Tag: faith

Off Camera . . . with Louis Henry Mitchell

An intriguing conversation with Dan Rupple and Louis Henry Mitchell, Creative Director of Character Design at Sesame Street Workshop. They discuss how Louis’ love for the Lord and his love for people come together in the workplace.

DAN: Your love for the Lord just radiates from you, Louis. Tell us about how you see your role and why you believe God put you at Sesame Street.

LOUIS: I know that [Sesame Street] is the backdrop for what He actually has me doing. Sesame Street has a big vision, but the bigger vision—my vision—is reaching out to touch people’s hearts.

Years ago, I was called “the pastor of Sesame Street.” People will say, “Louis, can I talk to you?” “Sure, what’s going on?” (I’m thinking it’s about work) One co-worker said, “I know you really love kids, right? I’m having trouble with my son.” He told me about the situation and after a while he said to me, “Would you mind speaking to him?” “Not at all if you feel like it would help.”

When I mention I’m at Sesame Street people’s hearts open up, and it’s the perfect opportunity to talk with them on a deeper level. Generally I just start sharing about the love of God. I love my work, but I love the people where I work even more than the work itself.

DAN: I know how sincere you are in your love for these wonderful people you’ve built relationships with. How do your conversations transition into the moment when it’s right to share the gospel?

LOUIS: Eventually people start asking me things like “What’s your life like outside of Sesame?” It’s not me trying to shove it down their throat; I just share with them in love and they ask, “Tell me more about you. Why do you love this so much? What’s going on?” After a while I say to them . . . “Do you really want to know?”

At that point God has prepared their hearts to receive whatever He’s going to give to me to share. It’s fun. That’s the best part of my job—co-workers asking me so I can lead to why I’m here and who I belong to.

DAN: What role does a Christian community of media professionals like Mastermedia or others have in your life?

LOUIS: The more I’m involved, the more encouraged I am because I don’t have a lot of believers around me. It’s been a blessing to engage with other brothers and to come back to work knowing that in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to be with them again.

It’s a ministry at Sesame Street, and that ultimately makes it worth it, even during the most difficult times. I don’t have to worry because it’s not me, it’s God at work in me. So I rest on that. It makes it fun, actually.

DAN: Louis, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of how you walk out your faith as you fulfill your career calling within the entertainment industry. Blessings my friend!

Bridge Builders

by Dan Rupple

In the 1989 Disney classic The Little Mermaid, the mermaid princess Ariel is dissatisfied with her underwater life. Spotting a reflection at the bottom of the ocean, a sunken fork provides Ariel a glimpse into a different world . . . a human world.

As she fantasizes about what it might be like “up there,” she longs to be “part of their world.” But it’s not until her father, King Triton, provides a way—a “bridge”—that she is able to cross over into a life above the sea.

We’ve all seen movies that introduced us to lands we’ve never known or human struggles we’ve never experienced. I’ve seen so many films, especially documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival, that have provided a “bridge” of understanding to a world of which I was previously unaware. These cinematic bridges made a new connection possible for me.

But despite this digital age of unprecedented global connectivity, as a culture we seem to be more divided than ever before. Movies may serve as bridges, allowing us to cinematically travel across the great divide from the known to the unknown. But oh how we need far more kinds of bridges built than movies can ever provide . . . bridges that connect two things that are presently disconnected, bridges that make a way where there wasn’t a way before!

Deep in the heart of God resides a bridge builder. Long before mankind put an insurmountable divide between himself and God, the Lord had conceived His plan to provide a way—a bridge—for mankind to cross back over the divide, reuniting  mankind to his Creator.

God calls us to be bridge builders as well.

Throughout the Scriptures, we see God’s people creating bridges that didn’t previously exist. Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well creates a bridge between ethnicities and genders (John 4). The Apostle Peter creates a bridge between Jew and Gentile when he enters the home of Cornelius (Acts 10). And the Apostle Paul crosses the divide between Jew and Roman when he appeals to Caesar (Acts 25).

I was asked recently, “If Mastermedia had a symbol, what would it be?” Without hesitation I answered, “A bridge.” Our mission is to bridge the gap between the Christian audience and the media producers who fill our screens, to connect the Christian community with the Hollywood community, and to create a respectful dialog about faith with the secular media professional. These are the divides that God has called us to bridge.

To whom has God asked you to build a bridge?

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.