How to Raise Money Instead of Debt

IMG_6213Whatever the reason, no matter what political policies or economic currents caused it, many people who fall into the Middle Class live paycheck to paycheck, one crisis away from massive, high interest debt that will take years to pay off. Whether from decisions we make, or circumstances beyond our control, money problems plague the Middle Class. It can be frustrating to work hard and still have nothing left after you pay your bills.

Sometimes an expense pops up that is outside your monthly plan. You want to go an a trip. Or maybe you need to build up that $1000 emergency fund again. Or need to buy new school clothes. Or anything that is outside the normal monthly expense of making ends meet. Don’t put it on your credit card! There are other ways.

How can you raise money instead of increasing your debt?

Increase your cash coming in, Reduce cash going out.

  • Find extra money in the budget. If you don’t have one, make a written budget. In one column write down all the money that comes in for a month. In  another column write down every monthly expense. Are you spending more money than you earn? What are you spending it on? Make some hard choices. Do you need that big data plan on your phone? Do you need the whole cable package? Do you need Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime streaming? Do your kids need an allowance that large? Hey, this is a team effort, and letting your kids contribute will teach important lessons about handling money. Is it time to consolidate those high interest credit cards?
  • Rework your W4 form. Do you get a big return on your income taxes every year? You don’t have to wait to get that money. Talk with your HR person at work, and add some allowances on your W4 form. It’s nice to get a big check from the IRS, almost like a savings account, but you need that money now.
  • Get an extra job. Find a way to work from home on the evenings. Deliver pizza. Pick up an overnight shift or two in retail somewhere. Pick up a freelance gig. These jobs don’t pay much, but they do provide some extra income when you need it.
  • Downsize. Want to get radical? Trade in your nice, fancy car for an older, reliable model. Get something you can buy outright or at least reduce the monthly payment and insurance on. Consider selling your house. It’s no fun to be house-poor. Is it possible to sell your current home and buy a house that costs less while meeting your needs? Imagine not having a monthly car payment, or having a rent or mortgage payment that is hundreds less than what you pay now.

Sell Stuff.

  • Yard sale! People buy a lot of weird stuff at yard sales. And you probably have some things laying around that you never use anymore. Pull out your furniture, old electronics, clothing, home decor and anything else that might have value. See if you need a permit for a sale in your area. Put an ad on craigslist, tell people on social media, and sell your unwanted stuff. You can easily make a couple hundred dollars for a couple of days work. And you free up storage space in your house. This is not the time to sell collectibles. It’s the time to price unwanted items at low prices to get them sold, and get more money in your hands.
  • Sell books and movies and music and video games. Whether in person or online, you can often sell old media. We have a store in our town called Hastings, and they will buy most kinds. They don’t give a lot for it, but they do give cash for books, music, movies and video games you don’t want. If you haven’t watched a movie for over a year, consider selling it. Go through all of your books and music. Get rid of what you don’t need.
  • Pawn Shops. Never pawn anything at a pawn shop. Just sell it outright. Expect to get 20-40% of what the item would sell for used-condition retail. If you have extra tools, electronics, cameras, yard machines, bicycles, etc… you can sell those to your local pawn shop. Clean out your storage and sell what you’re not using anymore.
  • Collectibles. Find the right place to sell them. Yard sales are not the place to sell collectibles. In our last yard sale my daughter wanted to sell a well-worn American Girl doll. She priced it at $15. No one looked at it. The next week we sold it on eBay for $27. Same yard sale had a set of baskets that no one would buy, but later sold for $50 on eBay. Auctions, online communities, Craigslist, eBay; all of these may be a good place to sell off collectible items. Remember, with collectibles, most are only worth what people will pay for them. You can buy any beanie baby in the world for about a buck today. There are some coins that are only worth the price of the materials in them. But my son once got a quarter back in change from a store that he sold for $15. I once had a collection of G.I. Joe toys that books said was worth over $1000, but I was only able to sell for $289. When you’re raising money, it may be time to cash in on your collection.
  • eBay. It’s an amazing website that puts you in touch with buyers from all over. You can sell just about anything. You can research the price of an item, and purchase shipping at a discounted rate. They take 10% of the final sales price and shipping costs. Then Paypal, which is the way you transfer money with eBay, takes 3%. So that $50 item you sold netted you $43.50. And depending on how you listed it, you may have to pay shipping out of that. That’s more money than it made sitting in your closet, but be aware of the fees. Always consider how you will ship the item before you list it. Will you need to buy shipping boxes and materials? It is worth the hassle? I normally don’t sell anything worth less than $10, including shipping. If you aren’t careful you could find yourself clearing under $5 for your item. That’s not much, unless you are doing a lot of volume. One caveat, eBay and Paypal ALWAYS side with the buyer initially, and the burden of proof is on the seller if there is a dispute. Describe your item accurately, ship promptly and safely, and always track the package.

And there are lots of other ways to earn cash.

My family and I are taking a trip soon. We estimated that it would cost about $400 in gas and food. And we didn’t have that sitting around. So we started raising it. We made a couple hundred at yard sale. We sold a ton of books and movies. We sold some electronics and collectibles on eBay. Within a couple of weeks we had raised $430 for our trip. Plus after working through or budget again and adjusting my W4, we will have more income with less bills going forward so we can save more for things like this.


War Room Exceeds Expectations at Box Office, New Slate of Biblical Movies Upcoming

The new film from the Kendrick Brothers held its own against theory movies, on fewer screens, for the opening weekend. $11 Million earnings for the weekend was more than double the estimated amount, proving once again that there is an audience for faith based films.

Noah and Exodus notwithstanding, religious people will shell out their hard earned cash to go see films that affirm (Pun intended… Affirm Films put out war Room) their faith. For a budget of $3 Million, War Room will turn a tidy profit for Sony. And that;s one thing that will keep these kinds of films coming, profit for the companies. I used to hear that Hollywood wasn’t open to movies about faith, but if there is money in it, they are open to movies about anything.

Not everyone loved War Room, Christianity Today’s review took them to task on writing quality:

“But when it comes to screenplay writing, the genre seems stuck in a rut. It’s more committed to heavy-handed providential plotting than imaginative explorations of character or setting.”

There’s no doubt that religious filmmaking has a ways to go in terms of craft. But we have made progress. And, for all of it’s “heavy handedness” War Room resonates with the target audience, Christian women. My own church already has a War Room inspired women’s Bible study scheduled. And the overall message about prayer is solid and needed in most Christian families.

because of the success of films like these, we have seen, and are seeing more films dealing with faith and biblical subjects. Early next year we will see two more, larger budget movies:

MGM is re-booting Ben Hur, due out in February of 2016.

Sony/Affirm has another biblical epic coming out in January, 2016: Risen

It’s an interesting story idea. I’m hopeful.

When the Kendrick’s made their first movie Flywheel, I doubt they knew what they were starting. Churches and filmmakers can do films that will reach a much wider audience than they might have before this. And studios are more open than ever to tapping into the religious market. That has the possibility of helping Christian filmmakers disciple more and share the Gospel more than ever before.

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


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.

Parables of the Talents and Bad Christian Film

I recently was trolling, ah, lurking? No, perusing an online group for religious filmmakers. One member very passionately made the argument that we (believers) shouldn’t make Christian films until we have all the resources in place to do as good a job as our secular counterparts.

On the one hand I can totally see his perspective. The last thing we need is more bad Christian movies. We’ve got enough of those.

In his argument we should wait until we have the resources, the technique, the ability to create something that isn’t sacrificing quality.

I agree with quite a lot of that. But I didn’t do what he suggested. I made a series for stupid cheap money, and even wrote an ebook encouraging others to follow suit. Obviously I’m not on the wait-until- you-have-everything bandwagon.

Am I wrong? Should I have waited until the show could have been done for $50,000 an episode? Or maybe $25,000? What is the magic number, anyway?

It shouldn’t be bad Christian vs good secular, it should be bad vs good.

Is it fair to compare low budget Christian films to blockbuster hits and Oscar winning secular films? Are bad Christian themes movies really any worse than bad secular films?

There’s plenty of bad non Christian film made. Lots of them. Tons of low quality short films and even a feature length products that friends and family watch, but almost no one else. In our case, Christian audiences are more accepting of lower quality because of the message. That may say more about Christian audiences than Christian filmmakers.

But bad films are bad films. Period. Our problem is that we, as believers, excuse the flaws, and allow bad religious fare to become widely known. Bad secular films just fail.

Regarding the original argument, I agree that any filmmaker should do their homework. If you have not bothered to learn basic script structure stop read this right now and go buy Save the Cat by Snyder and Story by Mckee. Immediately.

Don’t rush into production because you don’t want to take the time to learn how to be good. There are too many resources out there to learn how to be a better filmmaker.

But there are not as many resources of a more tangible sort. To make a film or show you need gear and people and places. I believe that if God has placed a burning desire to tell a story in your heart, he has also put the resources to accomplish that vision around you.

But most of the time that does not mean you can pull off a movie with a $2 Million budget. Most of the time you won’t have big name actors in your film. Does that mean you should wait, and not work on your dream?

I keep thinking about the parable of the talents in Matt 25:14ff. If the talents symbolize the resources and abilities God has given us, this parable seems at odds with not moving forward because you don’t want to disappoint God.

Imagine, the master returns and asks what I did with the talents he has given, and I say that I knew he was a hard master so I didn’t take the small amount he gave me and create something more, instead I waited. I hid it away and wished I had been given more. Will his reaction be different than the parable?

What if instead I took what small amount if resources I was given and used them to the very best of my ability (which he also gave me). And while we may not have seen five talents in return, we did see one come back.

If you are interested in religious films then you have surely heard of a church called Sherwood Baptist in Albany, GA. Have you ever watched their first film, Flywheel? This is a prime example of small amount being used to great effect, and God returning more and more throughout the cycle. Are any of their film Oscar worthy? No, but they get better each time, and people watch them.

At the 2014 NRB convention I heard one of the producers, David Nixon, say that their film Fireproof has been credited with helping to save 1 Million marriages. (They know this from messages they have gotten from people who were affected by the message of the film). What if they had waited to do Flywheel?

I’m reminded of this phrase, repeated twice in that passage: “You have been faithful over little, I will set you over much.”

So when I think about the argument that we should wait until we can make something amazingly good, I want to agree. But mainly because I am afraid. I am fearful about doing something so big. If only I could be content to wait. That would be easy. I’d be working a job that paid decent, and quietly pining for the moment what all the pieces fall together and I can make my magnificent movie. Dreams are safe if you never do anything about them.

What if God has given me a story to tell. And I wrote the best script I can, and then get the best gear and best cast and crew, and we make it. And it’s not 100%, more like 80%. But people see it.

Or what if God gives me a story to tell and I spend years waiting until I’m ready to deliver 100%.

Which one has more impact? Which one will allow me to gain experience and knowledge so the next project can be better?

You Can Do This!

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 11.20.55 AMI keep wondering why I don’t run into more people who are actually making shows like mine. Better than mine.

I walked the floor at NRB Convention last year and talked to a lot of people. None of them knew of other series like this. If that sample is to be believed, no one else is making a dramatic comedy series. Stand up comedy, sure. Sketch comedy, even. I have heard of a 30-minute drama. I’ve found a couple of Christian sitcoms out there, but the whole landscape is wide open for both comedy and drama. There’s just not that many being made.

Is it really that hard to make a dramatic series?

Here’s the online version of the September Technologies for Worship Magazine. On page 19 there is an article I wrote about how we created Peculiar for next to nothing. The gear list in the article? Half of that gear was borrowed, not bought. It is possible to do this.

What does it take?

1. Audacity. The simple, unfiltered audacity to believe that you can make something, that you can create it.

2. Perseverance. You will get tired, you will hit roadblocks, you will want to quit sometimes. If you quit, you will never finish. Simple, I know, but most truths are. Want to make a dramatic TV series? Then keep making it until it’s done.

3. Flexibility. Things will not always be ideal, they won’t be the way you want them. You will compromise, you will wish you had something you don’t. Become good at logistics. Figure out how to get it done, and then do it. In the end, it’s more about resourcefulness than resources.

4. Teamwork. You can’t do it alone. Network, go to conferences, join Facebook groups, meet people. Develop of group of friends that have common goals and dreams. Work on each other’s projects. Cast a vision for yours, and lead them to accomplish it.

5. Learning. Read, take classes, help other people with their projects, subscribe to Youtube channels, follow people on twitter. Never stop learning, and never stop practicing. This will come in phases. I am learning right now about better script writing, and in the process I am improving my feature length script. Before this was budgeting.

4580D Heartbeat.qxdDon’t believe the lie that you don’t know enough, aren’t good enough to do it. If I had listened to that voice, I wouldn’t have 10 episodes of my show, Peculiar. Is it perfect? Nope. Not even close. But it’s 100% better than what it would be if I was still waiting to be “good enough” to do it.

You can do it! Believe it.