I Met a Homeless Man Last Night, and It Could Have Been Me.

bench-areaIt’s Sunday afternoon, and my wife texts me. She has been running, and it turns out she stopped to talk to a homeless man on the trail. After I chastised her about approaching strangers, she explained that she had felt God prompting her to interact with him. He wasn’t asking for anything, he was just walking. He seemed nice, and she offered to buy him dinner. The plan was for me to go get some food and meet him at the end of the trail.

15 minutes later I’m at the trailhead with a bag of Chipotle. After a while I wonder if he decided to forgo the free dinner offer. It’s getting dark. The out of the gloom I see a lone figure emerge. We meet at the picnic tables, and the first words out of his mouth are concern about my wife’s safety. He must have said about 10 times how she should be careful talking to men she doesn’t know. She doesn’t normally do this kind of thing, but when God moves, it’s good to listen.

I presented the food and we started talking. He was obviously grateful for the meal, and I got the impression that he would agree to anything I asked. I did not feel any urge to share the entire Gospel presentation with him. Weird, right? Instead I felt confident that any declaration he made for Christ that evening would simply be out of gratitude for the gesture of a meal, and not out of any conviction of the Holy Spirit. Later my wife confirmed she had felt the same way when they first spoke. He knew about religious things. He was open when I told him about a local ministry that can help him, and I know shares the Gospel. But this meeting wasn’t about his salvation. It was about meeting a physical and emotional need. Physical because a man’s gotta eat. Emotional, because people need to talk with other people. So we did, we talked a while.

His story wasn’t so different from many I’ve heard. He had a cash job lined up for this morning. He was new to the area, and really wanted to make it to Shreveport. I told him what I knew about shelters and such in the area. then I asked why he was heading for Shreveport. He didn’t answer that question, but he did tell me how he ended up homeless.

He was a single guy, working where he could. He was working for cash, detailing semi trucks. Got hurt on the job, and there wasn’t any Workman’s Comp for a job like that. 4 months in the hospital; Mounting medical bills and no income. He said he lost his car, his stuff and then his place to live. He’d been living like most Americans, in debt up to his neck, and it was all gone. He never got around to saying what his destination held for him, some glimmer of hope to regain his footing. He’d obviously been out on the road for a while. He said he hoped his work this week would give him enough cash for the $28 bus ticket to Shreveport. He never asked me for anything, and seemed truly grateful for a hot meal on a cool evening.

As I left him to eat his dinner, I couldn’t help reflecting on my own past. When I was single, living up to my neck in debt. I wasn’t working for cash, but I didn’t have health insurance, and when I blew out the ACL on my knee it looked pretty bad. I could have been fired from my job, I might not have had access to a non profit hospital that would write off some of the cost. My employer didn’t have to pay for $5000 of the surgery costs our of his own pocket (and begin providing health coverage). I could have been saddled with the entire cost of surgery/recovery and left with no income, massive debt and no choice but to try to get home to my parents. I don’t think I would have ended up homeless, but things could have been much worse.

When you drive by people on the street, it’s easy to look down and ask why they didn’t do things differently. And there are plenty of so-called “chronically homeless” who don’t want to get off the street. But sometimes it’s just a run of bad luck, and a guy trying to get somewhere that can give him a break, a leg back up into a more normal life.

if a bowl of spicy chicken an give him energy for a day of physical labor, which might lead to a bus ticket, I’m glad to help.

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.

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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.

 

 

“Pastor just said something that blew his congregation away…” Now Hear the Rest of the Story

For the last couple of months (more in the last couple of weeks) I’ve been seeing a picture floating around that portrays a fictional sermon from a pastor. In it the pastor argues that Christians should support equality with a smile because that is the true Christian way.

I’ve seen it enough that the horrible logic just finally got under my skin. Books have been written on both sides of the religious argument for and against accepting homosexuality. This little photo is just so full of misinformation, supposedly coming from a pastor… I couldn’t let it go.

As I said, books have been written on this subject. There were more things that even I could have pointed out in this little story, but I stopped at 3. I certainly don’t claim to have answered every argument, but I did go ahead and make my own story.

rest of story

Micro Syndication: Is this the Solution for Indie Christian TV?

tv imageI have written about this before, but I wanted to talk about it again. Christian TV is upside down. Content creators buy time on educational licensed stations so they can then ask for money from viewers. I never paid for airtime with my show, Peculiar,  but most of the time we didn’t get money either. Only one network gave us anything, and that was just to help with paying for closed captioning.

In most cases on religious stations/networks the most you can hope for is free air time. Your program costs money to make, and you want to sell it to them. They can’t sell ads to cover the time, so they aren’t buying. There are a few networks that could afford to buy programming, but they don’t. That’s a problem for shows that don’t ask for donations, because it still costs money to make them.

So what can you do with your program?

Micro Syndication. This is an idea I want to try with my next series. It will be a lot of work, but I don’t see why this wouldn’t work.

The goal is to buy time on a for-profit network locally, and sell advertising during your paid programming. I went as far as pricing the air time on this once before. There are stations that will let you do it.

First you need a program. You’re going to have to have at least the pilot, and likely a few more episodes done before you can implement this. The program needs to be 22:30 with 6:00 of breaks. That’s room for twelve :30 spots. Your program must have space for advertisers, or it won’t work. And your program has to be something people want to see, or it won’t work for long.

Second you need a media buying agency. You could do this yourself, but once you get beyond a couple markets, the relationships your agency has will serve you well, and they can find deals you will miss. They know when and where you can find time near shows that are similar to yours. And you want that.

Third you need a sales agent to find sponsors for your program. They will get a percentage of each ad they sell, but they should be local to the station you’re trying to get on.  Their first calls should be to people in the pages of any Christian Business Indexes for the area your trying to broadcast in. They aren’t just selling spots, their selling a vision. You’re delivering viewers during a program with content they want to support.

The Process:

In a target market have your media buyers shop for a good spot for your program. Find out what it will cost per week. See if they can work in some ads to promote your program.

Once you know how much your program will cost per week, figure out how much to sell spots for. There are a couple of ways to go about this. You could just do a flat rate for every spot. Or you could charge more for different locations in the show. For instance, if you have a strong program in front of your show, one :30 spot right up top could cost more since they will be getting viewers who have stayed from the previous program. For the purpose of this post, let’s say they are all priced the same.

Example (Smaller Market):

  • Weekly airtime cost = $400
  • 12 spots at $50 per spot = $600
  • 20% of $600 for sales agent= $120
  • $80 “profit” per week.

That’s not much. And not a lot of wiggle room if a sponsor drops out. But you could get things off the ground with this. The goal isn’t to generate enough revenue from one market, but to get lots of markets bringing in revenue so you can afford to make more programs. Replicate this in 10 markets and you’ve got $800 per week. $41,600 annually. 20 markets is $83,200. There are hundreds of markets in America. Every one will be different, and will be very hard to expand into any of them.

Example (Larger Market):

  • Weekly airtime cost = $750
  • 12 spots at $90 per spot = $1080
  • 20% of $900 for sales agent = $216
  • $114 “profit” per week

Finally, sell the spots and buy the time. Gather the spots, embed in the shows and deliver them to the stations.

Make no mistake, this is a huge amount of work. And you’re not bringing in the kind of revenue that allows a big staff. And while you are managing all this, you need to be creating more content. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

How can you make this work better? Reduce costs.

Can you get the airtime for less per week? In the smaller example, at $300 for airtime you’re bringing in $180. That’s $2340 for a 13 week run. $9360 annually. From one market. But this is a balance. The better the time, the more expensive the time. Your buyer needs to be aggressive.

Can you charge more for ads? Your media buyers should be able to tell you what ads in your time slot would go for. Christian who are business owners may be willing to give a little more to support the kind of programming you are creating. $60 per spot? $75? With a discount for multiple spots in a program? I once paid $3500 for a :30 spot in the bottom half of the hour during a season finale on a major network. If you have the audience, people will buy the spots for more.

Work out a trade with a station. They give you the time, you provide the audience, and you split the ads spots. In the smaller market, you’d be looking at $300 per week in revenue. This becomes tricky with the media buyers, because you still need to pay for their services for that market. They will want, and you should be willing to pay for, their cut for buying the time. You should still clear more revenue per market, per week. But you need to show the station that you have an audience in their market.

This is going to be a lot of work.

Issues to Overcome:

Selling spots. You have to keep the spots sold, or you will sink. That’s it.

Placement. You have to have the program in the best time slot. Cheap enough to allow you to sell spots. Good enough that people will watch your show. 3:00 AM will be cheap, but no one will watch. Without viewers, it’s a waste.

Why not use a network? The key, at least initially, is local advertisers. It’s definitely possible to go to a cable network and buy time regionally and nationally, but it’s a lot of money. (Even Christian networks can charge $5000 for a 30-minute slot.)  You’ve got potential advertisers on the local level. But, they won’t pay to advertise their business where they don’t sell products. Until you can prove your show can draw a good audience, the regional and national sponsors aren’t going to be an option. You might have dreams of going to an Interstate Batteries or Chic Fil A for sponsorship, but they are going to want some ratings and proof of audience before they spend any money. So start local.

Why bother with traditional broadcasting? We know that online viewing and streaming is on the rise. TV viewing is declining. But it’s not dead yet. People still watch 140+ hours of TV per month. How to generate revenue online is a huge topic, and we should be working toward a sustainable model there as well. But in the meantime there is still an audience for your program watching traditional broadcasts.

Video Workload: You Get What You Pay For

quality triangleBased on a true story. Details have been changed and names withheld. Stories like this are too common.

Once upon a time there was a large church which had 2 staff members who, in addition to other duties, created videos for the ministry. The two staff members were overworked. They had completed over 40 video projects from start to finish in the last year, in addition to keeping the live video for services and events functioning, and other odds and ends projects. These two staff members almost always did all pre production, production and post themselves, without any help. None of the 40+ projects had any budget beyond a few hundred dollars in a catch-all line item of the organization’s budget.

Some of these 40+ videos were simple talking-heads, while others were much more complicated. The lead time on these videos ranged from as much as 2 weeks to as little as 24 hours. As you might guess, some of the videos weren’t as high quality as they might have been, and a few leaders on the staff wondered why that was. The two video staff members never sat down with their supervisors and explained what it would take to have high quality videos produced at a pace that was sustainable.

One day the leaders of the church were in meeting talking about an important video project. They decided that they couldn’t risk this video looking bad. It must look great, communicate well, and be professionally done. So they decided to outsource the video project to “professional” videographers. The leaders did not reach out to their overworked staff to handle this project, but instead took it upon themselves to hire a team to execute this production.

They asked the most vocal critic of the video quality of the church, a photographer, to produce this project. He hired some amazing talent to help; there was one of the best cinematographers in the area, a top notch editor, an ex news reporter to help with interviews, and of course the photographer would take pictures as well as produce the project. For this important project they were given a 6 week lead time. The professionals groused and grumbled about the lack of time to do their best work, but agreed to give it a try. The church leaders never asked to see a quote.

During the 6 week timeframe, the professional video team accidentally ruffled feathers and caused misunderstandings because they didn’t know the normal procedures of the church. The two video staff members were sometimes asked detailed questions about the video project, even by the same church leaders who decided to bypass them, but they we unable to answer. Much of the church leadership was in the dark about the project until it was revealed.

The weekend finally came when the video was to be unveiled. A video staff member received a download link with a message that music used in the video could not be broadcast or streamed on the internet. The message was delivered just hours before the video was supposed to be used in the service which was streamed and broadcast. They reported this to their supervisor, who told them to try to get the rights, and if they couldn’t, then ask the editor to replace the music. The professional editor didn’t have a grasp on how the end product was supposed to be used. The video staff spent Saturday afternoon negotiating with the publisher of the song, and came to an agreement on licensing. The cost for this license for one song from an unknown, indie-musician was almost $1000.

Church leadership had just received the first inkling of what this video was going to cost.

The video itself was a 7-minute masterpiece. Beautifully shot. Brilliant story interwoven with highlights and interviews. It was very well done. Everyone was pleased.

Then the bill arrived.

The final bill came back at about 1/2 the annual salary of one of the staff video guys. For one project. As the invoices came in church leaders were aghast. They certainly expected to pay more than they ever had for any video project before. But for the bill to total in the tens of thousands? What were they paying for? The supervisor of the staff video producers asked if these numbers were normal. With the exception of the photo/producer’s invoice which was inflated and the “interviewer’s” invoice which was absurd, the rest was not only normal, but the charges were less than they should have been for the time required. The rental was reasonable, and the day rates obviously discounted.

Most members of the professional team were trying to give the church a break, but the church leaders had no idea what it costs to do video projects of this caliber. The staff members who had been responsible for the video work had not educated the leaders who assigned the work. instead, they just did what they were told as best as they could.

In the end, invoices were paid (Though some were negotiated lower) and for a time church leaders had a better understanding of what it costs do produce amazing video content. But they didn’t increase the budget for any of their other projects, and within a few weeks the time lines for projects were as short as ever before. A few months later, the 2 staff members no longer worked for the organization.

What’s the moral of this story?

If you want high quality video it costs. It costs time and money. The quality triangle applies. Good, fast, cheap: Pick two, you can’t have the third. 

You get what you pay for. The producers on staff should have talked to leadership about how the truncated timelines with no extra budget were impacting the quality of their projects. And church leadership should have listened.

How many churches throw so much work on a tech that he cannot execute most of his duties with excellence, and then become frustrated with lower quality results… and begin looking for a replacement? How many techs are afraid to speak to their bosses about unrealistic expectations because they fear being fired or worse, sidelined?

Techs, save yourself the headaches of stories like this one. Talk to your team, your staff leadership. Let them know what your workload is, and how it affects your performance. Learn how to speak and explain in a way that they can understand. Ask for help if you need it. Church leaders want amazing ministry. We’re in this together. If something they are doing is impacting quality, they want to know. A lot of leadership (anywhere, not just churches) is allocating time and resources based on circumstances. Your boss can’t lead you if you won’t give him critical information about how you can best do your work, and deliver excellence.

 

4 Reasons You Should Make a “Discipleship” Movie

fcpxOnce in a while religious filmmakers can find themselves drawn into a discussion about Evangelical films versus what I call “Discipleship” films, which are films targeted at people who already have a relationship with Jesus. I have already written about this, and I fall firmly into the “do what God has called you to do” camp. If you feel strongly that films should be evangelical, go produce them.

But, if you are wondering about making a Discipleship film, let me give you 4 reasons to produce that film:

1. Your Primary Audience is Christians. Let’s be honest, unless you have Christian Bale as Moses and a biblical-epic-scale budget and effects, most of the people who see your film are going to already be Christians. “God’s Not Dead” did OK at the box office, but as an evangelical film I think it struck home with people questioning their existing faith more than any atheist who got suckered into watching it by their religious friends. The majority of people attending a religious movie screening will already be believers. Why not focus on growing those folks?

2. People in the church desperately need discipleship. While there are exceptions, generally half of the people who go to a given church are not involved in a small group Bible study. They get all of their teaching from the weekend service. Any pastor will tell you that’s not enough. Far too many people in the pew have much too little knowledge of what the Bible actually teaches, and what it truly means to live their lives according to those teachings.

Teaching truth through story was one of Jesus’ favorite methods. Do you think it is easier for someone to tell you the 3rd point of last week’s sermon or the plot of the last movie they saw? We can attract a Christian audience and teach them something that they can hang onto in the process.

3. The two kinds don’t have to be exclusive. A Discipleship film can have an evangelical element, just as a movie with a strong evangelical message can teach biblical truth to the viewer. Take for instance a movie set in biblical times. A movie on the life of Christ is obviously both a discipleship tool and a depiction of the Gospel message.

4. Movies may not be the best evangelism tool. OK, now I’ve made someone mad. I’m not saying the Holy Spirit can’t use a movie to lead someone into relationship with Christ. He has, he can, he will. What I am saying is that the percentage of faithful that asked Jesus into their hearts because of a movie versus because of a friend talking to them is pretty skewed. Personal evangelism is going to win out every time over mass evangelistic efforts. (I’m talking about Western Culture here.) One reason is that on screen conversions scenes feel really fake. And weird. It’s super hard to capture a scene like this in a way that feels natural. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but a Discipleship picture will probably reach its goal much more effectively than an Evangelical one.

If you are set on using film primarily as an evangelical tool, do it. At some point I will probably write an Evangelical script. Right now most of my work seems to fall into the Discipleship camp. I’m passionate about helping believers develop a biblical worldview. If you are trying to decide what kind of film to make, give the Discipleship movie a shot.

Final Shoot Update

IMG_4722 We are done with principal photography for the Sounds of the Season 2014 project! We wrapped up the last two scenes early Wednesday morning.

One of the coolest locations we shot at was an Olive Grove, in East Texas. Who knew such a place existed.

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The whole experience has been great. It’s funny though, two of my favorite days are the first day of shooting and the last day of shooting. Lots of work and late nights went into the production, with more work to come in post. I can’t wait to see everything come together for Sounds of the Season 2014 at Mobberly Baptist Church.

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IMG_4695 Sometimes the haze got a little thick, but it sure added a nice effect to the footage.

Judas prepares to betray Jesus.
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Kerosene soaked torches have a longer lasting flame. Always be careful when using fire!
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We had some great extras for the teaching scenes.
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A retaining wall near a retail center provided a backdrop. Shooting on a budget, you use what is available. Be creative.
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A morning campfire.
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The last shot.
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New Job!

ID-100225146We are moving to Texas!

I have accepted the position of Video Content Creator at Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, TX. The job has three main areas: media volunteer development and training, live multi camera video, and video production.

I start at the end of the month. And we are super excited! it’s a big answer to prayer.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know God has been working for a while. For over a year I have been underemployed. That was after a year of doing freelance work while I worked on my TV show. So for 2 years we either didn’t have steady income or didn’t have enough income. I still vividly remember when my main freelance client evaporated in an ugly fashion. I remember when my car died, and we didn’t have money for a new one. I remember when we felt God wanted us to sell our home.

But God, Jehovah Jireh, provided. No bill was unpaid. No meal was missed. Every need we had was taken care of. In the meantime God began to work in our lives to bring us to Mobberly Baptist.

I can tell you, I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to move to east Texas. But if you look at what I have trained to do, what I have experience doing, and have been learning to do, this new position fits very well. And I really like the way they work, and the people I will be working with. Mandy and I feel this is God’s plan for us.

The very first project I will jump feet-first into is a major series of shoots for Christmas. Lots of locations and lots of cast.

Everyone is very excited about the move. Way too much to do to get ready for the transition.

Some of you may be wondering about the film projects I have been working on. I still have three short film scripts and a feature length one completed. I am still working on more feature length projects. I still expect to shoot those projects, but we will be based in east Texas now. One of the things I want to do there is what I was able to do here in Orlando: build a community of Christian filmmakers who want to create content with a biblical worldview.

Success and Failure

IMG_4080I got a box of DVDs in the mail today. It’s one year after they were first released for sale.

I remember that day. My whole family piled into the car and drove down to the local store that was selling them. We rolled into the store and started looking for the shelf. I don’t remember who saw them first, but what great feeling to see something you worked so hard on available for people.

I didn’t know what to expect from the retail release of the DVD. IMG_2597 I knew that we were a show filled with unknown actors, created by an unknown director. But I was hopeful. We had TV exposure and a few hundred fans on social media.

The weekend after the release we had the discs available at the church which helped so much with the production. Most of the cast and crew were from that congregation. And we sold a couple dozen that day. Through my distributor’s contract with Word, I knew we had several dozen in stores across the country. And I knew that friends and family were buying copies. I personally bought one just so I could say I did.

Fast forward 3 months. It’s the end of the first quarter. I get a small check. I had spent more on social media advertising. In the 2nd quarter my distributor loses a partnership, and has multiple copies returned. For the rest of the year the DVD is only available online, from a dozen or so different outlets.

I can’t tell you exactly how many were produced, or how many were sold. But it wasn’t very many. Despite my best efforts, we never landed a major retail placement. There are a lot of new video products coming out every month, and we were buried in the pile. After a year in relationship with our distributor, we decided to part company.

Thank God retail sales are not the only measurement of success or failure!

I actually wrote an ebook about this. I almost titled it “How to create a successful Christian TV series and still not make a living.”

So what makes me say the show was a success when it certainly didn’t do well in retail?

We made the show so people would be impacted by the content. Entertained by a biblically based comedy. The more people who see it the better. Yes, people who buy the DVD would be people who see it, but luckily that wasn’t the only way it could be watched.

All 10 episodes of Peculiar broadcast on multiple religious networks around the world. JCTV (now JUCE), NRB Network, CTN-Lifestyle, and The Walk TV broadcast the show in the US. Plus several individual stations. Internationally it’s on a satellite channel in Africa, and being translated for broadcast in Romania and India.

An episode was shown at the 2013 Gideon Film Festival, and the series won the 2014 NRB Media Award for best Creative TV Programming. And did I mention that we did the whole thing for under $9000, and no one went into debt to make it happen.

Retail has been a failure. But the show has been a success! I’m proud of what we accomplished, and I can’t wait until I can do more projects like it.

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.