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Reality Check . . . Confusing Real Life with Fiction

In our media-driven culture, the lines between reality and fiction are blurring. According to speaker and writer, Phil Cooke, “. . . it’s growing more and more difficult to distinguish real life from our favorite characters in books, movies, and television programs.

“There’s growing evidence that younger viewers in particular have difficulty understanding the difference.”

One study showed that 40% of the students participating believed popular movie versions of historical events were more accurate than factual historical essays on the same subject (Andrew Butler).

And social media only intensifies the impact of the confusion. Phil shares,A recent survey discovered 32% of Millennials believe more people were killed under the Bush administration than under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.”

So what about gaming? Phil cites Nottingham Trent University researchers who discovered that “gamers can become so immersed in fantasy that they become unable to distinguish that from the real world.”

Even C. S. Lewis recognized the importance of real life experience and the risks inherent with overindulging in fantasy. In the context of marriage, he says,

“Our experience is colored through and through by books and plays and the cinema, and it takes patience and skill to disentangle the things we have really learned from life for ourselves.” —Mere Christianity

Maybe it’s time for a reality check.

How many of our own personal values have been media’s 24/7 cultural conversations? Are we making decisions and choices based on truth or fiction . . . reality or the “reel” world?

Weigh in 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.

On-Screen Inspiration

In the second film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, “The Two Towers,” after Frodo and Samwise Gamgee had been taken prisoner, sent to the ruined city of Osgiliath, then narrowly escaped being captured by Saurons minions, Frodo begins to lose hope. He is ready to give up, thinking he can never finish the quest of destroying the One Ring in Mordor.

Sam encourages his dear friend in this scene from the movie . . .

Frodo: I can’t do this Sam.

Samwise Gamgee: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?

But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you . . . that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.  

But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding onto something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo . . . and it’s worth fighting for.

In the book of 1 Samuel, David is on the run, overcome with fear, knowing that King Saul is out to kill him. Jonathan goes to speak words of encouragement to his friend . . .

“David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. And he said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.’” (1 Sam. 23:15-17)

It’s the true friend who encourages us in the midst of the most difficult part of life’s journey. “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

What’s your most inspiring film scene? Why? Let us know at feedback@mastermediaintl.org