Measuring Success: One Woman’s Counter-Cultural Path

ManyBeautifulThingsBy Laura Waters Hinson

As an independent filmmaker, I have the privilege of telling stories that you don’t often see coming out of the mainstream media or Hollywood studios. I relish the opportunity to work on projects that take risks—that shine a light on gems beneath unturned stones.

And yet, even I didn’t expect to find such a treasure as the woman I’ve spent the last few years uncovering. Perhaps the greatest unknown hero I’ve encountered, she has taught me about success in ways that couldn’t be more different than what our culture too often celebrates on magazine stands and social media.

In a time when instant gratification is the norm, it is easy to fall in the trap of exalting “self” and measuring success based on personal recognition. Yet during Women’s History Month, I am compelled by the life and vision of Lilias Trotter—a woman most have never heard of, but who is perhaps one of the greatest female artists of her time and whose undiscovered mark in women’s history teaches a beautiful lesson in defining success.

Born in the middle of the 19th century in London, Trotter had an uncommon eye on the world. In an era when women were thought incapable of producing high art, Trotter broke down walls—persuading one of the leading art critics of her time, John Ruskin, to believe she could be “the greatest living painter and do things that would be immortal.”

If her art and her contribution as a challenger of cultural bias against female talent were her only legacies, Trotter would be worthy of mention in the annals of women’s history. But art was only the beginning of her story.

Art was Trotter’s talent but it wasn’t her deepest passion. At the height of her work as an artist, she found a strong desire instead to serve marginalized women and children in the then dangerous, isolated world of North Africa. She gave up a dream of artistic success to follow her passion to serve in Algeria as a single woman in the late 1800s.

Trotter’s stunning decision bids us to question the true meaning of success. Could you and I follow an unglamorous conviction at the risk of sacrificing personal wealth and fame? With her artistic legacy on the line, Trotter chose to relentlessly follow her calling, which meant choosing obscurity over celebrity.

Now, Trotter is finally gaining some recognition for both her creative genius and her dedicated life of service. Many Beautiful Things, my film about Trotter, invites the world to experience a life well-lived through her journey. Nearly 100 years after Trotter’s death, her legacy continues to reach untold numbers of people. 

After encountering the character of Trotter, it has changed the way I see my art, and in turn, the way I view success. This transformation has occurred by studying her remarkable viewpoint:

“Measure thy life by loss, not by gain. Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth. For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice. And he who suffers most, has most to give.” (Lilias Trotter)

Trotter did not judge her worth by the number of people she reached in her lifetime or the number of her paintings that hung in galleries. She teaches me to trust more in what I believe I am called to do, regardless of the outcomes. I do not believe the takeaway from Trotter’s life is that our work should be obscure—I believe what matters is the posture towards our work.

So this Women’s History Month, I want to celebrate the example and the contributions made by this powerful woman who teaches men and women alike to measure their success not by the number of eyes and ears that see their work, but by their character and resolve to chase after meaning and true fulfillment.

laurahinsonLaura Waters Hinson is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and mother of two from Washington, DC. Her work spans a variety of subjects, from street vendors in Washington, DC to female entrepreneurship in Rwanda. Her documentary, As We Forgive, won the 2008 Student Academy Award for best documentary. Her latest film, Many Beautiful Things, is now available to purchase on DVD. For more information, visit manybeautifulthings.com

Risen: Not Just Another Bible Movie

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A scene from the new movie, Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes.

There are films that are entertaining. There are films that are soul-stirring. And there are films that are faithful to the source material (when the source material is the Bible, this third category becomes an important one for many believers). It is rare to experience a film that checks one or two of these boxes, let alone all three. Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes and opening in theaters February 19, is a film that definitively inhabits all three categories—it delights the eyes, moves the soul and weaves a story that beautifully balances accuracy and artistry.

To attempt to specify why the film is entertaining (a term with subjective definitions, to be sure), I’ll begin by saying that Risen is masterly crafted—the directing, the writing, the acting—and this craftsmanship enhances the overall experience. While watching the film, I was transported to Jerusalem, Golgotha and Galilee; I felt the sun warm my neck as the swirling sands of the Judaean Desert stuck to my skin and clothes; I noticed my pulse racing at the palpable tension between the Romans, Jews and followers of Yeshua. I watched as actors embodied their characters: Joseph Fiennes as the hardened, skeptical, gladiatorial Clavius; Peter Firth as the exasperated and indulgent Pontius Pilate; and Tom Felton as Lucius, an innocent, ambitious aid whose naiveté succumbs to the merciless lessons of his mentor. Add to these things the compelling plotline of Yeshua’s missing body? Yes, the film more than qualifies as entertaining.

In addition to its entertainment value, Risen is deeply moving and powerful. As a Christian, I’ve grown familiar with the biblical narrative in general and with the Gospels’ accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection in particular. But, Risen is told from Clavius’ perspective, and he is a Roman Military Tribune who worships Mars, the god of war. This juxtaposition is exquisitely manifested early in the film during the crucifixion scene. When Clavius arrives at Golgotha by order of Pilate, he has little reason to see Yeshua as significant. Yet, as the scene unfolded, I was moved to tears thinking of both the crucified Christ (the agony of defeat) and the resurrected Christ (the glory of victory). After this scene, we continue to journey with Clavius as he seeks the truth. His unique perspective—that of a nonbeliever encountering the inexplicable—makes for a truly powerful film, one that reminds believers of the hope of the resurrected Yeshua, and one that engages and challenges nonbelievers with the story of Yeshua’s death and resurrection.

Another area in which Risen excels is its filmmakers’ commitment to authenticity. Of course, certain liberties were taken to broaden the scope of the story and to deliver a version of events from Clavius’ point of view, but the film showcases people, places, events and passages that are found in Scripture in a manner consistent with the intention of Scripture. We meet the disciples, Mary Magdalene (played by Maria Botto), the Centurion and tomb guards; we see the influence of Rome in Jerusalem; we hear words taken directly from the Gospels. And we are immersed in the historical context of Jerusalem during the weeks following the resurrection. If you’ve avoided “Bible movies” in the past due to the potential distortion of Scripture, I’d encourage you to give Risen a try. The film’s respect for and faithfulness to the biblical narrative is evident.

Risen opens in theaters nationwide on February 19. It’s a film for a variety of audiences—history buffs, movie buffs, believers, nonbelievers. It’s a film for people wrestling with doubt and seeking truth; for the weary and exhausted, but also for the joyful and hopeful. Risen is compelling, engaging and challenging, and it’s definitely worth the price of admission.

Mary Lasse is a media consultant and freelance writer. She lives in the greater Chicago area with her husband and two children.

Image courtesy of Sony Films.

Coach Lad: The Real Story of the Coach Portrayed in ‘When The Game Stands Tall’

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In his 33 years at De La Salle High School in California, Bob “Coach Lad” Ladouceur became one of the most successful high school coaches in the nation. His 399-25-3 record ranks the most victories in California history, including 29 North Coast Section championships, 17 California State championships and the longest winning streak in the history of high school sports. Five different times, both USA Today and Fox Sports Net voted De La Salle the No. 1 team in the nation; the Spartans finished in the Top 20 every year for the past two decades.

Three times USA Today named Coach Lad National High School Coach of the Year. He was the first NFL National High School Coach of the Year, from among 1,200 nominees. In 2011, he was inducted into the Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame.

Under Coach Lad’s leadership, De La Salle posted win streaks of 34, 44 and 151 games–the latter a national record. More than 80 of Coach Lad’s players received college scholarships; 10 went on to play in the NFL.

Interestingly, Coach Lad’s coaching philosophy and style have remained practical and down to earth. He stresses superior physical conditioning, mastery of football basics, and total commitment to team success, and he’s known for translating lessons from football into daily life. His ability to instill the fundamentals of the sport showed clearly as his players consistently outperformed teams that far outsized them.

Bob first joined the De La Salle school staff as a full-time religious studies teacher, an assignment he held throughout his coaching years and continues today in the wake of his remarkable coaching career.

Check out When The Game Stands Tall in theaters today.

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Post sponsored by When the Game Stands Tall

Watch the Trailer for ‘When The Game Stands Tall’

When the Game Stands Tall opens in theaters everywhere Friday.

What Makes a Great Sports Movie?

What makes a great sports movie?

Is it passion?

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Chariots of Fire

Or the invincible spirit of a dreamer?

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Rudy

 

Is it the courage to get back up?

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Rocky

Or the heart of an unexpected champion?

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Seabiscuit

Or is it all of the above?

Check out When The Game Stands Tall coming to theaters August 22.

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5 Best Coaches in Football Movies

5. Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) in Friday Night Lights

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4. Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) in Remember the Titans

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3. Coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pachino) in Any Given Sunday

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2. Coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) in We Are Marshall

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1. Coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) in Invincible

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Check out Jim Caviezel as Coach Bob Ladouceur in When The Game Stands Tall

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Brought to you by our sponsor When the Game Stands Tall.

American Bible Challenge – Watch Host Jeff Foxworthy Talk About His Personal Faith


American Bible Challenge airs on the Game Show Network (GSN) Thursdays at 8/7central

This post is part of a promotional campaign for the American Bible Challenge

Video: Watch the Trailer for ‘Heaven is For Real’

This post is shared from our partners in support of Heaven is For Real.

Movies: What Every Dad Should See

By Phil Boatwright

This was first posted in the Baptist Press

“Grace Unplugged” is the tale of a former rock star’s 18-year-old prodigal daughter who wants to find her own fame.

Grace Trey, portrayed by A.J. Michalka of “Super 8” and “The Lovely Bones” lineage, is a member of her dad’s praise and worship team, but the gifted singer and musician heeds the call of the secular music world. After she gets the music break of a lifetime and is thrust into the “real world,” her faith is quickly put to the test.

The film’s premise is certainly timely, as in reality we see former teen cable network stars forced to change their image for relevancy in today’s pop-culture that demands change over talent.

The makers have updated the prodigal son parable by changing the lead’s gender, and creating a father in need of as many lessons as his wayward child. The story is set in the music world, allowing Michalka to make full use of all her entertainment talents. She’s best known for her singing career as half of the duo Aly & AJ, renamed 78Violet.

Actress Shawnee Smith, who has personally tasted the bitter and sweet of show business, portrays in Grace Unplugged a loving Christian wife and mother. While the film focuses more on a father/daughter relationship, it also explores the downside of fame.

Smith too expresses hope that daughters across America see the movie.

“Somebody brought up Miley Cyrus last night. I hope she sees the movie,” Smith said. “I don’t know how she could watch it and not see how that world can molest your life. What’s dead somehow looks shiny. I remember being there. I relate to this story. I was in a rock band. I know that world.

“You feel [in the movie] the power of it. You quickly get onboard with that illusion,” Smith said. “And by film’s end, Grace sees what’s real and what’s truly satisfying. I hope all the Miley Cyruses see this film.”

The role is unique to Smith’s career, shaped by “Becker,” “Saw,” “Saw 2,” and “Easy Prey.”

“I was drawn to the film right away from reading the script. I wept,” Smith said. “There’s real substance to it. I just wanted to be a part of this movie. I loved the main character. I would be so happy for my daughter to be this woman. And I’m finally doing a movie she could actually see.”

Grace Unplugged is not afraid to mention the name Jesus. Perhaps most films do that, but here His name is not uttered in anger, but rather mentioned as a centerpiece in several characters’ spiritual lives. I’m sure this is the icing on the cake for devout Christian Michalka, to be the star of a movie meant to honor God, strengthen the body of Christ, and witness to members of an industry caught up in the Me-ism of celebrity.

The movie attempts to reveal the underbelly of the music industry, but in a family-friendly way. It adds a religious component, undoubtedly a real-life reality for former church singer Cyrus.

At a recent press junket in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to meet the movie’s writer and director Brad Silverman and its cast. What a pleasant surprise to discover that the film’s star, director and the producer are all followers of Christ, their openness concerning their faith deeply affecting other cast and crew.

The film’s faith connection is endearing and rare, Michalka said.

“Usually when I read a script, I look to see how I feel about the role, what drives the character. But with this script, it was really the faith behind it. And when I met Brad Silverman, and seeing his love for God and his passion for this film, it was so moving to me,” Michalka said. “I actually came home from the interview and cried. I was overwhelmed. It was so cool to be in a meeting in the dead center of Hollywood, but it had nothing to do with Hollywood. It had to do with the Lord. That’s rare.”

The film is more about light than darkness, Silverman said.

“I don’t want to glorify sin. I wanted it to be a heart issue. This girl has a heart change. She makes an intelligent decision for her. I didn’t want it to be about ‘how dark can I get this girl to go?'” Silverman said. “This is a coming-of-age story of a girl who has to wrestle with her heart, not a story on the evils of Hollywood. But I had to ask myself, ‘How am I going to tell this story in a PG way?’ Some people will say I didn’t go dark enough, but I don’t apologize for that.”

Kevin Pollak, who portrays a music agent/promoter, said focusing on the dark would cheapen the film.

“It cheapens [Grace Trey’s] decision and the audience’s experience if the music industry and her career represent hedonistic values. If it’s a true opportunity, a life opportunity that’s being experienced by her, then how much more difficult is that decision to choose family first? And faith?” Pollak said. “It’s only when given true opportunity that those decisions are more difficult to make. You just cheapen it all with a stereotypical dark side. It’s just too easy for her to say ‘What was I thinking? I’ve fallen prey to the demons,’ as opposed to ‘That’s what I thought I wanted.'”

Grace’s lesson in living her dreams leads to reconciliation with her father, her God, and her family, Pollak said.

One more theme that runs throughout the film is the question of “borrowed faith,” noted by producer Russ Rice.

“I hope the movie leads kids to examine themselves and their faith,” Rice said. “Do they own their faith, or is it merely borrowed from their parents?”

The film features the acting or feature film debuts of three music stars: Christian singer Jamie-Grace, American Idol Season 10 Finalist Pia Toscano, and an appearance by renowned Christian artist/songwriter and Grammy Award® winner Chris Tomlin.

Grace Unplugged will be released in theaters Oct. 4. For more information about the film and the companion book, “Own It” by Michael & Hayley DiMarco, visit http://www.graceunplugged.com/resources
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In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org. He is also a regular contributor to “The World and Everything in It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.


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