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Handling Antagonists in Social Media: Our Public Voice

July 25, 2017

angerIn many places where we seek to love and serve people, there are groups and individuals who oppose us and our message, no matter how much love we pour into our content. One friend of mine says it’s not unusual to get 90% negative comments on his posts that are intended to speak of peace for people in his region.

It may be self-evident to you, but I have to remind myself that my response to antagonistic comments could be a powerful influence to everyone in my audience, not merely an answer to a hater.

Imagine you’re in a public place like a shopping mall or university center. A person spots you from across the room as you are discussing something important with a new friend. They make a beeline toward you, yelling out angry comments and insults before they even reach you. It’s a tense moment. At least one person seems to be spoiling for a fight, right there. How would you respond?

Many of us are naturally inclined to avoid any kind of confrontation, especially a direct one like this. We would try our best to just back away, apologizing, fearful, and praying for others to intervene to cool down the situation. Others of us are very bold, risk-takers, and would step up ready to embrace a challenge (hopefully, with fists un-clenched.)

angry (1)In social media, I have encountered such situations. A number of years ago I was developing a feature film project in Latin America and I was using early Facebook and other social media to raise awareness of the project. A certain gentleman, who lived on the other side of the world, decided that we were evil people, exploiting the indigenous people, etc. (We were making the film at the request, and in partnership with, an indigenous group in the Amazon.) He didn’t know me, but he attacked me, and threatened to rally people in the country to shut us down.

Now, this was Latin America, so things never go according to plan in the best of times, and I had no real concerns that he could have any clout. My partner thought I should just block and ignore him. I thought I’d at least try to engage with him to see if I could convince him that we were OK.

happy copy

It became an interesting conversation for me, though I don’t think my arguments were very convincing for him at first. He did cool down and kind of disappear after a while. But, I did get to know something about him, his own past and personal issues that seemed to drive his anger. So, I felt it was fruitful. He never went further with his threats and actions, and it all basically blew over.

Ironically, a year or so later, he contacted me again. He was raising money for a project to help the indigenous group for which he was an advocate (in East Asia) and actually asked for my advice and help with his own project. It was a crazy turnabout, but I believe it was because I treated him with respect and tried to understand where he was coming from when he was attacking us. I pray for his project.

Of course, it could have gone much worse. Sometimes, and you may not be able to discern this in advance, it is truly fruitless or even dangerous to engage much. However, in this case, I felt it was worth it.

Now, in my story, all of this deeper engagement was through email, so it wasn’t public. However, if it had taken place in “public” on a comment thread on some social media site, I would have to discern the value of the engagement.

peace-talksMy theory is that, in a situation like this, where we try to have a conversation with an antagonistic person, our comments may be more for others in your audience who are “eavesdropping” on your conversation, than they will be for the person with whom you are conversing.  We can’t know if there could be some softening if our gentle speech turns away their anger.

I often get wise advice from people who say it’s not worth the engagement. But, as my original example in the shopping mall, I may also consider that there are many more people with whom I’m communicating. Anyone within “earshot” could also hear my arguments and my tone, and it could be beneficial to them as they assess just who I am.

Am I a good or bad person?

Does what I am saying in answer to common objections sound reasonable?

Do I sound like they could have a safe conversation with me?

This indirect communication could form an important part of someone else’s journey.

What do you think? Have you had this kind of experience on social sites? How should we handle people who oppose us in public? Are there principles or “rules” we should follow?

  • Tom

 

 

 

Image credits:

Icons made by [https://www.freepik.com] from www.flaticon.com

Icons made by [https://www.flaticon.com/authors/epiccoders] from www.flaticon.com

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4 Reasons Why Homeschoolers Should Study Screenwriting (and get English Comp credit for it.)

May 25, 2017

If you have a budding homeschool writer or filmmaker, they should be learning to write screenplays. Screenplays represent a unique literary genre that forms the foundation of one of the most influential forms of art and entertainment in our world today, movies and other visual stories.


I’ll begin with two quotes:

“Film is the literature of our age”  AND  “Those who tell the stories shape the culture”

script-tight

The first is by Steven Spielberg. I’ll reveal who said the second one in a moment.

These two quotes remind us how influential and pervasive stories through film have become in our culture. No one can deny the influence of these stories, whether told on a cinema screen or a mobile phone. My 30+ years as a professional filmmaker have convinced me of the importance of raising up a new generation of filmmakers and writers who will take us into the future.

So here are the four main arguments I’ll make to encourage you to consider screenwriting as an important field of study for your creative homeschooled student.

  • Screenplays are a unique literary genre, deserving disciplined study.

  • Screenplays make use of the major elements of all good creative writing.

  • Screenwriting is the foundation of a highly influential cultural expression, movies.

  • Christians can make better movies.

First, as Mr. Spielberg argues, screenplays made into movies are the pervasive form of storytelling in our modern culture. And, they truly are a literary genre unto themselves. They require discipline and study to master their unique form and storytelling conventions. For instance, did you know that screenplays are always written in the present tense? That’s because all we can write is what we see on the screen in front of us. We can’t make full use of inner thoughts of characters. A well-written screenplay reveals their choices through the ways they act when challenged. If you have a budding screenwriter, this is a great creative challenge.

Secondly, screenplays make use of the same storytelling elements found in other literary forms, such as short stories and novels. For instance, we must create interesting and dimensional characters, devise interesting plots with rising conflict, and draw our audience into the story with vivid descriptive language and compelling themes that touch our emotions while entertaining us.

Third, most people don’t understand the immense importance of the screenplay as the foundation of all movies. It has been said that it’s possible to make a bad film from a good script, but it’s impossible to make a great film from a poor script. It’s like the blueprint, foundation, and framing of a movie. Of course, movies–good and bad–exert tremendous influence in our culture.

That leads us to my final point

…making films that are powerful and influential and reflect a Christian worldview. I believe all Truth is God’s Truth, and that all Beauty reflects His Glory. I hope to envision and equip young storytellers to follow God’s call to speak powerfully to culture through many forms of films and videos. Most of us admit that few popular films that are labelled “Christian” exhibit the highest literary and artistic reach we are capable of. There was a time when the Church led the way in the arts. We should aim that high.

Now, to the second quote; “Those who tell the stories shape the culture.” It’s from Aleister Crowley, the famous British occultist in the early 20th century. His vision was to undermine the Christian worldview and values of his culture, and he argued for a takeover of popular storytelling to achieve his end. He saw the potential.

I have had the privilege of teaching many passionate and creative young homeschoolers who are learning to tell powerful stories of their own. I am so encouraged by them, and they give me great hope for the future. They are learning to tell stories that change the world.


For further reading: There are a zillion screenwriting blogs out there, but one I especially like is The Rabbit Room. They have a film section, plus many other forums that, to me, represent some of the best writing and thinking about the arts in the Church today.

Ministry Media Audit

May 12, 2017

002-laptopPeriodically, and especially when you are beginning to plan a media strategy or campaign, it’s important to understand where you have been and where you are right now.

In the marketing world, this is called a social media audit and competitive analysis. The goal is to examine what you have been doing, historically, to help guide your next steps.

I’m going to tweak the language here to better fit media ministry teams, but there are a lot of resources out there that provide various kinds of social media audit checklists, templates, and advice. I also assume that your past media presence may have not been exclusively in the new/social media space.

As we look at an existing media ministry, large or small, here are some key points we want to study:

  • Current Media Activities and Content
  • Current Media Presence
  • Current Audience
  • Current Performance
  • Our Persona in these channels and in this content
  • “Competitors” – Analysis

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of each section. You’ll want to make lists and gather information on:

  1. Current Media Activities and Content
    • Projects (broadcasts, distribution, and campaigns of various kinds)
    • Content Assets (films, programs, recordings, and other media we own or create)
  1. Current Media Presence
    • “Traditional” media (TV & Radio stations, print distribution, etc.)
    • Social/New media (web sites, blogs, social pages, accounts, etc.)
  1. Current Audience
    • Size (overall, and by channel, above)
    • Description (demographics, personas, and how they compare with your Objectives)
  1. Current Performance
    • Growth (Do you have historical numbers?)
    • Compare with Objectives (If you have existing objectives, do a comparison. If you are creating new Objectives, how does this fit?)
    • What kinds of content have been most effective in reaching your goals for each media channel?
  1. Our Persona in these channels and in this content
    • Ways we present ourselves (Do you have a consistent public ‘face’? Do you feel that our identity is appropriate to your Objectives and ministry Context?)
    • Consistency across your media channels and content
    • Consistency with your Objectives
  1. “Competitors” – Analysis
    • Like-Minded: Are there others in this same ministry space? (Objectives, Content, Success, Strategies, etc.)
    • Others: Are there others, even opposition, who are influencers in your area? (Objectives, Content, Success, Strategies, etc.)
    • What can you learn from others in your ministry space? (Things you might like to imitate? Things that seem to work toward your Objectives? Things you want to avoid?)

If you take the time to dig into these questions in more detail, it will help you see our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and to help guide your Persona, Follow-Up, and Content development.

This content is part of what I teach in the Foundations of Media Strategy course at MissionMediaU. Check it out if you want to learn more.

 

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Periodic Table of Instructional Design –

December 2, 2016

Periodic Table of Instructional Design – a Fun and helpful infographic http://ow.ly/yrhh306LE3Z #onlineeducation #instructionaldesign

I spend part of my time now teaching and developing online courses. This handy infographic gives dos and don’ts related to everything from learner interactions to behind-the-scenes technical considerations.

periodic-table-small

Now Streaming – “The Enemy God” indigenous film

November 28, 2016

I’m really pleased to announce that a feature-length film I produced, “The Enemy God” is now available for streaming rental or purchase on Vimeo On Demand. Watch the trailer here, then, just click on the “From $2.99” button on the video to rent or purchase.

The Enemy God from Tom Khazoyan on Vimeo.

This multi-award-winning film tells the story of a Yanomamö shaman and his search for the truth about the spirits he served. It is a powerful, true story, told from the point of view of an indigenous people group from the Amazon rainforest.

Pinhole photo from Crystal Bridges museum

July 6, 2016

I posted a pinhole photo from Crystal Bridges museum last week. This is from my #Rolleiflex #mediumformat camera on #kodaktmax400
I love the spaces in this museum as much as the artwork in the galleries. Beautifully done.
#architecture #crystalbridges http://ow.ly/i/kXMKH

crystal-bridges-empty-gallery

My dramatic feature script, “Sand Devils”

March 7, 2016

My dramatic feature screenplay, “Sand Devils” is now a Finalist at the 2016 Nashville Film Festival. I’m really grateful to know this redemptive story, set among Dinka refugees in Sudan, is touching some hearts. They had over 1600 entries in total this year, so I feel very honored to be among the 8 dramatic feature screenplay finalists. http://ow.ly/ZbU3Q

NFF 2016 logo