It is my pleasure to welcome Rebeca Seitz to the Porch today. Rebeca served as publicist for my first novel MOTHER OF PEARL. She’s one of the most dynamic, forward-thinking, and tremendously talented women I’ve met in this publishing industry. She wears many hats. In addition to her roles as wife and mother, she spent a number of years working in the marketing department for Thomas Nelson, one of the largest inspirational publishers in the business. Currently, she owns Glass Road Media and Management, she is CEO of SON Spirit of Naples and she’s an author.
First, Rebeca, let me thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to visit with us on the Porch. Like I said, you wear many hats these days. The one I’d like to focus on here is your involvement in SON Spirit of Naples. Tell everyone a little about what SON is and why you are passionate about this organization.
Thank you so much for having me! I love the name of this site. Having been born and raised on a farm my family had since the 1700s in Tennessee (and which saw both Yankee and Confederate soldiers come through), I’m about as Southern as it gets. Who’s got a glass of sweet tea or a piece of cornbread I could enjoy? Those are a bit tough to come by here in my new home in Naples.
To answer your question, SON is a place for Christians who are called to create mainstream films, TV shows, and other entertaining media. While I’m excited to have places like Sherwood Baptist and Regents University creating movies starring Kirk Cameron (grin) and that are able to be screened inside the church walls, I’ve always felt a tug more toward creating stories that a person would enjoy regardless of their faith situation. Movies like Braveheart and We Were Soldiers were created by a Christian, but they appeal to anyone who just loves a movie that moves you. That’s the kind of stuff I want to spend a lifetime with. Turns out, there are quite a few of us with this calling. We simply have a tough time finding each other because most of the groups and work we hear about involve the Sherwood-leaning stuff.
So, we started SON to create a place for us to congregate, communicate, and help each other. We meet once a month here in Naples and we also hold public screenings of movies and TV shows produced from all over the world. When we hold public events, we typically bring in the producer and the director or a star from the flick. For instance, we screened UNLIMITED at the Waldorf-Astoria and brought in former Senator Fred Thompson, who starred in it, as well as Producer Chad Gundersen, Executive Producer Harold Finch, and screenwriter Davis Bunn. Another time we screened UNCONDITIONAL and brought in the writer/director of the film, Brent McCorkle, along with SBV member Eva Marie Everson since she wrote the novelization of the film.
Basically, we’re here to build up a community of folks who are making media that entertains while enlightening or uplifting or sparking questions.
You are the CEO and a board member, correct? Who are the other board members?
Yes, I am CEO. We have two Boards at SON. The Executive Board bears the responsibility for spreading the word about SON and chiming in with opinions on various topics. Those members are:
Davis Bunn: Best-selling Novelist
Jonathan Clements: President, Wheelhouse Literary Group
George Elliott: Owner, George Elliott Salon
Mark Hancock: Novelist, Former Crusade organizer for Dr. T.L. Osborn
Patrick Kavanaugh: Executive Director, Christian Performing Arts Foundation
Torry Martin: Screenwriter and Actor
Shemane Nugent: TV personality, Producer, Screenwriter, Speaker
Rev. Dr. Robert Scudieri: Outreach Pastor, Faith Lutheran Church
Kevin and Becky Tucker: Owners, Collide Creative
Dan Wright: President, Dan Wright Publisher Services
Chuck Wolfe: President, Bonita Christian Forum
Nancy Zieman: Host, “Sewing with Nancy”
We are actively and intensely assembling our Board of Governors now. The Chairwoman of that Board is Grace Seitz, a longtime Naples philanthropist who also happens to be my fabulously intelligent and gifted mother-in-love. For those of you with non-profit experience, you’ll recall that I (as CEO) serve at the pleasure of the Board and its Chairwoman. Grace and I joke that, if I get on her nerves, she can always fire me. The fact that it’s remained a joke despite the hard work of building a non-profit should tell you something about the kind of relationship we enjoy.
There is a meeting this month with some industry and ministry leaders to discuss the formation of the Board of Governors. We should be announcing our members of that Board by Summer.
What’s the latest project with SON?
Our main focus right now has been locating space in Naples for SON Studios. We envision the creation of a 100,000sf facility able to meet multiple studio needs for television and film production – from initial production to post.
Florida legislators are on the verge of re-enacting film tax incentives in the state (there are bills winding their way through the House and Senate as I type), so we are confident that film production is going to increase here. Already, Miami is the #3 city in the nation for film/TV production (behind Los Angeles and New York). While a couple other states have made good strides with their incentives, there’s just nowhere quite like Florida and our incentives will solidify our ranking.
This means we need more studio space. There will almost certainly be other studios cropping up around the state. SON is unique in this space because we are committed to filmmakers and television production professionals who create entertainment worthy of our time and attention.
What have been some of the difficulties the board has encountered getting SON launched?
Our main struggle was in honing how we’d execute the vision.
While we had the vague idea that we wanted to equip and encourage Christians creating mainstream entertainment media, it took us a while to determine exactly how we’d go about doing that. Now, we know specifics. We had extensive conversations with a wide array of people to find out where the points of difficulty happen in the process of making a film or TV show from scratch. Then, we thought through how we could ease the struggles in those areas.
These folks get stuck at the part where millions of dollars are needed. We can help lower the up-front production costs by putting a studio at their disposal and working out an in-kind arrangement (which is how most films outside the Hollywood system are getting made on shoestring budgets now).
They also get stuck at the point of distribution, so we’re growing relationships with distributors to whom we can introduce our members when they have projects ready. And we hold screenings for some projects here in Naples because this town is full of snowbirds – people who visit during the winter, then take their highly influential selves back to their home communities for the rest of the year. When they get home, they talk with their community about what they saw and did while here. This means that a SON event effectively reaches out across the nation with the most effective form of promotion on the planet: Word of Mouth.
Share some of the successes.
A big success was when a local philanthropist made a three-year financial commitment to SON. I hope I never forget the sparkle in her eye when she looked across the table at me and said, “Now you have to do it.” She’d listened to my impassioned presentations about the ability of entertainment to influence culture, to spark conversation about worthy principles, to create a tone that is more civil and loving and open to Truth. She’d listened on more than one occasion and then she made her commitment – which is when it got very real for me. It’s one thing to talk about our dreams and hopes, it’s another when you’re equipped to do it and responsible to manage someone else’s committed resources.
Just prior to this success, I’d been reading in Nehemiah again and had written a note at the part where the King asks Nehemiah why his face is downcast. The king wants to know what is troubling this person who has always presented a content countenance. Nehemiah tells the king that the wall around his people’s city has been destroyed and needs to be restored. I can just hear the urgency and desire to work in Nehemiah’s voice because it’s what I feel when I think about our broken entertainment structure. The king asks Nehemiah what he can do to help. And Nehemiah – I wrote in the margin of my Bible – was ready with his request. He asked the king for letters to give to the other leaders in the land so that he’d have safe passage and specific materials to accomplish the task on his heart. Nehemiah had more than a burden. More than a calling. More than a passion. He’d thought it through and was ready to ask for what was needed to do the work. That’s an important lesson for any of us who are given the gift of a dream or vision or calling – it’s not enough to accept it, we have to think it through and be ready to do it.
What can everyone look forward to seeing in the future?
Well, as we say in the South, Good Lord willin’ we’ll see the creation of SON Studios. We also have identified a handful of productions that we’re working on while we pursue the creation of the studios. It’s important that we be doers of the vision, not just speakers. The studios could take a few years to be up and running. In the interim, we’re helping to produce some films and TV shows – they’re listed on the SON website – and holding monthly meetings to continue building the community of entertainment professionals here.
A little birdy told me you are dipping your hand back in writing. Tell us about your new novella and how people can buy it.
Oh, yes! It’s been a few years since I had a novel release and my writing muscle needed stretched. A woman popped into my imagination one day, be-bopping along a well-known street here in Naples, and I started to think on her. Who was she? What was she about? That ended up being Elizabeth Bakersfield, the heroine in First Blush. I released it as an e-novella. It’s a very quick read involving sunshine, sand, town intrigue, and a handsome and mysterious Brit. It’s on all the major platforms (Apple, Google Play, Amazon, B&N) and Deeper Shopping.
Thank you, Rebeca. I’m looking forward to seeing big things from SON Spirit of Naples. And I hope your new novella flies off the shelves!