This week, Phil and Kathleen Cooke have their bags packed for Canada! They’ll be speaking at two conferences in Winnipeg, organized by the Entrepreneurial Leaders Organization (ELO). The first conference is tailored towards Christian business leaders and entrepreneurs, while the second is geared towards local pastors in Winnipeg and the surrounding area.
In the ever-evolving landscape of the digital world, one of the most critical skills in business and ministry is the ability to lead creative people. “It’s the designers, filmmakers, video producers, writers, composers, and other creative professionals that will drive an organization’s message, awareness, and marketing,” Phil Cooke commented.
“It’s the designers, filmmakers, video producers, writers, composers, and other creative professionals that will drive an organization’s message, awareness, and marketing,” —Phil Cooke
He will be teaching the business leaders the art of leading creative teams, and during the pastor’s conference, he will conduct an interactive Q&A session to address and offer strategic solutions as they incorporate digital media in their outreach efforts. He added, “ELO is an incredibly effective network raising a generation of visionary Christian leaders. I’m honored to be asked to share techniques to inspire and motivate these amazing teams.”
“Sex Trafficking, Starving Children, and World Peace: Three Reasons Why You Should Care About Women Working in Media” is Kathleen’s topic for the business leadership conference as she advocates for women. “As we face major global disruptions to our society, we need women in the media and arts industries with a biblical worldview,” she shared. “We need them empowered, trained, and ignited to create artistic projects and stories that resonate and affect the culture. I am thrilled to be that voice for women at this conference.”
The training sessions this week, and in November as Phil and Kathleen travel to Vancouver for more ELO-sponsored events, offer a broader picture of how The Influence Lab is elevating the message of pastors, leaders and Christian communicators worldwide.
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Because of you, we can impact Christian communicators in Canada this week. The media and digital training that Phil and Kathleen bring to these leaders will elevate their strategies and increase their impact in promoting Christian values and worldviews through their organizations.
Kathleen Cooke recently caught up with one of our Influence Women leaders, Ayanna Anene, and had a conversation on why she stays active in Influence Women and how the INtogether Bible study has been particularly important in supporting her life as she works in the industry.
Ayanna Anene is an event and film producer. Passionate about collaborating with creatives to develop and produce their work, she works as a script consultant with Stage32 and independently to shoot proof of concepts. Starting her entertainment career at The Walt Disney Company, she later joined an LA-based TV and film production company. A multi-faceted creative entrepreneur, Ayanna launched and established an artist residency based in Southern California and formed the core leadership team of a traveling performing arts ministry based in Orange County for several years, producing over 40 original musicals and plays during her term. Ayanna is a Wharton School of Business graduate and a passionate member of The Influence Women Hollywood Chapter.
Kathleen Cooke: Thanks for joining us on this INNER VIEW, Ayanna! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to?
Ayanna Anene: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with the women of Influence Women. I am a film and event producer. I collaborate with writers to improve and produce their scripts. I also consult with artists and creatives of all kinds to develop a strategy for their creative careers. I’ve also launched an artist residency based in Southern California. I have facilitated the Bible study for the West Coast, Central, and East Coast time zones for the past three sessions. It has afforded me opportunities to connect with people in the industry, not only in my city of Los Angeles, but from all over the world. It’s been amazing!
Kathleen: What is the single most important thing you learned from the recent study on Nehemiah? How did it affect your perspective on career and life?
Ayanna: What struck me the most about the Bible study you wrote was how we each have a part to play in the Kingdom of God. In Nehemiah’s day, God gave him a vision to see the walls of the city of Jerusalem rebuilt and restored. Each person was assigned a task. No task was too great, or too small. Some were laying bricks while others were standing guard with swords drawn, staying alert for attack or sabotage from their enemies. Some were working on the east gate, while others were on the west gate. The assignments were different and unique to each clan and family. But each is vitally important.
The entertainment and media space is vast. Some are inspired to be make-up artists, and others are stylists, while there are others who are passionate about editing, acting, animation, writing, composing music, set design, publishing, etc. There are now more channels than ever to reach audiences with a message— from TV channels to streamers, to personal websites, podcast platforms, social media outlets like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and the list goes on. The opportunities are vast; just like in Nehemiah’s day, no one’s role is too small or too large. We are each playing a part in a much larger movement in God’s Kingdom.
It reminds me that what is a desire in my heart is not too large for God to fulfill or too small to be worth pursuing. And neither is the desire in yours. Whatever we do, we do as unto the Lord, and it is an important piece in the rebuilding of His Kingdom on earth.
Kathleen: What makes this online bible study unique to women in the industry and why do they need to join the 6-week series starting Sept 5th?
Ayanna: I think the Bible study is an opportunity to connect with other women who know the unique challenges and opportunities of working in the media and entertainment spaces. It is an opportunity to build connections and relationships and learn from the experiences of women in different facets of the entertainment industry. I am also excited about the new Elijah study this year. We are to be women of fire and discernment, and I believe Elijah has a lot to teach us about that.
Connect with Ayanna:
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to grow in your faith and career! The INtogether Bible series begins on September 5th at 7 pm for six weeks – one hour in your time zone, or you can join another time zone group if it better fits into your schedule. Dive into scripture and find great connections with other women in the industry who also want to align their work and faith!
Free Registrations open August 1st on the website!
This past year has been a year of exploding growth for Influence Women. With The Influence Lab co-founder Kathleen Cooke leading the way, this branch of The Influence Lab is mentoring women around the world in their careers in the arts and entertainment industry. Here’s a press release to help you keep up with all the excitement!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Influence Women Expands from Hollywood to Film Production Hubs Across Nation
“She Leads America” award recipient Kathleen Cooke is leading a new generation of women in film, television, arts and entertainment as Influence Women expands with chapters in Hollywood, Orange County, Nashville and Atlanta.
Los Angeles, CA (May 3, 2023) —Serving female leaders in the film and television industry as well as arts and music professionals, Influence Women has exploded with growth over the past year. Expanding from its base in Hollywood to serve Christian women in film production hubs across the nation, new chapters in Orange County, Nashville and Atlanta offer networking, education and mentoring opportunities with in-person gatherings and online events.
Influence Women is led by Kathleen Cooke, recipient of the “She Leads America” award for her distinguished work in media and entertainment. “We are all women of influence,” shares Kathleen Cooke, “and I am honored to lead women working in media, entertainment, arts and leadership who intertwine their faith in their lives and careers.”
A branch of the nonprofit The Influence Lab founded by Phil and Kathleen Cooke, Influence Women events help women grow in their craft and their faith by introducing them to influential industry voices. Featured guests have included writer-producer Alexandra Boylan (“Switched,” “Catching Faith”); casting director Lisa London (London-Stroud Casting), Hollywood producer Victoria Slater, TV personality Cynthia Garrett, Hollywood actress Renee Lawless (Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and the Have Nots”), script consultant/Cooke Media Group development executive Laura Woodworth, Netflix director of digital production Christina Lee Storm, and Hollywood film and TV star Edwina-Findley-Dickerson (“If Loving You is Wrong”). Upcoming events are planned with Empower Women Media founder and author Shirin Taber (“Muslims Next Door”) and actress-writer-producer Sam Sorbo (“Let There Be Light”).
Influence Women will also have a presence at NRB 2023 in Orlando. “Hollywood Decentralized: Why You Don’t Have to Live in LA to be a Female Filmmaker” will feature Kathleen Cooke and top Christian women filmmakers in a panel talk. Offering “boots on the ground” insight, attendees will gain valuable information to navigate their careers successfully in a new decentralized film industry.
To schedule an interview with Kathleen Cooke, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To request an invitation to the Influence Women NRB 2023 event, email email@example.com.
About Kathleen Cooke
Kathleen Cooke is an award-winning producer, actor, speaker and writer, and co-founder of Cooke Media Group and the nonprofit The Influence Lab and Influence Women. Kathleen is the author of Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture, and posts the weekly online Influence Lab Journal and a weekly blog mentoring women in media, entertainment and leadership. She has been interviewed on top radio shows and podcasts as well as Christian TV networks such as CBN, TBN and The Hillsong Channel and in 2022 she was chosen as one of 10 Christian women of distinction to receive the She Leads America Award and a Certificate of Congressional Record for her outstanding work in the media and entertainment industry. Find out more at https://kathleencooke.com
Are you attending NRB 2023 in Orlando? If you’re a woman working in media, entertainment, arts, music or leadership, here’s a special Influence Women event you won’t want to miss!
Hollywood Decentralized: Why You Don’t Have to Live in LA to be a Female Filmmaker
Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at the Orlando World Center Marriott
7:00-9:00 pm ET
Contact us for details at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have to live in Hollywood to pursue a career in the industry? In this panel talk, Kathleen Cooke and top Christian women filmmakers and influencers will discuss the pros and cons of living in LA while exploring the options of other production hubs across the nation. The pandemic and valuable tax incentives have opened new film and television production hubs across the nation, and with it, tremendous opportunities for female filmmakers.
Sharing “boots on the ground” insight, attendees will gain actionable steps to pursue their careers outside of the Hollywood system in places like Florida, Atlanta, Nashville and Dallas. Writers, actors, directors, producers and crew members will gain valuable information to navigate their careers successfully in a new decentralized film industry.
Find out more about this special Influence Women event here.
For more details and to request an invitation, contact us at email@example.com
Although Influence Women has its roots in Hollywood, this “branch” of The Influence Lab is spreading across the country. With chapters in key production cities like Nashville, Atlanta, Orange County and Hollywood, Influence Women are creating mentoring and supportive communities as they pursue their callings in media, entertainment, arts, music and leadership.
Become a member of Influence Women today! Get more information here.
Navigating your path can be challenging. Learning to let go of idols, offenses and hurt (especially from the Church) isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly necessary. Read this month’s INNER VIEW with award-winning writer Sarah Sumpolec as she shares about the speed bumps she’s had to overcome in her walk with God.
BIO: Sarah Sumpolec is a writer and producer who is particularly passionate about the tween, teen, and family markets. She’s a traditionally published, award-winning novelist with seven teen novels. She began writing for TV and film in 2004 after graduating from the Act One Hollywood Program. She worked in development alongside Vonda Skelton to launch the teen intern program at the Gideon Media Arts & Film Festival and worked on short films and major features in a variety of capacities refining her career. She has a nurturing heart and a passion to mentor writers to see them develop award-winning content. Her family has been involved in the entertainment industry for a long while; two of her three daughters work as professional actresses, and when her youngest was 12 years old, she toured the country on the National Broadway tour of Annie. The family has recently moved to Los Angeles to continue their careers, and Sarah remains passionate about writing and producing content that allows teens (ages 8-18) to flourish and discover their identity and purpose.
Sarah will be leading an Influence Women Mentorship track on writing this coming April. Register at influencewomen.org!
Kathleen Cooke: How has God walked with you through the roller-coaster of a career as a writer?
Sarah Sumpolec: Oh, I could write a book. Quite honestly, I’ve been in a wilderness season that has dragged on far longer than I ever anticipated. I’m still very much in it. But as painful as it has been at times, it has also been precious. I recognize how God has been by my side to transform me on the inside, even as I walk through a barren landscape. How He gently but persistently calls me to keep my eyes fixed on Him alone. Even when everything falls apart and nothing looks the way you had hoped or imagined – He is the treasure. But keeping my eyes on Jesus, abiding in the truth of who He is, means I must ignore all of the things that come at me from the world that try to paint a different reality. It means I must choose joy when grief threatens to flood me. I must choose joy when I face yet another rejection. I must choose joy when yet someone or something else tries to tell me I don’t belong. Because if He didn’t say it, then it’s not true.
Choosing joy is no small thing and I feel like I’ve had increased opportunities to choose joy at ever-deepening levels. Because “everything falling apart and nothing looking the way we had hoped or imagined”? That’s been our journey. Joy can’t wait until things have changed because then my joy is because of that external thing that has changed. No, I have to choose joy here and now, when my hands are empty, and I’ve got nothing to offer except myself. I will “praise before the breakthrough” because He truly is enough.
Kathleen: It takes grit and ambition to carve out a writing career. How do you live in the “wait” and the writing and re-writing and more re-writing, knowing God’s got you?
Sarah: As a young teen, before I met Jesus, I started working in the theater and assistant directing in my local theater. In college, I continued that journey as a double major in Theater and Psychology – I dreamed of being an actor, director, and playwright. Enter Jesus. By the time I was a senior and had grown considerably in my walk, God showed me how the theater was an idol in my life, and that it needed to go. I quickly dropped my major with just one class left to take and walked away from it completely. I didn’t want anything between Jesus and me! And in many ways, that set the tone for my walk with Jesus. When we lay down our own ambitions and dreams, it is only then we can make room for Him to plant new ones in our hearts. I always think of Abraham and Sarah – and how – in their urgency to “help” God’s promise come along, Ishmael was born. But he was not the son of promise. If you try to get things your own way, circumventing God’s plan, you could end up with something that God didn’t mean for you to have. His way is always better. The things He has planned for me will come in my pursuit of Him – not in my pursuit of those “things”.
That allows me to let go of things whenever He nudges me that I’m holding something too tightly, or something that I shouldn’t be holding at all. I used to want the lights shining on me, and now I’m content to be invisible. Being invisible is a weird place, too, but because I know that I’m not invisible to Him, I can be at peace even in this place. Anonymity can become a comfort zone, too – for example – I was recently invited onto a podcast, a live radio show, and asked for this interview!! Because God has had me hidden for so long, doing interviews makes me uncomfortable! So I have found we need to find a balance to be willing to go when He says go, and let go when He says let go and seek to be sensitive enough to His voice to know the difference.
Kathleen: The industry is rotted with promises that are often never fulfilled and people who say and do damaging things which affect creative and artistic endeavors. What has God taught you about forgiveness and moving forward?
Sarah: I didn’t grow up in the Church (I have a wild testimony!), and I think one of the things that surprised me most about Christianity early was seeing how badly some Christians treat other Christians. Over the years, some of the hardest things I have had to endure came at the hands of people who called themselves believers. I learned very early on – thanks to an amazing discipleship group where I was truly healed and set free – that I can never use God’s people as a measure of who He truly is. Sadly, they just aren’t always a good reflection of Him.
But the second piece of that is that forgiveness is a choice. Unforgiveness is a sin that will hurt us if we don’t deal with it. It will choke us like an out-of-control weed if we don’t cut it off. It must be dealt with swiftly. The beauty of choosing forgiveness is I can choose it even if my feelings aren’t there yet. The feelings will catch up eventually. Choosing forgiveness, then praying blessings for those that have wronged you helps your heart line up correctly. I find this is something I go back to over and over in my walk, because, well, offenses happen, don’t they?
Kathleen: God tells us more times in the Bible to “go” and influence the world than He tells us to stay put. Why is this important for someone working in the industry to learn?
Sarah: Right before the COVID shutdown, our family received some surprising direction from God. We were on a completely different path, merrily walking along, thinking that the path we walked made sense. Then everything changed; all because a college kid looked at us and said, “Why would you do that?” Little did she know that her question prompted some deep prayer and soul-searching for us all. And strangely, the idea of “We are all moving to Hollywood” didn’t seem so strange anymore. It seemed like it is what we were supposed to figure out all along. But when I say our lives were upended, it’s not an exaggeration. And it’s been hard. Really hard. I think too many Christians believe following God should be this smooth, even road, and I’ve found that to not be the case. Sometimes your promised land has giants, but when God leads, nothing is impossible.
Teaching in the public school system taught me long ago that we are all constantly influencing people around us. Whatever is in us oozes out into the world around us. Our internal world and personal deep and abiding connection with Christ is the most important thing to care for. Because it is from that core that all influence happens.
The question for me really is – what kind of influence am I? Am I bringing words of faith and hope into the world around me? Sometimes that is all you can do, and that is enough.
Connect with Sarah:
Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-do-i-do-with-my-life/id1502924500 https://open.spotify.com/show/1XtoNofXO49HaEGyFbL5LA