Amazon Video Direct Slams Gates on Indie Documentaries and Shorts

Amazon Video Direct has been changing. It used to be a wide open platform, where anyone who could meet their tech requirements was guaranteed to find a spot on Amazon Video. You content could be seen by their millions of customers. It likely wouldn’t, but the algorithm did a decent job of showing your content to people, and you can directly market your films on the site, yourself.

Over the last couple of years AVD has been tightening the creative reins. They’ve been rejecting poor-er quality films. But, if you had a well produced movie, you could still get on board. Recently they’ve added using their S3 storage for titles. And begun kicking tiles off of Prime (SVOD) based on their murky CER ratings.

And this week, the bell tolled for niche market documentaries and short films. The submission page reads (On Feb. 17, 2021):

All content submitted through Prime Video Direct is made available at the sole discretion of Amazon. At this time, we’re no longer accepting unsolicited licensing submissions via Prime Video Direct for non-fiction and short form content. We’ll notify you if these categories become available for consideration.”

So, if your documentary isn’t solicited by them, you cannot get it on the service. In other words, to get your documentary on Amazon you have to use an aggregator and hope it’s selected or a distributor who will work to get it selected. Just like Netflix and other streaming outlets.

Self distributing a movie just got harder for doc filmmakers. There used to be a few places without gatekeepers to get your film out, and recoup some of the cost of making it. AVD just slammed the gates shut on indie docs and short films.


Streaming for Indie Filmmakers in 2020

It stinks.

On Monday, Regal announced it would be indefinitely closing US and UK theaters.

I also heard from Christian Cinema that one of my titles- arguably my best work- was immediately removed from their catalog because it didn’t meet their small viewership threshold.

And I got an email satisfaction survey from Amazon Prime Video Direct.
All on the same day. This just reminded me how terrible the market is for indie filmmakers right now.

As more major theaters close, and more studios release major movies to streaming first, indie filmmakers watch an already crowded market of independent work get shoved to a second tier. There’s no way a movie with a budget of under $20k can compete with a studio film with name actors and actual advertising money.  The only thing we used to have going for us was that when people wanted to stream things, they could choose older movies and shows or indie content. Now, they can choose new content from major studios.

That brings me to Christian Cinema. A few years ago I put my series on there. It wasn’t the most amazing series ever produced, but it was a niche product and I was a small fish in a small pond. A couple of months later, Christian Cinema added a ton of family friendly, but not specifically Christian content. Suddenly my small pond was pretty big.

When I submitted my documentary to Christian Cinema, I asked about partnering with them on some promotion. My doc film is different than anything else on their platform and still fit their audience very well. They would not even answer the question.

My doc film was available on pages and pages of “documentary” content. The only highlight it got was from my efforts. And frankly, it was easier for people to use Amazon or Vimeo on Demand. So it never saw a lot of sales or rentals on that platform.

Fast forward two years, and amazingly my old series has seen purchases while the documentary did not meet their minimum threshold. So, it’s gone. Like surprise- open an email, last line says it’s gone as of today. Gone. I know that’s in the contract, but I guess I expected some notice, instead of a by-the-way-we-deleted-it email. It’s disheartening to see something you spent 2 years working on get so few views it gets pulled from the “small pond” you put it on.

That leaves Amazon and a couple of places Film Hub is placing the movie. And Amazon pretty much stinks with regard to confusing policies and low royalties. I guess they can because they are Amazon, and their algorithm works, sort of. 

To be honest, no one knows about the movie. I mean, local people know, but no one knows. My meager marketing efforts never reached a tipping point with awareness of the film. I can spend money on social media ads and see views of the film, but with royalties being so low I could never earn more than I was spending. I spent a lot of time trying to find a magical formula for ad spending vs earning, and never figured it out. Maybe I just needed a lot more capital to start with, maybe it’s not scalable? How can no-budget films break through the noise to be seen?

The barrier to entry for indie filmmakers is low. That’s a two edged sword. One the one edge, anyone with a smart phone can make and distribute a film. On the other, no matter how bad it is, anyone with a smartphone can distribute a movie. How can your work get noticed in the sea of content?

I was approached by a marketing firm recently. After the 3rd email, I responded. Their program is this- pay them $800 up front and 30% of revenue and they will market the film. So I did the math on how many revenue shared $1 rentals it would take to recoup $800. When I asked if he could promise I would see that money back… the conversation stopped. I also asked if he had watched the movie… he apparently had not. I might (might) have been tempted to use their company if he had a real passion for the project, instead of just using google to search for indie content and cold emailing them.

There was a time in Indie Christian filmmaking, when just getting a DVD of a movie into brick and mortar stores guaranteed thousand of sales. I heard people say that “You just have to keep the budget under $200k, because that’s about what you will bring in.” Things have changed so much. I definitely missed that window. 

I tried to break the system for Christian TV series, and saw great openness to broadcast the program, but very, very little ability or willingness to pay for the program. I’ve now tried working within the broken indie, self-distribution system. I’ve been smart enough to not spend money I could not afford on production, and fortunate enough to break even or not end up more than a few hundred dollars underwater on a project. But I cannot make a living the way I have approached filmmaking. I describe myself as a part-time filmmaker, but normal part time jobs pay something. 

So, after all that downer talk, why would anyone keep making movies?
Well, it’s not to get rich. The only reason to keep making content is because you are passionate about the content you are making. 

That’s it. The market is terrible, you’re likely not going to even make your money back. So only produce what you are passionate about. From concept to eventually being removed from streaming platforms, it’s your passion for the project that will carry you through and on to the next one.

[By the way, the documentary is available for free with Prime membership on Amazon now. You can watch with your membership and Amazon will give me about one dime. But at least people will be watching it.]

Amazon Prime Video Direct and Short Films

The other day Amazon Video Direct emailed to let all of us providers know they are once again cutting the legs out from under indie filmmakers. They are now taking the Japan, Germany and UK royalties and making them similar to the current US royalties. Basically, if you have a high CER (Customer Engagement Ranking) you can make more money per hour of viewing on your Prime viewing titles. That is to say, you can make jack squat or less than jack squat. Even at the highest CER rank, you won’t make more than 0.07 CBP per hour of streaming. That’s Zero Point Zero 7 Pounds. I took my feature doc off of Prime viewing because I think my work is worth more that a dime per viewing. That’s what I was getting with my CER in the US back then. People would watch an hour and 45 minute film, and I would get about $0.10. Currently my doc is available for rent on Amazon for just $1, of which I receive $0.50. 

But, that’s not the real reason for this post today. Looking at my account I noticed that only one of my videos that are on Prime was getting any views. That’s odd. I had this little comedic short that used to get a lot of views. But there had been no minutes streamed for a few weeks. Investigating further I found these publishing errors on 2 of my 3 short films that were on Amazon for Prime viewing:

So, Amazon had pulled them down. And there’s no recourse, and don’t bother trying to resubmit. These short films had been on Amazon since 2016 for one and 2018 for the other. One had 5/5 stars the other had 4/5 stars. 

The reviews were (mostly) very positive, and the star reviews weren’t a problem. And it’s not about offensive content, or inappropriate content. And it’s not about quality- to be completely honest, my 3rd short film is the worst one of the bunch, and it’s still available. They had good audio, good video quality. I’ve watched a lot of indie films on Prime, and I’ve seen some ugly ones that are still on there. So that leaves you with Customer Viewing Behavior as a cause.

Both the films that were removed were under 3 minutes long. The short film that is still available if just over 5 minutes. I wondered if they had instituted a minimum runtime for titles. So, I dug around and found a contact email. I asked about minimum runtimes for titles and why they hadn’t notified me via email about taking down those titles. And they replied:

“Hello, We do not have a set minimum run-time, however most customer engagement metrics indicate that shorter films (less than 15-20 minutes) typically fail to meet quality expectations. Please note that all title updates are posted to the title entry page in the Your Videos section for each video.”

So there you have it. Short films are out. I survived previous purges, and my 5 minute film survived this one, but the days of Amazon Prime Video Direct being a place to get your short film seen are over. Also, they won’t bother to tell you if they remove a video, they expect you to be checking a page you only look at once a year or so, or when you’re uploading new content.

Now, what does this actually mean for me?

It means those two short films won’t be available on Amazon prime anymore. You can still see them on YouTube:

(A slightly longer -30 seconds more- version of this film was on Amazon, without the Rode Reel graphics)

I won’t really be losing any money. Think about it. If I get a maximum of 10 cents per hour of viewing, it would take 20 views of a 3 minute movie to earn 10 cents. 200 views of that movie to make $1. And the reality is, older films naturally have a lower CER, so I expect those short films were earning 1 cent per hour of viewing, so it would take 2000 views to make $1.

Let’s face it, having a short film on Amazon Prime is like publishing a novel at a Vanity Press. It’s nice, feels good. But you’re not making a living from that. Not with short films. And now, even that option is disappearing. So, off we go to Youtube and Vimeo- where we also make no money for providing content. 

To Prime or not to Prime: TVOD vs SVOD in Indie Filmmaking

Trying to make back the money it costs to produce an independent film is hard.

People expect entertainment for free. Really, I should say “free” instead. Nothing is free, but it’s not normally something people pay for at the time of consuming the entertainment. They pay a monthly (Netflix, Hulu) or annual (Amazon) fee, but when they sit down to watch a movie or show, there’s no transaction. Youtube is free, social media is free, even TV is free, if you don’t count paying for cable or satellite, or dealing with advertising.

Studios spend millions on overcoming this expectation. It takes a big amount of interest to trigger someone buying a movie instead of just “netflixing” it. And, I have found, it takes a lot of interest to trigger the purchase or rental of an indie documentary.

My film has been in the TVOD window, or Transactional Video On Demand window- meaning people who want to watch it must buy or rent it. I’m considering when to move to the next widow, which is SVOD and AVOD, or Subscription VOD or Advertising Supported VOD. It’s a big decision because the difference in margins is pretty large. In TVOD the split between platform and filmmaker ranges from 50-90%, depending on platform. Amazon Video is 50%. So if you rent a movie for $2, the filmmaker gets $1. Amazon Prime royalties are paid by the amount of time watched. And that royalty varies based on a number of factors Amazon calls an engagement score.

Given its current engagement score on Amazon, my documentary would generate $0.05 per hour of streamed video. (Max possible is $0.10) So, I would be making right at $0.08 per viewing of my entire film. (If someone watches part of it, then the royalty will be adjusted.) That means to make more money from SVOD/Prime than rentals ($1) I would need to have my film viewed 12 times on Prime vs rented one time.

Sounds crazy right? How can anyone expect a movie to be viewed 12 times as much as it is rented just by making it available to Prime subscribers?

Part of my issue is that most of the initial rush of purchases have already happened. People who already know about the movie have already decided to buy or rent it. To generate more rentals or purchases I have to introduce someone to the movie and then get them interested enough to spend money on the transaction. I have to trigger someone to overcome their expectation of free entertainment. Opening the SVOD/AVOD window could bypass that, but will it generate revenue?

So, I did a little survey among my friends. These are people I can easily reach through organic means (not paid) on social media and email. I asked 5 simple questions. There was a definite trend.

I should mention this is far from a perfect or scientific survey. It’s a snapshot of what people I know think about watching independent films. It’s also a bit skewed by the number of filmmakers who are included in the survey, so keep that in mind when reading the results. I will break that down a bit more as the article goes on.

29 total responses.

Survey results with filmmakers included:

29 responses. 3 people had give money toward a crowdfunding campaign for film. 12 had been in or helped make a film. 14 had never been involved with film before.

96.5% use an SVOD service like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.
75% did not use an AVOD platform, like Crackle or Tubi.

65% said they either had or were willing to spend money an indie film (TVOD)
27% said the either had or were willing to watch an indie film on a “free” streaming platform. (SVOD/AVOD)
92% are open to watching your movie, if they are interested.

75% said they would rather watch an indie film on SVOD/AVOD.

Then I took out all of the filmmakers in the survey, leaving 17 responses.

53% said they either had or were willing to spend money an indie film (TVOD)
41% said the either had or were willing to watch an indie film on a “free” streaming platform. (SVOD/AVOD)
94% of these non-filmmakers are open to watching your movie, if they are interested enough. (That’s up 2% from when looking at the responses with filmmakers included… Weird)

76% said they would rather watch an indie film on SVOD/AVOD.

OK, so what does that mean?

Not a lot of people watch AVOD. Almost everyone has an SVOD service.

A lot of people say they will buy or rent an indie film, if they are interested enough. But in both versions of the survey, basically 3/4 say they would prefer to watch it through SVOD/AVOD. That makes sense, right? I’m already paying for the subscription, it’s easy to just add it and watch.

So while more than half are willing to consider spending money on your movie, it’s always going to be easier to get people to watch in SVOD. And, especially among friends and family, you can capture those TVOD transactions early.

Bottom line: After the initial rush of purchases by your committed fans, open the film up to SVOD. This should trigger the next level of fans, who might watch but are hesitant to pay money to watch.

Peculiar Premieres on Christian Cinema Feb 21

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 8.33.14 PM
All 10 episodes of Peculiar will be available via TVOD on Christian Cinema starting Feb. 21, 2018. Episodes are available for $0.99 each, or get all 10 for $7.99.

I’ve written about the changing landscape of SVOD and indie film, and gone through some of my reasons for moving Peculiar away from Amazon and Youtube.

The day after Youtube cancels my partnership, just a few days before Amazon lowers their royalty rate, my show will be on TVOD for the first time… and available to a Christian audience. I’m curious how making it available through a portal that caters to a Christian customer will go. Might be good, might be average.

In the past month episodes of Peculiar were started 165 times on Amazon. But the show was only viewed for 932 minutes. Meaning the episodes were watched, on average, under 6 minutes. That makes sense, considering Amazon isn’t a religious platform.

There aren’t a lot of comedies on Christian Cinema. Virtually no TV sitcoms. My show is both low budget and different in content. So it may not fit. or it may be well received. Time will tell.

I won’t be missing the money that Youtube or Amazon paid.

Peculiar – Digital Access Soon to be Available on Christian Cinema

B&W Peculiar Logo.jpg
The changes in SVOD platforms have made me take a long look at where the series has been available, and where the people who would most want to see it are consuming content.

I believe that even though the series is aging, the best outlet is Christian Cinema.

Assuming all goes as planned, all 10 episodes of Peculiar will be available on through the Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD) platform. You’ll be able to purchase episodes or the entire series, and view it on your computer, TV or digital device.

At the end of February, Peculiar will no longer be available on Amazon Prime Video. And it’s already been removed from Youtube.

Check out the newly-cut-for-2018 series trailer for Peculiar:

It’s my hope that making this content (which was made for a Christian audiences) available to people who are looking for Christian content, more people will see it. Instead of just throwing it out into the world through any outlet possible, this more targeted release will put the show in front of more people who might actually want to watch it.

The New Black Friday, Or How I wasted Too Much Time on Amazon’s App

We spent this Thanksgiving at my parent’s house. It was great fun with family. I barely left the house the whole time we were there, and I never left the property. But I still got some Black Friday shopping in.  Since the break in I have been in the market for a few replacements. And I hoped to luck into a great TV deal. My extended family doesn’t live close to a major retailer, and I was not planning on driving and camping out for any Black Friday deal. I didn’t need to. I did all my shopping online.

This year more than ever before retailers were offering major discounts for online purchases. I woke up Thanksgiving morning and placed an order with Best Buy, to be delivered next week. This item wasn’t available for my Early Access sale last Monday, but was a “doorbuster” for Thursday/Friday and available online. As with the early access sale, not every doorbuster was online. Just a few.

The online retailer Amazon changed up their Black Friday approach. This year they threw out “lightning” deals seemingly at random. They released a short list of what would be available, and a time period for which those deals would appear over the next several days. One deal, a 50″ Led 1080p TV for $150 was only going to be available through the Amazon App. There were several deals that only people who used the app would see. And almost every deal was made available to Amazon prime members 30 minutes earlier than to the general public.

This strategy of randomly dropping new deals online kept bringing shoppers back again and again, throughout the day. Sometimes the app would tell you what was coming. You could “watch” the deal, and get a notification when it was about to start. Other times the deal just popped up. The hotter the deal, the more likely it would show up without notice.

Catching one of these hot lightning deals was a matter of luck.I actually had the $75 32″ TV in my cart, and decided not to buy it. I saw the “waitlist” for their 55″ 4K TV deal, right before it was filled. If you missed the initial offering, you could join a waitlist. If a shopper failed to check out within 15 minutes of placing the item in their cart, it would be offered to the next person on the waitlist. You would have just a few minutes to make your own purchase, or it would drop to the next person. Many of these deals would be gone and the waitlist filled within seconds of showing up on the app.

Because we had our TVs stolen and have not replaced them yet, I was hoping to snag a TV deal. I really wanted the cheap 50″ deal. Not because it would have been a great TV, but because even a “cheap” TV of that size is a good deal for $150. I confess I spent way too much time waiting for that deal to drop. Not knowing when meant that I would have to be lucky. It’s not quite as bad as waiting in line for days, but it was actually very annoying to keep checking the app. In between activities with my family I was pulling up Amazon and scrolling through the deals.

That’s what they wanted people to do. They wanted us to keep looking and keep checking, in hopes that we would see other things we wanted, and buy those as well. That worked for a couple of hours. My kids snagged a game they had been wanting for a very cheap price. I ordered a microSD card at 80% off the normal price. But very soon I just didn’t care. When the 50″ TV deal went live I just missed seeing it, and it wasn’t until 20 minutes later that I knew it had appeared. I assume it was available for just a few moments before it had sold out.

I had begun to wonder if it would ever appear. As did others from what I read online. This new random drop tactic was not a huge hit with online shoppers, from what I could see in he forums and comments I read. I won’t ever do it again. My time is worth more than any deal like this. This felt too much like work. I am deleting the app from my phone. I only got it to see if I could get this one TV deal.

The method that Amazon, and others, should use if they want me to keep coming back to their website is to post what will be for sale, and when the deal goes live. Both of my purchases from Amazon this year were on deals like this. I knew what was coming up for sale, and when I should be ready to buy. Both were available at different times, and both times I looked at other items for sale while I was there buying my “watched” deals. Hopefully more retailers will offer their deals online.

Everyone wants a deal. Some people will camp out for days to get one. Others will spend too much time checking an app for a sale. I’ve never camped out, and I won’t check the app like this again next year. I will be happy to buy things online as long as I know what is for sale and when the deal begins.

Amazon Intant Video, CreateSpace, Aggregators and Episodic Content

{Update: You should now look into Amazon Video Direct. Fixes a lot of issues with Amazon instant Video.}

handy videoI’ve been looking for ways to get the episodes of Peculiar onto streaming sites. There are a few aggregators out there, but many require you to fork over several hundred dollars in order to have the content submitted. Then there is a chance it won’t be accepted.

One place that will take anything you submit is Amazon. If you send it, they take it. And Createspace offers a simple way to get your content online.

But it’s not perfect. The workflow of the Createspace submission is: Create a project, burn a DVD (!) and mail it to them. They rip it. They place it online and share the sales with you. Sorry, no Amazon Prime access for your content. That’s right, you must make a standard definition DVD of your video project and they will rip their file from that compressed mpeg2 file. There is no way to upload your content, and no way to sell HD content through Createspace.

But it is free and fairly simple.

If I had a movie I would probably have already just sent it in. But I have 10 episodes of a show.

When I asked about sending episodic content in, I was told they no longer allow that.

That seemed odd, since there are tons of TV shows grouped together as seasons on Amazon Instant Video. And from that phasing, Createspace used to allow indie producers to group their content together as well. So I asked why.

In true major company help desk fashion I had to ask three times. Every time I asked why they don’t allow indie producers to group episodes, I was told what they allowed. They said, that’s right, we don’t allow it. On the fourth try I finally got an answer.

It seems that some users ruined it for the rest of us. A few people were uploading movies broken into multiple parts, and asking customers to buy multiple installments. Customers complained. The hammer dropped. I personally think it’s a bit of overkill for what had to be a small problem, but it’s their company.

I was preparing to submit each semester of the show (6 episodes for the 1st, 4 episodes for the 2nd) as a separate movie, when I ran across a new aggregator. This one is called Kinonation. I’m still researching them, and waiting to hear back if they allow episodic content, but on the surface it seems like a good thing. no upfront fees, just a split on the backside. For a project that may not see huge sales to recoup lots of submission fees, this seems like a good deal. Oh, and the submissions are eligible for Amazon Prime.

So, I’m waiting to hear back, and ready to move toward online distribution of the show.

Motivating the Status Quo Crowd: Meet Joe Status-quo

I am sitting in a Chick Fil A restaurant, eating my chicken biscuit. As expected, the news cycle has moved on. Chick Fil A owners still think the same way, and people still eat chicken, and people still don’t like Chick Fil A because the owners don’t support alternate views of marriage.

Amazon CEO still supports legalizing gay marriage. And there still hasn’t been anything on most conservatives radar about that. They are still buying Kindle books and everything else Amazon sells. It’s not because people have realized that boycotts really don’t work well. It’s because those in the status quo crowd, the people who are happy with the way things are, only really get motivated when they are personally effected by something.

Liberals get up in arms about a restaurant that serves chicken they like, stands for things they believe in, and exercises free speech? Sure, get a conservative talk show host to mention it a couple of times, and we can get this bandwagon rolling. The implication that free speech was threatened combined with possible loss of the good Jesus-chicken was enough to tip the scales toward action, at least for one day.

And then it’s back to status quo.

It’s easy to see why this is the case. The people trying to change the status quo are in a state of dissonance. Their immediate view of the world is not congruent with how the world is. So they act to change the world, in various ways.

Those in the status quo need do nothing, and their immediate view of the world is just fine. Threaten my chicken, and you get a response. The president I didn’t vote for says it’s time for gay marriage to be legal, and I barely acknowledge it. A state I don’t live in legalizes gay marriage, and I might care but I don’t actually do anything.

Because I’m comfortable in my status quo.

In fact, most people won’t be kicked into a dissonant state until something drastic happens in their own immediate view. Let me propose a for instance. I’ll use gay marriage and something which is happening in Denmark, (something similar will happen here eventually) as an example.

Joe Status-quo lives in a midwest state.

He voted with an overwhelming majority a prohibition of any kind of marriage except that between a man and woman. Later a judge rules that the referendum isn’t binding. Gay marriage isn’t legal, yet, but it’s not prohibited like the vote said. Joe doesn’t pay attention because things are basically the same to him. Besides he voted so he did his duty.

Later, after a series of lawsuits Joe doesn’t notice which remove the rest of the legal obstacles, the state legislation passes a bill that legalizes gay marriage. Joe hears about that, and is a little upset. But really, it doesn’t affect him personally. So aside from making a few crude jokes around the water cooler, he does nothing.

A couple of months later, the church Joe attends refuses to allow a gay couple to use their building to get married. The couple sues. After a long and expensive legal battle, a judge rules that the church has to allow all legal marriages to be performed on their private property. And as an added insult, the couple brings a civil suit for damages, and the church settles, paying the cost of the entire ceremony and reception.

Joe Status-quo finally is in a dissonant state. He is incensed. His first amendment rights have been trampled by the state. He looks around, but discovers it’s too late to stop anything. By the time Joe Status-quo looks outside his immediate view, things have gone too far.

Here’s what I want to say to Joe before this, or something like it, happens:

Dear Joe,

If you like your life, you had better pay attention. That commotion on the fringes is your way of life unravelling. Every thread brings it closer you where you are. As the old saying goes, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Broaden your view now, before it’s too late to do anything about it. The people trying to change your way of life are active right now. Pay attention.

Chick Fil A supports Traditional Marriage, Amazon Doesn’t, and Why That Won’t Change My Behavior

Today I, like hundreds of thousands of others, ate at a Chick Fil A restaurant. I didn’t do it because I support traditional marriage, or because Dan Cathy does. I ate there because I was annoyed about the double standard present in the media over this area, concerned about the public statements of elected officials threatening to discriminate against a business which actually doesn’t discriminate, and a small part of me felt good to jump on the bandwagon today. Plus, I like Chick Fil A sandwiches and sweet tea.

But before I explain myself, let’s look at the controversy.

What Cathy Actually Said

First, this wasnt just some news release the company’s CEO put out. The man was asked a question, and he answered transparently in an interview with Baptist Press:

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

“We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.

Some have twisted this. For example, CNN reported:

But the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire. “Guilty as charged,”, Cathy said when asked about his company’s support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage.

Cathy never mentioned same sex marriage in the interview.

Frankly, in that interview, he made a more direct reference to divorce than same sex marriage. That took more guts than anything about gay rights. Christians seem to have forgotten that God hates divorce. Many churches don’t preach “against” it much. And half the people in our pews have had one. But that is a topic for another post.

In the wake of this controversy, another interview was dug up. Cathy was talking about raising children, according to a post by Denny Burk which outlines these two interviews in greater detail:

And in that interview, Ken Coleman wanted Cathy to talk about fatherhood and family. So Cathy made some wide-ranging remarks about the family in general and about his own father in particular—remarks which had no reference to homosexuality.

Cathy also emphasized how crucial it is for children to be raised by both a mother and father. As an aside, he mentions that that’s why he believes it’s arrogant to try and redefine marriage. It’s bad for children and invites God’s judgment.

I, like Burk, think it’s clear what Cathy thinks about same sex marriage, but am amazed that his simple statements about what he supports have been twisted into some sort of hate filled message. Even Christians are misquoting Cathy.

The last few weeks have been filled with vitriol from the left. News commentators have slammed this company, politicians quickly tried to build support… some suggesting courses of action which may be illegal. (Is it legal to block a restaurant from building a new franchise in your town because you disagree with the CEO about marriage?) Many began calling for a boycott. Many have taken to social media outlets to vent their outrage.

When you press people on it, asking why the news that a Christian CEO does not support same sex marriage surprises them, many I’ve talked to, or read, explain that it’s not really his views, but the fact that he takes money that he makes selling chicken and gives it to political organizations who actively work against making gay marriage legal. So… this is just an opportunity for you then? You thought you would seize on a moment or two of transparency in a polarized political climate and try to get some steam on the whole boycott thing.

Take it from a Southern Baptist who lives in the shadow of Disneyworld. Boycotts don’t work.

The Event

In light of the media controversy, Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested people who support Chick Fil A should eat there on August 1st. And I would be shocked if this wasn’t the most chicken they have ever sold in one day. The reports I’ve seen show lines out the door and around the building. People waited hours for chicken in some places. They are literally running out of food in some stores.

The Protest

In response to the appreciation day, a counter protest sprang up online. The plan was simple: On August 1st, go to Chick Fil A and order and large water, and then leave.

So let me get this straight. In order to show how much you don’t like a restaurant, you are going to the restaurant, ordering something they will gladly give you, and walking out carrying a cup that advertises the restaurant you want to harm. How does this hurt Chick Fil A? You get a positive experience in the store. They do what they always do. Any increase in lost revenue because of the additional cups was more than made up by the increased sales today. Any extra time spent serving you, which is their main function (to serve the customer) didn’t matter to those supporting the chain because they were willing to literally wait hours to get their food. In fact, your presence in the store added to the crowd, and helped give the appearance that there were tons of people who supported the restaurant’s right of free speech. Great idea. I’m sure it was effective.


So in the middle of all of this, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife donated $2.5 million dollars to help make gay marriage legal in Washington state.

Obviously, many supporters of gay marriage think this is great news.

How is this any different than what Cathy did? Both people have an opinion about marriage, and have expressed it, in interviews or emails made public. Both have made donations to political groups who work for an outcome on this issue. But each CEO is on the opposite side of the issue.

And Tango Makes Three

I tried to not talk about this. I tried, mainly because I think it has been blown way out of proportion. If this wasn’t an election year, I don’t think this would be such big news. If the president hadn’t publicly changed his view on gay marriage a few months ago, this wouldn’t be big news. If social media didn’t exist, this would not be nearly as big of a deal.

Know what pushed me over the edge? Coming home to find a children’s book my kids checked out of the local public library about two male penguins that love each other and raise a baby together. You don’t find out the main characters are gay until 10 pages in. A blurb on the back of the book claims the story is “heartwarming proof that mother nature knows best.” How exactly does a zookeeper giving another penguin’s egg to a “gay” penguin couple show that mother nature knows anything? If it was mother nature, they wouldn’t have gotten an egg because male penguins don’t lay eggs.

The book, “And Tango Makes Three” is much more insidious than any political campaign. It’s not called “Heather has Two Mommies” or something similar. It masquerades as a basic kid’s book. It is specifically written to promote homosexual relationships and non traditional families. This is much worse than a group openly spending donations to buy advertising for their political agenda.

So seeing this controversy over public statements and money, I have resisted the urge to comment because it just doesn’t matter in the long run. Come 2nd week of November this whole thing will be long forgotten.

It just won’t matter that much.

But wait, I ate at Chick Fil A today? I participated in Chick Fil A appreciation day. Yes, I did because I support the right of Chick Fil A’s CEO and Amazon’s CEO to say what they want, and use their money as they want in the free market.

But let me be clear. Hearing Dan Cathy state his views on marriage has no real effect on my long term commitment to eat his chicken. It’s not like anything he said was new to me. I have often referred to Chick Fil A as “Jesus Chicken.” If I didn’t like the food, I wouldn’t eat there no matter what the family that owns it thinks. But I would support the right of the family to think and speak as they wish.

On the other hand, I still buy Apple products and Oreos. I still shop at Amazon. Yet all these companies “support’ same sex marriage. They have a right to their opinion, and like Cathy, have a right to give money to organizations that try to pass laws that reflect their views. If they make a good product, they will be successful and will continue to have money for their political contributions. At least they aren’t hiding it in a kid’s book.

Both sides will throw millions at their viewpoint. But people don’t suddenly change their views of marriage based on one ad campaign. I’ve never heard anyone ever say, “Well, I was against same sex marriage, but then I heard a radio spot and now I have decided to be for it.” The only people that might be swayed by these are the ones that are in the fence.

Beliefs and attitudes about marriage are some of those that people use to define themselves. Political and religious views are some of the most closely held beliefs. Those are not something that people change on a whim. People are moved a little bit at a time. It takes time to change someone’s self defining beliefs. It takes a long time for them to be in a place where an ad campaign can tip them to the other side.

Want to really change someone’s view on marriage?

Write children’s books about animals that teach kids your viewpoint. Create TV shows that reflect your worldview. Produce movies that show the world as you want it to be. Teach people to think like you want them to. Then eventually, over time, people change their minds.

I don’t think that our society’s biggest problems are restaurant owners and tech company CEOs that give millions to organizations that fund political initiatives. Buying chicken or Kindles won’t matter much in the larger scheme of things. I will buy as much chicken as ever, and buy as many mp3s and books as ever.

Change the world by teaching people to see it from a biblical perspective.