Part of the Problem or the Solution?
Several months ago, I was at the San Diego Christian Writer’s Conference and Barbara Nicolosi was one of the keynote speakers. Barbara is the founder and executive director of Act One, which is a nonprofit group based in Hollywood to train people of faith for careers in mainstream film and television. An engaging speaker, Barbara uses a lot of movie clips in her talks to illustrate her points. A former nun with an MA in film, she is active in the Hollywood community yet not shy about her faith.
I’ve known about Act One and their excellent work for a number of years. I find people love to criticize the movies and television programs produced in Hollywood. Yet few of these same folks are willing to roll up their sleeves and become a part of the solution. Instead Christian films and stories continue to be poorly done. Barbara is part of the crowd that is determined to be a part of the solution. Act One has regular workshops and now they are planning these sessions as weekend seminars in different places of the United States.
In the last few days, I’ve read the new book, which Barbara and Spencer Lewerenz edited, Behind the Screen, Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film and Culture. Various instructors from the Act One training program wrote chapters and the result is like a Who’s Who of Hollywood and encouraging to know such sincere Christians are actively involved in the professional aspects of film and television. Even the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a lengthy article about Act One called Can Jesus Save Hollywood? From this link you can get a brief summary of the article—if you aren’t a subscriber.
Repeatedly in the various portions of Behind the Screen (which I highly recommend if you are interested in this topic), the professionals tell the reader not to come to Hollywood for the wrong motivations. It’s not about message-driven stories. It’s about excellent storytelling. It’s not about getting rich or famous but instead about serving and professionalism and excellence. I loved the chapter Karen and Jim Covell wrote called “The World’s Most Influential Mission Field,” saying, “Only about 2 percent of media professionals go to church of synagogue. Hollywood is an isolated society, ignorant of—and often hostile to—Christianity. Hollywood is not just a mission field, it is the world’s most influential mission field. The media shapes the hearts and minds of people around the world.” Or consider what Jonathan Bock wrote in his chapter, “Love the Cinema, Hate the Sin,” when he said, “Changing Hollywood will require two virtues Christians habitually lack—patience and persistence. We’ll need to set our eyes on the long-term prize of righting the ship of mainstream culture by bailing it out one bucket at a time. But we’ll get there, and one day in our lifetimes, the world will marvel at our great works once more.”
Like in the writing world, Behind the Screen is a call to excellence in our craft. Something every writer can appreciate.