Based in Los Angeles, The Influence Lab kicked off its new Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter with a meeting featuring Netflix showrunner Sheryl J. Anderson of the hit series “Sweet Magnolias.”
Los Angeles, CA (June 16, 2022) – Cofounded by media executives Phil and Kathleen Cooke with a vision to transform culture through media, the Los Angeles-based The Influence Lab extended its impact this past week with the inaugural meeting of the Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter. The in-person June event featured Sheryl J. Anderson, creator and showrunner of the Netflix hit series, “Sweet Magnolias.”
Called the “Hollywood of the South,” Atlanta is a growing hub of film and television production with tax incentives drawing in major Hollywood productions and new studios. With the growing film crew base comes a need for community, which was one of the compelling reasons to launch the new Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter. Anderson’s Netflix show is filming in Atlanta and presented an opportunity to have the seasoned showrunner speak at the event.
“Remember we are living on God’s schedule,” Sheryl encouraged the attending female actors, producers, directors and crew members based in Atlanta. “Figure out your path in this industry and it will come to pass in God’s time.” In an industry that can be prone to “people-pleasing” to advance your career, she admonished the women, “You can never please others at the expense of yourself or your work.”
Flying in from Los Angeles for the event, Kathleen Cooke was accompanied by Influence Lab Women Events director Ayanna Anene. Anna Oakley, the Influence Lab Atlanta Women coordinator and representatives of the Hollywood Prayer Network in Atlanta opened the evening in prayer.
“We heard thank you’s over and over again,” shared Kathleen Cooke after the gathering. “There’s a growing community of women who want to align their faith as they work in the new Atlanta ‘Hollywood South’ industry.”
Watch for the replay of the Atlanta meeting at https://influencelab.com For more information about the Atlanta Influence Lab Women’s chapter or the Hollywood Influence Lab Women’s base, contact email@example.com.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to work in the Hollywood film and media industry. The community of believers working in the industry was hidden and suffering from an onslaught of protests done by well-meaning Christians who felt that the programs and content produced in Hollywood in movies and on TV were immoral and evil.
However, there was a remnant of dedicated Christians working in Hollywood. We felt a calling to be here and work within the secular industry and do so with love, care, and excellence even if we had to work in the shadows. God has always left a remnant of His believers to bring light and hope in dark places when others have chosen to run away. As Hollywood industry Christians worked on the many challenging stages, production studios and in offices, things began to change. Relationships were established and rebuilt on the foundations of love and care. Nonbelievers saw Christians as talented, hard-working professionals willing to go the extra mile. They didn’t fall apart when disruptions and challenges happened but instead loved and cared about them personally. The walls of mistrust fell as caring relationships were built. Many began to see God for who He was – a God of love, peace, kindness, and accepted Him into their lives as “The Author and Finisher of their faith” (Hebrews 12:2). There are now Bible study and prayer groups firmly established on studio and production lots and communities of Christian industry leaders who are changing the landscape within Hollywood.
Christian industry professionals began by choosing to pray. Over the years, their numbers grew into multiple groups of writers, musical artists, students and women’s groups who came together to learn to be leaders of God’s love. Most importantly, these groups allied together and stayed connected to the larger community through events like the National Day of Prayer, the Biola Media Conference and other significant community events.
We saw our individual job placements in the industry as more than just a paycheck. We saw ourselves as God’s lanterns of light and His salt of the earth. We labored to rebuild the walls of love, hope, and friendship. Through the efforts of many groups like the Hollywood Prayer Network, Master Media, The Influence Lab, and many others, Christians in Hollywood have become a large, vibrant and active community that is respected and trusted to intelligently and gracefully engage on moral and cultural questions without condemnation.
It was how Nehemiah led.
Nehemiah prayed and then rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days when others had failed. The walls he built were for protection, but they were also necessary to create a united faith community. Nehemiah understood he was an enslaved person within a foreign culture (Hollywood’s culture is often alien and not agreeable with Christian values, morals and beliefs). Yet, he became a trusted and mindful leader. His account of the journey of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem is a book to be studied for all Christians wanting to rebuild their communities where God has placed them. His leadership is a lesson on how today’s Church – the body of Christ needs to lead in a world that disdains the word “Christian” because of its history and past poor leadership practices. Just as Nehemiah did, Christians working in the Hollywood industry recognized that it must start with prayer and personal engagement with God and those they work for and with. It begins with building individual relationships at their places of work and learning to be compassionate, mindful leaders.
How do we lead today in Hollywood and the world?
We continue to love, care and live authentic lives. I love what U.K. evangelist Canon J. John says, “None of us have it together, but together we have it.” First and foremost, it’s about how much we care, because people don’t care how much we know or what we believe until they understand how much we care. “
Each person in Jerusalem rebuilt their personal wall first. They accepted their leadership role and rebuilt their relationship with God one stone at a time. Then, they physically rebuilt the walls, not outside of their neighborhoods or places of work, but at their own home. They weren’t trained construction workers but were priests, merchants, jewelers, masons, craftsmen, artisans, and women who cared. The words “next to him” were used 20 times in the 3rd chapter of Nehemiah. It takes the whole body of Christ to rebuild the walls of our culture. There are lists of responsible leaders who worked on the walls and repaired the gates written in the book of Nehemiah.
Today each person in the Church is indispensable. Each must share the responsibility to repair the walls around them. Covid has changed and disrupted the physical places we are living and the places we work in many ways. Atlanta is now the new “Hollywood South,” and new media and entertainment hubs are in Austin, Dallas, Nashville, Vancouver, and Canada with lots of production still happening in New York, England, Germany, Australia and India. God is enlarging the tent of Christians working in media and entertainment. We each have our place to build the walls of unity and love as never before, and those places are people who are sitting across the desk from you or standing next to you on a production lot.
It takes one person at a time. It takes you!
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…)
With over 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the U.S., choosing a trustworthy organization to support can be difficult. With that in mind, The Influence Lab is pleased to announce the earning of GuideStar’s 2021 Silver Seal of Transparency. Regarded as the most widely adopted symbol of transparency for nonprofit organizations in the U.S., this recognition offers an added level of trust for the financial partners who support The Influence Lab’s mission to train pastors, churches, and Christian communicators to share the gospel effectively in the digital age.
Since 1994, GuideStar has promoted nonprofit transparency with a searchable online database of nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations which make it easy for the public to verify an organization before they give their donation. For example, in 2018, over 10 million people used GuideStar data to make decisions about nonprofits and the work they do.
“Receiving the Silver Seal builds confidence for our donors. Spurred by the COVID-19 crisis, the opportunities on the global digital mission field have increased dramatically,” shares Phil Cooke, co-founder of The Influence Lab. “Throughout the pandemic, The Influence Lab has been there to help church leaders manage and optimize those digital opportunities.”
During the pandemic The Influence Lab produced online teaching events for:
- 200 pastors and church leaders across Russia
- 150 pastors and church leaders in South America
- 60 Portuguese-speaking pastors and church leaders in Portugal, Brazil and Angola
- 200 pastors and church leaders across Australia
- And media influencers in South Africa, Australia and Hollywood
Additionally, with travel restrictions easing, Phil, with wife and co-founder Kathleen Cooke are once again traveling internationally to train Christian communicators. Travels yet this year include a church media conference in Milan, Italy and a teaching session in Istanbul.
The Influence Lab is meeting the need for training a new generation to reach the world in the digital age. You can find The Influence Lab nonprofit profile on Guidestar here.
Join us in this digital mission strategy!
2022 is fast approaching. Consider your 2021 year-end gift to The Influence Lab now. Give here.
Give today and with your generous gift of $25 or more, you’ll receive a free book by Phil or Kathleen Cooke as our thank you! Find out more here.
At The Influence Lab, our focus is to help Christians use media more effectively to tell their stories so that others will know the most important story ever told – the story of Jesus. Our passion is to mentor media professionals and leaders to create excellent media projects, develop leadership skills, and alert them to insider tips and sometimes the pitfalls of media manipulation. As the Bible commands, we want Christians to “defend their faith” (I Peter 3:15). Having worked in Hollywood for many years, I know how media and entertainment affect our emotional connections and in turn affect our actions and why we must be vigilant to use media and entertainment to tell powerful stories and share the wisdom of God.
Big Tech are the creators of our present-day media platforms and tools and have set themselves up to be media gods and idols in our present-day culture. They, along with Hollywood, are experts in using their fashioned communication tools, skills and crafts to tell the stories they want to be told and followed. These stories are changing what we identify with and even affect our own identities.
What are those stories Big Tech is telling? (more…)