BJU announces "the new financial and operating model" for Unusual Films

BJU announces "the new financial and operating model" for Unusual Films

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Jim's picture

This was sent to faculty/staff on October 28, 2016:


This morning, President Pettit and Dr. Weier informed the staff of Unusual Films that the University is moving to a new financial and operating model for film production. Since its founding in 1950, Unusual Films has produced a number of highly successful award-winning films; only eternity will reveal the number of people won to Christ as a result of their work. The University appreciates those—past and present—who have served faithfully in this function for many years.


In executing today’s strategic plan, however, the University is focusing resources on growth, both for increased financial stability and sustainability of the BJU mission. This focus necessitates the new financial and operating model. Going forward, rather than sustaining a production group while productions are not in progress, the University will produce films using an LLC model where films are externally funded and staffed as required.


The Cinema major remains a key program in our academic offerings, and we intend to further strengthen the program.


Concurrently, within the Enrollment function, Marketing Communications is being reorganized into project teams to better position the group to more effectively execute recruitment-related marketing. This reorganization creates opportunities for several members of the Unusual Films staff.


Today, department leaders will meet individually with those affected by these changes. Additional details will be provided in a future faculty/staff meeting.


Bert Perry's picture

I'm with Greg (great summary) on how important a good theater program can be, but what is BJU to do when enrollment is down by half?  No easy choices there, I dare say.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Michelle Shuman's picture

I grew up with the film department.  My father was one of the faculty/staff for 44 1/2 years before they retired him after Milltown Pride.  This change does a couple of things - one they lose the opportunity to train the students while they make productions.  Now the student's experience comes from working on each others projects.  They also will spend more money in obtaining staff for a limited time and also in locations, props, costumes, and actors.  In the film department, much of what they did was given to them as a loan.  My father was the one most responsible for obtaining the horses, cars, camels, snakes, locations, etc.  In addition, they lose control over the production and the product.  It is sad to see this wonderful ministry come to an end. 

Michelle Shuman

G. N. Barkman's picture

BJU  has produced several outstanding Christian films for which Christians are truly grateful.  My thanks to Michelle's father, and many others whose dedicated labors gave the world such excellent productions.  However, we need to understand that BJU is truly in a very difficult situation.  It can no longer afford to subside films.  The film department must pay its own way or cease to exist.  Remember the now defunct aviation program?  It was simply too expensive and could not continue.  Surely it is better to retain the film department on a "pay your own way" basis than disband it altogether?  I believe that those are the only two viable options.  Congratulations to Dr. Steve Petit and others for taking this needed action, and finding a way to keep the film department alive.

G. N. Barkman

Jim's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:
Congratulations to Dr. Steve Petit and others for taking this needed action, and finding a way to keep the film department alive.

^^^^ Yup!

Faced with declining enrollment ...

     I don't know the specifics but I've heard its about half of its apex

Decisions have to be made


mmartin's picture

While I understand Greg Easton's (& others) concerns, but I believe this was the right move if Unusual Films was a drain on overall operational funds.  If BJU felt they could obtain the same or similar PR using other, cheaper methods then this was the right move.  In terms of PR, things like social media platforms, podcasts, and, video-vinettes are cheaper, much easier to produce, and are will reach a larger audience faster than the usual Unusual Films production.  

BJU is in the education business, not the media business.  Further, their media/film program has never been a primary source of students and revenue for the university. I see this as BJU re-focusing on their primary mission.

As others have said, Decisions have to be made.  This is why Pettit gets paid the big bucks!

Just my opinion, but the overall quality of BJU's films have never been that great.  Milltown Pride was pretty good as far as BJU films go, but still low-grade.  I believe Unusual Films would need to produce something on par with "Facing the Giants" to truly be effective in terms of the time, effort, and money required to produce such a film.  In other words because Unusual Films is attractive to such a narrow audience, a production such as "Facing the Giants" is much better, dollar for dollar, than "Milltown Pride."  Even "Facing the Giants" could use some overall production improvements, but it was at a much higher quality level than even "Milltown Pride," which I think is the best BJU has done to date.

Jay's picture

As an alumnus of the now defunct NBBC, I think that this is probably one of the best possible outcomes.  At least the school has time for an orderly transition, and BJU can refocus on it's core mission.

Lose the battle for Unusual films in order to win the continuing existence war.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells