Phil Cooke

June 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Book and Movie Interviews


Phil Cooke

By Reece Tedford

Our feature interview is with leading Christian media expert Phil Cooke.  According to CNN's Paula Zahn, film maker and media activist Phil Cooke is rare – he's a working producer in Hollywood with a Ph.D. in Theology.  His blog at philcooke.com is considered one of the most insightful resources on the web covering issues like faith, culture, and media. Through his company, Cooke Pictures, based in Santa Monica, California, Phil advises many of the largest and most effective non-profit and faith-based media organizations in the world, and speaks at workshops, seminars, and conferences on a global basis.

He has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, and his work has been profiled in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Many of his projects have been placed in the permanent archive on the History of Broadcasting at the Newhouse School of Communication at Syracuse University, representing landmark work in family and inspirational broadcasting.

Phil Cook Interview with TCP:

TCP: Why do you think so many Christians who are trying to get into Christian media come out frustrated, angry, or disillusioned? Is it purely the misconceptions about the marketplace and how it works or is it a lack of actual commitment to do what it takes?  Or, is it something else altogether?

Phil: That's a complex question, but much of it comes from not really knowing how the industry works.  Christian media is based on a "paid time" model, while secular media is based on a commercial model.  If you don't understand the basis of each, you're headed for trouble, and a great deal of frustration.

TCP: What's missing in the Christian media right now?  What do you see as the biggest need in both TV and Feature Films?

Phil: I had always said that the person who changes Christian media will be the financial guy, not the creative guy.  The "paid time" model I mentioned before is based on the producer buying the time from the station or network.  Then, the producer (usually a church or ministry) has to come up with the money, so that's why TV ministries sell books, tapes, and all kinds of "Jesus Junk."  It's simply the only way they can stay on the air.  But if we can move religious media toward a commercial model, we can bring in the funding necessary for movies, documentaries, music specials, comedy, and more.  In the paid time world, preaching shows and interview shows are the cheapest to produce, so that's why we see so much of it out there.

TCP: As someone who works closely with Christian TV, where is the future of Christian TV headed? Do you see an urgency at these networks to compete for a younger audience?

Phil: I think the future of TV is your cell phone.  Traditional, broadcast TV won't entirely go away, but we need to be looking at the new digital world.

TCP: We live in an age of free media and media piracy.  Do you believe a younger audience will financially support Christian TV the way the current older audience
does? Will today’s generation ever with age support it-even if they like and watch Christian TV?

Phil: No, and that's a real concern for traditional Christian broadcasters.  Ask any 20 year old you see when was the last time they responded to a toll free number on TV or even wrote a letter?   We better be moving our fundraising to the web, because that's were the next generation audience will be.

TCP: If you had to pick a favorite independent Christian film maker or “Christian” who is a film maker who would it be?

Phil: The list would be far too long for this article.  What excites me most is the broad range of Christians in the industry today.  From Ralph Winter, who's produced The X-Men and Fantastic Four blockbusters, to Scott Derrickson, who's doing edgy projects, to  
small producers working online, we have voices that span a wide range of media.

TCP: What does the future hold for Christian Films? Are Christian films (subjective meaning-films made by Christians) on the verge of breaking out into the mainstrain or will it always be a purely niche audience (Although a large niche)?

Phil: Hollywood certainly recognizes that there is a large Christian audience out there, and are finally marketing to that audience.  However, as believers, do we want to preach to the choir, or reach the larger world out there?  Both are legit, but you as a producer, writer, or director, need to decide which market you want to reach, and be very deliberate about reaching it.

TCP: Who do you see as a bright spot in Christian media right now?

Phil: There's a number out there.  Some highly talented believers are doing big budget mainstream movies now.  Even Paul Crouch Jr. is starting to turn the Trinity Broadcasting Network into something interesting, and I'm finding some really great podcasts out there.  The world is changing and a new generation of Christian media professionals is responding.

TCP: On a more personal note, what projects do you have going right now? Let us know something that your working or excited about!

Phil: We just shot the second installment of "Thou Shalt Laugh," the huge comedy hit for Warner Brothers that featured some of the best Christian comedians in the country.  We're also in the last stages of a feature length documentary on William Wilberforce, the British Parliamentarian who abolished the slave trade.  I'm leaving this weekend for France for the Cannes Advertising Festival, where some of our commercial directors will be recognized by the global advertising industry.  On top of all that, we continue working with some of the largest churches and ministries in the country, helping them raise the bar in the quality and effectiveness of their media outreaches.  Next Spring, I'll also be releasing a book with Regal Publishing called "Branding Faith" that should change the way churches, ministries, and non-profits look at marketing and promotion.

Thanks for your time! We really appreciate it! God bless you and we'll pray for you as a leader in the Christian media world.  To learn more about Phil, visit: www.philcooke.com

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