Tag: christian

In the Room Where It Happens

In the Broadway mega-hit Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are behind closed doors, deciding on foundational policies that would still have major ramifications today . . . and all behind closed doors.

On the outside stands the excluded Aaron Burr, bemoaning that he’s not in on the conversation. When George Washington asks, “What do you want, Burr?” Burr replies, “I wanna be in the room where it happens!”

“I wanna be in the room where it happens!”

To have our voice heard, for individuals to have the ability to speak into conversations that affect their lives, to be represented . . . all go to the heart of our democracy. However, in the media world—which consists of private for-profit corporations—many influential decisions are being made, and often only the loudest voices get “in the room where it happens.”

Second only to profits, perhaps the leading influencers that dictate what the world sees on its screens, are the numerous, diverse voices representing many of the demographic threads of the American fabric. These voices speak for fragments of our culture divided by gender, race, political leanings, lifestyle, ethnic background, or other special interests. Some are large and some are small, but their objective is the same: to effectively urge, and often vehemently demand, that their factions be favorably reflected in TV and film characters and storylines.

What is our voice? . . .

1) Ours is an absent voice. Why isn’t the Christian voice being heard? In a previous Median (Winter 2017), I chronicled how during the infancy of Hollywood, America’s Christian Community was the deciding voice. But a few decades later, offended by what Hollywood was offering, people of faith pushed back their chairs, walked out of the room, and cocooned themselves in the sanctuary of our churches. The generations that followed were discouraged from entering the media business.

As the church relinquished the responsibility of providing or supporting positive, life-affirming films, the secular film culture filled the void! So for many years, the term Christian media professional became an oxymoron. The Christian light in Hollywood dimmed and was in danger of being extinguished.

However, America’s largest people group—followers of Jesus Christ*—is all too often, “not in the room where it happens!” The closest we get to the decision-making process is when we decide whether or not to turn on our TV. (*75% of Americans identify with a Christian religion, Gallup Dec 2015) Christians will often complain that the “religious” people they see in movies or TV are either pious hypocrites or insane serial killers who claim that God spoke to them through their dog. Where is the portrayal of a compassionate, thoughtful, caring person of authentic faith?

There’s an old adage among screenwriters: “Write what you know.” So, what if the screenwriter doesn’t know any Christians? A good writer who does his research may be pleasantly surprised by what he finds. But a lazy (or perhaps already biased) writer may simply fall back on prevalent unflattering false portrayals . . . and the cycle continues.

From the screen, this image spreads throughout our culture, leaving many who are without a sincere Christ-follower in their lives to buy into the not-so-Christ-like stereotypes of Christians as portrayed in today’s media.

Jesus called us to be the light of the world . . . where is light needed the most, but in the darkest of places? We are the salt of the earth . . . where does righteousness need to be preserved more than in a powerful, often godless influencer?

 

2) Ours is an assumed voice.

“Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, [a man lame from birth] asked to receive alms . . . expecting to receive something from them. “But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”’(Acts 3) As the lame man did with Peter and John, people often have an expectation of what they are going to get from a Christian. These expectations are usually based on preconceived assumptions. Some have a positive notion of a person of faith, much like this lame man did . . . that Christians are a generous, compassionate, giving people. But sadly, many have a much more negative perception of Christians . . . that we are a hypocritical, judgmental, mean-spirited group.

In the media world, the assumption adopted by many media leaders has been built by years of hearing a voice of anger bouncing off the pages of hate letters or the shouts of protest outside their office windows. But what if a kindhearted, thoughtful Christian voice displaced this erroneous assumption? What if the Christian voice, like Peter’s and John’s, offered something so much better than protest . . . something that was reasonable, affirming and beneficial to our culture, as well as their financial bottom line?

 

3) Ours is a needed voice.

Films are often promoted as “The Feel-Good Movie of the Year.” These are films that touch our hearts, bring a smile to our faces, movies that make us cheer or shout with glee! Films whose happy endings conclude with scenes of redemption (Les Miserables), self-sacrifice (It’s a Wonderful Life), good triumphant over evil (Star Wars), standing courageously by your convictions (Chariots of Fire), “right” winning the day (High Noon), or that which was lost is found (Finding Nemo).

Isn’t it interesting that all of these themes which so resonate with the human spirit are values of the Kingdom of God? It’s the way God wired us! These movies give us a glimpse of how the world was supposed to be! We are spiritually transported back to the reality of walking through a garden in the cool of the day, conversing with our Creator. Films that inspire us to be our better selves are not only successful, but think of the positive effect they have on our culture.

“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” –Harold Goddard, U.S. Educator.

Entry into “the room where it happens” is earned through compelling creativity, excellence of craft and being a constant, genial, reasonable, beneficial voice. Mastermedia has been and continues to be that kind of voice into the hearts of media’s decision makers.

And we endeavor to expand our voice . . . to deserve our seat at the table . . . to always be “in the room where it happens!”

Share ways you or others have earned “a seat at the table” at feedback@mastermediaintl.org.

Off Camera . . . with Eric Close

Mastermedia CEO Dan Rupple chats with actor Eric Close who can be seen playing Mayor Teddy Conrad on ABC’s hit series “Nashville,” and recently in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper.” Eric also starred for almost a decade on CBS’ “Without a Trace” and “Now and Again,” was  in the Golden Globe-nominated miniseries “Taken,” and guest-starred on “Suits.”

Dan: Eric, you are such a treasured part of the Mastermedia family, and it is a joy to call you “friend.” We all have so much admiration for your bold commitment to Christ in a very visible place in the media industry. What were the circumstances that brought you to faith?

Eric: At age 13 I attended Christian Jr. High School in San Diego, and that is where I first came to faith in Jesus. I remember it being the happiest, most joy-filled year of my life. However, over time I drifted away—not losing my faith entirely, but enough to where it wasn’t a priority in my life. Let’s just say that the story of the prodigal son resonated with me. It wasn’t until my 23rd year when I truly surrendered my entire life to Christ’s care and guidance. I had been pursuing a career in acting for about a year and a half after graduating from USC. Things were going fairly well, I was making progress, but I recall still feeling very empty and alone. One afternoon, sitting by myself in my apartment in downtown Los Angeles, I remember praying these exact words, “God, I don’t know if you want anything to do with me . . . but I miss you.” Words that changed my life forever. That was the beginning of my journey back to faith—and oh what an amazing adventure it has been! Filled with both highs and lows, victories and defeats, joys and sorrows . . . I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dan: So you came to faith, and you are pursuing a career in acting. Did you ever struggle with a disconnect between following the Lord and being an actor? Did you question whether these two things were compatible?

Eric: Honestly Dan, no, I did not. They are absolutely compatible. I knew beyond a doubt that God had called me to this career. It was 100% clear to me. I’m a storyteller at heart, and so is God. Just look at the Scriptures. The word “history” is “His-story.” My job is to honor God by doing the best I can with the skills and talents He has blessed me with. Whether you’re a writer, publisher, producer, director, cinematographer or an actor, you’re a storyteller. It’s a noble profession, and I am grateful to be a part of it. Plus, being an actor has given me the opportunity to make friendships and share my faith all over the world.

Dan: As an actor, which is an extremely visible profession, what are some of the most significant challenges you face in regard to your faith that a believer behind the camera might not have to deal with?

Eric: In my experience some people have a difficult time separating the actor from the character they see on the screen. They often perceive them as one and the same. In a way, it’s an affirmation that the actor is doing his or her job well, but the personal judgement that occasionally comes with it can be challenging. I’ve learned over the years that you can’t please everybody. Ultimately, I want the Lord to be honored and glorified by my choices. That’s what matters most to me.

Dan: Have there been times when taking a stand for Christ put your career in jeopardy?

Eric: One of the aspects I love about working in entertainment is the immense diversity of people and ideas. So many unique personalities and fascinating journeys. I can tell you that the conversations are never dull. I’ve found the majority of people I’ve worked with to be accepting and respectful of my faith. A little teasing here and there, but that’s to be expected. Yes, I’ve had to make some difficult decisions over the years, but my career has been in the Lord’s hands since the beginning. He is bigger than anything or anyone who could jeopardize that, and by His grace I’m still here.

Dan: Eric, thank you so much for sharing with us. With millions of people seeing your face on their TV screens, it is so great to know that behind the character there is a man who walks in a relationship with Christ. God bless you my friend, and please know that the entire Mastermedia community will continue to pray for God’s hand upon your career, your family and your life.

Eric: Thank you Dan. I can’t emphasize enough how important the Mastermedia family has been to me and my family over the years. They have stood with me through thick and thin. From the time Larry Poland and I became friends in 1995 to the present, their love, support, guidance and prayers have sustained me. I’m forever grateful.