Bill Reeves – Writers Fill the Gap

Six Days and Counting!

Writers Stand Firm, Filling the Gap

Gleaning Gold: Interview with Bill Reeves

Sally Matheny

Time for the Write2Ignite! Conference is approaching quickly. There is still time to register, if you haven’t already done so. We know life is busy for you. It’s difficult carving out time away from work and home in order to attend a conference. The W2I leadership team understands because we face the same issues.

However, we’re passionate about God’s call to be here and support this ministry.

You knew Write2Ignite was a non-profit organization. But you didn’t know it was a ministry? We believe it is. There is a great need—a gap—that needs filling with excellent literature that honors Jesus Christ.

We want to encourage you to seek God’s will for your writing. The Write2Ignite team desires to support you, educate you, and connect you with others. You and the conference have been in our prayers. We’re working very hard, but we trust all the final details to God.

Come, and we’ll stand firm together, honing our skills, and learning new ways to represent Christ through our writing.

Bill ReevesOne workshop presenter will be Bill Reeves. He is a partner at The Working Title Agency in Springhill, Tennessee. The agency “represents and assists creatives in developing product for Christian consumers.” Some of Bill’s clients include Randy Alcorn, Cheri Hamilton, Stephen and Alex Kendrick.

Bill Reeves is a man who is answering God’s call to stand firm, fill the gap, and to assist others who are filling a void in the media.

Bill, you have worked with Veggie Tales, Tommy Nelson, and now Working Title Agency. Why did you choose the Christian market?

The Christian market inspired me as a young teen. I was heavily influenced by Christian music, and decided that I wanted to leave a legacy for the next generation, as the one before me had done for me.

Should writers, who are Christians, stay within the Christian market? Is it possible to be salt and light in the secular market?

When I worked for VeggieTales, Phil Vischer once gave a speech in which he responded to a question he received often…”Is Big Idea a Christian company?” His response was funny (as you would expect). He said, “What’s a Christian company? Does it go to Heaven when it dies?”

Writing, in and of itself, is amoral. It’s not good or bad. Writing is writing. However, ALL writers (Christian and non-Christian) write from a particular worldview. I think a Christian writer should simply stay true to their deeply held Biblical beliefs. It can be the presence of good, or the absence of bad. Both are viable for writers who are Christian. Some of that (presence of good) often works well for Christian publishers, like Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. Absence of bad writing works well for the general market publishers, like Simon & Schuster and Scholastic. But either way, the work needs to hold to Biblical values.

What is your opinion about today’s entertainment media? With the success of several Christian films, do you see a shift taking place?

My opinion about today’s media is that it is more powerful than ever. With multiple ways for a consumer to access entertainment (laptops, cell phones, iPads, etc) people are digesting it more than ever. So it’s also being created in droves, as well.

What I see is not a shift in entertainment, but simply a diversification of entertainment. I see Christians, for example, finally getting into serious filmmaking, a skill that has been lacking for the Christian consumer for many years.

There was once a day that a Hollywood movie could play nicely for the Christian consumer. A movie like “Singing in the Rain” could be a strong family-fare film. Or “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory” from the early 70′s. But as content grows more and more Godless, then the need arises for Christians to step up and fill that void.

This also applies to book publishing, music, internet content, and television. So I don’t think there’s a shift happening, as much as a gap-filling happening.

As kids, the Kendrick brothers enjoyed making videos with friends. As a kid, did you promote others in their projects? Can you look back and see ways God was preparing you for what you are doing now, or was it something He brought about later in your life?

I was almost always a diplomat. I found ways to communicate hard things to people in gentle ways. I think God was forming me for the business-negotiating side of things from an early age. I didn’t become well versed at it until I had failed several times, including within my own family. But God knew what He was doing preparing me for this job. I’ve felt a passion for Christian entertainment since I was a teenager.

How important is social networking to the success of a product? What do you recommend to those who have apprehensions about using Facebook, Twitter, etc.?

Well, these are mixed blessings, but a necessary tool in today’s marketing world. While there are certainly some pitfalls with social media, I have mostly seen them used as a positive tool in today’s marketing mix. It really boils down to a customer wanting to hear directly from the author. They LOVE feeling as though they are personally connected to an author, vs. the author being some distant person to which no communication is possible.

Social media is also cheap. And publishers like cheap. Publisher’s budgets are a fraction of what they use to be, so you need cost-efficient tools to promote the book. By using social media, you are also helping to build your own audience/brand by controlling what is said about you and your book, not some random marketing person in an office somewhere.

When success does come to Christian writers and filmmakers, how do they keep pride in check?

The folks who have had the most success in this area are the ones who keep their pre-fame friends close. Those who start punting their pre-fame friends and make new friends are the ones who have the most problem in this area.

One of the best examples of doing this properly is Max Lucado. I worked with Max for several years on “Hermie & Friends”, an animated series for children. Max’s manager and business leader is a gentleman named Steve Green. Steve was Max’s college roommate, and close friend. Max has kept Steve on his team for many, many years. And I believe that has led to a very healthy relationship for both Max and Steve. They can be honest with each other, and keep each other in check. “New” friends that come post-fame almost always want something, and are often afraid to speak truth to the ‘talent’. This causes bad things to happen, because pride almost always sets in.

During the reading of First Pages, at last year’s W2I Conference, you mentioned your agency does not want anything that could lead a child astray, not even a hint of a curse word. That is a rare and courageous stand in today’s world. Is your policy just for the children’s market or for the adult market as well?

I do not accept books (or any product) with foul-language in them. This is true of children, teen and adult books. I have made this mistake in the past, and regretted it. I know this is a tough concept, and one that will always be debated.

I get pressed occasionally on this issue because I still watch and read content that DOES have bad language (albeit, product that is selected carefully). For example, I’m reading Steve Jobs autobiography right now, and it contains profanity. Some would argue I’m hypocritical. But Steve’s autobiography was not written by a Christian. Yet, I still feel I can learn something from Steve’s life (and indeed, have).

Christians should hold themselves to a higher standard than the world when it’s creating content, and not simply copy the world. My company has taken a stand on this issue concerning what we represent as only being Biblically based product. And Biblically based product should not, in my opinion, have bad language in it. I also believe a strong creative person can find more creative ways to express his/her point without the need for bad language. So I think I’m demanding a higher creativity from my authors than those who allow bad-language.

Understanding God teaches us new things everyday–what would you say God is teaching you at this season in your life?

God is currently reminding me how important it is to stand strong for Him in the entertainment industry. It is not easy, and can get messy at times. But He sustains me when I have to make hard decisions for Him. And He ultimately gets the glory.

 

Thank you, Bill. We look forward to your workshop at the Write2Ignite Conference. May God continue to bless you, your agency, and your clients as they stand firm in their faith and uphold the Truth in their work.

  1. Jean Hall says:

    Thank you, Bill, for taking a courageous stand in the world of entertainment, and for being an active encourager to the Write2Ignite! leadership and our conference participants.

    We KNEW connecting with you was a God-thing and still is!

    Blessings,
    Jean

  2. Jeris Hamm says:

    Great advice, Bill! Thank you for standing with Christian writers.

  3. Kristi says:

    Great interview, Sally & Bill!! Can’t wait to see you both at W2I!

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  1. Catching up with Bill Reeves of Working Title Agency | Write2Ignite! - […] Be sure to read an inspiring, full interview with Bill at http://write2ignite.com/2013/03/10/bill-reeves-writers-fill-the-gap/ […]

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