Friday, August 24, 2012

2012 Reading Goals

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Lauren has read 34 books toward her goal of 75 books.

I joined the Goodreads 2012 reading challenge this year because I thought it would be fun to keep track of how many books I read. I originally started out with 50 books as my goal, but then by April I had it almost halfway done, so I upped it to 75.

And now look at me. Only 34 books in 8 months. I think I am failing.

Not that I've had any lack of books to read over the summer (and if I counted my CLEP books I'd have at least 10 more to add - but I don't really think they count). I just seem to have lost the motivation to actually sit down and read for more than an hour. Maybe I could blame The Hunger Games. After reading that fast-paced book at the beginning of the year it's kind of hard to get super involved in a fiction series.

Truthfully, though, I have no one to blame but myself. But I'm aiming to fix that. I've checked out quite a few books from the library, ranging from non-fiction (Psychology: a Beginner's Guide!) to half the Master and Commander series. Yeah, I didn't mean to check out all ten books at once, but I reserved them and they all came in at the same time, so... there you go.

I also have Mimus, a German book (translated, of course) given to me by my good friend Lindsey. That one should be fun.

On the bright side, I still have four months left in the year if I want to finish my 75-books goal. That's approximately ten books per month. That would be the whole Master and Commander series in two months. I think I can do this. What do you think?

Have you been keeping up with any reading goals this year? Ever had a dry spell in your reading? Any books to recommend to me? Have you read the Master and Commander series or Mimus?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Outside Hollywood

Outside Hollywood: The Young Christian's Guide to Vocational Filmmaking
Outside Hollywood: The Young Christian's Guide to Vocational Filmmaking by Isaac Botkin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cyprian of Carthage wrote "No salvation outside of the church." Today's film industry seems to share a similar sentiment - "no success outside of Hollywood."

But this book asks the question: Do aspiring Christian filmmakers need the Hollywood system in order to be successful artists?

This book was timely for me, since I have, in a sense, been asking myself those questions lately. Inside or outside Hollywood? Independent films are the way to go if you want control over your project - and want to get noticed. But a lot of screenwriting/filmmaking books I've read suggest using independent films as a bridge to Hollywood. Get noticed on a good indie film, and the next film you make could be the summer's biggest blockbuster!

In Outside Hollywood Isaac Botkin challenges this mentality, especially for Christian filmmakers.

"Films," he says "are not primarily an entertainment medium. They are weapons. If you understand that, then you are ready to pursue filmmaking as a vocation."

He makes the case for filmmaking as a weapon, and for the young aspiring filmmaker as a warrior. He includes a chapter on "training and qualifications" with questions such as "are you a leader or a follower?" "Are you weak in faith, or strong?"

If there's one thing you come away with after reading this book, it's that filmmaking is a serious occupation, with serious capacity to do good or evil. Stories are a big part of our culture, and those who write the stories have enormous influence.

Isaac Botkin also sees a dangerous Marxist and Communist influence in Hollywood today. Though I might be a little skeptical of some of his theories, I can certainly see that they have some truth to them. It only underscores the need for serious, moral filmmakers who aren't operating underneath the pressures and prejudices of Hollywood.

I've always known that stories were influential. I love stories. I've seen the power they have over me and over other people. This book only confirmed that for me. The storyteller is a teacher. That's not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

Thus, he urges Christian filmmakers to go "outside Hollywood" to tell their stories. In Hollywood, stories are inevitably changed. A director may have more control than a screenwriter, but it's the man with the money who ultimately decides the direction the story will go. Indie films have more freedom. (For Christian films, just think Sherwood Pictures.)

Finally, Isaac Botkin urges Christian filmmakers to tell stories full of truth and beauty, to turn away from the anti-hero model and give the audience heroes to admire. From the book:
"Your stories can teach the truth in every scene. You can show the negative consequences of bad behavior. You can show the proper roles of protagonist - the good guy - and the antagonist - the bad guy. Many films get it backward today, usually on purpose. You can have a purpose, too, for every scene and every character. Every virtue can be supported rather than vilified. See how gratifying it is to your audience to root for the good guys and boo the bad guys, for a change. When they clash, let the collision between good and evil be resounding. The losers need to lose instead of being lionized."
(This book was written in 2007, and today I see almost a return to heroic stories with comic book movies and fairytales coming back to the screen; but that's a blog post for another day.)

I would highly recommend this book, not only to aspiring Christian filmmakers, but to any storyteller, in any medium. Storytelling is a serious profession, with serious power. We need to be conscious of that power we wield, so that we can use it for good and not for evil.

And if that can be done better outside Hollywood, as the book suggests, then that's where you're going to find me.

What are your thoughts on Hollywood and the film industry? Have you ever thought of storytelling as a weapon? What positive influence do you want your stories to have? 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Storytelling as Apologetic


This is one of my new favorite quotes, and I just had to share it. 
Storytelling reflects the Christian God and His providential determination of the free acts of human beings. A screenwriter providentially creates characters based on the kind of story he or she desires to tell. Authors determine every single word, every single act, good and evil, of all their characters, down to the jot and tittle, sometimes working for hours on just the right turn of a phrase or subtle plot twist. Even events that seem like chance occurrences in a movie, like a freak car accident or the lucky throw of dice, are deliberately written in by authors to direct the story exactly where they want it to go. 
Yet when an audience watches the movie, we see characters freely acting and morally accountable for their actions in a world where some things appear to happen by chance. Our knowing that the characters and their stories are predestined by an author does not make them any less valuable or their stories any less meaningful. But this apparent free will and chance are shown by the end of the story to be parts of the ultimate self-revelation of the main characters and others—and that revelation was what the storyteller predestined in his orchestration of all the events. There is a plan to it all, even if the characters don’t know it at the time. 
Thus storytelling reflects the ultimate storyteller of all history, God Himself. In this way the act of storytelling itself becomes an apologetic.
- Brian Godawa, in a 2003 interview with Relevant Magazine 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Music in Moscow

As I mentioned in my post last week, I recently traveled to Moscow (Idaho, not Russia!) to attend the Christ Church Summer Music Camp.

Sadly enough, Idaho is only the third state I've ever been in. The other two are Washington and Oregon, although I don't know if Oregon really counts since I live there.

On the other hand, I don't know if being in Moscow entirely counts as being in Idaho, since Moscow is right on the border. I mean, we passed the "Welcome to Moscow" sign barely 5 seconds after we passed the "Welcome to Idaho" sign.

Idaho (or at least, all that I saw of it) is very green. Bright green. Not like Northwest Oregon's varied darker greens. No, Idaho is like a crayon-box, with the stripes of green and yellow on the hills. I couldn't get enough of the view, at first, especially from where we were staying. There was a certain spot that we would always stop at almost every time we drove to the school for the camp. You could see the hills stretching out before you as far as you could see. It was glorious.

The music camp itself was also fantastic. It was held at Logos School and is run and directed by Dr. David Erb. If Dr. Erb is one thing, it's enthusiastic about music.

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting from the music camp, but it's nothing near what it turned out to be. It was quite professional, actually. When we arrived at the school Monday morning we were given a binder full of music and a name tag.

I was very happy that everyone wore name tags. Being an introvert and all, I was afraid that I was going to be an invisible girl in a crowd of people who all knew each other. Turns out that there were actually quite a lot of people who didn't know each other, so the name tags were very useful. It's much easier to go up and talk to someone when you actually know their name. Although I kept forgetting that people could actually see my name, and when people to whom I'd never introduced myself would say "Hey, Lauren!" I would jump, point to myself, and ask "me?" before remembering why they knew my name.

After we were fitted out with our binders and name tags we were split up into three groups - the 1-3 grade, the 4-6 grade, and the 7-12 grade. Then we were sent off to separate rooms for voice placement.
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