The annual Pan Pacific Film Festival is bigger and better this year, providing a nexus for Christian entertainers from all over the nation. Held in Los Angeles, people gather to showcase films, promote great family-friendly movies, engaging in discussion and hear about the latest and greatest coming down the line for Christian entertainment. AMTC is an integral part of this community.
Actors, Models, & Talent for Christ (AMTC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the word of God and living by example through the talented artists that they train. It was originally a secular group created by Carey Lewis, but after 25 years she and her family risked it all to transform a thriving business into a Christ-centered non-profit. Her son-in-law Adam She runs AMTC today as the president and co-owner. Sonoma Christian Home’s own Megan Rizos sat down with She to talk about AMTC’s incredible work.
SCH: How is God working through AMTC?
AS: Hopefully, God is working through us in every aspect. From beginning to end, performers to chief serving officer, it’s about refinement. One thing I tell anybody that joins the AMTC team is: if you’re called to be a part of AMTC long-term, expect to be refined. Welcome correction, because it will come. Anybody that wants to be a part of this ministry is going to be refined and it starts with humility.
SCH: Carey Lewis, the founder of AMTC, wasn’t always Christian. 25 years after starting AMTC, she converted to Christianity and faced a dilemma of what new direction AMTC would take. As her son-in-law, what was that like to have your mother-in-law approach you with this news?
AS: When I first came into AMTC a little over ten years ago, I was sucked in by my wife. Her mom ran this business and was this top executive CEO that owned this talent development company. She was a workaholic. Her number one goal was to be the most ethical and the best talent development entity, where people could learn what they need to know about the industry and get introduced to the best in the world.
Doing business with total integrity and having customer service as your number one priority is unsustainable. You get burned out. I saw her life break apart. She had many business betrayals, she lost her marriage, and that’s when I began stepping in more as far as the running of AMTC through her burnout.
Then one day, I saw her reading the Bible. I had seen her suffer so much that by that time, while I didn’t know God, I thought, “Hey, whatever works for you, do it.” I was happy for her to have any glimpse of hope.
Then one day, she came to me and said, “Adam, God spoke to me while I was on the treadmill. God wants us to change the ‘C’ in ‘AMTC’ to ‘Actors, Models, & Talent for Christ.’” I was respectful, but I was like, “Well…let’s think about it.” I guess long story short, I had my “come to Jesus” meeting and then my wife and sister-in-law did, too.
SCH: AMTC was not always geared toward Christ. In fact, that change was a relatively recent one, about 5 years ago. For the clients that were already a part of the AMTC team, was there any backlash to changing the focus from secular modeling and acting to Christian?
AS: Yes, absolutely. Tremendous. Our response – even from Christians – was cautionary when we wanted to change the “C” in AMTC to “Christ.” They said, “Well, are you sure you want to do that? The agents, the VIPS, what are they going to think?” It was a legitimate question. We had a relationship with a few hundred of the best in the country.
The fear was whether they would come back if we changed the name to “Actors, Models, & Talent for Christ.” The general consensus from our advisors was to be a faith-based company, to use Christian principles without the name. But in our hearts and minds, that wasn’t what God had called us to. He wanted us to make a very bold declaration, that this really needed to be utterly and clearly His.
We took a leap of faith and many of those regional affiliates that provided the talent left. It was a huge hit to AMTC. So we began auditioning ourselves, recruiting ourselves, and providing the performers to ourselves. We lost a lot of key people, but you know what? God replenished. We lost a lot of our regional affiliates, but out of 300 agents, we only lost one.
I think that was God’s plan all along. If we had started 32 years ago as “Actors, Models, & Talent for Christ” we would never have gained the trust of these industry professionals. They wouldn’t have understood. But because we proved ourselves for the first 25 years by providing a legitimate event, professional setting, and just being good friends to some of these people? They may have thought we were crazy, but we had their respect.
Now we don’t just have these big-time mainstream industry people, but we’ve got people like Tyler Perry, TD Jakes, Sherwood Baptist Church, so there’s a mesh of mainstream media people and faith-based industry partners as well and they’re all in one place at one time. Everything changed. We went from running a business to being servants and a non-profit ministry.
SCH: What prompted the bold decision to switch from a business to a non-profit?
AS: You never want to make a huge decision without good counsel, so we asked a lot of our Christian friends what they thought and quite a few of them – even faithful people – said, “You don’t have to do that. You can still be a business and be Actors, Models, & Talent for Christ. If you go non-profit, then you don’t have ownership. What you say goes through a board and you could lose control of AMTC. As a non-profit, it belongs to the state. It doesn’t belong to you anymore. You’re not in control.”
So we actually had some Christians tell us that it wasn’t a good idea. But in our hearts, we just came to the understanding that there was no way we felt like we could be truly Actors, Models, & Talent for Christ and still be owners of it. We felt like if we were really for Christ, we had to have enough faith to give God control, that we couldn’t be owners, we had to be servants with God as our CEO.
To this day, I am the president because someone just had to be the president. But I don’t ever call myself the CEO. AMTC professes that God is our CEO. Everything that we do, every major decision we make, we take to prayer and make sure we’re hearing God on it.
See one Father’s opinion of the AMTC experience:
SCH: AMTC isn’t merely an organization that people can join. Tell us about the journey that an actor or model will go on if they start with your talent convention SHINE?
AS: It starts on our website. What we do is so unique that before anybody comes to an audition, they need to get informed online. They need to read about us and check out our history, our core values, our mission, and our vision. They have to either agree or be okay with our vision to spread the good news about Jesus Christ in film, fashion, music, and theatre. The Great Commission is our vision because what better way to do that than through the entertainment industry?
You don’t get a whole lot more worldly than the entertainment industry. Jesus said for us to go out in the world and spread the good news. So it starts about getting informed about who we are and then signing up for an audition.
The audition starts with an application. We audition in over 30 cities across the country throughout the year. You sit in and hear about who we are and what we do. The application is pretty in-depth. We want to know about your athletic achievements; we want to know your scholastic achievements. What is really important to us is what your goals are. As you are interested in this industry, what would be your number one purpose for pursuing this industry?
The Christian film business is growing quickly. Because of that, if you want to be involved in faith-based or Christian films, the casting directors and producers will care more about your character than your talent. You have to have both, but the right character is important. After they audition they get a chance to interview. Our scout will ask them a few questions. That’s where we get a feel for “where is their head and their heart?”
That’s what’s really different about our focus and most other scouting events. We’re not just looking for talent and beauty. I tell our scouts that their primary focus is not to find talent – the primary focus is to find the right heart and mind. Talent is second.
If they make it through, they get an opportunity to join our “Bridge” training, which consists of their orientation and LAUNCH weekends – which are intensives held in our AMTC hubs around the country. There is the photo shoot and style session that’s included. It’s a huge deal where we bring in some of the best photographers. There’s also a final dress rehearsal before the performers go to the big SHINE conference.
What’s cool about AMTC is people think, “Okay, so you go through the “Bridge” training, you go to the SHINE conference. What happens after that?” Well, your relationship with AMTC continues. Our advice team literally will continue working with performers as long as they keep the line of communication open with us.
SCH: As far as the training the actors and models receive, what separates AMTC from other training programs?
AS: It’s completely centered on biblical teachings. It’s so funny how the Bible works. You can use it for industry teaching. We teach people the importance of “New York polish” but also the refinement of God. You’ve got to have both. We’re not of this world, but we have been called and we have been sent into this world.
Part of being “innocent as doves but as wise as serpents” is you’ve got to look the part. The styling and packaging is so important that there’s a way to look modest and stylish as well. So much is subjective based on each individual and their specific call – the line that God has asked them to draw. Everybody’s walk is a little bit different.
One of the scripture references that we really like to use is “Jesus grew in wisdom and his stature and in favor with God and man.” That’s really interesting that number one, we have to grow in favor with God first. That’s a big part of the “Bridge” training. You have to get close to God first, but you have to stay close to the sheep, too. Fellowship is a huge part of our training.
I’d say that’s the number one pitfall in the entertainment industry – maybe in any industry. Artists isolate themselves. A lot of times, that couldn’t be more detrimental. And now conversely, there couldn’t be anything more encouraging than having the right accountability partners. You can’t practice acting without a partner. You’ve got to relate to people. That’s part of our vision as well, to go out into the world. It’s about making connections and building relationships.
SCH: Do you have any memorable audition stories?
AS: Yes! One young lady came to SHINE when she was fourteen. She came for fashion modeling. She was very tall, had the fashion model figure and got a huge response here. So many agents were interested in her. With the modeling industry – the fashion industry in particular – at age 14, you’re too young. You need to be at least 15 or 16 and move to a major market like New York.
She was really patient. She waited 2 years, continued being developed by AMTC, and she has signed with a New York agency. One thing to know is that she comes from a very evangelical family. Her mother is very vocal about her faith. On one audition trip, the Mother went to New York with her daughter. The person casting asked all the girls there how they got discovered.
Everyone talked about how they got their start and when her daughter’s time came up, she said, “I got my start with Actors, Models, & Talent for Christ.” She didn’t say AMTC – she said the whole name. Her mother described the moment as something heavy falling over the room. All of a sudden there was a whole different standard put on her.
They never asked her anything else about it. But because she was so cool, loving, and didn’t go in with judgment or make herself superior to everyone else, everyone looked up to her and her mother. The others just wanted love and approval from them. It was so interesting that for the first time, the mom felt like she was witnessing just by complete example and silence. The Holy Spirit silenced her and it was evangelism through only smiling and loving and accepting.
SCH: Any actors that didn’t seem like they would make it but have done well for themselves?
AS: I see unlikely successes all the time. Parents don’t realize how big of a role they have. I’ve seen the most beautiful kids have opportunities ruined because the parents didn’t understand their place as the support person. There’s just no room for stage parents. At the same time, I’ve seen kids that are just “kind of” good have the most extraordinary success because they had the right support system. There are surprises all the time.
Watch Adam She share his full testimony:
SCH: How does AMTC relate to mainstream elements of the industry?
AS: Everybody has their own walk. Some people are called to overtly Christian films, some are called to more faith-based films with Biblical themes and Christian world views but not a direct Bible message – family friendly movies. Then there are others that are called to mainstream media. I just say that’s where people have got to pray through every moment, to seek him and what the plan is. We have to pay attention to what’s from God and what’s not.
SCH: If resources were limitless, what would AMTC dream of doing?
AS: We would give as many people the opportunity to join the “Bridge” training and the SHINE Conference as possible. We would offer a lot more scholarships and bring in a lot more performers. That is where we have the greatest influence: training up and polishing the talent and as well as instilling the word of God. They are the role models we need. One thing is very clear – people look up to other people. It’s not money or executives that drive the industry – that is an illusion. Talent drives the industry. People go see others because they want someone to look up to. “Bad” has been bold in the entertainment industry. “Good” needs to step up and be bolder.
SCH: Are there any upcoming projects or events for AMTC?
AS: Summer is a big time for us to get out to seek and find those actors, models, and talent for Christ. We’re already gearing up for our January SHINE Conference next year and even the one in July 2015.
Want to know more about AMTC? Check out their website AMTC World for more information about their mission, locations, and events.
Looking for more PPFF 2014 articles? Please read “The Resurrection” Movie’s Goal: Uniting the Global Church