Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kudos for Act One Alumni!

A feature written and produced by Act One alumni Rajeev Sigamoney (WP '02) and Dan Ewald (WP '99) just got a  great review in Christianity Today.  

The project is based on their hit web series (which had more than 500,000 views).  It is a mockumentary about Christians and the arts and features a top-flight comedic cast including Wendi McLendon-Covey (Reno 911), Jennifer Elise Cox (The Brady Bunch Movie), Joel McCrary (Princess Diaries), Octavia Spencer (Bad Santa), Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers), Tim Bagley (Knocked Up) and many others.  

Act One alumn Ryan Elliot (WP '06 and EP '03) served as production manager on the project.

Jesus People will be screened next at Plush Design Lab, 207 N Harbor Blvd, Fullerton, CA  92832 on March 6, 2009.

Go to for updates about the project.

Kudos Dan, Rajeev and Ryan!

Act One Application Season is Upon Us!

APPLY NOW for the Act One Summer Writing Program or Executive Program and SAVE $700!!

Fulfill your dream of becoming a FILM and TELEVISION WRITER or an ENTERTAINMENT EXECUTIVE in Hollywood.  Go here for more information about the programs.

Hurry! Time is running out!

Apply by March 1 and save $700 on your tuition towards either program.

Act One exists to create a community of Christian professionals for the entertainment industry who are committed to excellence, artistry, and personal holiness, so that through their lives and work they may be witnesses of Christ and the Truth to their fellow artists and to the global culture.

• SHERYL J. ANDERSON, writer, Flash Gordon, Charmed.
• RON AUSTIN, writer/producer, Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, and Matlock.
• DEAN BATALI, writer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and That 70s Show.
• SCOTT DERRICKSON, director, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
• JOCELYN DIAZ, director of drama development for Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and Invasion.
• BARBARA HALL, producer, Joan of Arcadia, Judging Amy, Chicago Hope, and Northern Exposure.
• HOWARD KAZANJIAN, producer, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Return of the Jedi.
• BILL MARSILII, co-writer, Déjà vu, with Denzel Washington; writer, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo.
• DAVID MCFADZEAN, creator, Home Improvement with Tim Allen, and What Women Want with Mel Gibson.
• BARBARA NICOLOSI, writer, Mary, Mother of the Christ, VP Origin Entertainment, Founder, Act One
• CHARLES B. SLOCUM, Assistant Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America.
• MICHAEL WARREN, executive story consultant, Happy Days, co-creator, Step by Step, Family Matters.
• RALPH WINTER, producer of the XMen feature film series.

• TODD BURNS, Founder and CEO, MPower Pictures.
• STEVE CHANG, staff, Mis/Guided (CBS).
• SEAN and TERRY DILLON, staff, Two and a Half Men (CBS).
• MELISSA GLENN and JESSICA RIEDER, staff writers, Leverage (TNT).
• CASSANDRA JOHNSON, Comedy Development, ABC.
• ROBERT KIRBYSON, writer/director, Snowmen, and Sundance Award-winning film, CTRL Z.
• MONICA MACER, writer, Lost (ABC), and Prison Break (Fox)
• CHERYL MCKAY, writer, The Ultimate Gift, starring James Garner, and Abigail Breslin.
• MEGAN NASH, assistant to executive producer, Medium (NBC).
• CLARE SERA, writer, Curious George, (Universal Studios)
• RAJEEV SIGAMONEY and DAN EWALD, writers/producers, Jesus People, with Kate Flannery (The Office), Joel McCrary (American Beauty).
• SCOTT TEEMS and TERRENCE BERRY, writer and producer, That Evening Sun, starring academy award nominated actor, Hal Holbrook.

2690 Beachwood Drive
Hollywood, CA 90068
(323) 464-0815 (Office)
(323) 468-0315 (Fax)

Lenten Prayer at Act One

Here's a message from Dr. Gary Stratton, the Executive Director of Act One, Inc.


Greetings on this Ash Wednesday,

Lent has been a traditional season of reflection in anticipation of the hope of Resurrection on Easter Sunday. I can`t help but notice that the hope of Resurrection is especially appropriate in our nation`s current economic crisis. We certainly need reflection and repentance on the greed and addiction to debt that brought us to this point as a nation. However, we also need hope that this season won`t last forever.

So from now until Easter, Act One will be hosting a one-our prayer service every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 10 AM at the Act One offices. It will be a time of spiritual direction, fellowship and prayer.

I don`t think you have to be a genius to see that along with the rest of the nation, the entertainment industry is really hurting as a community right now. Jobs at Starbucks, let alone in the industry are in short supply. I`ve faced unemployment before and I know that just having someplace encouraging to be in the morning can be an incredible boon to start the day. I also know how hard it can be to get a writing project going when you are staring at a blank screen in your pajamas.

A mid-morning prayer time is designed to help you start your day in Christ whether you are writing, job seeking or just in between appointments. There will be coffee, tea and pastries and we are going to start TOMORROW!

Stop by for encouragement, prayer, and worship.

Grace and great mercy,


Gary David Stratton, Ph.D
Executive Director
Act One
2690 Beachwood Drive
Hollywood, CA 90068
(323) 464-0815 (Office)
(323) 468-0315 (Fax)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Getting Ashes in Hollywood

Here's something the folks at Magis' Hollywood Project made up for today.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Night Thread

I'm teaching today and then am going to have to disappear most of the week to work on writing commitments, but wanted to register a few thoughts about last night's liturgy for Hollywood's High Holy Day, the Oscar telecast.

Overall, I thought it was a great show. The only real way I can think it might have been better was to have perhaps a bit more comedy from Jackman (he's more of a showman than a comic), and then, of course, a slate of films worth celebrating. It was ironic to me that there was more overall excellence and mass appeal in the Oscar telecast than there was in most of the nominated films. This point underpinned Jackman's funniest quip of the night, in which he noted something to the effect that the nominated films had everything but fans.

In an annual viewing exercise that usually defines itself for me by cringe-producing embarrassment at my industry, I found last night's party was classy, fun and almost completely free of political lecturing by the assembled learned league of alumni from "Maimee Mulally's Discount Acting School - 6 week course and a headshot for $187.50." (Let's face it, the first five rows of folks at the Kodak last night have to be the best dressed, richest, most surgically altered group of non-higher educated brains on the planet.) The one damnable exception was the dour and haughty Sean Penn, who had to tell us how annoying he is, before he proceeded to irrefutably demonstrate it. Sean really, really, really hates people who (his brain has decided) hate.... so I guess all hate isn't completely bad? It was shameful hubris for him to think the general audience of the Oscars cares that he is glad Obama won, or to lecture us all on how our grandchildren are going to be embarrassed by the fact that for one brief shining moment, California voters have elected to go with thousands of years of Western Civilization's thinking on the nuclear family (you know, as opposed to Sean's.) But hubris is the rule of the day so it is certainly moot to make to big a deal of the audacity of dopes.

I loved the major acting award format of having the five past winners come out and say nice things about the five nominees. Really lovely and poignant for the most part and great television. (I am still amazed that Brad Pitt managed to not run screaming from the room in horror while Sir Anthony Hopkins described the chiseled Pitt as a"brilliant" actor. Sir Anthony is gracious.)

I was thrilled to see Jerry Lewis be honored, and to see how classy he was in accepting the honor, regardless of the fact that the comedy he is famous for is so loutish and goofy. (Earth to Robin Williams and Jim Carrey...)

I thought the acceptance speeches are still too long on names that mean nothing to the rest of us, and that it is long overdue for Oscar to figure out a way to adjust that part of the show. They should have a scroll of "People to Thank" alongside the winners so they don't have to sit there trying to remember the name of the grip and craft services guy from two years ago, at arguably the most emotional moment of their lives.

About the awards..... Kate Winslet would not have won if she hadn't spent half of the The Reader nude and deflowering a fifteen year old. This is the kind of performance actors think is brave.... Sean would not have won if Prop-8 had lost. Then, everybody could have happily voted for Mickey Rourke whom even Penn had to acknowledge in his speech was the real acting tour de force of the year.... Meryl Streep is the unabashed Queen of Hollywood, and everyone dutifully paid her obeissance from the stage. She is the greatest. There is no other.... Danny Boyle looks to be a lovely boy and he had the most fun last night. I loved him apologizing to the choreographer of the closing number for leaving him off the credits. Very sweet man. Much sweeter than his movies.... It's a bad year for music when two of the nominated songs are in Mumbaian dialect and accompanied by bongo drums...Hugh is cool, and a classy gentleman.

Again, the only real deficit in the show was that non of the films seemed to me to be that, you know, great. I mean great in a way that will transcend this moment and see them enter into the lasting canon of great films. (Wall-E is the exception. It will last as part of the Pixar canon.) But nobody, N-O-B-O-D-Y will be watching Slumdog in ten years. Or Doubt. Or The Reader. And certainly not Milk.

Too Weird Not to Be God Portent

So, I am in the middle of working on writing a mainstream feature-length movie about the apparitions that took place at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. I discovered a few years ago that Bl. Jacinta, one of the two visionaries had died on Feb. 20th, and took that as a kind of cool divine thumbs-up, because February 20th is my birthday.

But just yesterday, I discovered that Feb. 20th has been made the Feast day of both Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco (Jacinta's older brother and one of the other visionaries).

It really hit me. Like one of those moments when you get the sense that somehow you are stumbling blindly into destiny. Or that Somebody really is in control of the whole mess.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Angelus Website!

The new Angelus Student Film Festival website is officially up here.

I've been a judge for Angelus for several years now, and, in my opinion, along with Act One, it is the coolest most effective program that Christians run in Hollywood. The principal genius of Angelus is in its outreach to the most-talented young filmmakers coming up through the secular schools. By reaching out to them with love and support and money, Angelus creates a bond of friendship that will always be there as the filmmakers go ahead. And beyond that, it runs like a clock - professionally and always with a lot of class.

Check it out!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Grand Torino

I shocked myself this week by really enjoying Clint Eastwood's latest offering Gran Torino. I thought it was charming in many places and it made me laugh out loud several times. The violence was surprisingly unbrutal for an Eastwood film, and most refreshingly of all, unlike almost all of Eastwood's projects, Gran Torino knows what it is about storywise and thematically and stays on target. The film has none of Eastwood's trademark, "character motivation confusion mistaken for internal conflict" that I usually end up scratching my head at from Clint.

On top of that, the film is unabashedly patriotic and basically hopeful about at least a segment of the generations now coming of age. There is also a very cool and respectful religion sub-plot, in which a priest is actually portrayed as a compassionate, thoughtful and three-dimensional human being.

All in all, there's a lot to like.

The main stuff not to like is in the unevenness of many of the supporting performances. There are a lot of cliches riding on the "really bad urban gang members" and the "really ungrateful and worthless adult Boomer children." Clint himself is channeling Dirty harry through much of the film, albeit a 76 year old one, but it is something we haven't seen from him in a while, and it is mostly played for laughs in a way that worked with our audience.

The language is very tough in Gran Torino If you can't stomach the F-word and pretty nearly every racial slur known in sveral languages, you won't be able to enjoy this film. But I did. I recommend Gran Torino as a good and humane story that will get to you in that catharsis of pity and fear of evil way that stories should.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

BSG Season 4 Update

Very, very spoilery. You've been warned.

There have been some undeniably brilliant moments in the last few episodes of Season 4.5. "The Oath" about the squelching of Gaeta's/Varek's rebellion was as great as anything we have seen since Season One, or even those first amazing four episodes of Season 3... Remember those? Sigh...

But the first few of the last ten episodes have been weirdly devoid of the answers that the show is going to have to provide if it is going to resolve in an even remotely satisfying way to the audience. Well, that all ended this past week, in which we were served up an episode that was so ridiculously, absurdly "exposition-y" (to use a screenwriting diss) that even though I had been clamoring for answers, I ended up staring at the screen with my forehead thoroughly wrinkled, and not understanding the answers that were flying past at FTL jump speed.

The answers churned out in the worst way - not through character choices, but through a monologue of Sam and a dialogue between Cavil and Ellen in which they say lots of things both of them already know just so the audience can hear it too. This is the definition of bad, bad way to out your back story. It wasn't worthy of BSG although, arguably, inevitable in light of the deep plot holes the show had dug itself into and all the time that has been wasted in meandering brooding episodes these last two half seasons.

Frak. Season 4 has all but abandoned the former glory of the show - that of being a non-sci fi show that was a brilliant way to examine the tensions of living in a post 9/11 Western Civilization. The episodes this last year are in no sense the clever metaphorical shadows of our lives today that we couldn't believe were on television back in the first few years of the show.

The show has also failed to live up to its pretensions to being all about what it is to be human. Recent interviews with Katee Sackhoff ("Starbuck") and Ron Moore (Executive Producer/Creator) have tried to defend the lameness of the recent 5th cylon revelation by posturing that the real point of the show wasn't about the Final Five anyway, but about uh, an epistemology of human nature. The show hasn't really had much insight to add to that question, and seems to be in serious danger of subverting itself on this level, at least at this point in the final season.

So, all those folks out there whom I have goaded into watching the show so as to think deeper thoughts about post-9/11 geopolitics and ethics, please know that you can only find that through about episode 4 of Season 3.

Since then, BSG has been flailing around with occasional moments of psychological/character brilliance (Dualla's end - Kara's Maelstrom - Cylon Civil War) but mostly just a lot of standard episodic sci-fi angst (Hero - Helo vs. Genocide Doctor - Tyrol Friend of Downtrodden Workers) for which few of the "special audience" of BSG (ie. non sci-fi fans) would ever have succumbed to obsessive love of the show.

But back to last week's answer-smorgasbord episode "No Exit."

So, there were two devices introduced to catch up the audience to all the plot points that should have been coming out in tantalizing ways over the last four years, but couldn't because basically, the show writers didn't have any idea where they were going until apparently the end of season 3. The first device was Sam's bullet-to-the-brain which conveniently released all his thousands of years of memories and which he then proceeded to dump on Kara and the other Final Four. The next device was a flashback to a newly resurrected Ellen Tigh, engaging in a weird mother to teenage son spat with Cavil, in which they argued evidently once again about why it is better to be nice (Ellen) and why it is icky to be human (Cavil).

From a character standpoint, the ensuing regurgitation of exposition was a mess. I guess it answers some of the questions they need to, but it was done in such a filibustery and "need to get this over" way, that it didn't feel fair. And so, even though we have been dying for and demanding answers, the result was unsatisfying.

The biggest problem is, of course, in the whole Ellen thing. What is it about being resurrected that turned Ellen the Ditzy Whore into Mother Teresa, eh? Ellen Tigh was a narcissistic, unbalanced, sexual predator, who routinely betrayed anyone who got n the way of her own desires and ambitions. Now, we are supposed to believe that she is the wise, technically brilliant, maternal, creator of the skin jobs and resurrection technology. Yeah, I'm buying that like I bought Denise Richards as a PhD in physics in one of the Bond movies...Just having had your memory stripped wouldn't turn you into a silly serial sensualist. She would have remained brilliant and loving, even if she couldn't remember having created a race of nearly perfect human clones. The truth is, Ellen was such a lightweight as a character, that the show's writers had killed her off. She wasn't coming back. Until they needed to dig themselves out of a whole.

It's all wrong.

Then, we are supposed to believe that Cavil actually knew who were the Final Five the whole time he was fighting Deanna over her quest to discover their identities. We are supposed to believe that he was having sex with his "mother" Ellen on New Caprica in some kind of Oedipal way, and plucking out Saul Tigh's eye in a fit of adolescent pique, all the time sadistically enjoying his power over not only the Final Five but the whole cylon race? It just isn't on the screen, folks.

No, none of it is there. For these revelations to be satisfying, the writers would have had to have planted seeds of them back there when we were watching those characters years ago. But they couldn't plant any seeds because they hadn't been able to think it all through.

Now, the writers want the audience to just go with them, and accept that there was this whole other AMAZING but hidden level of stuff going on. But there wasn't.

This is bad storytelling. It's so bd, that frankly, I don't even care any more how they resolve Kara's "death" and whether the characters make it to any place as a new home. My sense is the writers will just say anything in the style which has made me averse to sci-fi which always has bizarre impossibility as a plot device possibility.

Oh well. Notwithstanding what seems to be a disastrous slide towards thematic mediocrity, we can all still enjoy what's left of Battlestar Galactica for the buckets of beloved character angst that the writers can surely stuff into the last few episodes. We can enjoy the ways in which they are going to kill off Roslin and certainly the Admiral. We can look forward to Lee and Kara's certainly tortured last good-bye just before they kill her off - I'm banking that Lee, Helo and Athena are going to make it. It's still been a great show in many of its parts, and has surpassed nearly anything I've scene on television before.

So say we.... oh well.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Oscar Party for Charity

My friend Staci sent me this heads-up. I'm happy to share it...


Dear Friends:

On February 22, 2009 from 4-10pm, Hollywood PAL (a non-profit that utilizes afterschool programs to cement the bond between youth in at-risk areas and police officers) will be holding an Oscar Viewing Party Benefit at the Hollywood Museum. It is an exclusive access VIP party at the museum, which is located located near the SE corner of Hollywood & Highland and is adjacent to celebrity arrival area for the awards. Free champagne for the first 2 hours, buffet dinner, deejay, cocktail bar (no-host), dancing, awards show displayed on large screen televisions, auction prizes (including tickets to Oprah and Jimmy Kimmel's After-Oscar shows), self-guided tour of Hollywood Museum exhibits, open to event-goers only this evening. This award-winning museum includes four floors and over 10,000 exhibits, including recently installed exhibit of costumes from this yearʼs Oscar nominated films. Visit the largest collection of costumes, props, posters and photographs Hollywood has to offer. Guests who purchase a block of 10 tickets will have a table reserved in their name; otherwise it is open seating.

All proceeds will benefit the programs of Hollywood Police Activities League.

Here is the link to the invitation:

We hope to see you there! Please pass this on to others - especially if you have friends and family who will be in town and might want an exciting way to spend Oscar Night. The closest party to the Oscars without having a ticket to the Kodak Theatre!


Friday, February 06, 2009

It's Official: Mary, Mother of the Christ Coming to a Theater Near You

Here at long last is the official trade announcement from Daily Variety for Mary, Mother of the Christ on which I will get a writer credit.

Here's a snip (the photo is of Camilla Belle who will play Mary):

Camilla Belle ("10,000 BC") will star as the titular character and will be joined by Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the dual roles of Gabriel and Lucifer and Peter O'Toole as Symeon.

Al Pacino and Jessica Lange are in talks to play Herod and Anna the Prophetess.

Mary Aloe is producing along with Dune Films ("Hidalgo," "Prince of Persia").

Argentine helmer Alejandro Agresti ("Valentin," "The Lake House") is directing the film, which begins lensing in Morocco in May.

MGM plans to release the film wide in 2,000-plus theaters April 2, 2010, which coincides with Good Friday.

Here is the announcement from The Hollywood Reporter. Not sure why we writers got left out of Daily Variety. Here's a snip from The Hollywood Reporter:

Camilla Belle, who is onscreen in "Push," which opens Friday, has been cast as Mary. Jonathan Rhys Meyers will take on the double role of Gabriel and Lucifer, while Peter O'Toole is set as Symeon, who meets Mary and her family in the temple shortly after Jesus' birth.

The filmmakers are seeking Al Pacino and Jessica Lange for the respective roles of Herod and Anna the Prophetess.

Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti ("The Lake House") will direct the film, scheduled to begin shooting in May in Morocco with production partner Dune Films. Benedict Fitzgerald, who co-wrote "Passion," wrote the "Mary" screenplay with Barbara Nicolosi.

Mary Aloe and Rodrigo Berlanga are producing. The executive producers are Mike Dolan, Mauricio Sanchez and James Volk.

Although New Line recently told the story of Jesus' birth in "The Nativity Story," released in December 2006, to modest boxoffice returns, Aloe said of her project: "This is not a Christmas movie. This is a part of Mary's life that has never been shown on the big screen before. It takes us through Mary's youth, young love, her life as a new mother and the triumph through the absolute terror of Herod the Great's reign. It is truly a story of real female empowerment."

For updates as cast and crew are added, keep checking here.

Please keep this project in your prayers. So much can happen to a screenplay.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


If you are coming over here from the National Catholic Register link, please note that the trailer they have posted has NO CONNECTION to the movie Mary, Mother of the Christ that I co-wrote and which is in pre-production right now. That trailer was basically a devotional tribute to Mary made by some well-meaning person out there -- but it has nothing to do with our movie.

It is rather irresponsible for the folks over at the Register to have posted the trailer without ascertaining if it has any connection to the movie. It doesn't and because it is so unprofessional it isn't going to help us.

I get that the folks over at the Register have bigger things on their minds this week what with the verification of the corruption and perversion of their Founder, Marcial Maciel. But one would expect better sourcing from a national newspaper than just picking something up from YouTube.

Barb on the BBC

I was interviewed for a special show that BBC Radio did called "God and the Movies." A couple of producers flew out here to Hollywood from the UK and spent a week talking to movie people about where the whole question of religion is today four years after The Passion. I was really rambling and ranting that week as it was two days after the election so God only knows what I said. The interview will air tomorrow. I'm thinking they will post it up here.