By Mark Matthews, Our Hollywood Undercover Missionary
Ahhh, the Fall - Sunshine, beach, sunshine, and more sunshine.
You may think of crisp air and crunchy multi-colored leaves, but it's all beach and sunshine here in Hollywood. In fact, the only thing ever hinting at the seasons is seeing more young faces with stardom twinkling in their eyes than usual. Fall is the time of year when thousands of aspiring actors, writers and directors descend upon Hollywood looking to "make it" in show business.
Over the years I've seen many Christians come and go, and some of the mistakes they've made. I hate to see them happen again so I thought this might be a good time to share my top five spiritual tips for living in Hollywood, which might be applicable to non-Hollywood life as well too.
My first tip is to check your intentions. Ask yourself if you would still pursue show business if you never earned any public recognition for it. Because the odds are that you won't! Do you imagine people recognizing you on the street someday, discussing the "early years" of your career on talk shows, or ladies clamoring for your autograph? These are all hints that concupiscence might be fuelling your motivations. It's difficult to eliminate all self-interest from our motivations, but what's important is to purify them as much as possible and possess self-knowledge.
If you want the world to reassure you about how grand and talented you are - you're only searching for validation and will surely leave a trail of destruction behind you. I see it all the time, and it's not pretty. If you can honestly say "I come alive when I'm telling a story, even if only one person is listening. This who God authentically made me to be," that has the ring of authenticity to it. We need you here in Hollywood.
Once here, you will need to find strong spiritual support. Being an artist of any type is not easy. This burden is typically not the pressure to compromise morally, but one of loneliness. I can't explain why, but artists usually find it difficult to build meaningful relationships. If you're alone though, you're a sitting duck and an easy target for Satan. You will need to be purposeful in your fellowship. Work hard to find strong spiritual support. Find a good parish. Network with other Christian groups. Find good friends, and make the effort to see them.
Next, avoid spiritual entitlement. This is the unconscious expectation that God will hand you success on a silver platter simply because you follow him. As Catholics we believe that grace builds on nature, and there's no shortcut to perfecting that nature. Don't expect breaks, roles, or jobs simply because God called you here. Don't ask for favors simply because you or your project is Christian. All my creative friends have been asked to do pro bono work just because the person who's asking is Christian and we need to "support each other." Learn to recognize spiritual entitlement and avoid it.
Follow general secular wisdom for mastering your craft. Practically, this means: study it at all times, find a good source of income to support yourself, make your own opportunities, don't wait for them, find a good mentor, always be prepared, be professional, work hard to network and be persistent! These disciplines are something you can offer up for the salvation of souls.
Finally, integrate, don't segregate. If we only work with other Christians we're cutting ourselves off from an immense reservoir of talent. This is a delicate issue when it comes to developing stories that reflect Catholic worldviews, but on the other hand, just because we have a non-Christian doing the sound doesn't mean the whole project is going to be "infected." We need to learn from other non-Christians - they're often the best at what they do. And honestly, they're rarely anti-Christian. Besides, how else can we be leaven in the world?
Hollywood is not for weak or new Christians, but I hope that doesn't scare you away. We really do need you here! It requires a great deal of discipline and self-denial to integrate your faith with the arts. Show business may ask everything of you, but in the end, isn't that the kind of challenge we're looking for?
Your Hollywood Undercover Missionary,
Mark Matthews is a graphic designer and animator working in Hollywood. Listen to his "What's Good About Hollywood?" column once a month on