Hand-in-hand, we made our way down Norman Avenue and into the theater. Like all real Americans, we were huge Andy Griffith fans, and Don Knotts was a favorite. Barney Fife. Silly astronaut movies. A classic and beloved comedian.
What happened next lives in infamy for my mother, to this day.
She had taken me to see “The Love God.” Released in August of 1969, it would be a departure of sorts from the family fare Knotts was famous for. But who knew?
I can still vividly recall the scantily clad young women who fluttered around Knotts’ character, Abner Audubon Peacock IV. Let’s just say it wasn’t Barney and Thelma Lou, with a pan of cashew fudge between them on the couch during Tuesday “Date Night.”
I stood up in my chair and pointed at the women in their underwear. I shouted. I was thrilled.
Mom was mortified. She still talks about the dreadful stares she got that day. The theater was in the shadows of our conservative church.
It was another time, another world.
Today, of course, all manner of celluloid appears for mass consumption. Amazingly, only a few short years after I ogled (can a six-year-old ogle?) Peacock’s girls, Brando made “The Last Tango in Paris.” In 1973, “The Exorcist” was unleashed on America. Now, in 2011, anything goes.
Those grotesque “Saw” movies. Teen sex romps. Arty “independent” films.
Christians in America today obviously live in the world. The tension between that reality and the biblical mandate to be set apart spiritually is perhaps nowhere more robust than in the realm of film and entertainment.
That’s precisely why we need Ted Baehr so much. For many years, I’ve admired greatly the founder of Movieguide, who keeps a strong Christian presence operating in the world of Hollywood.
His new book, “How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul): A Fieldguide for Christian Screenwriters, Actors, Producers, Directors, and More” is an incredible resource for filmmakers who want to practice their craft without falling into the seamy side of the industry.
No one does this better than Baehr. Actually, no one can touch him!
I absolutely love niche books like this, but as technology has made filmmaking accessible to virtually anyone, “How to Succeed in Hollywood” might not be niche, anymore. Tons of people will find this book invaluable and fascinating.
In this step-by-step guide, Baehr explains that story is a powerful way to reach an audience. And if the worst of Hollywood is pushing its agenda through story, shouldn’t Christians do the same?
Baehr begins by recounting a fascinating exchange between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The latter was explaining to his unbelieving friend just why the story of Jesus is the greatest story of all time. A week later, Lewis was converted.
That is the essence of Baehr’s work. He helps share the Good News through film.
As the author explains: “‘How to Succeed in Hollywood’ will tell you what you need to know about: telling stories through the mass media of entertainment; how to use your faith to change the culture of Hollywood; and how to make a creative contribution to the whole world.”
He tells you how to develop your craft of screenwriting, acting, directing, producing … all of it.
One of the interesting factoids in Baehr’s book is that Hollywood studios now hire Christian publicists, and they provide Bible study materials. To be sure, the studio execs are looking for ways to create more blockbuster movies (defined as revenues exceeding $100 million). At the same time, Baehr makes it clear that Christians have more clout in the industry now than they’ve ever had.
In Chapter 3 (“Places, Please”) Baehr tells a terrific story about encouraging people to examine their calling from God (Baehr is a superb storyteller, too!).
In an interview with the writer, Randall Wallace, Baehr traces his journey as a writer, from humble beginnings in Nashville, to success in Hollywood, to a dark valley, in which Wallace stood by his spiritual principles and was sort of blacklisted for awhile. But on a trip to Europe, a cathartic, soul-searching trip, he happened upon the story of William Wallace, the greatest of Scottish heroes.
You are probably ahead of me (Baehr sets up this thrilling happy ending much better than I can!), but Randall Wallace went on to write “Braveheart,” now a Hollywood filmmaking legend.
Not everyone of course ends up where Randall Wallace did, but Baehr shares the pitfalls and a warehouse-full of tips. From basic helps like the reproduction of script pages, to a page titled, “Organizing Artistic/Technical Services and Facilities,” Baehr provides an exhaustive guidebook for anyone who feels that God is leading him or her to a career in Hollywood.
For those who are more independent-minded – independent film producers/directors – Baehr’s Chapter 9 (“From Soup to Nuts”) provides a framework for understanding the production process, including budgets and financing. This type of detail makes “How to Succeed in Hollywood” a treasure not only for Christians, but for anyone interested in film.
Again, Ted Baehr is one of my favorite people, so it was easy to like this book. But in purely objective terms, “How to Succeed in Hollywood” is sure to become a classic in the field. If you are interested in such a career, or know someone who is, waiting for this book to arrive in the mail will be like waiting for Christmas.
Major thumbs up.