Ross Carbonite Switcher 12.3 Software and Touchscreen Custom Controls (aka-Macros)

IMG_7552At work we have a 2ME Ross Carbonite Video Switcher. It’s a work horse. Perfect for many church video switching environments; 4 keys per ME, 24 input panel, DVE, 8 Aux, 6 frame syncs built in. For basic IMAG and Stream/TV/Record switching it works really well. Of course, there’s always other options out there, but we have been really happy with our Ross.

We had been running version 10.0 of the software since I’ve been here. The computer based Dashboard software was very handy for setting up and changing switcher configurations, but I didn’t use it for much else. The Ross is capable of recording and recalling macros from the control panel, but I have to admit, I spent way too much time trying to figure out how to do it. A macro is a function that allows you to record multiple button pushes and switcher states and recall them with the push of a button.

So we used the Ross to do the what we needed, but didn’t use any of the advanced featured. Then lightning struck. Or some sort of power surge, we don’t know what it was. The surge was strong enough and fast enough that even though the switcher was on a UPS with surge suppression, the frame lost connection with the control panel. When we reloaded the settings, not everything was exactly the way it was before. Since I was about to tweak some things anyway, I decided now was the time to update the software.

The update process is simple, but a little scary. There’s a big warning on the Ross download page about not being able to downgrade below version 11.0 of the software once you update. Version 12.3 had only been out for a few weeks. I tried the basic update, but I think going from version 10 to 12 was too much for that. It froze during the update process. I ended up having to do a Forced Update which erased everything. In order to do a Forced Update you need a fat32 formatted USB drive of 2GB or larger with only the new software on it. (Make sure you save your settings BEFORE you try to update.) On the frame, power down the switcher, insert the USB. Hold down the “Update” rocker switch and power the frame back on. Keep holding how the rocker switch for a 10 count, then release. A few seconds later the control panel will see the USB and start the update. To go from 10.00 to 12.3 it takes a few minutes. At one point the screen will say Critical Update. That’s normal. Once it’s finished, reload your saved settings. We had to do this twice. For whatever reason, some of our settings didn’t come back the first time.

Now, we were back to basic operation. And could keep using the switcher just like we always had. But I wanted to use the new features in 12.3. In order to do this, we needed a computer on the network near the switcher control panel. I snagged an unused Touchscreen HP we had that used to be a lighting computer. You don’t have to have a touchscreen, but if you have one it is so very sweet.

Ross’s macro functions are call Custom Controls, and the 12.3 software has a very easy to use interface. Their beta editor has worked flawlessly for me. You simply open the editor, select a bank of macros, and select the macro you want to create or edit. On the screen you hit record, and then start punching buttons on the control panel. Once finished, hit stop recording. You can edit the name of the macros if you want. Exit the editor and your new Custom Control is listed in the bank of “shot boxes”. To recall the macro, just select it.

You can also go deeper. I created a macro that tells all 4 keyers on both MEs to turn off. Not just to autotrans all for keyers. That’s something I can program do on the control panel. I was able to go into the editor and tell the switcher to turn the state of the keyers to off. And recall that as a macro.

The media store is also pretty powerful and easier than ever to use. Each file in the media library has a number. In the Custom Control editor you can tell the switcher to select and load a specific numbered file, and then display it. Since our panel is pretty full of inputs, we don’t have all 4 of the media stores quickly available. This little feature allows me to load any media, and fire it at the touch of a button. (One thing to note, in Ross world, if you are keying an image via the media library, the media stores 1 and 3 will be used together. 1 to hold the image, and 3 to hold the alpha information. Same for 2 and 4. This happens automatically.)

In just a few days I’ve programmed 17 Custom Controls. I’m sure I will add more as time goes on. I’ve programmed macros that range from foundational (reset all auxes, keyers and DVEs back to our Sunday morning settings, set up for a weekly Bible study we record in the WC) to functional (fade both MEs to black or the bail loop, clear all keys, transition the background animation and key lyrics on the IMAG ME) to specific (load and key 1 of 7 icons we use that coordinate with our new kid’s worship journals). We used it this past Sunday. Everything worked. I found a few things to tweak, and will do that this week.

Overall, the upgrade to 12.3 and used of the new beta Custom Control editor has been really great.

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Dear Christians, The Culture War is Over, We Lost.

blue merica
{I don’t normally post on political topics, or even on solely spiritual ones. Mostly I write about filmmaking from a biblical worldview, or church tech, etc… but I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while. Regular posts will resume after this brief interruption.}
Dear Christians,
In a short time the Supreme Court will rule on marriage in America. But no matter what that ruling is, it won’t change this fact:
The culture war is over. We lost.
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We lost because it took 20 years for us to realize we were at war. This war of ideals started in the 1960s, but the Religious Right got going in the 80s. By then we were already on the defensive. We were most concerned about maintaining the power to enforce our rules. But legal authority alone does not engender revival.
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We lost because we decided to let school and church teach our kids the most important lessons. We shirked our responsibility as parents. We are supposed to “train up a child” and teach them what it means to live a righteous and holy life. Instead we left that education up to Sunday School teachers who saw kids for 1 hour a week. How can we be surprised when a college student leaves home and then drops out of religious practice? We didn’t teach them what was important. Someone else did. How can we be surprised when our children’s views differ from our own? We didn’t teach them.
 –
We lost because our own faith is little more than weekend window dressing. We go to church, and then go home and live like everyone else in the world. We don’t live as Christ did. Non Christians look at us and see little beyond a seemingly irrational, deeply-held belief that we are right and they are wrong. But if we are different and correct, why don’t we live differently? Why don’t we love differently?
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We lost because we were fighting the wrong war. By all means, vote and speak up about morality, injustice, and erosion of freedom. But those things are not the reason we live on this earth. God didn’t ask us to protect our way of life, he asked us to be ambassadors of the reconciliation. I fought in this political war. I wrote about it, I voted my values, and railed against changes. It’s easy to get riled up about things that erode your status quo, it’s hard to live a life that proves your claims are real and better. The war against sin is less about other people’s actions, and more about our own.
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We lost because we were fighting a political war when we should have been fighting a spiritual one. Do we believe our enemy is not flesh and blood? Do we really believe there is a spiritual aspect to this conflict of ideals and morals? It’s easier to rally the vote and cry about discrimination than it is to get on your knees and pray and trust that God hears and is in control. Want to change the world? Coercion through legal means doesn’t change anything but outside behavior, and that’s temporary at best. Change the world- truly change the world by changing hearts.
 –
We lost because we were more concerned with making sure everyone behaves correctly than we were with making sure everyone has a personal, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. We were more concerned with proving America was founded on Christian principles than leading Americans to Christ. We were more concerned with telling people what was sinful than we were in helping people find the one person who could take that sin on himself.
 –
We lost the culture war.
 
Let the spiritual revolution begin!
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2 millennia ago a small group of believers was not in a position of political or legal authority. In fact, many were killed for their beliefs. They focused on one thing, making disciples. They didn’t shy away from speaking the truth, they called people to repentance. They lived lives that marked them as different.
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Let the spiritual revolution begin!
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Their lives were not easy, and they were often persecuted. But they were faithful. They made disciples. And that small group of believers grew to over 2 Billion today. Somewhere along the way we, in Western culture, lost the sense of urgency, lost the love for people and desire to see them in a reconciled relationship with God. We became satisfied. We became preoccupied with maintaining the status quo. I fear the only thing that will shake us from our steadfast satisfaction is the shattering of society as we know it.
 –
The culture war is over, and we lost. Let the spiritual revolution begin!
—————-
Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think below. Normally I post about media from a biblical worldview, like these short films/shows.

1 Alternative to Saturday Services

night churchThere’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before.

This is part 3 of a 3-Part series on Saturday services.

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it.

In Part 1 I tried to talk you out of it by giving you 3 reasons NOT to do a Saturday service. In Part 2, if you still wanted to do a service on Saturday, I gave you 2 ways to make Saturday services successful.

Now I want to talk about 1 Alternative to Saturday Services- Sunday Afternoon

Many of the reasons to do a Saturday service and most of the reasons not to do one are addressed by having an additional service on Sundays. You still get the additional worship space and time, without the extra day.

Evening and Morning Options. Doing a Sunday afternoon still offers a time that service industry people can attend. They can work in the morning and still make the later service. But, you can’t have the late service too late, or you run into parents worried about bedtime for school the next day.

Cheaper material costs. The room is already cooled/heated for the day. It will cost less to add a few extra hours onto the cleaning staff, or have them come later, than to add another day. It will cost less to hold a Sunday afternoon service than a Saturday service.

Less personal cost. Instead of two days, you end up with one long day. It’s like having two Wednesday’s in a week, sort of. Still a lot of stress on that day, but staff still gets a full weekend. Volunteers still serve just one day. Ask your staff if they would rather give up a few more hours on a day they are already working, or give up another day. You already know the answer.

Lunch. Long days mean a lunch problem. Depending on when your afternoon service is scheduled, there may not be time for everyone to leave for a meal and come back.

Cater it. Come on, you were thinking about adding the cost of a whole Saturday worship event, feeding the staff and volunteers who stay through to serve in a Sunday afternoon will cost a lot less. I’m not saying give them steak and lobster. Serve pizza, sandwiches, or whatever will keep everyone’s energy up through the afternoon. Why not use the prayer before you eat as a time to share successes or thoughts with your core worship execution team? Use this break time to build relationships and team.

A growing church has to add something. Either a new venue or new service times. Make sure you count the cost of adding a new day of worship services before you do it.

What will you do to make room for your growing congregation? New Saturday or Sunday services? Or is there another option?

2 Ways to Make Saturday Services Successful & Sustainable

night churchThere’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before.

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part series on Saturday services. 

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it.

In Part 1 I told you 3 Reasons NOT to do a Saturday service. But maybe you’re unconvinced. Maybe the benefits outweigh the cost. How can you successfully have Saturday night church without burnout of staff and volunteers?

Successful Saturdays:

Weekend Crews. Change your weekend service structure so that the same people are serving all weekend. From staff to volunteers. From tech to worship. And then, rotate the crews. Don’t have them serve every weekend. The churches that do this will have a sustainable schedule.

There’s a bonus to this. Every so often I would be asked why something worked well on Saturday- some timing or execution aspect of the service, but didn’t go as well on Sunday services. Or why by the last service of the weekend we had someone make a mistake that hadn’t been made earlier? We didn’t have the same people filling every spot from service to service. We didn’t run a weekend crew. And since people changed out, execution was sometimes different.

Staff up! Before you launch. Don’t launch and wait 6 months to see if your staff can handle it. They can’t. They will need help. Hire part time, or full time staff to cover key positions. You are doubling the people you need to cover weekend services. Have new volunteers trained and ready to go. Make it a big push in the congregation. You’re growing, how exciting! Now ask your people to step up and do the work.

I know. More staff? Am I kidding? Ask more of our people? Yes. There is a large amount of work and stress, preparation and execution that goes into every weekend service. Adding a new day without adding new people will, long term, hurt you.

But if you can’t/won’t do these two things, there is another option. One that won’t kill your staff and volunteers. But will still offer a morning and later services times and additional worship space without adding a new venue.

Next: An Alternative to Saturday Services- Sunday Afternoon

What are some other ways to make a Saturday service successful?

3 reasons NOT to do a Saturday Service

night churchLet’s talk Saturday services. There’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before. Wait, let’s talk about this.

This is Part 1 of a 3-Part series about Saturday Services.

When I was self employed, and not on church staff, my family (with young children) chose to attend on Saturdays when we could. The difference between rushing to get ready on Sunday morning and having the entire day before the service was amazing. Attending a later service was a totally different experience, and one we really liked. I can see the appeal.

Plus Saturdays offer alternate worship times for people who work service industry jobs. These folks often have to work weekends, but the normally don’t have to work Saturday evening and Sunday morning. So offering morning and later service options gives them a real chance to attend. Sounds perfect, right?

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it. There are some serious issues to consider before launching that extra service on a different day.

Material Cost

When I was at a church doing Saturdays, we had a 5000 seat worship center (and other spaces used for services) that I was told cost almost $1000 to cool/power for a day. Just turning on the lights and AC for a Saturday service cost upwards $50,000 annually. Not to mention the additional labor cost for staff and cleaning crew. No matter how large or small your budget, that’s lot of money. Your venue may not be that big, but there will be a noticeable cost for an additional day of facility use.

In addition, the venue used for the service is tied up. No more conferences or events that run through Saturday. Unless you have a crazy turn around time for the service. More than once the staff and volunteers had to turn the room in just a couple of hours. Worship ministries had to make adjustments in programming to accommodate the stage layout after an event. A weekend service was impacted. Are you ready to tie up a large venue for the entire day, every week?

Personal Cost

I recently heard from a staff member at a church that had started a Saturday service a few weeks before. He felt like he was never going to get his weekend back. And he’s probably right. A 6 day work week, especially when handling other/extra events, quickly becomes unsustainable. For us, it was easier to staff services with volunteers on Sunday than Saturday. We ended up using several staff members on Saturdays in spots that volunteers could fill on Sundays. I eventually started taking every 3rd Sunday off. But I was still working 17 out of 21 days.

It’s easy to dismiss this. I mean, it’s a couple of hours on a Saturday, right?  The staff already only works a “half day” on Sunday.

No.

To prepare for the Saturday service the staff executing the service will arrive several hours early. I used to show up 3 hours or so before the service started. We would go over the service, make sure gear worked and the content was right. Then we were in rehearsals. Next the actual service. Then, if we were lucky, we went home. If not, we made changes and then went home. 5-6 hours. Even though we only did one service, it felt like a whole Sunday.

When we got home, wired from the night’s stress, we tried to sleep. The alarm went off way too early and we headed back in to do it all over again. 2-3 hours before the first morning service begins the staff making that service happen is checking everything for the morning. This is even harder if the services are different from the night before. 5-6 hours later it’s time to go home and crash. And pray there isn’t a Sunday evening event or service.

It’s not just a couple of extra hours on a Saturday. It’s an extra day of stressful work. When you add a service to another day you are adding a lot of work. Burnout is a real thing. You have to take care of your staff and volunteers.

Saturday’s Can Become Rehearsals for Sunday

Saturdays are often less well attended than Sundays. Many times the services are less formal, and just feel looser than Sundays. That gives leadership the chance to try things in a smaller environment. Test it out. We’ll use this illustration tonight to see how it works. Roll this video and see if it resonates. Sing this song and see if it engages.

It’s natural and good for leadership to make changes after a Saturday service, going into the next day. Cut what doesn’t work. Change things up to make it better. You have the time to improve the experience. But be very careful about the balance of importance between Saturday and Sunday services. Saturday worship services are not rehearsals for the big day. They are worship services. Rehearsals should happen earlier in the week. God deserves more than a run through, and your people will stop coming to a Saturday service if it is obvious that Saturdays are less important than Sundays.

What are some other reasons to not do a Saturday service?

What if you still want to do a Saturday service? How can you do it well without killing your staff and volunteers?

Next up, 2 ways to do a Saturday services successfully.

When Tech Fails

break computerThis morning I really wanted to kick a computer. Doesn’t matter if it was the computer that was malfunctioning or not, I just wanted to kick one.

You won’t have work with technology long before something, somewhere will fail. And it’s always at the most inopportune time. At church, you arrive to find a power surge has blown an amp, or the computer you use for lyrics won’t power on. Maybe someone let the magic smoke out of that video scaler. (You know, the magic puff of acrid smoke that lets everyone nearby know that this piece of gear won’t be turning on any time soon.)

This morning we were launching a major project, one I have personally been invested in for months. It’s awesome, you should check it out, get involved: #wearewitnesses First service went off without a hiccup. So far so good. That means that the video venues also get their video feeds without issues.

Near as I can tell, sometime in the 2nd service (maybe multiple times?) something spiked through our network, and caused some disruptions. Now, I’m not an IT guy. I can make my home network function, and get most computers online, but when it gets much beyond that I’m done. Don’t ask me to spoof a MAC address or explain the numbers in an IP address. I just don’t know how it works. But about 30 seconds before the key video piece was to roll in the 2nd service our ProPresenter machine lost it’s link to Planning Center Online.

Linking Planning Center Online and ProPresenter saves tons of time. And most weeks isn’t an issue. But this particular Sunday, the presentation software locked up, and when restarted, it wouldn’t let us access anything past the song portion of the service. Restart the program, reboot the machine, nothing mattered. Later we couldn’t even re-link the entire service. The final solution was to rebuild a new playlist that wasn’t linked to PCO for the last service. But in that moment…

That moment when the lights go dark and the video doesn’t roll, and then the pastor gets up and apologizes for technical failure that no one could have prevented… You just want to kick a computer. I finally just grabbed the sermon notes and the video for playback and threw them into a part of the ProPresenter playlist we could access. That got us through the service, and the video was shown, and the pastor was able to introduce the project.

So, breath deep, service over. Presentation rebuilt and fixed. Network issue bypassed.

Except our main projectors are also on the network. It’s how you power them off and on, and tweak settings. Whatever was happening in the network wasn’t done yet. And in the first couple of songs of the last service the projectors kept shutting down. Our lighting technician had the brilliant thought to rip the network cables out of the machines, and then they both stayed on and passed signal. So two major issues in two separate services. Both probably caused by the same network issue, whatever that might have been.

It’s just a horrible feeling knowing that gear you are trying to operate is causing disruptions in worship. I’ve seen videos that look like Max Headroom recorded them playback in service. (That’s telling my age) Had audio fail to start with video playback more times than I can remember. Had lights burn out, projectors bulbs go out right before services. Had what sounded like thunder go off through a sound system when a DSP died right in the middle of a sermon. These weren’t operator errors, just machine malfunctions.

Here’s the bottom line: In every situation- God was praised, the word was preached, and people’s lives were changed.

God doesn’t need fancy tech stuff to speak to his people. Yes, we use it to enhance and communicate, but technology isn’t required for church. It’s so frustrating when tech fails, but I try (am still trying today) to rest in the knowledge that God is bigger than that, and he speaks in spite of any issues. And then I try to figure out how to prevent that failure from every happening again.

Production Time

I’ve been away. I’ve been busy. It’s not you, it’s me.

Seriously, it’s not either us. It’s Christmas church production time. This, combined with unpacking from the move, hasn’t left much time to write or work on other projects.

On the house, painting upstairs is done. I finished pulling up tack strips in prep for the tile to go down. But that is not happening until very late this year. Weekend before Christmas, if you can believe it. I’m hoping there is a cancelation and our install date moves up. Meanwhile, we are settling in as best we can, knowing the entire downstairs cannot be unpacked and set up until the tile is laid.

This will slow down again and I will give more detailed updates on our house project, film projects and life in general.

Life Update

update checksI wish I had more news to report. A few months ago we had 3 issues which needed to be resolved. They get more important as we progress.

1. Car. My car died. We needed one. God provided one through family.

2. House. We felt that it was time to sell our house. We put it on the market. Had a contract in 6 days. Then had a bad appraisal, but the buyer paid over the appraised amount so we could still get out without losing money. We didn’t make any money, but we didn’t lose any. Not bad in the Central FL housing market.

That’s stuff I have already written about.

3. Job. I am still under-employed. Meaning I have a job I am over qualified for that doesn’t pay enough to really live on. That, plus an unpredictable schedule (all days, any hours, some weeks overtime, some weeks just a couple days) make it difficult to plan any productions or even feel settled. Also, the unsteady nature of the hours will make it hard to get a new mortgage.

So I need a new job.

I’d take just about anything that paid more and had a regular schedule. But lately I’ve been looking into church work. I went through the interview process with one church a few months ago, but we just couldn’t get a peace about saying yes.

Frankly, it’s sometimes hard not to second guess that decision. But when I dig down to it, I still think it was the right one.

I left the Pastor of Media position at FBO because I felt I had to in order to follow God’s call on my life. I was recently asked if I regretted that. I told the person that I didn’t. I certainly miss somethings about the job, and I definitely miss the regular pay check. But I couldn’t do that work, with the required responsibility and hours, and produce Peculiar. Something would have suffered. Leaving was the right thing for me.

A couple years later, I still feel the call to produce religious media with life transforming messages. I believe I can do that with any job that has a semi normal schedule. I find that I miss quite a bit about working in ministry jobs. I really like doing freelance work for churches. I still volunteer some Saturday services at FBO, just because I like doing it.

I think my resume scares some people. You see a guy with over a decade of church media experience up and quit a couple years ago, you probably have questions. And you wonder why he’s applying for another church job.

Tell you what, just ask me. I’d be happy to sit down and talk about what God has been doing in my life. That’s just not going to be clear in a resume or cover letter.

In the mean time, we search, and pray, and wait. And I go to work at an imperfect job I have now because some money and health insurance is sure better than unemployment.

Flawed Cast List

slateFlawed Plot:

Mega-church pastor Tom Ellis had everything. Faith, a great family, and one of the fastest growing churches in the country. Two years after a sudden tragedy takes it all away, he finds himself as the pastor of a small, struggling church in Central Florida, but underneath the surface of the ministry, lurks something sinister. Can Tom bring the truth to light and lead the church through scandal, while raising his pre-teen daughter?

We are not holding auditions yet, but if you are interested in being notified when we do, send an email to scott@scottlinkmedia.com.

Flawed Cast:

Tom Ellis- Adult male lead, mid 40s, pastor of Narrow Road Baptist Church

Makayla Ellis- Youth female lead, daughter of Tom.

Amy- Adult female lead, 30s, TV News reporter.

Deacon Ezekiel Miller-Adult male lead, late 40s-early 50s.

Zed Miller- Adult male supporting, younger brother of Deacon

Claudia Miller- Adult female supporting, wife of Zed, church admin staff

Katie Miller- Youth female supporting, daughter of Zed and Claudia

Charlie- Adult male supporting, church worship leader

Mrs. McGillicutty- Adult female supporting, senior adult, leader of women’s prayer committee

Heather Ellis- Adult female supporting, wife of Tom Miller

William- Adult male, church member

Missy- Adult female. church member

Charlotte- Young adult female, mid 20s, church member.

And a few featured extra roles.

Flawed is in pre production now, with hopes to shoot and release the movie in late 2014. 

In the future we will be casting and fundraising and … everything else that goes into making a movie like this. We have some interesting ideas for distribution as well. Become a fan on Facebook. Sign up for our email newsletter to make sure you always get the late test updates and information.

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.