Dear Christian Filmmaker,
Every independent filmmaker is living a lie. How? The "Hollywood Elite" have crafted a cloud of mystery around their system, they own distribution, and the only way you can break in is by going to a major University, paying tens of thousands of dollars, or being born into a family that is already in "the system." It's called the "lottery" out in Hollywood. If you are a Christian, the cards are stacked even higher against you, because you are "dangerous," "closed minded," all sorts of names, but Jesus Christ tells us to spread the Good News and to save souls. There is a big numbing feeling when it comes to calling yourself Christian Filmmaker. Why? Marginalization. False information. The secular system has taken over (once) Jewish Hollywood.
You can go to Tinsel town, try your hardest, and the lucky sucker (out of a few million that gets in) is marketed to the rest of their life as how we can all make it big in Hollywood. The lucky trophy Actor or Director will never know exactly how the system works. They will never know the "secrets" of what made this famous. They will only know that the Masters told them they could be graced by the Studios and become wealthy beyond belief. There is a mystery for a reason. It is job security, protecting their precious legal property, and not letting anyone in just for the sake of it. It is a tight knit group of rich and famous holding on to whatever sells and they don't want you or me coming in and mucking it all up for them. Unfortunately, I believe the mucking has already started.
When Hollywood started there were six major Jewish families. They moved all they way over to the other side of America to get away from Edison and his abusive legal stranglehold on anyone that wanted to make films. Sound familiar? Edison did not want anyone just making movies and taking his monster share of what he called his creation. There is a case to be made that the Lumière brothers were the first to make a film, but Edison was a genius for taking peoples ideas and making them... his own. He refused to give these theater companies rights to air his films or to make their own. So those families packed up and left. They started something brand new, and New York fought them on everything. The system didn't want change.
These Jewish families would be the Founders of the greatest film studios in the history of the world. They were rich in faith, family values, and new death with a lot of abuse and racism. They wrote and shared movies that talked about these three major issues. They build little picture houses to share their films with the public and soon they had chains all over the country. This was the beginning of Hollywood. They controlled the films, the actors, the distribution, and the prices. Overtime they become so large that New York took a backseat to the West Coast.
Hollywood produced family friendly films, Bible stories, and made sure that their films were as marketable as possible for all ages. There was a day when studios were very tight on what was and was not allowed in the theaters. They had a faith, morals, and absolute belief in family time at the movies. Unfortunately, over time, the founders would die off, new blood would take their place, and the secular studio system rats would take over. They created a rating system so they could market nudity, sex, rough language, and tings not suitable for children. What they don't realize, til this day, is that all of that is marketed to children by commercials, posters, billboards, and even at the theaters. They should be ashames. Moves have become a commodity and a spectacle for the riches of it all. The Founders saw the funds, knew the business, but their were some lines they would not cross. New Hollywood doesn't have an understanding or a heart for families, morals, or for anything sacred. They are in it for the money. They want you out of their business.
There was a huge shake up when the U.S. Government split the Hollywood film studios and the teachers. The studios could no longer own the movie theater chains. Ticket sales would sky rocket over the decades as theater chain owners would scramble to make a buck at the concession stands. The price of food, drinks, tickets continue to go up as the studios (once again) start to take over the teachers in our homes, on our tables, on our phones. They are scrambling to take over everything and leave new filmmakers out. You know... the Filmmakers and Actors that haven't "made it big" because they refuse to let go of their morals and faith. We are the new "Old Hollywood," the vanguard, the dirty urchins what will storm the gates and bring down a monster so that everyone can have a shot at making their movies and distributing them to the world.
It uses to be (and still is a little) that young kid was wanting to aspire to be filmmakers (or actors) are told they have to go to Hollywood, New York, or go to some college that gets the in touch with the "who's who". It is somewhat all a gimmick. You can can't be a massive hit like Tom Cruise without being gobbled up by the machine. You see, you can do the rat race, go through the hoops, and possibly get in a door of a studio. but that is all what people tell you. You don't really see that happen every day. You have never really seen it in real life. You see it on television, on the stage of the Hollywood machine, and they tell you that is what happened. It is only words, promises from people you have never met, and the people that are saying all of this is paid by the Hollywood system.
For example, Good Will Hunting, written and starting Matt Daemon and Ben Afflick, this was not an over night success. They had Robbin Williams in this film, of all people! There was some money put into the production and payment of Actors. They had a great crew and machine behind that film, so when they took the Oscars by storm, the curtain had already been pulled over your eyes. Yes, these were two kids that made a film. Yes, they were very talented and deserved all the rewards, but no. this was all chosen by someone with funds and pull to give these two kids a Cinderella story in front of the whole world. It is all set up; it is all about the big machine selling you dreams.
The Hollywood system is slowing down and somewhat imploding itself now. With box office bombs, digital distribution taking over the theaters, rising prices and new gimmicks at the "Box Office" to keep people coming to big buildings with over prices everything, and with movies coming out into theaters the same day at iTunes, there is a new wind blowing. The System (Hollywood), the brokers of Entertainment, and the Elitists that have enjoyed their "we are the only ones that can do this" for so long, they have forgotten about a subculture of passionate storytellers. These little people; the peons have been prepping for decades to make their way into the homes of the viewers. They were never given a direct door until now.
Hollywood groupies are shaking with fear of the unknown; anxious to see the newbies at their doors. or better yet. their films right beside the two hundred dollar monster that bombed at the box office. They are angry. They are mad that you and I could have the power to write or own movies, cut ties with their all powerful breed, and make a new Tinseltown; a homegrown system like the days of old where it was not run by money makers that only wanting profit (it wasn't all about this) but by artists and their followings. Supporters of true art and that is what this book is about.
How are my writing and instruction going to help you navigate this new world?
I worked for years in Hollywood. I have worked for New York filmmakers, Los Angeles filmmakers, Atlanta TV Modules, and Nashville Artists. I have sat that the feet of some of the greatest Editors, Filmmakers, Musicians, and Actors. I have sat side by side with them, editing multimillion dollar projects, watched their unhappy lives as they went from one project to the next. They seemed never to be fulfilled (not really), and they always had a never edging saga of an "Artist without a true compass." I can say that even though Hollywood has a system in place that gives them complete access to you, your house, and your even phone. You can go to any store and see it marketed through blankets, lamps, cookware, and more. But, they do not have God; They do not know the secret to life, and that makes us fulfilled. They are doctors handing out medicine (media) for symptoms of a greater issue. They are entertainers, not real problem solvers.
You can be a problem solver.
What if you could make movies on a budget you could afford, make films that helped others, changed the world, and could support yourself on that dream? What if you could make one feature film a year, distribute it to the masses, and have enough funds to feed your family, put a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and be a truly fulfilled artist? The truth is that there are so many films out there, you have to know how to stick out. The truth is that you will have to work a 9 to a 5-day job and do your films on the side. But, if you catch a following, a support base, and you can speak to them and grow that support, then you are well on your way to being a full-time filmmaker.
Let's cast aside notions of grander, fame, and fortune for the joy and freedom of making our creative sparks a reality. Let's set sail into the winds of our minds, plant or feet firming into the world of filmmaking, and make entertainment that gives more than just a movie to our viewers. We want to give the Good News, parables, stories of a higher purpose. We want to change lives, help those in need, and give back from our art to those that need it the most. As a Christian Filmmaker, we are more than just the picture on the screen and the money in our bank accounts; We are predestined saints sent here to help those in need, and by finding our path, our supporters, and our distribution rout, sooner (rather than later) we can support our selves financially to make whatever films our hearts desire.
In this book, I want to set up a realistic step-by-step guide for you to follow. This is a cookbook for Christian filmmaking, but others that don't share our faith can use it as well. I just use my faith as the cornerstone for everything, and this is where we find our niche market (our supporters). Christians have to support your movie and then none Christians get wind of it through their Christian friends. It isn't that we make movies for Christians, but for Christians to use as a tool to help those in need.
I will give you A LOT of stories as examples, a guide for each step in filmmaking (the cookbook part), and websites and tools you can buy and use to make your films. You will also learn about the places you can get distribution FOR FREE and for pay. This book, above all else, is to empower the forgotten faith-based filmmakers. Gear up, write your stories and make your films. Don't ask anyone to do it. Just go out and find your path.
This book is for you. Let's begin.
I will be writing this book like I write a letter to a friend. These are notes I have taken over the past 20 years, and I am gifting them to you, so please read this book like a pen pal to a friend.
My wife, Miranda. You are the most brilliantly beautiful, positive, and faithful Daughter of God I know. God blessed me when he granted me the awesomeness of being your husband. Without you I would not have finished this book. I do all things to the Glory of God. I do it for you, our children, and for the love you constantly show me. You are without a doubt my soulmate; my dearest love. Thank you for supporting me, loving me, and raising me up in the times I needed it the most.
My son, Whitson Layne. You are my heir, my son, my bloodline. I write these books to give you my knowledge and to let you know how you can cary on the film and book writing legacy I have started. Praying to God and asking him to give me the courage to move forward so that my family has a roof over their heads, food on the table, and a future with Him and helping to save souls is my priority. All I do is for you and your mother. I love you unconditionally.
Mr. Len Sugar, my first Video Production teacher at the Art Institute of Atlanta. You may no longer be here with us, but I know you are yelling and screaming at horrible productions in spirit. Your vigor, loudness, and passion for getting things write drove me to perfectionism and created in me something that still rives me over a decade later. You were an amazing inspiration of a man. Someone stricken with illness, after illness, after illness, but your passion for life lives on. Thank you for your guidance and telling me everyone you knew about the industry. You helped so man succeed where others failed.
Mrs. Fran Burst, you have been a wonderful teacher and mentor throughout the years. When I was at AIA you inspired me to be something greater than I was. You documentary filmmaking forged into me like a wild fire and I fell in love with telling real stories about real people. My first documentary was because of your lessons that I found to be like breathing air. Documentary comes natural to me and it has to do with your teachings, examples in life, and your care for my hardships. You'r not only a teacher - you are a life long friend.
Mrs. Woods, who would have have thought I would be making a book! An actual book without many pictures (laugh out loud). It might not be the best English, I might not be able to count well, but I am a published author. You are to thank for this. You instilled into me a passion for telling stories, helping others, and doing what I love no matter what others think. You once told me that I was very imaginative and that I could go far in life. When all the other teachers in that grade told me otherwise, you were a light in a very dark time in my life. Thank you for your love and care. You are what teachers should be, through and through. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The filmmakers that are reading this. You are a true pilgrim in this way of filmmaking. Until you put these words into practice you will never know the power of these books. I am gifting all of my work, my knowledge, and step-by-step secrets to you now. Go and make good quality films for God. Make Disciples among men by stirring up the waters.
These books should never be used for fame. They should be used for saving souls. Though I live in reality and know these books will be used for personal gain, I know that their purpose (and only purpose) are to strive to make Disciples of Christian filmmkaers and then to go out and save many more souls with the films you learn to make, from these teachings.
Layne McDonald has been a certified TV and Film Avid/Final Cut/Premiere CC Editor, Producer, Director, Graphic Designer, Camera Operator, Cinematographer, Gaffer, Sound Recordist, and Distributor for over 18 years. His relentless work ethic has taken him from EWTN and TBN (religious TV networks) to working for the major studios in Hollywood, California.
He has studied under some of the most profound talents in Hollywood, including his mentor, Danny Greene (the Editor for Mel Brooks and Alfred Hitchcock). He has worked on films, such as: the Passion of the Christ, I Am David, Polar Express, City of Ember, and The Dark Knight Rises. He is now on a mission to build a Christian Film Studio while empowering new Christian Filmmakers to learn the art by making films, being mentored by him via books, podcasts, workshops, and working on his own films a volunteers.
Over the years he has worked on thousands of television shows, music videos, and films.
His goal is to update this book every year, for the foreseeable future, in order to give generations of Christian Filmmakers a tool they can use to 1) stake fear into Hollywood and control their own movies, 2) give faith-based artists a way to start out without spending tons of money on film schools, and 3) to create a massive surge of faith and family-friendly films in the market place, where (at this time) it is dominated by the opposite. He hopes this book is a corner stone to a lot of filmmakers and that we can change the landscape of filmmaking for glory of God.
Layne McDonald's personally funded films:
- Coming Home (2017)
- Making It LA (2014)
- Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament (2008)
His film studio is called Layne McDonald Ministries. Learn more at www.laynemcdonald.com.