SCH Contributor, Phil Cooke sat down to get to know Salvation Army Vision Network Executive Producer, Guy Noland. Noland is responsible for launching and leading the new video driven web initiative for one of the best known ministries in the world. Phil asked him about the remarkable journey that’s been his life and career in the industry:
SCH: I understand you’re second generation Salvation Army. Tell me about your family’s ties to the corps.
Guy: Actually, I’m not a second generation Salvationist, I’m FIFTH generation. My great, great grandparents, on my mother’s side, were Salvationists during the origins of the church back in Victorian England. In fact, my grandmother remembered attending the funeral procession of William Booth (founder of The Salvation Army) as a child around the turn of the century.
SCH: How did you get from the Salvation Army to the media and entertainment industry?
Guy: My parents are considered mavericks in The Salvation Army world. Aside from serving as ministers, my mother is a fantastic musician and artist, my father is a talented writer and speaker. As far back as I can remember, they were inventing all kinds of creative ministries in order to grow their congregation (which they did). When I was six, they wrote a musical to be performed at a combined church council meeting consisting of around 1,000 audience members. For whatever reason, they decided I needed to make my stage debut and wrote in a part for me. I’ll spare you the details of how I forgot all my lines during the premier performance, but that was basically my introduction into the entertainment industry. I was bitten by the acting bug. I continued performing, moved into writing and directing, and eventually discovered the art of filmmaking which led to film school and a masters degree in screenwriting.
SCH: At one point you hit a wall when you realized that addiction was a serious obstacle in your life. How did you come to that realization?
Guy: Every story you’ve ever heard about preacher’s kids being the worst of the worst is absolutely true. For me, my parents’ position meant I lived under a microscope. EVERYBODY examined every move I made and somehow held me to a higher standard than other kids. When I became a teenager, I basically snapped. Cigarettes, booze, drugs, and rock and roll all topped my ‘to do’ list. At the age of 18 I ran off to Hollywood. That’s when my partying kicked into over-drive and alcoholism followed in short order. I hit bottom a few times and had several bouts with self-inflicted sobriety over the next 14 years, but nothing worked. It wasn’t until I walked into the rooms of AA that I was finally able to admit that I had a problem and my life had become unmanageable.
SCH: How did you get your life back on track?
Guy: One day at a time.
SCH: You’ve spent most of your career as an actor, writer, and director. Which do you think is your greatest strength?
Guy: That’s a tough one… I love them all equally. Acting is my first love. I’ve been at it the longest and spent most of my life perfecting it as an art form. That said, I’m most in my element while directing, yet would be quiet content working as a writer for the rest of my life. Truth be told, I often consider myself more a producer at heart, but I’ve always professed that a great filmmaker must excel in all these aspects. At the end of the day, I’d have to say my greatest strength lay in whatever I’m doing at the moment.
SCH: How did your media career merge with the new online Salvation Army Vision Network?
Guy: I wish I could take full credit for SAVN, but that would be dishonest. SAVN is the brain-child of Commissioner Jim Knaggs, Territorial leader of The Salvation Army, West. A couple years back, shortly after Commissioner Knaggs took the helm of The Salvation Army in the Western Territory, he called me up and pitched the idea of an online media ministry. Naturally, he had my full support and we got to work right away.
SCH: What’s the purpose of SAVN?
Guy: Ultimately, the long term goal is to deliver the Gospel message and win the world for Christ. Our short term goals are twofold:
1. To tell The Salvation Army’s story.
2. To encourage people to get involved with a cause. Most people are not familiar with the Army’s work and only associate us with the recognizable thrift stores and Christmas kettles. We’re so much more than that. The Salvation Army is a church, a ministry dedicated to meeting people at their point of need, offering relief, then delivering the message of Jesus Christ. We literally have hundreds of different social services opportunities: homelessness, disaster relief, addiction recovery, human sex trafficking, rest home ministries, prison ministries, overseas orphanages, schools for the blind, fair-trade coffee, clean water initiatives, and the list goes on and on. Ultimately, we want people to come to our site, watch our videos, and share them within their social networking circles. The hope is that their friends will see our causes and be moved enough to get involved, whereby eventually hearing the gospel message. SAVN offers a simple, non threatening way to witness to people with little risk of rejection. We invite everyone to jump on board and champion a cause!
SCH: What are you most excited about in the next few years?
Guy: We’ve been up and running for less than a year and have come a long way. The next couple of years have some exciting things in store. We’re currently in the midst of a user experience upgrade that promises to be a great boost for the site. We just launched a live chat and are developing a more advanced Bible study program to be launched in the next month or two. We’ve also been making some great headway in partnerships with fantastic ministries like YouVersion, BGEA, Back to the Bible, Jesus Film, as well as several feature films hitting the Christian market. SAVN is presently wrapping principle photography on its first feature documentary about our fight against the sex industry. An app and social game are also on our radar. Very exciting stuff!
SCH: If you could say something to encourage less experienced filmmakers, what would it be?
Guy: Figure out what you want to do and do it poorly with pride. In other words, if you want to be an actor, get involved in your local community theater. If you want to be a director, grab a camera and get out there and direct! If you want to be a writer, you need to write. Don’t expect to create a masterpiece out of the gate, instead be prepared to fail a few times. Remember, failure is okay. It’s to be expected. Don’t get frustrated. Do what you want to do, and do it poorly with pride. Above all else: Study, study, study!
Would you like to learn more about developing Christian leadership in your workplace? You might also enjoy Phil Cooke’s Being Best is Better Than Being First.
For more than 30 years, Phil Cooke has helped nonprofits find their purpose and is now applying this experience to individuals: “During a long career in the media business I’ve talked to hundreds of writers, producers, directors, designers, executives, and other professionals and discovered that in most cases, one thing is all it takes to launch a project or dream.”
Learn more about the writer Phil Cooke
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