“We want to keep Liberty on the cutting edge as we expand our academic programs; we don’t want to just add programs that are like any other school,” he told students at Monday’s convocation. “My father used to say that, in every generation, the methods used to spread the Gospel change and he had no problem with that as long as the message never changed. We want to equip you with the knowledge and tools to use the most modern methods available to communicate that never-changing message of the Gospel.”
The announcement was highlighted by the visit of two successful filmmakers on Monday, Bill McKay and Dan Gordon, who have vowed their support to create Liberty’s new program. Gordon is the co-founder of the Zaki Gordon Institute (ZGI), a film school in Sedona, Ariz., that is dedicated to creating a new generation of filmmakers by offering more hands-on experience than other film schools and mentors who are not just academics, but professionals in the field.
“When we heard about their school, its practical methods and their willingness to help us create a much larger version of the same type of school here at Liberty, I asked them to come back today and share what they had accomplished with you,” Falwell told students.
Dan Gordon, who graduated from UCLA as a film and television major, has written numerous screenplays, including Passenger 57 (1992), Wyatt Earp (1994), Murder in the First (1995), The Assignment (1997) and The Hurricane (1999), as well as several novels. He served as both writer and director for the hit television series Highway to Heaven starring Michael Landon. He has written a play that has opened on Broadway, with another planned to open this fall.
McKay, founder of American Trademark Pictures, has produced and written many television specials, documentaries, radio programs and docudrama films. He was the writer/producer of the feature film Billy: The Early Years, about the life of the Rev. Billy Graham, released in 2008, and has spent more than 30 years as an author, filmmaker and researcher.
Dan Gordon presented the model of the Zaki Gordon Institute, which is named for his son, a gifted filmmaker who died in a traffic accident in 1998 at age 22 and who gave his father the vision for the school before he died.
“Film is probably the most effective means of transmitting ideas and emotion ever devised by humanity,” Dan Gordon said, adding that he sees a Christian film school as a way to reach the world for Christ.
He said Liberty’s school will start with 20-40 students and will include not only teaching the skills of making a film, but the business and marketing plan as well. It will also incorporate other aspects of filmmaking, including costume design and hair and makeup.
“This is a hands-on program, it is not about theory, it is not about you graduating and finding a job — it is about you graduating and creating jobs,” Dan Gordon said. “You will be entrepreneurial filmmakers; you will not wait for Hollywood, you will be Hollywood.”
Liberty Provost Ron Godwin said the program will be a “full immersion learning experience.”
Drew Middleton, a senior broadcasting major, said he was excited to hear the announcement.
“In order for us to be able to reach people, be a light in the darkness, we need to be able to train Champions for Christ,” Middleton said. “The model Dan Gordon laid out is probably the most practical and the most efficient way to reach people with the Gospel.”
Falwell said he is excited about the new program that will teach students how to communicate the gospel with the latest technological advances in the film industry.
“All the old schools are based on the way films were made 30-40 years ago and technology has changed everything. I think it’s a great time to start this because the technology’s already changed. We’re starting after the change, not before,” he said after convocation.