Hollywood can be an ungodly place. Movies teem with violence and nudity and poor role models; pop music throbs with nasty language and sexual innuendo.
Even Noah, a story torn from the pages of Genesis, has been transformed into a secular adventure drama that critics say fails to give God His close-up.
Actors, Models & Talent for Christ is on a mission to change that. In fact, it is a mission.
Based in Tyrone, Ga., AMTC is a registered non-profit organization that trains Christian talent in the hopes of working from within to make contemporary culture more God-focused.
“We want to see the great commission of Jesus Christ fulfilled in film, fashion, music, and theatre,” says Adam She, the president of AMTC, who calls God his organization’s CEO.
“I think the reason we’ve received that kind of mandate is because there’s no greater influence on our culture in the 21st century than the entertainment industry and media. So what better way to let people know about the gospel of Jesus Christ than through these outlets that we’ve been given?”
People, said Mr. She, are thirsting for more positive entertainment fare. “You can only go so long with just feeding your eyes and your minds and your hearts with negativity.”
AMTC is currently holding auditions around North America, with a visit to Toronto on Saturday, to find Christian talent in the raw. The chosen ones, between 600 and 1,000 in each cohort, are put through a series of training programs in acting, singing, dancing, modelling and other areas, leading up to a six-day long showcase at the semi-annual SHINE conference, held at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla.
AMTC says up to 100 managers, casting directors, agents, and other entertainment industry representatives attend the conference to bulk up their rosters.
The cost of the training ranges between $3,895 and $4,995, plus travel and lodging.
AMTC began in the 1980s as American Modeling and Talent Convention, a purely secular event run by Millie Lewis, a former model, and her daughter, Carey. Its alumni from that era include the sexy starlets Megan Fox and American Beauty’s Mena Suvari. But in 2006, amid turmoil in her life and the company, Carey Lewis, who was then CEO, embraced Jesus. Four years later, the company was rechristened Actors, Models & Talent for Christ.
Mr. She, Carey Lewis’s son-in-law, says he found Jesus in 2008. His wife soon followed.
Since then, Mr. She says a few thousand performers have gone through the Christian-oriented AMTC programs. Its website boasts hundreds of “God Stories” of successful alumni, such as Brandon Chase, a contestant on NBC’s reality show The Voice, and Chryssie Whitehead, who went on to dance with the Rockettes.
Daniel Hartmann, a 17-year-old aspiring singer and actor from Colorado Springs, Colo., made the trek to the most recent SHINE two months ago. “It was an amazing experience,” he said this week. “Just being onstage, being in front of that camera, being around 300 or 400 other performers.”
While no agents offered to represent him after the conference, his spirit is resolute: he says a Los Angeles casting director has suggested he come to town to spend the summer auditioning. And he’s putting together an audition tape for a company in Atlanta that’s casting members of a boy band.
His father regards the cost of the programs as an investment; he is impressed by how his son’s confidence has grown with the coaching. “What I saw at AMTC, I think we would have paid double to be a part of that,” said Joseph Hartmann, an ordained minister who is also a singer, artist, and Web designer.
Still, AMTC hedges on the probability of hitting it big. On its website, it explains: “Success in the entertainment industry depends on many factors, the most important of which are God’s favour and the persistence of the performer.” How many AMTC graduates get careers in entertainment? “As many as are chosen by God.”
And even those who do find success face perils. Mr. She recognizes that many performers raised in Christian households have become fallen angels. (See: Jerry Lee Lewis, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus.) AMTC, he says, has programs to help people continue to walk with Jesus.
“It’s all about having the right community, the right support people,” he said. “That’s why having a network of AMTC graduates helps, because they can help you stay on that narrow path that you committed to in the very beginning.”