“My motto is bringing encouragement, love, and inspiration straight from the street where I’m from to the stage where they are birthed and now to film. I’m very pleased at the path the Lord has me on right now.”
“Dream big, stop all that talking, step out on faith, and just do it!”
Even as a young child, Tina Batten was a writer, but her greatest love was dance. Born in Philadelphia, her parents divorced when she was just a baby. After many years of abuse, her mother made a clean break from that hopeless way of life and moved the family to the Bronx, New York. Tina grew up mean and learned to live by her fist, she said.
Tina said she has always been a dreamer. “I loved music so much so that I changed my first name. I just use the initial now. I think I was maybe 8 years old. I changed it to what you know me as today, Tina.”
Living in the Bronx, she was surrounded by many bad elements and continued to live by her fist. But even then, she had a soft spot for the underdog.
“I remember one time—this is back in Philadelphia. I was very young. A couple of kids had cornered a stray dog in an alley, and they were throwing rocks at this dog, just abusing it, and when I saw that, I stopped them immediately, got in between them and the dog, and told them that’s not right. That’s not fair. Why are you doing that? I ended up fighting the lead person just so they would leave that stray dog alone.”
She was involved in basketball and track at school, but it wasn’t until she discovered dance that her life turned around for the better. Providentially, her dance teacher left, probably for Broadway. Tina and her friend were the oldest of the middle school dancers who were left without a teacher, so they decided to continue the dance class.
“I started choreographing, and the classes grew, and our parents helped us get grants, ballet slippers, and costumes. I would develop these yearly concerts and dance recitals right there in the amphitheater. It was huge.” She said people came to the recitals from all the buildings and surrounding projects to see the big showcase.
“Nowadays these people are in their 40s, and they remember those days. They remember those times, how special it was to belong, to have an outlet–a way to express what was going on in their lives.”
With her African American father’s coloring and hair, she was very much aware that she looked different from her Puerto Rican family members.
“I was the only one that looked like I did in the family, so I felt kind of ostracized, like a loner. They loved me, of course, but I just felt so different. No one knew how to help me with my hair. It was so awful, but looking at it now, all of these things helped mold me, so now I’m good with myself and the color of my skin and the texture of my hair.”
Tina attended a Catholic church with her mother occasionally, but didn’t know what it was all about. She wondered, “Why do we have to kneel and grow up with medals pinned to the inside of our underwear and bra for protection?”
After graduating from high school, Tina moved to Florida to attend college. Because of her ongoing love for dance, she frequented the nightclubs. She met her future husband, James, at the club. He, too, loved to dance. Eventually, the two got married.
It wasn’t until her late 20s that she came to know the Lord. She recalled a night when she was getting ready to do something–it was the kind of thing that would land her in jail if it didn’t go as planned. As she contemplated the deed, she walked out to her back patio, looked up at the night sky, and began to talk.
“What I was doing was praying. I didn’t even know I was praying. From there, I just started wailing and lamenting. It was just overwhelming, the feeling that came over me. At that point, right there where I stood on that Thursday night, I was instantly delivered right there from drinking and cussing because I had a horrible mouth. Instantly, even to this day, I won’t touch any of that. I haven’t cussed. We’re talking 20 years now.”
“As a babe in Christ, not knowing anything, not praying, I was immediately thrown into spiritual warfare. Immediately, the spirit of discernment was heightened. It was just crazy. Even my husband acknowledged I was advancing so quickly. What did I know about anointing with oil and praying? It was amazing.”
The two of them devoted themselves to a season of service, ministering to the homeless, directing the choir, and singing. Then the Lord brought them into a new season where Tina began to receive dreams and visions.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I saw these characters. I was just so physically attached. When they cried, I felt all the hurt and the pain that I physically cried. When they laughed, I chuckled. It was an emotional experience to see this and experience it in this way.”
Tina said she’s still a dreamer. The Lord still reveals things to her through dreams, but those dreams and visions prompted her to start writing them down, adding dialogue to the pictures that were going across her mind. “Those turned out to be my earliest plays, actually stage plays,” she said.
Tina said in 2010, her youth minister asked her to do something special for the young people. She wrote a skit titled “Walking after the Spirit,” which was performed in front of a huge youth audience.
In 2011, she began to feel led to do film. “I always thought television would come first. I did a series, a trilogy; it’s called Second Chance, and actually, I’m working on the feature screen play for that right now, but that was back in 2000-2001.” She said she always thought that Second Chance would spin off into a television show.
The following year, she said the Lord told her that would be her first film. Tina said, “My motto is bringing encouragement and love and inspiration straight from the street where I’m from to the stage where they are birthed and now to film. I’m very pleased at the path the Lord has me on right now.”
Tina likes to share her “wow moments”—those times when God shows up and miraculously provides.
“What happens with my WOW is that he’ll always put me in the path of the right people—meeting the right people that actually have what’s needed, whatever that may be if I need a camera person, a design person, or a music person.” She said God just multiplies what she has and increases it with favor. “We were able to get these projects done, which was truly, truly amazing to me.”
Tina said she gets “first-rate support from Pastor and First Lady James Mason, Ewana Mason, of Imani Temple of Temecula Christian Community Center in California.” She says her first spiritual mentor is the Holy Spirit who has taught her how to live as a Christian woman, how to pray, how to live holy, and continues to teach her how to write, make movies, and how to love everyone.
In addition, Tina confided, “Recently a wise, beautiful, gifted, and anointed woman of God adopted me into her family, so in addition to the Holy Spirit, her husband, her pastor and his wife, I now have my Mamma Hawkins,” she said with excitement. “I praise God for sending me Mamma Hawkins. She is a mature woman grounded and planted in the Lord. I can sit and listen to the wisdom from her mouth every day.”
For anyone considering taking up filmmaking, Tina says, “My husband has a saying, ‘Follow your heart,’ and I love that saying. If you are truly called and gifted in the industry of visual storytelling, just step out in faith. Go for it. That’s what I do each and every time the Lord drops a project in my spirit. I never have enough money or resources, but I’m just crazy enough to believe that with God, nothing shall be impossible.”
“Dream big, stop all that talking, step out on faith, and just do it!”
Tina currently lives in the San Diego area and has two children, Ray and Gabriel. Ray is the oldest (25). Gabriel passed in 2012 at the age of 20 from gun violence, due to a civilian taking the law into his own hands. Tina also has one granddaughter.
Tina’s husband praised his wife for her commitment and passion to praise the lord, the love of her family, and the people she inspires to help follow their dreams in pursuing the arts. He said, “Her acting, singing, and writing is impeccable. Not only that, she brings saints of God together for the kingdom, but she helps support many people in their education and career goals. She gives back to the community every chance she gets. I love this woman of God,” he said with a big smile.
As I listened to award-winning filmmaker, Tina Batten, tell her story, my heart went out to the little girl in the Bronx who was a misfit in her own family. I empathized with the anger that Tina, the child, struggled with and admired the passion that Tina, the adult, felt for the Lord and for her stage and film projects. I’m convinced we’ll hear more great things from this up and coming faith-based filmmaker.
Favorite scripture: I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Phil 4:13
What’s next for Sister Batten:
- Accepting bookings to screen films in cities all over the world
- Seeking sponsors and co-producers for upcoming feature film and stage projects
- Just completed and released music video and working on a cosmetic commercial
For Press, contact Gina Smith, SPMG Media firstname.lastname@example.org
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