Austin Jesus-Thumping Filmmakers Unite!
It's been a good weekend for believer filmmakers in Austin. It's almost cool to be a Christian AND a filmmaker. My hommies with the CHALK movie--Mike Akel, Chris Mass, Angie Alvarez, Graham Davidson, Jeff Guerrero, Ryan Greene and David Gonzales, all Hope Chapelites--opened their national run in LA a week ago. It was Austin this week. Yet to come:
May 25 Dallas, TX -- The Magnolia
May 25 Chicago, IL -- Century Centre Theatre
May 25 Philadelphia, PA -- The Ritz
Jun 1 St. Louis, MO -- Tivoli Theatre
Jun 1 San Diego, CA - Ken Theater
Jun 15 NY, NY -- Sunshine Cinema
Jun 15 Atlanta, GA -- Midtown Art Cinema
They got a shout-out from Morgan Spurlock of SUPERSIZE ME fame on Conan O'Brien. The Chronicle, Austin's arts and entertainment weekly, wrote a phat piece. Virginia Todd Burton, another member of the hopearts community and a recent grad from UT's MFA program, penned it. The Statesman punched it in with super review.
Momentum is everything.
They're all doing really great. I'm so proud of them. I'm especially impressed at the way they're conducting themselves relationally; staying humble, hearts clean.
Then Jeffrey Travis and his compadres debuted their version of Flatland at the Arbor theater and it was amazing! I thought, This puppy is a Triple AAA Pixar flick (baseball metaphor there). The visuals were outstanding, the soundtrack like something out of a Hans Zimmer klavier machine, the talent top-notch. The kids loved it, big people too.
Jeffrey's got a new website up, Burning Myth Productions, and he's finally entered the lovely world of blogdom. He's beginning the process of moving into full-time filmmaking, starting with MARSHALL HOLLENZER IS DRIVING, based on the book by Owen Egerton: stellar man, recently published author (How Best to Avoid Dying), local comedic hero in Austin as well as good friend of ours. We attended his public reading at Book People this past Thursday and loved it. The Statesman wrote a generous piece. Here are a couple of memorable excerpts:
"I do like to go into darker and deeper thoughts," says Egerton, sipping on a Guinness during a Friday evening happy hour at the Hole in the Wall. "And I think humor is a great way of approaching those thoughts. And for me, it's the most successful way — to kind of laugh my way into those thoughts."
"Flannery O'Connor talked about our culture as a Christ-haunted culture. And I think my life is a Christ-haunted life," says Egerton, who worked for the Young Life camps for three years after graduating from the University of Texas in 1995. "Jesus keeps popping up in my stories. If I sit down and write, sooner or later, he walks onto the page. It's like: 'You! You're here again.' "
1. It takes a village to raise an artist. And not in any figurative sense. Nothing good artistically can happen, of any real substantial worth, if an artist sets out to prove himself autonomously. El es loco, mi amigo. Foolishness. Theologically it doesn't work. The Trinity won't allow it.
Neither Mike nor Jeffrey nor Chris nor Rick nor Christopher Fitzgerald nor anybody else in our community who has succeeded could ever say "I did it on my own." They'd be liars. And you know what happens to liars in Dante's inferno. They get licked.
2. It takes time. Mike and Chris Mass have been working on CHALK for close to four years. Jeffrey has labored for 2-3 years. Owen started writing his collection three years ago. Good art doesn't happen overnight. Good art needs to simmer. Even if they'd been able to work on their projects full-time they still would have needed to tend, nurse, prune, listen, kill, wait, and drive that plow forward till they found the right "tone" for the work, its "fittingness," it's right place in the world.
3. The death and resurrection of encouragement. We've lost how many times we've said these words: "You can do it, bro. Keep going. Don't give up. I'm sorry things are hard. You've got what it takes. Keep at it. Are you doing what you said you would do? Are you writing? Are you praying? Are you whithering from procrastination? Hang in there. You rock. You're a rockstar! Go, go, go!"
I've said this before: A third of my job as arts pastor is taken up with encouraging my brethren and sistren. We need it. I need it. Fear threatens us 24/7. We need courage. We need people around us who believe in us. We don't need inflated praise. We don't need fair-weather friends. We don't need quid pro quo favors. We need friends who know how crappy of an artist we are, yet who see what we have and what we could become by God's grace.
Artists give up without encouragement. But like plants with daily doses of water, sun and good soil, artists thrive in an environment of genuine, self-sacrificing, generous love. It's our daily bread, from the Holy Spirit, from people. It's what'll keep us real human beings.
4. If one of us wins we all win. That's my little friendly motto, mi amigos, my anti-jealousy drum. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Shoot the green monster in the head. He's lurking around these parts. A few of our own are succeeding, famous locally, in places nationally. My housemate Ed played a fanstastic brass concert Sunday night. Mike and Chris and Jeffrey were on TV. Book People sold almost all of Owen's books. It's hard to watch people succeed when you have pittance going on for yourself.
But if one of us wins we all win. That's the economy of the Kingdom. It's the aerodynamics of the Body of Christ: the slipstream of success pulling us all along. We rejoice with those who rejoice and lo, magically we all end up better for the rejoicing. In the original creation God lavishes the world with superabundant generosity. We don't get two possible flavors on the tongue, we get a near infinite combination of flavors. Why? Because the Divine Nature is infinitely generous.
So if I succeed, then it is the nature of Christ in me compelling me to do everything I can to disburse blessing--practical, verbal, financial, spiritual--to those around me. If I succeed, how can I not use my success to help everyone around me enjoy the fruits of my success? A community of artists that practices this kind of virtue is a community against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail.
In Other Departments
I received in the mail two books: An Architecture of Immanence: Architecture For Worship and Ministry Today (by Mark Torgerson) and Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred (by Philip Bess). John Wilson has asked me to submit a book review of these for Books & Culture. Wedding planning marches along. This weekend I head to Laity Lodge with Phaedra for a weekend retreat in the quiet, very quiet, very non-technologically saturated Hill Country.
The HopeArts festival lumbers forward. June 1 is d-day for all entries. July 12-22 is happy days. I'm prepping a couple of morning devotionals for the CIVA conference in mid-June. We have 14 people signed up for the symposium in April '08. (I've never signed up for anything that far in advance.)
My sleep is rotten. I took my first swim of the season this past Friday in the neighborhood pool. It rained today. I need to fertilize my back yard. My sweet grandmother in Dallas is dying rapidly. I asked God six, seven years ago to keep her alive till I got married. I don't know if my prayer will be answered.
I bought a copy of Jane because the heading on the cover read: "Our generation is spoiled." A picture of beatific Kirsten Dunst and Bryce Dallas Howard looks out at us. I thought, "I must buy this magazine." My generation and the one bellow us is ridiculously spoiled. And so the silver screen princesses have confirmed it. Such great smiles.