Christian Media

The 10 Biggest Mistakes Made by Christians in Entertainment

As a television and film producer and director based in Burbank, California – the home of global entertainment giants like Warner Brothers Studios, Walt Disney Studios, NBC, Nickelodeon, The Cartoon Network, and more, I meet a lot of Christians who come to Hollywood to seek their fame and fortune. There’s no question that Christian media professionals can make an impact in the entertainment industry, and we shouldn’t shy away from putting our imprint as people of faith in that arena.

But over the years I’ve also seen Christians who come to Hollywood unprepared for the difficult challenges of making their mark in the business. This is probably the most competitive business in the world, and in Hollywood you meet thousands of actors, directors, writers, and producers, who are constantly out of work. Therefore, to make a mark for God, we have to first make sure we have the experience, the background, the vision, and the skills for moving into this difficult but potentially fruitful arena.

The following list contains the most common mistakes I see with Christians who want to “move to LA” and get a job in the secular entertainment industry. Learn to overcome these 10 areas, and you’ll have a far better chance of success:

1) Explicit Style – Just because we’re Christians, we don’t have to produce explicitly Christian programs. When Jesus told parables, he never mentioned church, and only rarely even mentioned “God.” Learn to be subtle and win the audience with creative and compelling programming. Remember – your first priority is to make a good movie or TV program.

2) Poor Writing – Learn the art of storytelling, whether or not you want to be a writer. Every member of the production team needs to be able to recognize good writing. The fact is – most movies by Christians fail because they’re just not good stories.

3) Being Out of Touch with the Culture – Christian producers often don’t keep up with current TV, movies, internet, or graphic styles. Trends change faster every year, so stay on top of what’s working, and what people are watching.

4) Poor “Branding” – Know the importance of “branding” and how it can work for you personally as well as for the project. You can influence people’s perceptions of you and your projects – so learn the techniques of branding and put them to work for you!

5) Christian “Lingo” – Check the dialogue in most projects written by Christians… We have to dump Christian “lingo” and learn to speak in a language and style this culture understands.

6) Not Knowing How Hollywood Works – Sure they create some lame stuff, but entertainment is America’s #1 global export, so somebody in Hollywood knows what they’re doing. Take the time to learn how the system works before you waste months or years banging on doors. Read the trades, and understand the odds. Is the studio system best for you? Maybe you should try the independent route.

7) Ignorance of Financing – Most Christian producers are plagued with lack of funds for projects and equipment. Spend time learning financial skills, and start cultivating financial relationships. 3 things will change your view about money:
• You don’t have a money problem – you have a wisdom problem. (Study the life of King Solomon).
• Learn to Value and Prioritize your Time. The greatest difference between the successful and unsuccessful is their opinion of time.
• Understand the power of favor. God has placed people in your life who can open remarkable doors for you – seek them out.

8) Not Doing Your Homework – Read the trades, check the internet, do research. Know who you’re pitching to, or who you’re meeting with. What do they want? What have they done in the past? It destroys your credibility when a person you’re pitching to realizes you didn’t even take the time to find out their needs and interests.

9) Lack of Effective Marketing – We live in a culture where “perception is more important than reality,” so use that to your advantage. Know the difference between the impact of a resume vs. a demo reel and having appropriate presentation materials. Learn to present yourself with confidence. Start investing in yourself!

10) Not Knowing How to be a Problem Solver – Your life will change when you realize your value in the workplace is in direct proportion to your ability to solve problems for other people. Forget hourly rates, fees, or salaries – learn to solve problems, and you’ll never be out of a job.

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  1. Phil –

    I think these are good insights not just for Media, but are applicable to Christians in any number of business/industries. Christians have to remember that they can’t change the world if they stay huddled in their small group of Christian friends – they have to get out into the world to change it!

  2. Wonderful wisdom keys, Phil! (smiling) Hey, it just proves you can learn something from almost anyone! I just edited a program on point number 10.

  3. An enormous problem with Christian media is that it wears it’s agenda on it’s sleeve. Show me stories the challenge my faith… let me see a real, dynamic Christian life in crisis. I suppose the paradigm for media should be not that Christian Faith solves your problems, but that it gives you the tools to solve them.

    Oddly, Ned Flanders in The Simpsons may be the best Christian character of the last 20 years: honest, human, flawed, but filled with hope and a faith that triumphs over ridicule.

    And Amen to the comment about “Jargon”. Didn’t C S Lewis say that if you can’t say something simply, you either don’t understand it, or don’t believe it? Everyone wants to feel special, like they’re on the “inside”, and jargon does that. Jesus didn’t use it. Just saying…

    Thanks again Phil for making us think.

  4. Phil, thanks so much.  For Chrisitans who want to write screenplays, I recommend finding any of the pro writer blogs that are out there.  They are not only a great resource for learning about the industry and how hard it can be, but they are also full of great teaching on the art of storytelling.  It’s surprising how many big name professional writers are willing to pass on their experience in this way.

  5. Great stuff as usual Phil.  I would put "Poor Writing" at the TOP of the list.  Story drives the train and many big budget projects fall down because the time it takes to really develop story and the characters within are ignored to rush product to the marketplace.  Pixar is a prime example of a company that will take the time necessary to get story done.

    Our (Christians) greatest failure is our inability(?) or unwillingness to craft universal messages into compelling naratives that really touch the culture.  Jesus did that – Paul did that – Peter did that.  We have to do that!!!  By the way – must read resources in this context: "Story" by Robert McGee and "Good Scripts – Bad Scripts" by Thomas Pope.  Great reads!!

  6. Phil, this is great stuff! I think many times as Christians we don’t properly prepare and educate ourselves when we embark on variety of ventures whether they be in business, media or education. Instead, we expect God to just bail us out and give us success without proper preparation on out part. God wants to bless us, but we must hold up our end of the bargain.

    Once again, thank you!

  7. Great list, Phil. Here’s another thought: get an education in film and/or tv before you arrive. How many newbies land in Hollywood ready to make a change, yet have never taken one legitimate course in filmmaking, scriptwriting or television production. Just because you ran camera at your church doesn’t mean you have the chops to make it in Hollywood.

    Experience (plus talent & creativity) matters, for sure. But a good film/television/communications education is an investment that will enhance your talents and skills.

  8. Let me get this straight, you’re telling me:

    1. Do my research

    2. Work really hard

    3. Have solutions to peoples problems


    Hmmm, what are you getting at? Sounds fishy…

  9. I totally agree with Phil’s statement. I am a fantasy author and I have recently disassociated myself from the Christian publishing movement because as a fantasy writer Christian publishing companies are not open to new themes that subtly use parabolic truth mirroring the Word of God. All they want is the same tired and hackneyed themes that sacrifice quality in order to appease the Christian masses. If we are to change the sinful culture of America we will have to speak to them on their level (not speaking “Christianese”), in their language, and above all with a drive to create parabolic paradigms that do not shove Christ down their throat but suggest it in an artfully expressive and moving manner. Hollywood is successful in spreading their message simply because they artistically suggest rather then command. Great article! Totally agree!

    1. YES!!! Writing a book myself at the moment, based in Ireland, and it very much runs through the concept without the scriptures… Let’s get into the mainstream and change the flow!!!!

  10. RIGHT ON THE MONEY!!!… thanks!

    and i’d agree with Rick Wilson… put "poor writing" at the top of the list… or above even that!

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