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I Refuse to Buy Air Time on Christian TV

Soap BoxPardon me while I step up on my soapbox and rant a bit about the Christian TV paid-time financial model.

Sure, it works great if you are a church putting your worship services on the air. You just make a line item in the budget and do your thing. Or if you are a non profit talk show, just spend 3-5 minutes selling your merchandise or asking for donations every show. No problem… in the short term. But long term this is a major problem. Audiences for this content are shrinking. Donations are drying up and donors are literally dying off.

Mean while, some of us are trying to create scripted content. Raising money outside the show. Trying to place it on stations and networks. Most see the need for this kind of thing. Almost none can (will?) pay for it. I sat with one of the big ones a few weeks ago. They would be happy to pay a licensing fee for a new show, provided it was good enough quality. But of course, the fee wouldn’t even come close to covering the production costs. Most are just happy to take the show for free.

But once in a while I run into one that likes the show, but wants me to pay them to air it. No. Never. I will give it away because we want people to see it, but I refuse to ever buy air time. It’s wrong headed, it’s upside down, and this practice has a very limited lifespan.

The other day I got an email from a foreign network. They were not asking for me to buy air time, but they wanted me to cover the cost of translating the program. I understand. It costs money to translate from English into another language. I declined. Partly because I didn’t have $3000 sitting around. Partly because my initial conversation with the president of the network had not included any mention of fees I would owe. Partly because in any other market (model?) they would be paying me for the content.

There is an audience for scripted and non traditional religious content. Our industry has to figure out how to get more of that created and on the air. Squeezing the producer for money to broadcast it isn’t the way. We had better figure it out soon. The clock is ticking.

Can Christian Media have Characters Who Swear?

noIn one of the scripts for the show I originally had a character use the word “hell.” That isn’t so strange for Christian film, since we talk about the very real place called hell sometimes. But in this instance, the word “hell” was preceeded by two other words: “What the…” I later changed that line.

Why would I write it? The use of that word in that scene accomplished two things:

It showed the emotional state of the character. He was angry. He was not in control of himself, and even though he normally would not use this phrase, it came out. He was not emotionally mature enough to handle the situation without resorting to use of this word. This guy was hacked off.

It showed the spiritual maturity of the character. He’s a kid. Grew up in the church, but didn’t have the maturity to respond in a more Christ-like manner. This line gave clues to later events in the script.

So, it had a purpose. It wasn’t just for shock value, but it illuminated the character.

A friend who is in the show called me on it. At first I was resistant to changing the line. But I relented. It wasn’t necessary to make the point.

But it brings up a good question: Can Christian media have characters who swear? Is there ever a time when using crass language would be acceptable. I’m not talking about taking the Lord’s name in vain. And I’m not talking about showing profanity in a positive light. There are plenty of passages talking about proper speech, and avoiding obscenity.

But in the course of story telling, is it sometimes more efficient and effective to place a curse word in the mouth of a character rather than try to show that same thing in another manner?

Frankly, I don’t know.

My Dream Job

work

I recently explored a return to church work. Not in the same capacity as before, but generally a “working for a church” job.  Ultimately our family felt that God wasn’t in that move. So we stayed planted. But it was odd to think of working for a church when I wasn’t called to do that particular work. I know that a lot of people do. Right now, I’m working for an AV company and that isn’t my calling.

I work for PSAV. I work on corporate shows, loading in gear, running the events and loading the gear out. It’s a decent gig with good benefits. I wish it paid more. But God has always provided, and every bill has been paid on time. 

Still, that’s not my calling.

What am I called to do? Create TV/Video/Film from a biblical worldview that appeals to younger audiences. By “younger” I mean under age 50.
 
So, my dream job is a way to do that and make a living. What does that look like? Not really sure.
 
Maybe I will just do one project that is financially successfully. Peculiar, for as well as it has been received, has not earned back the money it took to make it. Not yet anyway. I’m still looking for the scripted religious TV financial model.
 
Maybe there is a church that is inspired to do non traditional TV and looking to hire a producer. I would love to have the budget that some of my previous church’s spent on traditional broadcasting to do a show or two. Maybe there is a TV station or distributor looking to do the same.
 
I don’t know. In the mean time, I work to make ends meet and I work to fulfill the calling on my life. Some day those might be the same.

Why I Sold my Canon 60D (New camera strategy)

cams

I love DSLR video. Nowhere else can you get such a narrow DOF for decent HD video for such a low price. No other camera system offers this.

But there are drawbacks. Bad audio for one. Compressed video codec for another. Basically, it’s a still camera that can do video. It can do it pretty well, but there are better video cameras out there. For more money.

I, like most indie filmmakers, can’t just go drop several thousand dollars on a new camera. But I can rent a high quality video camera that provides all the benefits of a DSLR without the drawbacks.

A Canon c100 with the new autofocus chipset can be rented for 3 days at $260. You can extend that to 2 weeks for $650. A c300 runs 2-3 times as much. That’s a big difference between paying $5000 to buy the c100. Or $14,000 to buy the c300. A Red Epic package can be rented for $1700 for 3 days, should you want one.

But what if there isn’t a budget to rent?

Enter the Canon EOS M. Canon released a mirrorless camera last year. After a poor showing and some complaints about autofocus, Canon lowered the price and updated the firmware.

You can now buy an EOS M with 22mm f2 lens for under $330. A Canon adapter can be bought to use all EF and EFS lenses. The sensor is the exact same as the one in the t4i. I just got a slightly used EOS M with 22mm f2 and the Canon EOS to M adapter for $346.

From what I have seen, the video looks great. It still has the same issues that all DSLRs have. And the same benefits. For under $350. You can actually find bodies without lenses for $250. Rumor has it another version is soon forthcoming.

So, the EOS M will replace my 60D for small shoots, and rental becomes an option for larger projects.