"A Top-10 agency offered me $6000 for one day's work and a recurring role on network TV, but..."
"As a result, the agent dropped me..."
AMTC Presenter and Consultant Jenn Gotzon felt the Holy Spirit drawing her to the entertainment industry when she was a teenager watching movies at her small-town theater. Twenty years later, Jenn has played the starring role in dozens of inspirational feature films. Her passion and hope in Christ are what drive her to succeed, as well as encourage other aspiring performers.
Jenn, you have done so much! Walk us through your story and how you first experienced God’s call on your life.
I first began acting when I was 15. The passion started when I would go to different movies in my hometown. Our local movie theatre was called The Roxie: one screen with little red velvet curtains that would open right before the movie started. When the movie was an inspirational, powerful movie I would feel an electricity and passion that would hit me throughout my soul. It even happens today, like when I saw "The Help." I walked out of that movie in tears, crying out to the Lord, "I want to do this for other people. I want to be used by You to tell stories like these movies, and impact people like this movie has impacted my life."
I realized that I was getting this passion and I wanted to be able to use my gifts on screen. I am so compelled to portray broken lives in movies, in the most authentic real way, so that other people can identify and see themselves in the character’s actions, decisions and brokenness. Through the story line, they will see consequences of their sin, but also the redemption that comes as a result of hope and new direction.
All to say, I started when I was 15, being inspired by movies. Now 20 years later, my passion is taking that experience to the Nth degree from the very mission, ministry-minded focus through the stories and characters that I do. I pray that people would never feel judged in the lifestyles I depict. I want them to have empathy and realize that they are not alone, but can look close and deep and recognize that, by seeking the answers and hope that my character seeks, they will realize that the answers are in line with the Bible.
From all of the films you have been in, tell us a couple of your favorites.
Frost/Nixon, playing Tricia Nixon in a biopic that was nominated for five Oscars, has a storyline that talked about an interview between David Frost and President Nixon. The undercurrent of the entire film talked about the consequences of lying and living in secret. It was so cool to see how the Lord used that film to break my career because many of the people who had lived through that time and saw the film said that the movie brought them a sense of completion and restoration. The actual event had brought so much trauma to their lives, so seeing the movie helped to heal that.
God’s Country is a movie I am just honored to be in. The character I played in that movie is someone who is very self centered, egocentric and set on advancing in her career. She is put in the middle of a desert at a church camp because they are going to build a casino. She is forced to slow down and realize what is really important in life. The undercurrent of the story is keeping family first and God first.
I can’t get over that Jesus is allowing me to do these films! It has just been really special.
How did you hear about and get involved with SHINE?
In 2012 I heard about SHINE radio commercial in L.A. I was in a really rough place. The Holy Spirit was so loud in my soul that I thought I had indigestion. I didn't want to do anything, but I decided that I would try to figure out the most minimal thing I could do for SHINE, just so I could respond to the Holy Spirit’s calling.
I was invited me to come to SHINE to speak. I’m going to be honest, I did not know what SHINE really was, and people in Los Angeles told me I needed to be cautious. I went to SHINE intentionally looking for a snake, and instead I was slain by the Spirit of God.
What was that like for you? What kind of impact did SHINE have?
During my time at the SHINE event, I saw the beauty and the hearts of the entire SHINE family. When you walk into that conference, you feel the anointing of the Spirit and know that God is present. The Presence of God just ascended down so strong, and every person I met was so in-tune and in line with the heart of Jesus Christ. After that, SHINE invited me to become a Consultant, trying to raise up performers and train them in Biblical worldview. I am blown away by what Jesus is doing and seeing the fruit in peoples lives.
What advice do you have for people considering SHINE as a bridge into the entertainment industry?
I think that if any artist wants to get into the entertainment industry and make a difference in culture, SHINE should be the first place they start. It will get them grounded in a foundation with Christ, and teach them how to use their gifts as an artist. This is the best program for any Christian.
Have you ever experienced a time when you have turned down a script due to its content?
In 2009, a top 10 agency gave a direct offer to me for a short film being produced by a big network television station. They offered a $6,000 contract for one day’s worth of work, the offer to be a recurring on a network television show, and the filmmakers said I would be a part of their upcoming movies. I was struggling financially that month, and the package was very appealing. However, the content those people make is very different than what my calling is. When that script came through—it was an R rated script— there was no nudity, but the physical actions required that involved perversion were so extreme that it made me sick to my stomach.
There was no redemption in the script either. I had to decide if I should take the job because of all the things that were offered. A friend of mine, who worked on the movie "Bella" said, "Jenn, it reminds me of the time when Jesus was on the mountain. Satan says, 'bow before me and I’ll give you all of this.' "
I went for a run on the beach, and God said to me, "Jenn, sin is ugly. The reason why I died for My children is because sin is ugly. The script that you’re reading is sin, and it is ugly." I got on the phone with my agent after hearing this, and he said, "Jenn, you have been working hard in your career, you’re climbing this mountain and you’re almost to the top. If you take this job, you will be at the top of the mountain." As soon as he said that, the Lord convicted my soul and I knew then that God was telling me not to take the job, so I passed.
What was the result of this decision? Did it change your career?
As a result, the agent dropped me, the television network never saw me for another audition, and the filmmakers in that circle never spoke to me either. But three months later, I got an email through Facebook, direct offering me the lead role of Laura Reaper in "Doonby." In the year of 2010, "Doonby" was made in June, "Dragon Day" was July and August, "Alone Yet Not Alone" was September-November, "September Skies" was November, "God’s Country" was December, the following year, "I am…Gabriel" was all of August, "Untouched" was October, "Screenwriters" was in November…it was movie after movie of direct offers. I think it has been 15 or 16 movies now that I am a main character, if not the lead character, of a film. They all go along with the mission that God has placed on my soul.
God told me, "I called you to make a difference in culture and gave you a disgusting piece of material in that first script. Along with the script, you could have been a series regular on a network TV show and worked on major mainstream movies, but you said no. I can now trust you with My call on your life."
You have a huge passion for mentoring performers. Tell us about your desire, and how you go about it.
In order to balance, I really rely on God to provide time. I use my Facebook page, I have a private inbox on my public page. When I see someone’s photo, I am able to track with our conversation. Wherever I might have met them around the
I look for people who have the same calling, passion and determination that I have. I look for people who the Holy Spirit puts on my heart. I will pour every element of myself that I can into helping them. God has put me in a place where, after 20 years of pursuing my dreams, the Lord has me on that main mecca of that faith and family film movement, mentored by the leaders of that movement. I was to be the best steward of that gift, because God has put on my soul that we are one Body in Christ. If someone wants to go and make a difference in culture, I will do everything I can to help.
Do you have any particular word for performers in the public eye?
Yes, I always want to tell performers about the importance of news interviews as an artist. I want to encourage all SHINE performers that when they are interviewed on the red carpet, radio, newspapers and magazines, these are our opportunities to be praying for the Holy Spirit to lead and prompt words on out heart for the main purpose of this: spreading God’s message through the testimonies in our journey that He has led us in. People living day-to-day lives are the ones we are trying to affect. If we are able to be real, authentic and honest, they can hear God move through us. We can’t be fearful of sharing our testimonies, but to be honest and direct in that. Ensure that whatever comes out of our mouths is never in a place of condemnation and judgment, but instead out of unconditional love and forgiveness, because that’s how Jesus operated.
Hold onto Jesus as your best friend, because He speaks directly to us. When we focus on Him and His Kingdom and Righteousness, that’s where our main focus should be. God will bless us when our hearts are for Him. We need to pray for Him and not His Hand, or what He is giving.