Commentary: Young, Entrepreneurial, and Pursuing Good Art in Hollywood
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Commentary: Young, Entrepreneurial, and Pursuing Good Art in Hollywood

“We need people on the inside,” writes R.J. Moeller from Los Angeles. “We need talented actors, musicians, editors, and screenplay writers who can stake a claim for a differing worldview than that of HBO, David Geffen, and whoever wrote Milk.” Go West, young conservative!

The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Young, Entrepreneurial, and Pursuing Good Art in Hollywood

by R.J. Moeller

My argument would be that I don’t think there is much that’s genuinely political art that is good art.

— Thom Yorke, lead singer of the rock band Radiohead

Ostensibly, I moved to Los Angeles a year ago to work for author and radio show host Dennis Prager. But the real reason I’m here stems from a much deeper, more subversive part of my id. (Or perhaps my inflated ego?)

I came West because I want, in any way I can, to influence popular culture. Where better to do so than in Hollywood? This place, along with New York, is ground-zero for where axioms like “politics is down-stream of culture” are proven true. You don’t have to move to Los Angeles, or spend any amount of time with people in the entertainment industry, to know that progressive values and politics rule the day out here.

But what you might not know is just how many young people of faith – with traditional values and fiercely entrepreneurial attitudes – are also here attempting to establish careers by producing quality art in the most competitive industry on earth.

Columnist Mark Steyn once said in an interview:

You know, when young conservatives and libertarians decide they want to effect change and get involved they all move east to Washington D.C. and begin working for think-tanks, lobbyists and senators. There’s certainly merit in that. But when young liberals and progressives want to change things they all move west to Hollywood and start writing screenplays or decide to form a band…

We need more folks heading west.

I’ve been to Hollywood and it’s clear that future filmmakers, producers, concert promoters and small business owners work. Really hard. Regardless of their values or politics, young people in this town are hungry for opportunities. They aren’t satisfied with unemployment, and are willing to work menial jobs to give themselves a chance to pursue their artistic dreams.

There is a creative energy to this place. I know the stereotypes of chilled-out Southern Californians have some basis in reality, but the folks I encounter at parties, that I work alongside, and that I go to church with are entrepreneurial to their cores. Whether it’s an idea for a funny YouTube short that might eventually get noticed by someone at Comedy Central, or a desire to parlay one’s career in the concert promotion business to open one’s own coffee shop, or the coordinated efforts of dozens of people to submit an entry into Dorito’s Super Bowl Half Time ad competition, Hollywood is filled to the brim with passionate, idealistic entrepreneurs.

The truth is, of course, that Tinsel Town has always been a magnet for such people. The problem of Hollywood being so far to the Left on almost every discernible socio-political issue is not going to be “solved” simply by reminding some producer you meet at a party in the Hollywood Hills that he or she is, in fact, an entrepreneur and should care more about the current fiscal and political environment that is growing increasingly hostile toward job-creators and innovators.

We need people on the inside. We need talented actors, musicians, editors, and screenplay writers who can stake a claim for a differing worldview than that of HBO, David Geffen and whoever wroteMilk. We don’t need all of these trailblazers to be gun-toting, flag-waving Republicans with life-size cardboard cutouts of Ronald Reagan in their rooms. (I’ve got those departments covered already.) And we don’t need hacks churning out more sub-par films and slapping “Christian” or “Conservative” on them because they know Christian moms will buy a bunch of copies of the DVD.

We need talented people, with better values, making worthwhile and entertaining art.

My friend Casey Bond is a former professional baseball player who got his start in the movie business a few years back when he was cast in the film Moneyball as relief pitcher Chad Bradford. Apart from working a part-time side job, auditioning for commercials, and picking up bit parts on network television shows, Casey is serving as the producer on various film projects that are in the works. He’s driven by a passion for telling good stories and is hungry to create meaningful content. As he put it:

I absolutely consider myself an entrepreneur.  Each individual project I work on is essentially like starting a new business. There are so many different factors that go into each one and you basically have to start from scratch each time out. Christians in the industry should be primarily interested in making good art. The message will be there if it’s in you already. But there is no compromise for good art, and that should never be put on the backburner simply in order to deliver a political or faith-based message. But for me they do go hand-in-hand. One without the other would make it seem incomplete.

Bond is not alone. I could tell you a dozen similar stories of young, hard-working people of faith I know in this town who are sacrificing time and treasure to one day, we hope, be culture-shapers. So, by all means, young conservatives should work at think tanks and learn how to influence public policy debates. But, from my point of view, just as many should be writing songs and making films that telling ripping good stories.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).