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User Archives: AlexMosoiu

  • The Unstoppable Kirk Cameron

    Posted on February 5, 2014 by AlexMosoiu



    Kirk Cameron wrote, "It's easy to get excited about your faith when things are going well in your life. But when your whole world comes crashing down on you, the questions start: 'Where is God when I need him most? Why do bad things happen to good people?' Unstoppable is a journey, based on a true story, that has become the most personal and transparent project I have ever made regarding my faith."

    I recently had a video chat with the man-formally-known-as Mike Seaver. I wanted to know what was behind his latest DVD, Unstoppable. What follows are his honest answers.

    Alex:               Kirk, tell me how Unstoppable came to be.

    Kirk:                I’d love to. Unstoppable was by far the most personal project that I’ve ever made, and it really started out as something quite different from what you see when you watch the movie in the theaters or when you get the DVD. It actually started out as the story that would have taken place before the Monumental story, the story that I made about the Pilgrims. I was going to talk about the unstoppable gospel and how it landed in England before the Pilgrims to grab the baton and take that on.

    It eventually became something very different, and I think providentially, God brought a very personal story home to me in the form of my young friend, Matthew, 15 years old, died of cancer. That just stopped all production and really refocused my attention on what needs to be unstoppable and that is our faith in God in the midst of our own pain and tragedy and suffering on a very personal level. That really took over the main theme and plot line of Unstoppable.

    Alex:               Lots of things happened with Unstoppable, from being blocked by YouTube and Facebook at the beginning to setting box office records in the way that you released it. Tell us some of the things that God’s done in bringing Unstoppable out. What are some of the things he’s done?

    Kirk:                It’s fun for me to think about the providence of God and his omniscience, and knowing that these kinds of things happen ahead of time and us only finding out about it on the fly. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but when you spend a whole year, making a movie and then YouTube and Facebook block your trailers, so no one can see it, you can freak out a little bit and you think, “What? What happened?” Apparently what happened was, there were a group of people who clicked the spam button or the inappropriate, abusive button there on Facebook and got it ejected from the system. You know there’s a lot of inappropriate videos on YouTube and Facebook, but my movie trailer wasn’t one of them.

    When I put that picture of the gag in my mouth with the Facebook logo over the top of it, that reached about 20 million people and many of you spoke up to Facebook and they quickly reversed the status of the video. So many people saw it, went to the movie theaters that was set records and actually beat big movies like Gravity and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on the days that we were in the box office. It’s almost as though God likes to use things that others intend for harm for our good and his glory. It seems like that’s what he did.

    Alex:               That’s awesome. I know there’s a lot of folks out there that maybe haven’t even had a chance to see it yet; the unusual release schedule, playing as a live event in theaters. There was about 700 theaters throughout the country and set a record for that type of release. As it releases on DVD, what are some of the things … What do you hope that people use this for in their personal ministry? How do you hope that it speaks to folks?

    Kirk:                First of all I want to say that this is very exciting and encouraging to me, to see 270,000 people drive sometimes hours just to get to a movie theater to see a movie about faith, hope and love, to find an answer to a question like, “Where is God when bad things happen to good people?” That’s sending a very loud message to Hollywood about the kinds of movies that many, many people want to see. I’m very encouraged about that and want to just high-five everybody who’s getting up off their couch and not saying, “Uh, let’s let the culture go to hell and count on the rapture getting us out of here before gets real bad.”

    No, let’s go make a difference by getting involved in shaping the culture. Let’s support movies that we like. Let’s talk to our friends about it. Let’s inject the gospel into every area of life, and that’s what you’re doing and what we’re doing together by partnering on movies like this. Alex, I thank you for what you’re doing and what we’re doing in future projects. Actually, I’ve lost track of your question. What was it that you asked?

    Alex:               What do you hope that now that the movie’s more accessible on DVD, that obviously it will get into many more hands? What do you hope God does with it?

    Kirk:                Well, you know how you listen to a music album for the second or third or fourth time and finally say, “Well, wait a minute. I heard the greatest hit on the radio, you know, the one hit that the radio’s playing, but there’s four other songs here that are so great. I never would have known if I didn’t buy the album.” Same thing with a DVD. You can watch a movie like Unstoppable in a movie theater and everything’s going by so quickly that you miss many of the things that are little gems that you see the second time you watch it or the third time you watch it.

    Everything from the theological points about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the rainbow with Noah’s Ark; these kinds of things will give you an opportunity to really discuss the meatier issues of Unstoppable, to dive deeper in, have conversations about the gospel with someone who’s not a Christian. The question of where is God in the midst of pain and tragedy is universal. Atheists love to ask that question, because they think it will destroy our faith or maybe was destroyed theirs years ago when he used to go to church. Everyone has to wrestle with this.

    The DVD gives you an opportunity to watch this with people and pause and say, “Now, what do you think about that?” or fast-forward to a chapter or get a behind-the-scenes look about what was going on. I actually even got a special deluxe version of this at my website with six hours of study materials. My goal is truly to give you materials to mature your family, to build your faith to strengthen your understanding of the gospel so that you can apply it to every aspect of your life.

    Alex:               That’s great. I got to tell you, you know, you and I talked a year and a half, maybe two years ago and you are telling me what the film is going to be about. You touched on it a little bit earlier that it changed focus a little bit. When I started seeing the promotional materials and you asking the questions in the trailer about, “Where’s God in the midst of suffering?” I had doubts. I’m like, “Is this movie really going to deliver on that strong of a premise?” I got to tell you when I watched it, it very much did for me. The thing that I really liked about it is, it did it in a very different way. It wasn’t a talking head, a drama. It wasn’t a complete fabrication, but it was such a nice mixture of theology, as well as personal stories, which I think makes everything more impactful. Me personally, there several folks that I can’t wait to sit down and watch this with, including some of my neighbors; so very excited about that. Let me … Go ahead.

    Kirk:                Oh, I was just going to say I’m thrilled that you liked it. I was very excited when I made it, couldn’t wait for people to get a hold of it and see it. You know the truth is, when we ask a difficult question like, “Where is God when bad things happen to us,” we can look at bad people, wicked people, and we say, “”Well, they had it coming,” right. You look at a murderer or a rapist and you say, “Wow, you know, that’s justice coming.” We don’t think of ourselves as people who should be on the receiving end of difficulty because we think we don’t deserve things like that.

    When we look into God’s word he gives us the answer to the question. He tells us that God is gracious and kind and everything, including the fact that we can sit on a Google chat session like this with millions of people around the world and talk about movies. That’s gravy. That’s grace. That’s mercy. God’s not giving us what we deserve. If he gave us that, we’d be in hell. What he’s giving us is kindness, patience, and long-suffering. We become so used to that, that when difficulty comes, we don’t know what to do with it.

    God says it’s for our good. It’s for our patience. It’s for our faith and character and compassion, but even though we know that up here, it helps to drive it into the heart when we climb up to heaven’s balcony, so to speak, which is what I tried to do in Unstoppable and give you a big picture view of the story God is writing. Remember he took thousands of years between the time of Abraham and Jesus, between the first Adam, and the last Adam. He didn’t just resolve the sin issue like that.

    He took thousands of years and wrote a story called history where the last Adam comes, and crushes the serpent’s head, but he does it in a way that looks horrible on the surface. He dies on the cross, an innocent victim, but we trust the author now because we know what happens a few chapters later. He busts through the grave. He receives all authority and he pours out his spirit and says, “Now, let’s go finish this job and I’m with you to the end of the age.” When we experience tragedy and we put it in the context of that big picture story, we say, “Let’s trust the author. He’s up to something. In a few chapters, all of this will make sense.”

    Alex:               Amen, amen. Well, you definitely have a zeal. It’s clear that you have a clear message from the Lord, and that you have the passion for serving him. Let me ask you …

    Kirk:                it’s either that or I had too many cups of coffee this morning.

    Alex:               Let me ask you this. How in the world did Mike Seaver end up sitting here on a Google chat talking about the sovereignty of God? How did that whole transition happen for you?

    Kirk:                Oh boy. The short version is, I’d still be an atheist today if it wasn’t for God. Think about that. The truth is, I tell people I’m a recovering atheist and I am because God was kind and gracious to me. I mean, the bottom line is I never really thought about it much. I just thought smart people didn’t believe in a God you can’t see, but the truth is, is that I had a hidden agenda for my atheism. You know the dirty little secret behind atheism is; without God there is no ultimate accountability, so that means there’s no one really up there holding you accountable for what you do in the dark this weekend. Once you understand that you can look around and you begin to see, “Wait a minute. There’s evidence staring me in the face.” It’s the great big cosmic, “Duh” that there is a Creator.

    That’s why everyone from Einstein to fathers of medicine and science and astrophysicists and the smartest folks on planet Earth understand that this is wonderfully and powerfully made. Someone took me to church and I heard a sermon from a pastor named Chuck Swindoll. He convicted me what the gospel. I started asking questions. A good friend gave me a great book, by Josh McDowell called More Than a Carpenter. I started reading the Bible and I became convinced that if I died and found out that there was a heaven, I would not be going, because of my attitude toward the one who made me. I’d never once said thank you and so I prayed; very clumsily, but I said, “God make me the man you want me to be. If you’re real, please show me. Open my eyes and make me who you want me to be.” That was the beginning of my understanding of the gospel and following Christ.

    Alex:               How did that impact your family life, your marriage, your relationships? What change happened as you began to grow in your faith?

    Kirk:                Fortunately, I married an amazing woman. She was Mike Seaver’s girlfriend. I stole Mike’s girlfriend away from him and married her before he could. He had phenomenal taste in women. Chelsea and I have shared our faith in Christ together since the very beginning of our friendship and relationship. With our six kids, we move together as a unit. I would say that the biggest challenge and impact that my faith has had is more in my work. I’m going against the flow of the current here in Hollywood, at least the current current. I think it’s going to change because there are so many people who want to see great movies that honor and glorify God and build up the family that we’re going to be seeing more and more of these kinds of movies.

    When you lose jobs and you are put in the categories of, you’re the bad guy; because you believe in a four thousand year old moral code that has established the greatest civilizations on earth. When you say that you believe in God’s word and that he cares enough to save us from sin, you get put in funny little categories by your peers here. The truth is, it’s challenging, but light doesn’t shine anymore brightly than when it’s surrounded by darkness. God just so happened to make the world in such a way that all the darkness in the universe cannot overcome the tiniest light. I’m one guy out here, but I know there’s millions of the rest of you all over the world and darkness, what’s left of it doesn’t have a chance.

    Alex:   Amen, amen. Obviously, as husbands and as fathers, one of our jobs is to pass that message on to the next generation, and to train up our kids to fight the same battles. Kirk, I hope to see you soon. God bless you.

    Kirk:                That sounds great, Alex. God bless you.

    Bonus video: Kirk Cameron - Christianity is not what I thought


    This post was posted in Movies, Interviews, Alex Mosoiu and was tagged with Featured, Kirk Cameron

  • Hitting a "Home Run" with Carol Matthews

    Posted on August 5, 2013 by AlexMosoiu


    Carol Spann Mathews is an award-winning television and film producer whose work has been featured in theatres nationwide and on major television networks ranging from ESPN to the Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN).

    Carol began her career more than 20 years ago in television marketing and advertising for clients including CITGO, Donald Trump Resorts, Sprint and Wilson Sports. She has since produced multiple television series that have aired on ESPN, EOE (ESPN Original Entertainment) and The Family Channel, as well as educational home entertainment for international brands like the "Dummies" publishers.

    Driven by a passion for faith and family entertainment, Carol has also produced numerous successful collaborations for major faith-based networks like Daystar, Inspiration and TBN—including TBN's top-rated show, "360 Life." Her resume also includes nationally syndicated documentaries such as "Death and Beyond" and the Angel Award-winning program, "Hymns," which uncovers the remarkable stories behind beloved hymns like "Amazing Grace."

    In 2011, Carol transitioned into feature films as executive producer and producer of "Home Run." The inspirational film, which celebrates the freedom and hope offered by Christ, premieres in theatres nationwide in April 2013. Prior to its theatrical release, "Home Run" was named Best Feature Film and Best Inspirational Film at CBA's Resonate Film Festival.

    That's when I caught up with Carol. It was the story behind Home Run that has intrigued us all. It's not just another baseball movie. It's much more than that.

    Alex:               Hi, Carol.  Can you tell me how you got started in the entertainment business.

    Carol:              I got started in the entertainment industry really with commercials and advertising first. I started with church commercials essentially in the faith community. I worked on church films, 35 mm filmed commercials that were syndicated to churches around the country, and then I went from there to longer form programming.  I worked on a couple of documentaries; one about near death experiences that was televised on what was at the time The Family Channel and other cable networks. Years later we did one on famous hymns, the stories behind “Amazing Grace,” “It is Well with My Soul,” and “Just As I Am. “

    In my career, I also kind of shifted and went to work at a production company that did work primarily for ESPN. I did behind-the-scenes videos for their original movies, and a couple of their television series. That was a really great learning experience for me. Eventually, I left there and went back to doing faith stuff.  There’s no replacing the joy and purpose you feel when every day you go to work, and you work on something where the outcome affects people’s lives, so I stepped back into that with doing television work. While Home Run is my first feature film, I’ve been doing television and productions for about 24 years.

    Alex:               Wow! How does working on a Christian project, whether it’s a movie, a TV show, or those kinds of things, differ from working on a secular project? You mentioned it changes people’s lives, but speak more to that.

    Carol:              I think whenever you go to work every day, it’s invigorating to the day if you’re working on something that has a purpose beyond the moment it’s seen. If you could trigger a thought inside someone, if you could give them a perspective of the kingdom that they never had before, open their minds and hearts to something, it puts gasoline in your tank. You have energy to go to work every day. If it’s just for a momentary entertainment, I personally am not called to that, so it’s not as motivational personally.

    Alex:               That makes sense. How did the idea of Home Run come about?

    Carol:              The original concept belongs to a guy named Eric Newman. It was very simply a baseball player that returns to his small town. He’s a bad boy type and he goes to the small town and hooks up with kind of a mentor in the town, and he gets better. He sees the error of his ways and transforms, and this mentor was the one that claimed him to the Lord. It changed when we started believing that God was guiding us to do a film about addiction, so we just shifted our main character’s problems a little bit, and then when we hooked him with Celebrate Recovery, we realized that instead of having a mentor, a guy that kind of preaches at him, we decided to use the story to celebrate recovery to kind of propel our character forward. That was sort of the genesis of that concept of Home Run, and that was 2010, a long time ago.

    Alex:               Wow!  When somebody sees the movie, what do you want them to take away from it? What are some of the themes?

    Carol:              The main thing is that change is possible, that no matter what has happened to you, no matter what decisions you’ve made, you don’t have to stay in shame. It’s about the fact that you don’t have to continue to wrestle with that bad habit, and that your past doesn’t have to dictate your future. God can take those things and not only heal you, but take those very places of shame in your life and use them to glorify Himself and help others. I think that’s the most amazing thing. It is just the idea that God will take the places where we’ve fallen, and if we give it to Him, He not only heals us but He’ll allow us to use that to help others. So that change is possible, that our lives can be different from what they are right now in the areas that we want them to be.

    Alex:               That’s a very powerful thought. One thing I love about the movie is Scott Elrod’s character, Cory, after he has his little mishap and he gets kind of sent to the minors--not to the minors exactly, but he gets sent to coach the team. He eventually joins Celebrate Recovery, and you kind of watch him go through the journey. A piece of me, while I was watching it was thinking, man, I hope this just doesn’t… I hope he doesn’t just find Jesus and everything’s okay, and he gets his girl back and everything. I love the fact that you kept realistically portraying the struggle to overcome. Some people are delivered instantly, but others, it takes awhile; so I thought that was a very realistic portrayal.

    Carol:              Thank you.

    Alex:               How did you guys come to the partnership with Celebrate Recovery? What did that look like, and how did you integrate that into the script so well?

    Carol:              It was just one God thing after another. In my church, we have Celebrate Recovery, and every now and then--I knew very little about it--but every now and then on a Sunday morning, somebody from that ministry would get up and tell their story. And every single time that story was told in our church on a Sunday morning, it was so clear that God was at work in that ministry. It was just inarguable that you were hearing about the hand of God. I thought how great would that be to have story after story that I got in the movie, right? Where people are moved and responding to stories like the ones I heard in my church. So that’s the beginning.

    I started investigating, and next thing you know, I’m having breakfast with one of the Celebrate Recovery state reps, and she just happens to be very close friends to the founder of Celebrate Recovery out at Saddleback. That just gave me favor every step of the way. I’d love to tell you it was a really complex set of circumstances, but honestly, it was just one thing after another God just kept putting in our path. Even I was able to see the signals!

    Alex:               [Laughs] It’s amazing to see the level of engagement that people have with Celebrate Recovery. It’s the kind of ministry where you can be open and honest and transparent. You walk in going, I’m screwed up and I need help, and I don’t need to wear a mask because clearly, I can’t do it alone or else I wouldn’t be here; so it’s a very…

    Carol:              Yes. You just worded it so perfectly. You just worded it perfectly. The very first time I went to Celebrate Recovery was after I had breakfast with the state rep.  I’m like, can we use Celebrate Recovery in our movie? She was like, well, have you ever even been to a meeting (laughs)?  I was like, uh no; so I went to one, and consider this: I’m in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which for me is the heart of the Bible Belt. I mean, some cities fight for it, but we’re at least a contender.

    The Baptist church here in town is a longstanding large kind of pillar of the Southern Baptist community here in the town. This is where the Celebrate Recovery that she was a part of was. I’m there in that church, and the senior pastor of the church gets up, and in the Celebrate Recovery normal operation, you introduce yourself while you introduce the thing that brought you to Celebrate Recovery. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus who struggles with, whatever your thing is, alcohol, drugs, eating, abuse, whatever. Then you say, my name is.

    Here’s the senior pastor; he gets up, and he says, “Hi. I’m a grateful believer who struggles with deep-seated anger and lust, and my name is Seth.” I thought to myself, all right. This is different because the senior pastor revealed his struggles… and you know, he stood up there to make announcements. I mean, he was up there for no big reason, but the fact that the senior pastor is able to say he struggles with anger and lust, you know? I just think what possibilities opened up in that room that night for first comers like myself because the senior pastor was faithful enough to say his stuff. Does that make sense?

    Alex:               Oh, absolutely.

    Carol:              Anyway, I love Celebrate Recovery for that, and I knew, after just attending Celebrate Recovery a few times, that the script was going to change exponentially because Celebrate Recovery wound up being more beautiful and more impacting than I realized.

    Alex:               You guys released theatrically, and it had a good theatrical run, and it’s coming out on DVD here in late July. What do you hope that God does with this project?

    Carol:              There are so many hopes and expectations. My hope is that people don’t see it just as a movie or one-time experience, but as a tool--that they see the DVD as a way to do multiple things. For instance, perhaps there’s someone they love who is really struggling with addiction. That would be the most obvious thing, right? They might give them the DVD. Or maybe there’s somebody who is having trouble with some other life issue, and that person feels like “this is it.” You know, that this is the end for them and that they’ll never get better. They’ll always struggle, and maybe they get the DVD.

    Or maybe the DVD could be used because people are really looking for more authentic relationships in church. You know, we don’t mean to, but our church culture has propagated this thing that we have a hard time being real with each other because we feel like somehow or another, we’re going to be indicted for not being really “good” Christians.

    I don’t think it’s been ill intended; I just think it’s an outcome of people trying hard to be a good witness for the Lord. Consequently, what we’ve created is an atmosphere where people don’t feel like they can say, “I’m really struggling here.” Even worse, they feel like they’re all alone. They feel like they’re the only ones, because no one’s talking in church. So they’re not saying the things that are troubling them, like “I really want to leave my husband” or “I’m having an affair.” They’re not telling anybody because they’re thinking if anyone knew they had feelings or thoughts like, they would never speak to them again. They might be cast out. The reality is lots of people are struggling in our church pews; and if we started talking to each other, we would begin to see that one of Satan’s most paralyzing lies is that you are all alone. No one else in this church would understand; because if he can keep us in a secret and in our shame, then we are debilitated from being what we’re supposed to be in the kingdom.

    Alex:               That is very true. Let me ask you one other quick question before we go. You guys did a tremendous job on the casting. Tell us a little bit about how you got to work with those cast members.

    Carol:              Okay. These are such important stories to me because they are ... it’s just like we tripped and fell into the most amazing cast ever, but we went … David Boyd and I, we had a great casting director. He narrowed the field for us, and David Boyd, the director, and I went to Los Angeles, and we sat in a room during a cattle call, and the actors and actresses came in and auditioned. In a series of three days, we cast the movie. We had no idea how much God was in it until the stories began to unfold, and the actors began showing up and doing their thing, and we realized we could not have asked for more with our actors.

    We got David Boyd because of the beautiful script. Because of David Boyd, we attracted better than the normal quality of actors for this genre and for our budget. These actors wanted to work with David because he’s amazing. We were able to get people that typically we wouldn’t be able to afford, so we were blessed, blessed, blessed by the Lord in terms of casting.

    Alex:               Yes, and it definitely showed on the screen. It sounds like, I guess, in summing everything up, you guys had an idea of the kind of movie you wanted to make, God showed up and messed up all your plans, and Home Run ensued.

    Carol:              That’s exactly the truth (laughing). I love the way you sum things up. I’m going to start sending you things and then ask you to sum them up for me.

    Alex:               Do you know what, though? That’s a great testimony for all of us that we all have gifts, and talents, and opportunities, and God calls us to start moving in a direction; and then if He wants us to go in a different direction, the key is to be obedient to it, and let go of our plans, and use the gifts and talents He’s given us, and return them back to Him, and see what He does with it.

    Carol:              Amen to that! I never even planned to be in film. I never planned it. I would say to people, “Oh, film. Television is so much better because it’s so much faster,” and I’m right, but I just laugh because the Lord’s like, “Oh, whatever, Carol.  You’re going to be doing a film.” Yes. Amen to all that that you said, and thanks so much for interviewing me. I want to say one more thing. The DVD, using it as a tool; I do believe that there … my little boy at the time he was five went through a super hero phase, and he wore a facemask everywhere he went.

    When I tell this story in front of audiences, I say, my son; and then I always say he’s 18. Is that weird (laughing)? I am an old mom. He’s seven now, but he was five, and he was wearing a cape and mask everywhere he went, I mean everywhere: grocery stores, restaurants, whatever.  One day at the park, he was playing, and he was saving the world from impending doom. An older kid looked at him and said, “You’re not real.” This was so mean, right? I said to Sam, “Oh dude, I’m sorry he said that,” and Sam said to me, “That’s okay, mom. I don’t think he knew I knew that.” Right? I love that story.

    I think that there is a world of people outside the church who look at the church and say, “You’re not real.” The fact of the matter is, they don’t know we know we have problems. They don’t buy that once you come to Jesus, all your problems go away; and most certainly, any believer will tell you that they don’t.  We still are working out our issues, but we have a hope, and a grace, and a love, and a Father who’s helping us work them out. We’re not doing it alone. The fact of the matter is we’ve unintentionally put out there, again, this sort of Pollyanna look that if you come to Jesus, all your troubles melt away, and they don’t buy it.

    I think about using the DVD and handing it to our friends with addictions, and handing it to our friends that have something happen to them in life, and they feel they’re a lesser person for it, or giving it to friends that are sexually promiscuous or whatever. I love the idea of showing it to people who don’t know the Lord because it shows them a beautiful part of the body of Christ, and it’s the part of the body of Christ that is healing, and honest, and open, and transforming; and people really can change. I’ll tell you what, the world wants to believe in that type of Jesus, and I love that Home Run shows it to them.

    Alex:               Yes, and we’re looking forward to getting as many DVDs out in people’s hands as possible. I do think that taking that message into your home is probably a little more non-threatening than necessarily going to the theater, so I think this is going to have a huge impact, not only here at home but all over the world. We look forward to seeing what God’s going to continue to do. Thank you very much for your time, Carol.

    Carol:              Thank you. Thank you so much for believing in it.

    Alex:               Absolutely. We’re standing in agreement that God’s going to do something big.

    Carol:              Amen. Amen to that. Thank you guys so much. It’s a privilege talking to you. I really appreciate it.

    Alex:               Thank you, Carol. Bye-bye.

    Carol:              All right. Bye-bye.

     


    This post was posted in Movies, Interviews, Alex Mosoiu and was tagged with Featured, Home Run, Carol Matthews

  • Michael Landon Jr. - Leaving a Legacy in Film

    Posted on July 3, 2013 by AlexMosoiu

    Michael Landon Jr., son of the late television legend, Michael Landon, has been in the film business for over 25 years.  Educated at USC and a Directing Fellow graduate of the American Film Institute, he has worked in just about every capacity of the movie making process including film loader, 1st and 2nd assistant cameraman, stedicam operator, Director of Photography, apprentice film editor, production assistant, and actor.

    Our buyer of DVDs had a candid conversation with Michael on his upbringing, his work in the past and what he working on now.

    Alex: So we'll kind of start out with a general question about your background. How have you seen changes in Hollywood from your days in Little House on the Prairie to your dad's involvement in Highway to Heaven, and to where Hollywood is today? How have you seen it change during that time?

    Michael: Well, there have been a lot of changes that have taken place since the Little House days. So there are different aspects and components to the business, right? For example, when Little House was around, you had three major networks, and they controlled most of the content on television, maybe four networks. Now there are literally hundreds and hundreds of channels to choose from. So the idea of families sitting down together and experiencing storytelling, whatever that might be, is no longer around. Everybody has a TV in a different room. And since there's specific, narrower targeting of the audience--stuff for teens, little ones, grownups, etc.--no one's sitting down and experiencing storytelling anymore together. That's definitely one thing I've seen.

    The other side is all of the different avenues in which media is being fed to us. It's not just TVs. It's the Internet, streaming, iPhones and iPads. And so it's coming in every sort of way, and there's the emergence of these social media things like YouTube and Twitter and Facebook, and other ways that media is coming and pretty much bombarding our homes.

    Then there's the content issue. Programming content has radically changed, which to me is extremely unfortunate. Family programming is almost completely extinct. There are a few reality shows that I feel like are probably fine, the singing shows and the dancing shows and things like that, where the content is suitable for the entire family for the most part. But gone are the days of the Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven and Touched By An Angel, and TV series like that. Now, fortunately, I do have the opportunity to create a new TV series for Hallmark based on a very popular Janette Oke book, When Calls the Heart. That is actually Hallmark's second foray into TV series work. So at least now there's an opportunity for families to have an alternative to the very sexualized sitcoms or the gritty cop forensic shows that currently permeate the airwaves.

    Alex: So what do you think that the lack of family type of entertainment has done to the family unit, you know, the idea of sitting down and all watching stuff together on a regular basis? What do you think that that causes in a family dynamic?

    Michael: It's hard to probably calculate exactly what the repercussions are. I can't imagine it not having some detrimental effect to the family. I mean, technology is amazing, the way we use it, the way we can quickly disseminate information back and forth between each other. But at the same time, obviously, there is this fragmented aspect of being together, where everybody is in the same room and yet not really present with each other. They're on their phone and tweeting, or emailing or texting their friends. It's definitely breaking down the family unit in a way. It doesn't allow for intimacy to really grab hold of families. And also, I can't imagine that the increased and different content isn't breaking down the family unit as well. It clearly is. The messaging that's coming out of a lot of these shows sometimes is sexually promiscuous or shows a lack of respect for authority whether it be for parents or teachers or whoever. I mean, these are messages that our children are being bombarded with constantly--no holds barred. It seems nothing is really off limits. If you advocate limits, then you're against freedom of speech. It's always spun off in a very kind of negative tone.

    Alex: Michael, what do you think? Is life imitating art? Or is art imitating life in television and entertainment right now?

    Michael: Well, I definitely think they're pushing both, right? I think they're feeding off of each other. And I think we see that. I don't know the statistics, but I can just imagine in terms of the age of sexual contact between young people is getting lower and lower. The sexually transmitted diseases are out of control, from my understanding. Again, the respect issue for parents and teachers is completely falling apart in many areas. So, I think the media is feeding off society, and society is feeding off the media, and it's not good.

    Alex: So, let me ask you this, kind of along those same lines. You went to USC film school, right? One of the most prestigious film schools in the country, to kind of learn your craft. And obviously you grew up in the Hollywood business to some extent. What would you say, as a believer, what would you tell Christian parents whose kids want to grow up and be in the entertainment business in some way? How would you guide and direct them to be a part of the business?

    Michael: Right. Just a clarification, though. I did go to USC, but I was not in their film program.

    Alex: I guess I just assumed that.

    Michael: That was the game plan, but I ended up going to AFI for film studies.

    Alex: Got it.

    Michael: American Film Institute. I was a directing fellow there. It's a great question, because I think that many Christian parents see the business and they're terrified of what it will do to their children, and how it will affect them and the people that they'll come in contact with. It's a tough business. The film business is really, really tough. It's extremely competitive. If you're in front of the camera, your ability to make a living is very difficult, especially if you're going to keep your integrity in terms of the projects that you'll pick and choose. Because you'll see that it's a limited amount of family fare. A lot of it, especially in the younger category, is due to the fact that there are a lot of horror films out there, and teen party kinds of films. It's basically adults who run the business, and they know what teenagers want to see. So it's not an easy decision. I would say, however, at the same time, that the business is craving talented storytellers who want to tell stories that will be uplifting to families; ones that deal with issues of faith, forgiveness and love. So, I would probably still encourage a Christian family whose son or daughter is passionate about it—and they have to be passionate because this business is really tough. It's very competitive. If they're really passionate, you see signs of greatness when it comes to acting or writing, and I would encourage them to allow their children to become involved in that case.

    Alex: And so as a producer, or generator, I should say, both on the production and the directing end of Christian content, you're one of the most prolific people in our industry who generate content. How do you personally choose the projects that you get involved with?

    Michael: Well, a lot of it is generated by certain properties that I've purchased the rights to, for example, such as the works of Jeanette Oke, Beverly Lewis and Francine Rivers. The content is coming directly from like-minded storytellers, so that's definitely one avenue. Then there are other projects I'm generating, either through novels or I'm being hired to direct, for example, The Ultimate Life. So I, you know, it's a story that just needs to resonate, and then I'm going to try to either get the job or develop it. But the first thing that has to happen is that the story has to resonate with me deeply. I don't see myself as a Christian filmmaker. I see myself as a filmmaker who happens to be Christian. And I think there is a difference there.

    Alex: Talk about that difference.

    Michael: I think one main example of the difference would be that I see myself as someone who doesn't try to work outside the system, but work with the system. I don't try just to hire Christian actors and actresses. I try to hire the best actors and actresses to play the roles. That goes along with anybody else on my crew. I try to hire the best DP (Director of Photography). So I think that's probably one of the main differences. Not everything that I do has to be Christian, per se.

    Alex: Yeah, and I think from our perspective in the entertainment business, in any line of work that's what we're called to do as believers, right? Is to use our gifts and talents and apply them to being the best at that particular trade. So it's a good analogy, and I apologize for stating it the way I did. I should have stated that better. You don't find a Christian plumber and a Christian car repairman. You find a car repair guy who happens to be a Christian.

    Michael: That's right.

    Alex: For various reasons. You touched on Janette Oke. Obviously you had a lot of success working with the Hallmark Channel, starting with the Love Comes Softly series and that piece. And it's been several years now since that series started, and it had a very, very successful run. Tell us a little bit about how you got involved with Jeanette and that book series, and what that's meant to you in your career.

    Michael: Oh, Love Comes Softly was huge for me. The interesting thing about that particular property was that it took me 10 years to get made. Most people don't know that fact. But it was something that I championed for 10 years. When I started pitching it and shopping it around Hollywood, everybody just didn't get it from the title on down. They just thought it was too soft. You know, no one would be interested in this type of storytelling anymore. The Little House days are over. And then, so I knew that the next step was going to be, I needed to write the script. So I worked on it and co-wrote it with Cindy Kelly, who was a writer that I co-wrote The Velveteen Rabbit with, and had a certain amount of success with that. We wrote the screenplay and it still took a few years to finally land a home. Hallmark finally stepped up to the plate. Even they were a bit skeptical at the time, but when it aired, it ended up being the highest rated movie in the history of that channel by 40%.

    Alex: Hmm.

    Michael: And then the sequel, Love’s Enduring Promise, then became its highest rated movie in the history of the channel. Since then, Hallmark uses that particular franchise. They play that franchise more than anything they’ve produced, by far, and they've produced hundreds and hundreds of movies for that channel. So it proved the skeptics wrong, and obviously there is a powerful hunger and need for this type of family programming. To top it off, I formed a relationship with Jeanette Oke, who is really the pioneer of Christian romance fiction. She started that genre, and I have to say, she is one of the most beautiful, wonderful human beings I have ever met. Everything about her is so genuine and real. I'm honored that she has allowed me to use--and trusted me with--more of her material. I just think the world of her.

    Alex: Yeah, I've had the chance to meet her on a couple of occasions--certainly not on an in-depth level--but I would definitely agree with you that that's exactly how she comes across. So you're partnering with her again on this next project, When Calls the Heart. Tell us what that's about, the TV series idea and the movie piece.

    Michael: Yes, so the When Calls the Heart series has been a labor of love for us as well, my partner Brian Bird and myself. It is an offshoot from the original source material. The way the books are laid out, it wasn't conducive for a TV series. The setup is the same, which is that we start off with this very young, educated woman who has the desire to become a teacher. She's done all of her schooling, and she comes from this very wealthy family living in the city. She is challenged to take a job out West in kind of this unlawful coal mining town, where underprivileged children live. And she forsakes the comforts of home and goes on this daring adventure to teach these children. And so the pilot veers away from the book a bit, but thank goodness Jeanette Oke is completely in agreement with our take. The actual storytelling is in line with When Calls the Heart. But in order to keep a series going and create a world where we're not moving through the other books that we want to preserve of Jeanette's, the coal mining town that we've created, Coal Valley, is a piece of fiction that is separate from her novel. But the essence and the characters and everything are very much from Jeanette's imagination.

    Alex: Excellent. It sounds like both your fans and her fans will greatly enjoy that as well.

    Michael: I believe so.

    Alex: So you've had the chance to work with Jeanette Oke and then Beverly Lewis, which are kind of two very strong pillars in the Christian fiction community. You made movies so far out of Beverly Lewis' The Shunning and The Confession. So what attracted you to her writing, and what was different in portraying kind of that Amish lifestyle versus the more pioneer days in Jeanette Oke's books?

    Michael: Right. Well, you know, it's the fascination with the Amish. And obviously, Beverly Lewis has made an entire career out of that. I believe that the non-Amish all just have a certain sense of nostalgia for life without technology. It kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier. In our culture, technology is integrated into nearly every part of our lives, whereas the Amish pretty much avoid all modern technology, including the car, the Internet and, in many cases, even having an in-home phone. And it's all to preserve that social cohesion within their community. And I just think that when you have the modern world spinning around them at this lightning fast speed and pace, these people in like a time-stopping universe becomes just fascinating. Totally fascinating. Beverly Lewis has captured the hearts and minds of readers, and has created compelling characters that push her stories forward.

    Alex: Excellent. So we talked briefly about The Ultimate Life, the sequel to The Ultimate Gift. Share a little bit about that project and why you took it on. What is it about the story of Red that attracted you to it, and what do you hope that somebody who sees the film gleans from it?

    Michael: The Ultimate Life. The producer, Rick Eldridge, came to me last year in November and asked me if I'd be interested in directing The Ultimate Life. He gave me the script, which centered on Jason, the heir to the estate. And it got into all the machinations and crazy scheming of the dysfunctional family, and the story took place in a courtroom for about 80% of the storytelling. And I just felt like this wasn't where the story needed to go. I think what people were going to be fascinated by was the character that influenced Jason so much, which was the Red character. So in November of last year I pitched to Rick that this be a prequel, and not a sequel, that the story actually revolves around how Red became who he was, what his early upbringing was like and how he ended up becoming a billionaire and how he had a change of heart. And thankfully, he agreed, and we quickly brought on a few writers and built the story.

    I usually don't like telling what the audience will get out of it, because I feel like there are different messages that will resonate with different people depending on where they are in life. I do, however, believe that there is something for everyone in the storytelling, the innocence of young love, of commitment. You know, something that was really joyful and one of my favorite parts of this movie is Red’s young love story. I just love the innocence. I'm not saying that the 40s and 50s were perfect. But it sure was really joyful to be in that time period. That's all I can say. Just the music, and kind of innocence of romance and everything. I'm wandering a bit right now.

    Alex: Oh, no, that's okay. Yeah, the brief time that I had on set, and the interactions that I've had with Rick and the scenes I've seen of it, definitely resonate the differences in time periods. Also the timeless things—the lessons or gifts--that no matter what time you interact with, it's still a very appropriate message.

    Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, one of the big themes is gratitude. The one conclusion I've definitely come to is that if you don't have a grateful heart, you can't be a happy person. And listen, I completely understand that there is a lot of struggling going on for a lot of people in this country. But when you look at other countries and what their struggles are, as a whole, we should be pretty grateful. I know we had worked together on getting the film Jamah out, you know, you look at worlds like that, and you see the spirit of those people, and their gratefulness for basically having nothing. It's just so important to try to have a grateful heart no matter what the circumstances are that you're going through.

    Alex: That is very true. Very true. In fact, I was talking to my kids the other day, and we were talking about the scene in Jamah of the little boy and the girl having to haul the coffin halfway around the country, and thinking, my kids are about that age. Boy, you know, I'm eternally grateful that they don't ever have to live that sort of thing. So you're right. Gratitude is such a very important thing.

    Michael: Yeah. And I just want to make sure I'm clear that I'm definitely speaking to myself when I talk about gratitude. Something that I constantly need to remind myself. If I'm acting spoiled or feeling down because something didn't happen right, I try to remind myself that it's ridiculous.

    Alex: Yeah, I got frustrated last night because my WIFI was down for 15 minutes at home--it was a meltdown—so, I know the feeling.

    Michael: Right? And then you just take a step back. You go, oh, my gosh, this is ridiculous. In reality I'm so blessed.

    Alex: Absolutely. So let me ask you one more question as our time winds down. We usually like to find one crazy, off-the-wall question to ask folks. So, if you were sitting down with an 18-year-old Michael, what would you tell yourself all those years ago?

    Michael: Oh, if I was sitting down with an 18-year-old Michael.

    Alex: Like with yourself, not just a random 18-year-old kid named Michael.

    Michael: With my actual self?

    Alex: Yes. What would you have told yourself when you were 18? What wisdom would you have imparted?

    Michael: I would have told him… Just trust in Jesus. Trust Him. Trust that He's going to bring you through to the other side, and don't try to do it on your own strength. And I mean that sincerely. This is not just to tell an audience of Christians. When I was 18 years old, I was a wreck. I was a wreck. My parents had divorced, and I was completely lost in the world. And I fought. I fought The Message. I fought it all the way, all the way. I didn't want to have anything to do with Jesus, nothing. Yeah.

    Alex: Excellent. Well, that sounds like very timeless advice. Michael, thank you so much for this time; we appreciate it. We very much look forward to partnering on these upcoming projects, and I definitely look forward to our paths crossing again.

    Michael: Appreciate that, Alex.


    This post was posted in Movies, Interviews, Alex Mosoiu and was tagged with Featured, TV, Beverly Lewis, Janetto Oke, Francine Rivers

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