Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Month of June

Last day of June.  The most popular blog entry this month was "Telling Stories."  Jesus, my Master, was also the master storyteller.  He used stories to illustrate points.

Some people make movies to entertain.  I think just about every movie contains a message-- something the filmmaker is communicating tot he audience.  It might be that the main point is to entertain, but many film storytellers are primarily sending a message that also happens to be entertainment.

Yes, movies are entertainment and part of the entertainment industry.  But the are stories.  Some in Hollywood say there are no messages, but clearly that point of view is inaccurate.  Aaron Sorkin has something to say in every television drama he writes.  Even the flippant Larry David and Seinfeld had a message, though they took pride in it being a show about nothing.  That in itself is saying something.  And they said a lot more-- like homosexuality is okay ('not that there's anything wrong with it.")

So, my filmmaking friends, don't' deceive yourselves into thinking that you really aren't pushing an agenda or sending a message, because you are.  It's the essence of story-- you are communicate something.

It's not just entertainment.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Victim Drama

I've been a victim.  You've been a victim.  I've victimized, as well as you.  Everyone in the world is a victim at some point.  Except for one person in history.  You couldn't make Him a victim.  They tried.  Pilate said he had the power.  Jesus responded that he didn't because He willingly laid down His life.  Of all the people, Jesus could have worn the victim merit badge.  He earned it.

But oddly He didn't.  Jesus was never a victim.    Even when He was victimized.  It looks like being a "victim" is a choice.  And it's a choice of the flesh.

Now before a few haul off and slug me, let me clarify-- I'm not talking about the innocent child, the utterly helpless.  I'm talking about you reading this now.  You have been victimized somehow, someway.  But whether you choose to be a victim is up to you.

"Victim" becomes an identity-- a mask you wear to make yourself feel better.  Or to manipulate those around you.  Or to get your way.  Or to get back.  Often times, the victim becomes the victimizer.  This whole "victim" thing is not from God.  It's not His Purpose for your life.  Or mine.

I've found an area recently in which I've been extremely vindictive.  When I reconcile my behavior to God, this is an area lacking.  I need to conform my mind to the things above.  Playing the victim and victimizing is now part of that.

If you're caught up in this horrible circular drama of victim/victimizer, you can make it stop.  Remember Jesus said you can't take my life because I willing give it.  Forgive.  Live for the Purpose He created you for.  And when you catch yourself falling back into the victim rut, pull yourself mentally out.  Take captive those thoughts.

I'm going to stop being the victim.  Hope you stop too.

Rising Stars

I'm excited about "Rising Stars."  We shot the movie last August and finished earlier this year.  Doberman Entertainment is nearly done with the deal for distribution and it will be exciting.  (I'll announce when they tell me I can the specifics).

We shot this movie here in the DFW area, mostly at the University of Texas at Arlington.  What's really fun about this film is the cast-- these guys across the board were awesome.  We have Kyle Riabko, who's playing on Broadway right now.  Lauren Ashley Carter-- one of the best young actor's I've ever worked with.  We've got Fisher Stevens, who just won the Academy Award (producing a documentary).  Barry Corbin... the lovely Catherine Mary Stewart... And Rebecca St. James.  Rebecca is really doing well moving from grammy award winning Christian singer to film actor.  There's Leon Thomas III who's landed a sweet role on television.  As well as Natalie Hall who's done the same.

The movie is about high schoolers caught up in a national talent search, squaring off against each other in the Finals, to see who will get the fame and fortune contract.  The two categories are Musical Acts, and Filmmakers.  Three musical acts pair up with three filmmakers for one week of collaboration and competition.  The movie is that week.

The film is targeted as a family film for the secular audience and I think there's something in there for everyone.  Premieres and dates will be forthcoming shortly.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


For low budget indie filmmakers, the key to making a good movie is *resourcefulness.*  This begins with the Idea and continues with the Script.

What I mean is this: if you know Hollywood's not going to swoop down and wave their magic fairy wand over your project, blessing it with 20 million golden bucks 'o pixie dust, then you need to have an idea that can make the most of what resources you have.

One of the keys is available locations.  If you're best friends with the director of the county hospital and he's willing to give you a floor for three weeks, then a medical movie makes a lot of sense.  You can get lots of production value out of that.

Maybe it's a run down municipal airport.  Or a large warehouse.  Or a golf course.  Look around you and figure out what you have.  For those writing the political thriller taking place all over the White House, it's going to be difficult to pull that off on a small budget.  Building sets is expensive.  Try to stay away from that.  Also, limiting the locations is a great idea.  Ideally, try to have your story in a place that gives you multiple looks without having to move the company.

On my last film "Rising Stars," I accomplished this by setting the location on a college campus.  Only one day out of the whole shoot was somewhere else.

Other areas of resourcefulness is equipment.  If you can get a great deal on cranes, jobs, and dollies, it can make a huge difference.  Same thing for HMI lighting, high quality mics, and high quality cameras.

These are just a few ideas to help you maximize production value on your film project.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Revisiting Chicken Love

A long time ago I wrote about Chicken Love.  But at the time, I think three people were reading this blog.  So I want to discuss this principle again because it's the foundation of a lot that we discuss here.

Chicken Love.  A mom says to her child that she loves him.  Now, she doesn't discipline the child and he's a hellion.  She let's him have a bunch of sweets and sugar drinks.  He rules the roost, but no problem-- she "loves" him.  Now he grows and gets into drugs, smoking dope in his room, hanging with the wrong crowd... but it's okay because she "loves" him... even "loves" him too much.

Clearly, I'm not believing that she "loves" him.  To understand Chicken Love, let's define real Love: Seeking the others highest good and purpose in God.  Is she doing this?  No.  So when she says she "loves" him, what's she really saying?

I love chicken.  Grilled, baked or fried, chicken is delicious-- I love it.  Am I seeking chicken's highest good?  No way.  When I say I love chicken, what I'm really saying is I love the way it tastes-- the WAY IT MAKES ME FEEL.

Let's takes another example.  19 year old boy "loves" his 18 year old girlfriend.  He convinces her to go all the way, saying "I love you baby" in the process.  Chicken Love.  He'll devour and then want more to feed his selfish body.  Is this any different from the long suffering mother?  No.  If she truly loved her son, she'd kick him out and quit rescuing him-- hoping that he'll come around because she's not protecting him from natural consequences.

I think real love is rare in this consumer driven society.  I know that I all too often practice Chicken Love instead of Real Love.  Chicken Love is the love of the Narcissist, and it has to die.  Daily.

I'll say it again, because if it becomes a mantra for you, that's not all bad: Love is seeking the other's highest good.  It might not look all warm and fuzzy.  It might appear harsh at times.

Jesus is a great example of real Love.  When the rich young ruler wanted validation of his own righteousness, Jesus gave him a choice to lose the thing that was keeping him from a real relationship with God.  Then Jesus let him walk when he chose poorly.  He didn't slober over himself, saying "you know what, come as you are!"

Then there's the gentile woman with the demon possessed child.  She become obnoxious in trying to get Jesus's attention.  But Jesus knew that she needed to press through.  So he insulted her... called her a dog.  But she chose wisely and pressed on.  Jesus pointed to her as a great example of faith.

So love can mean insulting the other-- if it's seeking their highest good.  Love can mean letting a person walk towards destruction (rich young ruler) if it means seeking their highest good.  So sometimes, letting a child, or friend stay in the pokey and not bailing them out can be following in Jesus's footsteps. 

The question I ask myself is: what is their highest good and purpose in God?  It's okay to let this be a mantra.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spend A Day With Jesus!

I heard a sermon last Sunday that had a very interesting concept:  What would you do if you actually had to spend the day with Jesus.  How would your life change?  What activities would you do differently?  Now I've heard sermons like this all my life, but for some reason, this time some things struck me.

  • The Obvious-- You'd put on your best clothes, shower, shave, style your hair.  Because then you can fool Him-- he'll never know what you look like on the inside.
  • What if you didn't recognize Him because he didn't have an effeminate face, or had cut his hair or beard?
  • What if He never holds a little lamb?
  • As you walk with Him through the countryside, the birds will sing, the flowers will bloom, and the unicorns will poop rainbows.  Actually, for those of this halcyon mindset, be ready for Him to put your expectations on end.  (And of course, there's probably some of you that were just offended because in the same sentence I talked about Jesus, I used the word "poop.")
  • Would you wake him up if he slept past 8:00?  I mean, He is the Son of God, but the work day is the work day.  Wakey, wakey!  Now this seems silly on the outside (because you know He'd never sleep past 8), but I got a feeling that if you'd spent the day with Jesus, there'd be a lot of things He'd say or do that would be contradict your expectations.
  • Would you tell Him we can't go see the Matrix cuz it's "R" rated?
  • Would you laugh and joke with Jesus, especially if He told a joke about pooping Unicorns?  Afterall, God created unicorns didn't He?

The conclusion here is this: First, I hope that I will act like I do now.  Why put on any masks or masquerades?  He knows who I am.  Secondly, our expectations will be turned upside down in some cases.  Especially the Pharisee side of me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Remembering "The Keyman"

I wanted to make a movie.  I had tried writing screenplays but could never get past page 18.  I hated what I read and would lose heart.  When the idea came for "The Keyman," I was a new father, working at a production house doing commercials and corporate video.  What I discovered in this screenplay was that if I don't read what I wrote, I'd be able to push through.  The real writing, as they say, is in the re-writing.

So in 1998 and 1999, after finishing early drafts with a co-writer, I kept polishing and refining the script, until I got to draft 13.  In July of 1999, I incorporated and created the entity.  In early August, I left the corporate video world and began to focus on getting this movie made.  I remember talking to my first investor, telling him I believed I could have the funds raised in two or three months.

A year later, and I finally have just enough to begin shooting, so we enter pre-production in late July of 2000.  We came close to getting Mark Hamil in the leading role, but he had a conflict come up.  Then we talked to Adam Baldwin, who really liked the script and was eager to play the role.  Adam ended up doing an excellent job.

Another LA actor with the same manager as Adam contacted us about the crazy homeless role.  They sent his demo tape.  I was concerned-- he played mostly detective types and was too cleaned up, as it were, to play a dirty, crazy, homeless man.  But Tom Wright ended up being one of the best surprises in the whole movie, playing "Popeye."

We signed with a distributor in the summer of 2001, and scheduled to go out on the foreign market in October of 2001.  Timing wasn't great, being one month after 9/11.  We did sell to some foreign countries, but for US-- we got told the subject matter was just too sad-- that it wasn't a "Friday night rental."

Later, in an effort to get it out, I renamed it "Finding Redemption: The Keyman," but we still couldn't get a US distributor to back us.  I made a limited number of DVD's that I sell out of my office (if interested, only $10, click here.)

Tom Wright said at a public screening of the movie that this film had a soul.  And I think he's right.  It certainly has touched quite a few people, from the letters and email I receive.  I've been thinking a lot lately what I'm going to do-- and I'm thinking about shooting some new stuff, incorporate with the movie and release it.  When I shot the film originally, the target audience was secular.  But it's all about forgiveness and would be great for the church, but would require a little re-editing.

Plus, we shot in 35mm, and I never made a inter-positive of the print, which I would love to do.  So who knows, maybe we'll release the new version of the movie sometime soon. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Original Cine

In Christianese, we have the phrase "original sin."  In my growing up, this was the sin of Lucifer, which I heard sermons on being "pride."  But now I believe that that's incorrect.  His original sin was to compare himself to God. ("I want to be as great...").

Using comparison words like "like" and "as" is a sure sign something's amiss.  That I'm walking in Ego or the Flesh.  This was brought home one time when I was driving to lunch with my mentor.

I was mildly depressed.  I had made one movie and was having trouble getting the second one going.  Robert Rodriguez hit big with his first movie.  Spielberg was 21 when he directed his first film. So I was lamenting to my mentor, who turned the table on me with a Yoda-esque question.  "What are you?  Gold, silver or bronze?"

I thought for a second.  I'm pretty good I thought.  Maybe not the best.  So I answered "Bronze," showing my mentor that I could be humble.  He curtly replied "then there's nothing I can do for you." And he shut up.  I felt like I had been body slammed to the ground.  I quickly said "okay, then I'm gold," not really believing it but realizing that was the answer he was looking for. Today, I still have to remind myself that I'm gold.

There's only one right answer here according to Psalm 139.  And to say anything less is to tell God He made a mistake.  Which is incredibly common.  I do it.  You do it.  "Sheesh God, you really messed up when you made me!"  Although He says in scripture that I'm fearfully and wonderfully made, but I'm telling God He's a liar.  I don't want to do that.  How could my mentor help me if I was calling God a liar?

It all comes down to Value.  What do I think I'm worth?  That was the question that my mentor asked as he saw me walking down the fatal path of comparison.  What am I worth?  This computer I'm typing on, what's it's value?  A couple grand?  Maybe new.  But what about now?  Could I get $100 for it?  If I could, then that's what it's value is.  I define "value" as what price someone is willing to pay.

For you adept in Christianese, you know where I'm going.  What's the price God's willing to pay for me?  His only Son?  And I turn to God and say "that's not enough!"  To say I'm anything but Gold may seem like humility, when in fact it's incredible arrogance.  To say I'm silver is to say Jesus's sacrifice was insufficient.

There's one answer.  God makes Gold, not Goof-ups.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Been on vacation, but back as of last night.  A long time ago, I wrote a blog about DTM-- Do The Math.  This is the principle where I actually figure out the answer to the question I have.  Now if I don't have a question, then certainly, there won't be an answer.

In other words, DTM is like 4+3.  Many times I just want to be told "7."  Actually, more accurate is all the time.  Part of my laziness.  What do you mean I have to figure this out?  Why not just tell me the answer!  Then I'll be fixed.

Which of course speaks to the opening VO (voice over) of "The Imposter."  God's more interested in me going through the process than zapping me with spiritual morphine.  But the process is work.  It's sometimes hard.  It's sometimes painful.  I have to daily commit myself to going through the process.  Which is Discipleship (root word there is discipline).

You see, sometimes I fall into the rut of letting others do the heavy lifting.  Need a word from God?  Well, maybe its in the sermon this Sunday.  Or a good teaching book.  Or my spouse.  Heaven forbid I actually dive into the Bible and study it myself, applying what I read to what I'm going through.

And going back to the first paragraph, if you don't have a question, there won't be an answer.  What "process" are you going through this morning?  What is God working on in you?  What is He birthing in you?  If the answer is "nothing," or even worse "I dunno," then you might be spiritually dead.  Time to get resurrected this morning.

What am I going through?  Well, for one, I didn't realize how lazy I still am when it comes to DTM.  So now I'm digging in, working out the process.  As I read today in John, Jesus said to Peter at the end "Follow Me."  I think in the word "follow" comes the DTM process.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Supporting Christian Movies

Much is made of the lack of quality in Christian movies.  This blog won't be about that.  Instead, let's talk about the lack in secular movies and television.  Maybe not a lack of production value, but certainly a lack in something that makes it far more insidious.

The old addage or anecdote-- if you want to cook a frog, don't drop him into the boiling water-- instead put him in tepid water and bring the pot slowly up to a boil.  This certainly applies today in our culture.  Our media unarguably has determined our societies moral thermometer in the last few decades.  Through mantra's like "not that there's nothing wrong with it" concerning homosexuality, even the elect are being deceived.   And this is just one issue.

I really enjoy comedies on television.  More and more, I'm having to turn them off.  Brilliant writing.  Awesome production value.  And a deceptive tactic that is evil and degenerate. 

Yes-- many Christian movies are cheesy and poorly done.  But some are pretty good.  If you want to see the quality improve... we need your help.  You need to go and buy the DVD's or the movie tickets.  Start a library.  Give them as gifts.  Don't copy them.  We need your help.

Find the movies that resonate with where you are and support them.  Talk about them.  Write about them.  Word of mouth is still the strongest method of marketing available.  Please help.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Lighting for Directors- Chapter 2 STRATEGY

Continuing on lighting knowledge for filmmakers (not DP's)... I write this so that the Director can better communicate with his Director of Photography.

In generations past, lighting was approached through a three-point plan.  A "key" light, a "fill," and a "back" light.  You'll see this in documentary interview situations and in studio television.  But for story-telling in the narrative, or movie, lighting is approached today different.

The movement has been for a "realism" approach.  What this means is that the DP looks at the scene and determines where the natural light would come from, and then emulates that in his lighting attack.  You might ask, then, why not just use available natural light?  Because cameras, especially non-film, have needed more light than what is commonly natural to get the proper exposure.  So a whole lighting plan is created to basically copy what is there.

For instance, shooting in a room at night-- the DP might determine that there is a yellowish glow coming from the fireplace, yellow tungsten from a lamp in the corner, and blue moonlight streaming in through the window.  So he and the gaffer will use lighting instruments to recreate this.

It gets trickier when there's no natural lighting source.  The hardest is interior car scenes at night.  A few directors are heading towards shooting this the way it is naturally-- almost dark with hits from other headlights on the driver (see Michael Mann's Collateral).  What is traditionally done, is to set "dashboard" lights, usually a small Flo or LCD light on the dashboard or on the instrument panel. Also, woods on a moonless night.  At that point, real life would be shooting "radio"-- a DP's term for not seeing anything.

Bad lighting stands out when lighting is used from no discernible source.  I remember in one of my earlier movies, it's a park at night.  Problem is, we set up a big 12K, presumably a street lamp in the park, but I never established it.  Felt very forced on the lighting and it's always bugged me when I watch.

Today, with the technology constantly improving, image quality is getting better and better with lower exposures.  The Red camera has a new build that they did a promo with Leo DiCaprio-- he's in an unlighted room and illuminates himself with just the match and cigarette.  It's amazing.  Look for the trend to head this way.  Less lights, better cameras.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A New Grateful Dead

A few days ago, I had a moment of narcissism.  It was something I used to pass off as "not so bad" but it could have had drastic effect on the safety of my family (fortunately, it didn't).  It was something that cannot be defended or minimized.  And there are consequences for my sin.

I have, in the past, worked hard to minimize the effects of the consequences.  But when I start to feel down about that, I think about how grateful I am for the consequences as they will help me not repeat the same mistake-- grateful that I can identify something that needs to die. A new Grateful Dead.

It's not an easy thought, but it makes the first chapter of James come across with a little different perspective.  You know the one... "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."

So I consider it all joy and thankful that a new compartment has been opened up so that I can work on killing some flesh... some Ego.  When I realized that I had made a poor choice (really a series of poor choices), the most important question is "why did I do it?" 

To peel away the layers of the onion and find some root to work with is not fun, but it's good.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dogs versus Cats: The Narcissistic Gospel

This little analogy might be fairly common, but I'm going to repeat here.  A dog gets food and shelter, love and care and looks at his master and thinks "you must be God."  A cat gets food and shelter, love and care and looks at his master and thinks "I must be God."

The Narcissistic Gospel begins simply.  A church welcomes everyone in with open arms (so far so good), and requires nothing (what about Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler?).  For the sake of numbers, on the outward made to look righteous because it's all about evangelism, inward can be about money, worldly success and power. 

The Seeker is welcomed in and plugged in.  Don't worry about all that ugly sin stuff-- I'm sure it will fix itself down the road.  We want you to come as you are.  In fact, we'll sing feel good songs with soothing lyrics like "He thought of you above all."  Ask not what you can do for God, but what God can do for you!  Because, you know, He did it all for you!

Oh my, as I've read and re-read and studied the Gospels (the real ones, you know Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), this "Seeker-Friendly" church strategy just isn't consistent with the approach Jesus took.  No wonder His ministry didn't have a private jet to take vacations to Cabo.  (Oops, cheap shot).

I think to do church the way Jesus would, probably looks dramatically different than what we're seeing in today's church culture.

So what do you do?  Find Purpose.  Discover what He wants you to do and chase it with all your heart (Christianese for your whole being).  If you are chasing Purpose, you have less time for Ego.  In other words, you stop seeking your value through earthly success and numbers, giving power to other people around you, and instead know your value from the One who made you (Ps 139).

If you are seeking Purpose, suddenly fancy houses, fine leather seats in your car, private jets all take on a different perspective.  I am NOT saying any of these are bad or wrong-- it's all about Purpose baby.  And if that's your Purpose (which will always be consistent with scripture), then more power to you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to Speak Christianese

This is not from Rosetta, but I'm sure diplomats and special forces will use this handy primer to fit in with the church culture, especially in the native Bible belt regions.  Today, a special edition!  How to speak Christianese like a pro! (This edition is not exhaustive).

  • Make sure to create a signature line on your emails with "Hope you have a Blessed Day!"
  • Use vague words to hide true feelings.  For example, instead of acknowledging how bad she hurt you, say "I'm praying for her heart today."  Like she has cardiac trouble.
  • Substitute words like get-together with "fellowship."  The awesomeness of this word is that you can use it as a noun or a verb.
  • Instead of saying you're going to tell someone off, substitute you're "going to speak into their life."
  • Get all upset about any kind of swearing, even the word "crap" (oops), but then use the Lord's name in vain by speaking into someone's life with an added "God told me to tell you."
  • Create cute new church programs.. using words like L.I.F.E class (where LIFE stands for something delicious like Let's Invest Faith in Eachother).
  • When you don't want to admit to a fault, tell the other person you prayed about that and left it at the foot of the cross.  You're totally absolved from any consequences and the best part is you get to continue in that sin!
  • To properly speak Christianese, it's import to get into costume.  So wear your Sunday best, but don't clean up the inside (which you don't have to anyway, because you prayed and left it at the foot of the cross.)

The point of speaking the right dialect of Christianese is so that everyone will realize how awesome your spirituality is.  If I'm wrong here, too bad, I prayed and left it at the foot of the cross, so go away and fellowship at your G.R.A.C.E. baby boomers class in the Life room at church.

PS: I tried to start a program called Christians Reaching A Purpose, but it didn't look good in the bulletin.

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Months Most Popular

Oddly enough, I almost deleted this post.  I thought it might get me into trouble.  I talked about pharisee-ism and how that's defined.  I believe, that at times, I am a pharisee.  And if you are confessing to be a Christian, I believe at times you are too.  If you're not confessing to be a Believer, then don't worry.  You have to be a card carrying member to be a pharisee.

I had made the picture a year ago and showed it only to a couple of trusted friends.  I thought I'd never get away with posting it.  Maybe that's why this blog entry is popular-- all the people in the pews are outraged, sending the link, saying "can you believe this guy?"

Anyway, so here's the link to this month's most poplar "The Two R's":

Very Basic Lighting for Directors - Chapter 1 COLOR

I'm not trying to make you a cinematographer or a gaffer, this post is for the filmmaker to have a basic understanding of some narrative lighting principles and techniques.  First, as always, let's start with some definitions.

A "Gaffer" is the person who actually lights the movie.  He reports to the DP (Director of Photography).  On some foreign sets, the term "Lighting Director" is used, but here, we call him the Gaffer.  His chief assistant is the "Best Boy."  And under them you will find Electricians. 

There are two primary types (color) of light (really lots more, but let's start here)-- tungsten and HMI... which basically means 3200 kelvins and 5600 kelvins.  Tungsten is the yellowish light that you get from your common light bulb.  HMI burns at the color temperature of the sun, which is blue compared to tungsten light.  A common amateur mistake is to mix these two types of light in a scene.

For instance, a new filmmaker showed me her movie.  Near the beginning of the movie, there's a interior car scene.  What her DP did was to light the talent with tungsten (3200), while blowing in from the car windows was sunlight (5600).  So to make the sunlight natural, the tungsten is now very yellow on the actors.  Or you can balance for the tungsten and blue light is pouring in.

Now an experienced Gaffer will sometimes break the rule of not mixing the two, but it's by design because he wants a blue hint or a yellow feel.  But as I always keep saying in the seminars, I think it's best to break a rule because you choose to, not because you're ignorant.

One cheat that is employed on a regular basis, when faced with shooting in a sunny room, but you still need lights and HMI's are out of the budget, is to gel the tungsten with a light blue gel.  This color corrects the light giving the appearance of the same color of light.

I tell all of you new directors this info, because when you choose a location, it doesn't hurt to have a basic knowledge of what the resources it might take for your lighting department to pull off your vision.

Some principles for color-- the higher the definition of your acquisition footage, the more latitude you'll have in post to color it.  So it's not a bad strategy to play it safe on the set and don't color your lights too dramatically.  You can achieve a lot in post.  Remember, blue is cold, yellow/orange is warm.  Green is sick.  (Notice this in uncorrected florescent lights).

And speaking of florescents (flows), they used to be some sickly mid-range color for the purposes of film.  But now, they have a whole line up of various colored flows and over the last fifteen years, flows have become a common way to light scenes.  The don't burn hot.  You can make really small ones to put on top of the lens to punch up an actors face.  You can bank them together to give you some pretty serious light.  They're soft light, not hard or harsh.  So you can see why many DP's are using flows more and more.

I'm sure you DP's reading this will want to correct/comment etc.  I'm just trying to give director's an overview so that they will understand what you are trying to do.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Secret Agents

Deception... deceivers... where are they?  In World War II, spies were masters of deceit.  They trained in the art of deception.  When a British Agent was ready to deceive, he went into enemy occupied land to practice his deception.

Conversely, the Nazi Deceivers didn't stay in Germany-- they infiltrated the French Underground, parachuted into England.  But it would seem kind of silly for the German Deceivers to practice in the Reichstag.

Today, if we want to deceive Al Quida, our agent would go to an Al Quida cell.  It would be difficult to infiltrate the terrorist organization by hanging out with the Sean Hannity crowd.

Which brings me to my point-- in the interview with Hilary Bilbrey, we touched quickly on a message in the movie "The Imposter" while talking about Johnny C's evangelist father.  She said it was a huge moment when the father looked at Johnny and said "I taught you better than that... I taught you never to get caught."  But he's an evangelist!  Preaching stirring messages from the pulpit.

Where do imposters practice their art of deception?  Where do deceivers go to do their work?

I don't think Satan is as stupid as some think him to be.  When he gets his agents to go out, I don't think these deceivers go into the crowds of the already-deceived.  Where do you think the imposters and deceivers go?

The prince of darkness already owns the night.  He has to send imposters into the light.  So hello church.  The church is where the deceivers go.  It's where the imposters pretend.  I know-- I'd like to continue thinking that everyone there is on the up and up... that, praise God, we're all there with singular purpose and mission.  But that is "check-your-brain-at-the-door" thinking.  The church is infiltrated.  The enemy is among us.  And here's the worst part-- when I walk in the flesh, the enemy is me.

Look at Jesus's own crowd.  He turned to "the man" Peter... who would lead the church, and got in his face, saying "Get thee behind me Satan."  Wow.  I bet Pete felt real good about that one.  And in the end Satan entered one of the twelve and you know all about that one.

Many Christians know the verse well, Ephesians 6:12, right after the armor of God:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Church, you don't have to go to the streets, the bars, the mission field to find a battle. Or to fight in the shadows of the gates of hell.  The rulers of the darkness of this world have brought the battle to you.  So put on the full armor of God and start fighting.

This is one of the points of Johnny C and his father, the entertainer/evangelist.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


1979.  Jimmy Carter is nearing the end of his presidency.  Us teens are wearing bell bottoms and funky color combinations.  As a church-going teen, I'm listening to cassettes and records (never had but a few 8 tracks-- hated songs being broken up in the middle) from Amy Grant, the Imperials, Dallas Holm and Praise to the harder stuff-- DeGarmo and Key, Petra and even a little Rez Band.  A friend at school introduced me to Keith Green's music and he quickly became my fav over the next year.

A quick side note-- Dana Key of DeGarmo and Key passed away a few days ago.  He produced a lot of music at Ardent Studios in Nashville and we were fortunate to use some of that music on "A Promise Kept."

So the Christian Music industry was at the first stages of massive growth.  Within the next few years after 1979, the record sales, as a genre would overtake Jazz/Blues and start being taken seriously in Nashville.  After 79, it wasn't just a fad that would die out.

So Big Record Business (BRB) took note and jumped in.  Large secular labels started buying the small independent Christian labels.  Budgets became bigger, quality improved.  But Business kills the Ministry aspect and today, it is hard to find (not impossible).  But back then, you had Sparrow being run as a ministry first (thank you Billy Ray) and other labels like "Lamb and Lion" and even Keith Green's own label "Pretty Good Records."

Christian Film is in 1979 right now.  Sony has been buying up some of the key Christian film companies on the distribution side of things.  Fox created Fox Faith, but they've struggled as their strategy of playing it safe by mainly making adaptations of Christian best sellers hasn't exactly worked out.  But Hollywood, like Nashville in 1979, is seeing big dollar signs in the church audience.

So for all those who lament the quality of Christian movies-- don't worry, that will begin to change.  But expect safe messages and production in those movies.  Edgy is going to go away (or be mainly ignored because the indie filmmakers who make it will have no money to do it and will not get any help finding an audience).

I believe you'll start to have some Christian Movie Stars emerge, just like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith did back then.  It might be the actors, and it might be the filmmakers.  Alex Kendrick is one already.  Rebecca St. James is making strides in crossing over from Christian Rock Star to Christian Movie Star. 

But what worked in 1979 was the engine behind these names.  You might have the odd viral hit, coming up from a groundswell.  But for the most part, the stars of the Christian Film industry might look like a naturally occurring phenomenon, but you'd be surprised how calculated it just is.

You see, even right now, there are huge marketing firms, who look like viral web entities, that make their money by getting paid to promote this Christian movie or that Christian movie star or filmmaker.  Doesn't matter if a film is really good and special-- if that film doesn't hand over some bucks, they won't be pushed in a large organizations Facebook status.  Which is all okay-- it's good business strategy.

I guess the troubling thing is the deception-- pretending to be all about Christian films, but more accurately-- all about the Christian films that have paid to be clients. 

Welcome Christian Film, to the eighties of Christian music.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Top Five Reasons to Make a Christian Film

Here are the top reasons why Christian Filmmakers decide to make a movie:

5. I can do it soooo much better than what I've seen out there.
I know I'm certainly not immune to this. I think it's inherent in the artist/storyteller-- it's called "jealousy." It's also why the worst audience for your Christian film is other Christian filmmakers. Of course, the following goes with the qualifier that I've never met one of these (especially in the mirror), but Newbie Filmmakers (NF) burn inside when a peer experiences some level of success. So I've heard. The NF is trying so hard to succeed, that it's hard to enjoy the success of others. Or maybe it's because there's a whole lot of Narcissism in this business. Nawwwww.

4. It's Fun! With a capital "F." Which also stands for faith, fellowship, and football. Because nothings more important than those three. I know it is for us guys. We can sit around and talk, but it'd be best if it was about the Cowboys. Preferably with the tv going. (This really happened at a home group one time. Women went somewhere and talked. Guys watched the game.) Isn't the Purpose to enjoy life, live for the moment, clothe the homeless, kiss bunnies, feed marshmellows to unicorns? It's really the trifecta when you can combine all those "F" words into one Christian movie.

3. It's a Living. I can't believe I didn't spit up all over the keyboard laughing when I wrote that.

2. The Christian Filmmaker is the new Rock Star, and boy the attention is awesome! You get web articles written about you. Radio, tv. It's great to be a celebrity! Yeah, good thing there's no narcissism there.

1. Called. And I write that one word with trepidation. Because many people are hearing phantom ring tones, claiming it's heaven on the line with the script that will win the world (for Him of course). And "calling" isn't a free pass to skip training and education. "But God called me, so therefore he's bitten me, like that spider in Spiderman, so now I can climb walls and use that spidey-sense to make that awesome tool for His glory! Amen." Let's look at some real examples of actual "Callings." Jesus called the twelve. They lived harshly and died hard and painful. Paul was called with an audible voice. He was stoned twice (and I'm not talking weed) and left for dead. Eventually, he had his head cut off.

Calling means it's not for the money, the fame, the fortune. It's to be obedient. And to obey, you actually have to hear Him. Few really do you know.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Positive ID

The opposite of Insecurity is Identity-- or more precisely, understanding and comprehending your TRUE identity.  For the Disciple, this is an understanding of the duality-- that there is the me, fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Ps. 139), and there's the sin nature, the flesh, the ego, that is evil and must be denied, crucified, and killed.

It's a wonderful thing to see a Disciple who is down the road a ways on understanding his true Identity.  For instance, watch the video below on Kerry Livgren (who plays "Proff" in The Imposter.)  Kerry suffered a stroke last fall-- a pretty serious one.  This is a man known worldwide to millions as the creator of such classics as "Dust in the Wind" and "Carry On Wayward Son."  Many musicians find their VALUE in what they create.  So when that's taken from them, they lose their perceived value (falling into despair, depression and insecurity).

Think about this-- what do you think is something you consider yourself good at?  Now, what if that was gone.  How do you feel?  Romans 8:28 tells us that "All things work together for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose."  Kerry, in the video below certainly has a solid grasp on this spiritual concept.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Inoculation Line Starts to the Left

Inoculate:  verb, to implant a dead pathogen to stimulate resistance against the pathogen.  Let's change "pathogen" with "Gospel"... To impant a dead "Gospel" to stimulate resistance against the (real) Gospel.

I attended a church that went through the "program" of a Purpose Driven Life... 40 Days of Purpose or something.  During that period and int he two years following that I was a member of this body, I was continually amazed by the lack of purpose in these people.

If it were a court and the evidence was used to convict, here's what we'd find.  People more interested in the gridiron battle than the battle in their soul.  Socials where the deepest discussion might be what flavor ice cream you like.  When there was something of substance (one lady pouring herself into politics) it was more to deflect attention from the real issues in her own life.

But these people knew all about Purpose.  They had the program to prove it.  They are now inoculated.

My mentor defines "super-spiritualizing" as religious answers without doing the work.  One guy told me once that he had no problems with jealousy anymore-- he had prayed three years ago and left it at the cross.  He was in the midst of personal life destruction because of his jealousy, but how can he deal with a problem he refuses to admit he has?

In my own life, I proudly told my mentor one day at lunch that I had "dealt" with a certain problem.  Like a quarterback releasing a ball and instantly wishing he could have it back as he sees the defender making his move to intercept, I wish I could have retracted that word.  But I rejoice in using that word because it revealed a dysfunctional mindset in me-- that I could actually have "dealt" with a flesh, or Ego issue.

Paul writes that he dies daily to the flesh.  I can say I'm "dealing" with narcissism... but ti's a hideous trap to say I've "dealt" with it.

All of us in the church have been receiving shots all our lives.  We're inoculated to many things.  As int he movie "The Imposter," I hope you can see past the dead pathogens and see that much work remains... that once you got your fire insurance from hell, that you actually have a Purpose.

And we'll talk more about this soon...  Any body left out these after some of these harder blogs?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Telling Stories

Christian Storytelling of course began way back with the Master.  He told stories to help illustrate points and principles.  The great thing about a story, versus creating a law, is that so much more can be read into it. 

For example, if you created a rule that said, "if you blow it, you can come back to God," that would be one thing.  But to tell a story about a son, who went to his father, asking for his inheritance, then he left and blew it on good times and prostitutes*, then he hit rick bottom and thought even to be a slave in my father's house...  There's so much more richness and things to glean than the written rule above.

*prostitutes-- surely Jesus never used this word or concept since the Christian Nazi's would never have allowed this short film into the film festival.  (See this blog.)

Stories have the power to keep giving, even after the main message is discerned.   They touch on the mental and emotional-- multiple senses of sight and sound (not even going to go to smellavision).

But stories, as I've mentioned before, are only stories-- they're tools.  They don't have the power of salvation or discipleship.  Stories are a hammer in your tool box, but you still have to swing it.  Even when the arm gets tired.

So for all you storytellers out there in film, don't take your movie too seriously-- remember it's a tool and not the mcguffin that the Kingdom of God is depending on for the salvation of the world.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why Actors Benefit from Edit Knowledge

I was in the edit room... I was cutting a scene with a day player with the star.  THe take I wanted of the medium close up didn't match with the previous two shot-- the day player had his left arm up and he was looking to his right, so that when I cut, it didn't match.  I ended up staying on the star and the day player lost some screen time.

A knowledge of how the edit room flows can be extremely valuable to the actor.  Consistency in performance is dramatically illustrated as the editor tries to tie the pieces together to tell a coherent story that doesn't have distracting elements.

Another one is an actor making noise over his own line.  I'm getting some footage ready for the editing seminar Thursday, and I'm watching some raw footage of Lou Diamond Phillips.  He's holding an AK47, prepping it for action, while talking to his buddies.  Lou grabs a mag and slaps it against his thigh to line up the rounds inside it.  On every take, he does it right between two lines so that he doesn't make a thwap over a line.  He knows that in the edit room, sound effects like loud footsteps, doors slamming, magazines thwapping, have to be totally separated from dialogue.

This kind of knowledge can help on the set and in the edit room.  I don't have to do another take because of the sound over a line... or if I missed it on the set, costly ADR, or even just cutting it.

This kind of knowledge can help the subtleties of the actor's performance, pushing it up a level.  Especially for the local actors landing those day player roles.

These tricks and more discussed Thursday Night. to register.  A few seats left.