Short of receiving the final numbers, it appears this weekend’s Biola Media Conference was the best yet. Great speakers, fantastic attendance (even in this financial crisis), fabulous sponsors, and a great program all added up to a really eventful day. Co-director’s Kathleen Cooke and Peggy Rupple did a remarkable job organizing the event.
We started out with an incredible performance from the “Groovaloos,” who won this year’s Superstars of Dance competition. Then I interviewed Mark Zoradi – President of the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Group. After a 29 year career at Disney, rising to the top of the industry, Mark had a lot to say about his personal faith, his commitment to excellence, the Disney brand, and advice for others in the industry. Memorable quote: “Always over-deliver. If you consistently over-deliver in your work and expectations, people will want you on their team.”
Then we had a talent panel led by Kim Dorr, that explored how important the talent factor is in putting projects together. Writer and actress Susan Issacs sent us to lunch with a sobering and challenging thought: “So many people are “called” to Hollywood, but what if God called you there for only 3 good years out of 30? What if you had to struggle 27 of the 30 years? Would you still go?”
We broke up into numerous workshops on issues like legal, marketing, new media, alternative financing, ethics and ambition, and more. Memorable quote: When an attendee asked that as a Christian, is Ralph Winter (Producer of X-Men) films, concerned about the violence in his films? Ralph replied, “There’s no question that Wolverine has claws and uses them, but ultimately, I’m not as worried that God is pleased with my movies, as I am that God is pleased with me.”
In the afternoon, our keynote speaker was Joe Eszterhas, legendary Hollywood Animal (as his biography states), who has written films like Jade, Sliver, Flashdance, and Basic Instinct. He was paid $3 million for the script to Basic Instinct, and his movies have made more than a billion dollars at the box office. Joe smoked hard, drank hard, and lived hard. But in 2001, after a battle with throat cancer, he experienced a powerful encounter with God, and it transformed his life. His talk was frank, honest, rough, filled with grace, and brilliant.
During my interview afterwards, he was very vulnerable and human. He shared from his heart on the change in his life, how it impacted his marriage and family, and how it has impacted his perception in the industry. He also gave us some great advice. Memorable quote: “If you’re a writer, protect your vision. Don’t be too quick to let others change your work. Fight for it. It all starts with you.”
The truth is, if I listed all the “memorable quotes” from the day, I could write a book. We had a private dinner for the planning committee and speakers at the end of the day, and Erwin McManus spoke on the importance of Christians in the industry helping people tell their stories, and understanding their purpose through those stories. He told us that on whatever level we’re working, we can all be heroes in some important way.
As I sat there listening to Erwin, and reflecting on the day, I thought about how truly fortunate I am to be friends with the people who attended this conference. People who are committed to doing great work, but who are also driven by hope, and transformation.
It was a really great day.