Making Up Books

I believe it was in the seventh grade when I first recall intentionally using my gift of creativity for deceitful purposes. In my English Literature class at Lincoln Junior High in El Paso we received an assignment: go to the library, pick out a novel, read it, write a report on it, and lastly, give an oral report about the book. If I recall correctly, the only requirement was a minimum page length of the book we would choose. I remember going to the school library with my classmates, I remember goofing off with some of my friends, I remember wandering the aisles, I remember searching for just the right book, I remember my friends checking out their books, and I remember leaving empty-handed.

I guess I thought I would return to the the library the next day at lunch, or perhaps I thought that my friends had checked out all of the “good” books, but somewhere along the way I had the idea to just “makeup” a book. Not “write” a book, but just simply “make up” a book out of thin air. Not only would I get the chance to be creative, but I would be able to deceive my teacher along with my entire class! I don’t know if I had balls the size of coconuts or if I was just being a silly (yet creative) junior high boy. Regardless, I committed to my criminal ways and began daydreaming, developing plot & characters, action & subplots, etc. etc.

I’m fairly confident that I wrote the greatest book report ever written about a book that didn’t exist. Unfortunately the title and the plot of my masterpiece have been lost to history, perhaps trapped deep in dark cognitive space inside my brain, or in the mind of my teacher or perhaps one of my classmates that heard my brilliant oral report. Oh, how I wish I had that paper today! I would love to read what my seventh grade self delivered.

I think most of us would agree that it takes an enormous amount of guts to try and pass off a “make-believe book” on a teacher of English Literature. I remember thinking that if I was going to be able to pull this off, I needed to have details. A title, plot, and authors name we’re essential, but a Dewey Decimal number was icing on the cake, so I made up one of those, too. I like to think that one detail helped sell the whole thing.

I may have been crazy or stupid (or probably both), but I pulled it off. I turned in my paper and I stood up in front of the class and gave my oral report on a book that didn’t exist. When I received my grades and realized I aced the assignments I felt like a creative genius, like a hero, and I guess, a little bit like a fraud. I tried to focus on the amazing creative accomplishment, so I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on the deceitful nature of my actions.

So for a few days around that event back in the seventh grade, I was a little cooler, a little less dorky—a young teenage boy who walked a little taller around Lincoln Junior High on Mulberry Avenue… even if it was only in my mind.

Not Just Another Podcast

On March 8th another podcast will launch and in doing so it will become part of the enormous heap of podcast material that is available for consumption. So why is this new one significant? I’ll get to that in a moment, but first a few stats. Podcasting has seen enormous growth since it’s inception in 2003. So why do we need another one? In 2015 it was estimated that between 180,000 and 206,000 podcasts had been created and those numbers have only grown since. Again, why do we need more?

There are podcasts on pretty much every conceivable topic that reach out to a wide variety of demographics, which means that if you create a new one, it needs to be unique. This new one is. The way I look at is that it should have broad topic appeal, and yet be tailored to a specific audience. Yep! The infographic at the end of this article (courtesy of Jon Nastor & Copyblogger) gives a great summary of the history and state of the podcast industry.

So let’s talk a little about this new podcast that will launch on March 8th. It’s called the By War & By God Podcast. Although not at all preachy, it has a Christian angle to it, which places it right into the largest podcast segment that exists (see the infographic below). Potential broad appeal. The podcast is based on the EMMY® nominated film By War & By God, which also places it into the 4th largest podcast segment “TV and Film” (see the infographic). More potential broad appeal. The series will focus on the Vietnam war veterans who appear in the film, but in the podcast we have room to go much deeper into their stories than the film was able to. So there is a war element to this series. Big deal, there are a lot of other war podcasts out there. But what makes the By War & By God Podcast unique is that this group of Veterans goes back to Vietnam to love and serve the people of that beautiful land. Whoa… That is unique! That aspect of the podcast will help us stand out from the crowd.

With the success of major recent films like Last Days In Vietnam there has been a renewed interest in the Vietnam War. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 40 years since that war ended which means there is a huge potential audience of people that didn’t watch that war on the news every night. Many of these have never heard the personal stories from the soldiers themselves and that’s a part of what this new podcast will do. But the podcast is much bigger than merely sharing stories of the war. It’s a podcast about reconciliation. That’s a big word. Most of the men in the film and the podcast came home from that war wondering why they survived when many of their friends didn’t. They felt the survivors guilt. Some self-medicated to try to cope. Others tried to blend into society, but couldn’t. And each of them felt the need inside for some type of reconciliation. Some felt they had destroyed the country of Vietnam. Others felt they had destroyed the people of Vietnam. And most of them sensed this magnetic pull to go back to the land of the war. They sensed a need for reconciliation between themselves and the land, the people of Vietnam, their enemies, and ultimately between their souls and God. Since 1989 these Vets With A Mission have taken nearly 1400 veterans back to Vietnam as part of this ministry of reconciliation. Who knew this type of work was taking place?

So on Wednesday March 8th, we launch this very unique podcast. I hope you’ll join us as we share the stories of these great men and women who fought in a war, but who became heroes many years after that war was over by going back and serving some of the poorest of the poor in Vietnam. Take a few minutes and listen to the preview episode of the By War & By God Podcast right now. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts, so check it out and please subscribe.

Here’s the infographic that shows the history and details of podcasting…

From 2003 to 2016: The Astounding Growth of Podcasting [Infographic]

The Election – Two Wings of the Same Bird

Well folks… the election is looming large. And for the majority of us, we just want to get it behind us. I think most of us agree that this has been an ugly election cycle. For as much as the Cubs and the Indians brought so many of us together around a game of baseball, Trump and Hillary have divided America into a very polarizing “us” and “them”. Of course most of us hope that “our candidate” will win, but for about half of us that won’t be the case.

At nearly 49 and a half I’ve lived through enough presidency’s of both political parties to know that we as a nation will survive regardless of who wins on Tuesday. If you asked either candidate about the other taking the oval office they will talk doom and gloom and despair and the end of America… and guess what, they’d both be lying to you.

As a filmmaker and a small business owner I often look at the strengths and weaknesses of each of crew members or my employees. And you know what I see? I see a diverse group of people that compliment each other in amazing ways. And as a country we are no different. The passions of the left and the passions of the right are very distinct. But guess what? Together they make us an even greater nation. They really are two wings of the same bird.

As I’ve scrolled through my Facebook feed over the past few months I’ve noticed something interesting. I have some really level-headed, sincere, honorable, passionate friends on both sides. These are people I would trust with my children. I have friends I respect and admire who are voting for Hillary and I have friends I respect and admire who are voting for Trump. And I guess this is why I really believe we as a nation are going to be okay.

If you are reading this and are of voting age then the outcome of this election is in your hands. Its up to all of us—two wings of the same bird. Go vote! And remember this… regardless of which candidate you choose I won’t unfriend you on Facebook.

Does Grace Live Here?

About 10:40 tonight the kids saw headlights pulling down our 600 foot driveway; a very rare thing out in the middle of nowhere. The vehicle proceeded to turn around to leave and then stopped. I watched from the window for a moment not recognizing the car. Flipping a couple of exterior lights on I stepped out into the cold night air.

A 40-something African-American opened the car door and started up the flight of steps. “Does Grace live here?” he asked, as he stopped at the landing. “No, no one named Grace,” I replied. He looked down at something in his hand. “Williamson? I think it’s… Savannah Grace,” he said and he held up a drivers license and a wallet. “I found this in the road out by Food Lion.”

She didn’t know it, but my daughter had left her wallet on top of her car after filling up with gas. I took the items from the stranger as he held them out and then I sat down on the step. I asked him his name, stared at him as he told me, thanked him several times, and had my faith in humanity restored.

“Does Grace live here?” What a powerful sentence. I sure hope it does.

This true story occurred on February 11th, 2014. This autobiographical post is part of my series of short articles called “Events That Shaped A Life”. Keep your eye out for more posts from this series.

Thoughts About Down Syndrome… or Encountering God Through Zoe

My wife Karen and I were recently asked to share some thoughts with our church about how we have encountered God recently. We decided to approach it through the life-changing experience of raising a girl with Down syndrome. I’ve included video from of our talk, plus the written version which contains a few more details. We give this in hopes to encourage other families who may be just beginning down this path. We’re eight years in at this point and it’s been a pretty good ride overall, but it certainly hasn’t been without its trials, doubts, and fears…

Oh, and the photo above is of Zoe, me, and a little too much of my leg… sorry about that!


KENT: Good morning! I’m Kent Williamson and this is my wife Karen and we are going to share our Encounter with God through the life of our daughter Zoe.

KAREN: We love to talk about Zoe! But Zoe is not a short term experience or even a season of life. Just in her being, she represents a change from one path to another, from one destination to a very different one than we had planned. But we can certainly testify to God’s goodness and grace through what was a major life adjustment and transition.

Zoe is our sixth child and she was born with Down syndrome. We weren’t actually expecting to have a sixth child. If you’ve seen our family together, you might have noticed a rather large gap between Zoe and the other five. So that part was a surprise—the week of my 40th birthday, I might add. And we didn’t learn about her Down syndrome until she was born, so that was yet another surprise.

KENT: I will never forget, looking into her eyes for the very first time, thinking I’ve “seen those eyes  before” and then I realize, “Oh my gosh, my little girl has Down syndrome”…. That moment felt like someone had swung a baseball bat as hard as they could square across my chest.  I’ve never felt so very alone as in those first few minutes of Zoe’s life when I knew about the Down syndrome, but Karen didn’t know yet.

KAREN: And nothing prepares you for that moment. Nothing prepares you for the time when you were expecting one thing in life, and are then handed something completely different. I’m not sure I can describe in words how it feels when that “thing” is handed to you by a stranger, wrapped up in a receiving blanket. It could have been the scene at an ordinary restaurant when I might have said, Oh no, I’m sorry, this is not what I ordered. Please take this back, and bring me what I ordered. But we all know, life doesn’t work that way, does it?

KENT: We had five other kids who were anxious to meet their new little sister. So what do you do? For the kids sake, do you just ignore the Down syndrome diagnosis and pretend it doesn’t exist? We’ve never been that kind of family, so instead we sat them all down on the end of the bed in that hospital room at the old Martha Jefferson and I told them, as best I could, about Zoe’s 21st chromosome.  What I thought I was doing was explaining that Zoe has Down syndrome. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was really explaining that our family has Down syndrome.

KAREN: I regret to say now that those first days and weeks were for me full of sadness and anguish. And I wish I could say that it was only a short time before things turned brighter in my heart. In reality, it was a couple years before these unexpected circumstances felt kindof normal. And in that time, I did an awful lot of soul-searching, trying to understand my grief, and understand God in the midst of it. I had to ask the hard questions of myself like, Why is this so hard for me? What are my beliefs about what my family should look like, and what are those actually based on? And down deep below the surface, I was discovering a lot of pride and misplaced values. I was seeing in myself a flawed view of myself and the world around me. I was taking pride in things that I had no part in making a reality, and I had been placing merit and value on things that were superficial and temporal.

I read a quote recently by Charles Spurgeon that hits right on my guilt. “Be not proud of race, face, place, or grace.” In some rather subtle ways, I had been valuing things like status, intellect, appearance, correct behavior. But now alongside my grief, I had this child who I was falling in love with. I was beginning to embrace a child who wouldn’t be able to meet these expectations. So something in me would need to change in order to make a place for Zoe in my heart.

I am here to tell you, God did do a work in my heart. It was incredibly painful in the beginning, and humbling. But somewhere along the way, when your values and standards shift, you find beauty in things that once were not beautiful. And joy in things that once were not joyful. Even in the earliest days after Zoe’s birth, I was filled with an enormous measure of grace for almost everyone I encountered. I was nearly overcome with the realization that we are all given a place in this life, a color, status, genetic makeup, even a faith, that has nothing to do with our own will or determination. All we can do is build on what we’ve been given. That realization invoked in me a care about people I would previously have overlooked.

KENT: It didn’t take long for me to bond with Zoe. She makes me smile, laugh. and cry… just like my kids without Down syndrome. Kids with Down syndrome will skin their knees. pinch their fingers, bump their heads. They will also learn to climb stairs one big step at a time, ride their bike with training wheels, and love to jump on trampolines. And Zoe loves to read. As a matter of fact she just finished first grade as one of the top readers in her class. And they will steal your heart and never give it back.

KAREN: So I was given this child. She was a gift I didn’t know I needed. She was a gift I didn’t easily receive. But the gift has never been the problem—my own fears, uncertainties, and misplaced values were the problem. It turns out that Zoe has been a blessing beyond our wildest imaginings. There are still hard places, and challenges, and sometimes we grieve about various things. But I think I can honestly say we never grieve over what Zoe is not, or what she is lacking.

KENT: My little girl doesn’t care that she has Down syndrome. She just wants to be loved like the rest of us. Our family has Down syndrome and that diagnosis is okay with me. I’ve realized over the last 8 years that I am a better person with Down syndrome than I was without. It has made me more compassionate; more accepting of others; more in love with people and all their complex issues. I am a better man with Zoe in my life. God has given me such a wonderful gift—a gift that in my ignorance I would have rejected if I could have.

KAREN: So what have I learned, what do I value now? I value laughter, because Zoe is hilarious and constantly makes us laugh. I value music, because every since she first found her voice, the first sound I hear from her room in the morning is her singing. I value innocence and purity, because though I know she has a sinful nature, she really is not naughty or mischievous, she is kind and generous. I value authenticity, because Zoe is completely who she is without pretense or concern for image. I value connectedness in relationship, because these kids, our other five kids, have the most beautiful relationships with Zoe I have ever seen among siblings.

To quote another mom who’s further along the journey with Down syndrome, “Can she live a full life without ever solving a quadratic equation? Without reading Dostoyevsky? I’m pretty sure she can. Can I live a full life without learning to cherish and welcome those in this world who are different from me? I’m pretty sure I can’t.”

KENT: “Zoe” means “life” in Greek—both physical and spiritual. It was the name Karen and I decided on before she was born. And as we see her as the gift of God she is, her name couldn’t be more fitting.

My First Day On The Set… Bozo The Clown

The first time I ever set foot in a television studio was when I was a young boy. A friend had a birthday and a portion of the party was to watch the taping of the local Bozo the Clown Show. In the early 70’s in El Paso, Texas, a local weatherman named Howell Eurich would dress up as Bozo and entertain the kids each week. The Channel Four Studios of KDBC-TV (formerly KROD) had a colorful and fun set where the filming occurred and although I don’t remember the content of the show I do remember being mesmerized by the cameras and lights and showmanship of it all.

I never knew, while I sat in the bleachers laughing with my friends as part of the studio audience, that my life was being shaped, but obviously it was. I’ve been in love with production for as long as I can remember… perhaps it has something to do with capturing and immortalizing a moment… perhaps it has to do with entertaining, educating, and enlightening… whatever it is it all started for me with a weatherman who would dress up in a clown’s outfit in order to entertain the kids.

I learned much later in my life that different television markets had their own version of Bozo the Clown. Apparently a TV Station could license the show and they would receive the clown outfit, wig, nose, shoes, and scripts. All they would need to do was provide the talent, lights, cameras & action.

I also learned some of the tragic events that would play out in the life of El Paso’s clown and weatherman, Howell Eurich. Apparently he fell in love with the stations weather-woman Gail Gordon (even though they were both married to other people at the time). Their affair blossomed on-screen, which they say was good for ratings. Together Gail and Howell adopted a platinum blonde Lasha Apso that became a TV star herself.

Puffy Little Cloud
Puffy Little Cloud

Named Puffy Little Cloud, the dog would appear with Howell and Gail on-air for the weather segment. Puffy had over 650 hats and 360 outfits in her collection, many of which were hand-sewn by adoring viewers. She would show up in a raincoat on the rare days when rain was in El Paso’s forecast and with sunglasses when hot weather was due. Some say Puffy would receive 50 letters a day from fans all over.

Howell Eurich & Gail Gordon (upper left)
Howell Eurich & Gail Gordon (upper left)

Puffy was the brides-maid when Howell and Gail were married, but not everything would work out the way they hoped. After five years together, the love affair that had blossomed in the television studio had run it’s course. Howell was broken-hearted and Gail was moving on. On Wednesday, November 3rd overnight clouds gave way to clear morning skies. By 10AM scattered clouds would dot the sky but the temperature would only rise to 57 degrees. That day Howell dropped Puffy off at a friends house and then went to the station to record one last commercial. Afterwards he drove home, parked his car inside the garage, and left the engine running. By mid-afternoon the clouds would vanish and the skies would clear, but the cloud of carbon monoxide in the garage would do its job. It was November of 1982 when Howell Eurich took his own life.

When I walked onto the set of “Bozo’s Big Top” as a child I didn’t know how significant a moment it would be for me. In 1982 when I heard that the local weatherman had killed himself I didn’t think much of it… I don’t believe I even knew that it was the weatherman who had played the role of Bozo all those years earlier. It wasn’t until 2012 or so that I started thinking about that day on the set so long ago that I began researching it and learned the story of Howell’s fate.

I wish I could send a note of thanks to Howell, or better yet, to meet him and to shake his hand and say “thank you”—not only entertaining us children by dressing up as a clown, but for unknowingly igniting a spark deep inside of a little blond-haired boy who would grow up to have a career in the film & video world. I guess I’ll just have to say it here… “Thanks, Howell… thank you very much!”

This autobiographical post is part of my series of short articles called “Events That Shaped A Life”. Keep your eye out for more posts from this series.

SOURCES: Weather details for Nov 3, 1982: Weather Underground. Other details: Tales From the Morgue, Genealogy Trails, Texas Monthly – October 1979 pg. 117, EPVMA Animal Hall of Fame.

Life Involvement List

Do the groups, companies, and organizations you align yourself with help tell your story? Of course they do! They not only show your areas of interest, but they also show a part of your heart, your passion, and commitment to the broader community around you. Everything from the boards you serve on to the Facebook groups you create to the blogs you write all make up the stories that ARE you!

The more projects, articles, boards, and groups that you are involved in the busier you become and the harder it can be to keep up and keep track with each of these ventures. Busy people often serve on multiple boards simultaneously—while they run their companies—and yet they still often take time to teach or mentor as opportunities present themselves. The older I get the more I see the truth in this quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin…

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

Us busy folks are pretty good at juggling multiple projects simultaneously and hopefully, in the midst of it all (at least the really good ones I’ve seen) set time aside as a priority for their spouse and children. For the record, let me say that being busy at the expense of your family or those that love and care about you is extremely foolish. Simply put, don’t make your family pay for your busy-ness. If you can’t keep your family as a priority you probably shouldn’t accept that board invitation or start that project that will only pull you away more. (FULL DISCLOSURE TIME: I have six kids and no matter how much time I spend with them it never seems like enough. I just realized that while I’ve been writing this article two of them left the room I’m in and I didn’t even look up from the screen…ugh.)

Recently I decided that it would be pretty handy for me to have a collection of links to the companies, non-profits, organizations, Facebook groups and pages, etc., in which I’m actively involved. I’m calling it my Life Involvement List. It’s a place for me to easily access each of the things I’m committed to when needed, but it also serves to help paint a picture of who I am as a filmmaker, a business-owner, a writer, an artist, and a member of my local community. When I look at the list as a whole it helps me gain a better perspective on myself and it also can help me see some of my own strengths and weaknesses and even potential areas I should focus on.

A Life Involvement List should become a living, breathing document. As organizations and interests come and go I can add or remove items as needed. One thing that I noticed as I assembled my own list was that a couple of Facebook groups I had created a few years back (connected to my faith) were stagnant and stale and honestly needed to be deleted. So not only did I not include them on my list, but I also went ahead and shut down the Facebook groups. The act of NOT including these made me realize they may leave a hole in my story that should be filled by other similar involvement.

I’m confident you could benefit from performing this little exercise, too, so allow me to encourage you to create your own Life Involvement List of all the boards, companies, groups, classes, and activities in which you participate. Do it for two reasons. First and foremost, to give you a better perspective on yourself. And secondly, for you (and others if you share your list) to have easy access to the websites and links you include. It’s a handy exercise that has some practical value and may help lead you to make different decisions in the future.

It’s called a Life Involvement List because each item on the list represents an important decision you’ve made that helped shape your life into what it is today. But it’s also called a Life Involvement List, because if you look at your list and see things that are not helping you create a rich, deep, and meaningful existence, then perhaps you should consider deleting them… not just from the list, but from your life. We only get so many trips around the sun. Life is far too short not to make the most of it.

So, go do it! Create your Life Involvement List. If you need a little inspiration, you can read my list below and learn a little about me and the things that I’m involved with. Oh, and one more thing… what am I missing? If you think of areas of life that should be included in our lists, please let me know. Thanks!


Kent’s Life Involvement List…



  • Stained Glass Rainbows – documentary about gays and the Church and the conflict therein
  • By War & By God – documentary about veterans who return to Vietnam with a very different mission
  • Rebellion of Thought – documentary about post-modernism, the church, and the struggle for authentic faith
  • When Love Walks In – dramatic film about loss and finding love again


  • Monastic Inkwell – film and life articles – thoughts from a film director



  • Paladin Pictures, Inc (aka Paladin Media Group) – since 1991
  • Community Films Foundation – since 2009
  • Vets With A Mission – since 2005
  • Transformation Counseling – since 2006 – private counseling practice
  • Charlottesville Tom Sox – since 2015 – valley league baseball team


  • Paladin Fellows Program – 2015 – A special program designed to help certain Paladin Fellows learn the “why” of filmmaking.


  • Cville Filmmakers Group – connecting Charlottesville filmmakers
  • Paladin Alumni and Intern Network (aka PAIN) – a private group for employees, interns, and alumni
  • Creative Potluck — Private Creative Industry Network – connecting creatives in central Virginia
  • Stained Glass Rainbows Pledge Group – private group for people who have taken the Stained Glass Rainbows pledge that appears in the study guide for the film
  • The Face of Down Syndrome – connecting friends whose families are blessed with Down Syndrome
  • Community Organizing Group – private group for my neighborhood





  • Graffiti Town – a place to view and post images of graffiti from around the globe


Becoming History

Someday we will only exist in this world as memory and photographs. Until then… live! Invest in the memories other people have of you!

They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

— John Keating (Robin Williams) from Dead Poets Society

Becoming History — click image to enlarge
Becoming History — click image to enlarge

Six Things I’ve Learned About Down Syndrome

6 years ago today my 6th child was born. 6 years ago today I learned that she has Down syndrome. Here are 6 things I’ve learned in the 6 years since…

1. When you look into your daughters eyes for the very first time, thinking you’ve “seen those eyes before” and then realize, “Oh my gosh, my little girl has Down syndrome”…. it feels like someone has swung a baseball bat as hard as they can square across your chest.

2. It doesn’t take long to bond with your child with Down syndrome. They will make you smile. They will make you laugh. They will make you cry… just like kids without Down syndrome.

3. Some have said that a diagnosis of Down syndrome is like winning the lottery of disabilities. Why is this? Because in many ways it is a more simple disability. My daughter did not have heart issues (which nearly 50% of kids with DS do), so we took her home and began raising her with the rest of our children. She occasionally gets grumpy (like the rest of us), but for the most part she lights up the room with her laughter and her smile. I’ve been amazed at how easy going she is and how easy life is with her.

4. Kids with Down syndrome will fall and skin their knees. They will get their fingers pinched in doors and drawers. They will bump their heads and get big lumps on them. They will also learn to climb stairs one big step at a time. They will learn to ride their bike with training wheels. They will sing at the top of their lungs. They will cry when things don’t go their way. They will love to jump on the trampoline. And they will steal your heart and never give it back.

5. My little girl doesn’t care that she has Down syndrome. She just wants to be loved like the rest of us. As a matter of fact Down syndrome is more of a label for our family than for our daughter. Our family has Down syndrome and that diagnosis is okay with us. I’ve realized over the last 6 years that I am a better person with Down syndrome than I was before. It has made me more compassionate; more accepting of others; more in love with people and all their complex issues.

6. Nearly 92% of parents, who through pre-natal testing learn that their little baby has Down syndrome, make the choice to abort. That’s 92 out of 100 pregnancies that are terminated! If all these babies were black, or Jewish, or gay, there would be an enormous outcry that we are living in the midst of a genocide against a certain people group, but since the genetic condition is merely Down syndrome, most people will choose to ignore this statistic and move on with their lives.

~ Kent C. Williamson, 29 April 2014

P.S. As I typed this list at a few minutes after 6AM my 6 year old Zoe woke up and started singing in her room… “Like a little bird, He watches over me. Like a little bird, He watches over me. Like a little bird He watches over me. Oh how I am free. Hallelu, Hallelujah! Those whom the Lord sets free, shall be free indeed.”


This article was originally written and posted as an infographic in 2014 on my daughter Zoe’s 6th birthday. Here it is… click to enlarge.

6 Things About Down Syndrome

Buy Local… Art

The film industry is changing tremendously. With streaming technologies taking a stronghold on the market, the filmmaker is put at an extreme disadvantage. The streaming stronghold has become the streaming stranglehold. What happened to musicians a few years back with the advent of iTunes is now happening to filmmakers. People can get access to content in more places more easily than ever before. More bandwidth equals more streaming movies every single day. Simultaneously, consumers are looking for the best possible deal on their entertainment. So, a monthly subscription to streaming services like Netflix has huge advantages to the consumer. Unfortunately, the consumer’s advantage is the filmmaker’s disadvantage.

The idea of paying one low monthly fee for as many movies as you’d like to watch is extremely appealing, but it’s not without its repercussions. And the independent filmmaker is the one takes the brunt of it. Think about it for a moment–if you pay $7.99 a month and in that month you consume 10 movies, that means you paid 79¢ for each film you enjoyed. How much of that money do you actually think ends up back in the hands of the filmmaker? Netflix spends a lot of it’s money on deals with large studios to secure big name pictures with big name actors. The independent filmmaker on the other hand is typically not getting the big dollar deal. Their payment is much more conservative and is often delivered as one single upfront payment. For those who may not know, the independent filmmaker is not in a position to work directly with Netflix — they must go through an aggregator in order to secure a spot on the Netflix roster. This means that the small, meager payment actually goes directly to the distributor or aggregator, before it’s split with the filmmaker. Each filmmaker has a different deal with their distributor but the percentage that the filmmaker receives can often be the smaller portion of the split.

So let’s talk specifics about a few deals in which I’ve been involved. The first distribution deal that I signed for my film Rebellion of Thought was structured like this: 80% to the distributor and 20% to me as the filmmaker. This deal was for traditional media in box stores as well as online sales. The film had a retail price of $22.95, but let’s just use $20 for this example. When the retailer received $20 for the DVD, he had already purchased the DVD from the distributor at whatever agreed upon price. Let’s say $10, which is often the case, unless a deeper discount was applied from the wholesaler. With our example the DVD sells for $20 to the consumer, giving $10 to the retailer and $10 to the distributor, then as the filmmaker I’d receive my 20%, or two dollars. The distributor gets the lion’s share of the money because they are doing the duplication of the film as well as the marketing for the placement of the product. So, if someone buys a film at a traditional retailer for $20, the filmmaker can end up with as little as two dollars. You can see how an independent filmmaker needs to sell a lot of movies in order to make a living doing what he’s attempting to do.

Now lets look at streaming. The cost to prepare a film for streaming media platforms is much less than the cost of DVD replication. A single file of the film is made and it is converted into whatever format the distribution platform needs and typically delivered on hard drive or via upload. There are no replication costs like you would have for traditional media. So this can be advantageous to the filmmaker, because the lower the cost for the distributor, the higher the percentage the filmmaker may be able to secure on a streaming deal. So, for example, on one of my recent films our deal looked like this. 40% for the distributor and 60% for me, the filmmaker. Now, with streaming I’m able to end up with more of the received money than I ever was able to with DVD distribution, but it’s not not all so rosy when you look at the various streaming platforms.

My current distributor shies away from platforms like Netflix that only offer one time payments because it can be a disadvantage to the filmmaker in the long run. Instead, he opts for platforms such as Amazon Instant, Vudu, Vimeo On Demand, Google Play, etc. These services are pay-to-play options where the consumer has to pay specifically for the films they want to watch. This means that each time someone rents or purchases a digital copy from one of these services, the filmmaker benefits.

So let’s look at how the money gets split with a pay-to-play option. Say you rent a movie on one of the streaming platforms for $4. The money is split between the platform and the distributor based on whatever deal each distributor negotiates with the platform. For our example let’s say it’s split 50-50. So with our $4 example, the platform gets two dollars and the distributor gets two dollars. The distributor then split his two dollars with me the filmmaker at our agreed-upon rate; in this case 60% to me and 40% to him. So, on a $4 stream, I, the filmmaker, end up with $1.20. Once again, I have to sell a enormous number of streams of my film in order for it ever to become profitable. In the case of my recent film I spent almost 7 years making the picture and obviously, apart from a miracle, I would never be able to recoup the money for the time invested in the project. There’s a saying I like to use when it comes to filmmaking… “We’re not in it for the money, but without the money, we’re not in it!”

Now let’s address physical DVD’s, a form of media that, since the closing of your local Blockbuster, have been on the steady decline. A packaged DVD of my current film costs approximately three dollars per disc plus advertising and marketing costs. On a side note, each copy of this DVD contains a 48-page full-color study guide, which is why it costs twice as much as your typical DVD to create… oh, and these costs do not include the cost of writing, layout, design, artwork, or programming the disc and support materials. This brings us back to the importance of the DVD and of buying your copy directly from the filmmaker.

Let’s go back to our earlier example of a $20 DVD purchase. Let’s say that you buy that same $20 DVD directly from me the filmmaker. I don’t receive all of that money, because I had to invest in the replication of the DVD media and the advertising of the product. With my current film the DVD contains 48 page full-color study guide companion to the film. So, my costs to create The DVD package are approximately three dollars per disc plus advertising. As you can see, I as a filmmaker receive a much larger portion of the money when you buy the DVD directly from me.

Another long-term benefit of the physical DVD or Blu-ray is that it advertises itself. Simply put, it exists in tangible form. The disc may sit on a shelf, but in doing so, it’s always there to remind you of the film, to encourage you to watch it again, to be shared with another person, to help extend the life and awareness of the film. You can’t do this with a stream of a film. Sure, you can purchase a download of a film, but it sits hidden on a hard drive somewhere and certainly doesn’t advertise itself in the way traditional media does.

I’m encouraged to see big box stores beginning to sell movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray. This gives hope to the future of disc-based media. As long as content can be created at a higher resolution than the bandwidth your average home internet connection can allow, there may be hope for films on disc.

Much of these same economics apply to musicians, painters, authors, etc.—any artist who makes a product and sells it. With so much attention being placed on “buy local” I would like to add to that: “by local art”. And of course with the Internet you don’t have to be local to purchase films from an independent filmmaker. You can go directly to most any indy filmmakers website and purchase their films, whether on DVD or through streaming. When you do this you encourage us far more than you will ever imagine. Every time an order comes through our website, it gives us reason to celebrate. It encourages us to continue pursuing these arts. And it helps us feed our families. So please… buy local art.

If you are interested in buying a physical, tangible, old school DVD of any of my films directly from me, they are available online at Big Heaven Cafe.