My beard and I hit the snow for one of my favorite weeks of the year! I've been attending Sundance Film fest for five years in a row. I always experience moving films and deep, engaging conversations that impact my heart, mind, and soul. Here's a great write up describing what happened in one of our sessions. This year I was convicted in so many ways about racial injustices and white privilege, a small window into what's happening in culture all around us.
A powerful week to be creatively energized and reminded of the power of the arts, stories that change and us propel us into the future, that convict us to stand up for justice!
I'm grateful that my job as a "creative arts pastor" affords me the opportunity to tell stories with movies! I wrote a four part story about a girl named KIARA, who has some mysterious things happening in her life and is trying to make sense of it all at Christmas. We showed it during our Sunday gatherings and put it out online. Got to hone some of my writing and directing skills, and learned more and more about this craft that I love so much.
It's called HOPE FOR KIKI.
Here's all 4 episodes and some behind the scene footage, too.
Well, this has been an interesting month. Just got back from LA and Park City, Utah. Got to work on the SAG Awards and take in the Sundance Film Festival for my second year. I also dad my first feature film pitch meeting, what at trip! Hoping to secure the rights to a recently published biography that would make an amazing film.
I'm also slated to produce a few short films this year, and direct my first this spring!
Also, helping a friend get his short film off the ground, if you'd like to contribute to this amazing, talented filmmaker, Julian Higgins, check out his site here: http://www.winterlightfilm.com/. I met Julian last year at the Windrider film forum, and I new when I met him, he was going to go places!
It is Easter week. While we must prepare to munch the chocolate ears of our over-sized bunnies, I've also been spending my time producing a piece in which I am very proud. It is a slight tweak on how many around the world celebrate Easter. We'll have lots of music, live peformance, reflection, and a short film dealing with the circumstances surrounding the last days of Jesus Christ. Any guesses on who I'm playing?
This week I cast a project for an educational piece on Veterans dealing with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The talent (actor) needed to memorize some challenging medical language. This is not uncommon when doing educational pieces.
I cast an actor who not only had a picture in a doctor's lab coat, but claimed to work in the medical field and be comfortable with medical lingo. I auditioned her, and in both her reading, and in an improvisation session, she fit the part. But when she showed up, with two days with the script, she could not get through one page without asking for help with her lines. What happened today was truly an unfortunate lesson that cost production time and money. The talent was so unprepared as well as extremely nervous, that we had to re-shoot three hours of work, using one of the clients. We let her go and had to start from the beginning when we should have been wrapping. I felt incredibly responsible for this production set-back and frustrated for the waste of time. What could I have done differently? I could have stressed the importance of confidently memorizing the lines--but this should be a given for all actors. This is what a professional actor should automatically do! The reality is that everyone has a bad day, everyone has a failure here and there, so we need to get over it.
But here's my tips for ACTORS!
Do your job. Rehearse. Take classes. Take more classes. Get your friend to give you feedback. Put yourself on camera, see what you look like. When you do make a mistake, take ownership. Blaming external circumstances, or the amount of time to prep is shirking responsibility. Some jobs book with less than twenty-four hours to prep, but that's show business, you make it work. DO NOT THINK you can just show up to set and not know your lines. Production cost a lot of money, and when actors slow it down, and is not pretty.
Here's what I do:
I use my iPhone to record lines and rehearse with myself in the car on the way to auditions/shoots. I will stay up and go over my script as much as I can, and I will get on set--and keep my script close to keep going over my lines. You have to do the work. People remember bad and unprepared performances. I would never cast this actor again, and if there was a YELP for talent, I'd be writing a review.
Found this old pic, I met Chris Knight while filming a totally low budget movie called, FALLEN ANGELS, in Ohio (So bad!). They flew me out for two days of shooting, and literally were so behind that I only shot half of my scenes. They had to cut the rest. But I had two scenes with Michael Dorn, too.
Got to be a race car driver for a commercial this week. I was reminded how important it is to focus while on set. Especially on a commercial set. There are lots of wheels turning (no pun intended) and time is money. So the director and producer were working hard and under stress. As an actor I realized my job was to LISTEN. I was surrounded by 15 extras and it was very easy to forget that I was "working" and want to play around and talk, but I had to keep focused and get the actions completed in a as few takes as possible (again, time is money, the longer I take, the more money it costs them in time/production). I had a choice to make on set, be focused and do my job well, or play around and be considered unprofessional. So I had to stay clear of some conversations while cameras were being re-set in between takes, but it was worth it because we were able to complete the work and do it well. AND I had some good conversations with extras while on break, too. OH, and one more thing: NEVER EVER disrespect a crew member, especially the director, while on set. There were many people who were rushing around and yelling on set, and a few other actors were heard complaining and talking about it. As actors, it's our job to listen to the director and help get the job done!
I'm currently in LA, sitting in a Cafe off of Hollywood Blvd. I'm spending my last few hours of submersion into filmmaking, movie watching, and the entertainment industry. It's truly been an inspiring time where I can actually say I've "grown." I've changed a bit. I saw about twelve films last week, cried, laughed, discussed and argued over storytelling, good acting, thematic elements on about five-six hours sleep a night. Which is less than I usually get at home with three kids, five and under), yet, of course, it was filled with so many encouraging conversations that leave me overwhelmingly inspired creatively. I'm ready to see some things happen!
Here are some thoughts arranged in no particular order:
1-First, I missed my family. I have to give my wife a HUGE shout out (as well as the village of the extended family and friends) who made this week possible for me to be away. It's been one week, one hundred and sixty eight hours since I've left. Even though I got less sleep then when we had an infant, I am more energized and refreshed than I have been since my summer sabbatical. Probably because I could be "tired" and not have to change diapers, feed anyone but myself, and not have to speak if I didn't want to. This was an option my wife didn't have this week, so I am so thankful for her partnership. She deserves her week away, now, or least many nights off from putting the kids to bed! (Which I fully intend to give her when I return).
2-A strange and sometimes uncomfortable thing that I often took advantage of this week was: FREE STUFF! It seemed everywhere I went there was free food, free lattes (yes, I had two a day), and free make-up (of which my wife will benefit). This is called SWAG. Free stuff ,usually for people who can afford to pay for it, anyway. Weird, but yes, I enjoyed it. Funny enough--the one day I was enjoying a free Morning Star Vege Burger, (of which I ate daily at Sundance), I was also reading a book that had a section entitled, "No Free Food." I had to disagree with his thoughts at that moment as I enjoyed my pro-bono lunch.
(The menu at the counter).
But it was quite a sobering thought. Why is it that we give hundreds, thousands of dollars away to the riches people on the planet? I wrestled with this a lot this week. It is so easy to get sucked into the glitter of Hollywood, and I really wanted to temper my experience with being mindful to remember, I always am living in God's kingdom, and I want to be living his values. Which I was so grateful to have opportunities daily to pray with people, listen to their hurts and stories, and point people to the way, the truth, and the life. Which is really all of our calls in life, no matter what kind of passion/job we spend our time doing. We can live compassionately and generously.
3-They say, whoever "they are," that so much of the entertainment industry is "who you know." And there is a LOT of truth in that. I got invited to a table read of a screenplay entitled, "The Scoundrels Club." What a fun experience. Jeff York, was the winner of a contest that flew him out to Park City, UT, to have his script read by professional actors (which I fooled them into thinking I was). I thank my buddy, Christian Anderson, who let me ride his coattails. It pays to make good friendships in this industry.
I also got to be a part of the 19th Annual SAG Awards in LA. I was basically a do-anything production gopher who did things like prepare paint sharpies for Celebs and shuttle the actual actor trophies across the auditorium and red carpet. It was quite fun and surreal seeing all the people I normally see on the big and small screens. Yes, like Hugh Jackman, and the casts of the Office, Downtown Abbey, and Glee. All because of a family connection.
4-"Celebrities are real people just like us." I know some grocery story magazine (People, maybe?) has a page highlighting famous people pumping gas, getting tickets, and eating bran muffins to show the world that even though they are filthy rich, they still have to pick up dog poop (most of the times) but see #2 and don't feel to sorry for them because they still have a lot of perks. The red carpet glitz and glam of Hollywood life can be a bit ridiculous. All the hype and money spent on such events can be downright shameful when across the seas there are people starving and dying of preventable diseases. Wow, this was always on my mind. I really had to ground myself in this reality as I participated in these fancy events. One of the things I took away, (nothing new), is that fame is fleeting. No matter who you are: the high school valedictorian, the college football quarterback, Miss America, the top selling software guy, the new mom, the award winning actor--every season comes to and end. Those feelings, the spotlight, the "whatever," will end. And someday we'll all be taking our last breath and reflecting for a split second if we truly lived a worthwhile life, which I'm determined to do. Although I love this entertainment and filmmaking industry, they must always be a means to something bigger: like enjoying healthy relationships, creating meaningful stories to impact our hearts, and discussing real issues with others that propel us to be good humans who make a difference.
5-This leads me to my next thought. I spend a lot of my time preparing and planning for something that happens within a building regularly during the week. I teach, craft, brainstorm, and plan ways to help others experience truth, life, and love--(much like I said above: includes trying to encourage healthy relationships, good management of life's resources, and impacting the world for good and justice). That being said, we can learn a lot from movies and how they impact culture. Thankful to the Windrider Film Forum for helping to shape this for many of us at Sundance last week. Maybe now, more than ever, I see this medium of story-telling through film and media as one of the greatest ways to reach people and move people's hearts to action. I have to continue to chew on this, but as I looked at how interactive the filmmaking events were, (and so well organized) and how many great conversations were had, I can safelysay that everyone who participated in these events was moved in some way. I hope to see some of this impacting what I do in Redwood City. (Below filmmakers from one of my week's favorite films, "Toy's House.").
6-We are created to have relationships. We are created to engage with others. Full theatres of film loving people resulted in lots of new friendships and inspired dreams.This is a simple truth of humanity. When you make time to do the things you love with others who share that love, you can't help but experience beauty, connect, grow close, share life, etc.(Below a crowd gives a standing ovation to the winning film, "Fruitvale," and a sign reflecting a space where workshops and panel discussions were held.).
7-Finally, I'm affirmed, once again, that I cannot escape my soul's purpose, what I believe God put within me. I have been created to create. Making films, collaborating on team, a film crew, and acting brings me life and I know it brings life to others. I must give my time to this, or a part of my will die. And so I will be making more time to do so, and glad that my role within PCC is moving into that direction. I am praying for more clarity on that and a healthy transition for for all involved.
So, overall I am excited to return and share my experiences, but especially to be with my family. In closing, It was
This video below encapsulates the good, the crazy, and the downright superficial nature of this industry, this beast that I love. This beast that I am called to fight with, conquer, tame, and speak into my life and the lives of those around me. I love navigating through it and I love that I get to be a part of it because it both challenges me to grow and allows me to be used in the lives others.
So, althought it's easy to forget, I will be intentional. I will not seek fame, nor fortune, but find my fortune in the ONE who is already famous, and who's name will be lifted up among the nations.
For the third year in a row I'm involved with the Bay Area Windrider Film Fest! Three nights of watching films and discussing them with their makers!
Loved talking w/ T.C. Johnstone, who directed an amazing documentary on the first ever Rwanda cycling team! Which, one of the cylclists will be competing in the Olympics this summer in London watch for him! Go Team Rwanda!
Last night was a great film of the underdog become hero through the real life of Matt "The Hammer" Hamill. A UFC champ who just happens to be deaf, defeating the odds stacked against him. Powerful.
And tonight is the last night! We'll watch RED DOG starring Josh Lucas, and interact with him and the screenwriter, after the film!
and of course I get to have a little fun backstage!