Dining on the elephant

Overwhelmed? Join the team. These days it’s so much easier to feel overburdened by the growing list of personal obligations – let alone, business/professional responsibilities. Accomplish one thing, anything, then turn around to find 20 more vying for its place. It’s a vicious cycle.

How do we manage so many time-enfeebling duties? How do we construct a plan that will weaken life’s gravity and rise to soar through wishful goals? Is it possible to sunder these shackles, yet maintain our duties? All good questions waiting on an answer – an answer that will free us.

But seriously, I have too much to do – or so it feels that way. Personal responsibilities of home-ownership, children, a business to run – all worthwhile and meaningful, even enjoyable (at times), but each taking its toll on my hectic schedule. I long to walk into my office one day, free to focus on MY desired task, free to be driven toward MY article of choice. And yet, even on the path from home to office I am shouldered with seemingly minimalistic obligations that beckon for my time and energy. I’m taxed, I’m tired, I’m still getting my head around the time change. I’m looking for a way to rule my 168 blocks of time each week, maximizing personal goals. I have so much to accomplish, yet when I look back over last week’s achievements I shudder at the state of chaos and despair over the week ahead. What am I doing wrong?

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The blurring line

As I have engaged in business, for myself, and attempted to navigate the sea of social media, I often get confused as to where I stand as Alexander Films and where I stand as Marc A Hutchins. In truth, the two are the same…and the two are different. I mean, I am my company, but there is so much more to me than Alexander Films alone.

The challenge for me is in determining where I put my time. As I have come to believe, both Marc A Hutchins and Alexander Films are both marketable commodities. My rationale behind this thinking is that production professionals market themselves when looking for work – as a DP, as a makeup artist, as a location scout, as writer, direct, producer, etc. However, having a business means riding that horse. Yet for me, as with others, I am my business, sole ownership, big kahuna in charge of operations and bringing in the cheese. For that business to succeed, I need to feed it into social media wizardry, casting that winning spell and turning my little ‘ole bitty project into a financial powerhouse (or something like that). But all that feeding, and pampering, and web-changing time is taxing on my…well, time.

Stepping back a month or two, I decided that I wanted to return my web presence to the video-based, fun site that I originally envisioned. I did this, inspired by others who are their company – writer, director, and producer – attached to a business image, in an effort to redesign my virtual impression. I want people to see my work, love it or hate it, and know what I am about. Yet, I want my audience, viewers and stalkers to also know me. Because who I am says something about my work ethics and character, I deem it necessary to share the whole picture. Plus, I think I have something to offer. I mean, don’t we all, running around revealing our last meal, favorite movie, latest relational status, phobias, and philosophy. This social media craze is just that at times – crazy – but it also helps the guy with a vision see his dream come to life.

So as a result of the blurring line, I have linked this personal blog from my Alexander Films website, and this site links to my business site. I have always used Twitter as business, and I have done away with my Alexander Films FB efforts, continuing to network through my personal FB page. I use Vimeo as my main video outlet, while trying to do more with Youtube as I start cranking out the shorts. Synergistic social media is my ticket to reaching the world; melting so many social media opportunities into fewer channels is my ticket to saving time.

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Our first award – Audience Choice

Goodbye To Muffy, my original family-comedy short film, picked up the 2011 VA Indie Film Festival Audience Choice Award last weekend. This is good news. Why? Well, awards are fine and all, but to know that your audience, a mix of film enthusiast, film critics, and family viewers, laughing and applauding, really liked your stuff – that’s heartwarming.

Honestly, I bash the audience votes at festivals, primarily because it usually boils down to how many people you know that are willing to attend the festival and vote for your film. Plus, if you are local (local to the festival/screening location) you have a better chance of rounding up friends to attend. For the 2011 VA Film Festival, we were neither close to the screening location nor had a myriad of friends to corral. As a matter of fact, I was a solid 3 hours from the location. Along with my family, all 4 that attended, another 5 from my neck of the woods, 6 or so from the north, and another 6 from the east coast, we hardly had the numbers to turn a vote in a theater with around 250 people. Yet, when the announcement was made that Muffy had taken the prize, I knew that more than proximity and friends was at play.

My anxiety, sitting in a dark theater among my critics, my uneasiness over whether they would laugh at the right moments, let alone, laugh at all, was weighing on my films ability to please. I considered the exit strategy if the film closed without even a chuckle. Yet, despite my nail-bitten neurosis, it was with unabashed pleasure that the sound of joyful laughter filled the dead silence. It was with a tearful grin that I embraced the roaring applause. Indeed, Goodbye To Muffy is everything I hoped it to be – a family comedy that won the hearts of my audience.

Goodbye To Muffy will be officially released on the website next month – www.goodbyetomuffy.com Until then, you can view the trailer and read about the process of making a short film.

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On the authority of Who?

The following is an email I sent in response to an invitation to submit a film to a “Christian” film festival. The recipient responded graciously.

While reading through your “About Festival” page, I came across this sentence – “In order to eliminate the temptation of an artist to plagiarize and make borderline unGodly content we carefully screen and exhibit films with a full 100% biblically correct worldview, that’s Maranatha Christian Fall Film Festival.”

Now, in and of itself, you seem to be saying a good thing; however, beyond your intention (as I believe your intention is to protect the sacredness of the Word) lies the element of human control.

Who will “carefully screen”? By whose standard is something “a full 100% biblically correct worldview”?

No argument here that truth is truth, but on what authority does one man screen another man’s worship to determine on what piece of holy ground he’s walking? Even Smith Wigglesworth (early 1900’s), who raised the dead and healed the masses, going all over this great planet saving souls, was bashed for his “techniques” and “common practices”. He would often hit people where there was pain, and yet deliverance was felt. Imagine that in today’s society. He’d be buried in lawsuits.

Back in August 2010, I wrote, “Why the ‘Christian Film?'” Here it is: (SEE POST)

Ernst Kasemann wrote:
“What causes most trouble for Christians of all ages is not legalism or lack of faith or theological controversies; it is Jesus Himself, who bestows freedom so openhandedly on those who do not know what to do with it.  The church always gets panic-stricken for fear of the turmoil that Christ creates when He comes on the scene; and it takes His freedom under its own management for the protection of the souls entrusted to it, in order to dispense it in homeopathic doses when it seems necessary.  The church claims to represent Jesus on earth, but in fact it often supplants him.  It must tremble in all its joints when confronted with His portrait.  Ecclesiastical traditions and laws have domesticated Jesus, and today all the churches are living off the success of the attempt.”

I say this, not to discourage your desire (perhaps even your calling) to promote Christian film making and provide opportunity for filmmakers to network, but simply as an exhortation. I understand what you are trying to convey — at least I think I understand. Yet the Word is so living and active and powerful, and we are so lame, that often our attempt to manufacture holiness must stink as it rises to heaven. The Almighty sees us still, through the Blood, as precious — and it amazes me!

In your “careful screening” be careful yourself not to be one of Job’s friends, speaking from common sense while the Lord has reason to hold back his anger. If you choose to judge the work of others as deemed to be a “100% biblically correct worldview,” then pray like crazy, ’cause that’s a judgment I’d rather not shoulder.

Go full engine with the festival and open those doors for others who are not sure where to turn. My calling is to the Hollywood movers and shakers that need God more then they will ever know — until someone tells them.

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The parent-child relationship — even in Hollywood

Yes, I’m chiming in on the Cyrus news. Why? Partly because it’s the only news I’ve read this week, partly because I am a parent, and partly because Miley Cyrus has become my muse, replacing Britney Spears, while I rewrite my first script – the one about the teenage pop star who abandons her tour to rediscover why she first started singing.

So, the Cyrus news: Billy Ray is regretting his choices of the past because his wife is divorcing him and his daughter is apparently losing it. I can’t speak personally about the divorce or Miley’s behavior, other than what’s in the news and tabloids – or rather, the cover of the tabloids (unless you’ve busted me reading one in the checkout line) – but let me say first, Mr. Cyrus, regret does not equal repentance, nor does it bring change. Regret holds us in bondage to the past. Embrace your mistake, lay it at the foot of the cross, and press on.

Next, parenting in Hollywood requires the same Biblical principles as parenting in Madrid, Cleveland, Singapore, etc. Solid, Biblical parenting is no respecter of the culture or geographical location – truth is truth, and it does not change for people, places, or things. Your responsibility as a parent is not a debatable point that you have the freedom to interpret. It is what it is, and without it, you lay a child to ruin.

Before I go too far, offending rather than simply sharing as one parent to another, I would like to say that your parenting mistakes are shared by the Hollywood-parent and the non-Hollywood-parent alike. We all fail our children, selfishly turning to our desires and self-promotion, fighting not to be left with nothing when our kids are gone. All parents face hard choices, discipline choices, and we all want our kids to like us. Please don’t read this as a bashing, lashing, or any other -ing, but simply as a loving, parenting nudge. OK, maybe a parenting pinch, but not meant to bruise, only to redirect.

Back to the point. Parenting is leaving a legacy. Parenting is instilling principles leading to Godly character – character that will change the world. Why change the world? Because everything we do changes the lives around us, therein changing the world. Everyone changes something, someone, some bit of living for others. The idea, however, is that the change we each create will be change that opens the eyes of the blind, feeds the hunger, raises the dead, gives hope to the hopeless – that, my friend, is what parents everywhere shoulder. We are the doorway through which our children will enter the world. It is the authority that Christ gives to us as teacher, disciplinarian, and friend that causes us to shutter – and regret. When we fail, we fail mankind, we fail God. Ah, but the beauty of the Cross, the forgiveness undeserved. Surrender to the Father’s authority is picking up your authority as a parent.

Don’t quit, Billy Ray – don’t quit being the parent that loves unconditionally and disciplines (obviously within the age structure of the relationship). Don’t cease to support direction to Christ, fathering even the broken and lost child. You may have failed in the past, and undoubtedly you will fail in the future, but don’t slow down. Miley will always need her dad, whether she sees it now, or sees only her immortality. Press on.

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The “puppet” MTV

MTV released a new TV show – Skins – which, according to reviews and the website, is nothing but trash. Shamefully, trash is what people watch. So despite the outcry by parent groups, religious groups, and others, Skins will make its run and make its money, therein, encouraging others to follow.

I have 8 children, ages 18-8, and as sad as this type of show is, I fear not, because I have raised my children with healthy moral boundaries and good character. I do, however, fear for those teens whose parents don’t/didn’t instill the same. There will always be this type of sordid programming with an expressed agenda to drive purposeless meaning into children (and dare I say, even adults), and the only weapon against the machine is an offensive upbringing.

I expect nothing better from MTV, because frankly, they don’t have the guts to create anything of value. “Sell out and sell yourself short” is the moral compass of so many entertainment groups out there today. What’s equally sad, is that those with means and opportunity to create something better, often botch it for fear that profit won’t follow.

I say live and love, training our children to see programming like Skins for what it really is. They will one day make a personal choice to follow culture or Christ – give them a head start and a solid foundation.

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What about that solid change

This year I am doing things differently. I really am. No messing around, just taking ‘solid change’ by the horns. This year I am streamlining.

Each day I look back over the last 14-16 hours and ask myself the simple question, “What did I accomplish today?” That question usually branches out into, “How did I waste time? What could I have done differently? What can I effectively change in order to feel better about where I am right now, in this very moment?” You see, I realize, through ‘big picture’ thinking, that I will either achieve or fail to achieve through my personal daily choices. Did I sit down and hammer out 5 pages on my latest script? I achieved. Did I keep my desk clean as old and new information began to mount? I achieved. Did I spent 45 minutes jabbering when I bumped into a friend at Lowes – both of us simply planning to run in and out? I failed to achieve. Did I spend an hour chasing links from an “interesting” email? I failed to achieve. Sure, I discovered which DSLR monitor “Bob” likes to use when filming sloths in New Zealand, but how did that help me accomplish ‘anything‘ I set out to accomplish this morning?

Writing, for me, is one of the solid change items I am addressing this year. Writing is my first step in production. Yes, I still want to stay abreast of the fascinating advances in digital video and the latest in lighting, grip, and indie films, but I need to manage my day in such a way that link-hopping, Lowes-chatting, or any other number of time-escaping tasks don’t drain my precious boxcars. And by that, I am referring to the analogy I heard once about the 168 boxcars we have to fill in a given week – 168, being the number of hours in the week. If I determine to fill my boxcars with writing, developing, and producing, and then fail to actually go there, my boxcar ambitions have been drained, leaving me with empty boxcars – empty, as in there’s nothing in there that I can use at the end of the week.

Below is a link for Writers Store. It’s a freebie, nothing big, but perhaps it might help you to successfully achieve whatever you have purposed to do this year. Enjoy.

Don’t Break the Chain Calendar

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Emotions in motion

Feeling something, anything, brings life to the stagnant. Be it anger or joy, pain, love, fear, rage, passion, et cetera, et cetera, we are alive when we experience emotions. Ah, and the beauty of it all. Yet often, out of that emotion-full life, comes expression. We CHOOSE to express out of our emotion. There is no quota, no rules, that state emotional expression is a must, or even beneficial, but we seem to find a certain comfort when we express – it is our emotions in motion. That motion to express and share with those surrounding us is a mixed blessing; and that mix of emotional release and potential pain for others is a challenge we all face.

Now I don’t suggest a suppressive emotional experience, although a little tact in expression is advised, but I would recommend emotional motion in a safe place – say, a private room, or the car – at least at first, in order to work the emotion down to it’s core level. Once initial expression has resolved, it is then that true emotional release can begin.

When your emotions are in motion, it’s important to take that journey in order to obtain or release whatever is necessary for healing. Shared emotional motion is not always a bad thing, but it requires a relationship rooted in trust and patience, leveraging love against feelings.

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