For some people, when life changes, it makes a complete 180 degree turn from what they ever expected. This is exactly the case for Hollywood-based literary talent agent, Michael Van Dyck. Here, he discusses how he went from oil company tycoon to packaging top television shows.
Please tell us how you got your start in the entertainment business?
I had a Damascus road experience in 1986 and was literally brought to Hollywood by the Lord [God]. At the time [‘86], I was residing in Dallas [TX] and living a very fast lane lifestyle. In 1987, I lost just about everything I had; I literally went from making well over 6 figures per year in the oil business, to making around $18,000/year in a LA agency’s mailroom. Everyone has start at the bottom in this business, it’s like infiltrating the mob and you have to work your way up. [laughs]
What does your job entail?
I am a television packaging agent and I represent writers, producers and directors. I/Paradigm packaged such shows as DEXTER, THE GOOD WIFE, DESPERATE HOUSWIVES and 24. My passion is representing faith brands, and by that I mean taking songs by Contemporary Christian Music artists like Mercy Me, Dave Crowder Band and Jeremy Camp and using them as content for feature films. Or, representing the hosts of NEW LIFE LIVE [Dr. Steve Arterburn, Dr. Henry Cloud, Dr. John Townsend] and selling their books as reality shows.
You truly have a unique passion for making sure redemptive content is represented in entertainment today. Why is that important?
Yes! The faith brand business is my passion and that’s what gets me up in the morning and keeps me going. Hollywood is a mission field where God is raising up an army of believers in all aspects of the entertainment business. There’s no difference in this mission field than others, and in many ways it’s darker and its influence is more intense. These influencers include all forms of media, non-scripted, scripted and feature films. There are televisions in nearly every household in America, which makes entertainment a stronghold for the enemy, so the Lord absolutely cares about this
The Christian entertainment community is very small, but we’re very tight. Those of us who have been on the front lines of it make up an even smaller group, but we are in positions to make a difference. In television it is a bit more complicated score a release than it is in the feature film side. With TV, you have to buy a night or two of programming, or have somebody buy a network just so you have a place to park some of the programming that is redemptive in nature. But the good news is there are more things in the pipeline today than ever before, so the time is now. God is connecting people and bringing money people into the business to help get more [faith-based] content out into the marketplace.
How does Hollywood test your morals and faith, and how do you stay connected to God in an industry like this?
Daily I’m being tested! This is a front line battle. I go from my bed to my knees [in prayer] and protect my time with the Lord. My personal relationship with God is paramount in my life and nothing gets in the way of my daily time with Him [God]. Fortunately there are a lot of outreach ministries in Hollywood, it’s critical. Bel Air Presbyterian Church has an outreach ministry that I’m a part of and speak at often called, “Beacon”. There is another group called, “Third Tuesday,” that meets at the Writer’s Guild. I go to Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church all the time and I feed on his messages. It’s God who sustains those of us [Christians] in this business. Honestly, I would have been out of this business years ago if God didn’t have a plan for me. Pastor Jack Hayford comes to my house and prays over my Christian clients, which is a wonderful blessing. In all ways you have to stay plugged into the Lord or you won’t survive with your morals and faith intact.
What advice can you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in entertainment; where should they start first?
If your desire is to be famous, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons and chances are you’re going to ruin your life and waste a lot of other peoples’ time. But, if you are convinced and absolutely convicted that what you’re pursuing is God’s purpose and plan for your life, then go for it and never quit. There are a number of ways to get into the business, depending on what your skill set is. There are tons of programs and workshops where writers and actors can gain valuable training and network, as well as ways to plug into the local churches [in Los Angeles] and meet people who can help you get into the business. You will start at the bottom, but if you’re good at what you do, you will work your way up. Again, don’t ever quit if God has called you to do this because we need more believers [Christians] in this business who have the tenacity and the perseverance to stick it out. Every aspect of the entertainment business is like a fraternity hazing; it’s brutal circumstantially and designed to kick people to the curb.