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Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Act One Info Night in L.A.
Please pass the following information along to anyone you know who is interested in learning more about this year's Writing and Executive Programs.


ACT ONE WRITING FOR HOLLYWOOD INFO NIGHT

Join us for a Q&A session with the staff of the acclaimed Act One Writing Program to learn about Act One's upcoming 2007 Summer Writing Program. The intensive four-week program trains talented Christians for careers in mainstream film and television. Our world-class faculty includes over 50 top-notch TV and movie writers, agents and producers. If you love movies and TV, if you're serious about your faith, and if you're crazy about telling stories, come find out more.

DATE: Wednesday, February 28, 2007

TIME: 8:00-9:00 p.m.

LOCATION: Act One offices, 2690 N. Beachwood Dr., Hollywood, CA 90068

DETAILS:
www.actoneprogram.com/writers



HOLLYWOOD INTERNSHIP & EXECUTIVE TRAINING INFO NIGHT

All are welcome to attend this Q&A session to learn about Act One's rigorous 12-week summer program, which prepares and mentors talented Christians for executive careers in mainstream entertainment. Each of the selected candidates is matched with a summer internship at a Hollywood studio, agency, production company, or law firm. The program includes a challenging after-hours curriculum taught by working professionals in Hollywood.

If you have dreams for the big screen and are committed to making a positive cultural impact, come see what the Executive Program is all about!

DATE: Thursday, March 1, 2007

TIME: 8:00-9:00 p.m.

LOCATION: Act One offices, 2690 N. Beachwood Dr., Hollywood, CA 90068

DETAILS:
www.actoneprogram.com/ep
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
If You Like Dreamgirls...
...then, I can say definitely you'll like Dreamgirls.

That is to say, if you like largely non-narrative, Broadway musicals where spectacle is the point, then Dreamgirls will be your best movie of the year. My review of the film largely parallels with Jan's, with perhaps just slightly less enthusiasm. I enjoyed it for the costumes and the fast-paced editing and, in a lesser way, the music.

Which surprised me. I expected a movie based on the story of Motown and The Supremes to have really amazing music. It really didn't. I felt like the movie kept asking me to believe that the songs were great because there were so many shots of people standing in the wings and sitting in the audience clearly enthralled. But the music wasn't that memorable.

It is quite true that Jennifer Hudson stole the spotlight completely off Beyonce, who will probably be in therapy over it for years to come. Where Hudson's portrayal was full of pain and passion, Beyonce's was almost colorless. It seemed like she was completely overwhelmed by her own beautiful look in the movie. Perhaps she was so consciously not to let this role be "just a vehicle for Beyonce" that she ended up playing nothing at all. I didn't think Eddie Murray was that fabulous. And I agree with Jan that Jamie Foxx was either badly directed in this part or really bored. His journey to Judas lurched around from scene to scene and so, I didn't believe either his attractiveness to Effie, nor his love-song to Dena, nor his commitment to Mammon.

From a story standpoint, I was disappointed that they didn't do more with the whole "How Does Someone Who Sets Out to Elevate His People, End Up Betraying Them?" theme. If the writer and director could have found that theme, this movie would have been much more interesting. As it was, me and my companions were a little bored by mid-point (the guys were VERY bored), and we finally just told each other to sit back and just enjoy the look and sound of the movie.

There isn't anything particularly objectionable in the film. The filmmakers here were clearly keeping this open to as wide an audience as possible.

I didn't find this film as interesting nor as enjoyable as Chicago. Mostly because of the thematic strength of that piece. And because the music was so much better. So, I wouldn't give this one an Oscar in a normal year. This year, where the pickins are so slim, who knows?
Monday, January 29, 2007
I am special! Lucky seven...
I loved this. Hat-tip to Justine.


HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are:
7
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Saturday, January 27, 2007
sPAiN'S Labyrinth
So many questions came to mind during my screening of this film...

Question #1.... What is this movie about?

I had no idea going in. I thought it was a Mexican fairytale. It isn't. It isn't quite a fantasy story because half of it is dripping in brutal realistic violence. So, genre-wise, this film is half child's fantasy and half R-rated period war drama.

Pan's Labyrinth is the story of a lost princess from the underworld who has been apparently reincarnated several times as a human until she is finally reborn into a little girl, Ofelia, who lives in Spain at the end of the Civil War. Blood, blood, blodd. Ofelia's God of the underworld father has finally found her and for a reason that is never really explained, now needs her to complete some tasks before he takes her back to the underworld. Ofelia's task is complicated by the fact that her human mother has married the worst most evil man on the planet, who happens to be a Captain on the Nationalist side of the War. And one of his friends is a complacent priest. Torture, murder, abuse. One of Franco's minions, the captain spends the whole movie killing and torturing and abusing everybody else. Pretty much everybody dies. The movie sets up a group of perfectly pure and good leftist guerillas with whom Ofelia develops a connection. Ofelia is sent on two terrifying and repulsive quests, until she is challenged to give her life to save her baby brother. And at the end, the good forces of marxism conquer the evil forces of Franco (and the Church!). But Ofelia doesn't live happily ever after, exactly.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have a movie set during the Spanish Civil War that seems like it is going ahead. I tried to be fair in my movie showing evil on both sides of the conflict. I suppose that knowing the truth about the period probably ruined my enjoyment of Pan's Labyrinth which requires you to just go with the notion that all virtue in the struggle was on one side.

So, know that Pan's Labyrinth is at one level a two hour leftist political fantasy. (I'm not sure what it is at the other level.) If you can't find it playing near you, go rent a copy of Eisenstein's October for a similar,and certainly more coherent rush.


Question #2....Please, somebody tell me, what is all the raving about? Let's be serious for a moment and look at this film for what it is. Really, not that good.

The principle strength of the film is the look of it. Some of the frames were quite interesting. I wouldn't say beautiful, but definitely interestingly composed. With the possible exception of the labyrinth itself there was almost no symbolic imagery in the film, so you don't get the added points of depth of meaning to make the images resonate even more. And if the labyrinth was supposed to be an image - it seems too contrived an object not to be - then it was startlingly UNdeveloped in the story.

Another comment about the look of the film was what I like to call really well-drawn visual ugliness. I found this to be true in the LOTR movies too. You know, that's where the orcs look really, really disgusting? Well, Pan's has lots of that kind of thing in the fantasy sequences. In fact, all of the fantasy moments are outstanding in their effective realization of repulsiveness. So, the film gets points for good-looking gruesomeness....if that's your thing. Not sure it's Jesus'. Have to check...

Pan's two stories are a mess. Even understanding that it is half-fantasy film (and half starry-eyed leftist romanticism), thiings happen not by necessity but because the storyteller needs them to happen. The inciting incident happens as a damn coincidence in which Ofelia's mother JUST HAPPENS" to get sick and stop the car on the side of the road near which one of the underworld fairies JUST HAPPENS to be waiting. And then Ofelia JUST HAPPENS to step on some kid of magic stone. And while her adult escort JUST HAPPENS to be distracted ends up JUST HAPPENING to stumble over the magic obelisk in the woods.

Several of the principle "plot points" (and I use the term loosely, but this is a European/foreign film - Spain/Mexico - so we are supposed to be grateful if there are ANY discernible plot points...) had me slapping my forehead saying, "Oh please." The A-story, being the fantasy stuff, bears no necessary relationship to the B-story, that is, the political propaganda story. That kind of disconnect is usually the definition of bad, agenda-driven storytelling. But for some reason, the critics are giving this film a pass on the limits of its narrative.

Then, there is the BIZARRE mixing of genres which, also, everybody usually agrees defines a narrative mess. When I heard that this film was "fresh," I didn't realize "fresh" here meant mixing fauns and fairies and little girl's humming lullabyes with close ups of torture and gun shots to the head and, lots of one-sided leftist romanticizing. Talk about "one of these things is not like the others"! This whole film is a clinic in narrative and thematic confusion...and agenda driven filmmaking.

Let's keep going on the technical problems.

The script, even apart from the story being a mess, was a few limps shy of being purely pedestrian. The dialogue was banal. There were no real clever moments. There were no paradoxical choices. There was nothing insightful in the theme. The theme here seems to be "People who aren't us (we're leftists) are evil." Not exactly universally compelling. More like the stuff for which I am always nailing Christian films. Only, you know, rightwards.

Pan's characters are developed according to the easiest most cliched methods starting with "the audience will like her because she is a cute, innocent looking little girl" to "let's establish the villain by having him shoot somebody in cold blood as a lark." The characters make choice after unmotivated choice, starting with the little girl lead who does some incrediblely un-little girlish things which I never bought. Just because she reads a lot of books we're supposed to conclude that she doesn't mind golfball size maggots crawling all over her? Uh-huh.

The actors were poorly directed. Unless of course, your model for acting is "1920's Soviet valentines to socialism" films. I thought to myself as I was watching, "Hmmm, the last time I saw this much earnest purity on the good guy side, and hypocritical cruelty on the bad guy side was when they made us watch all those boring Soviet propaganda films in film school." (Heck. And I thought watching those films was a waste...)

I could go on, but what's the use? People seem to have decided to laud this silly, easy film as brilliant, with all of its problems being called "fresh". It ain't fresh. It's "important"!!!

Question #3... Did Spain learn NOTHING at all from its tragic, terrible, hellish Civil War?

The answer, from watching Pan's Labyrinth is an emphatic "No." Sixty years later, this film sets the clock back to one-sided pillorying of the other side. Portrayals of "the other guys" as corrupt, barbaric, hypocritical, conniving and without the least humanizing quality is what got Spain into the Civil War in the first place. And then, the film borrows completely from the leftist mythology which is getting replayed in Spain today that the Church was in sympathy with Franco's attrocities.

My thinking is, it's never going to help a social debate to put all evil on the other guy's side. America is wallowing in radical polarization because it's been 150 years since we ended up killing each other in Civiil War. Spain has really no excuse for this kind of short-term memory lapse.

Question #4... Is it that Europeans can't tell a coherent narrative, or that they won't?

Hollywood takes its cue in narrative principles from Aristotle. Europe, in rebelling against Hollywood-style filmmaking, has had to rebel against Aristotle's Poetics. This is bad for their movies.

I sat there watching Pan's ridiculous lurching around from one story to the other without any attention to what the audience needs in storytelling, and wondered how it was that the folks who produced some of the greatest novelists ever, can't seem to pull off a begining, middle and end connected by necessity.

I'm thinking that after centuries of Aesop and Brothers Grimm and national folk tales and Arthurian legends, the Europeans are just plain old sick of a good story. And how's that working for you, Old World?

Question #5... Why are so many Americans raving about this film? (and the corollary) Why are so many Christian Americans raving about this film?

Americans are raving about this film because its leftist message puts in in that genre of "important" film. If a film is "important" in Hollywood, then all of its technical sins are forgiven. Americans are also raving about this film because Hollywood has a deep-seated inferiority complex towards Europeans, that they know about art and we don't. So, when a European makes a halfway coherent story (and Pan's is definitely coherent. It's just puerile...) the Los Angeles film industry falls allover itself to be on the side of "brave" "amazing" "artistic vision." The fact that the movie is kind of, um, dull, mustn't be spoken.

And the Christians? I dunno. Maybe it's that longing to be hip thing? Jump on the edgy-bandwagon when we can syndrome? Christian critics are giving it a pass because it's got a "new" look, even though that newness is the old definition of bad filmmaking in Hollywood. And even despite the fact that the film caricatures and scapegoats the humans who are serving as villains. And even though the film uses graphic, desensitizing brutality. And even though the film takes an unfair swipe at the Church. And even though the strongest point in the film is in making some really ugly creatures. And even though there really isn't that much here, here in terms of ideas.

One Christian friend told me the film was "a really bold, different creative vision." Yeah, but Xanadu was "bold and different too.

Question #6....Should people see this film?

It depends. Do you care about seeing a movie that is an gross mythology of one of the most tragic Wars in the 20th Century? You will see a whole bunch of people shot in the head. You will see several people bloodied by torture. You will see a child shot in the stomach. You will see a woman shove a knife in a man's mouth and then slash his face in half. You will see a piles of bloody rags from a woman dying in childbirth.

As all the critics are saying, "It's magical!"

Hah! Pass. And say a prayer for Spain.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Coming from a land Down Under....
I'm still a little brain-fogged from the long trip back from Australia last weekend.

I have so many things I am dying to blog about (...how considering the competition, Apocalypto should have gotten an Oscar nom ...why we are going to see a lot more movies like The Fountain which is an exhausting prospect...the difference between Last King of Scotland and Hotel Rwanda... how the Oscars are grimly and trenchantly embracing their own future irrelevance... Why The Nativity will not undo The Passion effect in Hollywood... Origin Entertainment, the production entity at which I am a partner...The 13th Day - the movie on Fatima I worked on in Australia...What I saw in Australia living in Asiatown, working with Brits and Irishmen on a fiolm shot in Portugal...My movie The Work getting shot this fall with a cool director who it probably isn't up to me to name here... My thoughts on the script Myriam which I worked on as the co-writer for many months... the Jane Austen adaptation I am working on now and how smug I am about the cool and clever way it is structured - think chukkers not acts - but I say , nothing, nothing!...The thrilling prospect of starting work adapting A Severe Mercy for the screen - just acquired for me by Origin.... My upcoming pilgrimage to Israel, why, how and with whom...) but I have no time to blog!

I have to deliver a first draft of the Austen project mid-February. It's coming along well, but you're never done, regardless of how much time you have. I'm also still doing rewrite work on the Fatima movie remotely. And then there is that book proposal TJ worked so hard on last fall which is still waiting to get tweaked. And then there is the stage play adaptation of the Emily movie (recently picked up by a production company) which is about half done.

I have to be on EWTN on Feb. 23rd to talk about the Osacrs with Raymond, so I will have to see all the nominated films. And, if any of them get to me emotionally enough, you know I will certainly have something more to say about those.

So, stay tuned here for as much of the above as I can work in in the next few weeks. I'm not traveling for a whole month, so I have no excuse to not blog a bit (except, you know, House, and Lost and Heroes and Iron Chef...)

G'day for now!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Act One Now Accepting Applications for 2007
Here's a request to help get the word out....

------------------------------------------------

Applications for the 2007 Act One Executive Program and the Act One Summer Writing Program are now available online and we’re asking for your help to get the word out.

The success of the Act One programs depends on the quality of our students, and every year the most effective method of getting news about Act One to high-quality applicants is word of mouth. We're not looking for anything special.... just about fifty smart, talented, culturally savvy Christians who are serious about their faith and who love movies and television. If you know somebody to whom we should send a brochure or an informational email, let us know at info@actoneprogram.com.

The Act One Executive Program will take place from June 9 through August 24, 2007. The application deadline is March 10. All applications received after the deadline will be considered on a space available basis only.

The Act One Summer Writing Program will run from July 6 through August 4, 2007. Applications must be received by March 31.

Applications are available online at www.actoneprogram.com.
Monday, January 22, 2007
January 22nd, Again.
Will I live to see this day as a shameful memory instead of an ever-present horror? I hate and dread this day.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident..."

That's the problem here, isn't it? We're talking about self-evident truth. Of course the thing a person is pregnant with is a person. What else would it be? I remember in Freshman philosophy brooding over the principle that the one thing of which a person cannot be convinced is a self-evident truth. Because cleaving to it isn't a matter of reason but of the will.

"...that all men are created equal..."

So weirdly prescient that the forefathers wrote "created" and not "born". Maybe not weird. The truth is, that men aren't born equal. We are born into privelege or tribulation. But what matters is that we all start as sacred. We are created sacred. It's the foundational belief that underlies everything else Americans believe. The Bill of Rights can be understood as "rules for how sacred beings should be treated."

"...endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life..."

Again, isn't it weird that they stipulated the right to life as the first right of these beings that are created sacred? It's so chillingly self-condemnatory that we Americans have had to ignore that particular flavor of language to have our abortion. We aren't just selfish like other aborting nations. We're hypocritical too.

Lincoln said slavery wouldn't end until a drop of blood had been shed in sacrifice for every drop of blood that had been exacted under the slaveholder's lash.

Lord, have mercy.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Holy Week in Rome?
It looks like I will be leaving Israel on the Wednesday before Easter. I generally go on retreat Holy Thursday through Easter, and as it is the center of my year, I don't want to make it jet-lagged here in Los Angeles.

I am wondering if anybody out there could direct me to a place in Rome where there will be an English retreat and services I could attend. I am also considering spending Holy Week in Fatima, but I can't figure out how to figure out if they are having anything in English there.

If anybody can make any suggestions, I would be very grateful.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Here's the Full Text...
...of an Interview I did with the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Because I was in Australia, we did the interview by email, which meant I ended up writing lots more than will ever end up in the paper. So, why waste it? Here it is...

_______________________________________________


Q: Why did you get into the movie business?
A: I always think of myself as a writer first and a movie person second. Flannery O’Connor said there is really only one answer to why anyone works professionally as a writer – because you’re good at it. I am a good writer and I am someone who gets bored quickly. So movie writing is a great fit for me. It is a very challenging kind of writing because it is so multi-leveled. And most projects are of short duration, so, you move on just when you are getting bored.

I love a great movie – one that is a harmony of harmonies, in which each of a movie’s many art forms are executed well and then married with the others in a complementary way – and all serving a great theme. That’s why I work in the movie business. My driving hope is that I might at some point work on a project that will be inspiring to people. Something that will last.

Q: Who told you that you are a good writer? Seriously though, how does someone know if they should move to Hollywood and throw their hat in the ring?

A: It’s a great question that I have spent a lot of time thinking on because I have worked with so many young writers. My day job for the last eight years has been running Act One, a mentoring and training program for Christian screenwriters and entertainment executives (www.actoneprogram.com).

Talent shows up early. It’s a sign you have them. I won my first writing award in the fourth grade and after that gradually became the designated writer in every arena in which I found myself. As a young person, I had to be pushed into sports which I found very dull. What I wanted to do was be home memorizing Paul Revere’s Ride, by Longfellow – which many of my friends thought was really dull! People are always telling me they want to be writers but they don’t show any particular love for language. Emily Dickinson described writing as a romance with words. She used to sit in a corner reading the dictionary like it was a novel. And then, writers are people who care about the meaning of things. They are drawn to story as a medium to wrestle with ideas. They have something to say about which they are passionate, and they earn a hearing because of the way they are able to frame it.

Secondly, I grew up in a family with a great appreciation for the arts. One of my sisters is a musician and a painter, another is an opera singer, another is a drama coach. We’re all writers. When we were little, my parents introduced us to great movies as the principle art form of our time. My father’s theory was that if you exposed children to beautiful things, they would lose their taste for barbarism. So, my folks made an effort to watch great films with us. On Saturdays mornings, I watched Laurel and Hardy and Chaplain with Dad as much as kiddie cartoons. As a teenager, when all my friends were watching Animal House and Halloween, I was watching Giant and Gone With the Wind and Dr. Zhivago and Rear Window - and so many more!


Q: How would you describe your religious beliefs? Liberal or conservative?
A: I am a Catholic. A happy one. Which means I cleave to the teachings of the Church that have carried us through two thousand years of basically being mercy, light and consolation in the world of men. There have been evil hypocritical Christians, of course, but I’m talking less about the good projects vs. the bad projects that Christians have done in history, and more about the resonance and power that the Person of Jesus has been for hundreds of millions of people down through the ages. It seems to me that no story just made up by people could have proved so compelling for so many for so long.

Does that make me a liberal or a conservative?

Religion is a response to a call that echoes in your heart. If you don’t hear it anymore it is because you have perverted your nature. Plato – hardly a puppet of the Christian Right! - noted that human beings have an instinct for immortality and eternity. That people feel the tug of life after death isn’t a plot by the Pope to get us to put money in the collection basket. It is who we are. Self-destruction is running from that nagging echo.

Q: Is there such a thing as the Christian audience?
A: Is there a gay audience? Is there a Latino audience? Why don’t you ask the folks who made The Lord of the Rings, Narnia and The Passion of the Christ? I would say Hollywood thinks there is, and that is why you are talking to me now, isn’t it?

The real question is whether things that will appeal to Christian audiences will have anything to offer non-Christians. I would answer this with another question. Are the throngs of people who line up in Rome to see the Pieta all just Christians? Are the folks who wait in line half a day to see the Sistine Chapel just Christians? Why do they come? When Hollywood, and particularly the Christians in Hollywood figure this out, it will be very good for the world!

Q: What does Hollywood have to offer the Christian audience?
A: Not much right now, for a lot of reasons. But mainly because the art they are making for that audience is coming from people who aren’t believers. It’s a kind of arrogance that the industry doesn’t practice in crafting product for any other group. They wouldn’t dare make a move for the black audience that wasn’t written and directed by black filmmakers. Or could you imagine a hospital show in which no doctors were consulted? But they will continually craft TV shows like Book of Daniel and Revelation and movies like Constantine and Kingdom of Heaven which are all about Christians, and yet no happy Christian was involved in the production process. There is a snotty influential crowd in Hollywood that doesn’t want to work with Christians because they think they know how we vote politically.

I am hoping that the industry learned a lot recently when The Nativity bombed. That film was a superficial take on the defining mystery of Western Civilization – the Incarnation of God as man. Basically turning this story into a series of Christmas card tableaus was insulting to the people who know the story, and irrelevant to those who don’t.

My father is a military historian, and he raised us with the adage, “It is never good strategy to underestimate your adversary.” So, Hollywood needs to stop looking down on the people who want the transcendent side of human nature to be reflected in their stories. Hollywood needs to stop thinking they can throw cheap platitudes at the people who are, you know, brooding over Leviticus and Dorothy Sayers and Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and John Paul II in their free time. How did Aretha Franklin put it? R-E-S-P-E-C-T! But it’s very hard to respect people if you loathe and fear what they believe.

The word now is that FOX is going to greenlight ten movies for the Christian audience at a cost of about $40 million. Well, in a day in which the average studio movie costs close to $50 million, that means that FOX has decided that the Christians can be had on the cheap. Ask a woman how she feels about a guy who thinks he can win her on the cheap…

But I don’t really blame the industry. People tend to make the movies they want to see. I blame Christians for losing the love of the arts and for not being a serious presence creatively in Hollywood. The Church used to be the Patron of the Arts. Now, our Sunday Masses can mostly be reckoned aesthetic horror shows – terrible music badly performed, lame homilies with no point or oratorical style, environments which are a celebration of the sterile and talentless. It isn’t fair for Christians to critique Hollywood serverely until we get our own aesthetic act together.

Q: Do films like Left Behind and Facing the Giants work for the crowds that flocked to The Passion of the Christ?
A: Clearly not. There is no mystery to the answer why. One of those projects was great art. The others were crap.

Q: Do you approach the craft of screenwriting as a Christian or as an artist first?
A: That’s one of those trick questions like, “So when did you stop beating your wife?” It is stipulating a false dichotomy in which being an artist is one compulsion and being a Christian is another one and that they are somehow struggling against each other. You are assuming that dogma makes truth-telling impossible. I think it makes it essential.

I can’t step outside of the effects of my baptism, nor outside of my talents. I am an artist who was baptized and I bring both things to everything I do. The kinds of stories that intrigue me build on where I come from, what I have read and brooded over. But as a professional screenwriter, I am also very aware that a story has to have mass appeal if it is going to be worth spending millions of dollars to realize it as a movie. My Christianity has a lot to do with my desire to make stories that would help the audience experience the depth of their humanity – to aspire to not just live like beasts scratching and burping, but to aspire to heroic choices, to deep attentiveness, to yearn to be everything that God willed for us when He thought us up.

Q: How tolerant are you of films that offer up a distinctly anti-Christian view? South Park for example…
]A: The question undermines itself. An anti-Christian view is, by definition, prejudice, isn’t it? Are we supposed to be tolerant of prejudice? If you are asking me do people have a legal right to say prejudiced things, I guess they do. Although it seems like if you say bad things about one group you are practicing hate speech, but if you say something hateful about Christians you are being courageous.

Anyway, I haven’t seen South Park so I can’t comment specifically on it. I see one-sided, sneering satire to be unhealthy for the society regardless of what agenda it carries. I also consider it bad art as agenda tends to crush the freedom that makes creativity surprising and fresh. I am as “tolerant” of bad art as I am of bad cooking. People have a legal right to do it. But it is sickening to serve up bad food to people and rather unkind to put your own urge to express yourself over everybody else’s poor stomachs.

I think the Church brings a refreshing voice to the entertainment industry which is floundering around trying to decide if it should have an ethics. The Church says, “Wherever there is power there must be ethics.” Ethics is helping people ask, “Just because I can do something, does that mean I should?”

So, if you look at the culture today, there are many infections out there that I would rather not contract. Radical cynicism, sexual degradation, horrific cruelty -these are kinds of disturbing evils that most people would never encounter, except that they are shoveled at them on the screen. Maybe they aren’t ready to have these images imprinted on their spirits. Maybe their life would never have taken them to the kinds of hells that filmmakers routinely put into their movies – just to get the kudos of the industry which mistakes outrageousness too often for courage. My question to the filmmakers who want to sneer at and debunk everything beautiful is, just because you have lost your hope and faith, does that mean you have to be busy about trashing mine? Just because you have lost your own innocence, does that mean it is a socially responsible thing to destroy mine?

Many films today offer some small goods of insight to the audience. But, the insights are cloaked in so much depraved barbarity that the teeny good of the content is not worth the sliming journey of its method. I am someone who actually believes that there is a place for decorum and graciousness in human society. Many of the movies out there today are just way to full of things that fall into the realm of what St. Paul meant when he said, “There are some things that should never be mentioned among you.” In my mind, there are some shameful things which should be the fodder for prayer and sacrifice, but should never be served up with popcorn as entertainment. Beyond just perversions like bestiality, which is getting a few screenings at Sundance this year, this means things that are just crass and purely voyeuristic and degrading.

Movies like this are “Little Children” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” They have something good to say, but they violate your innocence and defile you so much on the way that it just isn’t worth it. It is like if you told me you have a headache, and I said, “Oh, well I know where there is an aspirin for you! You just have to walk through a putrid sewer for a few miles to get it.” So, on the way to curing your headache, you pick up diptheria and typhoid. Peachy. Thanks for that.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
About that transition...
Here's the Act One Press Release...

_____________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2006

------ ACT ONE FOUNDER ELECTED BOARD CHAIRMAN -----------

HOLLYWOOD, CA - Act One, Inc., is pleased to announce that Barbara Nicolosi has been named Chairman of the Board for the organization. Ms. Nicolosi accepted the position at the request of the Board of Directors during their December meeting.

Nicolosi, a screenwriter and former Hollywood development executive, founded the nonprofit training and mentorship program for entertainment industry writers and business executives in 1999, and served as its Executive Director until October of this year. Thomas Deason, a former member of the Alaska Airlines management team and a 2005 graduate of the Act One Executive Program, currently helms the organization.

“After nearly eight years at Act One, I am excited to be moving on to new personal and professional challenges,” says Nicolosi. “I believe our organization’s biggest successes lie ahead, and I am honored to have the opportunity to continue to serve and influence it as it grows.”

Nicolosi replaces outgoing Board Chairman Charles Slocum, Assistant Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, West, who has assumed the role of Vice Chairman.

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Additional Information/Media Inquiries
323-464-0815
See Barb at Gonzaga
Here is the University's Press Release:

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BARBARA NICOLOSI TO SPEAK AT GONZAGA UNIVERSITY JAN. 23 ON 'WHY MOVIES MATTER'


The Bellarmine Lecture Series at Gonzaga University will present a lecture by Barbara Nicolosi entitled, "Why Movies Matter: A Pastoral Approach to Hollywood" to begin at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 23 in the Barbieri Courtroom at Gonzaga University School of Law.

Nicolosi is the founder and Chariman of the Board of Act One, Inc., an interdenominational training program that prepares Christians for professional careers in mainstream film and television. Nicolosi received a master's degree in film and television from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., after she left the Daughters of St. Paul, where she had been preparing to become a nun. Since graduating, Nicolosi has been a Hollywood director of development, a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a consultant on many film and TV projects.

She recently wrote the full-length feature, The Work for IMMI Pictures of Beverly Hills and is currently writing a contemporary resetting of Jane Austen's Persuasion for an L.A. production company. She co-edited the 2005 book "Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture" from Baker Books.

Nicolosi serves as an adjunct professor of screenwriting and also theology at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif., and the Los Angeles Film Study Center, in Los Angeles, CA and serves on the faculty of Act One, Inc. She and keeps a regular online journal at http://churchofthemasses.blogspot.com/ in which she critiques movies and writes about her experiences as a Christian living in Hollywood.

For more information about the event, contact GU philosophy Associate Professor Douglas Kries by phone at (509) 323-6720 or via e-mail at kries@gem.gonzaga.edu. To learn more about Act One, Inc., visit the Act One Web site at www.actoneprogram.com .
The Best Thing I Saw at Sundance Last Year Was...
: 'God Grew Tired of Us'

Catch a glimpse of this documentary, narrated by Nicole Kidman, about the Lost Boys of Sudan.


God Grew Tired of Us


“God Grew Tired Of Us" tells the story of three of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan--a group of 25,000 children, ages 3 to 13, who fled the famine and war in their villages, traveled together for five years, and eventually made it to a United Nations refugee camp. Nearly 4,000 of them--including the three profiled in "God Grew Tired Of Us"--later settled in the United States, where they built active and fulfilling new lives but remain deeply committed to helping the friends and family they have left behind. The film follows the three as they journey to America and are faced with its unfamiliar ways. Even a trip to the supermarket, with its endless array of choices, is baffling to them.

The documentary is narrated by Nicole Kidman, and its producers include Brad Pitt. Presented by Newmarket Films, "God Grew Tired Of Us" is a National Geographic Films/LBS Production. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Jan. 12, and moves to wider release on Jan. 19.
Happy New Year...Now, Off to Australia!
Hi everybody! I wish you all every blessing in this coming year.

I have been mostly in hiding these last few months. Enjoying my family in CT, working on a screenplay assignment, consulting on several movie projects and playing way too many games of computer Scrabble. Also Railroad Tycoon. Basically I am transitioning off of eight years running Act One, and am looking forward to helping it continue to grow in my new role as Chairman of the Board.

I haven't been watching a lot of movies. I am way behind in being able to disdain with authority the movies that the industry is preparing to lavish with Golden Globes and Oscars. My only definitive picks so far would be for Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep to walk home with statues. And probably Todd Fields for Little Children. I did enjoy Rocky Balboa and found The Fountain an intriguing visual poem (which is a mess under a merely narrative lens the way poems usually are). I have been smugly watching The Nativity flounder, and even more smugly watching the crowds throng to and the critics rave about Apocalypto.

2007 looks to be a year of much - how does Job put it about Satan? - wnadering around the face of the earth. I leave for two weeks in Melbourne, Australia tonight (Jack Dwyer - if you live in Melbourne, we should have tea! Also, if Claire M. is reading this, send me an email!). I will be consulting on a very interesting movie project that will be of interest to people of faith. More I cannot say right now.

Other trips on the calendar so far include...

January 23 - speech at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

January 26 - a really kind of cool but not public speech in Washington, DC

February 27 - Legatus, Houma, LA

February 28 - Legatus, Mobile AL

March 1 - Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH

March 3 - University of Notre Dame, IN

March 14 - The University, Thousand Oaks, CA

March 21 - April 4 - The HOLY LAND, baby! My mother and family are horrified that I am going to Israel right now. But I figure, if you die on a pilgriamge to Jesus' places, you win!)

April 5 (date still TBD) - Catholic University of Milan, Italy

May 15 - Legatus, Fairfield, CT

May 16 - Legatus, LeHigh Valley, PA

May 17 - Legatus, Morris County, NJ

August 4 - Catholic Family Conference, Wichita, KS

September 5 - Legatus, Colorado Springs, CO

November 8 - Legatus, Ft. Worth, TX

I know I am missing a few more on that list. Oh well.

And did I mention that my New Year's Resolution is to cut down on traveling? Rats.

Anyway, if you have a group, college or parish in any of these places and would like to set up a speech, now is the time to get on the calendar. Just send me an email at brnicolosi@aol.com.