Hollywood of the Midwest

I spent last week in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which I jokingly call “the Hollywood of the Midwest.”  My publisher, based in that city, was filming a video series on my book that will release in November called Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News?  (When people ask me what the new book is about, I give an answer like, “Why Christians are so unpopular and what, if anything, we should do about it.”)

CIMG0023Now back at my desk, I’m struck by the contrast between shooting a video and my normal life of staring at a computer screen all day.  A few observations:

  • There’s a lot of standing around in film production.  On the first day, the crew worked four hours to get a film clip less than fifteen minutes long.
  • Acting is surprisingly hard work.  Hollywood stars may be overpaid, but if you’ve ever attempted it, you realize how hard it is to “perform” with the pressure of time and expense riding on your every word.  The challenge is to seem natural in an equipment-crammed setting that is glaringly artificial.
  • At least you’re not alone.  Our low-budget production team employed eight to ten people to manage three cameras, lights, sound, sets, and a teleprompter, not to mention a director and producer.  And weeks beforehand other crew members had worked to prepare five different set locations.
  • Men ought to pause at least once a month and give thanks that society doesn’t expect us to wear makeup.
  • CIMG0045Filming runs according to Murphy’s Law.  If I flubbed a word, it was always the last word of a paragraph, making us back up and repeat the sequence.  The same principle applies to bulbs that pop, fuses that blow, memory cards that fill, and camera batteries that give out—they always happen at the most inconvenient times.  And woe to the “gofer” who drops a Coke can or sneezes during a take.
  • The digital revolution saves muscles.  Shoulder-mounted cameras that used to weigh fifty pounds have been replaced by sleek new models not much larger than a consumer SLR.  Look for skinnier cameramen in the future.

What I like best about this whole unreal process is that it gets people to study books in a group.  Four of my books have a “video curriculum,” and I regularly hear from readers who encounter the topics I write about in a church or home setting, with the opportunity to discuss, debate, and question my own conclusions with other people around them.  It makes writing less of a monologue and more of a dialogue.  So I guess I’ll keep putting on makeup and standing around for a few days when a new book comes out.

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5 Responses to Hollywood of the Midwest

  1. Dan says:

    I think you might find this article of some interest as it relates with prayer and some academic perspectives on this subject:


  2. Greg Denholm says:

    P.P.S. Sorry, meant to say that I don’t have an e-book reader. Was it ever released as a printed book? I can’t find it anywhere. Thanks Philip.

    Greg, No, there is no hard copy version, only e-book (which, by the way, you can read on any P.C. or Apple computer with a free app from Amazon). However, much of the content of that e-book will appear in Vanishing Grace.

  3. Greg Denholm says:

    Hi Philip,

    I’m interested in the unofficial subtitle of your book, “Why Christians are so unpopular and what, if anything, we should do about it.” I am in the uncommon position of attending a conservative church (formed as the result of a liberal-versus-evangelical split a few years before I joined it) and working full-time in a youth health setting defined by liberal/socialist values. It’s a jolt, passing from one world into the other and then back again on such a regular basis. I’m waiting for someone from either world to corner me and ask some probing questions about my involvement in the “other” world. I’m continually surprised that I’m on the leadership team of my church, and I’m just as frequently surprised that my liberal colleagues, who know I’m a Christian, regard me so positively. (Recently, a tract titled The Gospel of Jesus Christ was found in our reception area, and the manager threw it in the bin, saying, “We don’t need to be promoting that sort of thing around here.”) There is a worrying disconnect between those two worlds—a chasm that neither seems interested in closing. I wrestle with a sense of responsibility that God has placed me where I am in order to be the bridge—but nobody’s crossing it yet. Whilst each of these polar opposites represents some of the truth, neither has the whole truth—and yet neither wants to be told that. The disconnect continues…

    P. S. Just wondering how to get a copy of your book, Christians and Politics: Uneasy Partners. Also, how are you going with your memoir? It seems like it’s a long term project.

  4. Sue Smith says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post concerning the Hollywood of the Midwest. Thank you for taking the time to visit our store & staff on your way out of town. It was indeed a pleasure to meet you and Janet! Please stop in again and spend some down time browsing the used books.

    God bless you as you continue to use your gift of writing to ‘dialogue’ with the church!

    Sue Smith
    Baker Book House

  5. Natashia says:

    Had a good laugh! Look into the bright light, and don’t squint!!! At least you’re not working with children or animals.

    Sounds like a timely book. In Australia, Christians are treated as if they have rabies in the Media. Any ‘good’ is ignored, and anything bad is shrieked from the mountaintops. I keep trying to remind myself that it’s all about being authentic at the grass roots, and leave the rest up to the Boss.

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