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Summer 2003 | Volume 26, Number 3 | Features

The Los Angeles Film Studies Center

Influencing Hollywood From the Inside Out

WHEN THE LOS ANGELES Film Studies Center (LAFSC), a program of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, opened in 1991, its goal was to influence the content of Hollywood films. But it wasn’t long before the founders — including James Chapman of the Seattle Pacific University Theatre Department — concluded that influencing content began with influencing the people who control the content. Today, LAFSC’s goal is to prepare Christian professionals for a high-impact presence in the film industry.

“The Hollywood experience has been a blessing as we and our students watch God at work,” says Doug Briggs, director of LAFSC. “It’s exciting to be part of what he is doing in this terribly influential medium.”

Located within a few miles of Warner Brothers, Universal, NBC and The Walt Disney Studios, LAFSC has close to 150 of its former students working in the movie and television industries. Melanie Sellers Knox, a LAFSC graduate now completing her theatre degree at SPU, took a job with New Line Cinema in 1999. One of her assignments as a post-production coordinator was to watch each of the popular “The Lord of the Rings” movies more than 20 times to ensure the consistency of color and sound.

“The requirements were stringent,” says Knox. “Security for the films was very tight, and perfection was required in everything we did. It was a delight to work so closely with such a monumental film project and the people behind it.”

She believes strongly that Christians belong in Hollywood. “They keep other people in film thinking. Christians in film serve as a reminder that the values expressed in those flickering images do matter.”

Last year, two Seattle Pacific students — Ben English and Joshua Paget — were selected for the intense, one-semester LAFSC program, designed for university juniors and seniors. They were taught by working film-industry professionals. And like every student there, they earned semester credits through a nonpaying internship with filmmakers, agents or those involved in film production and distribution.

English interned at Panavision and worked with the camera equipment he hopes one day to operate. Paget, an SPU English major, is interested in screenwriting. During his internship with Big Idea Productions, creators of the popular "Veggie Tales" characters, he read scripts submitted by hopeful freelance writers. “It encouraged me in my own writing,” he says, “but I recognized that it is easier to critique than to produce quality.”

Paget enjoyed the LAFSC faculty members, who help students view themselves as on a mission to engage the Hollywood culture. “We learned how to enter the culture and not offend it, how to assimilate ourselves in the hope that we can influence Hollywood from the inside out.”

Briggs says the project is working. “We sense a spiritual emptiness that has grown in Hollywood, particularly since 9/11. There is a search for meaning that is making more people open to the Gospel. We’re also encouraged by the growing national ministry of people praying for those working in Hollywood. We know we have more hope for change through prayer than through boycott.”


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