Why I Entered the Rode Reel Competition Even Though I Don’t Expect to Win- And Why You Should, Too

The Rode Reel short film competition is one of the largest in the world. Entries from 88 countries are all under 3 minutes long and must have been shot using a Rode microphone. In 2017 the prizes total over $500,000. If you watch finalists from previous years, many of them are just amazing looking, amazing sounding.

How can you or I, average independent filmmakers, compete? Why should we enter if we probably won’t win?

Perfecting your craft. Experience always teaches you. I made my first actual short documentary film. I learned a ton in the process and got to experiment with a new genre. Every project you complete has the potential to help you learn and improve. Do you think those Rode Reel finalists just woke up and magically were amazing filmmakers? No, they worked and worked. This is a chance for you to become a better filmmaker.

Exposure. We all have a sphere of influence. We have an existing audience, whether it’s just family and friends or something larger. But entering the Rode Competition will expose your work to potentially thousands of new viewers. Viewers who will meet you for the first time, who might find your social media contacts, who might subscribe to your channels. Viewers who could be fans of your work. And those viewers are available for free.

Free T shirt. And maybe more. If you’re among the first 1500(?) entries Rode will send you a nifty Rode Reel T shirt. Sometimes they throw in some of their small products. Who doesn’t like free stuff?

Deadline. Most of all, committing to enter places a real deadline in front of you. Talk is cheap. If you are actually a real filmmaker, what films are you making? A deadline puts a real goal in place. I wanted to enter last year, but I never committed. So I never entered.

So, want to see my entry?

You can watch it here: https://www.rode.com/myrodereel/watch/entry/3102 Hope you enjoy it. If you did, please take a minute and put in a vote for the People’s Choice award.

Before I submitted my film, I watched some of the finalists for that category in 2016. They were awesome. None of them were telling a story of an event. They were more like showcases, testimonies with nice B Roll. After completing my Rode Reel entry, I know why.

Trying to tell an actual story in 3 minutes, a non scripted story, is extremely hard. My film has a beginning, middle and an end. (Spoilers) There’s a mid point crisis and turn into the 3rd Act. But it all happens in 3 minutes. So it’s fast. I cut so much good stuff out I’m seriously considering an expanded version at a later date.

It’s not perfect, but it isn’t terrible either. And I can guarantee my next documentary will be better because of what I learned doing this one.

[Image courtesy of Greenleaf Designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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Churches Should Produce Non Traditional Religious Programming

MY showI used to work for a church that has been on the air with a traditional TV program for over 5 decades. In the Orlando metroplex, they reach about 100,000 viewers per week with their Christian program. It consists of a song or two from the service, and the message from the pastor. It is a fairly traditional church television program. When I was on staff a few years ago and had access to the data, I saw that we were reaching a predominately older crowd (75% of viewers were over age 55.) It was, and still is, a good work and it ministers to a lot of people in central Florida.

And because of the nature of non profit educational license religious channels and networks, there will always be a need for preaching/teaching shows in Christian TV. But those shows will continue to reach older, religious audiences. And will continue to not reach younger ones.

What if you took the money used to produce the program and buy airtime, and used it to produce programming that appeals to younger audiences? The churches I’ve worked for with TV programs spent between $30,000 and $250,000 on airtime purchases every year. Plus they had one or more staff people who were primarily focused on producing the content for the program every week. Conservatively estimating salary, taxes, insurance, etc… let’s say $50,000 annually.  That’s quite a bit of money in the indie production world.

What if you invested that money into creating video content that reflected a biblical world view, but wasn’t a traditional worship service/preaching program? What if it was something that told a story and, like a parable, taught truth at the same time?

Who would it be for?

People who don’t watch traditional religious programming. More specifically, find a target demographic in a group pf potential audiences members that don’t already consume traditional religious programming.

According to Pew Research, Older Americans watch more religious TV. Younger Americans are engaging in religious content online.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.07.55 AM 1

Young audiences watch a lot of video content. 18-24 year olds still watch over 16 hours of TV per week, but that number is declining. The TV that they do watch is not traditional Christian TV programming. And they are increasingly watching video online. The older the demographic is, the more broadcast TV they watch.

We don’t need shows that target the 65 year old Christian, we already have those. We need churches to develop programs targeted at younger audiences that do not already watch religious programming.

How much would it cost?

The cost depends on what sort of show you are making. I’m most familiar with narrative programming. But you could do other sorts of shows that are not preaching/teaching/worship based.

If you do narrative, obviously, your church probably won’t be paying scale for actors and crew. Most of the people involved will be doing it as a ministry project. But unless you have no money at all, you should try to pay people something. I’ve done a show for no money before. It can be done, but it’s not sustainable long-term.

What if you could come up with $100 per day for the main cast and crew? That’s not scale, and there would be taxes taken out, etc… but $100. I have generally been able to shoot an episode in 4 days or less. If you have 4 main actors, and a crew with director, camera, audio and PA, you are looking at $800 per day. $3200 per episode. Plus any gear, additional actors, insurance, food, etc… $5000-5500 per episode. That may seem like a lot, but it is nothing compared to what network programming costs per episode.

At $5500, a 6 episode run would cost $33,000. 13 episodes would cost $71,500. This is assuming someone on your church’s staff is writing and producing the program, filling in the show running duties. And someone on staff would be doing the post work as well. One person cannot do it all, so you will need some help. Filmmaking and TV production is a team sport. Bare bones, on a shoe-string, you could make 6-13 episodes of a show for less than the cost of air time and a staff position in many markets. Other kinds of show may cost more or less depending on what all is involved in creating them.

How would people see it?

You just spent your airtime budget on production. How is anyone going to see it?

-Christian TV is begging for narrative content.

Literally begging because they can’t/won’t pay for it, but also begging because they want it badly.

It’s tempting to ignore broadcast television altogether. But even though the number is dropping, according to Accenture Digital Consumer survey, over half of TV shows and movies are still watched on TV. So it’s not a horrible place to be. And given the state of the religious TV market, you could have your show broadcast around the world for free. You might even get a little bit of money back to go toward the production of the program. One network my show was on was able to cover the cost of closed captioning. Traditional Christian programs have to purchase air time, but non traditional ones have a lot of effective, free options for broadcast.

Putting a Christian TV show on a Christian network is not way to reach the masses. The vast majority of viewers are Christians. I know that isn’t surprising, but I want to be clear that a program on Christian TV will be mostly seen by Christians. That’s OK, discipleship is something the church should be doing, and this is an avenue to disciple believers beyond the walls of your building.

You can produce programming that might appeal to non Christians, and broadcast it through non religious outlets, but it will cost more. Be sure to count the cost before you head down this road. There might be ways to mitigate those costs, but there will be costs.

-The internet is free.

It’s also very big. You cannot just throw a video on Youtube and expect it to reach thousands of people. If you have a video that has been seen by over 100 people, then you are in the top 30% of all Youtube videos. 300 hours of content is uploaded every minute! Youtube is massive. It’s the 2nd largest search engine, behind Google. So, most content is not seen by a lot of people. In order to be effective online you must have a marketing strategy. You need to develop an audience.

As a church you have a great foundation in your own congregation. Not only should you be mobilizing them to watch, but mobilize them to be encouraging their sphere of influence to watch as well. Last year my church did a campaign to get people to share their testimony through social media. It was not as successful as we had hoped. Still, I was able to locate over 80 videos that had been uploaded in the project, and I know that was just part of the ones uploaded over all. Those 80 videos had been seen over 200,000 times. Even if only a small portion of your congregation engages, you can still reach a lot of viewers.

Does your church have a ministry to help parents teach their kids about the Bible at home? How about developing a program that targets young mothers, and touches on subjects that they will have to face as they teach their own kids? Do a lot of mission trips? Send a video crew out with your teams, and produce a program that highlights the importance and impact of being in involved in missions.

Find something you are passionate about, that fits into the strategic vision of your church. Develop a program that targets younger audiences who would be interested in programming about that theme. Build a team, and make the show.

 

 

Creating Our Own Reality on the Internet

IMG_6055Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 ESV

I saw the headline in this picture posted on Facebook. Since it wasn’t your normal clickbait title, I followed the link. In that article, which was on a super-uber-ultra-conservative-just-short-of-KJV-Only-kind-of-vibe website, I was shocked by the comments of the pastor of Hillsong NYC and one of the people in the picture, who seemed to be on staff as part of the worship team, at least as far as this article portrayed them.

I was deeply troubled. I met some of the Hillsong people from Australia when I lived in Orlando. I know a guy who attends Hillsong NYC. I wondered just how connected the NYC church was to the rest? It just didn’t sit right. Not just because the website was pretty opinionated. But it didn’t fit with my own experience with Hillsong’s people or ministry.

So, I contacted my friend who goes there. He gave me the low down. Yes that couple attended. One of them may have been in some sort of quasi-leadership in the choir as a volunteer, but once the church leadership found out about the two men they approached them privately, and after that conversation the couple left the church.  Apparently the couple went on the show Survivor, and when the audition tapes were released by CBS, church leadership became aware of the situation and went to the couple.

That’s a little different than “Hillsong NYC Church has an “Engaged” Openly Homosexual Couple Leading the Choir” isn’t it?

I did a little digging and found that they were pulling quotes out of different articles from all over the place, from as far back as October 2014. And many of these posts were on conservative news or opinion sites.

I later found an article from the Christian Post from back in October of 2014 where Brian Houston, the pastor of Hillsong, had issued a statement correcting some quotes that were in a New York Times article from the same time period. The NYT quotes were the ones used in this new August of 2015 post. In the statement the pastor released he says (among other things); “”Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage… I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Then I ventured into the comment section because I wanted to let them know what I had found out. Obviously this is an opinion site, not a news site, but the story they had cobbled together for their opinion was factually wrong. The site was making some strong allegations, but had not contacted the church for any statement. Several people in the comments were talking about the inaccuracies of this article.

When I posted my information, the author of the post replied by reposting one of the same quotes from his article. This quote was from January, and said some weird stuff. Things that needed to be addressed by the church. And according to my friend who attends there, it had been addressed. Context and timing matter. They refused to accept that their version of reality was wrong. I intentionally did not include a link to the article because of that fact. You can search the title and find it if you really want to see it. There is at least one more article on the same subject that appears to have gotten all of the content from the original-incorrect post.

So, here’s a very conservative website, quoting from other conservative websites and cherry picking quotes from other publications to create their own version of reality. They are creating a story from information that is more than 6 months old. Any information that differs with this story is either not mentioned, or denied by the authors when mentioned in the comments. I noticed that there was quite a bit of traffic on the post, and there were no less than 11 advertisements running down the side of this little webpage. And from the comments, a lot of people were eating it up. I guess an article on a church that actual does biblical discipline wouldn’t generate the page views they needed for ad revenue?

This is not healthy. No matter what kind of views you have on any ideas, generating content in this kind of echo chamber is bad news. And it’s very common online.

Recently there were a rash of false news stories that Christians shared without bothering to find out if they were true. Remember that one from “NBC(dot)CO” instead of .com? This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. I used to get 2-3 emails a year saying that a famous atheist (who had been dead for years) was suing to get all religious TV off the air. That was actually a lawsuit from decades ago that was filed by someone else. and thrown out of court. But someone had put the hoax together and well-meaning, but flat wrong, Christians kept falling for it.

Please, please, when you read something online, look at the source. Do some research. Do not just accept anything that comes along. It’s way too easy to see a controversial post that feeds into your own views, and fears, and just adopt it, believe, it, share it, and propagate it without doing any critical thinking on your own.

Think about it before you share it.

Update: New statement by Hillsong Senior Pastor Brian Houston about the article mentioned above.

[I updated this post with new information regarding articles in the New York Times and on Christian post, and additional articles on this subject.]

What Makes Something Go Viral

Konzept, Vermarktung StrichmännchenSeems like every week there is another viral post. Dresses with weird colors, kids or animals doing something funny or something else makes the rounds. People from all different circles of your life are posting it.

I’ve only ever been attached to one thing that went viral. It was the “Wrong Worship” video. The church I was on staff at did the parody, and one of the guys I worked with threw it on his Youtube channel to show his friend.

The next day the video had over 10,000 views. By the end of the week it had been stolen, put on “Godtube” and had hundreds of thousands of views. (The video was initially stolen from Youtube and posted there without attribution. That’s a whole other topic. As is the existence of “Godtube” in and of itself.) And the Youtube video was just a little behind that one. In no time the video had been seen over 1,000,000 times. Even now you can find posts where people have translated the video and reposted it. There’s another pirate copy with almost 300,000 views.

No one had a clue that would happen. The content struck a chord. People shared it everywhere.

What makes something go viral? It’s a combination of timing and interest. Content gets shared, and some sort of tipping point is reached. Enough people are sharing and seeing it that new audience members consider wit worth watching AND sharing as well. It’s the social aspect of social media at play. My friends liked this, several of my friends shared it, I should watch it.

Making that happen is very hard.

Think about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Once it finally reached the tipping point, there was maybe a couple months of viral video all over Facebook, over $100 million in donations, 28 million likes and interactions, and 2.4 million videos of people dumping ice water on their heads. There are several articles on why, but from what I can gather it was these factors: important cause, easy to do, social, it had a bandwagon aspect, and a few celebrity participants gave it enough exposure to tip.

The Ice Bucket Challenge had been around for a while, even making appearances on national TV. This Time article credits the start of the ALS version of the challenge to Florida golfer Chris Kennedy on July 15th, 2014. 16 days later the video challenge had reached baseball player Pete Frates who is suffering from ALS himself. He had a huge network, and it took off. By the next Monday the ALS Association had seen donations from over 300,000 new donors. And it was viral.

Did Kennedy plan this? No. Did our worship team expect it? Nope. But it happened.

Want to make your own content or idea go viral? Make good content, put it out there. If it’s good, people will share it. If things go well, it could take off. It may not take off quickly, but if it reaches that tipping point, it will blow up. If it doesn’t, then those who see it will be impacted.

There’s no secret formula. But it happens every week.

New Facebook Page Post Reach is Horrible- How Bad is It?

Recently an Ad Age article said Facebook has now admitted that the organic views of fan pages are dropping. Significantly. In fact, Facebook suggests that the best way to “maximize” delivery of your content is to pay them. Fan pages, to them, are not communities of people who like and want content from a brand. They are ways for businesses to advertise more cheaply and effectively through Facebook in a “social context” format.

For small businesses, non profits, and generally anyone who has a fan page that isn’t specifically about selling something, this is bad news. Previously you could assume that people who became a fan of your page had a decent shot at seeing the content they signed up for. Now, only a small percentage of people see the content.

The only way to bypass the Facebook imposed limitations is to post something that your fans engage with so much that their behavior through likes and shares and comments causes the post to propagate beyond the limitations. Of course, it will be seen through those networks, not by the people who have already signed up. So, while it’s great if you have a post that generates huge engagement, the people who do the engaging and see the post through those social feeds may not be your current fans.

I wanted to see just how bad it was. My largest fans page is for my show Peculiar. I currently have 697 fans. (Crossed 700 during this experiment) Before these changes, I would normally see 60-75% of fans through organic views. That is, I’d post something and 65% or so of my fans would see it in their timeline. How bad are the new algorithms?

My page is a fan page for a TV show, with 700 fans. Many of the posts are video links to the show’s Youtube page.

For the experiment I used an event I ran during the holidays. We had the #10daysofPeculiar event on Peculiar’s FB fan page, where we brought back episodes of the show, posting one per day. With other extras posted in the afternoons. Half the videos we posted are not normally available online. I was aware of the new post reach issues, and wanted to help make sure fans didn’t miss the chance to see the episodes. So I boosted a few posts. I only spent $5 per boost, but with under 700 fans, that more than covered them. I selected showing the post to people who like the show and are friends of people who like the show. Here are the results. Number of views per day across all posts:

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 11.08.36 AM

Guess which days got “boosted posts” and which days didn’t. You can see more detailed list of each post at the bottom of the post. I spent a total of $25 during the multi day event. Total organic views hit 956 over 12 days while views I paid for hit 7040, (over only 5 days of “boosted posts).

OK, I know, I did this over the holidays. I tried not to be too concerned with the views on Christmas Eve and Christmas. But the huge disparity between “boosted” posts and organic post is revealing. Even so, post engagement via likes and shares wasn’t that different. (That says more about my content than Facebook’s policies.)

The frustrating thing for many fan pages is that their fans have NO IDEA this is happening. Normally, once someone clicks like on your page, they don’t come back. They expect your content to show up in their new feed. If they see less, they just assume that your are posting less.

Then there is the issue of balance, where your are not supposed to post just ads. You need to engage your audience. Ask questions, give them value and content for free. So that when you do advertise or make an “ask” they will be engaged enough to respond. I am not the best at this. But these new algorithms mess that up badly. If you only “boost” posts that have advertisements in them, then the only posts that most fans see are the ones asking for money. Less than 25% see the other engagement posts. So you won’t see the same number of fans response when you sell something, or ask them to do something.

That stinks.

Facebook users probably don’t know, and if they did know… on the surface at least, they would likely think this was a great idea. Less ads, more content I want. They may not realize that this new system is set up to either pepper their feeds with sponsored posts, or reduce the content they want drastically. And Facebook? They are just trying to stay profitable. They have shareholders to think about now. Larger brands with big budgets won’t notice much.

In the mean time, people like me are looking for other ways to reach our fans on a consistent basis.

I am launching an email newsletter for Pup Tent Media, my production company. I will have the content for my various FB pages there (Peculiar, Flawed, and any new ventures…), send it out once a month. At least then, I know people who signed up for the content will see the email, even if they don’t open it. They at least have the chance.

To make sure you never miss the information about Pup Tent Media’s projects, sign up now!

Details of the #10DaysofPeculiar Posts:

Dec 20: Text post received 158 organic views, 6 page likes.

Dec 20: New Event, 19 organic views, 1 like, 11 people from those invited “attending”

Dec 21: New Cover Photo, 3 likes, 6 people saw it.

Dec 21: Video link, boosted post, $5 budget. 26 organic views, 760 paid. 6 likes

Dec 22: Video link, boosted post. $5 budget. 33 organic views, 1110 paid views. 3 likes

Dec 22: Video link, 37 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 23: Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 34 organic views, 1391 paid views, 7 likes

Dec 23: Video link, 37 organic views, 3 likes.

Dec 24; Video link, 46 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 24, Text post, 95 organic videos, 4 likes

Dec 24, Video link, 53 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 25, Text post, 83 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 25, Video link, 31 organic views, 2 likes

Dec 26, Video link, 61 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 27, Video link, 41 organic views, 2 likes

Dec 27, Text post, 50 organic views

dec 28, Video Link, 81 organic views, 5 likes

Dec 28, Video link, 114 organic views, 7 likes, 1 comment

Dec 29, Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 26 organic, 1935 paid views, 6 likes, 1 comment

Dec 29, Text post, 121 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 30, Video link, 54 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 30, Video link, 42 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 31, Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 20 organic views, 1844 paid views, 6 likes

Peculiar Fundraising Update

cover supportWe have been in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign over at IndieGoGo for new episodes of my show, Peculiar.

We have 19 days left. We are 22% toward our goal. We passed the 2nd donation level… which means we released a 2nd Reveal Video. When we hit certain levels of donations, we reveal a little more about the new episodes. This one exposes a few of the themes for upcoming shows:

And in case you missed it, here is the first level Reveal Video:

So now you are up to date on the campaign! Next Reveal Video will be out when we hit $2000.

We need your help to make this happen. You can do something “Peculiar” and support Independent Christian TV! Even if you decide not to give any cash, you can use the tools on the page, right under the video, to share the campaign with your friends.

Retail Distribution

This week I signed a contract with a distributor for Peculiar.

This is new to me, so it’s very early to be writing about this. But I wanted to share how that happened.

First, you need a product.

I started trying to shop the show a year ago, before we had a show. I met a distributor through a friend at last year’s NRB Convention. I didn’t even have a pilot then, just the preview video and an idea. They were polite, but not interested, because I didn’t have anything yet.

Then I saw the same folks at last year’s ICVM conference which was in Orlando in Summer of 2012. I had a pilot then. They were nice enough, but with just a 20 minute pilot, there was nothing for them yet.

Without a product, it’s not worth their time to talk to a new, unknown video producer. I was trying to build a relationship, but they deal with so many producers, it’s hard to be remembered.

So, when I got a product, and had the DVD close to finished, I sent them a pre- pre- release copy. A week or so later I checked to make sure they had received it. They had.

Here’s the second thing, just because you have talked to someone about your show or movie doesn’t mean that they will sign you.

After I finished the DVD, I decided that I wouldn’t wait to hear a negative back from the first company. They are great folks, they do good work. I’m guessing they just didn’t feel the show was a fit for them.

Third, there are a lot of distributors out there.

I sent out emails to every decent Christian video distributor I could find online. Some I had heard of, some I hadn’t.

The email had several parts: Greeting, why I was writing to them, what I had to offer, an analysis of the current and potential audience for the show, What our future plans were and the website where the content could be viewed.

I heard back from two. One asked for a copy of the DVD (but it felt like a general request more than genuine interest). The other had seen the shows online, and offered a contract immediately. Since this was new for me, I had quite a few questions.

After everything had been explained, I took a few days to pray about it. I asked some others to join me. In the meantime, I also found out more about the company from folks who know it.

So we signed the deal, and now are working toward a Summer retail release.

Gay Church: a biblical perspective on faith, worship and homosexuality.

{UPDATE: Obviously, years later, I haven’t made this film. But the idea is still here. I still haven’t let the domain name go. Still praying about this one.}

purple church
Would you watch a documentary like this:

Gay Church
A biblical perspective on faith, worship and homosexuality.

It’s easy for Christians to sit in our pews and take shots at people who live lives that are foreign to us. I don’t have a problem with standing on biblical truth against sinful behavior. I do have a problem when we church goers ignore our own sin in order to feel superior to those we have taken a stand against. We stand against those dirty people doing dirty sins.

I have to wonder, is our own life that much cleaner in God’s eyes? What does God see when he looks at my church and the gay church across town?

This documentary is about faith, worship and homosexuality.

Is it possible for a church that preaches that homosexual behavior is equal to heterosexual behavior to experience the presence of God in worship? What’s it like to be Christian and gay? What is the real difference between a gay church and my church?

The Bible is clear about homosexual behavior being sinful. This documentary isn’t about that. If you want to know whether homosexual behavior is wrong or not, this isn’t the movie for you. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church. I am a licensed and ordained pastor. I went to a Southern Baptist seminary. And I think homosexual behavior is wrong. I also think that pre marital sex, adultery, and most cases of divorce are wrong.

A gay church is a church full of sinners. Of course, my church is a church full of sinners, too. I’ve never been to a gay church. The only difference that I know for certain is that a gay church openly discounts whole sections of the Bible. But just like the gay church, we have plenty of people sitting in the pews of my church who are in relationships that are sinful. They might give lip service to what the Bible says about their lives, but they don’t actually live their life any different. And we expect God to show up every single week when we gather for worship.

What is the spiritual life of a gay Christian like? Can you be a practicing homosexual and be a devoted follower of Christ? How does worship differ from worship at my church? How does a gay church handle divorce? Pre marital sex? Adultery? Does the pastor ever preach from Leviticus, or Romans 1, or out of anything else Paul wrote?

These are some of the very real questions I have about this issue. And in our ever changing cultural landscape, they are questions that every Christian should consider.

“Gay Church” will discover the answers to these questions. With interviews from clergy and laity from all sides and perspectives we will piece together a biblical perspective, and call for examination of our own lives as we move through moral and cultural issues.

I’m seriously considering trying to make this film. Part of it is just curiosity. Part is a need to address this issue from a biblical perspective. You can’t ignore this issue. The world is changing. Chic Fil A took heat because the owner affirmed traditional marriage. Louie Giglio got uninvited to the Presidential inauguration because of a sermon he preached 15 years ago. Christians who ignore the issue of same sex attraction will be ill prepared to live in the coming world.

Controversial? Without doubt. The fact that we do not honestly address these kinds of questions is one of the reasons that many younger people leave the church. We don’t need to be afraid of this issue.

So, would you watch a film like this?

Caught in the Middle

I think I’m experiencing what many Christian filmmakers go through: The struggle between making the show you think you should make and making the show you think people will like/support with money/allow to be on their station and making the show somewhere in between.

I know, we shot the pilot for next to nothing. And the next 5 episodes will be shot for not a lot more. We have the capability to do that, but long term that’s not going to work. We have to come up with donors, investors or sponsors. Or some combination of the three.

It’s appealing to think about the established Christian TV model. Make a heartwarming, if somewhat cheesy, story attached to a non profit and watch the donations pour in. But that model is doomed. There’s some life left in it, but it’s not a long term solution. And really, who wants to make shows like that?

Or you could just do what you want. Don Miller and the people who made “Blue Like Jazz” did the movie they wanted. When I was watching I wasn’t sure I liked it. I really thought the main character was a coward. Then at the end, they totally got me. I finished the movie thinking this was the first Christian themed movie that a non Christian might watch without being coerced into it by their Christian friends. It had a lot of content that makes Christian movie watchers/makers uncomfortable: swearing, drugs and alcohol, and a main character who is a lesbian. And then it didn’t go on to condemn or show life transformation on all those people. We finish the movie with the lesbian still being a lesbian. Not a common Christian film.

Of course, it wasn’t accepted by a lot of Christian viewers. Not a big problem when you land distribution through a secular company. That would be a major problem for my show. We have the Youtube channel, but if we want to get broadcast, then we are looking at Christian TV. I don’t think many religious TV stations are going to broadcast anything close to Blue Like Jazz.

Of course, I’m not making Blue Like Jazz, or anything close to it. That’s not to say we are not dealing with issues that many TV shows shy away from. Last night we taped a scene which honestly answered questions about why God would send people to hell. One episode deals with sex and abortion. We’ve got bullying, cheating, politics, Christian sub-culture and even Halloween. But still, these are tame compared to Blue Like Jazz.

If you took Blue Like Jazz and put it on one end, and took the movie Courageous and put it on the other end, then placed my show in the spectrum in between. We would be so, so much closer to Courageous. Neither movie is bad, in my opinion, but both are aimed at different people. Both are telling different stories.

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with someone about the show, and I had to describe the target audience. I said my goal was to make a show that 13-25 year old believers wouldn’t be embarrassed to watch. One they could tell their friends about.

That means that I can’t be super safe, and make a bland story, following the traditional model of funding and distribution for Christian TV. I want to deal with real issues, and show real people. But I can’t move too far down the continuum or I won’t be able to utilize any of the existing distribution channels. So I’m caught in the middle. But we are getting the show done.

We are working to tell a good story. In doing so, we are showing what it means to really try to live out your faith in the world. We are putting on display the life of a new believer who is trying to develop a biblical worldview. It’s a lot of hard work. And when we are done I am sure that some will say we should have gone farther. And some will say we have gone too far. But in the meantime we are doing our best to tell a good story and follow God’s call on our lives.