MARKETING/PROMOTION AND RELATED EVENTS
7 'SHARK TANK' TIPS FOR CHRISTIAN FILM INVESTORS
Preeminent animation historian Ray, Pointer, left. VFX animator, Bob Arvin, right.
▶ BY KRISTEN COLLIER
Whoever makes a Christian Avengers is sitting on a goldmine.
But this requires education. Because VFX animator Bob Arvin (Roswell, JAG, Mission to Mars, Inspector Gadget, Bicentennial Man), told CM there’s not a will in the Christian business community to do this.
“Those that market Christian films don’t believe that crossover films are possible,” Arvin told CM, “because it would dilute the messaging.”
So, the first CM Shark Tank-type tip for Christian investors is this:
“In order to recoup Disney-level production budgets at the box office, the audience would have to grow beyond the average Christian demographic,” Arvin told CM. “This means that the films would also have to appeal to non-believers in order to be successful.”
The second Shark Tank tip is this:
Earning Avengers-like returns on a Christian, or even family-friendly movie, would enable said investor to create an unlimited amount of overtly Christian movies and TV shows.
“I believe that finding the right way to cross over is the key to success,” Arvin said, “otherwise we are only entertaining fellow believers and retreating from culture, rather than influencing it.”
The third Shark Tank investor tip is this:
“Animation has a wide application as a form of cinema beyond children’s entertainment,” said Ray Pointer, a preeminent animation historian with over 20 years at the Hollywood studios. “It is just as legitimate of a storytelling medium as live action. And it has been used to great success in the past in carrying Christian doctrine.”
Pointer, a member of the animation peer group of The Television Academy of Arts and Sciences with over 300 animation credits, cited Davey and Goliath as “probably the most famous.” He also cited the animated Bible series in the 1980’s that Hanna-Barbera and other studios created, as well as Adventures from the Book of Virtues, of which he was involved with for a short while.
“Given the current state of our culture, a revisit to these principles is much needed,” Pointer told CM.
The fourth Shark Tank tip is this, from Pointer:
“Writers are fundamental, as you will agree,” said Pointer, who recently retired as an animation professor at the renowned Kendall College of Art and Design, in Grand Rapids said. “I think that the first thing to do is find the right backers who share these values and go from there.”
Another Shark Tank-type tip, number five, is this, from Arvin:
“There really aren’t any Christians in Hollywood with the authority to green-light projects or determine what goes into development," said Arvin. "Outside of Hollywood there really isn’t much movement to create films, or other media.” Meaning, it’s up to creatives and investors outside CA to take the lead.
The sixth Shark Tank tip for investors is this, also from Arvin:
“In my dealings with the Christian film world I have noticed a trend, that those producing product for the faith-based market don’t have the ability to reach beyond their core audience.” So, that means investors need to look beyond the Christian Media Industrial Complex, to the truly talented creatives.
The seventh Shark Tank tip for investors is this:
Check out who’s creating Christian comic characters rivaling Avengers. Folks such as Cross Section Comics founder, David D. Miller, Alec Stevens of Calvary Comics, the talents via Star Cross Comics, Chester Colston, Clint D. Johnson and the influential Nate Butler, who worked for DC and Marvel. Those doing Disney-esque art and characters, like artist Jack Foster, and pastor’s wife and author, Donna Shepherd can contribute stories that could be shows, as well. Christian video games with the earning potential of Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed, like Devon Burroughs’ Spiritual X Warfare. Pokemon-type artists like Brikko Bree Hayashi. Pastor’s son, Cameron McCormick, writing scripts for a superhero TV show with Avengers cross-over, mainstream appeal. And the list can go on and on. There's no lack of talent in the Christian artist and author world.
Just a few friendly tips for savvy investors who want to make a pile of money that can then be turned around and put into more Christian projects.
SHARK TANK TIPS: A LITTLE BIT MORE
▶ BY RAY POINTER
In light of the current "social" and political direction our country has exhibited, our work will not be light in order to promote the [above] ideals. It is so easy to be negative and destructive. A MAJOR effort will be necessary to infuse a more positive spirit in our nation.
So much damage has been done to The Church, propelled by Mainstream Media. In many ways.
(In regards to our "Mondo" news story, and the unique ability De La Vega has to appeal to every demographic, Pointer said this:)
We need to project authenticity. Maybe people have caught on to the superficiality of televangelists. What interests me is guiding the younger generations. Those I come in contact with want fairness in society, but have a complacency based on the continued maintenance of the "status quo" way of doing things. They want progressive ideas that will give them hope for a future. Thanks for appreciating the fact that I have thoughts! Some people get upset because I do. Because many times I say things that few, if anyone else has expressed. Some people are uncomfortable in hearing things that have not been stated before, or repeated. So, when something new comes along, their "comfort zone" is upset.
With all of the anxiety in the world today, people are overwhelmed by so many things they do not understand or know anything about. The natural reaction is to seek overly simplistic solutions or conclusions to complicated issues, or to ignore them all together. Much of this is based on fear of the unknown. And a reluctance to leave that comfort zone.
So much ignorance in society is having those comfort zones challenged by greater social enlightenment. Many axioms and "assumptions" fall into this.
These are difficult and sensitive issues that need to be discussed. By sharing my thoughts on these things, I hope I can find some common understanding, not just for myself, but for others as well.
ACT ONE TO HOST 20TH ANNIVERSARY EVENTS DAY
Your ticket to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Act One, taking place August 17th. Article originally published July 20, 2019.
▶ BY CREATIVE MOTION
Act One, located in Studio City, California, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a special event day. Act One is a Christian community of entertainment industry professionals who train and equip storytellers to create works of truth, goodness and beauty.
On August 17th, 2019, Act One is hosting Act One @ 20: Towards Authentic Christian Cinema & Television, which is an interactive day featuring speakers providing for community discussions on a variety of cinematic topics.
Speakers and topics for the day will include: Religious Metaphors in Art and Movies by artist and designer, Enzo Salveggi, Towards a Christian Aesthetic of Cinema by Dr. Zachary Cheney, assistant professor of Screen Studies at Azusa Pacific University, Making Television Through A Christian Lens by writer/producer of the hit Amazon Prime show, Bosch, and Thomas Bernardo and Flannery O'Connor Meets Sergei Eisenstein: Moment-Centered Cinema by Dr. Barbara Nicolosi, who is an associate professor, Regent University.
There will also be panel discussions on successful writers groups and how to get your indie projects off the ground.
For alumna, the event is promoted as an opportunity “to reconnect with your Act One classmates, meet lots of new friends from the other groups, and thank the faculty who have served throughout these last two decades.”
In addition, it will be a chance to offer well wishes to our first Executive Director, Barbara Nicolosi, as she leaves Hollywood to begin a new career as the Coordinator Of Script and Screenwriting at Regent University.
Tickets for the event are available here. The cost is $20, plus an additional $10 for a meal ticket.
FILM PRODUCER JOSHUA COURTADE PURSUES MFA
Award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter, Joshua Courtade, just came back from a successful screening of his feature film Melody On Earth, at the Roswell Film Festival in April, where his lead, Kristin Mellian, was nominated for Best Actor. Both are professors at Compass College of Cinematic Arts, a Christian film college in Grand Rapids. In August, Courtade begins a Masters in Fine Arts program, Writing for Film and Television at Boston's Emerson College.
“I've been feeling rather stagnant lately,” Courtade told CM, “and I knew I needed to do something dramatic to shake things up. I had considered pursuing an MFA when I got my undergraduate degree 16 years ago, but life took me in other directions. It seemed like it was finally time to follow through.”
He said Emerson is “an excellent school with a highly reputable screenwriting program,” and “ a low-residency program, which means I won't have to relocate or quit my job to attend.”
Courtade conveyed that he often updates his curriculum “to reflect new research or changes in the film industry, so I'm definitely looking forward to integrating new material based on the classes I'll be taking.”
"I hope to sharpen my writing skills (it's always good to brush up and keep current) and to make some great connections with other talented writers," he said. Originally published July 22, 2019.
HOLLYWOOD PRAYER NETWORK CONFERENCE AUg. 17
The Hollywood Prayer Network was founded July 2001. Insets left: Karen Covell, top, Erin Batali, bottom. Insets right: Dean Batali, top, Merlinda Balmas. Originally published July 12, 2019.
▶ BY KRISTEN COLLIER
The Hollywood Prayer Network is hosting their first Chapter Directors virtual conference August 17, 2019. “We are excited to host a 3-hour event on Zoom video conferencing to meet one another, be encouraged, and pray together,” the HPN said, via email invitation to the Chapter Directors.
There are currently 140 HPN chapters in 30 countries around the world, and their email distribution list has 12,500 subscribers. An in-person Chapter Directors summit was held in 2016, in Los Angeles.
“We had this idea because several Local Chapter Directors had expressed interest in another summit,” HPN Program Coordinator, Erin Batali, told CM, “but with how much our reach has grown worldwide, we felt that we didn't have the resources to put on another in-person conference.”
Batali added that because it “would require a lot for chapter directors to travel here on their own,” the Hollywood Prayer Network still wanted a way to bring chapter leaders worldwide together. “We wanted to have a way to connect with everyone in one place, encourage them in their own work and missions, and for them to connect with each other, as well. .
This event is limited to chapter directors only, and the HPN has no plans currently to host a virtual event for all members. Batali said, “I think with this being our first virtual event, we are interested to see how it goes and how effective it is, before brainstorming for something bigger!”
Participants can join or leave the call at any point during the three hours. Participants will receive a link via email to join the online video conference at least 30 minutes prior to the event..
Four speakers will share their stories, experiences, and encouragement:
Karen Covell, Producer & Founding Director of the Hollywood Prayer Networkk
Dean Batali, TV Writer, Producer, and Showrunner for 25+ years
Merlinda Balmas, VP of Marketing, Warner Bros. and Founder of 9t5 Ministries, HPN Hollywood Chapter Director
Heidi Swander, HPN Twin Cities, MN Chapter Director
Editor’s Note: Kristen Collier is HPN MI Chapter Director, and will be in on the call.
BREYER HORSES EXECUTIVE V.P. RICK REKEDAL TALKS
Left: Breyer Horses EVP, Rick Rekedal. Top: Police horse, Oliver, Breyerfest Horse of the Year, and Capt. Lisa Rakes. Originally published July 12, 2019.
▶ BY KRISTEN COLLIER
Rick Rekedal, Breyer Horses Executive Vice President of Brand & Business Development, and former DreamWorks Chief Creative, Global Franchise, is at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, July 12-14, for the 30th anniversary of Breyerfest. The event drew in over 30,000 attendees last year. Variety announced Wednesday that Breyer is developing a live-action show with Imagine Entertainment's Kids and Family Division. With 300,000 fan videos on YouTube, this TV show acquires an instant audience.
How did this mid-western native and Biola grad land every horse girl’s dream job?
“I met the great team at Breyer Horses when we worked on the animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron at DreamWorks Animation years ago,” Rick told CM. “I soon realized that no one knows the relationship of girls and horses like Breyer--and the inspiring power only horses bring. After DreamWorks was sold to Universal in 2016, it created a window of opportunity for me to join Breyer.”
I asked Rick what it was like working on Spirit.
“It was a real privilege to be part of the DreamWorks team for Spirit,” he said. Breyer is known for its “strong dedication to authenticity. There is no one like Breyer to bring Spirit to life, capturing his personality and beauty. Whether in animation or live action, Breyer will always be the place to help bring famous horses to life.”
September marks Rekedal's two years with the equine model company, after 20 years with DreamWorks. I asked Rick how he's incorporated his creative background into this position.
“I’m always interested in finding great stories to tell, stories that inspire and empower,” he said. “Today, more than ever, our economy is driven by the power of story. Whether you are creating and selling a brand, consumer goods, or original properties, fans look for ways to attach your story to theirs--it’s why people are so eager to share the things they like in social media, for example. Breyer gives us a great platform to tell myriad stories across the horse genre.”
What tips does Rick have for Christian media producers?
“There is no substitute for doing world-class work at the highest possible standards,” he said. “Too often we can find ways to justify sub-standard work because we think our message will overcome it. Good creative work takes far longer to create and develop than most people think. Read Ed Catmull’s book Creativity, Inc.--one of the best books about the hard work good story development requires.”
What about for Christians who want to learn some simple animation skills?
“Animation is one of the hardest mediums to get right,” he said. “You can try out your story ideas by sharing video animatics through platforms like YouTube and Tumbler. There is nothing stopping you from having your work seen, and the discipline of getting an animatic done helps iron out your story problems. Invite user comments and feedback to fine-tune your ideas. When shopping your concept, if you already have a decent social following, you’re more likely to find an open door. Pitch your work often, to lots of people, and be willing to listen objectively. Avoid pitching to friends and family--they will be too nice. Ask for harsh, unvarnished feedback. Your ego has to take a back seat. If your story isn’t landing, it’s always your fault, not the listener’s. Even after 20+ years I rehearse and fine-tune my pitches all the time.”
But it's not all dream(Work)s and horse parks in Rick's life.
“My story is directly linked to my dad’s story,” he said. “A few years ago my dad wondered out loud if he had much of a legacy. This, from a faithful man who has maintained sobriety for over 40 years, and is looked up to among many peers in his community. I realized I needed to tell our story, that in the midst of struggles with alcoholism and a crumbling marriage in the 1970’s, even after having walked out on his family, my dad had the humility and simple courage to raise his hand and ask for help.”
Rick writes about this in his book, One Small Step: or How a Trans Am, Smashed Thumb, and the God of the Universe Saved Our Family.
His father “took one small step toward sobriety by agreeing to attend an AA meeting with a friend of his--a former drinking buddy who had also found sobriety--and that began his journey toward faith,” Rick said. “Within a fairly short time, our family was restored, and my dad led me to faith as a result of his returning home.”
I asked Rick how “the God of the Universe” saved his family.
“Our story includes losing a family member through suicide, the ravages of alcoholism, and the threat of breaking up our young family in the midst of my parents trying to make their marriage work,” he said. “Thankfully, while separated but trying to repair their marriage, each of my folks came to faith in God independently, before then re-dedicating their lives to His service. Today, when many of their peers have retired, having been married 51 years, they are serving as newly launched missionaries in southeast Asia, while both my sister and I have gone on to careers that have been able to impact far greater numbers than we could have ever imagined. All of that began at that moment when my dad and mom moved toward God and saw the healing begin.”
Has God moved recently in his life?
“I’m old enough now to begin to truly realize I don’t know what I don’t know when it comes to how God moves and what His plans are. My daily walk is more important than ever, even as doors continue to open in my career. One thing I try to keep in mind is that each of us is given the same amount of time--168 hours per 7-day week. I’m increasingly reminded that my job is less about carving out certain hours for God, certain hours for family, etc., and more about learning to submit each and every hour, day by day."