Thursday, December 2, 2010

Screenfighting Details

We're getting closer to this Saturday's Workshop.  It's actually turning out to be one of our most popular ever.  I try to pick subjects that can be of value to actors that will help them get and keep roles.  As I've directed my movies, I've found that many actor's can't throw or receive a punch.  Or they hold a gun goofy.  Or they're afraid of a squib hit and it shows.

So "ta-da."  Screenfighting & SFX for Actors.  We've only got a couple seats remaining as of this posting.  Im going to pull down the registration pretty soon.  If you still see the button, it means you can still register.  It's all at .  Scroll down for the workshop.

Here's our agenda:

The Agenda looks something like this (subject to change):
9:00        Intros and Screenfighting (We will do a quiz early to determine first person to be squibbed)
10:30     Break (2nd Squibber is picked)
10:45     Screenfighting continues
12:00     Break for lunch – There are fast food places around—specifically a few miles south on 121, exit Beach Street.  Some people in the past have tried for a sit down at one of the restaurants back at the mall (820/183/121 convergence to the north), but everytime, they end up getting back late.
1:00        Start promptly—talk about Weapons with Doug Williams
2:30        Break
2:45        SFX with Steve Krieger (Last person is picked to be a Squibber)
4:30        Squib the lucky three participants
5:00        We’re done

I think it's going to be a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to working with Steve Krieger, Scott Roland and Doug Williams.  I'm sending out an email to all those with confirmed seats.  If you think you are and don't get an email by tomorrow morning, you'd better contact me.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I had to laugh.  When I read a recent comment on a site about "The Imposter," I had to just shake my head and chuckle.

I do get asked about how negative reviews and comments make me feel-- or how they affect me.  In the beginning, it was harder-- being a little more unsure (let's call it insecure) of myself as a filmmaker, negative comments found a fertile target.  Some of the more negative and out there were actually easier to ignore and dismiss-- when they attacked me personally, I knew that it had nothing to do with me, but something stirred up the water in their own life.

The ones that picked apart mistakes I was already aware of were of no consequence either.  I knew what they were and I agreed with it.  The hardest comments and reviews were the ones that found mistakes I didn't want to admit.  These I had to chew on for awhile until I realized they were right.

So consequently, reviews/comments don't have as much effect on me today.  I find myself laughing at more of them.  Like the one in question above.

The comment went something like this-- this movie didn't even end, so it doesn't minister.  Like the viral episodic "Jesus People," there are different types of Christians out there.  And when I read that comment, I picture it being written by the uptight, hypocritical pharisee character in that show.  It's funny. 

The person writing this comment is waiting for God to zap people (for good or for punishment).  God to him is a logitician-- If you do A and B, then God will do C.  (Check out Larry Crabbe's book on people who walk out the law of linearity).  But God laughs at us.  I believe He's more interested in the process than the result... the journey rather than the destination.

Now I write reviews for fellow filmmakers and I attempt to be accurate, not cruel, pointing out the nice things as well as the things that can be improved.  As my mentor recently said-- I welcome examination, for if I'm correct, then I'm that much more resolute, and if I'm incorrect, it's a great opportunity to improve.  There is no bad with examination... only good.

Friday, November 19, 2010

TeaCupping is Wrong

And so is pointing the gun at the ceiling.  Throughout the seventies and eighties, television and film were totally unconcerned about any kind of weapons realism in cinema.  But that has been changing.  Dramatically.  Shows like "The Unit" spend painstaking amount of time and training to make sure the actors are holding and handling the weapons accurately.

The move is on towards accuracy.  And if you, an actor, go into an audition or on the set and grab the pistol and teacup it, don't be surprised if they laugh at you.  Or roll their eyes.  If you insist on a shoulder holster, I hope you're character is extremely old school.  They just don't do that today.  And when you're about to turn the corner, why are you pointing at the sky with that handgun?  The police and the military do not train that way-- only fake actors do it that way.  And they do it because they saw it on television in the seventies.

At the Screenfighting & SFX for Actors Workshop on Dec 4, Weapons Master and Specialist Doug Williams will be joining Stunt Coordinator Scott Roland and SFX Coordinator Steve Krieger and will show you the right way to hold a gun and handle it like a professional.  Doug has been trained at FBI courses as well as some of the best military training ranges in the country.  And he's been weapons master on several feature films.  He knows guns.

Doug and I took some actors to Frontsight in Las Vegas for some training a couple years ago.  It was great stuff.  I myself have done some extensive firearm training and now insist on realism in my movies.

Want to know what TeaCupping is?  Come to the Seminar to avoid this embarrassing on-set mistake!  Register for the Saturday, Dec 4 Workshop at .

Thursday, November 18, 2010

True Revolt

In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.
- George Orwell

I know of a self-proclaimed poet/revolutionary type.  His pretentiousness is astounding... his narcissism severe.  Yet his gift is without repentance from the Giver of all things and the double-minded (James 1) are pulled into his trap.

In my ownself, I have discovered that evil isn't a destination, but a direction.  It's not something that's far off, and I have to work to get there.  It's a simple choice made every day.

Jeremiah writes that the heart is deceitful above all else, who can know it...  So in my own life, deceit is universal.  In yours too.  You see, since the fall, deceit has ruled from the heart of all men.  Opposite of the Humanist, I believe that we are all narcissists underneath-- lions feeding on whoever's next to us so that we can survive and thrive.

So for the person who discovers the Truth?  He is a revolutionary.  And most people, even many of those proclaiming to be "christians" will consider this person to be "revolting."  (Double entendre intended).  As an individual pursues Truth (Jesus says He is the Truth), he will become lonelier.  Although being a revolutionary is hip and cool in many pretentious circles, few have the guts to actually be one.  You see, they revolt against truth in favor of deceit.

The poet mentioned above is a great example of this.  He considers himself a revolutionary-- railing against the church and the establishment.  All the while embracing different costumes and masquerades that enable him to pursue his own selfish agenda.

So I end with another quote-- this one by Brennan Manning.
"When I was eight," confesses Brennan Manning, "the impostor, or false self, was born as a defense against pain. The impostor within whispered, 'Brennan, don't ever be your real self anymore because nobody likes you as you are. Invent a new self that everybody will admire and nobody will know.'" Notice the key phrase: "as a defense against pain," as a way of saving himself. The impostor is our plan for salvation…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advice to New Directors

To all you who want to direct your own movie:
  • Try to focus on just the job of Director. This means it will be harder and the directing will suffer if you are the actor or producer as well. This doesn't apply to jobs that don't really run concurrently like writing (or even editing, but see note below).
  • You are going to make first-timer mistakes. The movie can't afford too many of these, so don't hire other first-timers in key positions.
  • You will need people you trust to advise you on not making too many first-timer mistakes. But your insecurity will try and stop you from taking the advice. Or listening to those with more experience.
  • Cast every position like it's the lead. Don't give in to your insecurity by giving out roles so people will like you or think you're such a nice guy.
  • Don't be the editor too. Most director's cannot "kill their children." Which means you love scenes that don't move the story and lose any kind of objective storytelling sense.
  • Know your goal-- do you want a calling card for bigger/greater things? Or do you want this movie to find distribution and make money? Because it's a totally different strategy for each of those end games.
  • Study, research, learn. When I meet a person who wants to direct, I meet someone who has read many, many books, seen many, many films, and listened to many, many commentaries. And they've also shot some shorts. You say you want to direct but haven't done any of these things? Then I say you really don't want to direct.
  • Learn how to communicate.  Know the basics of the communication model (sender/receiver/medium/filters).
  • Learn some psychology.  (Get the DSM).
Anyway... just some random advice for you up and coming directors.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Screenfigting and SFX for Actors

I can still remember the first day I met "the Twins." We were at our production offices off Harry Hines in Dallas, gearing up for my first movie "The Keyman." We were having our first big production meeting and Susan Kirr, the UPM, introduced me to these two guys. They weren't identical, except in good solid character. I instantly liked them.

The Twins are Scott Roland and Steve Krieger. They're called that in the industry because they're usually inseparable. Best friends, they share a common bond of integrity and passion for making movies.

Steve Krieger is a Special Effects Supervisor. This means that is it burns up, blows up, explodes, or some other cinematic on screen trickery-- Steve's your man. Scott Roland is a Stunt Coordinator. He makes sure any stunts in the movie come off safely and effectively.

On one of my early movies, I learned that if I'm going to cast someone in a role that will need to throw a punch, I need to audition them doing that. It looks easy to fight on screen simply because the pros make it look easy. But sometimes, in my movies, I need an everyday actor to be able to throw a punch or take a punch. Or handle weapons like they know what they're doing. And, be able to act in the face of some expensive SFX shot.

So, I talked to the Twins, and we set a date for a workshop to help actors. On Dec 4th, we're going to teach "Screenfighting and SFX for Actors." It's only $49 and we're going to squib one or two lucky ones up in the afternoon. Register at .

We have to have a minimum number of attendees, so sign up asap if you plan on coming. One disclaimer-- this is not to teach actors how to be stuntmen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's All About Relationships

My movie is soooo important to God's kingdom. My song can change people's lives. My ministry will reach hundreds of thousands. Any of this sound familiar? If it does, you've bought into the Narcissists Gospel. (I know I do when I walk in my flesh).

In the beginning God... He created man and woman. The big deal for Him was walking in the garden with them. Relating. Relationship. It's not so much what you do. Whether you're the pastor of a mega church, or the hottest name in Christian music. Or the janitor. God's much more interested in your relationships than your work.

He asks His followers to make disciples. That's all about relationship. (Which is anathema to modern day evangelism-- which puts the emphasis on numbers not relationship).

I've said it before-- God can make a sunset that can reach down and touch the heart of man much more than any film I make. It's just a movie. It has no power to save anybody or anything. Sure, it can be a great tool, but let's not take our work so seriously.

Instead, I'm turning my mindset to these concentric circles: My relationship with God. My relationship with my family. My relationship with others.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Missionary Dating Movies

As I've watched a bunch of "christian" movies lately, one theme that I'm a little concerned about is basically this-- the "protagonist" in the story is messed up. He will come to Jesus by end of movie. And helping him along the way is his "Christian" girlfriend.

I haven't just described one movie. I'm looking at a stack of 5 movies and 3 of them have this plot device. My thirteen year old boy was watching with me on one of them and I really became conscious of what we're preaching here.

Back in my day in youth group, this was called "missionary dating." The term describes the Christian who dates a non-believer in the hopes of converting him. Usually, this is total farce and full on hypocrisy-- because really, the Christian simply wants that person and justifies the "unequally yoked" principle by introduce the mission purpose.

And as the youth leader said back then, it hasn't changed-- missionary dating is dangerous and doesn't work. It's wrong and dysfunctional. But now, all of a sudden, our "christian" burgeoning pop culture is reintroducing the idea-- showing that "see sweetie, you can date that heathen and he'll come around. Quick! Go plant him a big one on the lips and get him to the Kingdom!"

Now as a screenwriter, I understand the predicament. You have a man who is going on a journey of faith. (Or to Faith). You need a female lead. Voila, the die is cast. I challenge you Believers that are going to make movies-- don't introduce dangerous theology just so that your main message can work better as a plot device. I challenge you to find creative solutions that avoid error and enhance your plot. You work for the Giver of all creativity anyway. Why not reflect Him?

Monday, November 8, 2010

High Infidelity

In the movie "The Imposter," our hero, top Christian band singer Johnny C has committed adultery. This is in addition to all the other sins... like substance abuse. Recently, I learned about another Christian band who it has been alleged that he's been in an adulterous affair for several years.

What's funny is that in researching it (and I'll tell you why I'm researching in a moment), the blogs and boards are roaring with "c'mon people, show him some grace and forgiveness!! He needs love, not stoning." While I totally agree he needs love, I would want to revisit the definition of that word. Remember, seeking the other's highest good is what love is.

Anyway, infidelity in the church is not something talked much about, except when the scandal hits. Yet, in talking with my mentor, psychologist Dr. Mike Riggins, infidelity is "epidemic in the church" in his words. This came about when I asked him what are hot issues these days in the people he counsels and in the church. He didn't hesitate.

What's more interesting is a study he did awhile back. His theory going in was that infidelity is extremely similar to death. The victim of infidelity goes through the Stages of Grief, just like losing someone to death. His conclusion was surprising-- it is longer and harder to get through the Stages of Grief in marriage infidelity than in the death of a loved one.

Wow. I suppose that with death, there's some sense of closure. But for unfaithfulness, there isn't.

Yes, Adultery is a sin. A horrific sin. The Church knows this. But what's next for the person who commits it?

I do believe that leaders in the church have a higher standard. You want that stage and want that pulpit-- the mantle of leadership. Well guess what, I can back up with scripture how with greater leadership comes greater responsibility.

So should the spouse take the adultery back? Isn't that the "Christian" way? Love, forgiveness, grace.. all that.

When adultery occurs, the marriage is over. For their to be reconciliation, a new marriage has to be built.

So why am I researching this? Maybe it's the next script that I write. Maybe.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some Random Filmmaking/Ego Thoughts

Lessons learned lately. I am not the Giver. I can be a giver, but then I can not walk in relationship with the Giver. I am not the light source. The Giver is the light source. I can only reflect. I am the moon. He is the Sun.

When I walk in my narcissistic flesh, my sphere is the mostest. My ministry is more special than yours. My movies are a mission from God, so step back and give me space to work. This mission is critical for the Kingdom. Without me, how can God reach all those people? Without my film, where I'll graciously channel His message, how can He speak to them?

Sounds silly written out. I see it in myself. And I see it in other Christian filmmakers. "My film is sooooo important." Hate to break this to you, but He can make a sunset that can touch men's heart more than anything you create. Your mission is no more important than the person next to you. Which might be the janitor.

I will not speak for you. From my experience in this movie-making-magic industry, reality is a slippery pig. And it squeels and runs away when people treat me like god on a set. Just writing honestly for a moment. And you want this? You want an entourage? I did. But not any more. I'd be content to be a farmer, working with my hands.

The work doesn't matter. God's more interested in my character building processes than some movie. It's a film for goodness sake-- it's not going to save anybody. So the pressure's off. Now to just be obedient.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Movie Review - Rust

I remember a year or two ago (maybe more), I was sitting in a fastfood restaurant reading the news paper. There was a really interesting article about a guy who was using the internet as a gimmick (big surprise there). His idea was brilliant-- start with a paperclip, trade up until he's got a house.

And he did it. He traded this for that. Eventually, I remember some Hollywood actor getting involved-- trading a role in a movie. And voila, this original guy gets his house.

Now flash forward. I get sent the faith-based movie "Rust." And I find out, that this is the movie that was part of that internet trading up gimmick. I think that's pretty cool.

Corbin Bernsen (not a "Believer" in the sense that most evangelicals define it, based on reading some of his interviews on the web), wrote a movie that he wanted to explore the issues of faith for a clergyman returning to his small home town. The movie really reminded me a lot of Robert Duvall's "The Apostle."

Rust is the story of a man walking away from the clergy and going back home. There he picks up pieces of relationships he left behind many years ago, including his father, friends, and family members. But one friend is missing-- he's gone crazy and is in jail for burning down a farmhouse with the beloved family inside it. The facts don't all add up and in between seeking for his faith, James Moore (Corbin Bernsen) goes digging deeper into this mystery.

I'm not sure where the title came from-- there was one quick reference to rust, but I didn't see the connection. I'm guessing it's because Moore's is "rusty" from being away from home? Has let "rust" set in to his life as a man of God? But that's all okay. See, made me think. And that's always good.

What is really unique here, is the flavor that writer/director Bernsen brought to the film. Other than himself as the lead, he cast the entire movie from a small town up north (which was part of the contest). I've used non-professional actors and it can be extremely tough. But Bernsen proves to be a pro here. However he did it, he directed these townspeople to really strong performances. Bernsen makes it look easy.

The movie is rich visually, and the story is engaging. The performances, based on where they came from, are nothing short of amazing. And because Bernsen pulls off the use of the town, the voice and feel of the movie is extremely unique and different.

I'm afraid to praise this movie too much-- many young filmmakers will bypass solid actors because "see you can use non-professionals and make a strong movie." For the filmmaking community, I wish Bernsen had put on the back of the box-- "this was done by a professional-- do not try this at home."

At the end of the day, I recommend this movie. It's thought-provoking and certainly not given to cliches and other formulaic problems of faith-based filmmaking.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Christian Filmmaking Thoughts

I've written a lot about the comparison of Christian films today to Christian music of thirty years ago. When Christian contemporary music (CCM) was born in the late sixties and early seventies, you had a lot of passionate artists (and some more passionate than art skills). But what you didn't see at that infant stage was a preponderance of non-believers in the industry.

That quickly changed as people realized there wuz gold in them thar hills. It's not uncommon today to have non-believers posing as Christian in the music biz. I was in talks a few years ago to work with a "Christian" band in a movie of mine. After spending a couple of days with them and the management team, I was told the story how the manager brought them together-- how he wanted to get another band going and the "Christian" music scene would be the easiest ladder to climb. This was a band that won dove awards.

I've seen Hollywood actors (avowed non-believers) get cast in a Christian film. Then they'll play the role, speaking on Christian tv, being interviewed for Christian media, espousing a "Christian" message. And the Christian audience is eating it up.

But for the frontmen-- the people on camera, I think the culture that CCM has created will permeate here too-- to be the face (like the voice for CCM) of Christian movies, you'll probably have to walk the talk (or talk the talk as some pretenders will).

As this Christian film industry infant grows up, it will become populated by more and more "pretenders." And behind the lens, you probably won't be aware of the pretenders, just like CCM-- the business side of the music industry.

For those purest Christian filmmakers who only drink milk from a Christian cow and only crew your movie with "Christians", you're going to have to deal with some problems. But of course, I think those type of "Christian" filmmakers are fooling themselves. I bet you money, that some of those purporting to be "Christians" are in fact anything but. I'd rather have someone hot or cold than lukewarm anyway.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rising Stars Extended

I'm thrilled to announce that Rising Stars is being extended a week in Tulsa and Grand Rapids. This is a great chance for the movie to grow legs. If you know anyone in those cities, ask them to go see it!

We're also looking at bringing it to the DFW area. More details on that to come.

Thanks for your support everyone!

Friday, October 22, 2010

News Release for Rising Stars

ASSIST News Service (ANS) - PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609 USA
Visit our web site at: -- E-mail:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rising Stars
Inspirational film shines a new light on the high-profile world of musical talent contests

By Dan Wooding
Exclusive for ASSIST News Service
NEW YORK CITY, NY (ANS) -- In our modern, fame-obsessed voyeuristic culture, high-profile “talent contests” have spawned big television ratings and several new franchise industries. But at what price to those contestants involved?

An advert for the new movie
“One of the afflictions of our current society is the pressure to perform placed on children. This can rob them of their childhood, resulting in them growing into dysfunctional adults,” states Daniel Millican, the writer/director of a new film, “Rising Stars” which releases this month in theatres and deals with the issue of a high-pressure, high-profile television talent contest. “I wanted to tell a story that could combat the competitive pressures placed on adolescents and post-adolescents. I wanted to tell a story where they teamed up to create, not set apart to destroy each other. My goal when I sat down to conceive this story was to create a movie that would entertain and at the same time give a positive message - God created you to be the person you were meant to be, to fulfill his dream for you, not the image of what the world says you should be.”

Writer/Director Daniel Millican
Billed as “a family musical with heart”, "Rising Stars" explores the sacrifices that come with fame in reality television-obsessed culture. Challenged with creating songs and music videos, three musical acts find more than their futures on the line when the competition gets fierce and their lives are caught on tape broadcast to the nation. Egos clash and worlds collide as these teens find how far they will go to win the coveted prize and achieve stardom. To give “Rising Stars” an entertaining edge and the feel of a real talent competition, Millican recruited some of the hottest young performers today, from the stage, screen and music worlds. They include Graham Patrick Martin (The Girl Next Door, Two and a Half Men, The Bill Engvall Show, iCarly, Jonas), Kyle Riabko (90210, Limelight, The National Tour of Spring Awakening, The Broadway Production of Hair), Leon Thomas III (August Rush, Victorious, iCarly) and Jessie Payo, a former member of pop duo Jupiter Rising whose music has been featured on MTV’s The Hills and The City. Jessie's hit song with Jupiter Rising; “Electropop” was one of the popular songs ever on MySpace, receiving over four million plays.
They are joined by veteran actors, Fisher Stevens (The Flamingo Kid, Short Circuit, Hackers, Awake), Barry Corbin (WarGames, Urban Cowboy, No Country For Old Men) and Catherine Mary Stewart (Weekend at Bernie’s, The Girl Next Door) and a dramatic performance by Grammy Award-winning and multi-platinum-selling Contemporary Christian recording artist, Rebecca St. James.

A scene from the film, Rising Stars
©2010 Screen Media Films
A recent study by Penn State University showed that the effects of high-stake public competitions can often have lasting debilitating effects on young people.... in particular, those individuals who give their best efforts after years of practice and performing...but still do not win the coveted ‘prize’. High-profile “talent contest” programming, have become in the end, glorified popularity contests. The participants are expected to rise to an unrealistic goal that causes them to pursue a tentative ideal and not the overall betterment of themselves. In most cases, the research shows, this high-stress competition most-often leaves young people with a lower self-worth of themselves than they had before the competition. In a competitive society, it is easy to assume that competition will build a strong sense of self. Noted behavioral researchers, David and Roger Johnson concluded in an extensive study on the effects of competition on young adults and children, that cooperative learning/teamwork situations, compared with competitive and individualistic situations, promote higher levels of self- esteem and healthier processes for deriving conclusions about one’s self-worth.
They indicate that “cooperativeness” is related to emotional maturity, well-adjusted social relations, a strong personal identity, and a basic trust in and optimism about other people. That is the message of “Rising Stars”.
Director, Daniel Millican is no stranger to exploring complex ethical and moral themes in his films. Following a successful career in commercials and music videos, Millican made the leap to features in 2000. With his first film, the critically-acclaimed, The Keyman: Finding Redemption, Millican explored the issues of regret and abandonment on and the destructive power of unforgiveness. Next came A Promise Kept, a look at the compromises often found in today’s cutthroat corporate environment and The Imposter, a modern day interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
“Romans 12 says, “‘And let not your behavior be like that of this world, but be changed and made new in mind, so that by experience you may have knowledge of the good and pleasing and complete purpose of God’” asserts, Millican. I wanted to make a film that shows the joy and the possibilities of being the person you were created to be”.
For more information, go to:

Dan Wooding, 69, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 46 years. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC., and now hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on KWVE in Southern California and which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Wooding is also a regular contributor to The Weekend Stand on the Crawford Broadcasting Network, and a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 192 countries. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, “From Tabloid to Truth”, which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel “Red Dagger” which is available here

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Election Night

I'm no politician, but I'm starting to have a better understanding for election eve and the actual election day.  The work has been done.  There's not a whole lot that he can do.  The ballots are what they're going to be.

So tomorrow, after four feature films, this fifth one is getting a real theatrical release.  It's been a real learning experience listening in our weekly teleconferences on all the things that go into it.  You've got viral marketing people, publicity, theaters and of course the distributor.  Tomorrow, we'll see how people respond.  Will they go and buy tickets in Nashville, Tulsa and Grand Rapids?  If they do, then we roll out bigger.  If they don't, it will be a short lived theatrical and we'll see how DVD does.

The trick here is time.  The stakes are high-- the distributor is putting out a lot of money.  So their patience won't be long.  This is standard in the industry.  Take the tv show shot in Dallas "Lone Star."  Critically acclaimed, but the network didn't give it much chance after the first two episodes failed to get the numbers.  Had they stuck with it, Lone Star could have done well.  But the stakes are just too high for network executives to gamble.

For instance, Arrested Development was critically acclaimed.  But like Lone Star, the numbers weren't there.  The network was going to cancel after one season but stuck with.  And then a third season.  But it never found a strong audience.

I think "Rising Stars" will have a good audience.  It's a very entertaining movie with a strong message about the dangers of competition.  The Survivor-generation is learning all about "me-first" social politics-- where to get ahead you have to beat your competition.  Rising Stars sends the message that you have a choice-- you can destroy in a dog-eat-dog manner, or you can come together and create.

So tomorrow, the ballots will be cast and on through the weekend.  There will be a conference call on Monday to see where the numbers are.  And based on that, the movie's release will grow hopefully. 

One last ditch appeal to voters-- if you know anyone in Nashville, Grand Rapids or Tulsa-- please tell them to go see Rising Stars this weekend.  Don't wait.

Click on these links for the info for each city:
Grand Rapids

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Recently I was speaking at a meeting of Christians in media.  The room probably had 100 to 150 people in it.  I asked how many had already purchased The Imposter, thinking that a couple would raise their hands and I'd hand out a couple CD soundtracks.  What I didn't expect was no hands raised.

Now, I'm not necessarily pushing just for Imposter, but as a whole, we indie filmmakers need your help.  If you absolutely disagree or don't like the premise, then fine.  But as the Geiko gecko keeps asking, what's stopping the rest of you?

We need your help.  The best way is to go down to the local Christian bookstore and snap up the copy of Imposter on the shelves.  Or order from an online source like our friends at For us to be able to make more and better Christian movies, we need everyone to get their own copy.

So I'm asking-- can you go and purchase a DVD of The Imposter?  They also make great gifts-- the holidays aren't that far away.  Buy a couple to give away.  It has a great message of taking off the masks and masquerades we Christians wear.

Another way to help would be to talk to your pastor about screening the movie at your church.  But don't just buy the home DVD-- license the movie for public exhibition.  PureFlix has set up a great way to do this-- go here to the website, and they even have a way for the pastor to watch the movie first.

We need your help.  Please support indie films and please support The Imposter.

Monday, October 18, 2010


A little boy can tell you all about his toy ball.  How it flies through the air.  How it carries passengers.  How it's long and narrow.  Before too long, you're scratching your head asking him to describe this ball.  He says it has wings and a propeller.  You know.  A ball.

It's critical to have common definitions when talking with people.  If someone says they love their spouse, it could be that they're really talking about "chicken love." (search this blog for "chicken love" for definition). 

For instance, recently someone took umbrage about my "success."  I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I read that one.  He saw me as someone who is extremely successful.  His reason why was because I've made some movies.  I've written them, directed and seen them distributed... ergo I'm successful.

I do not define success by worldly accomplishment... or if you'd rather-- temporal accomplishments.  The only time in the Bible Jesus talked about "success" was when he said "well done thou good and faithful servant."  Success is defined by how faithful to what He's asked me to do I am.  I can be extremely successful and never had made one movie.  I can not be successful and have millions coming in from the latest blockbuster.

I know that wanting to make a movie burns inside you.  You can't rest until you do it.  It's what you think about and dream about.  But please don't make the mistake thinking that someone who's done it is "successful."  All a person is who made a movie is a person who made a movie.

Obedience and follow through-- that's what success is.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Actor Demo Reels

I've had some more actors ask about this, so we've scheduled a shoot day for Tuesday, Oct 26.  We will start in the afternoon and go into the evening.  I hope to have about 6 actors or so and we're halfway there, so I need three more to register.  ( )

In this day, demo reels are increasingly playing a critical role in the actor getting an agent or manager, landing that audition, or just getting their face out there.  The Catch-22 is that actors need experience to have good demo reel material, and they need a good demo reel to get experience.  That's why I started doing this-- so we can bust the door down on that Catch-22.

When you sign up, I'll contact you to discuss what type of scene you need.  I'll custom write a half page or so script, that is monlogue-ish in nature.  The whole idea is that from what we shoot, you can pull a 20 second outstanding moment.

The cost is $350 (which isn't much more than a good headshot).  We use the money to pay for the professional crew and the equipment.  We use high def cameras, with prime lenses to give that rich cinematic feel.  When we're done shooting, I color and sound design the clip and get it to you usually within 48 hours.

Here's a video that explains more:

Shooting Actor Demos from Daniel Millican on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Giving Spirit

More blessed is He who is the Giver than the receiver.  I've got a feeling I'm going to be chewing on this for the next season.  Don't know if I'll share it all here in the blog, but this is some life-changing stuff for me.

In the beginning, God.  He made the world.  He gave it life.  He gave life to man.  God = Giver.  In Him I live and move and have my being.  I am a Receiver.

Here's where I get twisted.  You see, with five feature films accomplished, I've thought that one of my "gifts" was the ability to get it done-- the ability to make it happen.  I look back at the times I've said that and cringe.  What arrogance.  I'm saying that I can GIVE a project life.  Make it happen.  That I'm the Giver.

Well, that means I'm saying I'm a god.  If I were a farmer, I can plant, water, prune, etc.  But the "making it happen" is totally up to God.  He's the Giver.

Eve, in the garden, thought it'd be great to be a Giver too.  So she took mankind's first steps away from the Giver.  You see, Evil isn't the opposite of God.  It's the absence of God.  The more you walk away from Him, the more you walk down Evil's path.  It's human nature to be Evil... the nature that came from the Fall-- from the choice Adam and Eve made that fateful day.

It's easy as a film director to start to have a mindset that I'm a Giver.  But that's delusion when I walk in that mindset.  I can't give anything.  I can work hard, but the results aren't up to me.  Though I try so hard to get movies sold and seats sold in theaters, CD's sold online.  It's not mine to control. 

Unless I want to be a god.  But when I do, I move away from Him.  I can't be a god and walk in His presence.  This is actually incredibly freeing.  I've been sweating bigtime some things in my life-- but now I don't have to sweat.  The Giver will give or not.  But He promised me He'd provide for me. 

So during this hard time, I ask "what does He want me to learn through this?" 

I'll probably share more about this as I walk through it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Swan Song-- The Middle Class of Music

Goodbye middle class.

Like many other young church-goers, I dreamed of being a Christian Super Star singer/songwriter/recording artist.  Now I know I'm the only one, because the rest of you dreamed of just servin' the Lord in whatever capacity (oh please let it be music stardom, oh please, oh please).

Of course I was motivated to learn guitar and piano to just worship Him.  I never thought about what I would say to the audience right before this song or that song.  I never dreamed about what my album cover would look like.  Or what I'd title my first album (btw, it was going to be called "Sold Out" and have like a ticket stub for art).

Those were the heady teenage years... and maybe into the twenties.  So for you few out there who have dreams of Christian music stardom, let me paint the picture of the times we live in.  The "middle class" of music artistry is going away.  All that will be left are the million units sold performers and the 50 units sold performers.  The solid 100K selling artists will go the way of the dinosaur.

You see, the music industry as a whole is not doing very well.  In fact, it's sick and dying in its current form.  A recording artist friend of mine used to move 80K of his CD's.  Last one out didn't even break 10K.  His music is just as good.  And these kinds of drops are across the board to other artists and genres.  Yes, the Great Recession can be blamed, but this was happening before that.  Piracy is the big problem.  People just don't want to buy a song when they can get it for free from their friend.

So let's play the tape forward.  When a CD is bought, maybe a teeny bit goes to the artist.  Much more goes to the label, where they have to pay for offices, executives, the A&R guy, the publicity company, the marketing people, the ads, the cost of the units themselves, the graphic artist doing the layout of the CD and booklet... and on and on.

What we're seeing is labels go under and shut their doors.  Or layoff significant numbers of people.  When they do get behind a musical act or artist, it's going to be someone they know can sell some product-- otherwise, they're going out of business.

Now is one of the hardest times to make it as a Christian recording artist.  And it will only get harder.  There will be millions of really good CD's that are home grown and sold one at a time.  There will be a few that become viral sensations.  I just don't think you'll see the solid base hits and doubles.  It will be homeruns or strikeouts.

Don't even get me started on movies.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Movie Review - The Way Home

The Way Home, distributed by big company Lion's Gate, has just hit the Christian stores.  Starring Dean Cain, this movie ups the ante for Christian storytellers.

What I like about this film, compared to many other Christian movies is that it rings true.  And with good reason-- the story is based on true life.  Back in 2000, father Randy Simpkins (played by Cain) is helping his wife pack the car for vacation.  Being a distracted father and husband came easily for Simpkins and it doesn't take long for their two-year old son Joe to disappear from the driveway of their rural house.

With lots of danger in the form of woods, wells, lakes and rivers, the search for Joe quickly escalates until the entire community is helping out.  The two plots in this movie are Simpkins and his strained relationship with God and his family-- and the other plot is the community, especially an old man, Ed Walker, who won't give up looking for the lost toddler.

Dean Cain puts in a wonderful performance.  He makes Randy so relate-able that I'm quickly drawn in to his predicament.   I do wish some of the other actors had Cain's expertise, but that's okay.  The Way Home pulls at the right heart strings and shows us real Christianity taking place in the face of a crises.  The prayer scenes, so on-the-nose and hokey in other movies is done in a real way.

Children-in-peril movies are extremely difficult-- I ought to know, my first two movies were children-in-peril.  First, you have to get a toddler actor-- and for any of you filmmakers, avoid children and animals.  Often you have to just take what you get. 

Technically, the movie is handled by professionals.  The cinematography is stunning.  The sound is great (in other words, I never noticed bad sound).  The locations are perfect.  The music, though a bit heavy handed in the beginning (uh-oh, something bad's gonna happen now, because here's the heavy, something's bad gonna happen now music), is beautiful.

For all of us complaining about the quality of Christian movies, well here you go.  This is one of the better ones out there.  Perfect for the family on a Friday night-- watch it and then discuss it.  Your family will be stronger for it.

For more information, here's the website with trailer: 

And as always, here's the FTC disclosure:

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Producers

One of the filmmaking questions I get asked is "what does a Producer do?"  Seems this position is almost as mysterious to the film newbies as "Best Boy."  In simplistic terms, a Producer is the individual who gets the film elements all together and oversees the process of making a movie from the idea to the screen.

A Producer doesn't need to work exclusively on one movie.  Most producers in LA have multiple films they've got going.  It helps if they're not all shooting at the same time-- as that's when a movie can urgently call out for the services of the producer.

I was the producer on the first four films I made.  On Rising Stars, I was hired to write and direct, leaving the producing to others.  (And boy that made a difference in directing-- not having to produce at same time).  The lead producer is usually the one with the direct tie to the cash.  The cash is usually represented by the "executive producer."  Sometimes, a producer credit is given out contractually and the person getting the credit actually does nothing.  You'll see this a lot in big Hollywood films-- an A-List actor can only be attached if their producer is given credit.  You might see a bunch of producers in the credits, but there's usually only one that wields the true power.

A lot of people think on a movie that the Director is the top dog.  Nope.  The Producer is where the buck stops and they hire and fire directors.  There's no doubt that the director's chair is a lot more fun than the producer's chair, but the final decision maker is typically the Producer.

Most good producers will hire a solid team and leave them alone to get the movie made-- stepping in when there's only a problem.  You can have insecure producers (just like insecure actors and directors) that want the fun of the set and hang out in video village-- they usually end up second guessing the director and backseat driving.  When this happens, their producer duties fall between the cracks and other problems will arise because they're not getting the producer's attention.

I know of one case where the producer did just this-- was in video village everyday on the set.  Then she wondered later in post production why some contracts weren't signed, why there was an insurance claim or two, and stuff like that.  She wasn't reading the daily production reports and certainly wasn't overseeing the office staff on contracts.  But that stuff happens and a hired director just has to deal with the distraction on set.

Once the film is shooting, the good producer is focused on making sure that the cast and crew have everything they need to tell a wonderful story-- within the allotted money.  They will help secure deals-- looking for ways to increase production value without increasing expenditures.  In the indie world, this boils down to the attribute of resourcefulness-- getting a crane for a fifth of the going rate-- stuff like that.

If shooting starts going over budget, then the producer has to step in and help find a solution.  Is the DP taking way to long to light every setup?  Is the director insisting on too many takes?  Is the lead actor consistently late to the set?  There will be warnings, department head meetings, then finally more severe action might need to take place-- like replacing a DP, or even a director.  (And in a recent case of good foresight-- the producers saw a huge prima donna complex with the lead actor and went ahead and fired him the first day of production so that they could get someone with a better attitude).

At the end of the day, the producer is the one responsible.  If footage is missing, the producer will stand before the executive producer to explain why it happened on the producer's watch.  Yes, the producer might toss people under the bus, but the good one will own it and say he didn't have the proper system in place, but does now and here's what we did to fix the problem.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Depth of Field

Okay Filmmakers, let's talk camera.  Yes, I know many of us don't have any budget to speak of and you have to either shoot with whatever camcorder drops in your lap or choose not to shoot at all.  So what can you do?

The biggest problem with cameras, is not necessarily the resolution, which is where everyone focuses (pardon the pun).  Most prosumer cameras have enough for your quirky no-budget indie film.  If you have a few dollars, don't upgrade to a higher quality camera-- instead, spend it on getting better glass (lenses). 

For instance, I just got finished watching a small budget indie movie recently and it was shot with a decent prosumer HD camcorder.  There was a shot in a school hallway and four class rooms down, you could still read the pep rally sign hanging on the back wall.  That's a HUGE depth of field-- one that screams "home movie" instead of "cinema."

And the camera they use does have a third party platform for putting cinematic lenses in front of it.  Makes a huge difference.  I'm talking about the Letus or Redrock adapters.  Of course, they do cause you to lose some f stops (especially the Red Rock), but it pays off in the look of your movie.

For "The Imposter," I had the budgetary choice of upgrading my camera, or having two lower resolution cameras, but with prime lenses.  I chose the two camera option.  I don't regret that.  (For the newest film "Rising Star", coming out in theaters on October 22, we used to Reds).

Okay, so what do you do if you have no money and a consumer camcorder?  I bet you could beg or borrow to at least upgrade to something like the HVX200-- you can't throw a rock without hitting someone who owns one.  Except most HVX 200 users are selling there's to get the 5D or 7D from Canon.  Even better if you borrow one of these.  I shot with a 7D recently and I'll blog about that soon.

Okay, so you've struck out and all you've got is this lowly camcorder.  What can you do to get a more cinematic look with it?  You need to narrow the depth of field.  Depth of Field is affected by several factors.  One of the easiest is the f stop (a wider, or more open aperture will shallow your depth of field).  So use an ND (neutral density) filter inside and light so that you can get that iris as open as possible.  There are other factors for shallowing your depth of field, but that's enough to get started.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Top Blogs from September

The most read for September was discussing why Christian movies are cheesy (click here to read it).  This entry was written after I had read some discussions about this on the web.  One person claimed that Christian movies were cheesy because they lacked the budget.  This is absolutely inaccurate.

Usually, the cheese factor begins with the script.  The Christian screenwriter is faced with some tough obstacles that secular screenwriters don't have to worry about.  The Christian story is usually an internal conflict-- and a lot of church-people shy away from external conflict (because we all know there's no conflict in the church).  And too often, the writer resorts to on the nose dialogue to reveal that internal conflict.  Also, the Christian screenwriter's audience is very opinionated when it comes to doctrine and exactly what message you are trying to get across... so the Christian film, if it wants any kind of numbers for an audience, will have to keep the subject matter in a safe environment.  These are just a few of the obstacles.

The second most read post was about Tolerance-- which is the latest religion (you can read it by clicking here).  The church culture of today places real importance on "being nice" to everyone.  There's a mistaken view that being "Christian" is to befriend everyone-- accept everyone.  It's certainly what the American culture is emphasizing today.  But Jesus, who I would think was the first "Christian," did not "accept" everyone.  He asked too much from the Rich Young Ruler.  He called a gentile woman who's crime was that she was too loud in begging for help for her daughter, a dog.  Two early Christians dropped dead for lying.  I Corinthians 5 is heavy duty about not being tolerant in the church.  The Disciple cannot ever be tolerant of sin and still be a Disciple. (Rom 8).

These were the two top posts for September.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I resisted for so long (but of course we know resistance is futile).  I have set up a twitter account and occasionally post something.  If you want to follow, it's @danmillic.


Hi __________,
Thanks for meeting with me today.  I think you'll like our line up of membership levels-- I'm positive we'll find the right one for you.  Looking for fire insurance?  Well look no further!  Simply bow your head, repeat after me, and you're covered!  No monthly premiums (although a few Sundays a month would be nice.  And oh yeah, your tithe would be great too).  We do have a more substantial memberships, but you can take this entry level fire insurance and that's okay.  It's all you need.

End sales pitch here.

Contrary to what seminaries are teaching, Jesus did not create multiple levels of membership into God's Kingdom.  I know of one seminary that teaches Jesus as Savior and also Jesus as Lord.  Like you can have one without the other.  And this is a fundamental problem in the church today.  I do not believe that you can accept Jesus as Savior and not as Lord.  You can't get a basic membership.  You have to get the premium plan.

I know of friends that claim to have the Savior package but clearly by their life and the fruit therein, that's as far as their membership goes.  I think they may have gotten sold a false bill of goods.

Jesus as Lord is heavy duty.  It requires change-- walking away from life in the flesh (ego) and towards a life of Purpose in God.

Next time you hear the two different membership levels preached, remember there's really only one.  Hope you have your card.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Movie Review-- Bringing Up Bobby

1971.  I was five or six and my family went to a coffeehouse fellowship that was a part of the Jesus Movement of the late sixties/early seventies.  What I remember is the music-- we had no "praise and worship" industry.  So three guys with guitars sat in Samsonite folding chairs in an old three story house where they had taken the walls out to create a great room.  The music was not polished.  Some of it cheesy (don't wanna be a goat, no).  But it was earnest.

As I've mentioned before, Christian movies are where Christian music was back in those early days, and Bringing Up Bobby  fits this pattern.  It's a heartfelt look at some family relationships, told in some funny and farcical ways.

James is a mid thirties guy who has raised his younger siblings since their parents died twelve years before.  The only sibling left in the house if fifteen year old Bobby who has identified with the goth side of things.  Finally, the will is read and probated and the two other siblings come back home to slog it out and attempt to get what's due them.

Bottom line, my Christian readers-- we need to support Christian films and I do recommend you buy the DVD.  Sure it has flaws, but it is entertaining and there are solid portions where the story really pulled me in.

There were also times that I was pulled back out.  Comedy is hard.  Very hard.  And there where some funny moments.  But is it a farce ala "Drake and Josh" on Nick?  At times.  Is it quirky like Napolean Dynamite?  Yeah, maybe.  My favorite part of the movie is the sub plot involving Eric, Bobby's goth friend.  My darker side would have enjoyed that as the A plot.  I also appreciate that they didn't tie it up nicely at the end.

On the Production side: The filmmakers used the HVX 200 which is a decent low budget camera.  My only qualm with picture was the "everything in focus" type of lens native to that camcorder.  I'd really would have liked to see this movie shot with primes (the HVX has a couple of third party sources for attaching lenses on the front).

The production sound was very good-- which is often not the case in micro budget films.  The music was outstanding (although I wouldn't have put a music cue over that first door scene).  Most of the acting was solid.  Directing and editing was good.  Wasn't a big fan of the writing-- there are some really good moments and then there are some that simply aren't.

So overall, I think the viewer can take something from this movie and be entertained in the process. I do recommend that you buy the DVD and support Christian filmmaking.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The B-I-B-L-E

Scriptures.  The Holy Bible.  Old Testament.  New Testament. These 66 books that make up the Christian's revered words.  It's to these pages that a Christian conforms his or her life.

Non-Christians, at best, think these are good ancient literary works-- like Homer's Iliad.  For Christians, some believe that every word is inspired by God.  Others believe that most of the scripture applies, but maybe not all of it.  Still others might think that the canonization process (the means by which these books were chosen) were faulty and run by church leaders operating out of massive egos.

This may all be accurate-- but I believe that God selected these books.  I believe that the Word became flesh and lived amongst us (John 1).  I believe that scripture needs to be taken in context and to get a solid context requires much studying.  I also believe that many Christians today just simply don't know much of the Bible.  They rely on others to tell them what to think or what to believe.

I get excited when I talk to a fellow Christian that has a differing take on things than I do.  I actually love to hash out the different points and bring it all back to the standard that we ascribe to.  But all to often, instead of naming chapter and verse, they name some contemporary writer who wrote about this or that verse.

The Bible isn't meant to be read.  It's meant to be studied.  I have no problem with people confronting my position on this or that if they actually can back it with scripture.  I had one church lady come up to me after a screening of "The Imposter" and ask me why I had ruined the movie with the language.  (I had been very careful not to).  I asked what she was referring to.  "Johnny C said 'Crap'."  Well so did you just now I thought.  What I did ask her was "please tell me the scripture and I'll redo the movie."  Her immediate response? "Well, my church wouldn't like hearing that word."  I asked her again to name a scripture.  She didn't.  (Of course I covered this story in a previous blog).

We have a new principle added to our Band of Christian Brother's covenant.  Here's the wording:
I absolutely and completely accept and affirm that the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct. And, furthermore I agree to submit to the Scriptures and change my conduct and behavior to conform to them to the best of my ability. (2 Timothy 3:15-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Peter 1:21)

I think the rare thing in today's Christian is the last part "I agree to submit to Scriptures and change my conduct and behavior..."   What???  I have to do something?  I thought it was "come as you are?"  God likes me just the way I am.

Well, that's taken out of context.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Change of Value

Although considered the "three act Nazi", Robert McKee has some really good points about writing and structure in writing.  One of the things he talks about is that Story is Conflict.  I agree.  Without conflict, you have a 90 minute PSA.  (And this is a problem for the Christian Film Nazi's-- because you're not allowed to show conflict, but that's another post).

He talks about scenes or sequences have a change in emotional value for the main characters in it.  In other words, if Jane enters the scene happy, she needs to leave sad.  Or mad.  Or ecstatic.  That moment in the scene where the change from "happy" to "sad" happens is what I call the beat of the scene.

If you main characters leave the scene with the same emotional value they entered, then the scene is exposition, and as most writers know, exposition is to be avoided at all cost.  To exposit necessary plot information, always much more preferred to do it through conflict.

For actors, when I direct, I try to point them to that beat-- that moment there's a change.  When I pick sides for auditions, I pick sides that have a beat.  I want to see that the actor can change their emotional value in an honest way.  Then on the set, we'll talk more indeth about it.  Maybe find the backstory that would drive the emotional change.

For you writers, chart your story.  Take a close look at your main scenes.  Do your lead characters change in emotional value in these scenes?  If not, you might want to adjust or even cut.  Those scenes are probably exposition and you can work in that necessary info through conflict some other way.

On my second movie, I will confess that I took this too far.  In my quest to exclude all exposition, the story was a bit confusing at times.  And the lead characters became ping pong balls hit across the table of emotional value.  So don't go all nazi on the emotional value change.  But do avoid exposition.  It's all a balancing act.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Under the Skin

I've learned that when something bothers me... when a button of mine is pushed... that it is a sure sign that my Ego (Flesh) is involved.  I shared a little about this to someone the other day.  And of course like clockwork, the next day I had a wonderful character building opportunity.

Yes, something someone did got under my skin.  Sure, I'd like to say he "pushed my buttons."  But in actuality, no one has that power.  You can't make me mad.  My wife can't make me mad.  My kids can't make me mad.  Only my "maker" can "make" me do anything and He made me with free will to choose.  So yup, I choose to be mad or angry or offended.

Next time you feel the urge to blurt out "you make me so mad!" remember that you're allotting to them a special power.  You give them power over your life.  It's not healthy.  It's dysfunctional.

When you feel that issue or that moment start to get under your skin, see it as a red flag that there's a flesh issue inside yourself.  I certainly see it in me in that situation yesterday.  It's a wonderful growth opportunity.

Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials. For the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rising Stars Oct. 22

It's official. We're getting a theatrical release-- albeit a small one. We are very grateful for the chance and hope that fans in these three cities will show up and sell it out. Screen Media, the distributor is using these three cities as a test to see if they'll roll it out bigger.

Here's the link:
For the exclusive trailer direct link:

The three cities are: Tulsa, Nashville and Grand Rapids. They wanted to do mid size markets, more conservative in demographics. It's all very calculated by a big team of people. You'd like the conference calls-- very educational. You've got the viral marketing team, the theater booking person, the radio specialist, the publicist and publicity expert.  Of course Andrew the producer, me and the people at Screen Media.

I hope if you're near or in these cities, you'll pack it out starting October 22.  We really need you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Actor Demos

We had a fun time shooting demos a week ago.  Here are some of the scenes.  Also-- several have approached me about doing them again and I might.  You need to contact me and tell me your interested.  Yes it costs $350, which is cheaper than some headshots.  But what we do is high quality, looking like it's ripped from an indie film.  You judge for yourself.  If you'd like to contact me, email

Amber Sutphin is new to dramatic film acting, but does an outstanding job. Sometimes I worry about stage actors making the transition to film. But Amber is aptly coached by Nancy Chartier in Dallas and the combo of the two is dynamic as seen here. Ron Gonzalez always takes pride in his cinematography and does a nice fireplace gag in this shot.

Here's Stephen Arruda.  He's an angry Shepherd.

And Luis Gonzalez did a wonderful death scene.  I'd like to see the rest of the movie.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dear Writers--

Yes, I know I run a film production company (Serendipitous Films).  But suddenly, I've popped up on yours and a lot of your friends radars.  I don't know why all of a sudden.  But please, I've got four or five of my own scripts I'm working on getting into production.  I'm sure yours is great, but I'm not really geared to turn towards working on yours.  Some things you have to do yourself (which is what I recommend-- you want your movie produced-- go do it yourself!  For help, Greenlight Yourself is a good source.)

So, I know you have to send out query after query, but I'm not going to have time right now to even read the email, let alone the synopsis.  Even if I did have time I generally don't read scripts (unless you're hiring me to critique) because of our litigious environment.  You know what I mean-- you send your script out to me... I happen to have an idea similar or something similar that I'm working on, and I make mine.  Then you see it and file a suit.  It's why nobody takes unsolicited scripts anymore.

And one word on critiques-- I don't really do them as a favor anymore.  Friends or acquaintances would ask, and I would give the standard-- nine out of ten people ask me but really are wanting my affirmation, not critique.  And inevitably, every single one responds with a yes, I want critique!  I had one Christian filmmaker scorch me after I gave her constructive feedback.

So now, I will gladly give you a critique, but I will charge.  The whole point is to make the work better-- it won't get any better if all I do is tell you ow great it is.

Carry forth my dear writer friend!  But save the electrons in sending me queries.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Getting Technical to Actors

Most teaching done for actors is by fellow actors.  That's why I decided to do a couple of seminars-- a director's perspective on the craft of acting.  We recently shot some demos for actors at out studios and I thought about a few technical things I teach in the seminar.  Here are some random things:
Your job is to get as close to theatrical truth as possible.  What makes this hard is the incredibly unnatural atmosphere you must work in to present this truth.
Speaking of which-- on one movie set, a decent actor would complain about this and that.  Don't complain-- the set is a foreign landscape-- it's your job to play through that to present theatrical truth.  Of course things will be tough.  Distracting.  But be a pro.
When your scene mate is getting his coverage, don't talk over his lines-- even if that's the way you did it in the master.  Need the lines clean.  The editor will overlay them so that it seems like you're talking over each other.  But in closeups, you hose your scene mate.
Fighting has to be full speed, no pulling punches.  Otherwise it will look fake.  And BTW, the person who sells a punch being real, is the one receiving it.  The receiver must not react too early or too late.
The best thing you can do is come prepared.  Go past memorization.  Because when you think you've got it memorized, as soon as the director yells action, the pressure of the unnatural landscape will drive the words out of your mind.  Instead of making interesting actor choices, your brain will be focused on simply saying the correct words.  Yuk.

Anyway, just a few random director-to-actor thoughts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rising Stars Update

A year ago, I was beginning the edit of Rising Stars.  Now, we're finally about to see it on the big screen.  Rising Stars has been picked up by Screen Media Ventures and stars Kyle Riabko, Lauren Ashley Carter, Natalie Hall, Leon Thomas III, and Graham Patrick Martin for the kids.

The adults are Fisher Stevens, who just won an Academy Award, Catherine Mary Stewart (remember Last Starfighter?), and Barry Corbin.  We also had the great pleasure of working with Christian recording artist Rebecca St. James who is successfully making the jump into feature films.

This movie is about high school arts finalists-- pitting the top three musical acts and the top three filmmakers against each other for one week of the Finals.  Each musical act is paired with a filmmaker with the quest of making a song and music video to see who will win.

We shot this in August last year at the University of Texas at Arlington.  They were a wonderful host for the shoot.  And thank goodness it wasn't as hot as it was this year.  It was hot enough.  I thought our New York actors were going to die at times.

Screen Media will be releasing the trailer for the movie soon.  The movie will open in late October in a few select cities.  Then if we do well, it will get a wider roll out.  More info on that will follow.

Needless to say, we are very excited about this movie and we hope it does well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When you do it, it hurts my family

Jeff Rodgers and I have been working hard for many years to make films.  The Imposter took a ton of blood, sweat and tears to turn it into a reality.  We have more movie ideas ready to go-- except for a problem.  You see, it's too easy to steal these days.

I provide for my family through these movies.  I'm not looking to get rich and we're still in our first small house we bought seventeen years ago.  We don't have excess.  To make the movies work, we have to have your support.  When you buy a DVD, a portion does go back to us, with which we pay our investors.  And then they'll be glad to invest more to make more movies.

The problem is pirating and incorrect use of license.  When you go to LifeWay and buy the $17 DVD and then show it at your church, it hurts us.  It's against the license and against the law.  Now an entire congregation of people won't need to go to LifeWay to buy the movie-- they've seen an unlicensed exhibition.

If you believe in the message we're telling, please support us.  Buy the DVD for home use.  License through PureFlix cinema the church exhibition version.  Please, please, please, don't steal.

I remember talking to one Christian recording artist who said he thinks 75% of his income has been taken away over the last six years because of pirating.  Fellow disciples, this is wrong and I do not believe God can bless your efforts or your ministry if you're stealing (pirating).

And if you see fellow Believers participating in this, please talk to them, nicely and in order, and ask them to not do that.  Besides the spiritual ramifications of stealing, playing this forward-- more and more talented and gifted Godly artists will have to give up their art because their livelihood was stolen.

You see, I keep hearing about this church or that ministry showing The Imposter.  Then I checked with PureFlix Cinema-- the church/ministries are not getting the exhibition license.

To make a movie requires a lot of money.  A micro budget is several hundred thousand dollars.  A micro marketing/advertising budget is almost a hundred thousand dollars.  The people who invested in The Imposter are honest, hardworking people that I want to do right by-- I want to return their investment.

Indisputably, we are called by God to walk in Integrity.  Playing home version DVD's in your church for an audience is stealing.  If you continue to do that, I pray that God deals with you like you've dealt with these artists.  If it's by Integrity, so be it.  If not, so be it.

How's this for a nice, warm and fuzzy post?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Mysterious Islands - A Review

Recently, I mentioned to a publicist that I would be interested in reviewing some Christian films.  Right afterwards, I wondered what I had done.  I mean, if I were to review my own films, I could rip some of them pretty well apart.  And a lot of movies young filmmakers send me, especially faith-based, are just downright awful.  And if the production value is severely lacking, sometimes the theology is downright destructive.

So the first movie came in the mail.  It's a documentary called The Mysterious Islands.  First, let it be known I'm not a big fan of docs.  They tend to move slower than I like.  And I've always been a fiction-kind-of-guy.

Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  I have to put a disclaimer at the end of this post because the FTC mandates, but as you know from my posts, I will shoot straight with you.  The Mysterious Islands, first of all is beautifully shot.  The filmmakers use some of the best cameras available to present a stunning portrait of the Galapagos Islands.  The sound is solid.  The faults are hard to find.

This movie is a documentary, following Darwin's journey 150 years ago, where he came up with his idea for his theory.  Years later, he published his book "On the Origin of the Species."  Coming from a distinct creationist view, the filmmakers do a solid job of presenting the evolutionist side and then shining light on the discrepancy of this "theory."

One of the problems I have with us creationists is that we try to disprove the evolutionist by arguments of faith, not science.  You can't go to an evolutionist and say the world was created in six days because the Bible says so.  He doesn't recognize the authority of your source.

What I like here, is that the filmmakers take the "scientists" of evolutionary theory to task on their own science.  Evolutionist present their theory as fact even though it's never been proven scientifically.  If we evolved, then were are the missing links?  Darwin excitedly wrote that we would find them in a hundred years.  Well, they're not there.

That's just one of the things addressed by this documentary.  I also like the exercise of playing "natural selection" out, if we said evolution was true.  What you discover is some of Darwin's famous "disciples."  Like Adolf Hitler.  The whole theory here is that some man species are less evolved than others.  There's records of people like Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger discussing how it would be unfortunate if the blacks learned how they believed.

The flaws for this film are hard to find.  It's a bit slow for me, but that's the style of documentaries.  The music is absolutely wonderful, but a bit dramatic at times and feels forced.  But that's about it.  These guys know what they're doing and they've crafted a beautiful and stunning story.  I recommend this documentary.

For trailer and more info, click here.

Oh and for you FTC types, here's the disclaimer:
“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Top Posts

Interesting to see that the most controversial posts are always the most read.  Seems that we are driven to activity by controversy.  Why else would the news even run stories like the kook pastor of fifty in Florida?  Controversy is chum in the water of us sharks.  Even just a small piece can instigate large fights.

With Blogger, you can install different modules.  I can't find one that lists the top posts-- maybe someone knows where one is.  Over time, I've taken note which of these posts are the most read and here are some links:

From Year One:
Anything with Kerry Livgren gets well read (undermining the controversial theory above).  This was when we posted his testimonial which has gotten very watched on YouTube.  Click Here.

First post on "Chicken Love" was the most read for the first half of 2009.  Click Here.

On the technical side, got a lot of feedback on this post about two camera shooting.  Click Here.

The most read from 2009 where the Confessions from the Audition Room.  Part 1 is here, but you can read the rest in June 2009. 

Cheesy Christian Movies has gotten a lot of reads.  Here's the first post about this.  The more recent one two weeks ago has gotten more hits.

From Year Two:
The post for the first six months that got the most hits is the one about phariseeism.  Called "The Two R's."

And then last post about Tolerance generated quite a bit of activity.  Bottom line on Tolerance-- if you "tolerate" sin in fellow Christians, it's because you want your own sin "tolerated."

Friday, September 10, 2010


In light of the Terry Jones stunt (not the Monty Python but the pastor in Florida), it's time, fellow Disciples, to talk about tolerance.  BTW, I don't condone Terry Jones-- Jesus doesn't need a publicity stunt.  Having said that, I just read this on a Christian recording star's website regarding the out of balance Jones:
Jesus was all about tolerance and respect of fellow human beings
 I'm sorry-- what Bible is she reading???  Sure, I can easily go to the Old Testament and point to a God who was all about intolerance when it came to sin. How He caused the ground to swallow them up.  How He brought plagues, war and famine on them.  But, you say, that's "old testament."

God didn't order Joshua to burn their books.  He only ordered Joshua to kill them all-- including the children, kittens, puppies, and the sheep and goats.  Kill them all.  Oh yeah, still old testament.  And you say that God has changed.

Okay, let's go New Testament on you.  Where was Jesus's tolerance for the rich young ruler?  Why didn't He let the dude just come along?  Why did He require clearly too much from the poor rich young ruler?

How tolerant was God on Ananias and Sapphira for simply lying?  Yeah, they dropped dead.  Where's the love?  Where's the tolerance?  Where's the respect?  Oh but Jesus "was all about respect..."  So that's why he called the gentile woman a "dog?"  He didn't respect the pharisees.  Paul talks in I Cor 5 about throwing out people from the church.  Where's the respect?  The love?  The tolerance?

There's a new religion that's been founded.  It's the Religion of Tolerance.  It's hip.  It's cool.  But it ain't God or Jesus.

So the question here, Ms. Recording Star, is why you so quickly discount the character of God?  Why espouse such inaccuracies?  Is it because you want and desire tolerance in your own life for your sins?  You don't want to be held accountable for your selfish, narcissistic choices that have left a path of destruction in your life?  I would add that it harms and damages the one's you love... but for the Narcissist, there's only one you love.   I know, because I've seen you at the Narcissists Anonymous meetings.  But you didn't stay for your pin.

You give a pass to others because really you're giving a pass to yourself?  I know I do.

Ahh, no wonder you're the new poster child for "Tolerance."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Actor Demo Reels Part 2

Director of Photography Ron Gonzalez and
Director Daniel Millican setup for an
actor demo reel shoot.
I was talking with a local talent agent.  She was saying that many of the local actors just don't have quality moments for their demo reels.  And in this age of technology, more and more casting people and directors are using demos to decide whether to audition someone.  We also discussed how hard it is sometimes to get scenes from production companies.  An actor does a movie and forever can't get a copy to put pieces into a reel.

So we talked some more and I realized what she was saying was very accurate-- as a director, I'm looking at demos.  And if in the one minute of the demo, it's mostly background/extra type scenes, it doesn't really do the actor any good-- if anything, it hurts.

This led to a discussion about providing a service to actors-- shooting short little "moments" that can be easily placed into a demo reel.  At first I thought about pulling from scripts I've already written, then I decided it'd be better to write something specific for each actor.

The next trick was figuring out how to price it.  It is extremely important that these look rich and high in production value.  I'm going to need to pay a crew.  So I figured a budget for the shoot and divided it out, coming to a figure of $350 per actor, with four actors minimum to make it work.  This is less than some headshots.  What the actor walks away with is a high def, cinematic quality quicktime for web and a higher resolution quicktime for the editor making the reel.

The response has been pretty good.  I've done two sessions and about to do a third (had several that couldn't make it to the last one).  We're shooting on Tuesday, Sept 14.  I still have room for one or two more as of the writing of this blog.  Registration/Info/Samples at .

I need to know pretty quick because I write original material for each actor and you also need to have time to prepare and memorize your lines.

Tips for Actor Demo Reels:
  • No longer than 1 minute
  • Have 4 or 5 different clips
  • Keep it mostly on you, not other actors in the scene
  • Better to show big fish/small pond, than little fish/big pond.  In other words, I would rather want to see a juicy scene from a micro budget movie than you as a featured extra in a Hollywood film.
  • Negotiate getting a copy of the movie when you sign up for the role