The Ride: Connecting to God in Hollywood, the Ivy League, and Beyond

Part 2 in series Finding God in Hollywood: Soul-Nourishing Practices in a Soul-Deadening World

Horseback riding is not a mode of transportation from one physical locale to another. It is a mode of transportation from one spiritual state to another.  And so are the classic spiritual disciplines.

by Gary David Stratton, Ph.D. • Senior Editor

Micaiah with ‘Maryland’: The crankiest and best horse in the Equestrian Center’s stable

As I write this, I am watching my daughter, Micaiah, take a riding lesson at the Equestrian Center in Burbank, CA. The Equestrian Center is, uh, shall we say, “oddly out of place” in urban Los Angeles. On my right, traffic on the Golden State Freeway (“the” 5, as we say here in L.A.) zooms by at 65+ miles per hour. On my left, horses plod around a riding circle at, well, a lot less than 65 miles per hour. What gives?

Why would anyone invest so much time and money striving to master such an outdated mode of transportation? It takes years to painstakingly advance through learning to walk, trot, cantor, gallop, jump, dressage, etc. Then, once you do achieve riding excellence, your top speed is still only a fraction of that of the traffic whizzing by. My daughter shovels, “stuff,” to earn her lessons, but most riders shell out enough cash to cover monthly payments on a luxury car. I mean, if your goal is to get from Pasadena to Hollywood, then this horseback riding thing is a total waste of time. Just buy a Jag and get on with it.

Yet if you think of horseback riding as something designed to get you somewhere on your busy schedule then you are missing the entire point. Horseback riding is not a mode of transportation from one physical locale to another. It is a mode of transportation from one spiritual state to another. The disciplines of learning to ride cleanse the rider of the soul-deadening effects of modern life and “re-center” their soul in a calmer, deeper place. My actress-singer daughter says it’s “rejuvenating.” Seeing the light and energy in her eyes after each time she rides, I believe her.

Spiritual Disciplines

Now at first glance, striving to master 2,000 year-old spiritual disciplines seems even more irrelevant than learning to ride a horse. I mean, at least horseback riding might help you land a role, or inspire a screenplay. What earthly good does it do to invest the time and energy it takes to master practices like prayer, meditation, fasting, Torah-study, or Psalm-singing? Sure, prayer can come in handy when you’re facing an audition, pitch meeting, or financing appointment. But this kind of “spiritual discipline” is practiced by everyone in Hollywood (even the staunchest atheists), and probably has about as much utilitarian value as wearing your lucky pair of socks.  Prep for your meeting, pay for some good coaching, and get on with it.

Yet, if you think of the spiritual disciplines only as something to get you somewhere in your career, you are missing the entire point. Spiritual disciplines are not tools for getting you from failure to success. They are pathways for keeping you alive spiritually in the constantly shifting landscape of success and failure that is Hollywood.

The Soul-Deadening Worlds of Power

The overarching characteristic of the Ivy League (and Hollywood) is what Schmelzer calls, “Grim drivenness.

Actor/Comedienne/Writer Susan Isaacs once challenged a crowd of aspiring entertainment industry students, “Would you accept God’s call to Hollywood if you knew that you would only have three successful years out of a thirty-year career?” Most wouldn’t, yet that is about the average for those who ‘make it’ here.  The spiritual disciplines are the means by which someone survives and even thrives, not only in the three years when they’re a hot property, but in the other twenty-seven as well.

Make no mistake, the competitive nature of all centers of power–Hollywood, the Ivy League, Wall Street, Washington, D.C., etc.–nearly always creates a soul-deadening culture. Former Yale Professor Henri Nouwen warned, “Our society is… a dangerous network of domination and manipulation in which we can easily get entangled and lose our soul.”[1] Dave Schmelzer, principal at Blue Ocean, Inc. in Cambridge, MA asserts the overarching characteristic of his Ivy League community is what he calls, “Grim drivenness.”  Dave adds, “These are the brightest and most talented people in the world, and the very drivenness that got them this far in a highly competitive environment prevents them from ever really enjoying the fruit of their success. There is always another rung to climb on the ladder of success.”[2] Sounds a lot like Hollywood to me!

Yokes that Bring Our Souls Rest

Spiritual disciplines counteract this soul-deadening effect by nourishing the soul of the practitioner and re-centering the filmmaker, professor, stockbroker, and/or congressman in a calmer, deeper place. Prayer, meditation, study, etc. are means by which we deepen our connection to others and to God. Nearly everyone working in a pressure-filled environment can benefit from practicing them—from Zen Buddhist’s like Laker’s coach Phil Jackson, to Scientologists like Tom Cruise.

However, the spiritual disciplines play a particularly meaningful role in the Judeao-Christian tradition. They are part of what early Rabbis referred to as their yoke—the teachings and spiritual practices each Rabbi used to guide their students into a deeper relationship with God.[3] Like learning to ride a horse, the study of Torah—the principal spiritual discipline in rabbinic education—demanded the utmost commitment to move from one level of expertise to the next. Yet, the promise of a life centered in God and his ways made the effort worthwhile. (See, Rabbinic Higher Education.)

Connecting to the Life of God

Jesus of Nazareth built upon this rabbinic tradition to shape his own version of spiritual formation. Jesus told his first followers, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). He taught his disciples to pray, study, build community, and serve not to earn religious brownie points, but to form a deep attachment to God—to ‘rest’ in him. Like vines on a branch, Jesus promised his followers that if they would focus upon staying connected to the life of God, then the life of God would flow into them and bear fruit in everything they do (John 15:1-8). The spiritual disciplines are one of the key means by which we maintain that connection. (See, With Prayer in the School of Christ.)

USC philosophy professor, Dallas Willard, has worked tirelessly over the last few decades to describe how Christian spiritual formation can and should help us maintain our connection to the life and the love of God in the Academy, Hollywood, and beyond. He states:

“God’s desire for us is that we should live in him. He sends us the Way to himself.  That shows us, in his heart of hearts, what God is really like–indeed, what reality is really like. In its deepest nature and meaning our universe is a community of boundless and totally competent love.”

Personalizing the Process

Like horseback riding, staying connected to the life and love of God is not a one-size-fits-all process. It has taken Micaiah years to find the right stable, the right trainer, the right horse (the crankiest, but “best” in the stable), and the right sub-disciplines to learn to ride in a way that maximizes the ‘gladness’ riding brings her soul. The same is true for those seeking to cultivate a relationship with God. The disciplines that help one person are often torture for another. The key for some is sitting quietly in a beautiful sanctuary, for others it is walking in the beauty of nature, for some connection to God is found among books in a quiet library, for still another it is best found amidst music is a raucous worship service.

The point of spiritual discipline is not to perform some cookie-cutter religious ritual to make God like you better, but rather to find the pathways that best help your soul connect to the God who already loves you infinitely, ultimately, and unconditionally.

In the following weeks I will explore a number of the key concepts and disciplines that have been most helpful to a variety of leaders in Hollywood, the Ivy League, and beyond in living a soul-nourishing life in a soul-deadening world.  My hope is that we can help you create your own individualized set of spiritual disciplines that help you stay connected to the life and love of God even in the most pressurized situations.

Of course there is another way: the way of giving in to a soul-deadness. Will we? Or will we follow my daughter’s example and embrace an “outdated” approach to life, that in the end is the only one capable of transporting us where we really want to go—to the very heart of God.

Let’s ride!

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Next post in series: Life on the Fast Track: Spiritually Thriving in High Stress Environments 

 

See also

Emmy Magazine Article Featuring Emmy-winning Producer Kurt Schemper, Director Korey Scott Pollard, and Gary David Stratton

Why Lent is a lot Like Surfing

Spiritual formation book recommendations:

The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence

Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton

Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, by Adele Alberg Calhoun

The Organic God, by Margaret Feinberg

The Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster

Invitation to a Journey, by Robert Mulholland

The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen

The Life You’ve Always Wanted, by John Ortberg

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero

The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith

Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas

The Spirit of the Disciplines, by Dallas Willard

 


[1] The Way of the Heart (New York: Random House, 1981), p. 9.

[2] At least in the Ivy League it is possible to get tenure!

[3] M. Maher (1975). ‘Take my yoke upon you’ (Matt. xi. 29). New Testament Studies, 22, pp 97-103

 

Craig Detweiler: Image Journal Artist of the Month

As we prepare for the 2012 relaunch of the Two Handed Warriors community under our new domain name we’re sending up trial balloons to gather feedback on various features. One issue is how to help members of the community get to know each other and the leaders of the movement. In the www.garydavidstratton.com era of Two Handed Warriors we attempted to do this through interviews and features on two handed warrior leaders from the world of filmmaking, education, business, spiritual formation, etc. such as Jessica Reider, Jay Barnes, Margaret FeinbergBrian Bird, Scot McKnight, Monica MacerKevin Chesley, Dean Batali, etc.

A new feature we are considering is a weekly “column” highlighting a rotation of “Filmmaker of the Month,” “Educator of the Month,” “Faith Leader of the Month,” “Philanthropist of the Month,” etc. Image Journal does a great job on this kind of piece, and since Image Journal’s November artist of the month happens to be a member of the Two Handed Warrior Hollywood Community–Craig Detweiler–I thought I would run their piece on Craig for your consideration and feedback.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of being part of  two presentations on Faith and Filmmaking Craig did in San Francisco as part of the Evangelical Theological Association’s Theology and Culture dialogue.  As in every time I have ever heard Craig speak–Act One, CCCU, etc.–I was struck again by his remarkable ability to “reverse the hermeneutical flow” and allow film to help us better apprehend and interpret our faith.

Image, a literary and arts quarterly founded in 1989, is a unique forum for the best writing and artwork informed by—or grappling with—faith. Their focus has been on writing and visual artwork that embody a spiritual struggle, that seeks to strike a balance between tradition and a profound openness to the world. Each issue explores this relationship through outstanding fiction, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, music, interviews, and dance. Image also features four-color reproductions of visual art. To read more about Image and its suite of programs, check out ImageJournal.org.

 

IMAGE JOURNAL ARTIST OF THE MONTH:

NOVEMBER 2011

Craig Detweiler

Commentator Andy Crouch calls Christians to what he terms “culture making.” He wants us to move away from being consumers and critics of culture toward being active creators of cultural goods, makers of everything from novels and laws to iPads and pea patches.

Filmmaker Craig Detweiler embodies this kind of life. While he is a commentator (he has written on the theology of film and video games), an academic (he directs the Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture at Pepperdine, where he is a professor), and a longtime writer of popular films, he is also emerging as a skillful and sensitive maker of documentaries.

His award-winning doc Purple State of Mind draws us into the particulars of the American social landscape through the idiosyncrasies of politics, friendship, and the dance of argument, by bringing together two college roommates whose lives and politics took very different paths. By focusing on this single relationship, the film pursues true dialogue and reconciliation between red and blue Americas who seldom attempt to talk to each other, preferring to satirize and condemn from a safe distance. The filmic voice is playful, honest, inquisitive, and gently persistent—with a dash of good-humored humility.

In his newest project, Detweiler turns his sights internationally, to parts of the world where people of different religions maintain a fragile community life together. In a mistrustful and suspicious age, his documentary work is a healthy reminder that believers don’t need to fear the engine of American culture that is Hollywood—that we can not only engage with it, but can contribute to it, and by our participation, shape it.

Current Projects

Growing up in the South made me curious about the things that divide us. In my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, it was the freeway. At Davidson College, it was railroad tracks. In both places, white folks didn’t live near black folks. Working with Urban Young Life, I walked into housing projects that many avoided. Not because the residents needed my help, but because I desperately needed their perspective on how things worked (or didn’t work!)…

Read Craig’s complete comments and biography on the Image Journal website.

Tomorrow: Craig’s Image piece, “The Myth of the Independent Film.”

 

You Shall Not Pass! The Supernatural Power of Two Handed Warfare

What two of my all-time favorite films taught me about world-shaping leadership

 

These were the men who came to David while he was banished from the presence of Saul. They were among the warriors who helped him in battle. They were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed. Warriors who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. -1 Chronicles 12

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Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black model two-handed swordplay (The Princess Bride: MGM Home Entertainment)

One of my all-time favorite comedic movie scenes occurs in The Princess Bride in a duel between two expert swordsmen—Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black (movie clip below). Unbeknownst to each other, both duelists have spent their lives mastering swordplay not only with their right-hand, but also with their left.

As the duel builds to its hilarious conclusion, it quickly becomes apparent that expertise in single-handed swordplay is inadequate preparation for facing a true master. Without striving to become a two-handed warrior there is little hope of achieving one’s life mission—whether that mission is piracy, true love, or revenge.

Similarly, expertise in faith and culture rarely go hand-in-hand. Leaders adept at culture making—whether in Hollywood or the Ivy League—are rarely trained in the disciplines of faith building; whereas leaders with strengths in faith building—whether in a local congregation or an international relief agency—are rarely trained in the art of culture making.

Gandalf employs two-handed warfare against a Balrog (The Fellowship of the Ring: New Line Home Entertainment)

It is my firm belief that this dichotomy not only creates glaring blind spots in our leadership, it also robs us of a vibrant conversation with other leaders from whom we have the most to learn. For leaders interested in effecting broad societal transformation, this dichotomy is even more devastating. Like Inigo Montoya, or King David’s army (above), the ability to fight with either hand is often a matter of life and death.

In another of my all-time favorite films (The Fellowship of the Ring) Gandalf prevailed over the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dum not merely through mastery of the sword, but by taking two-handed warfare to a whole new level with his staff. Up until this moment one might question whether or not having a wizard along on their journey was really necessary. After all, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legalas were every bit as skilled with their weapons as Gandalf was with his. However, by taking up his staff with his other hand Gandalf unleashes a supernatural power beyond anything his companions ever dreamed.

I suspect that anyone taking up the mantle of twenty-first century culture making will contend against far greater forces than Balrogs. My dream is that Two Handed Warriors might help train at least a few culture-making Gandalfs who can unleash supernatural power for good.

Two Handed Warriors is therefore intended as an ongoing conversation among filmmakers, educators, and spiritual leaders who aspire to become modern-day Gandalfs, and Inigo Montoyas: intellectuals, artists, and innovators devoted to gaining expertise in BOTH faith building and culture making. Men and women who “understand the times” and therefore know that redefining faith and culture one story at a time is our best hope for accomplishing our respective missions.

Growing up in a warrior’s household, King David’s son discovered that swordsmen attain mastery only where sparks fly: “As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another”(2). My dream is that in helping one another master the art of two-handed swordplay we will not only foster transformational films, schools, and congregations; we will also forge lifelong friendships.   En garde!

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Podcast from Gary’s Geneva College Address on becoming a Two Handed Warrior

Ever wonder what casting a vision for two-handed warfare might sound like when addressing college students? Here’s one attempt from Geneva College (Pennsylvania.)

I couldn’t include the slides, but I have included the movie clip from THE PRINCESS BRIDE below. Be sure to watch the clip before you listen to the podcast (online or by download.) It will make a lot more sense.

 

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[cincopa AUIAznKcZHNf]

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Notes
William Goldman, Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, et al. The Princess Bride (Hollywood, Calif: MGM Home Entertainment, 2001).
1 Princess Buttercup’s lover, also know as, “Westley”; aka, “The Dread Pirate Roberts.” (Not Johnny Cash.)
2 Proverbs 27:17

Screwtape Letters, Blue Like Jazz Coming to Theater Near You: Future of Christian Filmmaking May Hang in Balance

‘Christian Filmmaking’ Captures Hollywood’s Attention as Never Before, but are Christian Filmmakers Up for the Challenge?

 

Screwtape has been masterfully adapted for stage, but sat in Sony's vault for nearly 60 years waiting for the right filmmaker. Enter Ralph Winter and Scott Derrickson...

As Soul Surfer roars past Fireproof‘s $33M payday, (eventually reaching $45M at the box office) Hollywood’s rush to cash in on adapting Christian stories–such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ($279), and stories about Christians–such as The Blind Side ($256M) continues to gain momentum.

Whether or not this trend proves to be good or bad for the future of Christians in the entertainment industry remains to be seen.

Suddenly, Christians who have spent their lives establishing themselves as world-class filmmakers–such as producer Ralph Winter (XMen), and director Scott Derrickson (The Day the Earth Stood Still)–find themselves in the same conversation as unproven “Christian filmmakers” who have clawed their way to the market only by virtue of uniquely Christian product. .

Two current projects may make or break Hollywood’s interest in ‘Christian’ projects. Ralph Winter’s The Screwtape Letters, and newcomer Steve Taylor’s adaptation of Donald Miller’s best-selling Blue Like Jazz are being closely watched by industry insiders.

'Voyage of the Dawn Treader' proved a huge disappointment both for Christian audiences and box office expectations. Can Screwtape Letters recapture that C.S. Lewis magic?

It could be an uphill battle. The trend toward “Christian filmmaking” is already drawing mixed reviews in Hollywood, largely due to the less-than-stellar quality of many so-called “Christian Movies.”

I’ve chosen two takes on the movement in recent publications for your consideration (below). Cathleen Falsani’s post in the Huffington Post offers some positive press on the movement, and even suggests some possible future adaptation projects. Andrew O’Herir’s post in Salon offers a more sobering critique based on Hollywood’s memories of truly atrocious “Christian Films.” It’s painful to read and often overstated, but O’Hehir’s commentary is worth considering and striving for a higher standard.

The world really is watching!

See also:

If You Live It, They Will Come (to the Theater): How Blind Side & Soul Surfer Point to Better Faith-Based Filmmaking through Better Stories.

It’s a Wonderful Life: “Christian Filmmaking’ at its Finest.

The Screwtape Letters Onstage: One Hell of a Good Show

Biola Media Conference at CBS Studios Tomorrow – April 30.

 

Christian Film?

What Should Be Coming to a Theater Near You

by Cathleen Falsani in the Huffington Post

This fall a film based on Donald Miller’s bestselling spiritual memoir, Blue Like Jazz, is expected to hit theaters nationwide. In many ways, Miller’s book is an unlikely subject for a feature film.

Blue Like Jazz is a collection of semi-autobiographical short essays based in part on Miller’s experience auditing classes at Reed College in Oregon that explore the author’s wrestling with questions of faith.

Donald Miller's best-selling memoir made for laugh-out-loud read, but can newcomer Steve Taylor be able to make it work as a movie?

But the film project is part of a growing trend of adapting well-known “Christian” or Christian-themed books (both fiction and nonfiction) as feature films. Recent movies based on C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series have grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide. Two more film adaptations of Lewis’ works — The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce — are in development.

Ralph Winter, producer of the X-Men films and a self-professed Christian, is set to produce the film version of The Screwtape Letters in a partnership with Fox and Walden Media (Note: Ralph Winter contacted me this AM (4/30) to tell me that Cathleen’s report is mistaken –Walden Media is NOT connected to the project at this time), the studio that produced the Narnia films, as well as Bridge to Terabithia and Charlotte’s Web.

Fox has owned the film rights to The Screwtape Letters since the 1950s, and adapting Lewis’ 1942 satirical novel for the big screen has been an endeavor of epic proportions. The book is composed of a series of letters from the veteran demon Screwtape to his junior “tempter” nephew, Wormwood, on the best ways to bring about the spiritual downfall of his target, a British man known simply as “the Patient.”

Winter told The Christian Post last year that producers hoped to attach director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) to the film, which likely be rated PG-13, because it is “edgy, serious material.”

Continue Reading

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Why are Christian movies so awful?

As “Soul Surfer” demonstrates, “faith-based” movies are a boom industry. Do they have to be so lame?

by Andrew O’Hehir in Salon

Stills from “Soul Surfer,” “The Passion of Christ,” “Fireproof”

When a star teenage surfer named Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm in a 2003 shark attack, and then got back on her surfboard just three weeks later, you could hear another species of shark – the ones from Hollywood, who turn dramatic real-life events into movies — swimming to the scene.

Not only did Hamilton’s story have an attractive and charismatic central character, it also came with a moral message attached and (to think more cynically) a much-desired target demographic. Hamilton’s family were evangelical Christians who understood what had happened to Bethany as a personal and providential test of faith, and also saw it as an opportunity to testify to the wider world.

The resulting film, “Soul Surfer,” which stars AnnaSophia Robb as Hamilton and Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as her parents, took some interesting twists and turns on its way to the big screen. There was evidently disagreement between the Hamiltons and the film’s producers along the way, over the question of how explicit to make the references to faith and the quotations from Scripture. (They’re plenty explicit, if you ask me.) But success has a way of resolving all such disputes, and “Soul Surfer” opened last weekend on 2,214 screens with a $10.6 million gross, and the third-highest per-screen average of any film in wide release (after “Hop” and “Hanna”).

You could call “Soul Surfer” a Christian film that got picked up by a mainstream distributor (Sony) or an inspirational mainstream film that was concocted with the “faith-based” audience partly or largely in view, after the fashion of“The Blind Side,” “Secretariat,” the “Chronicles of Narnia” series and so on. (For whatever it’s worth, the universe of Christian movie sites and bloggers seem to view it as the former.) While the Hamilton family’s religion runs through the story as an undercurrent, the movie’s only mouthpiece for official Christian theology is a youth counselor played (very clumsily) by country star Carrie Underwood. As Carolyn Arends, the film critic for the evangelical site Christianity Today, has noted, director Sean McNamara and his team of writers aren’t trying to preach the gospel to outsiders but to create a recognizable self-portrait for their target audience, “a reasonable approximation of daily American Christianity.”

However you want to categorize “Soul Surfer,” it’s going to make plenty of money, and should serve to remind those of us in the secular moviegoing public that the evangelical audience that emerged with Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” and the out-of-nowhere 2008 hit “Fireproof” hasn’t gone anywhere.

Christian-identified viewers remain voraciously hungry for content, and even though the major studios all have marketing arms devoted to courting them, they still feel poorly served by the mainstream film industry and its addiction to violent, sexual and otherwise profane subject matter. (Dozens of Christian-oriented movies are made every year, but only a small fraction of them will reach general release.)

But do Christian-themed movies really have to be so bad?

Continue Reading

 

 

Faith ‘N’ Film Summit with Emmy Nominated Actor Corbin Bernsen (Psych), Writer Brian Bird (Not Easily Broken), and Producer Ken Wales (Amazing Grace)

Faith N Film Summit Panel includes Ken Wales: Producer of 2007 hit Amazing Grace ($32M)

LAS VEGAS, NV — The Faith ’N’ Film Summit will be held this Sunday (April 10)  on the eve of the National Association of Broadcasters Convention (NAB Show)–April 9-14. In partnership with the 168 Film Project (an incubator for filmmakers of faith for nearly a decade), the day long event boasts media leaders focused on the intersection of art and faith, who will share Hollywood storytelling and story-selling secrets for attracting audiences.

The Summit schedule includes a non-denominational worship service, a panel discussion, film screening, classes and networking opportunities for filmmakers, artists, church media professionals, pastors, youth leaders and ministries seeking excellent faith-based content. For complete Faith ‘N’ Film Summit Agenda Click here.

 

Emmy nominated actor turned writer-director Corbin Bernsen will screen his 2010 film 'Rust' followed by a Q&A

Actor, writer, director Corbin Bernsen will screen his film Rust, followed by Q&A. Emmy and Golden Globe nominated Bernsen is known for his starring roles on PsychL.A. Law, and three Major League films, (with Charlie Sheen), as well as guest spots on top shows such as Castle. Bernsen’s directing credits include Rust and two other faith-based films due in 2011 — 25 Hill, and Barlowe Mann. Bernsen describes his motivation:

“Not only is it currently good business to bring faith to film, it’s important on a variety of other levels.  We as a society and a global community need to counter the growing trend toward doubt and fear. For me, the best way I know to do this is by introducing faith back into our society with the one creative tool I know best; film.”.

 

Panelist Brian Bird co-wrote 2009 faith-based hit with pastor T.D. Jakes after helping open the door to faith-based programming as a writer-producer on 'Touched by an Angel'

A panel discussion entitled, “Market Forces in Faith and Family Content,” will feature producer Ken Wales (Amazing Grace), writer/producer Brian Bird (Not Easily Broken, The Shunning, Touched by an Angel,), Paul Crouch Jr., VP of administration at Trinity Broadcasting Network and film reviewer Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide.

Panel moderator John David Ware, founder/president of the 168 Film Project, (an incubator for filmmakers of faith for nearly a decade) commented,

“I am amazed at the depth of the filmmakers, instructors, music and comedy associated with this event.  Don’t miss it.”

The Faith ’N’ Film Summit will run from 8:30 AM – 9:00 PM at the Las Vegas Hilton Pavilion 9.

UPDATE:  Actress Jenn Gotzon’s Report on the Faith N Film Summit

MORE ON FAITH-BASED FILMMAKING: If You Live It, They Will Come: How Blind Side & Soul Surfer Point Christians to Better Filmmaking through Better Stories

Buried in Haiti rubble: 64 Hours of Unshaken Faith

Haiti’s earthquake made our family’s connection to Compassion International even more personal. One of my former students, filmmaker and Compassion worker,  Dan Woolley (Twitter Tag, @webguydan), was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.  Dan spent the nearly three days trapped in an elevator shaft buried beneath six stories of rubble.

In his new book, Unshaken: Rising from the Ruins of Haiti’s Hotel Montana, Dan describe his work in Haiti and and the remarkable ordeal that led to his writing his goodbyes to his wife and children on his IPhone.

“I spit out the blood and dust that coats my mouth, but I can’t spit out the fear. Buried beneath six stories of rubble, the remains of what was once the Hotel Montana, I’m hanging on to the realization that I lived through an earthquake. I survived! But I also know that if I want to make it out of this black tomb alive, if I ever hope to see my family again, it will take a miracle — a series of miracles. Miracles I’m not sure I have the faith to believe in…”

To read complete click: Haiti, Raising from the Rubble.

Also available: Today Show and Fox News interviews with Dan and his wife, Christina.

Next post in the series:  A Long Term Strategy for Rebuilding Haiti One Child at a Time

Using Worldview to Create Academy Award-winning Films (Series Introduction)

Striving to attain mastery as a Two Handed Warrior occasionally results in some very enjoyable if unintended consequences. Learning to “reverse engineer” Academy Award-winning films in order to teach worldview (see Teaching Worldview Through Film) somehow led to my inadvertently developing a unique skill-set for analyzing how filmmakers create Academy Award-winning films.

A true script consultant, such as Linda Seger or Key F. Payton, has read thousands of screenplays and can instantly recognize a myriad of factors that might improve an unfinished script.  I, on the other hand, hate reading screenplays, and often can’t tell the difference between snappy dialogue and good scenery.

However, in the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king. Since few (if any) script consultants are trained in worldview thinking, I can sometimes help screenwriters and creative executives in story development in a way that others can’t.  The highly intuitive use of worldview often employed by Academy Award-winning filmmakers in their character-transformation arcs is often clearer to me (the amateur) than it is to more broadly trained experts.

Guiding my students’ understanding of worldview in the classroom and serving as story consultant in Hollywood have become some of the most enjoyable aspects of my journey toward becoming a two handed warrior. Helping screenwriters, producers, directors, and creative executives “see” and clarify the worldview journey in their film is a very gratifying experience.

So while I would never claim to be an expert, I hope that this ongoing discussion of the relationship between worldview and story will be as helpful to filmmakers as it is to educators.

Who knows, it might even help a two-handed filmmaker win an Academy Award someday.

Now, that would be a very intended consequence,

Gary

Next Post in Series: Worldview and the Power of Story