December 16, 2011


“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

It shouldn’t have happened.

With just a few hours remaining to secure the last $2000 needed to meet the fundraising goal to get my newest feature film off the ground, it wasn’t looking good.

But as the hours ticked away, a steady stream of new pledges and increased donations tipped the scale in the affirmative direction.  And just like that, the campaign ended with 134 backers contributing 101% of the fundraising goal.

And here’s the kicker… I’ve had people contact me after the Kickstarter campaign ended to ask if it’s too late to contribute.  Kind hearted, generous folks are still showing support.  Thanks be to God for showing that through Him there is no impossible.

I’ve been asked multiple times what it felt like to reach the goal in the manner I reached it.  Was my head still spinning?  Had I come down from the adrenaline high I was on?

Truth be told, the adrenaline was contained and my head was only spinning as it normally does in the hours after school when my kids are hyped up on whatever it is that turns them into monsters that time of day.

With the Kickstarter campaign moving along as slowly as it was the first several weeks, I had resigned to the idea that the ends may not have been as important as the means.  All along, I felt convicted that $8000 was the amount to ask for.  Believe me, I wanted to lower it to make it more attainable, but I had a serenity about me that assured me $8000 was the amount for which to reach.

When it looked unattainable, I assumed God wanted me to go through the process for reasons beyond securing the finances.  Maybe it was the connections I’d make through the campaign or announcing to the public I was going to do this project or just a reminder that I cannot do things on my own.

And it was all those things.

Plus the money.

So I got that going for me.  Which is nice.

Apologies to Bill Murray.

Anyway… I was really at peace with whatever would come about from the whole Kickstarter experience.  Coming up short of the goal would have been a huge setback, but it wouldn’t have killed the project.  Maybe just delayed it a year or two.  As it is, now I’m hopeful I can move into production in the summer of 2013 which was the hope all along.  Still no guarantees, but with money to pay my lawyer and put into marketing and meetings and oh-so-many other expenses, I’m ready to shift into the next gear.

Walt Disney really did accomplish the impossible in his relatively short life in this world.  He may not have attributed his successes to the One I know was responsible, but Disney set a good example nonetheless – go out and DO something.  Don’t wait until somebody else gives you permission.  The more impossible those around you say something is, the more rewarding it will be to prove them all wrong.

At least I know for sure there are 134* people out there who believe I can accomplish the impossible.  I thank God for each and every one of them.

Away Kickstarter success

* Though 134 backers are listed on Kickstarter, many of those backers are couples or families, so I know the number of supporters is greater than 134.  Plus, the handful of angels who have given money after the Kickstarter campaign ended.  And there were a few people who found non-monetary ways to show support.  I just thought it sounded good to put a number in that delineation, in spite of the slight manipulation.  Maybe there’s a political career ahead for me…

November 29, 2011


“Whatsoever we beg of God, let us also work for it.” – Jeremy Taylor

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Forgive me for putting that melody in your head.  Is it the Springsteen version?  It is, isn’t it?

Santa may be coming in a few weeks, but God is already here.  And despite popular sentiment, God and Santa are not one in the same.

Why is it we spend the majority of our prayer time in ‘ask-mode’ and so little in ‘thanksgiving-mode’?  Or am I the only one who finds himself asking far more than thanking?

I’m getting better.  That’s not to pat myself on the back, because I’ve still got a long ways to go, but the more I listen and offer thanksgiving instead of always asking, the more at peace I find myself.  Funny how that works, huh?

These last few weeks I’ve spent plenty of time begging through Facebook, Twitter, radio and television.  At least I assume many have perceived it as begging.  My multiple Facebook posts nearly every day asking friends and acquaintances to donate money to the development funds of my current feature film could be perceived as begging.  They could certainly be perceived as annoying.

Contrary to what many of my Facebook connections likely assume after the last month, self-promotion is not one of my fortes.  I don’t like offering unsolicited updates about my career.  I’ve always said it’s better to let others do the talking.  Put another way:

“Boast not of yourself; if you’re as great as you think you are, others will do the boasting for you.” – J. O.

But this whole Kickstarter campaign has nothing to do with boasting or self-promotion.  It’s really just a project for which I’m passionate.  And it’s a project I sincerely feel is driven by a higher power.  And not a higher power in a red suit flying in a sleigh.

I’ve been begging God to simply guide me through this whole movie project.  He’s been faithful and true to His word, even when I get frustrated and pessimistic.

But in my begging, I have never been passive.  I love Mr. Taylor’s quote above.  Simply praying for God to take action while we sit on our butts is as productive as reading diet books while drinking a super-size Coke and a half-dozen Twinkies.

So that’s why I’ve been so persistent in my – call it what you want – begging, pleading, conjuring, imploring, urging.  I believe this is God’s project, but I also believe He expects a lot of hard work from me in seeing it come to be.  Posting a bunch of status updates is not hard work; that’s not what I’m implying.  But the behind-the-scenes efforts I’ve been making at the expense of sleep and free-time are where I hope to separate myself from the passive beggars.

To my Facebook connections frustrated with my bombardment of repetitious status updates, please forgive me.  I beg of you.

November 16, 2011


“Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.” – Khalil Gibran

Professional athletes, movie stars, business tycoons – we love to see their philanthropic efforts.  And for the most part, I’d like to think abundantly rich folks give a portion of their wealth to charitable causes.  Whether they do it for publicity or out of a genuine desire to help is not our judgment to make.

Ten-percent of one’s wealth is the Biblically accepted baseline for giving back to God what is rightfully His.  Where exactly this 10% should go is debated, but I’m a firm believer that any worthy cause is an acceptable allocation of the 10%, whether it be entirely to your church or charities or simply sharing with a brother or sister in need.

A millionaire’s 10% is incomparable to mine.  A millionaire’s 10% is more than my 100%!  Does that make his/her tithing more important than mine?  Of course not.

It’s all relative, of course.  While the richest among us have the potential to make the biggest individual splashes – and they often do when they donate 7 figures to a particular cause – the cumulative efforts of the middle and lower class can have just as big an impact.

It’s easy to give comfortably.  Once we pay our bills, buy our groceries, fuel our cars, and take advantage of this week’s sales at Target, then it’s relatively easy to squeeze out some remnants for our brothers and sisters.  Once number one is taken care of, then maybe we’ll do what we can to help others.

But as Mr. Gibran states so brilliantly, “generosity… is giving [away] that which you need more than [others].”  What a statement!  And what an idea!  To give to others before taking care of oneself.

Mark 12: 41-44 talks about a poor widow who gives to the offering box a tiny donation in relation to the others who gave before her.  Yet Jesus applauds her above the others because her donation was a bigger sacrifice.

We live in a greedy world where the richest few continue to get richer while the majority of the world continues to live in poverty.  Instead of griping about the rich, maybe if those of us in the middle upped our efforts we could reduce the unnecessary starvation plaguing the world.

We’re called to love one another and to help each other when we are in need.  If my current movie project becomes the success I hope it will become, I will be doing incrementally more to carry my weight in bringing this world back up from the poverty it’s currently in.  I’m already working hard to take care of my brothers and sisters, but I want to do so much more.

Care to join me?  Give money to your church, to your favorite charities, to a friend or family member who is struggling.  Then take $5 or $10 and donate to the movie project I’ve been commissioned to oversee.  I promise to be generous with whatever success the movie finds.  And I will pay everybody back someway, somehow when the movie finds financial success.  I promise.


November 13, 2011

Kickstart My Heart

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” – Ghandi

Motley Crue’s crown achievement, 1989’s Dr. Feelgood, is one of my all-time favorite albums.  The title of this blog entry, the fifth song on the tape – my first copy of it was on cassette tape – recalls a near-death drug overdose for bassist Nikki Sixx in which he needed two adrenaline shots straight into his heart to save his life.

I’ve never done a drug in my life and I’ve never even been drunk, so I can’t personally relate to Nikki Sixx’s physical need for direct adrenaline injections into his heart.  But I feel a serious need for a metaphorical injection into mine.

My heart is strong.  Always has been.  Both physically and metaphysically.  But so much of what my heart truly desires is impossible to accomplish on my own.  I want to do so much more to take care of my family and friends.  I want to take care of underprivileged children, abused children, neglected children.  Adults too.  I want to make an impact.

Granted, all the above desires can be accomplished on a small scale.  But how much more impactful can I be if I’m able to do things on a grander scale?  Not for my own glory, but for the glory of what we’re called here to do – to love each other.

Imagine if the world’s riches were spread amongst the generous instead of the greedy.  Why is it that for every philanthropic millionaire, there seems to be countless hoarders?  Why must it be that way?

I don’t want to be Robin Hood.  I just want to be able to do things to help the world instead of designing million dollar bras (Seriously, a $2.5 million dollar bra… nothing more important to focus on than that?).

Naturally, my Motley Crue, Ghandi, and Victoria’s Secret references are all leading up to a discussion about the Christian feature film I’m developing.  Naturally.

The specific injection my heart needs is a financial push to launch my new project about a disgruntled Christian and an atheist and the faith they conjure up in each other.  For a guy who prides himself on being able to handle most tasks alone, it’s difficult for me to ask for help, but I just don’t have the money to accomplish what I hope to accomplish.  Every dollar raised through my Kickstarter campaign will be dedicated to the development of this project and if things go the way I think they could, I will personally pay back everybody who contributes.  And then some.

It’s not about me.  It never has been and it never will be.  I’m not looking for people to fund my career.  I’m simply asking for support in launching a project that could benefit a world in need of positive, uplifting messages.  The financial and door-opening potential of the project are inconsequential at this stage.  If the project finds success, all those who believe in it will benefit.

I love Ghandi’s quote above because it exemplifies the problem with so many ‘face-value’ Christians who offer rhetorical prayer and passive well-wishes in lieu of action.

“Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that do?” – James 2: 15 – 16, NLV

Food and clothing are not lacking for my family and me, so I’m not comparing myself to the brother or sister mentioned in the passage from James.  But the point is clear – passivity helps nobody.

One day I hope to be better positioned to provide more food and clothing for those that need it.  I would hope anybody reading this would claim the same.  If you don’t already, please consider donating to Compassion International or Union Gospel Mission or another worthy charitable cause (visit The Better Business Bureau’s charity website for a detailed list of charities).

And please donate to my fundraising campaign for “Away”.  Whether you’re called to give $5.00 or $500.00 I appreciate the support.  If the movie ends up being successful, I will do what I can to pay you back and I will certainly up my contributions to the charities I already support.  Because that’s what it’s all about – taking care of others.

September 12, 2011


“God did not place you on this earth to notice Him at work only once or twice in your whole life.” – Bruce Wilkinson

When Al Michaels cried out, “Do you believe in miracles?” as the 1980 US Olympic hockey team pulled off what many consider one of the greatest upsets in sports history, he was hardly referring to the same brand of miracle about which Bruce Wilkinson writes in his book, You Were Born for This.

Yet miracles on ice, turf, and hardwood grab the timeless headlines while miracles at home, work, and play are quickly forgotten or ignored altogether.  But it’s worth the extra effort to recognize and even study the unpublished miracles of everyday life.

In the quick read, You Were Born for This, NY Times bestselling author Bruce Wilkinson speaks of many everyday miracles.  From a generous tip saving a struggling waiter from another overdraft fee to a chance conversation rescuing a dying marriage, these are the personal miracles worth infinitely more than a semifinals Olympic hockey victory.

You Were Born for This not only opens our eyes to miracles we may otherwise ignore, but it teaches us to actively accept God’s requests for us to carry out His supernatural miracles in the natural world.  The book’s emphasis is on delivering miracles to others, not about asking for miracles for ourselves.  Sorry narcissists.

But a fabulous side effect of being a miracle deliverer for God is that more miracles will be delivered to you.  When we genuinely emphasize others’ well-being before our own, inevitably our personal well-being will thrive.

Mr. Wilkinson’s book is not simply a ‘golden rule’ commentary.  It’s not about doing good deeds for others; it’s about explicitly asking God to deliver legitimate miracles through us.  The miracles may be transported through a good deed, but the lasting ramifications surpass the immediate blessing of offering a dollar, an ear, or a hand.

The message in You Were Born for This is simple – invite God to use us to deliver His miracles – but execution of the keys written within transcends its simplicity.  While the “Miracle on Ice” headline enamored the world, everyday “Miracles of Nice” can change the world.

August 12, 2011

Talk is Not Plot

“I don’t care about plot.” – Rex Pickett, author of Sideways

I know, I know… what a shocker that the author of Sideways doesn’t care about plot.  Now, I haven’t read the novel so I shouldn’t make blanket statements about its lack of plot, but the movie, written not by Pickett, isn’t the most engaging story to grace the screen in the last decade, and the screenwriters actually added plot to Pickett’s novel.

In her 2008 book “And the Best Screenplay Goes to…”, Linda Seger interviews Rex Pickett as well as the screenwriters who adapted Sideways for the screen.  Furthering his argument against plot, Pickett goes on to say, “…three-dimensional characters are the pillars of any good film story, dialogue is the glue, and the story is only the body of the vehicle, not the engine.”

While I fully agree that characters drive the story, there has to be a story present for the characters to drive.  Stage plays can get away with a couple hours of talking, but motion pictures are completely dependent on action.  Characters need to do things, not just say things.

Who am I to question the plot of Sideways?  After all, it won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay in 2005 and was nominated for Best Picture.  Its IMDb cumulative user rating is 7.8/10.  The movie contributed to higher wine sales and a spike in tourism to the Santa Ynez Valley.  Gross box office receipts topped $70 million on a budget estimated to be $12 million.

There is no question that Sideways achieved the rare feet of critical, audience, and financial acclaim – a huge accomplishment for a movie based on a novel that was rejected by no less than 15 publishers.

But I’m going to conclude that Sideways is an exception, not a rule to try to emulate.  For every Sideways there are hundreds of talking-head plotless drivel-flicks without Virginia Madsen, Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti carrying the weight.

I don’t hate Sideways, but I don’t like it.  And I’m certainly not going to try to write anything like it.  Give me movies about people doing things, not just saying things.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

August 10, 2011

What If...

Perhaps the fastest growing classification of movies, faith-based films have a tendency to sacrifice production value for message. While movies like Facing the Giants and Fireproof have solid messages, they lack in the aesthetic polish audiences get from most Hollywood releases.

With "What If...”, director Dallas Jenkins manages to give audiences an aesthetically beautiful film with wonderful performances on both sides of the camera. The movie feels like a mid-budget Hollywood release, a remarkable feat considering the low budget and tight shooting schedule. Kevin Sorbo has a great presence throughout, and Kristy Swanson, still beautiful as ever, shows off her dramatic chops. And John Ratzenberger's performance is angelic, in a good-old-boy way.

Still, great direction and performances don't make a great movie unless the story matches. Thankfully, the story of "What If...", albeit somewhat recycled, is outstanding. Living a life of luxury and power, Ben Walker (Sorbo) is chosen by God to receive a glimpse of what his life could have been had he made a different decision 15 years earlier. The bulk of the movie is spent in Ben's alternate reality where he learns the true riches of life.

"What If..." doesn't hide the fact that it's a Christian movie. Still, it doesn't hurl religion at the audience with reckless abandon. In other words, it's a movie that even non-Christians can and should enjoy. Without sex, violence, or language concerns, it's perfectly suited for all ages.

Raising the bar for faith-based films, "What If..." is hopefully the start to higher standards for movies delivering messages of the Highest Standard.

I’ve posted the above review with slight variations to Amazon, iTunes, IMDb, and my Examiner column.  I still feel strongly that What If… is one of the best explicitly Christian movies I’ve seen.  The production quality, acting, direction, and screenwriting are what I wish the Sherwood pictures were.  If you saw Fireproof and found yourself embarrassed by the stilted dialogue, wooden performances, and awkward didactic redundancy, give What If… a look and take pride that Christian movies can look like Hollywood and still feel like Sunday morning.

July 5, 2011

Do it Right

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” – John Wooden

Imagine what the Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball program would be today had John Wooden landed here instead of UCLA back in 1948.  Arguably the best coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history, Coach Wooden wanted Minnesota and Minnesota wanted Coach Wooden.  But a snow storm took out the phone lines at the U of M campus and Wooden accepted the UCLA job thinking Minnesota had lost interest.  When Minnesota got through to Wooden, he opted to keep his word with UCLA despite his and his wife’s strong desire to stay in the Midwest.

Would he have won seven championships in a row in maroon and gold like he did in blue and gold?  Of course it’s impossible to know.  But John Wooden was a man of utmost class, truest conviction, and highest esteem, qualities that would benefit any program.

John Wooden was an outstanding coach, but like the admirable Tony Dungy today, he desired to be recognized as a man of God, a man of family, and a man of character before being recognized as a coach.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeking status for the sake of status.  To be envied by your peers.  To be rich and famous as a movie star or director or producer.  But what good is fame and fortune if you’re a butthead?

As Jesus said, what good is it to gain the world but lose your soul?

Christian or not, I would hope everybody recognizes just how small they are in this giant world.  Nobody’s bigger than you and you’re bigger than nobody.  I am no more deserving of a successful Hollywood career than the nauseating abundance of reality television stars clogging the airwaves.  But I’m no less deserving of a successful Hollywood career than Howard, Clooney, or Jolie.

But more important than ‘making it’ as I’ve been trying so hard to do for so many years now is emulating John Wooden.  I hope I show class.  I hope I show conviction.  And I hope I am esteemed among my peers.  I’d rather be those things and not make it than lose those things and make it.

At least I can control my character even if I can’t dictate the level of my professional success.