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.