RetroRadio – Phil Cooke

RetroRadio is a series of posts of radio interviews from my time working at 98five Sonshine FM covering everything from issues of spirituality to chats with visiting musicians and celebrities.

Hopefully, the interviews spark a few memories and a few thoughts.

Back in July 2007, I spoke to Phil Cooke. I’ve just relistened to the interview and so much of what he has to say is still incredibly relevant today.

He’s produced TV and film programming in more than 60 countries around the world, and in the process, been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter, and in Africa, been threatened with prison. And during that time – through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California – he’s helped some of the largest Christian and nonprofit organizations in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture.

Phil was Executive Producer of “Let Hope Rise – the Hillsong Movie” released to theaters nationwide, and Producer of “The Insanity of God” a feature documentary that premiered nationally as a Fathom Event. According to former CNN journalist Paula Zahn, Phil is rare – a working producer in Hollywood with a Ph.D. in Theology. He’s appeared on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, and his work has been profiled in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. –

We chatted about his work and the media in general as well as a range of other ways in which Christians are portrayed.

Phil had a lot of great insights into the most effective ways for Christians to harness the power of the media in its various forms. One thing that came out very strongly a number of times in our discussion was the need for people who want to share their faith story to understand the culture they’re trying to reach.

If you want to hear the interview just use the media player below.

[Note: All RetroRadio interviews on are a snapshot of the time they were recorded. We all grow and change and so the opinions and thoughts of those in the interviews at the time of recording may or may not necessarily be the same as they are today.]

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I Want to Escape


It was the late 1920s on the French Riviera. He was a handsome and very famous illusionist. She was an attractive young woman who claimed to be a clairvoyant and mystic. Would he uncover her secret and expose her as a fraud or would he discover something truly supernatural?

It was just at that moment her mobile phone rang and she ran from the room. No, not the attractive ‘mystic’, the woman next to us in the cinema.

Was it really too much to ask that for the 97 minutes of the movie we all agreed that we would escape into another world? Shouldn’t there be some kind of unwritten contract that as soon as you enter a cinema you not only allow yourself to escape the constant, urgent demands of technology but that you let others in the cinema to enjoy that escape too?

Magic in the Moonlight

We went to see the latest Woody Allen movie Magic in the Moonlight starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone. While it probably won’t make my list of all time favourite movies, it was certainly enjoyable. The scenery, the story, the era all combined to make it well worth seeing.

I don’t ask too much of a visit to the cinema. I just want to sit in a large dark room and be transported to another world for an hour or two. I want to escape for a little while and enjoy the power of story. Obviously that’s a little hard with a phone going off on our right and a phone to my left with a constant flash every three seconds.

As well as the ever present technology, people in cinemas, theatres and concerts seem more likely to think it’s OK to have a conversation at any chosen time. It’s not. If that’s what you do in your lounge room during the Sunday night movie, fine, but when you’re in a room full of other paying customers … show some respect and shut up.

Who is pulling the strings?

Talking during an event is annoying enough and just plain rude, but this constant attachment to technology is something else. Why do we, or at least why do some people allow themselves to miss the moment so that they remain available to march to the beat of someone else’s drum? We know it’s rude to interrupt people when they’re in the middle of something yet we often let people from all over the world interrupt us at any time they choose.

One of my brothers rang me during the movie. My son texted me during the movie. Strangely enough the earth didn’t collapse because I didn’t respond until later. They had no way of knowing that I was in the middle of escaping to the French Riviera with Colin and Emma so it was completely up to me to decide whether I’d stay in France or to allow myself to be dragged back to a dark room in suburban Warwick.

The Challenge

So here’s the challenge. While you can’t control what others around you are doing, take control of your own life moments.

If you’re in a cinema or spending time with others, decide who you’ll allow to interrupt you. If you’re not good at allowing calls to go to voicemail or ignoring someone else’s texts or notifications, switch your device off completely for a while. If you’re already breaking out in a sweat thinking about doing that or saying you don’t need to go that far, you’re probably just the sort of person who needs to do it.

If you allow the ‘fear of missing out’ to control you, I fear that you’ll truly miss out. You’ll trade a shallow connectedness to the world for the deeper and more satisfying connection to those closest to you.

How well are you managing technology? Is technology managing you? Are you in control of your own time and of who interrupts you?

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Robin Williams and The Final Cut


The death of Robin Williams has rocked the world and over the past 24 hours we’ve been reminded of his great comedic talent, his great acting abilities and what a wonderfully warm and giving person he was. The world certainly has lost a very talented man.

None of the tributes have mentioned one of my favourite Robin Williams movies. It didn’t get very positive reviews and it certainly wasn’t a blockbuster. In fact, most people have never even heard of it.

I first saw The Final Cut on a plane heading home from India in 2005. As well as starring Robin Williams it features Mira Sorvino and Jim Caviezel. It’s certainly no comedy but it’s very good at getting you thinking about a range of philosophical, psychological and moral issues. Be warned, it’s not a movie to suit everyone.

Every time I’ve seen it I’ve pondered it for a long time, going over and over the concepts the movie presents.

It’s a very strange story about memory chips implanted in unborn children to record everything that they see and hear in their lifetime. The idea is that once they have passed away someone called a ‘cutter’ takes the chip and creates an audio visual memorial of their life called a ‘Rememory’. Of course they have the job of editing the footage to hide the dark side of the person and only show them in a good light.

At one point Caviezel’s character, who is against the technology, asks Williams, the best cutter available, how he lives with himself. He sees the lies, the cheating, the violence and yet he only presents people as warm, caring people who are dedicated to their families. Williams says, “I forgive people long after they can be punished for their sins.” So, is it about forgiveness or covering up?

In a greater sense, back in the real world, don’t we do just that ourselves? Aren’t we all working as ‘cutters’ on our own lives? Don’t we all choose to show those parts of our personalities that show us in the best light when we’re around others? Don’t we all hide the darker side to some degree?

One man attending his brother’s Rememory asks if the cutter has altered the colour of the fishing boat from a childhood holiday. All his life he had remembered the boat being green but it was actually red. I wonder how many things from our past we can remember so distinctly yet we’ve remembered wrongly. Would it be right to correct that kind of memory or is remembering things in our own way part of our human experience?

I guess the biggest question the movie raises is if every moment of your life was being recorded, would you live it differently? If you knew that every moment of your life would one day be placed in the hands of a stranger who would sift through everything you’ve ever done would you be a different person? Would you be a better person? If you knew that by talking to someone else you could be videoed by their implant would it change the way you interacted with others? If you knew that you could never hold a secret would it change your behaviour now?

As I mentioned, The Final Cut didn’t get rave reviews and many people felt that the concepts and issues it raises weren’t investigated thoroughly enough but I think it touches on them just enough to give you your own opportunity to think through some of the issues. The scenarios that are played out are unlikely to ever happen but there’s more than enough big ideas that already touch our lives to think through.

If you’re up for 90 minutes of darkness that will have you pondering some interesting possibilities, have a look at The Final Cut.

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Hollywood Jesus


When you read a book or head to the movies do you sometimes feel that you’ve heard the story somewhere before? For many hundreds of years writers have been drawing inspiration from the greatest story ever told.

Parallels have been seen in everything from Shakespeare to Harry Potter. There is rich symbolism in the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and many others.

A Christ figure, also known as a Christ-Image is a literary technique that the author uses to draw allusions between their characters and the biblical Jesus Christ. More loosely, the Christ Figure is a spiritual or prophetic character who parallels Jesus, or other spiritual or prophetic figures.

In general, a character should display more than one correspondence with the story of Jesus Christ as depicted in the Bible. For instance, the character might display one or more of the following traits: performance of miracles, manifestation of divine qualities, healing others, display loving kindness and forgiveness, fight for justice, being guided by the spirit of the character’s father, death and resurrection. Christ figures are often martyrs, sacrificing themselves for causes larger than themselves. – Wiki

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98five Sonshine FM is Rev Dr Ross Clifford who is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

Today we talked about Christ figures in our books and movies. You can hear what Ross had to say by clicking the play button on the audio player below.

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WASO and the Lord of the Rings


Peter Jackson’s epic movie version of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is supported by some of the greatest film music of all time. Howard Shore’s Academy Award-winning score helps to capture the film’s sweeping emotion and thrilling scenery.

Next month, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra will be turning down the movie soundtrack and providing the music live through the power of a full symphony orchestra and the massed voices of the WASO Chorus and St George’s Cathedral Choristers at their Lord of the Rings performances.

Following the success of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s concert version of The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, WASO presents film director Peter Jackson’s vision of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. This epic event features the entire film on screen accompanied live by WASO, the WASO Chorus and St George’s Cathedral Choristers.

The Academy Award-winning score by Howard Shore is instantly recognisable to film aficionados and music lovers alike; and magically captures the film’s sweeping emotion, spell-binding visuals and the danger-filled adventures of Frodo Baggins and his cohorts in their quest to end the reign of the Dark Lord and save Middle Earth.

The venue for this event, the Riverside Theatre, has been chosen, in part, to accommodate the 6 metre by 14.5 metre screen required for the projection of the film above the full orchestra on stage. This has required some adaptation by the orchestra as well – because stage lighting would interfere with the projection of the film, individual lights are attached to each music stand so the players can read the music in the otherwise dark auditorium.

Swiss-born conductor, Ludwig Wicki, is ideally suited to lead with WASO through this towering soundtrack. He and Howard Shore are long-term collaborators; and Wicki conducted the world premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2008.

David Cotgreave is the Production and Technical Manager with WASO and he dropped in for a chat on my radio program today to talk about just how such a major project comes together. You can hear our chat by clicking the play button on the audio player below.

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