Read: the announcement for the GATE2 event on February 4
Called a modern-day Renaissance man, John Raatz seemingly does it all. He’s an experienced communicator, strategist, administrator, musician, teacher and entrepreneur. He has been a personal manager in the entertainment industry, representing both high-profile celebrity actors and musicians. He’s been a successful stockbroker, a major executive at a public relations agency, a professional blues/rock guitarist, a pilot, a publisher of a leading-edge newsletter and the administrator of one of Southern California’s most forward-looking holistic health clinics.
Founder and CEO of The Visioneering Group, a marketing and public relations firm, Raatz’s company has represented many of the foremost authors, books, films and musical projects in the alternative/transformational movement, including What the Bleep Do We Know!?, The 11th Hour, Youth Without Youth, Peaceful Warrior, Baraka, Mindwalk, A Brief History of Time, Fritjof Capra, Peter Russell, Chellis Glendinning, Dead Can Dance, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Madonna and Donovan.
He’s also the man behind GATE — the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment — an effort that began two years ago to bring together people who are committed to a new level of ethical and spiritual expression.
Raatz spoke with The Edge by phone from his office in Los Angeles about GATE and the challenges of transforming the entertainment and media industry.
What originally inspired this idea?
John Raatz: I don’t know if there was a particular moment, or a particular circumstance, that inspired it. My life’s work has revolved around entertainment, around media. So I think it was a natural outgrowth of my interests. But I think it was the universe that planted the seed idea that came to me. When I started looking at, I realized, “Yeah, the time is ripe, the time is now, for this.” I don’t recall when the idea came to me, but it was many, many years ago.
In 2008 I was talking with Eckhart Tolle, with whom I was working at the time. I mentioned the idea to him, and asked if I should do it. He said, “Yes.” And I asked if he would host an event with me, and he said, “Yes.” Then I went to Jim Carrey, and I asked him if he would co-host the event with me, and he said, “Yes.” So I knew we had a show.”
But I want to mention that probably back in 1979, I was working with actor Ned Beatty. Ned and I had started an organization with some others called the Council for the Enlightenment of the Entertainment Industry. The purpose of it was to teach meditation to people in entertainment and media businesses, which we did. It was 30 years later, to the date, when we had our inaugural meeting on the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment (GATE) in 2009.
The letter “T” in GATE stands for Transformational. From what, and to what, are you seeking transformation?
JR: I think probably everybody, lay people and professionals, understand that the entertainment and media businesses have a major impact on, and in, our lives. I think everybody would also agree that the news and entertainment content cater to a rather narrow band of topics and considerations. I think many people would also concur that entertainment and media have a role — and a responsibility — to help facilitate personal, social and global transformation.
We’re not asking the industry to change, to become something that it’s not. Rather, we’re asking them to begin giving people options and alternatives, to give them a type of content, which we call transformational, that speaks to who we are, who we’ve become, and perhaps more importantly, to who we want to become in the world. That type of transformation is already taking place. Many people refer to it as “The Shift.” We know that there is a shift occurring, and we know there are certain universal, archetypal, holistic, humanistic values that are coming more into the foreground to help guide many people’s lives and even businesses and institutions. Look at the spirituality in business movement. There’s a much greater emphasis on environmental and ecological concerns now. More and more people are meditating and are pursuing healthy lifestyles and diets. I believe all of this is indicative of a shift in values.
I was blown away when I saw Tom Shadyac’s film, I Am, but almost every national review I read panned it.
JR: There was national media that loved it, also. Tom was on Oprah’s show and she really loved the film. The thing about this kind of content is, if it’s not a part of who you are now, if it’s not a part of your life experience, you don’t understand it and you don’t properly know how to evaluate it. If that’s the case, you’re actually better off not commenting on it, because you don’t know what you’re talking about if you try to review a film when you’re simply not familiar with the subject matter.
With all of the films I have ever been involved with, certainly there are critics who panned them. The way I’ve learned to understand it is that, unfortunately, when critics review something that they truly do not understand, they’re really displaying their ignorance more than their critical abilities.
Let’s talk about what GATE hopes to do within the film industry. What do you hope to do initially to promote this transformation?
JR: First I’d like to say that GATE is a non-profit, membership trade association. It is an association for professionals in entertainment and media businesses who themselves are transformationally oriented or resonant.
We have three missions with GATE: education, connection and collaboration, and advocacy. For people who already are transformationally oriented, we want to continue to introduce them to ideas and thought leaders who can help them deepen into their experience. We also want to provide education for those people who are transformationally oriented, but may not be as adept creatively and technically. We want to help them improve those skills to become better filmmakers, better storytellers, etc. We want to bring these people together to foster connections and collaboration. We want these folks to come together and develop projects that are of a transformational character. Ultimately, what we want is more content that is transformational in nature.
With the third mission, advocacy, we are advocating a genre called transformation. Just like you have drama, romantic comedy, etc., we would like to see a category called transformation, or transformational. To that end, we’ve created a seal — like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval — but in our case, the GATE Seal will be awarded to transformational content, the best in various categories. We’ve also created an award — the GATE Imaginal Award — similar to an Oscar Award or Grammy Award. It will be awarded to the best transformational content.
When we talk about entertainment and media, we’re not referring only to film or television programming. It could be a website. It could be a book. It could be fine art. It could be dance. It could be poetry. It could be music. Any arts and entertainment products.
That certainly expands the scope of GATE.
JR: Absolutely. One of the things I want to mention is that one of GATE’s initiatives is to help the “Hollywood” entertainment media community understand that there is an audience for this type of content. One of the names that has been given to this audience is the Cultural Creative. At one point, the number of Cultural Creatives was approximately 50 million in the United States, representing 26 percent of the adult population. In 2008, the person who conducted that research, Paul Ray, revisited the study and determined that the number had risen from 26 percent to 35 percent. I think we sense this, in terms of “The Shift” that I referred to earlier.
One of our jobs at GATE is to help the entertainment and business communities understand that there truly is an audience and that this audience is economically viable. There is business here for them if they would simply pay more attention to it. Part of our job is to mobilize that audience, and in that regard, we’ve undertaken a campaign called, “The Audience is Ready.” We hope to develop a database of one million signatures of people who resonate with, and support the idea of, transformational entertainment and media. When we achieve our one million signatures, we’re going to show those signatures and a bunch of other goodies to people in Hollywood who develop and produce content. We will be saying, “Look, there is an audience that wants this kind of content, and they will pay for it. Please free up some more dollars so that we can create more content like this so we can share it with that audience. You will see that it works.”
How willing do you think the people who have money to create films in Hollywood are to follow your lead?
JR: Well, I think there are some who won’t, for sure, but I think there are some who could. I think what will make it compelling is if we can demonstrate to them that there is money here to be made, first and foremost. But, so as to not brand them exclusively as being only interested in money, no doubt they do have a social conscience. I’m sure a great many of them practice personal philanthropy. What’s important here is to appeal to their sense of philanthropy in terms of where we are in the world today and what the world needs. It’s important to let them know that there’s an opportunity here for them to make money, and at the same time, fulfill a social mission.
We’re not asking them to change. We’re not asking them to support exclusively a social mission. We want them to make money. We want them to prosper. But we also want the category to be seen and experienced as an economically viable one. We’re not blind to the fact that what drives Hollywood is money. But we also believe that the entertainment and media business does have a role — and, indeed, a responsibility — to help foster personal, social and global transformation — especially in this moment in time.
I don’t think the situations around the world are lost on anybody right now. We’re exposed to them on a daily basis. This is why, when we talk about this, we talk in terms of entertainment and media. Right now we believe the definition of news by the print media, electronic media, etc., is very narrow. It tends to center around conflict, controversy, celebrity, novelty and so forth — not values that really define who we are as humans. We’re suggesting that it’s important to expand the definition of news to universal, archetypal, holistic, humanistic values. There is so much of a positive nature happening in the world right now that simply goes unreported, because the media believes nobody is interested in that. That’s not true. There are some good stories reported, sure. But by and large, the media spoonfeeds our culture with stories that cater to the lowest-common denominator. As a result, we miss out on so much that is beautiful, so much that is sacred, in life because of this rather limited definition of what constitutes a news story. Part of GATE’s mission is the renovation of that definition, too.
That could be the most challenging part of your mission.
JR: It could be, but there is a saving grace — you! The Edge and others like it around the country, who publish print media and run websites, are already doing what we are advocating. There are 200 or 300 such publications as yours around the country. You are a pioneer, you have been a pioneer, and we can point to this. You’ve been around for quite a long time, and you’ve been sustaining yourself for a long time economically. But we believe there’s more to be done in that regard.
Tell me about actor Jim Carrey and the role he will plan with his peers in promoting transformation?
JR: Jim naturally lives in this space now. Whomever he talks with, this is a topic of conversation. He’s not an evangelist, but he cannot help but express who he is. This is who he is.
I met Jim when he came to a screening of Peaceful Warrior when we were promoting it in 2006. I met Jim at that time and ever since then, we’ve been friends. Jim’s influence is palpable and powerful when people hear his ideas and learn about his experiences with spirituality. It moves people. When he spoke at our inaugural event for GATE in June 2009, people were floored. They had no idea that Jim was interested in this space. They also were so impressed with how eloquently he spoke of it. How he moved and touched people. His experience is deep. He’s working on a book that I think will surprise people with the depth of his wisdom. Everyone can certainly attest to the depth of his creativity, but soon they’re going to experience the wisdom side of Jim Carrey.
Share with me a few words about those who will receive the debut GATE Imaginal Awards on February 4.
JR: First we have the creators of the film Mindwalk, Bernt and Fritjof Capra. Many people know of Fritjof for his book, The Tao of Physics, which was the first book to really explore the relationship between science and spirituality, and his subsequent books The Turning Point, The Web of Life, and others. Bernt Capra is a prominent production artist for the film business. He directed the film, Mindwalk.
The next recipient is David Lynch. I think almost everybody knows of his extensive body of work, but David will be receiving the GATE Imaginal Award for his humanitarian efforts. Not as many people are aware of the work he has been doing in that arena. The David Lynch Foundation has enabled more than 150,000 children to learn meditation, to get off drugs, to get off the street. He has facilitated this remarkable work.
Michael and Justine Toms will receive the GATE Imaginal Award for their pioneering effort in media and communication. Their radio program, New Dimensions Radio, is heard around the country on hundreds of stations, as well as online. Over the course of 30 or 40 years, they have interviewed everybody. You can use their interviews as a graph to chart the growth of the human potential movement.
Do you find the GATE project to be a part of your personal mission in this lifetime.
JR: It seems to be. I certainly love doing this work. I must confess that I have a dark night of the soul periodically, wondering if it’s having any kind of impact, if it’s actually doing anything. I occasionally doubt that. But I would say 95 percent of the time, I am thrilled to be able to work with the people that I am working with, to be pursuing this vision and mission in the world, and it integrates very well with what we do at the Visioneering Group, our marketing and public relations firm.
I can see how, if you focus on the people who want to be a part of this and don’t worry about the naysayers, you’re going to do great things.
JR: Absolutely. That’s a good insight, Tim. I’m 56 years old this month and, looking back now, I can say that no matter what you do in this life, there are going to be naysayers. You just decide, “Do I want to put my attention there? No. Do I want to interact with that particular energy. No.” I’m just going to keep it where it is, because that’s where it thrives. That’s where there is incredible growth and joy and don’t worry about what other people have to say about it. Just follow your vision. Follow your mission. I think it brings tremendous success in every way possible.
How can the GATE project change the world that we know now?
JR: My personal belief — and I emphasize the word, personal — is that the answers to the vast majority of the world’s problems already exist. They don’t have to be created or thought of. What we are lacking, though, is awareness of those solutions. Visibility for those solutions. Channels through which those solutions can flow. The will on the part of existing gatekeepers – and the openness on the part of existing gatekeepers – to engage with those solutions because of self-interest. What we want to do is call more and more attention to the fact that there are solutions out there – solutions based on universal, holistic wisdom. We need to find the will to pursue those solutions. We need to get out of our own way, because we are in our own way. We need to drop the ego play and come into alignment and start functioning more as a collective whole.