Recently, Phil Cooke, author and founder of Cooke Pictures, graciously agreed to answer a few questions about writing, the Internet, and online media.
Founder and Creative Director – Cooke Pictures – Burbank, California
Many of the largest and most effective Christian organizations in the world ask for his advice, and his ideas are changing the way people of faith use media to communicate with the culture. Christianity Today magazine called him a “media guru,” and you’ve seen him on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and numerous national magazines. His blog at philcooke.com is a highly respected resource on media, faith, and culture, and Phil’s workshops are a rare glimpse into the future of media and entertainment. His new book is The Last TV Evangelist: Why The Next Generation Couldn’t Care Less About Christian Media … and why it matters. Phil is also a founding partner in TWC Films, an award winning TV commercial company in Los Angeles that produced two spots for Super Bowl 2008.
1) What writing projects currently occupy your time—or have recently?
I just finished my latest book: The Last TV Evangelist: Why the Next Generation Couldn’t Care Less About Religious Media. It followed up my release last March of Branding Faith and focuses on how we’ve missed the mark with religious media and what we need to do to make real change happen. Although it’s critical of some of the wacky stuff we do in religious media, it’s really a road map to the media revolution that’s happening right now. I also post on my blog every day. My wife calls philcooke.com my “mistress,” and I have to admit, I’m a little addicted. But it sure saves me money on therapy.
2) What advice concerning writing or editing do you wish that someone had given you years ago?
Just write. I was always intimidated by writing and waited far too long to start with any discipline. I wish that early on someone would have shared with me the importance of simply writing and getting it down on paper. In Hollywood, I’ve discovered that there are writers who talk about writing, and then there are writers who actually write. I prefer the latter.
3) How has the Internet changed the way that you write or edit your material? What tools or websites do you rely on?
Today we live in what I’m calling an “open media revolution.” With email, text messaging, and other online tools, we don’t have to wait months or years to be published, it can happen right now. Good or bad, that aspect of writing has changed everything. While I often loathe the bad writing that abounds on the web, it’s also a fascinating opportunity to see what people are thinking immediately. That’s why I’m so passionate about my blog. Anytime an idea comes, I can toss it out for thousands of people to see and then hear their response. That’s pretty amazing. As far as tools, I’m a Mac person. I write with MS Word, but wish Mac had a popular writing program. “Pages” just doesn’t do it for me—not only because it lacks Word’s features, but since I do a lot of writing for clients, I have to use what everyone else can read.
4) What advice do you have for aspiring writers to use media and social networking to reach the culture?
In my new book The Last TV Evangelist I show just how significant the shift to online media and social networking really has become. Traditional media will always be around, but there’s no question that more and more people are going online as the “first screen.” The key to the future will be about knowing which is more appropriate for what content. There’s a lot of things I love doing with my iPhone, but when it comes to the Super Bowl, I still want to watch my HD plasma screen TV.
5) How do you decide that it’s finally time to step back, stop revising, and say that a writing project is finished?
Generally, I tell people I’m not a writer, I’m a “re-writer.” Here’s my process: I usually wait as long as I can to start writing. I just let the raw ideas and concepts roll around in my head for as long as possible—until I’m about to explode. Then, when I sit down to actually write, it comes out as fast as I can type. When I’m working on a new book for instance, I can do 10–20 pages in a day pretty easily, depending on the subject. However (and this is a big however), those pages are a long way from being finished. At that point I go back and start re-writing, re-arranging, making sense, cutting out, adding, and polishing. The best way to explain my style is to throw it all down on paper and then work through it to see what sticks. When I wrote my dissertation for my Ph.D., I threw out 200 pages before I really even got started. Is that a recommendation? Good question. But it works for me, and that’s the most important thing. Everyone’s different, and I always recommend trying different styles, writing times, and methods, then finding the right mix that’s most appropriate for you.
My best advice would be to connect your butt to the chair. That’s the best place to start.
To find out more, visit philcooke.com.