Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reel Abilities Film Festival Promotional Trailer

Christian Movie Connect Episode 58 - Scotty Curlee

Actor, Director and Producer, Scotty Curlee, is a former Executive Pharmaceutical Specialist, a semi-pro cyclist, and professional speaker who brings decades of real world experience to the big screen. As the Founder and Executive Producer of Red Cloud Productions, LLC, Scotty is committed to the vision of “changing the world through cinema” by producing exciting, engaging and technically accurate films in genres that have been previously unexplored by filmmakers while raising the level of Christian cinema worldwide. Scotty has appeared in the films, “War of the Worlds,” and “Evan Almighty.” He is the Associate Producer of the film, “Out of the Darkness,” and is the director of “The Potential Inside,” which he recently discussed at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention.

In this interview, Curlee talks with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about his movie, “The Potential Inside” and its reflection of human potential in relationship with Christ. Curlee shares his desire to leave a legacy of excellence through his films, challenging people to become what they were always meant to be

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Did We Get for Our Money?

My guess is the last thing you want to read about is another article about politics, especially after last year’s brutal campaign cycle. It was ugly to say the least. But with the recent inauguration of President Obama, I couldn’t help but think, what did we get for our money.
The 2012 Presidential campaign broke every record imaginable. Published reports stated that over $2 billion was spent on the election race. And if you included the races for the Senate and the House, that number swelled to over $7 billion. That’s a lot of money.
So what did we get? Same President. The Senate is still under Democratic control, and the House of Representatives is still controlled by the Republicans. Basically, nothing has changed. In other words, all that money was spent for nothing. Maybe we should have just skipped the elections.
Could that money have been used for something more constructive? What really upsets me is that I know many good-intentioned Christians who wrote significant checks to candidates whom they believed would restore traditional morals and values to our society. They believed we could once again become a “Christian” nation.
I suppose I have to ask this question: Is it possible to make America a Christian nation through the ballet box? Can we elect candidates who can go to Washington and wave a magic wand and create legislation that makes us moral. Even Rush Limbaugh stated a few days after the election that for the first time he had doubts that it was possible to restore America through politics.
Limbaugh wondered if perhaps there was something more significantly wrong with our country. He pointed to the culture as a source of our problems. I think he’s on to something. But what he failed to realize is that this has nothing to do with politics or culture. It’s a spiritual battle. Ultimately, it will always come down to our relationship with God and whether or not we’re willing to put Him first or to put ourselves first. That’s the real battle. It will always be an individual choice, not a societal one. When people turn their hearts toward God and care more about their neighbors than themselves, then, and only then, will we see the kind of change we all want to see.
No amount of money spent on politics can make this become a reality for morality is a spiritual matter

Sundance 2013 Journal: Day 5

by Aaron Peck

Up until now there hadn't been many stand-out movies for me. It's a good thing that Day 5's plans included two of the festival's most anticipated titles 'Stoker' and 'Upstream Color.'

'Stoker' gained steam fast before the festival opened, mostly because it was Korean director Park Chan-wook's first English language film. His film 'Oldboy' had its North American premiere at Sundance in 2005. The man is a master at creating visually stunning movies and people were extremely interested to see what he'd come up with. The trailers depicted a creepy, unsettling film, which was exactly what was delivered.

Before viewing 'Stoker' I stood outside in the cattle tent. Usually, it's easy to make conversation with people. You end up meeting some pretty fascinating film fans. Either they work in film or simply love it so much that they're willing to hop on a plane and come to frigid Utah for a week of movies and line waiting. I wasn't so lucky this time around though. A man and woman behind me in line were droning on about how terrible his ex-wife is. In front of me a girl from New Jersey was telling an older couple about her newly extracted wisdom teeth and candy addiction.

A few days earlier, in this same tent, a stampede took place. Hundreds of people were lined up to see the premiere of 'Kill Your Darlings' when there was a loud hiss and then several pops that sounded like gunfire. People fled the tent like someone had opened fire. Turned out it was a fire extinguisher malfunction. Exciting and frightening things can happen while you're waiting in line, just not very often.

'Stoker' as expected, turned out to be a visual feast. I was a little taken back by how similar it was to Hitchcock's 'Shadow of a Doubt.' Eerily similar in fact. A young girl is taken with her new mysterious uncle that has come to live with the family. His name is Uncle Charlie. He has those same sweetly devious looks and flies off the handle at a moment's notice. Oh, and whenever he's about to do something really evil, he whistles.

Apparently in the Q&A after the movie's premiere, which a few nights ago, he stated that he had no intention of having any Hitchcock references in the movie. The script was penned by Wentworth Miller ('Prison Break') and was finished before Chan-wook was attached to direct. Even then, he must have known that there were some Hithcockian references, because many of them are pretty blatant. (Pictured above left to right: Producer Michael Costigan, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Mia Wasikowska, Park Chan-wook, and his translator.)

That said, 'Stoker' is a chillingly evil tale about killers. A bloodier, creepier version of 'Shadow of a Doubt.' In the Q&A after the movie, a press member (who, incidentally, comments at every single Q&A he attends) asked him the ridiculous question, "So, how does it feel to have out Hitchcocked Hitchcock." Chan-wook's interpreter relayed the remarks to the director. Calmly he put the microphone to his mouth, said a few words, and then put it back down. His interpreter grabbed the mic and said, "He says that he doesn't think he measures up to The Master. Not even an inch."

Shane Carruth's 'Upstream Color' came next, in the same theater. Where to start? 'Upstream Color' is a magnificently bold and utterly confusing movie about worms, pigs, thieves, lovers, confusion, mind-control, and the life cycle. It's told 'Tree of Life' style. A movie constructed of a labyrinthine puzzle of images coupled with limited dialogue. There isn't one piece of standard exposition in the whole movie. You're left on your own to figure out what's happening, why worms can control people's brains, and why the same people are connected to swine surrogates. It's absolutely bizarre and at the same time breathtaking. I left the movie feeling simultaneously confused and euphoric.

Carruth's Q&A was just as cryptic as his film. He had a hard time giving straight answers about the meaning of the film. He kept referring to the film as a "construct" of the life cycle. Although, he didn't seem so sure of what he was saying.

Lastly, the audio in this movie is some of the most enveloping I've ever heard. When it eventually comes out on Blu-ray (it damn well better get a high-def release) it should contain some of the best demo-quality audio on the format. If it doesn't, I'll demand a refund.

The last movie of the day was 'Manhunt,' which is being billed as the real-life story of 'Zero Dark Thirty.' Suggestion: stay with 'ZDT.' A good documentary should be able to take a subject that is unknown or inherently uninteresting and make it interesting for the audience. 'Manhunt' takes a subject that's already loaded with interest – espionage, spying, and the hunt for bin Laden – and ends up making a boring, repetitive doc. How you can take this material and make it appear mundane is a mystery to me, but they've done it.

With the night closing in and the cold starting to once again seep through my layers of clothing I decided to call it a night.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sundance 2013 Journal: Day 4

by Aaron Peck

I put my stomach troubles behind me on Day 4. I felt like a new man, but I couldn't help but think about poor pregnant Kristen Bell who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, today would go smoother than the last.

I started the day off at Starbucks. It's the only place near the bus stop where a hot drink can be purchased. It's the same Starbucks where just a few days ago, I spotted Montel Williams buying lattes for his small entourage. Not all celebrity encounters are created equal. They can't all be sightings of Daniel Radcliffe taking pictures with dozens of squealing teenage girls – most of which were taller than him. No, sometimes it's just a lowly talk show host/infomercial guru buying coffee.

After getting a drink I went back to wait at the bus stop. I checked my phone, the temperature, according to a handy app, was around -2 – degrees. It's weeks like this that are frustrating when going to a winter film festival. Years past Sundance has been blanketed in snow and cold weather, but this year is an anomaly. A huge snowstorm hit Utah right before the festival kicked off. Since then it's been nothing but sunny skies and warmer than usual weather. Except the mornings and evenings are still crackling with ice-cold air.

This presents a dilemma. Do I wear thermals to counteract the cold? Or do I tough it out so I'm not sweating when the temp rises substantially throughout the day? I don't know why I always choose the first choice seeing that it's so cold in the mornings that the wind rips right through however many layers I've put on. Then the afternoon rolls around and I’m cooking to death inside my layered protection against the cold. It's a no-win situation.

The first movie of the day was Michael Winterbottom's ('The Killer Inside Me') 'The Look of Love,' which could quite possibly be the worst movie up here. Even with more naked flesh than anyone could care to quantify, 'The Look of Love,' a story about British pornographer Paul Raymond, is utterly boring in every respect. Steve Coogan tries to save it with a few Coogan-y facial expressions and line deliveries, but the movie is dead on arrival. So, I guess it makes sense that IFC picked it up.

After the movie's Q&A with Winterbottom and actress Tamsin Egerton (both pictured above), I made my way back to the theater where the press screenings take place. The tent is starting to reek of exhaustion and Clif Bars. Press and industry people are waddling down the lines in a daze. What was once enthusiasm for a brand new collection of films has turned into "Just another job," kind of vibe.

The movie I see next is called 'Concussion.' It's a movie about a lesbian housewife who is frustrated with her increasingly loveless partnership so she looks for lovin' from hookers on Craigslist. Then she moves on to higher class escorts. And finally she becomes an escort herself.

Outside it was becoming dusk. The air was getting colder again and would soon blast through my layers and chill me to the bone. That didn't matter though because I was excited that I'd finally been able to procure a ticket to see a public screening of 'The Spectacular Now.'

A bus ride later I was standing in line waiting to see my most anticipated movie of the festival. Josh Radnor clomped by in the theater lobby looking rather glum. I debated briefly asking for a photograph with him, mostly because my wife loves him, but my shyness prevailed yet again. At the head of the line was an older man – late sixties – who was greeted by the filmmakers when they came walking through the doors. They insisted he didn't have to stand in line, but he did all the same.

'The Spectacular Now' was everything I thought it was going to be. It was honest and candid. A beautifully real assessment of high school life and the real dangers of young alcoholism. The reason I was anticipating this movie so much was because I had read Tim Tharp's novel before the festival began. While I enjoyed the characters he'd created and the arcs that they go through, I was struck with the hankering suspicion that this was an old guy writing dialogue for teenagers.

Then the Q&A came and the same guy from the front of the line walked up with James Pondsolt, the director. Pondsolt introduced him as Tim Tharp (pictured above) and I nodded to myself. I knew it! Fortunately the script, which was penned by the team behind '(500) Days of Summer' ironed out the gimmicky dialogue from the book. They made it sound much more natural coming from the mouths of Shaliene Woodley and Miles Teller. Both great leads. It was the perfect way to end the night.

SAG Awards Winners 2013: Screen Actors Guild Honors Best In Film & Television

Each year, the SAG Awards honor the best actors on film and television, and the 2013 Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony was no different.

Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence were among the movie stars nominated at the 19th annual SAG Awards. Once again, however, it was Ben Affleck who stole the show.

Affleck's "Argo" took home the Outstanding Ensemble in a Motion Picture, upsetting "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook" to win the award. Following the film's victory at the Producers Guild of America Awards on Saturday night, "Argo" is in prime position to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24, this despite Affleck being snubbed in the Best Director category.

Lawrence solidified her status as Best Actress front-runner by grabbing the Outstanding Female Actor in a Leading Role for her performance in "Silver Linings Playbook"; Day-Lewis, also favored at the Oscars, won Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role for "Lincoln."

Tommy Lee Jones won the first award of the night. The actor, who wasn't at the ceremony, captured Outstanding Male Actor in a Supporting Role for "Lincoln." Anne Hathaway won the Outstanding Female Actor in a Supporting Role trophy for "Les Miserables." Accepting her award, Hathaway joked that she was happy to have dental insurance.

On the television side, Alec Baldwin won Outstanding Male Actor in a Lead Role for "30 Rock"; Tina Fey won the Outstanding Female Actor in a Lead Role for the same series. "Amy, I've known you since you were pregnant with Lena Dunham," Fey joked during her acceptance to friend and fellow nominee Amy Poehler.

Despite those wins, "30 Rock" lost to "Modern Family" for Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series. "Modern Family" star Jesse Tyler Ferguson thanked the casts of "30 Rock" and "The Office" for inspiration and general awesomeness, as both shows are going off the air after this season.

Julianne Moore won Outstanding Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries for playing Sarah Palin in "Game Change." Kevin Costner was awarded with the Outstanding Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries for "Hatfields and McCoys." Costner wasn't at the SAG Awards ceremony.

After a flurry of early awards, Baldwin came back out on stage to announce Dick Van Dyke's Screen Actors Guild lifetime achievement award.

Bryan Cranston kicked off the second half of the SAG Awards by winning Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series for "Breaking Bad." He thanked his family, his cast and AMC.

Claire Danes won the Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series for "Homeland."

"Downton Abbey" was an upset victor in the Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series, defeating "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "Homeland" and "Boardwalk Empire" for the honor.

The 2013 SAG Awards results could help clear up the very murky Oscar race. Honors from the actors union, next weekend's Directors Guild of America Awards and Saturday night's Producers Guild of America Awards – whose top honor went to "Argo" – typically help to establish clear favorites for the Oscars.

But Oscar night on Feb. 24 looks more uncertain this time after some top directing prospects, including Ben Affleck for "Argo" and Kathryn Bigelow for "Zero Dark Thirty," missed out on nominations. Both films were nominated for best picture, but a movie rarely wins the top Oscar if its director is not also in the running.

Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" would seem the Oscar favorite with 12 nominations. Yet "Argo" and Affleck were surprise best-drama and director winners at the Golden Globes, and then there's Saturday's Producers Guild win for "Argo," leaving the Oscar race looking like anybody's guess.

The Screen Actors Guild honors at least should help to establish solid front-runners for the stars. All four of the guild's individual acting winners often go on to receive the same prizes at the Academy Awards.

Last year, "The Help" won Outstanding Ensemble in a Motion Picture, while Viola Davis, Jean Dujardin, Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer won the respective acting awards; all but Davis won on Oscar night (she lost to Meryl Streep for Best Actress).

Check out a full list of SAG Awards winners below, as the awards are announced:

Outstanding Ensemble in a Motion Picture: "Argo"
Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"
Outstanding Female Actor in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Outstanding Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln"
Outstanding Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series: "Downton Abbey"
Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series: Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series: "Modern Family"
Outstanding Male Actor in a Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Outstanding Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Outstanding Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries: Kevin Costner, "Hatfields & McCoys"
Outstanding Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries: Julianne Moore, "Game Change"
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture: "Skyfall"
Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a TV Series: "Game of Thrones"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekend Report: 'Hansel' Slays 'Parker,' 'Movie 43'

On a relatively slow weekend at the box office, newcomer Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters easily claimed the top spot with a decent $19 million opening. Meanwhile, Parker and Movie 43 had terrible debuts, and as a result the Top 12 was off over 10 percent from the same weekend last year.

Hansel and Gretel's estimated $19 million start is better than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's $16.3 million and The Brothers Grimm's $15.1 million, though it's about even with Grimm in estimated ticket sales. While that's definitely not a great start, it's passable for a $50 million production that's been wasting away on the shelf for the last year. The movie benefited from a clearly articulated premise (it's right there in the title), action-packed commercials, and a lead actor (Jeremy Renner) who has seen his stock go up significantly in the last two years.

While Hansel and Gretel has been savaged by critics (15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), audiences gave it a "B" CinemaScore, which suggests it might be able to come close to $50 million by the end of its run. Add in an overseas total that will be way above $100 million and it looks like Hansel and Gretel is going to avoid being labeled a flop.

The movie's audience was 55 percent male and 57 percent were 25 years of age or older. 3D showings accounted for 55 percent of the gross.

In second place, last weekend's winner Mama fell 55 percent to an estimated $12.9 million. While that's a pretty steep decline, it is fairly standard for a January horror release. The movie is already at $48.6 million, and is on pace to out-gross any of 2012's horror offerings.

Silver Linings Playbook
held on to third place this weekend with an estimated $10 million. That's off just seven percent from last weekend, which once again reinforces just how strong the word-of-mouth is on this Oscar-nominated romantic comedy. Silver Linings has now earned $69.5 million, and if it continues to hold well through the Academy Awards ceremony (which is four weekends from now), it will wind up with over $100 million.

In its third weekend in nationwide release, Zero Dark Thirty dipped 38 percent to an estimated $9.8 million. While that's definitely a good hold, it is starting to seem like the buzz has evaporated on this title (what happened to all the torture controversy?). The Oscar-nominated CIA thriller has grossed $69.9 million so far, and it now looks like there's a good chance it winds up below $100 million.

opened in fifth place with an estimated $7 million from 2,224 locations this weekend. That's less than Jason Statham's last solo outing, Safe, which bombed last year with just $7.9 million. It is at least slightly higher than 2009's Crank: High Voltage ($6.96 million), though it could fall below that level when actuals report on Monday afternoon.

Jason Statham clearly has a fan base, but it's starting to look like it's only good for about $7 million on opening weekend. To get higher there needs to be something else presented that connects with other audiences, and that doesn't seem to have happened with Parker.

The movie at least received a good "B+" CinemaScore, which means it could wind up near $20 million by the end of its run.

In seventh place, star-studded comedy anthology Movie 43 tanked with just $5 million. That's lower than practically any comparable titles, including spoof comedy Disaster Movie ($5.8 million). The audience skewed younger (59 percent under 25 years of age) and about even on gender (51 percent male), and they gave the movie an atrocious "D" CinemaScore.

The movie cost just $6 million to make, and Relativity says that they covered all costs with foreign pre-sales and their Netflix deal. Still, this is one experiment that isn't likely to be replicated anytime soon

Sundance 2013 Journal: Day 3

by Aaron Peck
You know what they say; you can only eat so much Burger King before your body launches a full scale revolt against you. What? They don't say that? Well, they should, because, boy is it true.
This isn't a journal entry for the weak stomached. This is a cautionary tale, like many of the films up here at Sundance. This is a what-not-to-do festival rundown. If you ever find yourself taking on the mammoth task of a film festival, please use this information wisely.
The day started off nicely enough. I hopped on a crowded morning bus heading into the city. I put my headphones on and listened to some local radio as we traveled into town. The drive is a nice one, particularly when you're sitting at your own window seat gazing out at the snow-covered mountains. When you're crunched between a large man and a woman who has no idea where she's going and has to ask the bus driver every stop if this is hers, then it's not as enjoyable.
I had an early start to the day, which is always nice. There's something about sitting down for a movie at 9:00 AM that makes me happy. I don't know why, because by all rationality I should be sleeping.
The first movie of the day was a documentary called 'Dirty Wars.' A startling tale about covert operations, innocent people being killed during night raids across the world, and the U.S. government agencies behind it. A reporter pieces the labyrinthine puzzle together and what comes out the other side is staggering.
My original plan hadn't included 'Virtually Heroes,' but since the first couple days were ruined by weak planning on my part and the scarcity of press tickets for screenings I wanted to get in to, I decided to hit up the Park City at Midnight entry. It would've been better as a 20 minute short. It's a low-budget live-action version of 'Wreck-It Ralph.' A couple of guys in a first-person shooter video game become self-aware. All the references are used up in the first few moments of the movie. Oh yeah, Mark Hamill makes an appearance. So there's that.
It was about this time that I felt the first tummy rumble. Like a harbinger of doom my innards gurgled and popped. "Uh oh," I thought. "This can't be good."

'Austenland,' the new movie from the 'Napoleon Dynamite' people was next. Standing in the press line waiting to get in I was wondering what my body was trying to tell me. Was I coming down with the dreaded Sundance Flu? Or was it my careless fast food eating the previous two days?
I had a hard time sitting through 'Austenland.' My stomach was speaking more than an elderly lady in a complicated sci-fi movie. This was getting bad, but I had a packed schedule I didn't want to let up.
'Austenland' was agreeable enough. It's the best movie the Hesses have made, but that's not saying a whole lot. I'm not a huge fan of their weirdo quirky humor. Although, Jennifer Coolidge needs to take it down a notch, or five. She's so far over the top in this movie that it caused quite a few of my colleagues to simply give up and walk out. Keri Russell plays a woman who is obsessed with Jane Austen and the time period that her books portray. So, she travels to a reenactment place in England when it's all Austen all the time.
After getting out of 'Austenland' I had only 30 minutes to make it to the premiere of 'The Lifeguard' starring Kristen Bell. I underestimated the time it would take to get from the theater I was at to the theater where 'The Lifeguard' was playing. Any other day, I would have jogged there. Not today though. Not with my stomach feeling like a Xenomorph could burst through my gut at any moment.
The road to the theater was packed with cars. It was a parking lot. There was no way I'd get there in time on a bus, so I started walking. Time seemed to be passing faster than it should've been. I switched to a brisk walk, and then a light jog. The cold air stung my lungs. Exhaust fumes from the stalled cars on the road choked me. My stomach gurgled in resistance.
I barely made it and was greeted with the worst seat in the house: very front row, far right. I craned my neck all the way to the left like I was watching a one-sided tennis match. The movie started. Beads of sweat started forming on my head. This wasn't going to be pretty. I ran to the bathroom. Relief! Or so I thought.

'The Lifeguard,' directed by Liz Garcia (pictured above) is about an older woman, played by Kristen Bell, who falls for an underage teenager after she moves back home because her life is in shambles (FYI: A shamble-y life is a Sundance staple). It's a completely ridiculous movie that is made all the more unwatchable by the sheer number of implausible and uninteresting subplots they try to shoehorn in.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sundance 2013 Journal: Day 2

by Aaron Peck
Today was the day I realized the schedule I had previously mapped out, simply wasn't going to work at all. I'd put too much faith in the memory of public screening tickets being easier to procure in earlier years. This year, press tickets for public showings have become a competitive race to see who can get to the press office first. Most movie bloggers are horribly out of shape, so this makes for a very awkward race indeed.
Yesterday I'd been shut out of 'The Spectacular Now' premiere, which caused my meticulously planned schedule to crumble like a house of cards. Now I was left scanning the schedule to see what tickets I could request instead. Premieres were being snapped up fast. So I decided to get a ticket to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut premiere of 'Don Jon's Addiction.' Thankfully, I got into that screening even though there was a long line for requests.

With my schedule somewhat set for the rest of the day, I tried to relax. This year I've been trying not to rush around so much. Last year I pushed myself as hard as I possibly could and became exhausted. This year, even though I wanted to see a lot of films, I really didn't want to push myself to point of exhaustion. This is a promise that sounds good, but ultimately is impossible. So many films to see, so little time.
To make matters worse, the organizers and Park City health services are scared of an influenza outbreak. Think about it. The nation is seeing one of the worst flu seasons ever and now all those flu strains are gathering in one small town in the mountains. It's a recipe for disaster. Someone even took it upon themselves to create a comedic Twitter account called @SundanceFlu to remind people that influenza is lurking everywhere. Ready to strike.

The first screening of the day was for 'The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete.' The press tent was full of the all too familiar cattle guard gates where they herd everyone in, line them up, and then keep them confined until it's time to fill the theater. I immediately noticed the sea of coffee and Red Bull. People were already gearing up for what was going to be a strenuous week of watching and writing.
'Mister and Pete' ended up being a decent little story about two kids in the ghetto that are forced to live on their own for an entire summer. The performances are astounding and genuine. Even though the movie runs through some standard conventions, it still pulled at a few of my heartstrings.
The second movie I saw was 'Mud.' Another movie about two kids, with a couple more surprising performances by child actors. 'Mud', starring Matthew McConaughey, already premiered in Cannes to rave reviews. That buzz is well-founded. Jeff Nichols, who directed the fantastic 'Take Shelter,' puts together another wonderfully constructed movie filled with rich characters.

The last screening of the day was the premiere of 'Don Jon's Addiction.' There's no way that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's original cut of this movie will get an R rating. As it stands, I would bet anything that it'll get an NC-17. The movie is about a Guido from New Jersey who has an addiction to porn. Gordon-Levitt has decided to cut in real porn clips that show everything except for penetration.

Sundance likes risqu̩, but the MPAA will most certainly tell him to cut out a lot of the clips he included. The movie itself has too much of a tonal problem going on. It tries to be both hard and unforgiving Рlike 'Shame,' Рand then sweet and loving Рlike '(500) Days of Summer.' The Q&A was fantastic though. Almost the entire cast was there. Scarlett Johansson and Brie Larson were missing.
Despite the scheduling snafus of the first day, the second day turned out to be a decent one. Day three, however, would prove to be one of the worst festival-going days I'd ever had...

Christian Movie Connect Episode 57 - Dick Rolfe

Dick Rolfe is the Co-Founder and CEO of The Dove Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission
is building relationships with entertainment executives and filmmakers in Hollywood by encouraging them to create more movies that are suitable for family viewing. Prior to his work with The Dove Foundation, Dick held senior management positions in radio, television and magazine publishing. He has also served on advisory boards for 20th Century Fox’s “FoxFaith” division, Mott Children’s Hospital at The University of Michigan Medical Center, and Compass College of Cinematic Arts. Dick frequently addresses civic groups and churches around the U.S. about the powerful influence of media on today’s society and is a contributor to The National Religious Broadcasters convention.

Sundance 2013 Journal: Day 1

by Aaron Peck

Seems like just a few months ago I was traipsing around Park City watching brand-new indie movies, and now here I am doing it again. The next nine days will be chock full of as many movie screenings as I can possibly fit in. Caffeine consumption is up and sleep duration is down. It's time to see some movies!

Opening Day.
There isn't much to do on the first day of Sundance. The movies that open the festival don't start until the evening, so you're basically stuck waiting. So, I wasn't in that big of a rush to get to the festival. I should have rushed.

I hadn't seen one movie yet and my prepared schedule had already taken a catastrophic body blow. I love seeing public screenings because you get the Q&A session and you get to see the movie with a real audience. There's not much that's "real" when watching a movie with a bunch of press and industry people. Granted, the press members are much more wrapped up in the movie, but the industry people (people buying, selling, or representing movies) are a finicky bunch. They can't stay off their phones, they get up and leave halfway through the movie. It's tiresome watching movies with those people.

Which brings me back to my dilemma. For public screenings, press members have to request tickets. There are only so many tickets allotted for us during any one screening. I hurried into the press office when I finally got into the city and stared sullenly at the bad news. It was only 8:30 AM and all the tickets for the premiere for 'The Spectacular Now' had been taken. I was bummed. All that planning was quickly circling the drain. Not only that, but I found out that the premiere I was planning on seeing Saturday for Lynn Shelton's 'Touchy Feely' was also gone. This day was not turning out well at all.

I was gutted. Instead I picked up a ticket for the premiere of 'Don Jon's Addiction', and hoped for the best.
Best laid plans and all that, right? Still, it feels like this year they're making it harder to get into public screenings for whatever reason. Last year I was able to get into the premiere of 'Your Sister's Sister' on the same day I requested the tickets. I'm now planning on seeing the adaption of Tim Tharp's novel on Sunday. Hopefully it works out.

The opening night film I ended up seeing was a documentary called 'Who is Dayani Cristal?' The synopsis, which describes a mysterious body, with a cryptic tattoo being found in the desert, ended up having very little in the way of mystery. Instead the movie really is a comment on illegal immigration. While preachy at times, I found it to be a humanizing exercise. Putting faces, families, and feelings with statistics of undocumented workers.

After the movie is was off to a party for Nintendo's Wii U. There was the requisite open bar, tiny hor d'oeuvres, and music blasting-way-too-loud. It reminded me why I don't usually do the party scene at Sundance. The branding side of the festival doesn't really interest me. Although, seeing a S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicle made me think that something exciting was going on somewhere.
All I could think about when I got back home was that tomorrow held more promise. But, I had to be up early to request tickets or I'd be out of luck again.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Bridge Media Team

Join The Bridge Media Team from The Bridge Church on Vimeo.

A Glittering New Frontier

By the early 1920s, men like Carl Laemmle, William Fox, and Louis B. Meyer came to control and dominate Hollywood and movie making for decades to come. Amazingly, a few individuals would now have the power and influence to create movies for the entire American population and the world. They would decide which films would be made and which ones would not, which ideas would be expressed and which ones would be discarded. They would decide what was important and what was not. Never had so much power been placed in the hands of so few men.

In the 1930s, Louis B. Meyer, President of MGM, viewed America as a glittering new frontier, decent but tough-minded, full of God-fearing but gun-slinging Americans who were shrewd, unpredictable and unbeatable but also open-hearted and family loving. And he depicted this view in the movies he produced.

Meyer and his fellow movie moguls offered a vision of America that people wanted to believe and were willing to accept. It made us feel good about ourselves. Meyer understood that it was good for business. The majority of studio heads had no political or social agenda. They were interested in one thing and one thing only—making money. Was their view of American life realistic? It offered no racism, prejudice or social injustice. It defined America as a land of opportunity, champion of individuals, and defender of the poor. It offered no insight into how Americans really lived their daily lives.

The moviegoer saw no instances of alcoholism or domestic abuse in family lives. In Meyer‘s world, good always triumphed, and evil was punished. Every family embraced moral values and practiced faith and patriotism. The cowboys were good, and the Indians were bad. This view of America has perpetuated itself to this very day. We think of the 1930s through the 1950s as the ―good old days. In some ways, Hollywood had no choice but to reflect these views because that‘s what Americans wanted to believe. This was reinforced by a production code, which was imposed on filmmakers by both Protestant and Catholic churches.

We came to view ourselves by what we saw in the movies in the 1930s and 1940s and television programs from the 1950s, including shows such as Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best, as a representation of the real America. But in reality it is a mythology created by Meyer and his fellow studio heads that created a version of America that only existed in the movies. This is evidence of the power of media—that we are willing to accept a lie over the truth because the lie makes us feel better about ourselves. It raises the question of what else are we willing to accept as the truth.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Weekend Report: 'Mama' Haunts First Place Over MLK Weekend

While it's hard to say what, if any, impact she had, Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain ruled the box office over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend with Mama and Zero Dark Thirty. Meanwhile, Silver Linings Playbook expanded to over 2,500 locations and had its best weekend yet, and stars Mark Wahlberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger headlined bombs Broken City and The Last Stand.

Mama drastically exceeded expectations with an estimated $28.5 million three-day debut ($33.04 million four-day). While the supernatural horror genre is pretty reliable, this is an unusually high opening for an entry that doesn't utilize found footage; in fact, it's the genre's top non-found-footage debut since 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($30.1 million). Also, in just three days it earned more than producer Guillermo del Toro's last movie Don't Be Afraid of the Dark earned in its entire run ($24 million).

Aside from the advantages inherent to the genre, Mama also benefited from a strong marketing effort and a PG-13 rating that managed to attract younger females in strong numbers: Mama's audience was 61 percent female and 63 percent under the age of 25. They awarded it a "B-" CinemaScore, which is slightly above-average for a horror movie.

In second place, Zero Dark Thirty fell 35 percent to $15.8 million ($18.7 million four-day). That second weekend hold is stronger than Black Hawk Down's 41 percent drop, and Zero Dark Thirty's $57 million total is close to Black Hawk Down's $60.2 million through the same point.

After two months in limited and moderate release, Silver Linings Playbook expanded to 2,523 theaters and earned an estimated $10.8 million ($13 million four-day). The Weinstein Company originally had Silver Linings slated for a nationwide debut over Thanksgiving weekend, but at the last minute they pulled back on that when the marketing effort wasn't connecting. Now, with two months of strong word-of-mouth, a boatload of Oscar nominations, and a cast that's completely free to do press, this turned out to be an ideal time to push the movie out in to a very wide release. Through Monday, Silver Linings has earned $57 million, and with good holds the movie has a chance of ultimately getting to $100 million.

Gangster Squad fell 49 percent to an estimated $8.69 million ($10.3 million four-day). Through 11 days, the movie has grossed $33.4 million.

Broken City rounded out the Top Five with $8.3 million, which is just 34 percent of what star Mark Wahlberg's Contraband opened to on the same weekend last year. The difference between this year and last year is simple: Contraband looked like an intense, action-packed movie, while Broken City looked like a bore. The movie received a "B" CinemaScore, and will likely fade from theaters quickly.

For the four-day weekend, Broken City earned $9.5 million, which actually ranks sixth behind A Haunted House ($9.7 million). The Marlon Wayans spoof movie has earned $31.3 million so far.

Django Unchained and Les Miserables continued their strong runs this weekend; Django is now the highest-grossing Weinstein Company movie ever with $139.4 million, while Les Miserables ($131.8 million) is a week away from passing director Tom Hooper's The King's Speech ($138.8 million).

The Last Stand wound up in ninth place for the three-day weekend with $6.2 million (10th place for the four-day with $7.3 million). This was supposed to be star Arnold Schwarzenegger's big comeback movie, but it earned less than half as much as Schwarzenegger's 2000 disappointment The 6th Day ($13.02 million).

Similar to Broken City, The Last Stand just never looked all that appealing; still, one has to wonder if Schwarzenegger really has any drawing power whatsoever after his rocky stint as governor and the recent revelation that he fathered a child with one of his maids. He is at least getting a few more shots—The Tomb (Sept. 27) and Ten (Jan. 24, 2014) are in the can already—but it's likely that studios will now be more hesitant about investing big bucks in the 65-year-old actor.

On Monday Life of Pi is expected to pass $100 million, which makes it the fifth 2012 Best Picture nominee to reach that level. Theoretically, Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook could both make it there as well, meaning there will be a record seven Best Picture nominees with over $100 million at the domestic box office this year.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is it Time to Get Off the Merry-go-Round?

I can’t believe it was a year ago this month that I released my first book, The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture. Although it didn’t make the New York Times best seller list, it did connect with a lot of people and received many positive reviews. To be honest with you, I didn’t see it as a big seller. That’s not the reason I wrote the book. I wanted to write a different kind of media book; not one that attacked Hollywood and the entertainment industry but one that offered a plan that could actually impact and change the direction of our culture. 

I wrote The Red Pill from the perspective of a Christian worldview. The book laid out a blueprint on how people of faith could use visual media to fulfill the Great Commission, be a witness for Christ, and build the Kingdom of God. The book makes the case that we need to train and equip future media professionals to think, work, and function as missionaries in mainstream media and entertainment. 

I’ve been asked who is a good candidate to read The Red Pill. Obviously it would be anyone who is interested in media and particularly those who are seeking a career in the fields of media and entertainment. For those individuals, at least in my opinion, The Red Pill is a must-read. But I’ve come to understand that The Red Pill is much more than just a media book. I’m convinced that it speaks to a broader audience. I believe The Red Pill will help you to better understand your faith, how God works, and what it means to truly live the principles of Christianity. 

First, if you’re ready to get off of the merry-go-round which is what I described as our contemporary American lifestyle, then you are most definitely a candidate to read The Red Pill. In the book, I write about how the media culture has created a “perceived” reality that we have accepted as normal and routine. Our lifestyles reflect this view. What the mass media culture proclaims, we accept without question, and we become a reflection of that reality. 

Perhaps, you realize there is something wrong with the world, and you feel uncomfortable with the direction our society is moving toward. Why is it that every minute of our day is filled with some kind of activity? Why do we pursue consumerism and materialism as a religion? To tell you the truth, Christians are just as guilty as nonbelievers. Are you ready to get off the merry-go-round? Reading The Red Pill requires us to examine our lives and the choices we make. I’m convinced this book will challenge you in ways you can’t imagine. Much of Christianity in America today reflects a convenient, comfortable, and safe lifestyle. We are not going to change the world if we continue to cling to those beliefs. 

Another good candidate to read the book is someone who believes that God has a unique plan for his or her life. We have all been called to do something in the Kingdom. The Red Pill will help you to better understand how to connect with God and how to find your calling.

If you are motivated to discover how God is at work in the world, then I believe The Red Pill is an essential read. I don’t have any question that God is at work in all human activity, and that includes the media and entertainment industry. This really isn’t a difficult book to read and understand. I make the case that God is at work in the world, and all he wants us to do is to join him in that work. He’s not a distant God but one that is intimately involved in our lives or wants to be. 

The Red Pill is for those who believe there is no division between the sacred and the secular. In other words, everything in life is sacred; thus, everything we do is an act of worship. If you embrace this concept, it will change the way you live your life. If you come to understand that your career, job, or art is all a reflection of God’s gifts and talents and that their ultimate purpose is to be an expression of God’s love, majesty, and grace, then I don’t have any doubt that this will redefine how you approach everything in life. 

There you have it. If you fall into any of these categories, then I hope you pick up a copy of The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Mass Media Culture. It is available online through Amazon.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Forecast: Jessica Poised to Beat Arnold, Mark This Weekend

Arnold's back, but it looks like Jessica has his number over Martin Luther King weekend.

After a decade-long hiatus from leading man status, Arnold Schwarzengger is starring in The Last Stand, which opens in 2,913 locations this weekend. It's going after the same older male audience as Mark Wahlberg drama Broken City, though, which should keep both movies out of the top spot. Instead, it looks likely that first place either goes to holdover Zero Dark Thirty or new horror flick Mama, both of which star Jessica Chastain.

Out of the nine brand-new nationwide releases in January, eight of them are rated R. The only outlier is Mama, which is attempting to appeal to the PG-13 horror crowd. While Universal's marketing campaign has been light, it has also very clearly established the movie's scary premise, which finds supernatural occurances ensuing after two young girls are rescued from the woods and brought to live with their aunt and uncle.

Star Jessica Chastain is red-hot right now thanks to her recent Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win for her work in Zero Dark Thirty: her name isn't included in Mama's marketing, though, and her awards recognition is obviously more likely to help out the controversial CIA thriller. Instead, the big name being promoted is Guillermo Del Toro, who has become a go-to name in the horror world in recent years. His last big movie, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, disappointed with just $8.5 million in its opening weekend; Mama seems to be in much better shape, though, and Universal is currently forecasting low-to-mid-teen millions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's last lead role was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003: soon after the movie was released, Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California in a special recall election, and was subsequently re-elected in 2006. After his second term ended in early 2011, he immediately began pursuing acting opportunities again, and The Last Stand is the first in a series of upcoming movies.

With hits like Total Recall ($119.4 million), Terminator 2: Judgment Day ($204.8 million) and True Lies ($146.3 million), Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest box office draws in the late 80s and early 90s. He hit a rough patch in the new millennium, though, thanks to disappointments The 6th Day ($34.6 million) and Collateral Damage ($40.1 million).

A decade later, though, audiences remember Schwarzenegger more for his classic movies and less for his recent bombs, so The Last Stand would appear to be well-positioned as a "comeback" vehicle. Unfortunately, Lionsgate's marketing hasn't really done much to push that angle: the likely explanation is that they already played that card for last Summer's The Expendables 2 by highlighting Schwarzenegger's supporting role. As a result, The Last Stand doesn't seem to be much of an event, and is instead looking at a fairly modest debut (Lionsgate is forecasting low-teen-millions).

Opening at 2,620 locations, Broken City also appears poised for an underwhelming opening despite starring the usually-reliable Mark Wahlberg. This time last year, Wahlberg movie Contraband opened to $24.3 million on its way to $66.5 million—Contraband had a unique visual flair and plenty of shots of Wahlberg punching people in the face, though, while Broken City looks like a fairly generic detective drama in which Wahlberg doesn't get to beat anyone up. As a result, don't be surprised if Broken City opens to half of Contraband's $24.3 million.

After earning $43.3 million through two months of limited and moderate release, Silver Linings Playbook is finally going very wide in to 2,523 locations this weekend. The movie was originally supposed to do this over Thanksgiving weekend, but The Weinstein Company smartly pulled back on that when they realized the movie's word-of-mouth would speak stronger than their advertisements (which were having a very tough time with the movie's tricky tone). On the heels of eight Academy Award nominations and a Golden Globe win for Jennifer Lawrence (who is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend), Silver Linings Playbook should be able to make it in to the Top Five with over $10 million.

Forecast (Jan. 18-20)
1. Mama - $16.9 million
2. Zero Dark Thirty - $16.5 million (-32%)
3. Last Stand - $14 million
4. Broken City - $13.2 million
5. Silver Linings - $10.5 million
6. Gangster Squad - $10.1 million (-41%)

Bar for Success
Adjusting for inflation, Collateral Damage would have opened to over $20 million, which seems like a good level for The Last Stand. Broken City is okay at $15 million, while that would be a good start for Mama

Thursday, January 17, 2013

10 Commandments of Starting a Media Ministry

By Phil Cooke

Aside from directing and producing numerous television programs and films, over the years I’ve also had the opportunity to help various churches and ministries begin media outreaches.  From weekly television programs, to one-hour specials, to television commercial and advertising campaigns, I’ve worked with all types of Christian organizations, helping them take a message of hope to a culture desperately in need.   In most cases, when I receive a call from a pastor, evangelist, or other ministry leader, their primary concern is usually about equipment –

“What equipment should I use?”
“Should I lease or purchase?”
“Should I videotape my Sunday service or use a local studio?”
“What about used equipment?”
These questions are important, but I’ve discovered over the years that they aren’t nearly as important as 10 fundamental areas I call:

The 10 Commandments of Television.”
If you feel God is calling your church into some type of media ministry, then I urge you to consider these areas first. Without a keen understanding of these particular issues, I can guarantee you’re heading for trouble.  But if you’ll take the time to explore these 10 critical areas, then you might be ready to step out and begin an effective media ministry.

Commandment #1 – Understand The Power of Telling a Story – As I mentioned before, most churches want to begin with equipment, but I always prefer to begin with how to tell a story.  Ultimately, no matter what communications medium we choose, that’s all we’re doing – telling a story.  A simple story about how God chose to become one of us and share His eternal plan with people who didn’t deserve it.
That’s it.

As we enter the digital age of this new century, let’s spend more time learning how to tell a story more effectively.  It doesn’t matter the program format – preaching, music, documentary, variety, drama, whatever – every program is telling some type of story, and until that story is told most effectively, the audience is never going to be interested.

This coming Sunday, thousands of pastors will step up to the pulpit without telling a single story.  And yet, when you study the life of Jesus, that’s just about all he ever did.  He rarely lectured or preached – he mostly told stories.  Stories that touched people, and changed their lives.
The great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman said “Facts go straight to the head, and stories go straight to the heart.”

In this new millennium, let’s make a new commitment to storytelling, and understand that unless we can tell a powerful story, our chance of reaching an audience is terribly diminished.

Commandment #2 – Don’t Feel Everything Has to be Explicit – Don’t feel the obligation to tell the entire salvation, healing, and deliverance story with each program.  Learn to be subtle and win the audience with interesting and fascinating programming – then present the gospel.  A few years ago, an informal survey with people that had recently accepted Christ, indicated that they had been presented with the gospel message an average of seventeen times before they made a final decision.  That means people think about it, mull it over, and need time to contemplate their decision.  A call to salvation is important, but let’s also make more programs that plant the seed – and don’t feel the necessity to “hit them over the head” with every program.

Commandment #3 – Be in Touch with the Current Culture – I find a remarkable number of pastors, evangelists, and church leaders are out of touch with today’s culture.  Christian producers often don’t keep up with current programming and graphic styles, and I’m amazed at the number of Christian media professionals who never even watch television.  If we’re going to make an impact in this culture, we have to understand what makes it tick.  Just as Paul in Acts 17 used his knowledge of Greek literature and culture to establish a “common ground” with the philosophers at Mars Hill, we need to understand the music, literature, films, and television that this culture creates.  Otherwise, they will continue to believe that our message is irrelevant and unimportant.

Commandment #4 – Make Sure your Financing is in Place – Most Christian producers are plagued with a lack of funds for television production and equipment.  Television is probably the most expensive outreach your church or ministry will ever encounter, and poor decisions regarding financing can literally destroy an entire ministry organization.  I always recommend that you have six months of funding in the bank before you ever began a media outreach.   On most cable systems today, there are a minimum of 70 plus channels, so it takes between six months to a year of broadcasting before your program begins to establish itself with your audience.  That means it could be a year or more before you receive any prayer or financial support from your audience – they simply need time to find the program!  Therefore, it’s critical that you be able to fund your program during that first year, or your media ministry will never have the chance to make an impact.

Commandment #5 – Always be open to change.  The unexpected is often the most exciting and effective answer!  In Hollywood, millions of dollars are spent every year on “pilot” programs – many of which never see the light of day!  The major studios and networks understand that audiences are always changing, so they aren’t afraid to experiment and update programs and program ideas.  But most Christian programs are doing the same thing they did 10-15 years ago.  The most successful media ministries are ministries who aren’t afraid to change, update, and present a fresh, new approach to an ever-changing audience.

Commandment #6 – Have a Clear Focus – Have a clear purpose and focus for each program you do.  If you’re producing a program on the theme of salvation, then every aspect of that program needs to point in that direction. The music, the greeting, the interviews, the message, the closing – even product offers and commercials.  National advertisers understand this need and focus every aspect of their advertising campaigns on their theme.  We can make a much stronger impact, if we follow their lead.

Commandment #7 – Don’t Forget Creativity – An advertising executive once said “Creativity is like shaving – if you don’t do it every day, you a bum!”  Exercise those creative muscles… and do it on a regular basis.  Don’t take the easy way out, either in sermon preparation or program production.  Personally, I don’t buy into the theory that only some of us are born “creative” and others aren’t.  I believe that anyone can be more creative – it just takes practice, and a willingness to forgo the “easy” way in order to be open to new and creative ideas.

Commandment #8 – Don’t Let Your Vision Stop at Preaching – Preaching is a wonderful thing, and there will always be room on Christian television for good, solid preaching.  However, keep in mind that a church service doesn’t necessarily make the best television program.  Just like a light bulb isn’t a candle you plug into a wall, a car isn’t a horse with wheels, and a television isn’t a radio with pictures, an effective television program isn’t necessarily a church service that’s been videotaped.

When you’re in a church service or evangelistic event, you can feel the electricity of the crowd, you can see the emotion and intensity of the speaker, and you can experience the live event with the enthusiasm and excitement of hundreds or thousands of other people.  However, when you watch that same event on television, you’re often sitting alone in a room, watching it on a “glass box” ten or fifteen feet away.  You’re probably also having a meal, talking with friends, or reading a book or magazine.

Believe me, it’s not the same experience.  In fact, it’s such a problem, advertisers call it “cutting through the clutter,” which is the ability to create programming that cuts through all those distractions and makes an impact on the audience.

Also, don’t forget other wonderful program ideas – (that are remarkably absent from Christian television) – documentaries, movies, children’s programs, news, animation, music, and other formats.  Remember, the secular networks spend millions of dollars to find out what audiences will watch, and if you check the latest prime time schedule, it’s filled with movies, episodic dramas, and situation comedies – there’s not a preaching show among them.   The reality is – the secular networks are not biased against Christians – they just want to make money (and would probably sell their grandmother to do it).

The secular networks profit from selling advertising time, and if they felt preaching shows drew an audience, they would have them in prime time.   But they know the power of story based programs, and fill the television schedule with that format.

Commandment #9 – Don’t Forget Research – I’m convinced one of the most neglected areas of media ministry is research.  Do you really know who’s watching your program and why?  That knowledge should greatly affect what you produce.  Is your audience young or old?  Educated or uneducated?  Rich or poor?  What about the racial make-up?  You don’t have to spend millions and hire major research organizations for that information.  It can be as simple as talking to your local TV station or cable network.  They make a living selling television time to advertisers, and they have to know who’s watching at various times during the day.  Ask them about different time periods and find out who’s watching.  Then you can either create a program around that audience, or find the appropriate audience for the program you feel called to produce.

Commandment #10 – Don’t Underestimate The Importance of Quality -  Many Christian churches and ministries don’t understand the need to produce high quality television or radio programs.  But today’s audiences are more technologically sophisticated than ever, and refuse to watch programs that aren’t up to current standards of quality.  Remember my earlier comment about most cable systems having at least 70 channels?  And the 500 channel universe has already arrived in numerous cities.  In that environment, it’s just too easy to change the channel if the picture or sound quality isn’t satisfying.

Always remember – stewardship isn’t necessarily saving money, it’s using money most effectively.  Sometimes that means spending more money to purchase a better product that will help you reach your goals sooner and more effectively.

Many churches and ministries purchase cheap equipment in order to save money – but soon discover they should have waited until they could afford better quality.  Don’t let your desire to get on television push you into getting low quality or inferior equipment – after all, you can’t reach the lost if they won’t watch long enough to hear your message.

Quality not only involves equipment, it involves people as well.  If you gave the finest computer in the world to the average person in your congregation, he or she still wouldn’t be able to write a best selling novel.  You need to bring the best media professionals you can afford to help you with your television ministry.  Where do you find them?  Contact professional organizations like the National Religious Broadcasters (  Ask a church or ministry with a television outreach you admire.

Inquire at Christian colleges – they often have Communication Departments with majors in radio, television, and multimedia.

Just because your brother-in-law loves your ministry and is a loyal family member doesn’t mean he’s the best person to help you build an effective and successful media outreach.   Find Godly people who have a genuine calling to reach the world through media.  Not only can they help you save money and time, they can also make a dramatic difference in the success of your media ministry.

Post these “10 Commandments” in your office to remind you of your commitment to principles that will help launch your media ministry and keep you focused on your goal.  But I couldn’t write an article like this without urging you to do something else that I believe is absolutely critical for a media ministry – the need for prayer, and to seek  the wise counsel of others.

Radio and television are remarkable ways to reach the world for Christ, but they are also tools that bring along the baggage of ego, vanity, financial wrongdoing, and a host of other temptations.  Sadly, the history of Christian broadcasting is rife with multi-million dollar ministries that succumbed to these and other temptations, and it destroyed what in some cases were powerful, global outreaches.

If you will stay near the heart of God in your decision making, and seek the help and counsel of both Godly men and women, as well as experienced media professionals, your chances of success will be greatly increased.