Sometimes self-centeredness can look like striving and having an internal hyper-focus on yourself. If the focus is on you, you, you, then there might be a need for readjustment. Read this month’s INNER VIEW with producer Amanda Ashley Miess as she shares how she took the attention and pressure off of herself and put it where it belongs… back onto God.
Amanda Ashley Miess is a writing, producing, and directing triple threat who has over ten years of experience working in almost every facet of filmmaking. A creative storyteller and idea generator, she’s had her hands in film, TV, and digital media and has worked for some of the most influential names in the industry, including Jerry Bruckheimer, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros. Amanda has developed, produced and directed a host of digital kid-led variety shows for big brands such as Disney Princess, DC Kids, and Polly Pocket, with some videos reaching well over 1 million views. She also co-directed the Pure Flix mini-series The Power Couple, starring Alexa and Carlos PenaVega. She is currently a Senior Producer at Little Dot Studios, an award-winning digital content agency and media network owned by All3Media. A graduate of USC, she has also made several short films, including festival winners Silence Is Olden and Remember Me, winner of 9 awards at LA’s 168 Film Festival. A kid at heart with a strong passion for making influential content for today’s youth, Amanda loves to do anything a 12-year-old would do…. including but not limited to dancing, backflips, board games, crafts, and making goofy music videos.
Kathleen Cooke: This industry is about “hurry up and wait.” How have you learned to wait on God and embrace His peace?
Amanda Ashley Miess: Has God ever “recently” taught you something that He’s actually been bringing to you layer by layer for years? I have! He is so patient. After spending way too much time trying to earn people’s respect and affirmation in this industry, I am finally starting to embrace the fact that I only need my Lord’s approval. I literally have a Google Drive that is 98% full with unproduced scripts, pitch decks, and story ideas. My Lord has shown me that my value comes from Him alone; all my giftings are from Him and are for Him. He will open the doors in His way and in His timing.
One vision He showed me years ago that I’ll never forget: I saw a dog pile of people clambering on each other to reach one key dangling from the ceiling. This is what succeeding in the entertainment industry often feels like. As I stood to the side, watching them climb over each other, fighting for that one key, the Lord told me to instead walk forward towards a small door that was shaped like me. Only I could fit through it, and I was the key. I have spent many years striving to reach that prized “key” hanging from the ceiling and have grown disappointed in God and my abilities when I have not obtained it. Recently, He has instilled in me a newfound peace and purpose. Even if I don’t have all the answers and I am still learning what my true purpose is in this industry, I know I am exactly where I need to be, and I know that even through the mundane, He is using me to bring His Kingdom on earth.
Kathleen: What do you do when it seems like God is silent and you can’t connect to Him?
Amanda: The times I feel most disconnected from God are when the enemy gets me to look at my human efforts and believe that my works aren’t good enough. Even in my spiritual walk, it is easy for me to believe that I am not praying hard enough, reading the Bible long enough, fasting enough, or ministering enough. I start to believe that nothing I do is ever good enough, and so I give up. That’s when I have felt like God is silent, or I am not close to Him. I think that I need to improve my relationship with God and work harder at loving Him and serving Him. But the truth is that if I believe what Jesus did on the cross puts me in right standing with my Heavenly Father, then I am in right relationship with Him right now! Even if I’m not “feeling it,” I am connected. I am pleasing to Him. Every little thing I do for Him or every thought towards Him counts. He is still moving in my life, and progress is being made. When I remind myself of that truth, connecting with God is easy. He’s right there, and I’m right there with Him. (more…)
Where do we get the confidence to push forward, take risks and negotiate without fear? Is it found in us, or in something bigger than ourselves? Read this month’s INNER VIEW as author and producer Victoria Slater shares about rooting herself in the “certainty of God”.
As the daughter of an Air Force officer, Victoria Slater spent her childhood traveling the world and gaining a passion for travel and world culture. She attained a BA in Theatre with minors in Business and French from Wright State University in Ohio, but spent a few post-college years working in chemical defense research. Yet, a lifelong dream to work in the film industry egged her on to Hollywood where Victoria worked over twenty years in the industry; she was also delighted when her new career took her back to foreign lands.
She spent a year in South Africa for TransWorld Pictures as a Production Executive and Director of Development, where she oversaw and negotiated distribution deals for the production of many feature films.
Victoria also has been part of the production teams on several independent and studio feature films and television series, including Twentieth Century Fox’s disaster film Volcano, Paramount’s Star Trek VII Generations, and Baywatch. She has also produced high-end projects ranging from commercials to short videos for private resorts and members-only clubs with the boutique post-production company, Moving Pictures, co-owned with her husband, Ken.
She is a proud member of the Producers Guild of America, where she served on the Board of Directors for nine years and chaired the mentoring program for over seven years. In 2007, Victoria was awarded the prestigious AP Council Commitment Award for her service to the PGA.
Victoria published her book, How To Negotiate Without Freaking Out, to encourage women to become better and braver negotiators. She loves God, her husband, and her two very spoiled little dogs. These are her non-negotiables.
Kathleen Cooke: You had a long and significant career working in entertainment. Looking back, what is the one thing you’d say was the most significant thing God taught you about the industry?
Victoria Slater: God taught me that He is in control. I have recently been reflecting on my past efforts to promote our business or my career that yielded no fruit. Yet projects seemed to come out of “left field” (aka from God). We have been very blessed and have done well, but I can never point to my efforts for our success. Now in making efforts to promote my book, I turn to God and ask, “what should I do?” A friend reminded me of the biblical passage in Luke 5:4, where the disciples had just returned from a night of fruitless fishing.
Jesus told them to put out into the deep and let down their nets for a catch. At first they argued with Him, but then did what He told them to do and took in an abundance of fish. That is what I am trying to do now – not go on my efforts but look to God first and follow His direction.
Kathleen: If you could tell your 20-something-self something that you know now, what would you tell her?
Victoria: “Pride goeth before the fall.” I look back on many opportunities I lost because of pride. I was given an incredible opportunity early in my production career when I was sent to South Africa as a production executive. When I returned to the States, I was a bit puffed up and turned down jobs that seemed a step back but would have led to much greater experiences. I cringe when I think of my poor judgment because I was so prideful.
Kathleen: We often aren’t honest with who we are and how God has wired us. We negotiate with Him on what we want (our will) and what He wants (His will). How can we become that authentic person and accept what He has called us to be and do?
Victoria: I love Psalm 139, especially verse 14 (NIV), which says, “I will praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” I love people who dare to be their wonderful, unique, authentic selves. It can be hard sometimes. We are, by nature, herding animals. But I find people who are authentically themselves are the most fun to be around. So, I strive to be honest and authentic with everyone I meet. And let my unique sense of humor and intellect shine through, for “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Kathleen: I love that. Especially because of the last half of that scripture, where David (the writer of Psalms) acknowledges the confidence that inward knowledge gave him. A career in media, entertainment, arts and leadership can be one of risky choices and uncertainty. Where did you find your certainty and confidence as a high-level executive making many strategic influential decisions in Hollywood?
Victoria: I was around twenty-five years old and had just broken up with my first serious relationship. We had been together for four years, and I was devastated. I was living in Dayton, Ohio working in government research on chemical defense. A friend saw how heartbroken I was and got an Air Force captain to invite me out to lunch. At that lunch, he started talking about God. God?! I didn’t want to hear about God. I wanted to be told how pretty I was. On the way back to my office, this Air Force captain asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus into my life. To this day, I can remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a precipice. If I accepted the offer, I would be jumping off a cliff. I wasn’t ready. So, I declined. Shortly after this, I was in Arizona on vacation. I was heading to California and couldn’t sleep, still upset over the breakup.
I took a walk in that arid climate and started to talk to God, and I had the overwhelming sense that He loved me and would take care of me. I accepted Christ into my life that night.
The Air Force captain will never know how much he influenced my life. You never know how God will use you to influence others. His confidence and certainty of who Jesus was in his life influenced me, and I couldn’t stop thinking of his invitation to know God personally in my life. And it’s God’s certainty living in me that still allows me to keep my confidence in Him as we continue to live in growing, uncertain times today.
Register Now for the Influence Lab Webinar with Victoria on Tuesday, August 23rd at 5:00pm PST!
The Art of Negotiation: How to Grow Your Confidence
We’re growing! Influence Lab Women is expanding into the hub of film and television production in Atlanta. “Hollywood and New York are no longer the only epicenters of media production,” shares Kathleen Cooke. “Influence Lab Women is thrilled to introduce you to the new Atlanta Influence Lab coordinator, Anna Oakley.”
The kick-off of the Atlanta group will be an in-person watch party of the Influence Lab Women’s online event featuring guest Cindy Bond, producer of “Redeeming Love” and the box-office hit, “I Can Only Imagine.” If you live in the Atlanta area, sign up here to join us for this event. (Not in Atlanta? Sign up here for the free webinar.)
And now, meet Anna Oakley…
Hi! My name is Anna Elizabeth Oakley, and I’m an actor, puppeteer, and children’s coach living in what has come to be known as the “Hollywood of the South” – Atlanta, Georgia. In December 2021, I journeyed to LA to hear actress and producer Jessica Oyelowo speak at The Influence Lab Women’s Christmas Gathering. I didn’t know anything about The Influence Lab and little did I know what God truly had in store for me that night. After a long desert season of almost two years due to the pandemic, the gathering blew me away and filled my soul. It was not only an evening filled with new connections, friendships, and empowering prayer but of being strengthened and mentored in faith and career excellence. I was inspired to press on and into what and where God had purposed for my life.
My immediate question when I met Kathleen was, have you thought of bringing this to Atlanta?
It turns out she had! The Influence Lab team had been praying about expanding into Atlanta. They, too, knew that Atlanta had grown into a strong industry community and had become a major hub for TV and film production. The Influence Lab had felt an urgency to expand, encourage and empower professionals there. But how? It was a matter of God’s timing. That night I felt God tapping me on the shoulder and calling me into action. (more…)
It is easy to become a victim of empty promises and lies in the media and entertainment industry. It’s often not a question of “if” you’ll be cheated or taken advantage of; it’s “when.” Anger is an easy button to push, but when the root of bitterness is bitten, it can cause irrefutable damage.
Stories can help us forgive, keep our integrity and move on.
I frequently look at classic fairy tales to find lessons hidden in them. Like parables that Jesus told, many fairy tales have lessons and wisdom to learn from as we examine them more closely. They can teach us about choices and circumstances that occur in our lives, many of which can happen beyond our control.
The story of Rapunzel is one. It was made famous by the Brothers Grimm in their fairytale book for children, but it’s believed that its roots lay in the third-century Italian story of Saint Barbara, whose father thought her so beautiful that he locked her away. The story through the centuries has had many versions with many different storylines. Most recently, Disney retold the story in their animated version entitled, Tangled.
One of the lessons most popularized from the story is that you can’t keep children from the world’s evils. But I think many have missed other hidden lessons. It’s a story of choosing to take risks and make life-changing choices. It’s a story of being set free from bondage caused by sinful acts done to us, whether intentionally or not. Most importantly, it’s a story of climbing up and down the ladder of forgiveness and love and our ability to maintain our integrity and move on despite what’s happened in our lives.
We often see unforgivable acts that cause pain and suffering as singular actions – “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” However, if you examine unpardonable offenses, one finds that they are usually caused by more profound issues of repeated and layered actions. One of the many versions of Rapunzel’s story tells of her mother, who refuses to eat and yearns only for a root growing in the witch’s garden during her pregnancy. Out of love and concern for his wife’s health, Rapunzel’s father repeatedly steals the witch’s magical root, gets caught and must surrender their child to the witch who locks her in a tower. The love of the prince is Rapunzel’s only escape from her bondage.
Unconditional love is the healing balm for repeated offenses.
Rapunzel’s beauty and eventual saving grace are revealed in the power of her hair. Her hair, like God’s unconditional love, is never cut off but keeps growing longer and stronger year after year. It is her hair that the prince uses to save Rapunzel. It is God’s never-ending unconditional love for us through Prince Jesus that rescued us from our eternal separation from Himself. Jesus was God’s ladder of love used to reach and free us from sin’s bondage. Rapunzel’s hair was woven – braided in three substantial sections of hair which allowed her to be rescued. God’s love and forgiveness are also interwoven with the strength of three – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which provide us with an unbreakable bond.
It’s our inability to escape our sins that requires God’s never-ending forgiveness.
Jesus, our ladder of love and forgiveness, is thrown to us daily so we may escape the entrapment of sin. As long as we’re entrapped in this world, we will never be able to stop making sinful choices. Our only hope is to recognize our need for God’s escape ladder – Jesus.
The book of Hosea in the Bible tells the story of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness for us. Often misunderstood because of its sexual themes, Hosea is far from a tale of sexual lust and fantasy consequences. Instead, it is the story of God’s unrelenting forgiveness for our continual sinning. He may allow our deserved punishment, but He’ll never abandon us.
Stories make us think and hear God’s voice.
God used the parable of Hosea and his marriage to a prostitute for us to understand the height, length and depth of His love and forgiveness, and the reason why Jesus came and sacrificed His life for us. Prince Jesus scaled sin’s tower to reach the depths of our hearts. Then God commands us to forgive just as He forgave us. He urges us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who empowers us and allows our eyes to be opened to those entrapped in the bondage of their sin and to forgive those who have caused us pain and suffering. It enables us to turn from anger and the root of bitterness we may have eaten and then clasp onto God’s powerful, forgiving love. Like the voice of the prince whom Rapunzel heard while in her tower, God allows us to hear His unique voice and the heart song of Jesus.
On February 24th, The Influence Lab will host producer Cindy Bond of Mission Pictures International in a free online event. Her newly released film, Redeeming Love, from the best-selling novel by Francine Rivers, was inspired by the book of Hosea. I will interview Cindy, and we will examine the challenges of making the movie and how its story of forgiveness and love is so needed in our culture today. Redeeming Love, like the story of Rapunzel, reveals the effects of evil, choosing to obey God’s direction and not our own, and how His plans for us bring renewed life and a way forward.
Can you hear the Prince of Peace’s voice in your life? Don’t let unforgivable acts keep you entrapped. God desires you to be set free and to live happily ever after.
Don’t miss the Influence Lab webinar featuring Cindy Bond on February 24. Sign up today for this free on-iine event! Register here.
Each year our nation remembers Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. and the significant civil rights and freedoms they fought for. King was more than a champion of civil rights and equality; he was also a champion for freedom of religion. Both great leaders knew that God gives us our ultimate freedoms and that attaining those freedoms means we have to use our God-given minds.
Our minds control our heart, and our heart controls our actions.
Martin Luther King Jr. fully understood how our Creator made us. In our culture today, science is seen as the solution to our problems, and it can bring solutions in many circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly put science on a pedestal recently.
However, science without wisdom can be dangerous. The classic story of Frankenstein is a fictitious story of how science can create more issues and fear if we don’t employ wisdom with it. One of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. is “Science investigates – religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power. Religion gives man wisdom which is control.” (more…)