Raising the Bar – Reflections from NRB and More – Guest Blog by Sean O’Bryan Smith

So this week I spent a few days walking around the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Nashville. For those not aware of this convention, it is a wonderful chance for the worlds of television, radio, and film to unite in the faith based market. It is a wide array of manufacturers, television and film companies, filmmakers, actors, guest speakers, and yes…..even the random Jesus look-a-like. For me it was an extremely rare opportunity to visit with all of my directors I work with in the genre in one location and get a chance to see what’s going on in the industry from a much different perspective than my four studio walls. I quickly discovered that being a fly on the wall was my best move this year as I listened to all the wealth and woes of the current state. What I heard both inspired and concerned me in the same breath.

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First off, let me make something clear for folks. Yes, I am a strong believer and yes, I am a dedicated member of the faith based film community. The other part is yes, I have a very successful career in the secular music and film industries and yes, I will continue to keep that presence. I say that as a precursor to my concerns for the faith based industry, especially in film and television. I’ll start with the good news. I was pleasantly surprised and inspired to hear that the majority of faith based media outlets worldwide are starving for quality content. This means quality music, quality films and quality television programming. Believers are watching and listening and believers want something up to par with what they are used to from Hollywood and other secular media providers. Now, what was the one word you saw repeatedly in that?…..QUALITY.

This is where I’m going to get on my soap box and where what I heard just from being a fly on the wall has me deeply concerned for my colleagues in the faith based indindustry. The media companies, consumers and viewing/listening public don’t want subpar anymore. This, quite frankly, has always been an issue with the faith based media but there’s always been a level of acceptance. Recently, though, filmmakers in particular have stepped up their game significantly to provide a level that the public can connect to. Remember, you can’t spread your message and the gospel if you can’t engage them. Otherwise, you’ve not made a way to minister. You’ve made a vanity project that no one will see or hear. I’m saying this so that what I’m going to say next will have a bit more impact and make more sense.

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Where all this applies to my particular realm of expertise is obviously in music and this is where I made a point to address this with all the filmmakers I’ve either worked with or are thinking about working with. In your overall push to raise the level of your project you have to do two things. You have to EDUCATE YOURSELF and you have to BE CAREFUL. Most filmmakers are already savvy to dealing with who’s SAG, who’s not, did I hire the right color guy, is the cast right, etc. Where I get concerned is that I repeatedly heard where corners were being cut and especially in the area of music. More importantly, filmmakers in the faith based industry were frighteningly unaware and uneducated in the legalities of music in film and what they needed to do to prepare.

Before I dig deep, let me enlighten the film industry on the current state of the music industry. It is the most aggressive battlefield in the entertainment industry right now. Here’s why. The music industry model has completely bled out due to streaming music, illegal downloads, failing record labels, concert attendance, and a grocery list of other reasons. That being said, the music industry has an eagle eye now on the areas they are due income and rightfully so. I bring this up to address one of my major concerns, and I wanted to pass it on as an FYI. Be EXTREMELY careful using stock and “royalty free” music for your film and television projects. A number of these pieces of music can be, and are, illegally downloaded from the composer or artist. I’ve lost track at how much of my music alone is out there illegally in the world, and other composers are in the same battle. This is food out of our mouths, remember, so don’t be surprised when a composer comes after you on a project. You have to realize that music in film is typically licensed. You DO NOT own that material. THEY do. What’s most important for you is that the majority of film budgets in the faith based genre are small. I’ll tell you now that one lawsuit for one illegally used song can exceed what you’re using for your entire film project very quickly. So make sure you’re doing your homework, and if you have ANY spare budget, hire a music supervisor so that they can help protect you and your investment. It is their job.

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Now, let me address stock music as a whole. I don’t want to discredit it by any means.  I compose for some of these companies, and I will not bite the hand that feeds me. Here comes the but…..BUT, if you want to raise the bar for your film you need to not cut corners and hire an actual composer for your project or songwriter. Yes, you may find some royalty free music that can help yo,u and it works great for the scene, but it is still something you have to manipulate to work, and savvy listeners can, and will, hear the difference in the finished product when your music all sounds different or it doesn’t flow right or the edits were faded oddly, etc. Give the public some credit. A lot of them are very in tuned to high quality, and phoning it in is a contributing factor as to why your project may not be as successful. You can never replace the level of quality of having music composed for a scene, title sequence, transition, etc.

On the topic of composers and other audio related matters, I kept hearing the same thing from folks….I can’t afford it. I’m sorry but that is no excuse. You found the budget to make your film in the first place, to enhance your ministry. GOD provided you a way and you cut a corner with the convenient answer of “I can’t afford it”. I ask “did you even try?”. Here’s why I ask that. I can name right now no less than two dozen composers like me that are believers and can serve your projects while still keeping you on a realistic budget. These aren’t just hobbyists either. These are established musicians with years of experience in the industry and that are able to enhance your projects. A lot of them may even donate to your project if they believe in your message. For example, I’ve done EXTREMELY discounted rates and even free film scores for faith based filmmakers if I believed in their message and it gave them a way to raise the level of the overall production quality in the process. I’m not saying this as a commercial for myself or composers either. This is all just items that need to be addressed so that you can put out the highest quality project you can so that you can engage the public on a level they expect and you can ultimately spread the gospel and get your message across.

I know this has been a bit of a rant and I can easily keep going, but I’m genuinely worried but excited for the future of faith based entertainment. NRB showcased so many outlets and products to provide for a new generation of faith based content providers, but the talent level and end product absolutely has to be on par with today’s public. This doesn’t mean you have to have a $4 million dollar budget to do your project, but it does mean you have to approach it like you’re shooting one of that quality level. Find the best team you possibly can. Get on social media, check websites, get on IMDb, whatever it takes. There are countless believers out there that are seasoned industry professionals that can help you. Do not cut corners. The public can see the difference and these distributors will not touch your project. I hope this helps and gets everyone thinking.

sean

NRB Convention – Interview With Jeff Sheets

We were excited to have the opportunity to meet with Echolight President Jeff Sheets at the NRB Convention. Echolight has recently launched a unique approach to film distribution and he explained to us how it works. He also talked about what they look for when acquiring new films from producers.

To learn more about Echolight, visit their website or follow them on facebook.

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NRB Convention – Interview with Alex and Stephen Kendrick

Alex and Stephen Kendrick were gracious enough to allow us to interview them at NRB Convention. We were also invited to a private screening of their new movie War Room. These are godly men striving to do their best to serve God through their filmmaking. Such a blessing to  hear stories of how God worked behind the scenes of War Room.

To learn more about War Room, follow the movie on Facebook or visit the website.

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NRB Convention 2015 – Day 2

I look forward to NRB Convention all year long. It is truly a highlight of my year. I don’t know what it is I like the best – the assembly sessions, the smaller workshops, the expo, the movie screenings, or the networking. I guess it’s the combination of it all as well as the energy level and excitement shared by everyone there. With so much going on, there’s literally something for anyone with any interest in Christian media. Each person can tailor their experience based on their own unique interests.

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For us, our first day was focused on the wonderful workshops that were part of the film summit. So many talented speakers each sharing their own roads that God has taken them on in filmmaking journeys.

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Our second day was filled with interviews, a marketing workshop, the expo, networking, and a movie screening. We kicked off the day with an interview with the Kendrick Brothers as they shared about their upcoming movie War Room. So inspiring to get to hear them share from their heart about what God is doing with their movies. They also provided us an inside look at how they chose the cast and crew for War Room.  Next on the agenda was Jeff Sheets, president of Echolight. He explained Echolight’s approach to film production and distribution and what type of films are part of their mission. After Jeff, was Lisa Arnold, co-producer of God’s Not Dead, who was promoting Caged, her new film project..

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The rest of the morning was a blur of authors, filmmakers, and musical artists and a quick breeze through the enormous expo.

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Our last activity of the day was a private screening of the Kendrick Brothers’ upcoming movie War Room. All I really knew about it was that it was about prayer and that it starred Priscilla Shirer. I was not prepared for the powerful emotional impact the movie would have. There were 20 of us in the room, and as the movie progressed we laughed, we applauded, we cried. Then everyone laughed at all the crying. After the movie, Alex and Stephen spent a half hour answering questions about the movie. I especially loved the behind the scenes stories of how God worked in bringing the right actors and locations to the project.

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NRB Convention Film and Entertainment Summit

Today was the kickoff for the NRB 2015 convention with an emphasis on faith and films.  I always love NRB, but this year’s summit exceeded my expectations. What an amazing plethora of speakers with so much experience and wisdom to share.

Photo courtesy of the National Religious Broadcasters

Photo courtesy of the National Religious Broadcasters

The day began with a Pitch-a-Thon where screenwriters and filmmakers had opportunity to pitch their ideas, scripts, or finished products to distributors.

Brittany Herd waits her time to pitch her script.

Brittany Herd waits her time to pitch her script. Photo by Paula O’Neal.

After lunch filmmakers got to participate in a full schedule of panel discussions and workshops led by Hollywood producers, writers, directors, and more.

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The Process: Advice from Hollywood about Getting Your Project Produced – Phil Cooke, Todd Komarnicki, DeVon Franklin, Michael Van Dyck, Jonathon Bock

The last workshop of the summit was led by Dr. Ted Baehr, author of How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul.

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And, of course, one of the great things about the convention is the networking among colleagues and friendships formed. Looking forward to meeting many more filmmaking folks tomorrow.

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Honored to get to meet in person filmmakers Gary and Brett Varvel and composer Van Lawson from The War Within.

Catastasis – Movie Review and Recommendation

When I get movies from people to review I never know what to expect. Sometimes they’ll look interesting in the trailer but the finished movies are disappointing. Other times they are predictably average. And occasionally they are nothing like I expected. I could tell from the trailer that Catastasis would be different. And it was.

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Catastasis is the story of a young preacher who is held hostage by a man he once counseled. It is a suspense thriller that will keep you glued to your seat from beginning to end. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, something new is thrown in and the heat intensifies.

Anthony Hackett wrote the script, directed the movie, and starred in it. And when I say he starred, I mean he was literally in every single scene. In fact, a majority of the scenes it’s just him talking to the crazed kidnapper on the phone. As someone who once wrote, directed, and starred in a movie, anyone who can pull it off successfully has my respect.  Mr. Hackett did a fabulous job with all three.

The acting in this is far above most Christian movies. It was a small cast but they each held their own. I especially enjoyed the comic relief of Leshe Shari and Derek Bridges. I also appreciated the talent of Eric Slodysko, although he was a little too believable as a crazed lunatic.

The Christian message is strong in Catastasis, and  yet, I think nonbelievers would enjoy it equally.

The only negative I have with the movie, and this is minor, is the house they live in. I’ve known many preachers and not many of them live in mansions like the one the Petersons live in. And I’ve never known a preacher to have $30,000 in the bank. But maybe he pastors a megachurch. It is a beautiful home and it makes a great set, especially when he’s going through the house looking for the kidnapper.

If you like suspense thrillers and are looking for an intense movie. you’ll love Catastasis. It’s coming to theaters April 3 and I suspect it will be even more exciting on the big screen.

Advice to First Time NRB Attendees

The annual National Religious Broadcasters Convention coming up next week is a wonderful opportunity to learn and network. But it can also be a little intimidating the first time around. Here’s some advice to help make your first experience the best possible.

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First, wear comfortable shoes. Opryland is gigantic and you will spend a lot of your day walking.  I love people watching and observing how the female attendee fashions change during the week. On the first day a good portion of the women are in fashionable high heels. The next day many of them are carrying around those heels, and by the third, pretty much everyone is in comfortable shoes. Regardless of shoes, however, the dress code is business, not too casual.

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Second, dress in layers. It’s going to be freezing cold next week and the walk from your car to the resort will be brutal. However, the interior of Opryland is pretty much an atrium. It’s beautiful with tropical plants and even a river with a riverboat taking tours through the resort, but it’s warm. You’ll roast in your winter clothes. So dress in layers and bring a lovely tote bag to carry around your winter coat.

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Next, it’s expensive to park at Opryland, so if you’re not staying at the resort, you’ll want to save money by parking at the Opry Mills parking lot instead. Just take the mall exit then circle around the mall until you get to the far western side. You’ll see a fence separating Opryland from Opry Mills, and a sidewalk with an arch that connects the two. Park near there then follow the sidewalk until you feel like you can’t walk any further. When you get to the circle drive, enter the building at that entrance. When you get into the atrium area, take a right and follow the crowd until you see the escalator. At the top of the escalator you’ll see all the NRB signs and information booths.

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Finally, NRB is a great opportunity for networking and letting people know what projects you’re working on. If you’re going to be at NRB, we’d love to meet you and snap a photo or two of you. From 10:30-11:30 on Tuesday we’ll be in the open area outside the media room doing informal meet and greet photo sessions so stop by and say hi and pose for a picture with us. See you there!

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NRB Convention – Authors, Speakers, Musicians, and More

sharonwilharm:

One of the best parts of NRB Convention is all the people you meet. Looking forward to meeting new people and making new friends again this year.

Originally posted on faithflixfilms:

The great thing about NRB convention is all the interesting people you meet, each talented and serving God in a unique manner. Many of the individuals who attend are authors promoting their latest books or musicians promoting their latest albums. Here is a sampling of some of the fascinating folks. 

Image Erika and Libby, two enterprising young women who have created their own magazine for Christian girls

 

Image World renowned historian and biblical scholar Rabbi Ken Spiro has created a 7 part course on Israel.

 

Image Deborah Buckingham’s new devotional book offers nourishment for the soul.

 

Image Da’Dra Crawford Greenhouse is worship leader at Joel Osteen’s church. She was also the voice of a Veggie Tales vegetable. Image David Payne presents a one-man show about the life of C.S. Lewis

 

Image Eva Kroon Pike writes and sings songs from her heart based on her experience as an adopted child.

 

 

 

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Creed of Gold – Movie Review

I’ve been following Creed of Gold for awhile so I was excited when director Daniel Knudsen contacted me about reviewing it. It is an action adventure story unlike any of the other Christian films I’ve seen.

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College student Adam Smith (TAYLOR LINDSEY) faces off against the entire international monetary system in a saga that begins with his father Professor Dostoevsky in Moscow. Russia and ends with Adam in New York City. What began as a simple term paper on the United States Federal Reserve becomes a fight for their lives as Adam and his research partner Kirsten (ELLEN LAWRENCE) seeks to expose international corruption.

Creed of Gold is a beautifully shot film. Kudos to Stephen Higginbotham on his cinematography. The camera work gives this movie a high budget look. Also, Rebekah Franks and whoever helped with locations did a fabulous job of lining up some incredible locations. Great locations but for the Russian period scenes as well as the contemporary scenes.

Director Daniel Knudsen is a young man, but he obviously has a natural ability to visualize scenes and bring them to life.This is his fourth film to direct. I can’t wait to see what he does as he continues to gain more experience.

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The writing and acting often felt stiff, but after checking it out on IMDb, it appears that this is a first film for almost all the actors. With that in mind, the acting was not bad at all.

If you’re looking for something a little different than the usual Christian movie fare, then Creed of Gold may be a good choice. Check it out!

Full Sail University- Behind the Scenes Tour by Brianna Hope Beaton

I love having guest blogs. Today’s blog post is by Brianna Hope Beaton, a 15-year-old actress who will be in our upcoming movie Providence.  Brianna is an Actor/Model/KIDS FIRST! Film Critic and Radio Show Host from Clermont, Florida and is one of the voices on the Sea World Antarctica TV/Radio commercial..She is in her 4th year as a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic and radio show host on KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions, the #1 rated weekly radio show on the Voice America Kids Channel with more than 100,000 listeners monthly. Brianna is also a reporter for 24Flix. 

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I recently attended the Full Sail University’s Behind the Scene Tour (BTS). My acting teacher, Kevin O’Neill, who’s their Course Director of Directing for Film, suggested that I attend and I’m glad I did. This BTS tour is offered monthly and it gives an in-depth look at the campus and the different degree programs available. Some of the programs they have include Filmmaking, Music Production, Computer Animation, and Game Design. During this tour I visited the class rooms, labs, back lot, and studios used by the students. Directors and/or students gave the presentations in their respective field.

The tour starts off by welcoming you on the set of the Daily Buzz, a national syndicate TV morning show. Our host showed us the big teleprompter cameras, sets and the green screen while another host provided us with the news on current events. After that we broke up in the different fields that held our interest. I toured with the TV/Film group.

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During my tour, we visited the studio for lights. They explained different lighting used and the students selected me to participate as an extra on a fun short scene. I also visited the set with a 3 story building; however each floor is on the same level. The students had to build it. They spoke about different state of the art cameras used to capture different angles and etc. Well known TV shows and the great films we see today in theaters use these same cameras.

We heard speeches from their award winning alumni, on how they got started, different projects they worked on and what they’re currently doing. We watched clips of where a lot of their grads are credited on well known winning projects for their contributions to the Oscars, Grammys and The Spike VGX awards. Their degree programs feels like the real world. The WWE tapes on their campus where Full Sail students shadow the crew during tapings, operate cameras, set up, run audio and much more. The Career Development department provides guidance to help you plot your career course. Tons of awards such as an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and others are on display at full sail. I believe with any career, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

My favorite part is the Dubbing Room. Final steps of making a film happen in this room. We viewed a clip with different affects of sounds which were added and removed. The atmosphere has a movie theater feel, comfortable seats and AMAZINGZING sound!

I enjoyed the food at the end of the tour. The prospective students did get a chance to speak with representatives from admissions, financial aid and career development.

In conclusion, this tour is very informative and I have a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. Thanks Full Sail!!

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