KAREN COVELL / MICHAEL WESTFALL INTERVIEW
COVELL is a television producer, Director of the Hollywood Prayer Network (HPN) and
co-founder and producer for JC Productions, an independent television and music production company.
challenges us to view Hollywood as the World’s most influential mission field and she advocates that American’s
pray for the people in the entertainment industry.
Karen is well versed and very knowledgeable about the workings
of Hollywood and the film industry so I have invited her to participate in this interview.
MICHAEL WESTFALL: I would like to welcome you and thank
you for your participation in this interview. I have several questions to ask you. You are head of a very important ministry
covering a very important industry. When and why did the Hollywood Prayer Network, (HPN), begin and how many members
do you now have?
Thanks Michael. The Hollywood Prayer Network started in July of 2001. I
began it out of Hollywood Presbyterian Church in Hollywood and it has been growing every since. We now have over 5,000
members, representing over 10,000 praying units across the world. And people are joining us on-line every single day!
have 14 local chapters in the United States, Canada, Thailand and Italy. We have almost 500 “I to I Prayer Partnerships”
which are matched pairs of an intercessor outside of Hollywood committed to pray for a Christian who is an industry professional
in Hollywood. My goal is to have every Christian in Hollywood and in other entertainment industry cities across the country
to be prayed for as missionaries as they work, live and minister in the media. We now also send out HPN Media packets, which
include our brochure, our 15-minute DVD entitled “The Hollywood Crisis,” talking about how God is moving through
prayer in Hollywood, and our Remote Prayer Stickers, which are stickers that fit on the front of any TV Remote. They
say “STOP and pray for this show!” This encourages Christians to pray for the media they’re watching.
MW: What inspired you personally to become active and can you explain
just what HPN does?
I have a three-fold reason for my inspiration to start HPN. First of all, as a TV Producer myself,
and being married to a composer, I saw that we are working in the world’s most influential mission field. Washington
DC is the global seat of power, but Hollywood is the global seat of influence. I knew that Christians had turned away
from Hollywood decades ago and since then the programming has been getting darker, more compromising, etc. I believe
they started to see giants in the land and they became afraid, thinking they were too big to conquer. It became obvious
to my husband Jim and me that more Christians needed to be back here in this mission field, working and ministering so that
we could “take back the land.” Jim and I and some friends who also worked here truly believed that though there
were (and still are) giants in the land – they are NOT TOO BIG. We believed that if we started asking people
to pray, inviting God to come in, bring in solid believers and do a miracle here that we could see Hollywood be redeemed.
We are now part of a community of over 5,000 Christians in Hollywood, there are 19 active ministries here (www.hollywoodconnect.com),
there are believers in key positions in studios, TV networks, production companies, etc. and we are indeed seeing God doing
miracles here. We are seeing answers to our prayers.
Secondly, I want Christians to pray for the people in Hollywood
to change “the church’s” heart and perspective of this mission field. I want to have Christians around the
world think about the media they are watching, listening to and downloading, and think about the people involved as children
of God who need to experience His unconditional love in their lives. I want the Lord to melt the hearts of the angry
Christians and empower them to pray for the lost in Hollywood, instead of hating them or refusing to have any part of the
media in their lives. Prayer melts hearts and as people pray for Hollywood, their hearts start to transform and they
can’t hate us any more! And we have many, many examples of that working as well.
I often plead with Christians
not to hate the people in Hollywood for Jesus commanded us to love EVERYONE. “God so loved the world that He sent His
one and only Son, not to condemn Hollywood, but that Hollywood might be saved through Him.”
we ask Christians not to participate in mass boycotts against entertainment companies in Hollywood because we can’t
make these people ACT like Christians; we have to pray for them to BECOME Christians. I have never met anyone in Hollywood
who has become a Christian because of a boycott or a hate letter. But I have met many media professionals who hate Christians
and God because of people boycotting their company, their TV show, etc. However, we are also seeing industry professionals
becoming Christians because they are friends with Christian co-workers who are loving them to Jesus. It’s very
encourage people to write letters of encouragement or concern so that you’re showing that you are taking the time to
express your views about something you feel passionate about. Network and Studios
and Advertisers will be more moved to change what they’re doing if they get thousands of personal letters, emails and
phone calls, versus receiving 50,000 mass postcards. However, this tactic must
still be accompanied by prayer because ultimately it’s not only the contact that we want changed, it’s the heart
of the people creating the content that God is most concerned about.
Thirdly, I want to have the Christians
in Hollywood prayed for by Christians on the outside. I see Christians every day in Hollywood who are here despite their
pastors or parents desires. They come without any support from their family or church. They are discouraged because
they came out here to use the gifts and talents that God gave them and want to minister here as well. Yet, they are
told that coming to Hollywood will compromise their faith, they’ll be selling their soul and they won’t be able
to maintain their relationship with Jesus. They don’t get any support from home and they fell conflicted in their
“calling.” I challenge the people back home to get excited about their friend or family member wanting to
be in Hollywood and to pray for their friend or family member as a foreign missionary as if they were going to Africa, India
or any third world country. The work here is just as important and actually much more far-reaching than even the work
by missionaries in those far away countries. So, if the church would commission their “arts missionaries”, pray
for them, send them off with their blessings, and even financially support them as they are starting out, then we would see
even greater Kingdom work in Hollywood because the Christians here will be supported and empowered by the Church and by their
community back home.
My desire is to have the Church become again the Patron of the Arts! We need to see that
God loves creativity and creative people and that we should celebrate His handiwork through the work of His people by praying
for them, supporting them, and empowering them. And I believe that all starts with prayer!
MW: Where would you like to take this organization going forward?
I have a few goals for HPN. I would like to have every Christian in Hollywood
prayed for by a Christian on the outside as their Media Missionary. We now have almost 500 “I to I” Prayer
Partnerships (Intercessor to industry Professional) and we need over 4,500 more.
I would like to have churches all over
the country embracing the arts and the artists in their church. I pray that they will replace boycotts and hate letters
with prayer and financial support for those people working on quality projects, along with encouraging them to use their gifts
and talents for God’s glory IN the secular entertainment industry.
I would like to see the thousands of non-believers,
seekers, humanists, atheists, new-agers, etc. in Hollywood come to a personal relationship with Jesus.
I would like
to see Christian investors and donors financially supporting the arts – both the artists and the film, music and TV
projects that Christians are trying to create and produce.
I would like to see God’s presence so visible and
tangible in Hollywood that it would lead to a revival! And a revival in Hollywood will bring a cultural revival.
Most Americans have no idea about the demeanor or belief system of today’s movie moguls. Are these studio decision makers
different from mainstream America or do they care about our nation’s values and morals?
majority of the Hollywood decision-makers and cultural influencers (celebrities) are not Christians. However, many of
them consider themselves in some way “spiritual.” Many are seeking significance, purpose, meaning and peace,
but they are looking in all the wrong places. They think that fame, money, power, meditation, gurus, tarot cards, crystals,
alcohol, affairs, drugs, workaholism, etc. will fill them up. Others claim to have no spiritual belief system at all,
and then some have created one or are following a certain belief system that doesn’t make them have to change their
lifestyle. Many industry professionals are very politically and socially minded, and that often becomes their religion
as well. Their Bible is the New York Times. Many give generously to charities
such as AIDS relief and they consider themselves good people, moral people and people with values. They don’t
want to hurt or mislead the people in America; they want to be good people. They just don’t understand that their worldview
is morally destructive. And they get angry when we tell them it is. They do not want to be told what to do (as
all of us don’t) and they believe that they truly have their hands on the pulse of America. They are lost and
so the things of Christ make no sense to them because God’s truths are spiritually discerned.
The people in
Hollywood are a tribe of people who fall under the definition of a “Hidden Peoples Group”, as defined by the US
Center for World Missions. They are closed to outside influence, they have no direct access to the gospel, and they
have their own culture, their own language, their own gods that they worship (the Oscar god), they have their own traditions,
rituals and world view. So, yes, they are different from mainstream America, but they actually don’t know it!
That’s why we can’t tell them how to act or what to do. We have to pray for them, build positive, loving
relationships with them and then let the Lord work through us to touch their hearts. Just as we do when we send missionaries
to the far corners of the earth. We don’t try to make the tribes in a third or fourth world country act like Christians.
We send Christians to them, support the Christians with prayer and finances and trust that as they build relationships
and use their gifts and talents to share Jesus with them, the tribe will come to know God and change their ways. It’s
the same in Hollywood.
Americans are upset with many of the films that Hollywood has been putting out. What is your perspective on the films and
why are they not producing more family friendly films?
a very simple answer. We all create works that reflect our worldview. The people in Hollywood are creating films,
music and TV shows that are reflecting their worldview, their broken and wounded childhoods and their belief systems that
stem from all of their woundedness. If more of the people creating the media came from healthy families, they would
be making more family friendly films. Most of them don’t even know what a healthy family is, so they have nothing to
draw from. However, if the Lord touches their hearts, then they will be able to create products that will reflect their
new worldviews as “new creatures in Christ.” That’s the only way that the films that Christians are
upset with will change. We all only draw from what’s inside.
Hollywood is a movie city with a reputation for its liberal slant. Do you share this view?
Hollywood is a very liberal minded group of people. And it’s because social issues, political issues and non-biblical
beliefs guide the people here. If there were more Christians here then the “slant” would be more conservative
and spiritual than political and liberal.
Does it concern you that some liberals may view your work as pandering to Christian conservatives? Have you found it difficult
to find actors, producers, directors and decision makers sympathetic to your goals?
never had people tell me that I am pandering to Christian conservatives when I focus on my faith, my love for others and my
desire to serve others. That response only comes when Christians combine politics with their faith. I stay away from
politics in Hollywood because that’s not what’s important. Jesus, His love, His forgiveness, His hope and
His joy is what I believe is the most important message I have to tell and no one has been turned off when I offer that to
people here. So, I have not found it difficult to find anyone inside of Hollywood who is not sympathetic to my goals.
Ironically, the only people I have found questioning my ministry, my work and/or my love for the people here,
are Christians outside of Hollywood. They are the only people who have gotten angry at me, questioned me, disagreed
with me and argued with me. And I believe that’s because of either fear or a lack of information. Once I
get a chance to explain why the Christian community in Hollywood is doing what we do, what results we’ve seen and what
spiritual growth and break-through we’ve experienced, then even some of my toughest critics are able to change their
views and come alongside us. And once I get to tell people not to be afraid of the people in Hollywood but to pray for
them and love them, then that often breaks down walls between me and the church as well. We all just have to focus on
Jesus’ message and then trust Him for the results. We stay away from politics
the way that Jesus did in His time – and drove some people crazy, even in the first century!
Does conservative Middle America influence Hollywood and do the Hollywood decision makers care about the messages that are
in the movies they produce and how these movies impact our culture?
Middle America influences Hollywood by the TV shows they watch, the music they buy and the films they download or go see.
We cast our votes by what we watch and listen to. And Yes, Hollywood decision-makers care about the messages they produce,
but they care about different messages than we do. Most Christians believe that Hollywood is run by money. But
actually that’s not true. Hollywood is run by worldview. Producers and executives will put millions of dollars
into projects that they believe in, but they are not interested in putting their money into projects with messages that do
not reflect or support their worldviews – sometimes even if it will make them lots of money. I know of people
who have turned down lucrative projects because they just didn’t like what the story was supporting or saying.
they are the same as Christians. We turn down projects that don’t support our worldview, so why should Hollywood
decision-makers be any different? The only problem is that their worldview is not ours and we don’t like that.
(And the Christian worldview is not theirs and they don’t like that!)
they know that their projects impact culture, but they also often believe that their projects are just reflecting culture.
And maybe they’re right... As Christians we need to first look at ourselves and question what media we’re
personally watching, supporting and spending money on, because we could be sending the wrong kind of messages to Hollywood.
As parents, do we know what our children are watching and spending their money on? Statistics show that Christians are
buying the same kind of media that non-Christians are buying. I think a lot of the issues that you’re bringing
up may bring us back to our own walks with the Lord and our personal choices that we’re making. That’s just
a thought to ponder.
MW: I have several friends in the movie industry and we do get into some
interesting discussions about what the answer is to making movies more family friendly. I know that you and I have had some
great debate. I also know that you respectfully do not appreciate my more direct and vitriolic approach towards Hollywood.
I do on the other hand appreciate your approach of using the power of prayer. Certainly we should be praying for the people
in this industry, but why should conservatives frequent the movie houses or TV screens that expose their families to offensive
material? What is wrong with sending a clear message of disapproval of certain films that cross the line of decency by conducting
I thank you for your support of prayer.
That is very encouraging to me. And actually I also agree with you that
Christians should NOT “frequent the movie houses or TV screens that expose their families to offensive material!” I think Christians must start making decisions not to support immoral or offensive
product. I know that if no one watched the Playboy Channel, it would not stay
on the air. That’s a fact. So,
we must all make personal choices to guard ourselves from filling our minds and hearts up with anything that is not of God. Those personal choices are much more powerful than mass boycotts. I am and have always been supportive of personal “boycotts” or merely personal discipline to
say NO to what’s not good for us. That won’t make anyone hate us,
but it will send a powerful message that we don’t want to see that type of product.
It’s the mass postcards that are useless. It’s trying to get
people to stop going to Disneyland when Disney supports gay marriage. That’s
a mass boycott that sends the wrong message. All that’s saying is that
Christians are judging non-believers and we have the attitude of “I’ll show you.” So, what is the natural response to that? “I’ll
show you back!” And the game continues.
The more effective response would be to stop watching the shows that offend us and then start a mass movement of prayer
for the executives who are making the decisions to support gay marriages, or sexually graphic programs or shows full of language,
etc. and watch the Lord do miracles in the hearts and lives of these executives as millions of Christians pray. And the result of that? Not only will people change, then
their programming will change, but they will be attracted to Christians because we’re praying for them and not hating
them. It’s a thrilling paradigm shift that I’m praying Christians
all around the world will have soon! And it’s more effective!
HPN material talks of a writing campaign where viewers write personal letters to producers, directors to TV shows or films.
How successful has that been?
letters are very successful, as I mentioned above, if they are sincere and personal.
The major networks all work with the premise that every personal letter they receive represents 10,000 other people
who feel the same way. That’s powerful.
However, they throw away every single pre-printed post-card, mass boycotting letter and email with thousands of signatures,
because they believe those people are just joining a movement and may not really feel the same way as the one who takes the
time to write a letter expressing their personal views. A producer of a feature
film will respond much more personally and be moved more powerfully by a personal letter expressing someone’s joy or
concern for their film. But, if they read in the paper that thousands of people
are not going to buy any of their studio’s merchandise or go to their theme park because this producer’s movie
is offensive to them, then the producer will either laugh or say, “I’ll show them” and be motivated to do
the same thing again, or something worse because he doesn’t want anyone to “tell him what to do!” That’s human nature. The personal touch is what’s
effective. And if a producer gets 25,000 personal, loving letters about his film,
you can bet he’s going to pay attention. But, the letters have to be kind,
respectful and intelligent. We are told to be willing to “give an account
for the hope that is in us, but with gentleness and reverence.” The Christians
need to think through what they want to say and why their perspective should be considered and that takes time, effort and
commitment. Are we willing to do that?
I hope so. And again, those letters MUST be accompanied by the motivation
to lead the person to Jesus and they must be covered in prayer.
Hollywood has such a huge presence and influence in our nation. Why aren’t more people in the film industry speaking
out on values and moral issues, or are there other Hollywood voices speaking out? If so who are they?
in Hollywood are often speaking out about all kinds of causes and issues. Celebrities
are leading campaigns against AIDS; they are raising millions of dollars for political, educational and social issues. And they are doing it because those are issues of value and morals for them. But again, the things that we see as moral issues are often spiritually discerned
and the industry professionals don’t have the same foundation. They have
the same desire to make a difference in the world. However, it’s just from
a different foundation or perspective than some of ours. And actually, I think
the industry pros would be much more impressed with Christians if they saw us as passionate about caring for the sick and
the poor than we are about trying to make them act differently!
MW: Your work at HPN is significant. Are
other pro-family organizations lending their support to your efforts?
been interviewed by Christianity Today, Outreach Magazine along with the LA Times and many other Christian and secular publications.
Jim Dobson, President of Focus on the Family has had me interviewed on his radio show. Also, on the end of our
free DVD, “The Hollywood Crisis”, we have endorsements from Steve Douglass, President of Campus Crusade for Christ,
Chuck Colson, President of Prison Fellowship, Father Willy Raymond, President of Catholic Family Theatre Productions, Paul
Cedar, President of Mission America and Bruce Wilkinson, author of “The Prayer of Jabez.” We are also updating
our DVD this month and adding a wonderful endorsement from Bob Reccord, President of The North American Missions Board. We
are getting amazing support from organizations all over the world. And the list
is growing. My prayer is that someday Focus on the Family will join us in praying
for Hollywood instead of leading their mass boycotts. But, it’s the Lord’s
timing and not mine! I’m thankful and encouraged by the growing support
for looking at Hollywood as a mission field. And many are even acknowledging
that it is indeed the world’s most influential mission field.
In conclusion, you and your group have stepped into the public eye using the power of prayer to address one of America’s
most pressing cultural issues, which is the movie industry. It has taken an amazing amount of backbone, effort and moral conviction
to do so.
Can you tell a little about yourself and your other activities in the film industry? Also are
there any other points or issues that you would like to address?
am a TV producer who works on Specials and Documentaries. I like projects that
deal with real people in real situations. My husband is a composer and he writes
music for film and television scores. We live in an incredible community of creative,
sharp, talented people and our Christian friends in Hollywood are awesome. We’re
raising our two boys (Christopher is 15 and Cameron is 11) to be second generation missionaries in Hollywood, and we believe
that as Christopher studies to be a film director and Cameron continues acting, that they too will be tent-makers in the entertainment
industry. I am a member of the Producers Guild of America because I want to work
with and build more friendships with people of all faiths. We are committed to
training Christians to be more culturally relevant in sharing their faith with others and we teach an annual 10-week class
and have written a book by the same title, called “How To Talk About Jesus Without Freaking Out” (Multnomah Publishers). We also believe that the strongest way to share our faith and touch others is through
storytelling. Jesus was the great storyteller of all time and so we love to tell
stories. We have written another book (both books are co-authored by our dear
friend Victorya Michaels Rogers) called “The Day I Met God.” (Multnomah Publishers) It’s a book of 32 true
stories of people whose lives were radically changed when they had a personal encounter with Jesus.
I am also
starting a new exciting prayer venture. On August 27, ’06 we will open
a 24/7 prayer room in the Hollywood Presbyterian Church where our entertainment ministries are and we’re already signing
up Christians in Hollywood to come and fill up 24 hours a day, seven days a week with prayer.
We would love to have you join us in praying for the city and the entertainment industry of Hollywood from August 26
– September 2nd. That info is on the HPN website: www.hollywoodprayernetwork.org
MW: Karen, thank you so much for participating in this
interview. Your answers will speak volumes to those who want to know about you and the importance of The Hollywood Prayer
you so much for allowing me to share my heart with your readers. I appreciate
you and your willingness to be challenged by a new approach to Hollywood and I pray that you and your group will join HPN
in praying for Hollywood and the global entertainment industry.
Please check out these sites for further information
on how to join and participate in the Hollywood Prayer Network.
www.hollywoodconnect.com to find out about all the Christian ministries in Hollywood
www.thrillinglife.com for more info on Karen Covell
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 462-8486 ext. 117
Covell has had extensive experience producing TV specials, documentaries and children’s programming; most recently as
coordinating producer for the PAX special Changed Lives: Miracles of the Passion,
as associate producer for Headliners & Legends with Matt Lauer, and as co-producer for the television special America’s
Throwaway Children, starring Dennis Franz and Danny Glover. She also produced
a documentary DVD for HPN entitled The Hollywood Crisis. She created and
produced the rock gospel music show pilot Good News Rock, and was associate producer with Shari Lewis Home Video including
One Minute Bedtime Stories and One Minute Bible Stories. Ms. Covell was the post-production
producer for the animation company TMS Entertainment, Inc.
of Development at Penthouse Presentations, a TV production company (not affiliated with the magazine), Ms. Covell created
and developed both television movies and series concepts. She was the assistant
to the Executive Producer for a CBS-TV movie The Two Lives of Carol Letner, and was co-writer and assistant editor for Players
or Pawns, a sports documentary and winner of best documentary at the San Francisco Film Festival.
Covell was also the producing director of the 8th Annual Women in Film Festival in Los Angeles. Prior to that event she was one of the founders of Kino Women International (KIWI), an international women’s
film federation at the Moscow Film Festival and in Georgia, Soviet Union. She
has also been booking producer for TV specials and fundraisers, booking celebrities and interviewees for the American Heart
Association, the American Lung Cancer Association and World Vision International.
Director of the Hollywood Prayer Network, Ms. Covell also speaks and teaches around the country on how people of faith can
stop hating Hollywood and boycotting its products, but instead pray for the people in the entertainment industry. She is also a published co-author of two books with her husband Jim and their writing partner Victorya
Rogers. They are entitled, “How To Talk About Jesus Without Freaking Out”
and “The Day I Met God,” both available through Multnomah Publishers and at Amazon.com. She is a member of the Producers Guild of America, a founding member of PREMISE, and a board member of
the Biola University Entertainment Task Force. She is a graduate of USC with
a BA in Producing. Karen is married to her best pal Jim, a composer. They are the proud parents of two Wonder boys-15 year old Christopher and 11 year old Cameron.