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.

Not the Dave Ramsey Way, But…

We did it. After selling the house we are debt free.

I thought about calling the Dave Ramsey show and asking to do one of those debt free scream things. I could imagine how that call would go…

Dave: Now on the line we have Scott who is with us to do a debt free scream, that’s so great! Scott, what’s your story?

Me: We owed a lot of money and in just over 5 weeks we got rid of it all.

Dave: Wow! How did you pay off all that debt so fast?

Me: Oh, we didn’t pay it off. We sold our house. But we’re debt free!

Dave: Did my people even screen this call?

 

Yeah, probably not going to call him. I’m sure he’s busy, anyway.

It is a weird feeling though. Maybe because where we live is so tied to our identity in Western Culture. If you live in an apartment or house, own or rent, alone or with roommates or with family or with your parents, these are all a part of our American identity.

We’ve bought and sold a ton of houses. I’ve paid my fair share of fees. It would be OK with me to never own again. Of course renting in Central Florida is as or more expensive than buying.

Right now we are focused on find out the next thing is. And without a mortgage hanging over us, we are freer. Someone calls tomorrow, we can move immediately. We can save. We can prepare.

For the next step.

Christian Character Honesty

fake guyOne of the biggest complaints about Christian film/TV/video is that the characters are not honest. There are exceptions to this, but many times, too many times, this is true.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no expert character developer. I’m no expert scriptwriter. I wrote 9 of the 10 episodes of my show, Peculiar. I’m writing a feature length script now. I’ve fallen into the trap of creating a one dimensional character to achieve a plot point. I’ve presented characters in my work who change little over the course of the story. I’ve created weird moments where characters are set up to preach in a conversation rather than talk like normal people. But I am working to get better. Trying to educate myself, taking classes, reading books, writing.

One thing I did not do in the show is present the main character as a perfect Christian, who knows all the answers. He is a new believer, with little religious background. He makes mistakes. He learns, he is discipled. He is trying to live according to his faith.

I think a lot of times we see religious works and the main “Christian character” is this snapshot of life. They are static. The world happens around them, and they react to it. Almost like the writers have said that this is how believers act. This moment of life, they are the Christian, and Christians act like this, so watch them be Christian.

Salvation isn’t just limited to a moment. It’s a lifetime of faith and learning. The Bible says we are justified and sanctified. Justification is like God looking at us, but Jesus steps in front of us, so God only sees his righteousness, not our sin. It’s immediate. Sanctification is a process of molding our sinful nature into the shape of Christ. It’s ongoing.

Christian writers seem to get tied up in justification. It’s like we have this story with conflict, and the character is this perfect believer with no doubts and nothing to learn. Let’s watch what a “real Christian” would do in this situation. And then we watch them make all the right decisions, and in the end… I guess we are supposed to feel convicted because we are not where the Christian character is? We are supposed to leave the film saying, “Wow. I need to get my life right so I can be like that guy, he’s a real Christian”? Or, “I sure was glad that sinful person ended up choosing to be more like that Christian character.”

But no one is like that. Not in real life. I’ve known some pastors and speakers who present their lives like that on stage, but in reality, they are just as mixed up and full of inadequacies as we are. People who try to live like that remind me of a guy sitting on a three legged stool, sawing on a leg. Eventually they are gonna fall. Christianity as a whole has a problem being real, being honest with each other. We don’t show weakness or flaws. And if we do, the most common response is not support, but attack.

And that rubs off on Christian film and story. It’s like we are afraid to let a character be raw and honest. Maybe the investors won’t like it? Maybe we think Christian audiences can’t handle it? I don’t know, but too often we set up these unreal Christian characters.

Christianity isn’t about following people. It’s about following Jesus. Believers who follow other people will always end up disappointed. Setting up dishonest characters in our story will always ring false to the audience.

Audiences don’t want fake characters. Let’s let our characters be honest and real. Let them struggle to overcome. Let them change. Let them be real.

Season 1 (all 10 episodes) of Peculiar Should have cost $60,000!

dollar singThis week I am working on the last episode of the first full season of Peculiar. We did 6 episodes first, and then another 4 this May/June.

Total, for the entire 10 episode run, we will end up spending under $9,000. That includes captioning. That’s 10 22:30 episodes. Over 200 minutes of content.

I was playing with numbers, researching what a production with a higher budget would look like. I checked out the SAG Ultra Low budget rates. These numbers don’t include all the benefits and other things, or the restrictions you have to follow if you do an actual union contract. I just wanted to see what the rates were.

Minimum of $100 per 8 hour day for actors. I know from my own freelance experience that crew positions would cost between $200 and 400 per day. For fun let’s say $250.

We had an average of 5 actors per day, and an average of 4 crew per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. We shot the 10 episodes over 34 days, total.

If you do the math, and add what we spent on food and gear and captioning, that’s $60,000!

Holy smokes. I know how low end we were on stuff. We really needed better lighting. And imagine if we had to pay for locations? Add at least another $5,000.

I am still amazed we got these done. Thankful to have so many people who saw the vision for the show, and joined in.

July 16th the DVD of the 1st Season of Peculiar Releases!

4580D Heartbeat.qxdOn July 16th the first 6 episodes of Peculiar will be available in the Christian Book market. Already you can preorder it at CBD. They don’t have a picture yet, but you can reserve you copy right now.

That’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s not quite as cool as strolling into a Christian bookstore and seeing it on the shelf. But it’s on the web, available for anyone to get, right now.

And it’s not just on the web, but it’s in places that are past gatekeepers. Not everyone has a DVD available on CBD, or any other Christian bookseller.

I know I didn’t do this alone. If it hadn’t been for God’s favor and the willingness of people to help, this wouldn’t exist.

I am pretty excited about this, and cannot wait until July 16th!

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.

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.

Chick Fil A supports Traditional Marriage, Amazon Doesn’t, and Why That Won’t Change My Behavior

Today I, like hundreds of thousands of others, ate at a Chick Fil A restaurant. I didn’t do it because I support traditional marriage, or because Dan Cathy does. I ate there because I was annoyed about the double standard present in the media over this area, concerned about the public statements of elected officials threatening to discriminate against a business which actually doesn’t discriminate, and a small part of me felt good to jump on the bandwagon today. Plus, I like Chick Fil A sandwiches and sweet tea.

But before I explain myself, let’s look at the controversy.

What Cathy Actually Said

First, this wasnt just some news release the company’s CEO put out. The man was asked a question, and he answered transparently in an interview with Baptist Press:

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

“We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.

Some have twisted this. For example, CNN reported:

But the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire. “Guilty as charged,”, Cathy said when asked about his company’s support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage.

Cathy never mentioned same sex marriage in the interview.

Frankly, in that interview, he made a more direct reference to divorce than same sex marriage. That took more guts than anything about gay rights. Christians seem to have forgotten that God hates divorce. Many churches don’t preach “against” it much. And half the people in our pews have had one. But that is a topic for another post.

In the wake of this controversy, another interview was dug up. Cathy was talking about raising children, according to a post by Denny Burk which outlines these two interviews in greater detail:

And in that interview, Ken Coleman wanted Cathy to talk about fatherhood and family. So Cathy made some wide-ranging remarks about the family in general and about his own father in particular—remarks which had no reference to homosexuality.

Cathy also emphasized how crucial it is for children to be raised by both a mother and father. As an aside, he mentions that that’s why he believes it’s arrogant to try and redefine marriage. It’s bad for children and invites God’s judgment.

I, like Burk, think it’s clear what Cathy thinks about same sex marriage, but am amazed that his simple statements about what he supports have been twisted into some sort of hate filled message. Even Christians are misquoting Cathy.

The last few weeks have been filled with vitriol from the left. News commentators have slammed this company, politicians quickly tried to build support… some suggesting courses of action which may be illegal. (Is it legal to block a restaurant from building a new franchise in your town because you disagree with the CEO about marriage?) Many began calling for a boycott. Many have taken to social media outlets to vent their outrage.

When you press people on it, asking why the news that a Christian CEO does not support same sex marriage surprises them, many I’ve talked to, or read, explain that it’s not really his views, but the fact that he takes money that he makes selling chicken and gives it to political organizations who actively work against making gay marriage legal. So… this is just an opportunity for you then? You thought you would seize on a moment or two of transparency in a polarized political climate and try to get some steam on the whole boycott thing.

Take it from a Southern Baptist who lives in the shadow of Disneyworld. Boycotts don’t work.

The Event

In light of the media controversy, Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested people who support Chick Fil A should eat there on August 1st. And I would be shocked if this wasn’t the most chicken they have ever sold in one day. The reports I’ve seen show lines out the door and around the building. People waited hours for chicken in some places. They are literally running out of food in some stores.

The Protest

In response to the appreciation day, a counter protest sprang up online. The plan was simple: On August 1st, go to Chick Fil A and order and large water, and then leave.

So let me get this straight. In order to show how much you don’t like a restaurant, you are going to the restaurant, ordering something they will gladly give you, and walking out carrying a cup that advertises the restaurant you want to harm. How does this hurt Chick Fil A? You get a positive experience in the store. They do what they always do. Any increase in lost revenue because of the additional cups was more than made up by the increased sales today. Any extra time spent serving you, which is their main function (to serve the customer) didn’t matter to those supporting the chain because they were willing to literally wait hours to get their food. In fact, your presence in the store added to the crowd, and helped give the appearance that there were tons of people who supported the restaurant’s right of free speech. Great idea. I’m sure it was effective.

Amazon

So in the middle of all of this, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife donated $2.5 million dollars to help make gay marriage legal in Washington state.

Obviously, many supporters of gay marriage think this is great news.

How is this any different than what Cathy did? Both people have an opinion about marriage, and have expressed it, in interviews or emails made public. Both have made donations to political groups who work for an outcome on this issue. But each CEO is on the opposite side of the issue.

And Tango Makes Three

I tried to not talk about this. I tried, mainly because I think it has been blown way out of proportion. If this wasn’t an election year, I don’t think this would be such big news. If the president hadn’t publicly changed his view on gay marriage a few months ago, this wouldn’t be big news. If social media didn’t exist, this would not be nearly as big of a deal.

Know what pushed me over the edge? Coming home to find a children’s book my kids checked out of the local public library about two male penguins that love each other and raise a baby together. You don’t find out the main characters are gay until 10 pages in. A blurb on the back of the book claims the story is “heartwarming proof that mother nature knows best.” How exactly does a zookeeper giving another penguin’s egg to a “gay” penguin couple show that mother nature knows anything? If it was mother nature, they wouldn’t have gotten an egg because male penguins don’t lay eggs.

The book, “And Tango Makes Three” is much more insidious than any political campaign. It’s not called “Heather has Two Mommies” or something similar. It masquerades as a basic kid’s book. It is specifically written to promote homosexual relationships and non traditional families. This is much worse than a group openly spending donations to buy advertising for their political agenda.

So seeing this controversy over public statements and money, I have resisted the urge to comment because it just doesn’t matter in the long run. Come 2nd week of November this whole thing will be long forgotten.

It just won’t matter that much.

But wait, I ate at Chick Fil A today? I participated in Chick Fil A appreciation day. Yes, I did because I support the right of Chick Fil A’s CEO and Amazon’s CEO to say what they want, and use their money as they want in the free market.

But let me be clear. Hearing Dan Cathy state his views on marriage has no real effect on my long term commitment to eat his chicken. It’s not like anything he said was new to me. I have often referred to Chick Fil A as “Jesus Chicken.” If I didn’t like the food, I wouldn’t eat there no matter what the family that owns it thinks. But I would support the right of the family to think and speak as they wish.

On the other hand, I still buy Apple products and Oreos. I still shop at Amazon. Yet all these companies “support’ same sex marriage. They have a right to their opinion, and like Cathy, have a right to give money to organizations that try to pass laws that reflect their views. If they make a good product, they will be successful and will continue to have money for their political contributions. At least they aren’t hiding it in a kid’s book.

Both sides will throw millions at their viewpoint. But people don’t suddenly change their views of marriage based on one ad campaign. I’ve never heard anyone ever say, “Well, I was against same sex marriage, but then I heard a radio spot and now I have decided to be for it.” The only people that might be swayed by these are the ones that are in the fence.

Beliefs and attitudes about marriage are some of those that people use to define themselves. Political and religious views are some of the most closely held beliefs. Those are not something that people change on a whim. People are moved a little bit at a time. It takes time to change someone’s self defining beliefs. It takes a long time for them to be in a place where an ad campaign can tip them to the other side.

Want to really change someone’s view on marriage?

Write children’s books about animals that teach kids your viewpoint. Create TV shows that reflect your worldview. Produce movies that show the world as you want it to be. Teach people to think like you want them to. Then eventually, over time, people change their minds.

I don’t think that our society’s biggest problems are restaurant owners and tech company CEOs that give millions to organizations that fund political initiatives. Buying chicken or Kindles won’t matter much in the larger scheme of things. I will buy as much chicken as ever, and buy as many mp3s and books as ever.

Change the world by teaching people to see it from a biblical perspective.

Watershed

Watershed: A ridge line that splits drainage areas, or an important point of division or transition between two phases, conditions, etc.

Today is a watershed day.

As I blogged earlier in the week, I’m leaving church media ministry for … media ministry. For over 10 years I have been in full time employment at a church, doing the work of media ministry. I’ve seen God do some pretty spectacular things in this time.

Starting tomorrow I won’t be coming into an office every day. I will be working on the next thing God has called me to do.

There will be some things I won’t miss at all, and some I will. The biggest thing I will miss is seeing a project of eternal significance grow from an idea into an experience used by God every week. I will still see that happen in my new work, but not every single week.

Meanwhile I’ve made some great progress on the show this week. Got some new things I hope to get rolled out next week, when I actually have the time to work on it. And on the tent-making side if things, I landed a freelance gig this weekend. God is continuing to affirm this course for us.

So this is it. I’ve got a few more things to finish up, so I gotta’ go.

Next

After over a decade in full time work on a church staff doing media ministry, I’m moving on to something else. God has been working in my life, and I am convinced that now is the time to move forward. I am quitting my job at the church to produce episodic Christian TV/web shows to reach people under 50 years old.

God has been working on me for a couple of years now. It really started when I first got the demographics for the people who watch our church’s TV show. Based on what we can tell, we reach over 100,000 people every week with our 30-minute and 1-hour broadcasts. Over 75% of those are 50+. Most are well over 50 years old. And we are not the only TV ministry facing this.

I can go on and on about the looming crisis for Christian TV, but the bottom line is that those of us in religious broadcasting must do something now. That is what God has been calling me to do.

Many of you know that I am developing a Christian sitcom. We just released the pilot a few weeks ago. I’m not just doing that as a hobby. I will continue to produce Christian TV shows that reach younger viewers.

It will definitely be a change. Not only will I not have office hours, I won’t really have an office, unless you count a desk in my bedroom as an office. Even the subtitle of this blog “Thoughts from a media pastor” will need to change. Oddly the one thing that bothers me about the whole thing is that I’m pretty sure when SWBTS, the seminary I attended, surveys graduates they will clump me into the group who no longer serves in ministry, even though I’m still doing ministry. I just won’t be employed at a church or para-church organization.

My church has been incredibly supportive. In some places if you were to go to your boss and talk about a new direction God is calling you toward, they would say, “That is great. We’ll be praying for you. Now, let’s get some boxes for your office.” My experience has been the opposite of that. I will be transitioning out while they look for someone to replace me. So, while the capacity of my involvement will be immediately reduced, I will still be involved at First Orlando, working with them on broadcast content and weekend service execution. And the church is still committed to letting me use spaces for shoots, and use equipment when it’s available.

When I talk to people, they inevitably look at me like I’m crazy or courageous. I don’t feel that courageous. I do sometimes feel crazy. Yes, I understand that leaving a steady job that pays the bills to pursue what God has called me to do could be considered both crazy and brave.

So, how am I going to make a living?

I have almost five years worth of contacts in Central Florida. Even in a bad economy, I know several people who make a living doing freelance around here. The plan is to pick up freelance work while looking for support for the show. In many ways it’s like the tent making from Acts 18. In fact, my production company is called “Pup Tent Media” specifically because this kind of work will be a means to an end. I have a few ideas on how to use the whole range of skills I developed this past 10 years making “tents” so I can do what God has called me to do. I will put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.

So if you need video production, social media, promotions, publicity, advertising, communications, event production help, let me know. If you know someone who would want to invest in or sponsor the show, send them my way.

In the mean time, I am moving forward. To be completely transparent, I had a pretty rough day last Sunday. It was time to tell a lot of people about this. Right in the middle of all of that, sharing my heart and passion, talking about the direction God was moving us, I had doubts. From out of nowhere this kind of thing would pop into my head: “Are you an idiot? You are not ready for this.”

If this was something my wife and I took lightly, that might have derailed us. But God has been clear. Scripture, prayer, circumstances and counsel have all been confirming what we know in our hearts we are called to do. I am called to create episodic Christian video content that appeals to viewers under age 50.

It’s not the first time I/we have made major changes because we knew God was telling us to. I quit my dream job to go into ministry. My wife and I moved across the country to attend seminary. We both left good jobs and our families to take a full time media ministry job in Louisiana. We have since moved twice to new ministries because we were led by God to.

Sometimes God asks people to do things that don’t make sense. That’s because he’s God, and we aren’t. Jeremiah 29:11 and Proverbs 3:5-6 come to mind. If I had leaned on my own understanding, I’d still be working in Nashville, wouldn’t have met my wife, had these kids, or been doing things that are are eternally significant in ministry. So, now that we are taking another step, I trust.

Frankly, it’s scary at times. But, I know this is right for us.

So that’s it. Pray for us. Please.