Tag: hollywood

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.

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.

“Going Hollywood” . . . by Buying It

On a recent trip to China, Mastermedia CEO Dan Rupple observed that American films are creating a whole new generation of Chinese filmmakers who aspire to “make it” in Hollywood. Dan says, “If I wasn’t sure before, I am convinced now that America’s most influential export is American films.”

Wang Jianlin, China’s wealthiest executive, recognizes the scope of Hollywood’s power and influence and is aggressively expanding into the U.S. film industry through his media conglomerate, Dalian Wanda Group. According to The Washington Times (August 31, 2016), his desire is . . . “to acquire one of the six major Hollywood studios” and he has vowed “to change the world where rules are set by foreigners.”

With more Chinese movie theaters than any other company, Wanda is now focusing on global expansion. The Times noted, “In 2012, [Wanda] bought AMC Theatres, which recently announced a deal to acquire Britain’s Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group and is trying to scoop up Georgia-based Carmike Cinemas.” And in November 2016, Wanda purchased Dick Clark Productions.

Wang’s ambitious plans are unnerving to some lawmakers. Increasing control and power over the content and distribution of American movies by any company—particularly one closely aligned with the Chinese government—has the potential to shift the balance of power in global entertainment and eclipse America as the world’s largest movie market.

The Times states, “Owning a large portion of the world’s theater business gives Wanda a massive influence over the global film industry and could give it leverage in negotiations with studios over sharing box office revenue. The company has said it wants to control 20% of global box office ticket sales by 2020.”

Despite concerns about China’s growing power in the entertainment industry, The Times found that filmmakers they interviewed were skeptical about China using movies for propaganda—especially if it gets in the way of making money.

“If they do that, people will stop watching the movies,” said John Davis, a film and TV producer for Fox and Sony. “Chinese companies are all driven by the profit motive.”