“BRKN” – a Short Film by Scott Link Media

Josh just got his phone fixed, but unfortunately that’s not the only thing broken at home. A short film about trust.

5:08

Starring Anna Walker and Derek Henning.

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“Boring” Testimonies

bap 4Boring testimonies are great!

Last week I had the privilege of baptizing my youngest child. Now all 3 of my kids have accepted Christ, and have a testimony about that. All three of those will be boring ones.

I can remember growing up, when we would hear people share their testimony, it was the ones where the guy lived this horrible life, stealing and drinking and time in prison, then he met Jesus and had this miraculous change. Those were the best. Right? Such radical life change.

Like Saul/Paul in the New Testament. He went from murdering Christians to being one. Such a radical change he had to change his name. Man, those are good stories.

Funny thing, while those are interesting stories, they are not the lives we hope for our children. I hope that my children’s testimony will be “Grew up in church, saved at early age”  followed up with “lived a life of purpose and faith in relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I wish everyone had a testimony like that. Not just because the bad stuff people do before their salvation is sin, and has both spiritual and worldly consequences, but because boring testimonies are just as miraculous (though not as flashy) as others, and they show the faithfulness of God. The real miracle is that what Jesus did can reconcile us to God.

I’m thankful that God is faithful. He will work in my kid’s lives the way has worked in mine, and in my parent’s. Every salvation is a miracle, and the angels rejoice just as much for the 5-year-old in the school yard as they do for the 50-year-old in the prison yard.

The best thing about all of our testimonies isn’t that we were saved from our sin, it’s that the God of the universe desires to live in us, inhabit our lives, work through us to accomplish his will. That’s not boring. That’s amazing.

#wearewitnesses

This was rolled out at church today. I’ve already posted my 3 sentence testimony and challenged friends on Facebook. Tomorrow, I’m going to post on twitter an challenge some people over there. You should do the same.

What if thousands of believers were talking about their faith online? How cool would that be?

Here’s my testimony:

What’s yours?

eBook Available

I’ve been meaning to post the link, but have been slammed with prep for the 2014 NRB Convention.

My eBook is live in the Kindle store. Get it here: Peculiar Programming

PP Book Cover

“An award winning Christian sitcom produced and broadcast around the world for under $9000? Yes, it can be done. Find out how a former Media Pastor led a cast and crew of volunteers to create a non traditional religious program that was seen on multiple networks, stations and satellites. Learn what you need to know about the Christian TV market, writing and producing your own show, and then getting it on the air for FREE!

12 Chapters, 14,502 words.”

It’s actually been selling more than I expected. $3 isn’t much to ask, and I hope a lot of people will be interested in the subject. We need more non traditional religious TV shows!

Telling Stories in Interviews

cameraI have a confession. Even though I have worked in media production for over a decade, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really had a strong sense of the components of story. I mean, I knew about story. But I had little need of writing content. Mainly I would do highlight videos and interviews. In interviews I’d have the subject tell me their “story” and I would pass the interesting parts along in the final video.

I rarely had powerful, gripping interview videos. And when I did, I assumed the content was just better, or the people were better on camera. Don’t get me wrong, the other videos were fine, but a lot of times they were just conveying information, not telling a story. Yeah, that’s embarrassing. I was a professional, but I didn’t have the concept down.

So, for the last few years I’ve been doing better at understanding the parts of story… but that still didn’t necessarily translate into my interviews. I read “Story” by McKee, I recently read “Save the Cat” by Snyder. I wrote 10 episodes of Peculiar, and have been working on my feature length project, Flawed. I am getting better at storytelling The other day I was editing an interview for a church, and I realized I was naturally editing with story in mind. I started identifying the inciting incident, the conflict and resolution, the parts of a story. It was all right there in the content. The final edit will always better if you keep this in mind.

So how do you always make sure to get the parts of the story recorded?

There are 4 basic things you need in order to have a story: A beginning state, and inciting incident, conflict, and resolution. There can be more parts to stories, but if you don’t have one of those 4, you don’t have a story. You have information. You can ask a few basic questions during the interview to make sure you get the parts of the story you need.

Interview questions that lead to a story:

Beginning:
This is the exposition.
Tell me about X before Y.
What’s the backstory? What were things like before the change? Describe what the life/the ministry/circumstance was like before.

Inciting Incident:
This is the event or idea that started the change or growth.
How did Y begin?
What brought this about? What changed? When did the problem first surface? Tell me how you first learned of this new opportunity?

Conflict:
This is the process of growing, changing, accomplishing the goal, overcoming obstacles.
What were the obstacles moving from X to Y?
What was the hardest thing about doing this? Tell me about the problems this caused, and how you overcame them. What happened when you tried this new thing?

Resolution:
This is the result.
Now that Y is here, describe your circumstance.
What’s the ministry/project/life like now? How have you changed?

That’s it, pretty simple. Obviously you can draw out more of the story in each section if you want. But if you answer these questions you will end up with a basic story for your interview.

Example of Interview with Story Elements:

Beginning: 0:00-0:30
Inciting Incident:0:30-0:55
Conflict:0:55-2:45
Resolution:2:45-3:53

Why We Shouldn’t Have Won the NRB Media Award for Best Creative TV Programming

NRB-Award-2013-410x410Last week National Religious Broadcasters announced that Peculiar would receive a 2014 NRB Media Award for Best Creative TV Programming. That’s a huge honor.

NRB has been around for 70 years. Every year they give out awards for various categories in the different media disciplines. Getting one is kind of a big deal in some circles. This isn’t some fly by night organization that just decided do some awards.

So, when I first heard we had won, I was surprised, pleased, proud of my team. What we did with a volunteer cast and crew on a micro budget is amazing by anyone’s standards.

But then I realized… We shouldn’t have won.

Not because we had done something wrong, or it didn’t meet the criteria, or anything like that. We shouldn’t have won because we shouldn’t have been the best program submitted.

I’m not blind. I can see the other winners in other categories. Any objective comparison of production quality will show that we are not in the same ballpark. Of course, they are using millions of dollars in equipment with a decent budget while we got by on borrowed gear and a dream. Nothing wrong with that, but we are not in the same league.

Now, I know creativity and story can overcome lack of production values. It doesn’t matter if the video is mind blowing if the story stinks. A bad story would still stink, no matter how good it looked. We can see that every year on major networks. They spend millions producing pilots that look amazing but don’t get picked up because they don’t work, aren’t good, etc…

But let me just be transparent. I am not the most creative guy alive. Sure, I can come up with a good idea. But for my first show out of the gate to win this award, well, color me shocked. I know I need to learn more about writing, directing, producing, and everything else. There are better producers, writers, directors, show runners out there. There are more creative people out there.

In Christian TV there aren’t a lot of shows like Peculiar. I can count on one hand the number of Christian sitcoms I have seen, and have fingers left. Same goes for Christian dramas. For whatever reason, there just aren’t many in production. But there should be.

I know that in Christian TV a lot of money changes hands. Some of the major networks, they take in millions and millions on the course of the year.

What if some of these networks or stations took just a portion of their budget, and hired producers to create creative programming? And took a bit more of the budget and earmarked it for production?

Imagine if a network set aside $1 million, and hired 5 show runners to produce 5 different series of shows (13 episodes each). Imagine if they set aside a one decent salary and a $100,000 budget for production.

Don’t tell me it can’t be done for that. I produced 10 episodes for under $9000 total. If some had handed me a $100,000 budget and paid me a salary, imagine what we could have done. Peculiar would be the same show, but 10 times better.

And don’t tell me they don’t have it. I know it would require retooling the budget, obviously. But there are networks that have it. And it could be focused on making new programming, creative programming. It’s a matter of priorities. Is it a priority to reach generations we are missing with our current content? (I am really trying to resist the urge to sermonize about this point…)

Of course, the question immediately follows: A network or station taking $100,000 earmarked for something else and investing in a new venture? What’s the return on investment? How do you recoup the money?

At first, you don’t.

The Christian TV market isn’t set up to do normal TV. As the station/network you can fill break slots with fundraising content and provoke some viewers to send in money. But that sort of thing is dying off. Younger viewers are not as likely to respond to that sort of request.

Maybe the key is selling digital copies? Maybe working with a distributor to get a DVD placed, and digital versions available for purchase on iTunes and the like.

Maybe it’s doing more “enhanced underwriting”. What’s enhanced underwriting?

Here’s an excerpt from an article on transition.fcc.gov:

“In 1984, the FCC granted stations more flexibility by adopting a policy of “enhanced underwriting,” which permitted noncommercial stations to broadcast donor and underwriter acknowledgements from for-profit entities. These acknowledgments can include logograms and slogans that identify, but do not promote, sponsoring businesses. They may include business location information, value-neutral descriptions of a product line or service, and brand and trade names along with product or service listings. That is why some underwriting messages resemble ads. Subjects that cannot be mentioned in underwriting announcements include price information, such as discounts, rebates, and interest rates; calls to action; inducements to buy, sell, rent, or lease; and any language that states or implies favor- able comparisons to other like businesses or competitors.”

A show that has viewers can attract sponsors. If the content is driving viewers to the station, then the underwriting becomes a good option for sponsors. This is a delicate balance. You don’t want to do something you shouldn’t or that’s not permitted on the non profit station, but you can do some sponsorships. Plus there is no limit to how you can advertise on the station’s website.

Obviously, an education license station can’t switch to all entertainment programming. There has to be a lot of teaching programs on the air or the station is in danger of losing its license. But creative programming can be done, and done for less money that you would expect. And that’s what younger audiences want to watch.

Being selected for this award is a huge honor. I am so grateful and humbled by it. I couldn’t be prouder of the work my team did on the show. But we shouldn’t have been the best show submitted. We shouldn’t have won because there should be better creative programming than ours on Christian TV.

Evangelism or Discipleship: What is the Purpose of Christian Film?

vs megaWho are you making your movies for? What’s your target audience for the TV show?

I’ve sat in rooms while people debated this for hours. One side was adamant that we should not expend resources making films for Christians, but we should only make content for non Christians, we should only do films with Gospel-centric messages. Period. There was no room for discussion. The other side was less strict, and while they understood the appeal of evangelism films, they felt that discipleship was a major component of much Christian content, teaching Christians is a worthwhile expenditure of resources. That pretty much summed it up, but there was still a couple of hours of discussion anyway.

My perspective was simple. God gives each and every person a purpose in life. If he has called you to make video content, then tell the story he as called you to tell. Some stories will be for non Christians. Some will be for Christians. That’s OK. God gave you an unique vision. Maybe you have a passion to tell the Gospel story. Maybe you want religious people to live a pure life. Whatever it is, do that.

My show is for Christians, about living with a biblical worldview. The script I’m working on is about what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. Obviously not evangelical. Those are the projects I’m working on now. Maybe the next one will be more evangelical.

Bottom line, do the project God has given you a vision for. Do it and do it well. Let others debate the merits of evangelical vs disciple-making films. While they debate, you create.

Year 1

caledarOne year ago I stopped being a media pastor.

I left my job. I left a steady paycheck with benefits in a bad economy. I left with just a mortgage, utilities, and some money in the bank. I left with a wife and 3 kids to provide for.

I left with a vision, a dream, that I still believe God has given me.

I wish I could say that everything has been awesome. I’ve dipped further into our savings than I expected. I’ve not had the number of freelance gigs I hoped.

But, that sitcom I’ve been working on, we just finished taping the 10th episode. It’s playing on 3 Christian networks this Summer. And the first 6 episodes hit DVD July 16th. One of the episodes even got chosen for screening at the Gideon Film Festival this Summer. Not bad for the first effort.

And working from home? Love it. I see my kids now. That last few months at the church, when God was nudging me pretty hard about making the move. I was working 60+ hours a week, every week. For about 5 months. Frankly, that’s too much. Once in a while there are busy seasons, but not 5 months straight. I won’t ever do that again. It’s not worth it.

I may still work 60+ hours, but their my hours on my project. And my family sees me. They can talk to me. I am not missing my children growing up anymore. I’m not leaving my wife to raise my kids by herself anymore.

I can’t believe how supportive my wife has been. She is amazing.

We just finished shooting 4 more episodes of the show. I’m in the middle of post production. Once these are done, I will likely put these on a DVD with some bonus features and see if we can get them released as well. If enough money comes in, we could revisit Peculiar again.

What’s next? I’ve got ideas for a documentary and a movie that could turn into a series… but I really want to shoot someone else’s script. I want to find a good script that I can produce. I’ve also got a couple ideas for general religious TV shows that could appeal to younger audiences.

And, still looking to add more freelance work. Gotta’ pay the bills. Camera, audio, video work.

One year in, this is what I know. God provides. Every bill has been paid. We have not gone hungry. We took a huge step of faith, and God provides.

Cultural Amnesia and Religious Freedom

flag[Begin Rant]
There are days I wake up and I just wonder, “Are you people crazy? Did you wake up and forget everything from the last thousand years or so? When did you develop cultural amnesia?”

I hear about news stories questioning evangelical adoption and threatening court martials for “Proselytizing” in the military, and I wonder if these people just stepped out of a cultural bubble. These are just a couple of recent examples, but this is a trend in America.

America has its problems, but we are still the greatest nation on earth. People literally risk their lives to come here. People kill themselves to stop our way of life. We are the land of opportunity, we are the land of the free.

This didn’t happen in a vacuum. Our culture developed over time and had lots of influences, and one of the big ones was the faith of our own people. I could list quote after quote of founding fathers, and point you toward different books that explore what the world would be like if Christianity wasn’t around, and tell you all the good things that came out of people believing in Jesus Christ. And I could disarm the critics by pointing out how many people were killed in the name of religion versus how many have been killed by people without religious belief. And we could go a couple of rounds debating the merits of faith in the public square.

But I don’t have to. Because good or bad, religion has been a major part of western civilization and a major part of the USA.

And look at how good we turned out.

Even if you hate organized religion, you have to admit that the basic tenet of freedom of religion hasn’t stopped America from becoming the greatest nation on earth. Even if you think that belief in God is the root of all idiocy, the USA still did OK.

So this new wave of vehement animosity about faith really bugs me. No one is making you believe in anything. No one is forcing your kids to believe in anything. So people talk about their faith? Get over it. You have the freedom to talk about whatever you believe, or don’t believe. Don’t want evangelicals to adopt kids? Go adopt all of them yourself.

What’s that? My religious morality is infringing on your new found moral code? You think the world would be even better if we would just keep our views to ourselves? Odd, I think it would better if irreligious people kept their views to themselves. You don’t like it when religious people campaign for laws that reflect their viewpoint? Tough. Welcome to a Democratic Republic. Don’t like the laws? Vote for people to change them. I’ll do the same.

This country was founded on freedom. It was founded on a lot of other things, too, but we can all agree that freedom is a huge part of our Constitution.

So, lets get back to that. Constitutional Freedom. And stop acting like we don’t have a past that includes freedom of religion. Stop using “tolerance” as a baseball bat to crush anything different from your view. Go live your life, and be free. And let religious people do the same.

[/rant]

Ministers of The Reconciliation

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV

I was doing my reading in my new plan from the Youversion Bible App and I hit one of my favorite passages, 2 Corinthians 5.

I love this. God could have used anything, anything to spread the Gospel. But he chose to use us. WE are the ministers of reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ. God chooses to work through us, to make his appeal for reconcilation to himself through us.

Want to know why I do the ministry work I do? Because we are ambassadors for Christ. I am a minister of reconciliation.