Monday, May 31, 2010

Pushing Drugs-- God's Way

There was a time a few years ago that anyone wanting to sell their program to the church only had to add those two words from the title "God's Way."  You could raise children, God's Way, teach Sunday School God's Way, diet God's Way and so on.  So let's talk about Substance Abuse-- God's Way.

Nice non-sequitar.  But I'll link everything in a moment.  This post continues on the subject of emotions started with the "Ministry of Hype" blog.

Let's look at a junkie.  Why does he shoot up?  To escape.  To forget.  To remember.  A substance abuser uses to self-medicate.  He has a hurt inside and he thinks this will fix it, even if for a moment.  He takes something to change his emotions-- remember, emotions are children of thoughts, and the substance abuser does not like the sober thoughts, so by taking the drug, he can change those thoughts, thereby changing the emotion.

His drug of choice can be coke, smack, heroin, meth, really hip worship service, marijuana... wait!  Did I really throw that next to last one in?  If we're talking about not liking our emotions, so we shoot up to change the emotions, why not?  Why do you think the light shows, great music, videos, big sound, dramatic pauses, vamping, visual aids are so popular?  Because it feels good!  People aren't flocking to mega-churches because they hate it.

Now wait a minute Dan!  People are at least flocking to churches.  Would you rather they all die and go to hell?  Of course not.  But if Jesus had allowed the Rich Young Ruler to come follow as he was, it would have poisoned heaven, leavening the loaf.  This is so polar opposite to the evangelical climate of the church.

But Jesus was more concerned about disciples than decisions.  If it was all about decisions, why doesn't God just kill everyone after they made the turn?

Now I work in a creative field-- making movies.  And what we do is impact people's thoughts and emotions.  But the movies are simply a tool-- a story to make a point.  Like Jesus's stories.  I do believe in excellence of craft, and I'm not saying if your church is using the cool, hip light shows and music it's wrong... I'm saying being a disciple is SO MUCH MORE than that.

Worship is a day by day, hour by hour endeavor.  Music is only a very small part of that.  I love music, it has taken me a long time to come to that conclusion.  As a worship leader, I have felt that our part of the service was really the most important.  I know I'm the only one (ha!).  There is only one time recorded in scripture where Jesus and the disciples sang a song.

But music can hit those emotions.  The right song can remind me of thoughts that pour out emotions.  And it's like a drug.  And that's okay... God created music and emotions. And great music is an awesome tool.

But if this is the center of your walk with Jesus, I feel sad for you.  Because you might be someone who is just using the emotions as another quick fix to make the pain go away, without doing any real and lasting change.

As we said in "The Imposter," sometimes God's more interested in you going through a process than zapping you with spiritual morphine.

Get clean and become His disciple.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Original WB

We're taught in school and in this society that this country was founded on the principles of religious freedom-- that the forefathers came to this country to escape religious persecution.  I hear this in the secular and the Christian world.  But it's inaccurate.  So for this Memorial Day, let's remember back and uncover truth.

We have the journals and writings of our forefathers-- the Pilgrims.  Back in the early 17th century, King James I was not a fan of the Christian sect of Puritism.  Called "Separatist," the leaders were arrested in 1609.  Many of the congregation fled to Amsterdam, and one was a young William Bradford (19 years old).

So yes, the "pilgrims" left England to avoid religious persecution-- but when they went to Amsterdam and eventually settled in Leiden, they found the freedom they were looking for.  So if you want to talk about them coming to the new world for religious freedom, it's not that accurate.

Some say that the tide was turning in the Netherlands in 1620-- that because of new alliances with England, they started putting pressure on the Separatists to curry favor with James.  But there's no evidence of this.  What there is are letters and journals where these Separatists were concerned about the Dutch "worldy way" influence on their children.

Regardless, Separatist leader John Robinson supported the emerging idea of starting a colony in the new world.  Bradford was a big early proponent.  So to leave behind the European politics and pressures, these Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower in 1620, working out a deal with some merchants for provisions now and later.  These Pilgrims took a long time, but did in fact pay off these merchants so they could keep the land they colonized free and clear.

While in sight of the new world, after the rough trans-Atlantic voyage of this ship, the men on the ship decided to come together on a set of rules and law which was the Mayflower Compact (which was not a Mary Kay product contrary to current thought).

At first, they farmed, worked and toiled to combine efforts to pay back that debt.  But that didn't work (socialism was a failed experiment in those early years).  What they found was that if a man didn't work, then he shouldn't eat. (Hmm, sounds Biblical).

They practiced there religion and raised the children away from the influences that they wanted to avoid.  So it was more than just to escape religious persecution that brought them to this land.  Just thought you should know.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I was doing a documentary for a NYC company in textiles, that wanted a look at the cotton industry.  What was interesting was that the advances they've made in farming have been phenomenal-- what one person can do today, took ten people twenty or thirty years ago.  It used to be that one bale of cotton per acre was a good solid yield.  Now they're getting three and sometimes four bales per acre.  This is due to technology.

Makes me think about the parallels in the film industry.  For eighty or ninety years, the camera used to create most movies remained mechanical unchanged.  But now, technology has enabled the filmmaker to do a lot more with a lot less.  I think about my own feature film career.

Ten years ago this September, I was shooting "The Keyman" starring Adam Baldwin.  We shot 35mm film and I edited it on an Avid... and that's a bit misleading because it was an offline.  The film was sent to a lab in LA and transferred to BetacamSP tapes.  I was given a 3.5" floppy disk with the files so that I didn't have to build any clips-- I just put it all in and did a batch capture, at a terrible resolution (maybe 4 to 1 or even the really bad 10 to 1 back then?).  I cut the movie over several months then generated a Cut List for the negative cutter in Burbank.  She went to work cutting the negative to assemble the picture.

One thing that caught me by surprise-- when we went to color that original negative, there was a scene with a big scratch down the middle that we never saw on the BetacamSP.  The Colorist argued that's why people still watch dailies on the big screen.

Then for my second feature, "A Promise Kept" shot at the end of 02 and beginning of 03, things were still the same.  I cut the movie on the same Avid Media Composer, using the same negative cutter.

But by 2005 and Striking Range, things were finally starting to change in Hollywood.  For instance, the previous movies, I still had to give the ADR company a 3/4" tape of the reels for doing looping.  By now, they would let me send quicktimes.  Also, instead of BetacamSP, I had them send me the footage on DVCam for offlining.  I had a new Avid Express Pro and a DSR10 deck.  Also, instead of dailies on VHS, this was the first time to get them on DVD.  2005.  H'Wood was pretty late.

Now, with my fourth and fifth movie done on HD, we could skip some costly steps.  Now I could "online" the movie.  And I moved from the buggy Avid on a PC to Final Cut Pro on a Mac.  (That Avid Express Pro is sitting in a storeroom at my office and hasn't been turned on for two years).  No negative cutter.  The last film, Rising Stars, shot on the Red at 4K, was totally onlined at our facility.

But H'Wood still wants tape deliver (HDCamSR or other expensive tape formats) so that they can take the tape and digitize it into the computer.  I'm trying to talk them into taking the already digitized files so we don't have to go through the cost and trouble of going out to tape and back in to computer, but we'll see.

BTW, I still have a few seats for the Edit Workshop this coming Thursday Night.  Go to for info and registration.  Only $39 and I provide the dinner!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Ministry of Hype

Here's another controversial topic.  In the nineties, while working for a corporate/commercial video production company, I ran the show for the big sales convention for a client.  The president, in one meeting months before, told me I was "in charge of hype."

What this meant was that I worked with the set designer to get the stage all ready, hired the lighting company to have some really cool, hot, moving lights, smoke, loud music, videos.  When properly arranged for the three day convention, I could get the sales people to yell, cry, get chill bumps, and then come back to do it all again the next night.  I was very good at it.

So do I take this skill to the church?  A few years later, I was actually wrestling with that idea-- I mean, why not, I'm good at it?  Then I visited a mega church and saw them do it.  Exactly what I could do.  And something troubled me inside.  On one hand, I could say God created light and sound and all those things.  But on the other hand, it smelled like manipulation of emotions.

What exactly does that mean?  Well first lets define "manipulation."  I describe it as the coercing someone to do something they hadn't intended on doing.  In some regards, the people coming to the church want the show-- they want to be emotional lifted up, then down, then up.  It's an emotional ride-- church as an amusement park.  I just don't think that's what God intended and certainly not what Jesus intended for His bride.

Then I think about the opposite-- so are we to kill all emotion?  Be the "Spock" church?  No, that's not right either.  So I do think it boils down to intent.  In other words, let's say I'm a pastor.  And I want numbers.  I want to be successful and build a huge church... a mega church.  I want to be the man.  The rock star of the steeple.  In that case, there's a lot of things I can do to manipulate emotions, especially for the sheeple (or is it "sheople?) who come wanting it.

Now sure, I don't' come right out and say all this.  No, I make it sound noble with things like "I have compassion for the lost," or "I'm reaching this generation."  Man, I'm spiritual.  So hopefully you're getting the sarcasm.  Does this mean thou shalt have no light-show with morning worship?  You know, if it's for truly His purpose.  But if it's to build my kingdom, clearly no.

Emotions, I'm told by my mentor, are "children of thoughts."  I'm still chewing on that.  Like children, emotions need boundaries and protection.  And there are weak minded sheeple out there and understanding the right Jedi mind tricks, I could manipulate a few of them pretty easily.  And if I can, then I know a lot others not only can, but do.

The opening music video of "The Imposter" called "Believe (is an Act)" is all about this.  Also, everyone's been sharing the link to the Sunday Morning spoof video which is awesome.  I just wonder about all of us who laugh at that video and then participate in what that is spoofing.  Kind of sad.  Pathetic really.

For those who think I'm off base, I encourage you to read John chapter 6.  Jesus did not have a disciple in charge of hype or publicity.  If He had, that disciple would have quit right then.  There was so much more that Jesus could have done to manipulate the crowd.  To bring in the numbers.  I mean, that's the point right? 

If Jesus was so concerned with numbers, why did He choose that moment to preach his most controversial sermon?  He had them ready to make Him king!  Bad move Jesus.

As I studied God's Number Philosophy throughout scripture, I found it's really more of an anti-number philosophy.  Or if you have to have a number, they're small.  Like One.  The shepherd who left the larger number (99) to find the One.  Or Three-- His inner circle.  Or twelve-- the number Jesus, the Son of God felt was appropriate for His purpose.  (Why does a mega church need 40 pastors on staff??  Just who is the senior pastor discipling?)

To the pastor dedicated to success by numbers, I remind that Jesus called us not to reach one million for Christ.  But to go and *make* disciples.  He took on twelve and He was God.

I'm just saying.  I'll quit now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Editor's Prime Directive

While watching that Christian movie two weeks ago (I mentioned it in this blog about sound), one of the big problems early on was with the editing.  So let's examine what the purpose of editing is and how this art is best achieved.

First, the purpose of editing is to movie the story along.  In anything distracts from telling the story, it needs to go.  In fact, the edits should enhance the story telling.  If fancy editing draws attention to itself, pulling the viewer out of the story, then the editor has failed, though it might look cool.  This is the prime directive of editing and any rules established must first go through this filter-- does it move the story along.

So what are some distracting editing?  Well, you have the ADD/ADHD editor.  This is the amateur, or professional in the commercial world, who gets nervous after lingering on a shot longer than two or three seconds.  Cut to this, cut to that.  You need to take a Dramamine to get through it.  To this person I say, it's okay to stay.

Closely related, and a problem in the aforementioned Christian film, is the nazi editor.  This is the person who strictly adheres to a rule, forsaking perhaps the prime directive, but by golly, this one rule was never broken!  The rule in the Christian movie is this: If a person has a line, we must see them on camera deliver the line.  What results is a bit unnatural.  You're with some friends, having a chat.  Do you automatically turn your gaze at the moment someone starts talking?  No.  You might linger on the person who just finished saying something.  You might glance over at a different friend for the reaction of what was just said.  You might look out the window.

Then there's the martini-shaker-editor.  This is the person who throws all the setups into the shaker and spills out on screen whatever happens to come out next.  Begin with a close up?  Why not.  Pop to a wide shot in the middle of a small intimate monologue?  Sure.  The *general* rule (don't be a nazi) is to establish then move in closer as the scene progresses.  Where's the "beat" of the scene?  This is where the character's emotional value changes.  Come in closer here, maybe.  Some might say they're looking for the artistic way to cut a scene.  But I say you need to know structure to be able to do anti-structure.  As I told my UTA students this past semester, I don't mind you breaking the rules if it's a choice and not an accident.  This requires at least a knowledge of the rules.

If you want to be an editor, study the great films. Watch them over and over.  Listen to the commentaries of the filmmakers.  You need to develop a sense of what feels right in storytelling, then you can trust yourself more in the edit room.

More about this at the Evening Edit Workshop on Thursday June 3 in Fort Worth.  Only $39 and dinner will be provided.  6:30 pm.  Register at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Insecurity Police

Insecurity.  Feelings of Inferiority.  My mentor has stated that in all his years of counseling, most of the problems come down to these two roots.

In the film business, we see this a lot, and it's manifested in opposite ways-- the two sides of the same coin.  For instance, an insecure actor can second guess every move she makes, become a nervous wreck, unable to perform her part.  Or an actor can be so insecure that he puts down everyone around him in false bravado, compensating for his feeling of inferiority.

A director can be insecure and try to control every minutia of production, never trusting the department heads he's brought on.  A producer can wear as much arm candy as he can find and prance around the set, showing everyone how important he is.

And of course, the set is not an exclusive place for this human disease.  Marriages.  Parenting.  School.  All relationships carry this cancer.  Some are more along in the damage of the pathogen.  A husband clinging to a spouse, gripping tight because he fears she'll leave him.  A wife manipulating her children to make herself feel better because she feels valueless inside.  Children acting out in the classroom because negative attention will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of the monster they believe they are.

The opposite of Insecurity is Identity... or more precisely, understanding the truth about exactly who you are.  I believe there's two of me-- there's the spirit man that Paul writes about, especially in Romans (specifically chapter 8)... and there's the flesh, or the ego, that is a result of our sin nature.  You see, this is where the liberals and the humanist make a huge mistake-- they believe that inside, man is basically good and noble.  It's clear to me that if left to one's own nature, they'd be like lions looking to feed themselves from whatever they can take.

Sorry Gene Roddenberry-- you're whole futuristic look on mankind was predicated on the basic goodness of the human nature.  His characters, Captain Kirk and Mister Spock travel the galaxy to find out that humanity is basically good inside.

But what Mr. Roddenberry didn't quite understand is that you are evil... AND the inner you, was hand crafted by God Himself and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps. 139).  And as Paul writes in Romans 8, you who are of the flesh walk by the flesh and you who are of the spirit, by the spirit.  Of course, maybe Roddenberry did get it on that one episode, where the "evil Kirk" is separated from the "good Kirk" in a transporter accident.

It's a daily battle, but as I wage it, I start to understand more how special God made me (just like everyone else around me), and how evil I am and how that has to die daily.  It will be a war until the day I actually die.  Paul writes in Romans 7:19 that he practices the evil he doesn't want to do."  Practice.  As in present tense.  The writer of a lot of the new testament is confessing he practices evil.  It took me awhile to digest that.  I never wanted to call my ego "evil."  Oh c'mon, it's not that bad!"

Yes it is.  And it must die.  Again.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Edit Room

I think one of the most powerful educational experiences for writers, directors, actors and producers is to actually sit in the edit room and see what works and what doesn't.

For writers-- they can see that transition scenes they thought were so critical to add to the screenplay didn't really make a difference.  The writer can see why it's important to enter a scene at the last possible moment and leave it as quick as you can.

For the directors-- they can learn the 80/20 rule and why it's so imperative to not spend so much time on scenes that aren't as critical and spend more time on the ones that are.

For actors-- oh there's so much here that can help the actor.  From realizing why continuity makes a big difference (and how a "better" performance might be left on the cutting room floor because of continuity gaffs), to having a better understanding of the subtlety of film performance.

And producers-- all the money that can be saved by shooting just what you need and not all that other stuff.

I'm going to host an Evening Editing Workshop on Thursday June 3 at 6:30 in Fort Worth.  I'll provide the pizza.  Space is very limited and we'll be doing some scene editing.  Register at .  Only $39.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Prospectors with Headshots

Hello my actor friends--

You've got your headshot and resume, demo clip on the web, maybe represented, so you contact me, a film director in the hopes of being cast.  Maybe you facebook me, or find my email out there somewhere.  Then you send the nice email submitting your headshot/resume.

Though I'm never one to say anything's a waste of time, there's a couple of things I feel you should know.  A director between projects probably doesn't have a good system for storing resumes.  I know I don't.  And I get a ton of headshots emailed to me.

So what's your best strategy?  Send them to Casting Directors.  Find out who the CD is for the director you're targeting.  The CD usually has a system for storing and filing headshots and resumes, grouping by type and all that.

But you say you want to stand out.  Well, honestly, sending out headshots between projects, there's not a lot you can do to stand out.  Timing's everything.  Join any groups or website that the director has and watch for when he or she announces a new project with auditions in the works.

The long/short of it is that regardless of whether you made a mark, and you stand out like a beaming flag, if you're not the "look" for the part/character, it probably doesn't matter.  That's the first level of selecting roles in movies.  If it calls for a 17 year old black male, and you're a 35 year old white woman, it's probably a waste to go for that one.  Yes, casting is one of the last bastions for prejudice.  There are the rare cases where the casting people will take the most highly talented and build characters around them (tv's LOST), but most of the time, the story has already been written and pretty much locked.

I think it's fine to reach out and say hi every now and then to a director via facebook or email.  But beware of sending out too much.  I had one actress sending me weekly updates and then sending an email asking why in the world I haven't cast her yet.  She was real pushy.  I added her email to the blocked list.

Anyway, I do wish all you actors the best.  It's a tough, tough road.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Two R's

Good thing Pharisees only existed in Biblical times.  And that they are Jewish teachers of the Law.  So stands to reason, there cannot be any pharisees in the Christian church.  Because they don't wear robes and have long gray beards.  Haven't seen any of those in the pews.

Now what I have seen are some people more focused on rules than relationship.  In other words, it's more important to not drop the "s bomb" than to actually have a relationship with God.  This person is on a crusade to make sure the world is free from what they consider to be a foul mouth.  Too bad they're so busy on their quest, they don't take much time to talk with the Master, or study the words He left behind.

I wrote and filmed a movie called "The Imposter."  We had a wonderful screening for a radio station at a theater.  It was sold out.  Afterwards we shook hands and talked to people.  One lady, husband and kids in tow came up to me.  She shook my hands and told me what a great movie it was.  Then she stamered... "but why did you have to ruin it with language?"  I chuckled and asked what do you mean?  "The character, the rock singer... he said... ummm.. he said 'sucks.'"

Johnny C says, while singing on a new album in the movie "These lyrics... they suck."

So I smiled and looked her in the eye and said, "if you show me in scripture where it's wrong, I'll gladly pull it out."  I really anticipated her bring out "Whatever things pure..." or Ephesians about foul mouth... I was ready to debate what those passages meant.  I thought as a long shot, easily defended, would be the commandment "Thou shall not take the Lord's name in vain."  I have a whole sermonette ready to go on that one.

But her reply was to stammer and say that her, ummm, her church... they wouldn't like it.  I replied, "I'm okay with that."  Which was not what she was looking for.  Then I asked again, "just tell me the scipture."  But this pharisee didn't even know her Bible enough to pull out the two verses mentioned above or even any verse.  She just knew the other pharisees back at the barn would not approve of such a foul word.

Rules without Relationship.

So then I got the email one day from someone *extremely* short and mean.  He wrote:

Throughout all the preparation for, writing of, and producing of this film, why has no one bothered to look up the word "impostor" for its correct spelling? Please, please, please do better than this for Christ's Kingdom!"

Here's God's Nazi Grammar Police (the GNGP) ready for action!  People are playing games with their faith and heading to hell, but oh no!  The title was misspelled!  Forget the awful masks that church attendees are wearing that leads to bondage and burdens.  We've got to do better spelling for Christ's Kingdom!

For the record, both spelling variants are accepted according to Oxford.  The "or" is more common, but the "er" is acceptable.  But c'mon, even if it wasn't...

Also for the record, for all those I've just offended,  the word "piss" is used in the King James (more accurate "pisseth").

Another story... when about to go shoot a movie, on Sunday morning, across the fellowship hall, I told the associate pastor I'd be gone for awhile, shooting.  He called back, "don't forget to make it PG-13 or under!"  I replied, "what would you rate the Bible?"  He thought for a second and replied accurately. "NC-17." I smiled and nodded at him.

Now I've had discussions about this whole issue with other filmmakers.  The word "hypocrite" usually comes up.  But I don't think hypocrite and pharisee are necessarily synonymous.  I know of a few pharisees who follow what they teach.  But hypocrisy doesn't matter.  A pharisee is still a pharisee, whether they're hypocritical about their rules or not.

People who cling to rules, forgetting the principles behind them, with a Nazi-ish dedication, are compensating for some fairly large shortcomings in their own life.  The guy above, the badge carrying member of the GNGP, has some seriously misguided priorities.  If he had a strong relationship with God (one where it's not just token one way prayers), he'd have heard from Him, and I don't think it would be a calling to misguidedly correct grammar everywhere.  If ever a classic example of "Strain a gnat..."

Rules without Relationship.

I wonder how many people will stop following this blog now?

Friday, May 14, 2010


David Acuff started this website a little while back and it's a great place to get Christian Filmmaking news.  In addition, he's got some good articles and what I really like, is that he's not afraid to call it what it is.

Truth is truth and as disciples of Jesus, synonymous with Truth (He said "I am the way, the TRUTH), we need to not be afraid of Truth.  What happens is that it's not very "christian" to come out and be "negative."  But what did Jesus-The-Truth say to some people?  He called a gentile woman nothing more than a "dog."  Right after praising Peter, he rebuked him *harshly.*  (Insert sound affect of sucking wind). 

So I like David's courage, most recently shown in his editorial entitled "Jesus vs. Jesus and Smoking Hopium."
  You can read the article here.  Carry on David!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I'm preparing for the Director's Workshop on Saturday.  Doing a lot of research, looking at a lot of raw footage from my own sets, and talking to some friends who crew a lot in the industry and have worked with a bunch of different directors.

So what are the horror stories from the director's chair?  Looks like the number one cause of poor-directoritus is a large infection of Insecurity.  And yes, this disease affects every job position, so the director is not alone in this by any means.  But here's how insecurity can manifest itself on the set. 

There's the Inept/Insecure Director who doesn't know enough to even be dangerous.  There's the Doctor Complex/Insecure Director.  This is the one who thinks he's God on the set.  And you may ask how that is insecure-- it sounds like the opposite.  Usually, the Doc Complex is a compensation.  In other words, I feel so bad about myself, I'm going to make myself feel better by convincing me and everyone else I'm God.  Or Gifted.  Or extremely talented.  These all stem from a root of insecurity.

So what's the treatment for this malady?  Well, you can study and research.  Don't be inept or unknowledgeable.  Train and teach yourself to direct.  More importantly is to have a healthy, accurate, view of your own identity.  Identity is the opposite of Insecurity.  Yes you have weak areas.  Work on those.  Trust those people you bring on in those areas.

Another problem on the set is communication problems.  The director cannot properly communicate her vision to the cast and crew.  This happens a lot.  What can really exacerbate the problem is when she doesn't really have a strong vision for the story herself.

So the key to the director's chair is to Prepare.  Prepare.  Prepare.  Especially if you're new to the helm.  You cannnot over prepare.  Storyboards, shot lists, overheads.  Whatever it takes and more.  Know the story.  Pre-visualize the shots.

We still have a few openings for Saturday in Fort Worth.  Info at .

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Thoughts on Jesus - The Opinions Herein Are My Own

I think Jesus has a great sense of humor and laughed with the disciples.
That He had rough skin from being outside all the time.
That He slept very little.
I believe that He never held a cuddly lamb over His shoulders.
I don't think He got offended easily.  That His feelings weren't "hurt."  He looked beyond that.
That He wasn't afraid to hurl an insult for a purpose. (He called a gentile woman a "dog.")
He had very poor publicity strategies.  He didn't know that when they rush to make you King, you don't choose that moment to preach hardest message.
He wasn't the hip/cool one.
I don't think He sported any tats.  Not that it's wrong, it's just not important to Him.
I don't believe He posed, gazing slightly up and to the right, while looking oddly feminine. 
I think He was unpredictable.
He didn't fly in a jet provided by the money from His followers.
Jesus didn't pick the "most likely to succeed" as His cabinet.
He didn't care what the religious people thought of Him.
He didn't find His value in the number of disciples He had.
He didn't find His value in other people.
Jesus prayed a lot.  Usually alone and away from the guys.
He didn't have a light show.
Music wasn't the center piece of His ministry.
I don't think He would Facebook.  (His disciples maybe, but He wouldn't use time for that-- He wants real Face to Face time).
Jesus was Jewish.
He didn't have a graphic tee under his robe.
Politics wasn't His thing.
It wasn't all about the coolest designer glasses.  One touch from Him anyway...
I believe He was tired a lot, but walked through it.

Just some random thoughts.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Slow Train A-Comin'

It's interesting to hear people quote scripture.  They've taken their own interpretation and the words out of their mouth become more and more their words.  For instance, a couple of years ago, from the pulpit, I heard the itenerating missionary quote the passage referred to as the Great Commission (Matt 28).  It was "Go into all the world and save souls!"  (It's not, it's "make disciples.")

So we come to the verse found in Proverbs 22:6.  "Teach a child and when he grows up, he will not depart from it."  So all you parents that taught your child and now they're running amok, the scripture is disproven, right?  Well, let's actually not paraphrase and look and see what the verse actually reads:
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. 
Training is a whole lot more than teaching.  Training encompasses some teaching, but other stuff.  Teaching's easy.  Teaching means I can just throw out some zingers and my parental responsibilities are all fulfilled.  That training stuff is for school, and church.  I mean, that's what Sunday Schools for, right?

I realized when my son was six years old, that I had done a little teaching but had done no training.  I appreciate the Royal Ranger program because it helped guide me on how to train my own son.  But you don't have to have that.  What we decided to do was that my son had to come find me and ask me to work with him every day.  If he didn't, then no media the following day.  Now, I could say no when he came and asked and that wouldn't mean no media.  But it was "training" him to take initiative... to take ownership.

My relationship with my son dramatically changed for the better.  And I mean dramatically.  But not overnight.  Not because I taught him the first aid merit and then dropped him off at church.  Training is a slow, long, deliberate process.  And the fruit is amazing.

I encourage you parents out there, don't just "teach," but train.  It might require you set an example.  It might require that you do some hard work and some heavy lifting.  But the fruit is out of this world.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Marathon Man

Here is a very common problem to indie films-- the filmmakers enter the process on a sprint, not realizing exactly how long the race is.  And I'm not necessarily talking about a 400 meter racer finding out it's a marathon.  I'm talking about the 5K or 10K person finding out it's a marathon.

When a filmmaker starts the process, it's exciting.  The all nighters and lack of sleep are nothing for the energy that flows through the body at this point.  The shooting is gruelling, but for the indie filmmaker, he (or she) could be no where else.

Then the picture wraps.  It's a HUGE downer as everyone, all those people who had come on board to help you build your vision of a story simply disappear and go on to help someone else.  Now you're left pretty alone except for the editor or post supervisor.

And usually, this is the point the money runs out because you went over budget on the shoot and used your post money to get through production.  But now, things slow down.  You finally get a first edit.  And at least twenty minutes have to come out.   It's hard.  You're tired.  But finally, after all these months, you make it-- you "lock" the edit.  But wait--

It ain't over.  You still have a long way to go.  Sound design, complete with M&E ("oh let's just skip it and use the temp track"), music ("what about using buy out canned stuff?"), coloring ("what's that?") will take several months.  And you thought you were done.

You're out of gas, short of the finish line.  The human tendency is to settle for mediocrity-- and many of you will.  But let's say you make it, finally-- you have sound, music, picture all come together for your final movie.  A screener.  But wait--

Still not there yet.  Now you've got to entice distributors to make you an offer.  And then it comes, you get that offer.  Wow!  Now you're done, right?  But wait--

With the offer comes a long, very long list of "deliverables."  You have to go back and get an actor contract that was missed.  You find out you didn't have clearance for a painting predominately displayed in the movie and now you either need permission, or you need to cut-- which at this stage would be expensive and time consuming.

So when does the marathon end?  Some would say when you finish delivery and all your elements finally pass quality check and the distributor says you're good.  Me, I say it ends when the investors make their money back and then some.  And unfortunately, some marathons have not ended yet.

So get ready, train hard because the race is longer than you think.

(For the "Greenlight Yourself" DVD training course and starter kit, go to to get the pre-order discount.  Program will be released later this month.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sounding Out on Christian Movies

I've written about it in the past, and I'm sure it will keep coming up.  I'm not here to write about how awesome the faith-based films are... we all know the reputation-- bad writing, bad acting, bad lighting... and so on.

Looking forward, these things will improve.  A year ago there were less than half a dozen contemporary movies on the shelves at the Christian bookstores.  Today, there are dozens.  And that number will increase.  And as it does, the better movies will rise to the top and the quality will improve.

Regardless, I'm watching a Christian film.  The Director of Photography is pretty good (except for color balance, which could be a post issue).  But as beautiful the pictures are, the sound is atrocious.  The director picked some extremely noisy locations and looks like he didn't do any ADR  (for those that don't know, that's where the actor's recreate their lines in a sound booth in post production and also called "looping").  Most movies have some ADR-- it's difficult to get away from it.

When I decided to shoot Rising Stars around a water fountain, I understood that I would be looping the dialogue.  It can be very difficult to do, especially for heavy dramatic stuff.  And the more experienced the actor, the better (more convincing) the ADR. 

This movie has pretty good location sound.  In quiet locations, it's clear they've done a good job mic'ing the actors.  The best mic for location recording (most natural) is a boom mic.  Secondly, a lav or clothes mic is used.  This is usually hidden inside the shirt or jacket.  Third, a plant mic might be used.  This is where a mic is hidden in the set near the actors-- sometimes in an actual plant.  The mark of total amateur filmmaking is to simply use the mic on the camera.  Big no-no.

So what do you do if you shoot in a noisy location?  Know that the dialogue you record is "guide track" dialogue.  Later, after you've locked the edit, you'll bring the actors back to record lines that need it.  In Sound Design, the dialogue will be carved out and put onto it's own tracks.  Everything else will be on the effects tracks.  This includes footsteps, glass clinking, or key rattling-- basically, *anything* not dialogue.

Room tone will then be laid down consistently over the scene.  Listening to the Christian movie right now, you can hear the room tone change on every edit... a sign that dialogue hasn't been cleaned up and separated.

So hire an experienced Sound Designer.  It can make all the difference.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The 6 Phases of Filmmaking

Years ago, after the first or second movie, as I'd get invited to speak about the process, I boiled down making a movie to six parts:
1. The Idea
2. Development
3. Pre-Production
4. Production
5. Post Production
6. Distribution

I quickly learned that most filmmakers, if they study at all, study predominately phase 4, Production.  That's where the fun is.  Camera angles, actors, blocking, shooting.  But the area that trips most people up are numbers two and six.  And filmmakers know the least about these areas.

Development includes fundraising.  And as I get ready to do it yet again for the next films, I am constantly reminded how hard it can be.  I teach about setting up the entity, how to become a salesperson, how to close the deal.  And in the "Greenlight Yourself" seminar, we probably spend the most time right here.  On the DVD, I just finished the rough edit for Development.  (Pre order click here).

Distribution is the other area that most filmmakers are foggy on.  And if they chose to remain clueless, when they get to this point, they might find it's too late.  For instance, the importance of still photography is often overlooked.  The distributors *have* to have good stills for marketing and advertising.  And the list for deliverables can be over 20 pages of items.  You might be surprised by everything on that list.

Five years ago I thought about making a DVD to go through all this and finally I'm doing that.  Click that link above to get our pre-sale special discount.  I'll be ready to ship them in about three weeks.