Two years ago we had a dilemma. We had to choose between attending a film festival where our movie Flowers for Fannie was up for an award, a local screenwriting conference, or an arts conference in Roanoke, Virginia. We chose the arts conference and it turned out to be a life changing event. It was at that conference that I first met Jenn Gotzon and not only cast her as an actress in The Good Book, but also gained her friendship, something I treasure dearly. At that conference we also met Torry Martin, George Escobar, Greg Robbins, and Dr. Fred Eichleman, the man behind the conference. Dr. Eichleman is a fascinating man with an amazing movie ministry and I’m excited today to get to get to share about Point North Tidings, his publication that provides an inside scoop on Christian movies and the people who make them.
First, introduce yourself and your role with Point North Tidings.
I am a retired teacher who has been involved in the media all my life. During my teaching career I used commercial films and TV shows in my social studies classrooms. Everything from Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to classic Star Trek. About 1972 a group of Sophomores approached me about sponsoring a science fiction literary society and I agreed. Later this revolved into media conventions which my wife Carolyn and I ran from 1976 to 2006, thirty in all. We had film festivals, work shops, authors, artists, and film and TV stars, memorabilia sellers and even plays. Autograph sessions of course. Now, who was our first media guest? Hold on to your hat. I was involved in the US Senate campaign for John Warner who won and served many years. Carolyn and I took care of his wife, Elizabeth Taylor who became a friend and came to two of our events. We had a scholarship program and she financed one in drama. Our attendance finally grew too big for us to handle, 1,500. One feature we had, unusual for most media events, was a Sunday morning chapel. We were pleased at the authors, artists and stars who enjoyed taking part and that led to a shift in emphasis around the year 2000. The last few events we ran were Point North Christian Media Conventions.
What is the story behind the name of the publication?
One of our early helpers was Star Trek star Grace Lee Whitney. Her son, a Christian jazz band leader plus also a public school teacher, called his group Point North. She gave us that title and we formed an organization which we incorporated as Point North Outreach. We also began a publication which we titled Point North Tidings that I became the editor of. We have five directors who are the bosses, though I am one of them. The very first to get involved was Deanna Lund a dear actress friend who is like a sister to Carolyn. They share the same birth date and year. Another is actress Rhonda Fleming. I fell in love with her when I was twelve years old. Rhonda, in her day from the forties to seventies was the number one leader of Christian Bible Studies having as many as fifty attend in Hollywood. Working with her were Jane Russell and Connie Haines. Those who attended included future president Ronald Reagan, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Another director and the very first person I talked with about this dream was Joyce Meadows, now director emeritus. The most recent addition was Nancy Stafford who got us to put Tidings on the net and more than doubled our readership. Carolyn and I are also directors. We have an advisory board of stars, authors and others.
When did you first develop an interest in promoting Christian movies?
Frankly it was Rhonda who first revealed to me that there could be a connection between Christian evangelizing and Hollywood. I was a Freshman in college when I first heard about the Gospel Pop group she sang with with that included Jane Russell, Connie Haines and Beryl Davis. Up to that point as a Christian and a movie fan I never put the two together. I will add that I was greatly influenced that Freshman year by three films that I love to this day. A Man Called Peter (which had me considering the ministry), The Robe, and I’d Climb the Highest Mountain. I have always liked the idea of promoting faith and family films and for me this was what we could do with Point North Outreach. After a while we felt more could be accomplished through a publication than with conventions.
Tell us about your God at the Movies Bible study.
One spin off of our work has been something Carolyn and I wanted to do. Have a Bible Study in our home that used films and scripture together. That is how we came up with our God at the Movies Bible Study which we hold monthly. A couple times our church has invited us to hold it there. One advantage we have is that from time to time there is an unreleased film that we are granted the use of a screener to review for Tidings and often use it in our Bible Study. We did this with The Good Book for example.
How long have you been publishing Point North Tidings?
This is our twelfth year for Point North Tidings and for two years before that we had a newsletter. It has been a joy to work with, however in recent years this old guy has had to get help in our work. I have to add that we do not put this on the net ourselves. We have a dear friend in England who does this for us at no cost. Very shy about her name being released. (Of course I tell Kate I don’t think William and his mom would mind. kidding.) It is not her, but she is like a queen as this could be very expensive. Today 90% of our readers get Tidings on the net and the other 10% the old fashioned way. It is free and to be a subscriber they just have to send their email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We always assure people it will be kept private.
Have you ever thought about being a filmmaker yourself?
Me a film maker! Well I am working on a novel, it has been twenty two years since I have had one published and before that three textbooks. Folks say it would make a great film or TV series. I would be more interested in being a writer than an actual film maker though I would love to have a role or be an extra in one of Nancy Stafford’s films. Carolyn and I were extras in two films and our small parts ended on the cutting room floor. If I would make a film it would be a Western that would parallel the life of Paul. One of those things you plan in your mind, but never put on paper.
Tell us a little about this upcoming issue.
We are very excited about this coming issue, Volume 12, Number 2. It has more film information than any past issue and like all of them a great deal of fun. I cannot single out any one thing without offending someone, so I will say there is kind of a theme. This issue has more of a Christian activist touch than any past one. In my opinion our nation is greatly under attack by The Enemy. There is spiritual warfare going on, which is what my novel is about if ever finished. Christianity is under attack both in this nation and around the world.
Point North Tidings, Volume 12, Number 2 will be out Sunday, May 31. It is free. Just send your email address to email@example.com and it will be kept private.