TWO STORIES ABOUT NOT GETTING IT
It's "Starting Out in Hollywood 101" class. Here are two questions for the final exam based on real events that have happened to me in the last month.
A) Scenario: A moderately wealthy Christian from some homey place in flyover, decides enough is enough. Without even waiting to buy a white horse and shining armor, he swings into Los Angeles and starts taking meetings with anybody who will listen to him. "It's time for things in the entertainment industry to change," he proclaims with a sincere sense of mission. "No more banging on doors at the studios and networks. We need to stop begging and find creative new ways for Christians to make entertainment!"
Do you agree, why or why not?
B) Scenario: A young woman, with the ink barely dry on her Comm Studies degree from a small Christian college, is certain that God has called her to change television. With a boldness - some might call it gall - borne of religious conviction, she attends a Christian fellowship event, intent on making a connection with a famous, successful, and recenlty Emmy nominated television show-runner. While the everyone at the event is eating dinner, the TV writer wanna-be makes her way to the head table, kneels beside the show-runner and, after a few words of intense flattery, announces, "I am a Christian writer and have real talent. I'm ready to come on board your show and support you in what you are trying to do. Can you tell your agent to take a call from my agent about setting up a meeting for me?"
Is this a stunning coup or professional suicide? Why or why not?
Okay, class. Grades time.
If you think that either of these two Christians has hit upon a winning strategy for cultural renewal, you flunk.
If you think this kind of approach is bold instead of self-defeatingly stupid, you flunk and get expelled.
If any part of you feels the least bit of admiration for them and wishes more Christians would follow suit, you flunk, get expelled and will have your name smeared around our imaginary campus in the most rapacious graffiti.
NOTHING CREATIVE ABOUT CUTTING CORNERS
The first example occurred two weeks ago. A very well-meaning and godly man with pastoral credentials, arrived in Hollywood zealous to fix things here fast. I sat in a room with the leaders of four other Christian entertainment ministries, as the man proclaimed with a Moses-like light radiating off his face, that what was needed to fix the culture is ways around the networks' and studios' system.
He went on to suggest a few of his creative ideas...
...We should put out a national call for the most-talented Christian kids in colleges everywhere. We should get a thousand of them to submit to a kind of talent testing contest, and then choose the top twenty to come to Hollywood. Then, we put them all in a room, and have them come up with new ideas for television shows.
[response of Christian ministry leaders with glazed eyes: "Uh, no."]
...We should allocate a cable station, and start lighting Christian theater company productions for broadcast. Eventually, talented Christians everywhere will know that they have a place to air their own kind of programming!
[response of CML's with a kind of horror, "Oh, no..." (and the follow-up, "Have you heard of PAX?)]
...We should have a script contest to find the best projects "out there" and then work on getting them produced.
[response of CML's, "There is no there out there."]
Let's get to the bottom of the errors in this man's thinking. We DON'T need "creative ways" for Christians to find success in Hollywood. We need to do it THE way. We need to do what everybody has to do, just as well, and arguably even better. It takes time, lots of it. It takes paying our dues. There won't be anything sneaky or clever about it. The cleverness must all be in our work.
FAVORS ARE FOR PARTIES, NOT CAREERS
It isn't "bold" to be absurd. The young female writer in example two may indeed be talented, I don't know, but she read a stupid book somewhere that told her getting in people's faces is the way into Hollywood. It isn't. And the problem is, trying to bully your way in by playing "the Christian card" with a fellow believer, is the biggest red-flag you can wave in the Christian community of Hollywood. It freaks us all out. The weird sense of entitlement that we find in so many Christians who arrive here every day is shockingly disrespectful.
It's like, imagine if I was a great neuro-surgeon at Mass General, and one day, you, say a junior high school teacher, met me at a lunch counter. And suppose you said, "Hey, I heard you were a Christian. So am I. We need more Christians in medicine, so I decided I'm gonna do it. Can you get me into doing some brain surgery tomorrow?"
No, I'm not being facetious. It's eggzackly like that.
This happened the other night at the Barbara Hall event at Inter-Mission. In the end, this particular young writer not only blew it with Barbara, who was - God love her - just resignedly bemused at being accosted over her salmonn and spinach, but then, she accosted me afterward for shutting down the assault. After I had quietly informed her that dinner was not the place to pitch our guest, she persisted trying to get a promise of help from Barb, until I finally said, "Please stop. We don't do that here." So, after dinner, the young writer waited around to inform me with holy indignation that I had violated her, and that she was only trying to do Jesus' bidding. She questioned me with narrow eyes, 'And whose cause are YOU trying to promote?!"
I tried to tell her that no show-runner, ever, ever, ever, would agree to call their agent for an unknown, unrecommended writer who appeared kneeling and flattering at a banquet table, but she wouldn't hear me. She actually accused me of not having faith in God's power.
I share these stories by way of catharthis, and to point out that the mistakes surrounding the Therese movie are not unique to a few orthodox Catholics. We Christians have a lot of learning, and quite a bit of repenting to do before we get anywhere in the arts.