Holly Carter, co-founder of the rapidly expanding MERGE Summit, the convergence of faith and entertainment, states the key to many successful Hollywood careers begins with relationships. “First, your relationship with God, your family and with yourself, aligned with relationships developed and nurtured with other like-minded Christians.”
MERGE Summit is the domain where celebrities of faith convene and share invaluable information about the entertainment industry including workshops, presentations, performances and networking.
This year’s 6th annual event at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, 506 South Grand Street in Los Angeles, runs Thursday, August 21 to Saturday, August 23, 2014, promises an opportunity for men and women of faith to interface and partner with leading executives and talent in the entertainment industry.
It is stated that some 100 of the industry’s top entertainers and executives will lead more than 20 interactive panel discussions, workshops and Master Class sessions covering music, television, film, creative development, branding and new media. Event details may be found at http://www.themergesummit.com/tms/
Confirmed and invited celebrities include: Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne and Tracee Ellis Ross of ABC’s “Black-ish”), Boris Kodjoe of BET’s “Real Husbands of Hollywood”), Common (Rapper/Actor), Michelle Williams (Singer/Actress), Derek Luke (“Baggage Claim”), Clint Culpepper (President, Screen Gems), Dondre Whitfield (ABC’s “Mistresses”), Yvette Nicole Brown (NBC’s “Community”), Jonathan Butler (musician), Bishop Charles E. Blake (West Angeles Church of God In ChristBishop Lester Love (The City of Love Church, New Orleans), Edwina Findley (Tyler Perry’s “If Loving You Is Wrong”), the cast of Oxygen’s “Preachers of L.A.,” among others.
I spoke with Carter about the MERGE Summit and the role that faith plays in Hollywood—
Sandra Varner/Talk2SV: You place a tremendous amount of value on relationships; talk about the nature of new and old relationships in the business of Hollywood.
Dr. Holly Carter: Establishing and maintaining good relationships within this business allows one to penetrate the creative space more effectively and lends to credibility. The more credibility, the more doors open up to you. Certainly, for believers and non-believers alike, relationships are the key to accomplishing what you want to accomplish.
Talk2SV: As you place emphasis on accomplishments in Hollywood, I would be remiss if I did not ask, as a woman in a highly visible position, one who brings power to the executive table, what is the feminine advantage? Conversely, how do you compensate for those who are still reticent when it comes to embracing women in decision-making capacities in Hollywood?
Carter: You know, I don’t really worry about those people, I just keep pushing. I was called to this industry for a specific reason. The bible says, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” If I don’t believe that those barriers will block me, they won’t. They may cause a little blockade every now and then but I have been skilled on how to go around those blockades and how to have relationship with the next person that will touch the heart of the person that perhaps is resistant. When I look at my career and think back to the time when a black girl began in Hollywood, dominated by a couple of groups of people, those were interesting times. But I made it and I’m still here. I contribute and attribute that staying power to my faith in God and the favor that he’s given me.
Talk2SV: Indeed, we do walk by faith. Is there a particular scripture that you hold onto through this journey of faith?
Carter: “I can do all things through Christ that makes me strong.” I want people to see what God has done and what he is doing.
Talk2SV: Do you feel that today’s climate makes it easier for celebrities to profess their faith in God?
Carter: I think it’s an open door now. More celebrities are coming forth and making a declaration of their beliefs–who they are in God and their faith in him. That’s why MERGE gives them that freedom, that platform, that voice to open their mouths and freely share their faith.
Talk2SV: This may sound a bit judgmental but there are some who have one foot in the world and the other in faith. Do you see a major conflict in that thinking?
Carter: I find that true in everybody, believer or every Sunday church going person. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s about a commitment you make and a stand you take to either be a believer or not–to follow the principles of the word–and you’re going to get it. It depends on someone’s convictions, their commitment, their walk, and their willingness to abide by the word of God.
I can say that sometimes it is hard in this business and I can understand that you don’t do this all the time; if you were born and raised and reared in the church it takes a little bit more time to make a commitment to it depending on the commitment level of other people. But my faith is my focal point and my balance. You can ask anyone who knows me that on Wednesday nights, no matter what I’m doing, no matter what network meeting I’m attending, I’m going to stop that meeting to attend bible study.
I’m faithful to my church; I raise my kids in the church, I’m a mother of two: my son is in college, my daughter is in middle school; I have a husband and three dogs. My family and my dogs come first; my ministry and my walk with Christ are key and number one; everything else comes after those two. I have to keep it in perspective; my faith and my church work keeps me grounded. You need that to prevent being lukewarm–in and out or hot and cold—you’ve got to have a foundation.
Talk2SV: In its sixth year, what are the clear takeaways for those who attend the MERGE Summit?
Carter: They leave with information, they leave with relationships, and they leave with action items. They leave rejuvenated with new dreams. They are motivated and set on fire from hearing the MERGE testimony. All of it keeps me going, year after year.
Talk2SV: As you plan your next career steps whether they are in producing or directing or launching other projects: what are the future priorities for Holly Carter?
Carter: I want to expand MERGE into something that happens year around; we’re developing a MERGE University to allow people to continue with the wealth of information and knowledge they get from the Summit on a yearly basis. I really want to expand the MERGE brand and what it offers, who it impacts and where it goes. I want to continue producing content in the mainstream space with projects that matter–that’s really where I’m going.
Talk2SV: Any plans to take the MERGE Summit on the road?
Carter: I’m glad you asked because that is our plan for next year–to move it to Chicago.
Follow the conversation online using hashtag #MergeSummit