Tag: film

Off Camera . . . with Producer Howard Kazanjian

Mastermedia CEO Dan Rupple talks with Howard Kazanjian, producer of Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Dan: Thank you for being with us, Howard. Before you began to chart a course into the movie industry, what and when was the spark that drew you to this career?

Howard: The spark, as you call it, was my parents handing me their 8mm spring-wound camera at the age of 11. I was taken to the movie theaters at a very young age and was captivated by the idea of recreating a world of storytelling by visuals.

Dan: Transcending cultures, nations, and age, Star Wars has become the global folklore of the 21st Century. What do you think it is about this epic story that resonates so powerfully?

Howard: First and foremost, credit must be given to George Lucas because he created a new way of storytelling. We all grew up hearing fairy tales, but George created a new fairy tale for the screen.

Stepping “out of the box,” Star Wars combines traditional Hollywood filmmaking with fabulous elements and techniques of storytelling through exciting visuals, great music, sound, special effects, creatures, captivating characters, eye-catching sets, and tight editing. This was new-world technology with fast action. It was a new road to filmmaking that captured the imagination, first of America and then the world. Most important, it had story that didn’t end two hours later.

Dan: During your early years in the industry there were relatively few Christians working in the media. Now, thankfully, Christian media professionals are too numerous to count. What changes have you seen through the years in the Christian presence within the industry? And what changes have you seen in the media’s perception of the Christian community?

Howard: Today, there are more Christians working in the media. But media now has hundreds of thousands of employees—more than ever before. The industry has become even more secular, and I would say increasingly negative toward Christians. What we need is more Christians in the decision-making areas of our industry. We need Christians as attorneys, executives, agents, and those who can green-light projects.

Dan: Working within the mainstream film world, how does your faith inform your role as a producer?

Howard: My faith keeps me going. My faith is my hope for tomorrow. My faith is my rock.

Dan: Has the Christian community ever questioned why you produce mainstream, “secular” fare, as opposed to explicitly Christian films?

Howard: Christian films are rarely approved by studio heads. I choose my films rather than have them assigned to me. I am very selective of the films I work on and, hopefully, they are appropriate for family.

Dan: What advice would you have for the young Christian who feels a call to the film industry?

Howard: Be strong in your faith. Be tough, yet soft. Learn your craft well. Work hard and long hours. Shine for the Lord. This is not an easy road to travel. As you get to a certain level you may find that there are no executives who will agree with your thinking and push your project to the top.

Dan: Howard, your friends at Mastermedia are proud of who you are as a Christian, as a media professional and as an example of a follower of Christ within the media. We ask our entire Mastermedia community to continue to pray for you and your family. Thank you!

On-Screen Inspiration . . . Beauty and the Beast

Agathe: . . . As punishment, the beautiful enchantress transformed the young prince into a hideous beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there.

If he could learn to love another and earn their love in return by the time the last petal falls, the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?_______________________________________________

Beast: Your father . . . is a thief!

Belle: Liar!

Beast: He stole a rose.

Belle: [to the Beast] A life sentence for a rose?

Beast: [leaps down to her section of the tower, but remains hidden in the shadows] I received eternal damnation for one. I’m merely locking him away. Now, do you still wish to take your father’s place?

_______________________________________________

[The Beast enters the dining room, sits down and sees another plate set up across from him.]

Beast: You’re making her dinner?

Lumière: Well, if this girl is the one who can break the spell, then maybe you can start by using dinner to charm her.

Beast: That’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. Charm the prisoner.

Lumière: But you must try, Master. With every passing day, we become less human.

Sin has put the entire human race under the curse of existing in their basest, most animalistic nature. Only Christ, by His sacrificial love, can defeat the curse and set us free to be fully human, created in God’s image and restored to be the people He created us to be.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” —Romans 6:22 (ESV)

Afflicting the Comfortable . . . at Windrider

We’re called as Christians to give ourselves away, and that’s what we’ve got to work out.” These profound words from veteran movie producer Ralph Winter challenged students and filmmakers participating in a Windrider Forum discussion, a part of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The panel was exploring the idea of “afflicting the comfortable” through thoughtfully crafted documentary films that may stimulate social action.

Winter, a Hollywood producer whose credits include blockbuster movies like X-Men and Star Trek, was asking, “How do we break out of [our natural tendency to want comfort] and discipline ourselves?” His insightful answer . . . “We’re called as Christians to give ourselves away.”

Craig Detweiler, former professor of communications and director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture at Pepperdine University, expressed his perspective this way:

“Hollywood films comfort the afflicted—always happy, always a clean resolution, for the most part.

“Independent films afflict the comfortable. You come out feeling worse that when you entered. We don’t usually go to films for that. We don’t want to pay money to feel worse. But these are filmmakers with a prophetic gift who say, ‘This is what’s wrong with the world.’”

Detweiler says he comes to Sundance to cultivate empathy. “I come back here because I need to have my heart broken annually so I can go back to my comfort and work and minister out of that. That’s what the Windrider experience is.”

Dan Rupple, CEO of Mastermedia International, has partnered with the Windrider Forum at Sundance for 13 years, and Mastermedia is now a sponsor at Windrider.

When asked why it is important for Mastermedia to have a presence at Sundance and Windrider, Dan explained . . .

Robert Redford started the Sundance Film Festival to be a showcase for independent films that would never have the chance to be shown in theaters. Now 46,000 people come from all over the world. Hollywood executives come from all the major film studios looking for their next hit, and it’s a great opportunity for Mastermedia to connect with them.

Sundance is the launch pad for the talent of tomorrow . . . creatives, directors, writers, actors. For Mastermedia, it’s an opportunity to build a relationship and make a connection with someone very early in their career. It’s a chance to start a dialog, a conversation. The Sundance winner of today is the Oscar winner of tomorrow.

Our missional focus at Sundance is making connections that I can then go home and follow up with. This is often the beginning of trust relationships with these key contacts.

Paul, in the book of Acts, entered the marketplace in Athens and entered into the conversations they were having day after day about current ideologies . . . and that’s what we do at Sundance.

Peggy Rupple has served as Associate Director of the Windrider Forum for the past 14 years. Mastermedia International is a sponsor of the Windrider Forum.