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The Biola Media Conference – Through the Eyes of A Chinese Christian Journalist

The 16th Annual Biola Media Conference was held April 30, 2011 at the CBS Studios in Studio City, California.

 

Wendy Click with with veteran Christian filmmaker, Ken Wales

The Biola Media Conference is an amazing event! Attending this conference shows a way for people to become missionaries for Jesus in the public media!

This event brought together film producers, media consultants, writers, actors, photographers, art directors, marketing experts; in short some of the media industry’s top authorities of the world.

Amazingly, ordinary Christians who are interested in media, along with many Hollywood filmmakers, directors and actors, gathered together and humbly shared with each other different ideas and ways of sharing God’s grace in the media.

This year’s theme was: “Beyond Digital.”

In China we Christians are still fervently praying just to have a Christian magazine, but in the United States, Christians have reached the digital age!

 


In the opening general assembly Jack Hafer, Chair of Biola’s Cinema and Media Arts Department, opened in prayer and Phil Cooke, writer and media consultant, launched the opening of the conference.

The first speaker was Kevin Kelly founder and chief editor of Wired Magazine. He is also author of the best-selling book “New Rules for the New Economy,” and many other landmark books and articles. His writings have appeared in many countries.

It was so amazing to me to learn that Kevin has no university degree, but has been so powerful and successful in text and media and has made such outstanding contributions.

He talked about how everything is changing faster and faster. There are TV screens everywhere and they are starting to do more than advertise. We see them, but now they are watching us! They are everywhere and they react to us!

Fascinating seminars covered the subjects of: How to Host Film Festivals, Successful Visual Effects, Removing Barriers to Effective Media in the Church, How to Become a Successful Director or Actor, The Soul of the Film Plot and Story Creation, Hollywood Finance – How to Make Money in Movies, How to Sell Your Media Products and finally, The Basis of Successful Movies – Faith.

During one of the breaks, as I was trying to get a drink of water, I said “hello” to two brothers who are twins. Brian and Brandon are now my new friends. They write music. They were very interested in my testimony as I shared with them how I find Christ after listening to Christian radio from Hong Kong in my home, and I encouraged them to be holy believers and only please God. I told them many young people in China know so little and many of them ask, “Jesus and Christ – how do they know each other?”

I encouraged them to someday go to China and help young people there make Christian music.

This conversation with the two brothers made me think. For 10 years I’ve been living in the United States. I have discovered that if someone works hard here anyone can have a successful life. In China even young people who work very, very hard, still cannot be successful. There is so much opportunity living in the United States. Everyone can gain genuine talent, all can become brilliant.

Over the years, I have been complaining about the U.S. Chinese church that it is not spiritual. I often wanted to leave the United States because I couldn’t find spiritual churches. But this conference was very spiritual and has given me a lot of hope. God is still in power in the United States. The United States, with its spiritual and intellectual insight, may indeed continue to be the world’s leader. God gave me a humble heart, to look at other people with more honor than myself.

During another break, I realized so many famous actors, movie directors and producers were walking right in front of me but I didn’t even recognize who they were! I said to myself, I need to watch more movies next year so that I will know who these people are! I exchanged business cards with so many people anyway!

The last general assembly featured an interview with Sean Astin. He played the leading role in “Rudy” a movie about World War II bomber crews in Europe, but is best known for his part in the Lord of the Rings movie as protagonist Samwise (Sam) Gamgee.

 

Sean Astin

Before the interview, we saw more than a dozen film clips from Lord of the Rings as Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo try to return the ring.

In one scene at the beginning of their journey, Sam abruptly stops. Frodo asks him, “What is the matter?” Sam replies, “If I go one more step I’m going farther than I’ve ever gone before. I’m leaving the Shire.” He was expressing his own weakness to Frodo. If I go one step further, I’m leaving my home far away. To complete this task he would need to leave his people and the life he knew and go to a place he doesn’t know and a risky future. Encouraged by Frodo, Sam took the next step. He was acting out for all of us, courage in our own weakness. All the audience burst into applause. Yes, we are weak, but we can be better than our own weakness, forgetting self, to reach farther and higher.

As a few hundred brothers and sisters applauded, Sean Astin, playfully jumped onto the interview stage. Bowing to the applause, Sean, tall, handsome and although middle-aged, his childlike screen characteristics emerged and the “Sam” of the Lord of the Rings was not too different from Sean Astin! His pure and honest face was exactly the same.

Sean Astin was born and raised in beautiful Los Angeles. His parents were also in Hollywood.

In the interview he disclosed many details about The Lord of the Rings film. Every prop, costume, makeup, facial expression, literally everything that reached the scene had to be perfect. The shooting and preparatory work was extremely demanding. The director would not even arrive at the scene until everything was in place and everything was absolutely flawless.

On one occasion, Sean Astin thought he had done a perfect performance, but the director said, “I do not believe you.” This caused him to deeply rethink how he played his parts and his approach to acting. He did it again and again and again until the director said, “Now I believe you.” Sometimes the expression of a few seconds on the screen, may take actors hours to perform – one of the “joys” non-actors can only imagine.

At times the interview was also funny. Sean Astin said over and over again, “New Zealand is so beautiful, you all should go on holiday to New Zealand.”

He offered advice to actors. Everyone needs to provide quality performance but yet, actors, screenwriters, directors and others need to insist on receiving both respect and the right to be fully heard by investors and producers while interviewing as well as in planning sessions.

British writer JRR Tolkien’s epic masterpiece “Lord of the Rings” now made into a movie by the same name, was made great in part by Sean Astin playing the loyal, brave, strong, faithful and loving friend. “Sam” reminds me of Jonathan in the Bible, having a pure and noble heart, selfless, generous, upright, kind, brave and gentle – the perfect man. Oh, Sam the kind! I say thank you Sam (Sean Astin!)

Ossie Mills, CEO & Managing Partner, ‘King and Olaf’ led us in the closing prayer.

But the day was not over!

 

Noah Hamilton brother of Bethany Hamilton of ‘Soul Surfer’

Right outside, I found Noah Hamilton brother of Bethany Hamilton of “Soul Surfer” and “Heart of a Soul Surfer.” Please let me explain:

For the last four years, I have participated in the Christian Movieguide® Awards Gala as a reporter. Movieguide® is organized and directed by Dr. Ted Baehr and through its newsletter, press releases and e-mails anyone can gain information about good films that have not yet been released to the public. Just go to www.MovieGuide.org and sign up! A few days before, I received a text message from Dr. Baehr telling that there is a movie called “Soul Surfer” that it is a real life story. As I first watched the trailer I burst into tears.

An American girl, 13 years of age, who lives in the Hawaiian Islands, loved to surf and was working hard in surfing competition, when suddenly a shark attack ruthlessly bit off her entire left arm. I cried but I also wanted to laugh. Why? Because she never stopped trusting God.

Here’s my interview with Noah Hamilton:

Wendy: You are born in a Christian family. When this unfortunate thing happened to your sister what was your first reaction? Why wasn’t there any complaint to God?

Noah: Of course, we are very frightened, and do not understand why such things come to our family. We also were very angry. But my sister was very calm. When she woke up in the hospital, she was safe. She immediately thought: God must have a good plan for me.

Wendy: Oh, I am so surprised. This must be wonderful and must be from the Holy Spirit. What about the Church? How did they deal with it?

Noah: The church gave us a lot of help. Many Christians prayed for us. Many wrote cards and so comforted us. Many families helped us during this difficult time.

Wendy: There are many disabled people in China. Survival is difficult. United States is completely different. As a Christian, how are we to help these disabled people?

Noah: You should always maintain a lover’s passion. Love God and love people. Yes, freedom of worship is here in the United States and health care and welfare is so good, but you have to remember, although some are disabled, they are only disabled in some part of the body. They like the peaceful life of ordinary people, and some even make a great contribution to society.

I was so amazed with my interview with Noah Hamilton the real brother of Bethany Hamilton. I learned from Noah that his sister went back out into the water to surf only 3 weeks after losing her arm! She still had bandages on. This is unbelievable! Most Chinese cannot imagine. For me this is very hard to imagine.

The situation of disabled Christians in China and the situation of disabled Christians in the United States is completely different. But now I know it is true that disabled people in both countries can do great things for God.

Then Sean Astin came out and was willing to sign autographs and pose for pictures. People were screaming and cheering. He sat at a table and I stood in a long line. I was excited to see so many happy people around him. It was almost my turn and someone said, get ready to give him your business card. Why? Would he contact me?

It was my turn. I waved to him and he waved to me. I said to him, “Thank you my dear brother in the Lord.” Sean looked up and said a string of Japanese! “I am Chinese. I’m Chinese,” I said. Sean immediately had a clever response, “ni hao, ni hao, xie xie!” Hello Hello, thank you, thank you, in Chinese! “I was in Shanghai, China on Easter the year before last.”

“This is my business card,” I said, presenting it with both hands. Shawn gave a serious look and said, “Oh you are beautiful!” “Oh, good! We can minister to Chinese! “Wonderful,” he said, and very carefully put my card into his jacket pocket.

“Please say something to the Chinese Christians.” Sean gave a playful turning of the head to the camera and said: “Hello, good luck.”

“Chinese Christians are waiting for you Sean!” But there were scores of other people wanting to take pictures and get autographs. It is not an easy thing to be a movie star. Oh, the hardships behind celebrities.

God bless you Sean.

A final highlight for me was when I met veteran filmmaker Ken Wales, Executive Producer of the critically acclaimed and award-winning CBS Television series Christy and the producer of “Amazing Grace: The Story of William Wilberforce.”

To meet so many Christians who are using their skills for God was so inspiring for me. I can’t wait for next year’s conference.


 

Wendy Click is a Chinese Christian now living in Southern California with her American husband Ken Click. She is deeply involved in ministering through digital media and radio and she, and her husband, are both board members of ASSIST Ministries.


 

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