My wife Cheryl and I saw “It’s a Wonderful Life” again this year. That isn’t unusual. It was probably about the 30th time or so.
We love the movie. It may be considered my “favorite”… if I ever had to declare one.
This time we got to see it on the big screen. One of our local, historic theaters, shared the film for Christmas. There was something even more wonderful about “It’s a Wonderful Life” in that setting. I took time to reflect on the moment. I was reminded how many life lessons this movie provides.
Here are 10 life lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”:
1. It’s not just about us.
2. When we hurt, we hurt others.
3. We can’t hide our pain from people we love.
4. We need community. (Even better, a community of prayer.)
5. There is power in cooperation.
6. We seldom know the impact we have on others.
7. Character speaks louder than cash.
8. “All you can take with you is that which you have given away”. (Peter Bailey)
9. “No man is a failure who has friends”. (Clarence)
10. Our life matters. Your life matters. (“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Clarence.)
What did I miss?
Written by Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a church planter and pastor with a heart for strategy, leadership and marketing, especially geared toward developing churches and growing and improving the kingdom of God.
It’s never been done before, but it’s the way movies will be done from here on out. SURGE is bringing a revolutionary experience to movie theaters across the United States that promises to change the expectation of what a night at the movies should be.
Part rock concert, part youth rally, SURGE is an audio-visual movie event that gives attendees the chance to participate in the movie—with other attendees all over the United States—using smartphone apps that are free and widely available on Apple and Android-based devices.
SURGE is the brainchild of Ron Luce, a youth expert who has worked for nearly 30 years to bring uplifting and empowering messages to teens through his ministries Teen Mania and Acquire the Fire. The continued success of the Acquire the Fire conferences—two-day events that combine rock/rap/pop concerts with inspiring messages of healing and purpose that have reached 3 million teens since the conference’s inception—provoked Luce to look for a whole new way to reach a wider audience of teens in a format they’d embrace.
“We are simply communicating to teens in their language,” says Luce, who brings an empowering message to teens in the SURGE film. “We’re creating an event that is visually and audibly stimulating, that incorporates teens’ love for social media and cellphones and combines it all into a positive message that will empower them to do good in their world.”
One highlight of the SURGE movie experience is an audience-created light show. At the start of the film, attendees are prompted to download a free app that uses sound waves to create a light display. When prompted, theatergoers start up the app and see a light show timed to the rock concert playing on screen.
Throughout the film, teens are encouraged to share their thoughts via social media apps on a variety of issues they face on a regular basis in school and life. Issues like:
They also have the chance to compete for prizes through an Instagram contest and even request prayer or talk with other teens dealing with the same life-issues through Twitter, using hashtags prompted throughout the movie.
“We are breaking new ground in how we communicate a positive message to teens in a way they will embrace,” Luce says.
SURGE is showing at more than 400 theaters nationwide on two nights only—Oct. 9 and 16. More information, including theater locations, artist bios and ticket information, can be found at surgeexperience.com.
Brad J. Silverman was climbing the ladder of Hollywood success as an actor, producer and screenwriter when he discovered his vocational success wouldn’t lead him to the happiness he was searching for. After giving his life to the Lord and finding lasting joy, Silverman made the difficult decision to walk away from the movie industry. Almost a decade later, he’s back in action as the writer and director of a new mainstream film, Grace Unplugged, geared to families. Charisma sat down with the filmmaker to discuss his latest move.
Charisma: Why did you initially walk away from the movie industry?
Silverman: I was just so unsatisfied with life. Nothing was bringing me joy. My career was actually doing fine, and I thought if I got to the next level of success, then I’d be happy.
Failure was easy for me; but success is tough. Every level of success just didn’t bring the happiness I thought it would. And I went through a couple of years where I was just crying out, saying “What is real in this life? What is true?’”
I had a sense of desperation: “Nothing is making me happy and I don’t even know up from down anymore.” I questioned everything.
Through that process a friend of mine invited me to church. And over time, it was like, what do I have to lose? Then I started reading the Scriptures and going to church. And I decided it was time.
Charisma: So what made you return to the film industry after being away for 10 years?
Silverman: I came from Hollywood. I got saved in Hollywood. I walked away for a decade and the Lord just opened up a door for me that I never saw coming.
Charisma: Your new film, Grace Unplugged, opens in theaters Oct. 4 and is a modern-day retelling of the prodigal son story. As the screenwriter, what were you wanting to accomplish by basing it on that narrative?
Silverman: I’m hoping we prompt a lot of dialogue between families, and that this movie can be a conversation starter. At the end of the day, I don’t miss the fact that this is entertainment—and I think we’ve made a very entertaining movie. But when the movie is over and the audience reflects on what they’ve seen, I want Christians to say, “Wow. I love God.
Charisma: The film is about a worship pastor’s tumultuous relationship with his talented daughter, who wants to leave the church and explore a career in the secular music business. Why was this story important for you to tell?
Silverman: This is a big issue in churches today—kids growing up and struggling with making their faith their own. That’s the journey [the lead character] Grace goes on. But I also had to tell that story in a PG way. I have four children, and if I can’t make a film that my teen daughters can watch, I don’t want to make it.
Charisma: On that note, how difficult is it to be a Christian making films that honor Christ in Hollywood?
Silverman: It’s important that Christians don’t give up creative control. As believers, we must have that contractually, because we are the light in the darkness. On the flip side, Hollywood is so much a part of my life. I was an actor here, and it was a faithful brother in the Lord who led me to Christ here, so I don’t shy away from that. I believe I’m called to go into battle; I don’t believe I’m called to hide in a bunker and only deal with Christians. If some people are called to that, great. Personally, I feel I’m called to be in the streets with the tax collectors and to do my job as a filmmaker.
Movies are stories about people exhibiting character. Great movies have what’s called a “character arc”—a character in a movie goes through a series of events that test their very being. A great story develops character. The hero becomes a better person when put under pressure. Audiences like to be inspired. Nothing inspires like real love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the apostle Paul writes:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
This is clearly not the “She’s cute. I think I’m falling in love” kind of love. This is the kind of love displayed by someone with very high character. This is the kind of love that makes a model husband, wife, mother or father. This is the kind of love that ministers to others without concern about receiving a return.
Consider the most successful movies so far in 2013.
Iron Man 3 opens with Tony Stark confessing that his pride and arrogance brought on his problems. It then begins a character arc showing a prideful playboy being transformed into a less selfish, more loving man. He endures circumstances. He does not give up. He is humbled. He combats injustice and rejoices when the truth wins out. He professes a self-sacrificing love for one woman. Is he perfected? No. Does he move in an admirable direction? Absolutely.
Despicable Me 2 is the continuation of a story about a heartless criminal becoming a warm-hearted family man. Where he once took pleasure in popping children’s balloons, he is now willing to lay down his life to protect three little girls and a partner he has come to love. Here is the boy who was ridiculed in school as being unloveable becoming an example of real love in life threatening circumstances. The story, told with tremendous humor, empathy, and adventure, ends with real love triumphant.
Real love is great, not just because it’s good for the world, but because it is good for box office. The world would be so much better off if Hollywood was making trillions telling more stories of true love.
The Lack of Love
One of the greatest problems on earth today is the decline in successful marriages. More and more children are being raised where they cannot see real love being demonstrated by their mother and father.
A movie lasts about two hours. Children see what their parents model for a lifetime. How many children see their parents model patience, kindness, humility, politeness, unselfishness, forgiveness, integrity, truthfulness, faith, hope, and endurance? How much better would life be if these character traits were more common?
Vulgarity is the verbal opposite of love. It is prideful, arrogant, insulting, and rude. Often its very purpose is to confront someone to a contest of wills. It inspires violence and revenge. Even when used among friends as punctuation, it’s evidence of a low character.
When used in movies, it debases culture and reduces box office. Many people who would have enjoyed the premise of the movie The Heat will not see it because they’ve learned it contains massive amounts of obscenity.
More than half of the movies released so far by the major studios in 2013 (19 out of 37) have a Movieguide language rating of LLL (more than 25 obscenities and profanities). Only two of these are in the Top 10 at the box office. Only four major studio releases had no foul language. Three are in the Top 10 at the box office! The numbers are similar year after year.
Real love is not goody-two-shoes boring. In The Passion of the Christ, Jesus models real love while being tortured and crucified. In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo shows the courage and unselfishness of real love in a monumental adventure. Even in caution-required The Hunger Games and Twilight movies, the box office draw is the unselfish love that’s demonstrated.
The reason the Twilight movies were a hit is because women and girls are starved for men of character—men who are more interested in real love than in sex. Lust and infatuation movies do not have the draw of stories of real love.
Real love isn’t just about romance. Real love can be for your children, your countrymen, or the poor in Calcutta. Real love can be shown by robots, as in WALL-E, or by toys, as in Toy Story. The story possibilities are endless. The profit potential is huge. The need for such movies is dire.
The Consequences of Failure
The lack of real love increases violence and poverty on both the small scale and the large. Our prisons are full of children who learned to cuss but not to love. Our welfare rolls swell with those whose parents who failed to show each other true love. Our national debt is climbing to dangerous levels because Americans are not learning to love.
Look at any of the magazines in your typical grocery store checkout line and you can see how Hollywood suffers from a lack of real love. The magazines are full of the love tragedies of the stars.
The major studios are going though a tremendous transition brought on by advancing technology, but there will always be lots of money to be made with great stories of true love.
It’s a Wonderful Life, released in 1947, will continue to be popular on any technology you care to name. People will still want to see Sargeant York, Casablanca, The Sound of Music, and The Blind Side for years to come.
The Formula for Success
When getting married or making a movie, real love should grow. There should be growth in patience, kindness, humility, politeness, unselfishness, forgiveness, integrity, truthfulness, faith, hope and endurance.
When someone in life or in the movies exhibits such character, especially when faced with difficult circumstances, it’s hard not to love them. They inspire. Characters that audiences love are box office gold.
Sadly, the major studios, and even more most independent filmmakers, pour out movies filled with hateful language, vengeful characters and people more interested in sex than in real love. Such movies seldom do well at the box office and aren’t the kind of movies that will still be popular in 50 years.
Would you rather live in a family or culture filled with impatience, meanness, pride, profanity, selfishness, vengefulness, dishonesty, and discouragement? Why would you want it in your movies?
Hollywood can inspire. It makes much more money when it does. There’s simply no good reason to make more R-rated, vulgar movies than any other kind.
What the world needs now, and wants now, is love, especially the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge and all understanding, yet fills us with the fullness of the infinite God (Eph. 3:19).
Former U.S. senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has a new gig these days. And as the CEO of EchoLight Studios—a faith-based, family film production company—he plans to make a big impact quickly on his new industry.
The announcement of Santorum’s new position came last weekend on FNC’s “The Huckabee Show.”
“This is the right place and right time, and I’ve jumped in with both feet,” says Santorum, who has spent the past year helping EchoLight grow as a company. “I often say that culture is upstream from politics. I know entertainment also can be strength and light for people who want to be uplifted and reinforced in their values.”
EchoLight’s upcoming first theatrical venture, The Redemption of Henry Myers, is slated for a fall 2013 release. Meanwhile, EchoLight’s second theatrical film is based on the inspiring story of Illinois basketball player Eric “Hoovey” Elliott, stars Patrick Warburton and Lauren Holly and is directed by Soul Surfer’s Sean McNamara. It is in post-production and set for release in 2014.
Santorum has high expectations for blowing open a burgeoning entertainment category.
“Dallas can become the Hollywood of the faith-and-family movie market,” he says. “And the keys are great content and economic success, using money from all over to build out the industry and distribute an authentic product truthful to the faith in people’s lives.”
EchoLight’s commitment to new filmmakers already boasts impressive numbers:
A multiyear, multimillion-dollar agreement to produce films from Liberty University’s cinematic arts program, with production wrapped on the first film from that effort.
Up to $1 million pledged to produce and distribute a new work from the best film category winner in this year’s 168 Film Project.
EchoLight has a full pipeline of films with established directors and a growing cadre of “faith and family” stars as committed as the directors and producers.
“We’re in a position with potential to transform the industry,” Santorum says. “EchoLight is a wide door into movie excellence and to more of it—which is why we’re also helping to cultivate young filmmakers in the faith community, helping them develop cinema that, in many, many ways, can go further and do more.”
Two of our favorite characters, Mike and Sulley, return to the big screen, this time to go to school, in the new animated family comedy from Pixar and Disney,Monsters University. Monsters University has a lot of heart with a strong moral worldview, though some monsters may be scary for very young children.
Mike has always wanted to be a “scarer,” the top line of monsters who scare human children at night. Ever since being a young monster, he has dreamed of getting into the best scarer school, called Monsters University, and that day has finally come.
Attending his very first class as a screaming major, Mike is extremely excited—until he comes across James Sullivan. Sulley comes from a famous family line of scarers. Sulley is the opposite of Mike. He’s in the program because his whole family is known to be good scarers, but Sulley himself has become very lackadaisical. He never tries very hard, while Mike studies and works extremely hard. Even so, it is Sulley who gets into the best fraternity.
One day Mike and Sulley get into such an argument that they tip over the dean’s biggest accomplishment. The dean, named Hardscrabble, isn’t amused. As punishment, he kicks Mike and Sulley out of the program.
Completely in distress, Mike is saddened—until he is reminded of the scare competition. Mike convinces Dean Hardscrabble that if he and his team win the scare competition, he can come back to the scare program. However, if they lose, Mike will be thrown out of the university altogether.
In order to get more team members, Mike allows Sulley on his team, but the rest of the team is filled with underdogs. Huge odds are against their team, but they must learn to get along, work hard and strive for something together.
Monsters University is a great family movie, with plenty of wholesome laughs, heart and soul. The animation is great, and the plotline is clear. Mike and Sulley are great characters that must learn to work together even in the midst of their differences. They also learn that friendship and taking care of others are keys to success. However, some of the monsters may be too scary for very young children, so light caution is advised.
Content Watch: Very strong, wholesome moral worldview about working together, hard work, perseverance, friendship, taking care of others and rooting for the underdog, plus one monster is a New Age hippie; no foul language; some action violence, with monsters tripping and falling; no sexual content; no nudity; no alcohol use, but monsters have a college party; no smoking or drug use; revenge that’s rebuked; and lying.
In a time when Kickstarter campaigns seem to be launching every moment, it takes something truly unique to rise above and gain immediate attention. Now in their second campaign with Kickstarter, Darren Wilson and the Wanderlust Productions team appear to have filled that niche, raising nearly 40 percent of their $200,000 goal in less than 24 hours to fund the 2014 release Holy Ghost.
“Our films have always struck a chord with people, but what makes this one exciting (and, honestly, terrifying),” Wilson says, “is that the whole process of making the film will be played out, live, to everyone who chooses to be a part of this journey.”
Wilson’s earlier films, the God Adventure trilogy—consisting of Finger of God, Furious Love and Father of Lights—led him to the corners of the globe, seeking how God is moving and working in the lives of the faithful. Now, with Holy Ghost, Wilson sets off on his most challenging adventure yet: trying to capture a balanced yet exciting picture of the Holy Spirit and how He is working in the world today.
While Holy Ghost will by no means attempt to explain every aspect of this often misunderstood member of the Trinity, the film will be one man’s journey to gain a better understanding of both the power and mystery of this Person of God.
Like Wilson’s other films, Holy Ghost seeks to engage a worldwide audience. From the alleyways of Brazil to the gates of the Vatican, this film will scope the many religions and belief systems in our world today.
Never one to play by the typical rules of filmmaking, Wilson hopes this Kickstarter campaign makes history. Through it, Wilson will offer an unprecedented look into the making of the film and will encourage supporters to help determine what questions he asks, what content he films and even how the film is put together. Campaign supporters are allowed to experience far more than just watching a movie in 2014.
Click here to visit the Holy Ghost Kickstarter campaign page.