Lisa Swain is a filmmaker, educator, and media psychologist. She has worked as a production coordinator and supervisor with award-winning directors and producers Tim Burton, John Woo, Barrie Osbourne, David Permut, and Bruce Cohen on such notable films as Big Fish, Face-Off and the cult classic Mars Attacks. She began her 2nd career in academia at Biola University in the School of Cinema and Media Studies in the fall of 2005 where she has specialized in teaching production and criticism classes. Most recently, she has completed her doctoral work in Media Psychology at Fielding Graduate University. Her areas of research include the ways in which we negotiate difference and develop identity through our interaction with media. She lives in a loft in downtown LA with her two cats, Thelma and Louise, who graciously allow her to feed them.
Kathleen Cooke: We live in a “busy” world today. Technology has made it easy to do more so we open the tap and often can’t figure out how to stop the flow. The culture demands that if we are to have a career in media and entertainment where competition and being productive never sleeps, we better be prepared to march to the beating drum. What has God taught you about how to prioritize what is important?
Lisa Swain: I confess I worship at the altar of productivity. Which means the thought of play can make my brain short circuit. I mean – what’s the point? There’s too much work to be done! The other day I had errands to run around downtown and decided to try using a scooter thinking it would be an efficient use of my time. Holy Birds! I had NO idea how much fun that was going to be. I totally forgot about the errands and just took off. I wish it wasn’t so easy for me to dismiss the thrill of doing something just for the sheer enjoyment, but I really am a Martha. I’m grateful when God catches me off guard to remind me that joy is in the being, not the doing. Turns out that on a scooter, I’m a total Mary!
Kathleen: You currently mentor young men and women as a college professor of cinema and media arts. They often struggle, as their college studies end, on how to make the right choices as they move on. What’s do you tell them?
Lisa: I think about Mother Theresa’s advice to a young priest who asked her to pray for him to have clarity. Mother Theresa told him you may never have clarity; I will pray you have trust. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to trust is mistakenly assuming I must have clarity first.
Kathleen: Working within media and culture today I have learned that we must bring clarity to this and future generations by how we’ve lived our lives. It is in the demonstration of our trust in God through our life journey and choices and how God has been trustworthy and consistent with us that we are able to bring certainty of who God is to others. Has it gotten easier over the years to trust Him?
Lisa: Madeleine L’Engle said, “the great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” I love that. I have been astonished at how much joy comes with the perspective of age.
Kathleen: You spent many years working on Hollywood sets with big egos and in an “all about me” culture that continues to dominate today, and even more so, because of social media. Yet, Matthew 20:16, tells us that “the last will be first and the first last.” What have you learned about lasting influence and the importance of an unselfish heart focused on God’s will and not on a life and career focused and clamoring for fame and fortune?
Lisa: I’m writing this still in the shadow of Rachel Held Evans’ death. In grieving the loss of her life, one of the themes that recurs repeatedly is how much she shared her platform. It comes up so often, it seems noteworthy to consider why people found it so remarkable. Is it possible that in an era of relentless self-promotion, one of the most influential and Christ-like things we can is hand someone else the mic?