Meet a few of our talented faculty now:
"Christians can have impact on nations all over the world if they're willing to serve," says Dr. Bill Brown. Whether he's making educational films that talk about the dangers of HIV/AIDS or lecturing about the use of entertainment to bring about social change, Brown is well aware of the opportunities available to Christians and scholars willing to put others' needs first.
Brown is the chair of the Department of Strategic Communication and Journalism, as well as a research fellow in the school. As a researcher, teacher and Fulbright Scholar, he specializes in the study and use of entertainment-education for social change, health communication, and media and social influence.
Entertainment education, he explains, combines the medium of film with information and messages that might otherwise be overlooked or ignored by the very people who need to hear them. Research has shown that people get more emotionally and psychologically involved in media. "Art is one of the most powerful means of social change," he says. "God made us so that we love stories."
By combining an interest in film with understanding of communication and the media, Brown is convinced that his students will have the tools they need to impact the world—if they also have a servant's heart. "We want our graduates to, through their skills and abilities, open up those kinds of opportunities for social influence," he says. "I want to position us—our colleagues, our students—to be people who are prepared so that when the call comes, they're ready."
In addition to his tenure at Regent University, Brown has taught communication courses at the University of Southern California, the University of Hawaii and the University of the Nations. He also served as the dean of Regent's School of Communication & the Arts from 1992-2002. He teaches courses on doctoral research methods, entertainment-education for social change, media and social influence, C.S. Lewis and communication campaigns. Full Bio.
When playwright Gillette "Gil" Elvgren became a Christian, he wasn't sure how his newfound faith would gel with a career in theatre arts. Now, more than 30 years later, he's seen that his faith has actually provided the foundation for all of his artistic endeavors.
"I really feel a call, not just to write anything, but since I am a Christian and I've spent a lifetime developing a Christian worldview, I want to turn back to our culture stories that involve the wonderful elements of our faith mystery," he explains.
Approximately 8,000 performances of his scripts have been produced by professional theatre companies throughout the United States and Canada. At Regent, he teaches courses in the Film-Television department on story structure, writing for children, playwriting and actor coaching.
When Elvgren says his works have a faith element to them, he isn't just retelling Bible stories—although he's had great success in this area. Among the work he's most proud of are plays for children and at-risk youth—an example would be The Quest, an AIDS prevention play presently being toured through India and Pakistan by 'The Man Called Jesus' outreach.
His full length pieces can be characterized by Paper Wings—the story of how his parents bumped up against the faith; and Everywoman, the adventures of a modern day talk show host who meets up with Death and is told to 'put her house in order.' This play will have its premiere as part of the Regent main stage season in Spring 2013.
He's also the co-founder and resident writer for Saltworks Theatre Company, a non-profit, professional arts company based in Pittsburgh, Pa., which addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of children, youth and families through the creation and performance of contemporary dramatic works.
For Elvgren, his goal as a writer and a man of faith is to figure out how to bring salt and light to a culture that needs both and then share what he's learned with his students. "It's the next generation or the generation after who will become the powerhouse writers of our faith," he says. "The seeds that I'm planting at Regent University will hopefully help to bring this about".
Great storytelling, he explains, is a challenging contribution. "Finding the imagery, finding the metaphor, finding the story that will move hearts emotionally and that people will believe—that is our task," he says. Ultimately, "I think that—as a faith based writer—what one is trying to do is capture the rhythms, the spectacle, the flow, the excitement, the sound of God's dance in creation." Full Bio.
Is there such a thing as "too modern?" Dr. Benson Fraser certainly thinks so. "Modernity has nurtured an overdependence on logic and reason and an under-dependence on imagination and emotion," he explains. It is imagination and emotion, he believes, that are the basic elements of effective communication in today's world.
Fraser came to Regent in 1986 because he wanted to help students communicate their faith in a world that's grown tired of listening to the same old stories. "We have to figure out a different way to tell them what Christianity really is," he says. "That's ultimately why I came here—to see how I can effectively communicate and help others communicate their own faith."
Fraser's own study and research has been centered on three areas: entertainment education, indirect communication and communication, and development. His work has taken him to Tanzania, Kenya and the United Kingdom as he seeks to better understand how cultures communicate their values with each other.
That work even prompted the formation of a non-profit group called Friends for African Development (FAD) which is committed to projects that help provide basic necessities, like water, food and education. "We work primarily with the Maasai in Tanzania and we work collaboratively with them on projects they initiate. These are all projects we're invited to do by the people living in the country we are working in," Fraser says. "We don't go to fix things; we go to make friends."
Fraser has now made 10 trips to Tanzania. During his most recent trip, Fraser documented Christian and traditional Maasai music, conducted research on cell phone use in northern Tanzania, and conducted training for ministers and community leaders.
Whether it's Africa or Alabama, one thing is clear: "We need to learn how to communicate more effectively, and we're not doing a very good job of it," he says. "We're not doing what the Scriptures themselves do and that's being creative. We need creative writers, producers and directors. If we're good storytellers, the Christian perspective will come out. I don't think we need to limit ourselves to so-called 'Christian stories.' I think we need to be very wise and know our audience."
Ultimately, he says, "We need to take Christ and his word into our life and then—with the Holy Spirit's help—begin to tell stories that transform the culture." Full Bio.
Screenwriter. Novelist. Director. Booker T. Mattison wears many hats and he brings all of them into his classroom at Regent University. As an assistant professor in the School of Communication & the Arts, he's giving his students the most valuable thing he can—the benefits of his experience. In 2009, he penned his first novel, Unsigned Hype. He followed it two years later with Snitch.
Snitch received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which commended the novel as a work fit for screen adaptation. Now that the novels are complete, Mattison has turned his attention back to writing—and eventually directing—his own work for the big screen.
It's rare that a screenwriter will transition back and forth from novels to screenplays, Mattison explains, but he's only seen the benefits in his own career. "As an author, you own copyright to your work, as well as film and television rights." By adapting his own novel, he maintains "more control over the story as it makes that transition to the screen."
Prior to joining the faculty at Regent, Mattison wrote and directed music videos for Grammy Award®–nominated Christian rap artists The Cross Movement and Flame, as well as the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's The Gilded Six Bits, which aired on Showtime.
Mattison is passionate about making sure his students understand the opportunities available to them—as artists and as Christians—in media. Paraphrasing a quote from Thomas Edison, he explains: "Whoever controls the motion picture industry controls the most powerful medium of influence over the people."
At Regent, Mattison teaches courses on actor coaching for film and television, and advanced directing and screenwriting.
Mattison has this message for students who are interested in an educational environment where they can develop every aspect of their being. "If you want to go to a place where you can fully develop artistically and spiritually, this is the place for you." Full Bio.
As a member of the performance faculty in the School of Communication & the Arts, Mark Paladini brings to the classroom years of practical experience—as a casting director, an executive producer and as an actor. He knows the entertainment industry from every angle and wants to pass on that knowledge to his students.
"I've seen the transformation that takes place from the committed work in our three–year program. It's inspirational," he says. "The three-year program provides an opportunity to make mistakes, to fall in all the traps."
Paladini's credits as a casting director read like a Hollywood Who's Who—he cast Richard Attenborough's motion picture Closing the Ring, starring Oscar®–winner Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer. He was also casting director for Disney's Spy Hard and New Line Cinema's The Mask.
His credits are not limited to film, but include work in television on Beverly Hills, 90210, Babylon 5, The New WKRP in Cincinnati and Big Brother Jake. He also served as the co-executive producer of the romantic comedies My First Wedding, A Previous Engagement and his latest feature-film project If I Were You.
In addition to three primary performers' unions, Paladini's professional memberships include the Casting Society of America and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, an organization that annually invites him to sit on a "Blue Ribbon Panel" tasked with choosing Emmy winners in a number of categories.
Paladini moved from Los Angeles to Virginia Beach, but he doesn't feel like the location has changed anything about the opportunities he's had or the opportunities his students find. "One of the things that I think is very valuable about being here is that a lot of our actors begin to get professional audition experience through an agency here in Virginia Beach (Studio Center)," he says. "I've found once students have taken my screen acting course, which has a unit in commercial acting, they begin to book a lot of commercials in town."
As a professional in residence, Paladini continues his casting work on independent feature films with Joan Carr-Wiggin's If I Were You. Additionally, he works as a casting consultant on a variety of projects with Los Angeles casting directors (U.S. Government anti-smoking commercial) and CBN (First Landing, Superbook). Every summer he returns to Los Angeles where he continues his casting career, serves on the Blue Ribbon Panel and teaches a yearly workshop at the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. Full Bio.
At the start of her career, Dr. Lorene Wales served as a professional filmmaker in Hollywood—starting as a production assistant and working her way up on successful high-budget feature films including Firebirds and The Purple People Eater.
After 10 years, she decided it was time to follow a dream that was bigger than Hollywood. "I always knew that I wanted to teach," she says, "but, it was important that I have a solid foundation as a professional in the film industry first. Once I had that foundation, I felt more equipped to bring those real-world experiences to the classroom."
Today, with two more degrees and a decade of teaching under her belt, Wales is using her classroom to prepare other filmmakers. The best part, she says, has been having the opportunity to incorporate her faith into her work as a filmmaker.
Wales' research deals with minorities (ethnic, as well as religious), gender relations and even society's perceptions of disabled people. "My academic pursuits have allowed me to support and advocate for those who society labels as less fortunate," she explains.
Those academic pursuits, combined with her professional experience, have left a profound mark on her students. "She always reminded me that I didn't just need God, nor did I just need excellence in my field," recalled Sarah Kelley ('10), now a line producer with 700 Club Interactive. "I needed both. I needed a strong Christian walk coupled with dedication and excellence in the field, and with this, all things are possible."
Wales' students don't just learn from her in the classroom; it is perhaps the hands-on guidance that they find most helpful as they begin their careers. "Dr. Wales has a strong work ethic and she treats her students as professionals," Kelley explained. "We were not in a classroom, but on a film set. She expected me to behave as one receiving a paycheck, and so my transition into professional TV production was both natural and easy." Full Bio.