Tag: history

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.

Kathie Lee—Changed Forever!

When Kathie Lee Gifford was 12 years old, her life changed forever. “I came home to see my mother and sister in our living room, sobbing in front of the television.” They had been watching a Billy Graham crusade and both had come to Christ.

In her March 2016 interview with Christianity Today (CT), Kathie shared how, a few months later, she went to see the Billy Graham movie The Restless Ones. “As I watched . . . I sensed God saying deep in my spirit, ‘Kathie, I love you. If you’ll trust me, I’ll make something beautiful out of your life.’” That day, in a movie theater, Kathie Lee gave her life to Christ.

Kathie’s journey as a believer in entertainment has not been without adversity. In the CT interview she shared that when vicious attacks and false accusations were hurled at her in the tabloids, “Frank and I both stopped watching TV and reading the papers. We focused on the Word of God. I chose to read what God said about us, not what the world said.”

And when Christians asked, “How can you say you’re a Christian and be in Hollywood?” she responded with, “How could I be in Hollywood and not be a Christian? How could I put up with the work and rejection without the security of God’s faithfulness?”

But Kathie Lee never felt pressured to downplay or hide her faith, even in the entertainment industry. “That doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle, make mistakes, or break God’s heart on occasion,” she says. “But the story of my life—and I dare say any Christian’s life—is not the story of my faithfulness to God but of his faithfulness to me.”

Having lost her father, her husband, and many others, Kathie is sometimes tempted to lose heart. She says, “It’s overwhelming at times, since the world is so dark and so void of God’s Spirit.” But when she reads in Scripture, “Let us not be weary in well doing” (Gal. 6:9, KJV) she prays, “Okay, Lord, you’re going to have to help me be strong. You’re going to have to help me with inspiration. You’re going to have to help me keep going.”

Kathie Lee’s heartfelt, inspiring challenge . . .

“The Devil would have us give up. The Devil would have us stop sharing the Word. He would have us stop giving hope to the hopeless. And we can’t fall for that. As much as we long for a different world, we have to stay in this one for now. It’s up to us to make an impact for Christ until he comes or until he takes us.

“The words God spoke to me 50 years ago are just as true today, and for every moment I have left, I will trust him to work his beautiful plan for me.”

The Church and Hollywood . . . In the Beginning

by Dan Rupple

Within the Christian community we acknowledge and sometimes even grumble about the disconnect between the Church and Hollywood. We talk about building a bridge to secular media, and for 30 years this has been the primary mission of Mastermedia.

But the truth is, we are actually re-building a bridge—back to Hollywood.

In film’s seminal years, when the motion picture industry was a mere celluloid infant, the Church was considered the movie world’s determining audience. And initially, a good percentage of Christians saw film as a remarkable opportunity to express Christian stories and values to a wider, national audience.

The film industry got its start in the late 1800’s on the East Coast, establishing the first motion picture studio in West Orange, New Jersey. But by 1910, with director D. W. Griffith leading the way, film production began under the sunny skies of Southern California in the little village of Hollywood . . . an industry and culture was launched!

During these turn-of-the-century days of film, the Christian worldview and the biblical story was deeply ingrained in Western culture. In fact, in the first century of filmmaking, in addition to the countless biblical epics, over 100 films were made solely focused on the life of Christ . . . that’s more than one per year.

It was sometimes said that Jewish moguls hired Catholic directors to make movies for the Protestant audience. This wasn’t entirely true. For instance, Cecil B. DeMille was an Episcopal lay minister. But the point was made that people of faith were well represented in the highest echelons of the studio system.

With the advent of the “talky” in 1927 and on into the 30’s, film transitioned from the silent era into this new audio phenomenon. In large part, the Christian audience followed along, remaining the focused audience of the studios.

But as the 30’s brought an increase in provocative subject matter on-screen, and sex and drug scandals off-screen, church leaders grew concerned about the dangers of worldly cinematic amusements.

In light of this moral descent of film, the Church shifted its focus from embracing and producing movies to censoring, critiquing, and policing them. The film industry established the Hays Commission, led by its namesake Will Hays, a Presbyterian elder; and the Catholic hierarchy began the Legion of Decency.

As World War II ended, the mid-40’s brought a change in the cultural wind. As American soldiers returned home from Europe and the Pacific and foreign films entered the U.S. marketplace, new ideologies began to take root. Seeds of secularism were planted, often blooming on the screens of local theaters.

How did Christians respond? Some panicked. Some pulled out. Some stopped going to the movies under the conviction, “What business does a Christian have being in a dark theater?” And perhaps the most detrimental fruit of our response, a generation of talented young Christian creatives were discouraged by many, even condemned by some, from entering the media business. As the church relinquished the responsibility of creating or supporting positive, life-affirming films, the secular film culture filled the void!

The Good News? Christian filmmakers, church-based and other media ministries like Mastermedia, and the Christian audience are returning . . . and in an impactful way. Faith-filled films are being produced in record numbers, some of which are embraced by mainstream audiences and generating strong box office receipts.

Through it all, Mastermedia’s hope and prayer is to play our role in re-building that bridge back to one of the most important, influential, cultural-defining mission fields and people groups on the planet!

Resource: Thank you to Dr. Terry Lindvall. “Silent Cinema and Religion,” by Dr. Terry Lindvall, The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film, edited by John Lyden, published by Routledge, 2011.