escapades.

9. A Christmas Carol

I don’t know where to start with this one. There has been so many versions of Charles Dicken’s classic over the years, including last year’s offering with Jim Carey and Gary Oldman. I haven’t seen it so I can’t comment on whether or not it’s any good. But my favorite version is from 1984 starring George C. Scott. He makes the perfect Scrooge. The film is very authentic and the special effects are not over the top. I know you’ve probably seen it a hundred times, but it’s always worth another viewing at Christmas.

10. A Season for Miracles

This film originally aired in 1999 as part of Hallmark’s Hall of Fame. It has developed a rather loyal following over the years perhaps because it’s been difficult to find on television or at your video store. I think it is one of Hallmark’s better offerings. The story is about an aunt who has to take custody of her niece and nephew because their mother is institutionalized after an attempted drug overdose. She’s afraid they will fall into foster care and flees the situation and finds her way to a small town called Bethlehem that offers an opportunity at redemption and a second chance in life. Patty Duke is on hand as the guardian angel. It’s a wonderful story and a very optimistic one at that.

Building your Home

Building your Home from The Bridge Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sex and violence? It may not sell soap, after all

Since the inception of the modern Olympic Games, high jumpers cleared the bar with a scissors motion, rotating their chest over the bar. Dick Fosbury changed the sport forever by “flopping” back first over the high jump bar, creating a new paradigm that is now the norm. Like Copernicus who changed our perceptions of the universe and turned them inside out from the very center, new ideas appear suddenly and change the world in a flash.

Likewise in the world of advertising there has been an accepted wisdom that has gone unquestioned for decades: 18 to 34-year-old consumers are the most desirable demographic, and if you want to reach them, include lots of sex and violence in your ads, or at the very least, advertise on programs that contain a lot of sex and violence.

But what if that entire paradigm is wrong?

Marketers deemed the 18 to 34 demographic desirable in part because of their elusiveness: young adults are more likely to be out with friends than home watching TV, which in the distorted view of youth-obsessed marketers, makes them a hot commodity. They are also sought-after because for years companies assumed that if you can get customers while they are young, they will be customers for life – but recent research shows this is seldom the case. An AARP survey found the relationship between brand loyalty and age is exaggerated, and that an individual’s consumer experience, not his age, will dictate brand choices.

And it’s not merely that advertisers are going after the wrong demographic, it’s that they are employing an ineffective strategy to reach their audience.

Take TV shows. The Parents Television Council just released its annual Best and Worst TV Advertisers List, which focuses on companies that sponsor more family-friendly TV programming and those that do not. In a number of consumer categories, the PTC was able to identify companies that seemed to be going out of their way to support family-friendly programming, and companies that were shunning family programming in favor of more salacious content.

The most inspiring corporate performance came from Walmart, which had the best score across all categories. Walmart has a longstanding commitment to sponsoring more family-friendly TV programming. Walmart’s own market research found an 18 percent improvement in performance of its ad when that ad appears on a family-friendly program, as opposed to a program containing graphic sex and violence.


Friday, November 22, 2013

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

Is the Cultural War a Lost Cause?

I think it’s safe to say that most Christians believe the Bible is true and is inspired by God. But, sometimes I think when we read it; we just gloss over it and don’t really look at what it means. Sure, we might think, that’s nice or that’s interesting, however: we move on to the next verse. Case in point, Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.”

Interesting scripture isn’t it? Have you ever thought what it really means? It suggests that we are fighting a war, but one that we cannot see which is fought in a different realm than the physical world we live in. How do we apply this in light of the cultural war that Christians have been fighting for the past two generations? Who is our enemy? And who is the battle against?

Are we fighting against Hollywood? Intellectuals, Democrats? Republicans? Homosexuals? Socialists? Humanists? Atheists? Pick any other group that you care to add to my list. I think we have been approaching this issue from the wrong angle. In fact, I believe the cultural war is a lost cause. To go a step further, I don’t believe it was ever winnable in the first place. We are fighting a spiritual battle, not against people in Hollywood or any other place for that matter.

Here’s where I think we have gone off course. First, we want sinners to act like saints. The last time I checked, sinners are sinners. So why are we surprised when they do things that are in violation of God’s laws? I think that many Christians are committed to a course of action where they want to force their will on nonbelievers to conform to our standards. God gave everyone a free will to make that decision on their own. Let me be clear. I am not endorsing sin. But we cannot obtain the results we want through political, social, or any other means. To accept Jesus as Lord and Savior is a spiritual decision that must be made by each individual. That decision is the kind of change that will be reflected in people’s behaviors, beliefs and attitudes.

Second, many Christians see the world as they want it to be, not as the world is in reality. I hate to break the news, but we no longer live in a Christian society or a Christian nation. If we want to be brutally honest, we live in a secular society or what some people call a post-Christian society. There will never be a heaven on earth no matter how much we desire it. So let’s move on. When you start to see the world as it is, your entire perspective will change. We are foreigners in a strange land with customs, rituals, and beliefs that are in direct contract to ours. In other words, you and I are missionaries. Our goal should be to build trust, relationships and friendships with the inhabitants of this strange land that we find ourselves in. We should be building bridges not burning them.

Finally, we as Americans are not the new chosen people. There’s a fair amount of Christians that believe that America’s purpose is to disperse justice and judgment. I do not see one Biblical reference to support this belief. We are way off course when we incorporate patriotism, love of country, the flag, conservative values, and party politics into the Gospel. In essence, we’re creating a new religion or a new gospel. Jesus was not a nationalist. He saw everybody in every country as his brother.

There is just nothing to gain in continuing to fight the cultural war. It’s time to see it for what it is—a spiritual war, not a physical war. Here’s the best strategy: Love people into the Kingdom of God. Don’t be scared of people who look different, think different, or believe different than you. Engage them in conversation and dialogue. And, as you do, demonstrate the love of God and your willingness to submit to His authority. That will defeat the devil at every turn and will fulfill the one commandment Jesus left us with.—love one another. 

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.

Forecast: 'Hunger Games' Sequel to Set Record Books on 'Fire'


This weekend, Katniss Everdeen steps back in to the box office arena with Catching Fire, the sequel to 2012 sensation The Hunger Games. With a more aggressive marketing campaign and an expanded fanbase, it's practically a foregone conclusion at this point that Catching Fire will top the original's $152 million opening—though it's unclear if it's even possible to go much higher.

Ahead of the release of the first movie, it already seemed like Suzanne Collins' young-adult book franchise was on track to become as big as Twilight or Harry Potter. Still, The Hunger Games exceeded sky-high expectations when it opened to $152.5 million, which at the time was the third-highest debut ever. With strong reviews and good word-of-mouth, the movie held well from there, and ended its run with $408 million—that currently ranks 14th all-time, and is higher than any of the Twilight or Harry Potter movies.

In the 20 months since The Hunger Games reached theaters, plenty of people have discovered the movie at home, and millions of additional copies of the books have been sold. Also, Jennifer Lawrence's star has risen thanks in part to a Best Actress win at the Oscars last year (for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook).

Even with such a rabid fanbase, Lionsgate's marketing hasn't rested on its laurels. The advertising blitz is focused on raising the stakes for Katniss, whose actions during the first movie have inadvertently sowed the seeds of revolution in Panem. Also, to distinguish Catching Fire from its predecessor, Lionsgate has opted to show footage from inside the arena; the lush tropical setting is at least slightly different from the first movie's forest locale.

With an expanded fanbase and strong marketing, it's reasonable to assume that Catching Fire can open higher than The Hunger Games. Unfortunately, without a change in ticket pricing (Catching Fire is once again in 2D only), it's tough to open significantly higher than $152 million—the current 2D-only opening weekend record belongs to last July's The Dark Knight Rises at $160.9 million. One benefit the movie has is its countless Thursday night showings, which should account for a minimum of $30 million. Thanks to that burn-off, there should be enough theater availability on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to fill demand. Ultimately, an opening north of $160 million seems like a safe bet.

With another new movie (Delivery Man) and a few solid holdovers (Thor: The Dark World and The Best Man Holiday), this will be one of the biggest weekends ever at the box office. The current record was set on Dec. 25-27, 2009 when the Top 12 earned $259.9 million.

While Catching Fire may not be able to expand significantly on The Hunger Games at the domestic box office, it should do much stronger business overseas. The first movie earned a decent $283.2 million from foreign markets, which only accounted for 41 percent of its worldwide total—typically, big-budget movies do at least 55 percent of their business outside of the U.S. Over the last year, though, the fanbase has grown significantly, and Lionsgate's marketing has been geared towards foreign expansion.

Catching Fire
opened early in Brazil and took in roughly twice as much as the first movie. It expands in to major markets like the U.K., Australia, Germany, Spain, China, South Korea, Russia and Mexico this weekend, and should earn at least $100 million by Sunday.

Opening at 3,036 locations, Delivery Man hopes to serve as counterprogramming against Catching Fire. While it may seem like that's insurmountable competition, opening against a major movie isn't a guaranteed death sentence: The Blind Side scored $34.1 million against The Twilight Saga: New Moon, while Mamma Mia! took in $27.7 million against The Dark Knight.

Still, it's unlikely that Delivery Man makes it that high. While its premise has been clearly articulated, the idea of a sperm donor having 533 children isn't necessarily all that appealing. Beyond that, this looks like the Vince Vaughn show, and Vaughn has been struggling a bit lately at the box office. The Internship and The Dilemma opened to $17.3 million and $17.8 million, respectively, and in each of those Vaughn had strong support (Owen Wilson/Kevin James). At this point, it would be a surprise if Delivery Man could reach that level.

After earning $3.5 million over three weeks of limited release, Dallas Buyers Club expands nationwide in to 666 locations this weekend. Meanwhile, The Christmas Candle—the first movie produced by former U.S. senator Rick Santorum—expands in to around 400 locations after a solid limited debut.

The Weinstein Company releases Philomena in four locations, while Disney releases animated movie in to one theater (the El Capitan in Hollywood) ahead of its nationwide debut on Wednesday.

Forecast (Nov. 22-24)

1. Catching Fire - $167 million
2. Thor 2 - $15.7 million (-57%)
3. Best Man Holiday - $15.5 million (-49%)
4. Delivery Man - $13.7 million

Bar for Success

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire needs to at least match the original movie's $152 million debut. Meanwhile, Delivery Man is in fine shape if it can get to $15 million this weekend.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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'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.

Is the World Evil ?

Is it possible that God is speaking to us through media and entertainment? Can you have an encounter with God at the movies? To answer those questions depends on your view of theology. I believe in keeping things simple. Theology doesn’t have to be a big mystery. Your theology is really about who God is. What is God’s nature? What is God saying? What is God about? What does God want me to do? Does God have a plan or vision for my life? Your theology is based on your answers to these questions. And based on your answers, this is how you are going to view the media. How are you going to interpret films? Will you see God at work or not at work in the media? Also your philosophical approach to life will have an impact on your theology, as well as your generational and cultural viewpoint.

Much of the church has embraced a conservative approach to theology. It is one that is very popular throughout the Body of Christ. It recognizes sin is everywhere. The Bible is reduced to a singular story. We live in a world full of sin in need of salvation. Many Christians see the world as bad or evil; therefore, all entertainment and media must also be evil. If we adopt this viewpoint, we are missing a golden opportunity to engage our culture through media and entertainment. 

I John 2:15-16 says, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If someone loves the world, then love for the Father is not in him because all things of the world—the desires of the old nature, the desires of the eyes and the pretensions of life—are not from the Father but from the world.” THE JEWISH BIBLE

Most people read this scripture and conclude that the world is evil. But is it? Are you telling me when you love a beautiful sunrise that’s evil? Is that not the reflection of the glory of God in His creation? It’s impossible for me to believe that God would not want us to love His creation. This is where I think we get it wrong, It’s not about the love of the physical world or what it offers, but it’s about our attitude. It concerns a proper order of what God has created for us. When we love the things of the world more than we love God, we are putting them above Him. The scripture is really about the old nature. When we embrace God, we will have a proper order of how we view everything in life. This allows us to enjoy His creation and see His glory reflected.

Unfortunately, some Christians have concluded that the world is evil; therefore, Hollywood is evil. So we have fought back with our protests and our boycotts. But nothing is simple in this relationship between the Church and entertainment and media. We have a love/hate relationship. While we are condemning Hollywood, we are embracing some of the things they offer. We want their positive value and family-friendly programming. But I think we fail to see the overall picture of how and where God is at work in entertainment and media. 

Who Am I to Think I Can Change Anything

Have you ever had a discussion with someone that had the potential to change the direction of your life? For good or bad. If you haven’t, I guarantee you that at some point it will happen. And the thing is you might of heard the same words or statements from other people in the past, but this time its different. Somehow the words went to the heart and made an impact on a very personal level. You will have a choice to make, continue on your pathway or abruptly change your course.

A few years ago, I remember having a talk with this guy that utterly shook my world. He was a total stranger, and I don’t even remember his name; however, I do remember that he held a major position within a well-known Christian organization. We were talking about the media and how Christian could make an impact in Hollywood. His words still haunt me today.” How do you think you are going to change Hollywood? How can you have a positive influence in media and entertainment when it seems that you have very little to work with?” Perhaps, from his perspective, I must have seemed crazy.

I was attending a banquet in an old church ( Old St. George in Cincinnati ) that had been converted into a ministry center. A few months earlier I had left my job and founded a media ministry and moved into the basement of Old St.George. This gentleman I was talking to was sitting at my table and had just finished a tour of the building. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I worked in the building, and I had founded a new ministry called Victory Videos.

We were planning on launching a media and training ministry for the development of future media missionaries. We had recently acquired air time to launch a new show on our local ABC affiliate, Channel 9. I also told him we were in the process of building a studio in the basement of the building. I’m sure he could hear the excitement in my voice as I said that we wanted to change culture by producing positive and uplifting entertainment with a Christian message. It’s then that he made the above comments and gave me a look I will never forget. I looked at me as if I was an alien with three eyes. I’m sure he was thinking there’s no way you can change anything or make a difference. He had seen my space. He knew it was a makeshift studio at best with little equipment.

I don’t remember how I answered his question. I’m sure I said something like with God all things are possible. To be honest with you, my confidence was shaken. Maybe he was right. How could I change anything working out of a 130 year old church basement, 2,500 miles from Hollywood with no money or resources? I don’t know if this guy had given up. Maybe he thought the problem was just too big and too complex. Perhaps, he was right. No one person can make a difference. The odds are too overwhelming. Who was I to think I could change anything?

I had a decision to make. Do I move forward or throw in the towel? I know I heard from God to start this ministry. But this guy was right. I had nothing. The next few days were pretty rough, but I was determined to not let this guy talk me out of the decision I had made. So I pressed on. And I learned something along the way. First, you just have to show up and make yourself available. Second, you’ve got to believe that it’s possible to change things. In other words, YOU can make a difference. If you don’t believe this, nothing is going to happen. And, finally, you just have to let God move. Just be a conduit and let Him use you.

Victory Videos went on to do amazing things. We aired on 15 networks and over 200 TV stations worldwide. We had hundreds of e-mails every month from people being impacted by our broadcast. Many people who went through our training program are actually working in Los Angeles as well as elsewhere in the media and entertainment industry. Maybe the best way I could have answered this guy’s question was to say I realize I can only have so much influence and I can only change so much. But if I have influence on one person, that one person can have influence on people that I don’t have access to. That’s how we can make a difference.

We never really get to see the big picture or the influence we really have. It doesn’t make it less true because we don’t see it. Today, I want to give you a word of encouragement. You can make a difference no matter what obstacles you face. And don’t listen to the people who are telling you it’s impossible to change our world.

Whether you work in the media or film industry or any other job, let God use you where you are planted. See your workplace as a mission field. I encourage you to adopt a missional lifestyle by building trust, relationships and friendships. I’m convinced we can change our world by living the principle that Jesus has taught us. We just have to believe it’s possible.

I’m glad I didn’t listen to this guy all those years ago. Trust me. I was discouraged. But I picked myself up because I still had faith that I could make a difference as long as I wasn’t doing it by my talents or in my strength. Don’t stop believing because belief is all we really have. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Forecast: 'Ender,' 'Birds,' 'Vegas' All Target Solid Debuts

From Box Office Mojo

After an October that was strictly feast or famine, the box office looks to level out a bit this weekend. All three new nationwide releases open at over 3,000 locations, and all three have the potential to start with over $20 million.

Opening at 3,407 locations, the long-awaited big screen adaptation of sci-fi novel Ender's Game has the best chance at taking first place. Originally published in 1985, the book has amassed a significant following in the three decades since. That can be a deceiving metric, though, as plenty of adaptations with strong fanbases have only done so-so business at the box office (Eragon, The Golden Compass, and many more).

For a book adaptation to be successful, the marketing needs to find a way to reach beyond the core fans and convince general audience that it's worth checking out. In this area, Ender's Game has struggled a bit. From a story perspective, it's unclear what the immediate stakes are—mankind fended off an alien invasion at some point in the past, but it's hard to tell if there's another one on the immediate horizon. That wouldn't be as big an issue if there was a compelling central character for audiences to rally behind, but unfortunately ads have largely focused on Harrison Ford's gruff military commander instead of title character Ender.

Additionally, Ender's Game may be constrained a bit by the sci-fi genre. Aside from Gravity—which isn't really sci-fi anyway—the genre has had a tough time this year. Elysium and After Earth, for example, opened to just $29.8 million and $27.5 million, respectively, which were both disappointing given their budgets and marketing spend. Without really connecting with mainstream audiences, it's likely that Ender's winds up at around the same level.

One positive sign for Ender's Game, however, is its strong pre-sales data. Fandango is reporting that it's currently outselling Oblivion and Pacific Rim, both of which opened over $37 million.

Free Birds
, the first fully animated movie from effects house Reel FX, opens at 3,736 locations this weekend. Relativity Media has driven awareness with an aggressive marketing campaign, though it hasn't been the most compelling material. Instead of pushing the inventive story (turkeys travel back in time to end Thanksgiving!) commercials have focused exclusively on hijinks that look like they could have been cherry picked from any number of past animated movies.

The movie does have one serious advantage, though—it's opening after an October in which only PG-13 and R rated movies were released. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 dominated the market, though that's basically run its course. As a result, Free Birds will be essentially the only choice for family audiences this weekend, which guarantees a solid debut. Relativity is currently expecting $16 to $19 million, though an opening north of $20 million seems within reach.

Playing at 3,065 theaters, Last Vegas has the potential to be a surprise hit. CBS Films has rolled out a broad, appealing marketing campaign that's connected with generally underserved older audiences. They've also executed a serious word-of-mouth screening program, though the movie only has a 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so it's unclear how strong that word actually is.

It also has iconic stars Robert DeNiro and Michael Douglas, though the real box office draw here may be Morgan Freeman. This year alone, Freeman has lent strong support to Olympus Has Fallen, Oblivion and Now You See Me, all of which opened over $25 million (with Olympus and Now You See Me being major surprises). CBS Films is expecting much less from Last Vegas (around $14 million to start), though they also expect it to be a word-of-mouth hit over the next month or so.

Universal is releasing About Time at 175 theaters this weekend ahead of a planned nationwide expansion next week. The time travel romance is from the director of Love Actually, which has created solid interest among women. Still, with a limited release like this, it's likely that the movie earns less than $2 million this weekend.

In very limited release, Dallas Buyers Club is opening in nine theaters this weekend. The movie has received strong reviews that have specifically called attention to Matthew McConaughey's lead performance, which should drive a lot of initial interest from arthouse audiences. At this point, though, it would be surprising if its story (an HIV-stricken man smuggles drugs in from Mexico) resonates with average moviegoers.

Finally, critically-acclaimed slavery drama 12 Years a Slave expands to 410 theaters and could come close to $5 million.

Forecast (Nov. 1-3)

1. Ender's Game - $26.2 million
2. Free Birds - $22 million
3. Last Vegas - $18.3 million
4. Bad Grandpa - $16 million (-50%)
5. Gravity - $13.6 million (-32%)

Bar for Success

Ender's Game ought to be opening to at least $25 million this weekend. Meanwhile, Free Birds is fine at $20 million, while Last Vegas is in good shape at $15 million.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

JFK 50th draws media tidal wave


While hearkening back to that grim day on Nov. 22, 1963, the appetite for all things Kennedy has been ratcheting up all season, and the media world is eager to feed the public’s interest with books (there are more than 100), as well as dozens of movies, documentaries, TV specials, and iPad apps.

The challenge for the Kennedy anniversary projects, according to those involved, is to be respectful when recalling a national tragedy, while at the same time finding ways to stand out in a super-saturated field. That’s led to some creative (and unusual) efforts to say something fresh about historical events that already have been dissected for five decades - for example, in perhaps the most extreme bid to find a new angle, there’s even a book imaging what would have happened had Kennedy lived.

“The public just can’t get enough,” said Shana Capozza, the director of marketing and publicity at The Globe Pequot Press, which is promoting three new JFK books: “Where Were You? America Remembers the JFK Assassination,” “Kennedy and Reagan: Why Their Legacies Endure,” and “JFK in Ireland: Four Days that Changed a President.”

“When you think about how many different ways that story can be told — on an historical, personal, political, or cultural level — you recognize that the increased public interest in the Kennedys because of the looming 50th anniversary offers a plethora of opportunities for authors and publishers to engage with and fulfill the needs of readers on a number of different levels,” Capozza told POLITICO.

And plethora it is: “Parkland” hit theaters last month and tells the story of the assassination and its aftermath from the perspective of the medical staff Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where Kennedy was pronounced dead. Magazine racks are filled with special anniversary editions from Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and LIFE, which first brought the Zapruder film to the American public, and has a new book out featuring the complete Zapruder film.

Traditional book publishers are leaping at the opportunity as well — perhaps more so than any other platform. A search for “JFK” on Amazon finds more than 100 books with a publication date between September and December. One examines the five days surrounding the assassination, another just the day of Nov. 22, 1963 and a third takes a look “minute by minute.” Other works examine the assassination in novel form. There’s even a spoof on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, dubbed “Lose Your Own Adventure.” More seriously, another book takes a look at what might have happened if Kennedy hadn’t been shot.

“For a book publicist, there is no better time to be working on a book about JFK,” said Lorna Garano, the founder of Lorna Garano Book Publicity, which is promoting, “The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination” by Lamar Waldron. “If you have a credible book with new information or an original perspective, you’re almost guaranteed media interest.”

“There is an entirely new generation to be introduced to the Kennedys, and it may be through all of the exhibits, books and movies that will spring up,” said Jayne Sandman, principal at BrandLinkDC.

Aimed at that new generation is anniversary digital content. The NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, KXAS, has made an iPhone app, called “NBC 5 Remembers,” which “offers unique historical insight into events leading up to and surrounding that tragic day.” University of Virginia politics professor Larry Sabato’s new book, “The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy,” also has an app coming with audio of the Dallas police dispatch from the day of the shooting.

Hugh Morton, who has been trying to bring his “Who Killed JFK?” app to the market, says, “There’s plenty of room for everyone in many diverse media, old and new, provided they keep their projects grounded in fact and not get carried away with demeaning and confusing rumor and innuendo.”

For moviegoers who’ve may already have seen “Parkland,” Warner Bros. is re-releasing Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK” in theaters and on Blu-Ray. The Smithsonian Associates will also screen Stone’s film at the National Museum of American History on Nov. 1, followed by a sold-out discussion with the director.

Read more:

Friday, October 18, 2013

8 Mistakes Filmmakers Make That Kill Their Careers

From Raindance film Festival

As your filmmaking career starts to grow, it’s crucial that your actions don’t strangle it in its infancy.
By avoiding the mistakes that so many filmmakers make you have a far greater chance of succeeding well beyond the first 2 years of the launch date of your career.

1. Doing Too Much Yourself

Business owners as well as filmmakers fall into this trap as they attempt to minimise costs. It can mean that you will get bogged down in the day-to-day nitty gritty, keeping you from stepping back and taking a good hard look at the future. Future planning, and with it, the ability to anticipate problems, are two important areas successful filmmakers have to keep control of. Doing too much can mean that the fire-fighting cycle just keeps repeating over and over again.

Coupled with that is the guilt associated with neglecting family and personal relationships. This often leads to exhaustion and collapse.

Why not call for extra help before you need it, and not after the cracks have begun to show, and usually, it is too late.

2. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Most independent filmmakers start their career because they are really good at something. Some are really good at directing action, others have a flair for working with actors, and others are just good solid all-rounders.

What many filmmakers forget is that it is a business which involves a host of different skill sets. They forget that filmmaking requires the basic business management skills such as: sourcing new clients and work, marketing and publicity, recruiting new crew and staff, and managing the cash flow questions that any small business has. Add into this the creative mix and you have the potential for a meltdown.

Running and more importantly, developing and expanding your movie career is like growing and developing any type of business. It is unlikely that you will have the expertise to do everything needed yourself.
Successful filmmakers learn to recognise their own skills and knowledge and take action to fill the gaps in their career plan.

3. Quitting The Day Job Too Quickly

A filmmaker or screenwriter’s passion in what they are doing is usually so high that they enjoy some intital successes and revenues. They then quit their day jobs and hire premises and staff – only to face psychological and financial ruin when their early successes have been a minor blip on the long hard haul to a successful career.

Everyone needs money in order to survive. Make sure you are able to cover your monthly expenses before you ditch your day job. Often people try to get film work, but don’t know how to get work without experience.

Done correctly, you might be able to apply for funding or enjoy certain strategic tax benefits depending on your personal profile and the geographical territory you live in.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

So You Want to Make a Movie - Making It Right

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 21 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

21. Making It Right

The job of being a producer is never over. Depending upon what kind of distribution deal that you are successful in securing, the money that your film generates through the various windows and markets could take years to come in. That means you have to stay on top of things and be diligent to be sure you get every cent coming to you. Don’t count on your distributor to do your job. Bottom Line—make sure you’re getting paid.

Whether or not you get a distribution deal or pay check, your responsibility is to “make it right” for the people who helped you make your movie. The first place to start is with your investors. Remember, you didn’t promise or guarantee them that your film will be successful. At least I hope you didn’t. Filmmaking is a high risk business, and there is no guarantee of a return. But, to the best of your abilities and with the money you have made, you need to pay back your investors, hopefully, with interest and profit. They are first in line.

Second, what about your crew and cast? In the world of low-budget filmmaking, it’s easy to take advantage of people. Your crew and cast have put in countless hours and have endured a significant amount of hardship. Some may have been paid very little while others have received nothing. If you have an opportunity to make it right, then it’s your obligation to do so. You’ll be surprised how appreciative your crew and cast will be if you can put a little extra cash in their pockets. This is a rarity in this business. But it’s the right thing to do. And the next time you make a movie, who do you think will be your biggest fans and will want to work with you again? In the film production business, there’s nothing more important than having loyal friends who will stand with you.

And, if you also do right with your investors, they will more than likely want to hear about your next film project. After all, if you made money for them, why wouldn’t they want to talk to you? As a producer and filmmaker, your word must be everything. Integrity, honesty, and not making promises that you cannot deliver are all part of making it right. And, if you are a Christian in the filmmaking business, believe me; people will be watching your behavior and actions. You have an opportunity to be a witness for Christ in how you conduct your business deals. So, by all means, you have a moral obligation to make it right with all persons concerned.