Friday, April 18, 2014

Stories Meld Our Minds

Somebody just sent me a link to this recent article by scientist Allison Gopnik in the Wall Street Journal.  It's all about how recent research on the brain has show that sharing stories creates a mind-meld phenomenon between the storyteller and the hearer.  Fascinating stuff possessing huge ramifications for what we do here in Hollywood, but also for the Church which, after all, has the mandate to share the story of salvation history.

"In another experiment they recorded the pattern of one person’s brain activity as she told a vivid personal story. Then someone else listened to the story on tape and they recorded his brain activity. Again, there was a remarkable degree of correlation between the two brain patterns. The storyteller, like Leone, had literally gotten in to the listener’s brain and altered it in predictable ways. But more than that, she had made the listener’s brain match her own brain.
The more tightly coupled the brains became, the more the listener said that he understood the story. This coupling effect disappeared if you scrambled the sentences in the story. There was something about the literary coherence of the tale that seemed to do the work."

Go here to read the whole piece.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaack!


You know how I said I was closing this blog and moving over to that other place?  Well, it was nice while it lasted, but I'm very pleased to resurrect this blog at this time and officially pull up stakes at that other place.

It's a new day and it's starting today -- except that today starts the Triduum and I very much expect that I will be doing much more praying than blogging over the next few days.

But look for lots of blogging in the coming weeks - especially tied in to my new weekly Church of the Mass Radio Hour every Friday (except, you know, tomorrow, Good Friday) on Radio Titans.

But for now, have a holy and blessed Triduum!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Moved to Patheos!

Dear Friends of Church of the Masses -

The long wait is over.  I am finally back to regular movie and culture blogging, only now as part of the great community over at Patheos.  Click here to find and bookmark the new blog.

See you at the movies!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Way of the Cross over Brooklyn Bridge

I am posting this for my friends at Communion and Liberation. I think we should do this kind of thing vigorously - before the government says we can't any more. Something to tell our children and grandchildren about when the persecution has really become the new normal. Those days are coming....


____________________________________________



Friends,


On Good Friday, April 6, 2012, Communion and Liberation will once again sponsor the Way of the Cross over the Brooklyn Bridge to Ground Zero; and we are pleased to announce that Timothy Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will join participants at St. James Cathedral, Brooklyn. The WoC begins at 10am at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, 250 Cathedral Place (corner of Jay and Tillary Streets) and it will conclude at 1:30pm so participants can attend the Good Friday service in their parish.


After a station on the Brooklyn Bridge, the procession will follow the cross to a third station at City Hall Park in Manhattan, and a fourth station near Ground Zero. The final station will be at St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street. As in the past, at each station there will be readings from the Passion, a meditation, a reflection and hymns.


On a personal note, what impresses me most about this yearly public gesture is the beauty of the meditations, the choir, and, above all, the silence, an incredible silence permeated by a powerful presence – it’s something that has to be experienced!


Additionally, particularly this year, in the midst of all the back and forth about the HHS mandate, it is moving to see that Christ is offering us a way to publically affirm that “what we hold most dear in Christianity is Christ Himself — He in His person. All the rest comes from Him, for we know that in Him dwells bodily the whole fullness of Divinity.” I know it is difficult to see how such a simple and profound gesture like this public Way of the Cross is Christ’s response to the current political spat, but I strongly believe that it truly is!


I look forward to seeing you at the Way of the Cross over the Brooklyn Bridge to Ground Zero on Good Friday and I encourage you to share this information with others.

In Christ,

Henry


Sample bulletin blurb - WAY OF THE CROSS OVER THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE


On Good Friday, April 6, 2012, Communion and Liberation, an ecclesial lay movement in the Church, will once again sponsor theWay of the Cross over the Brooklyn Bridge; and we are pleased to announce that Timothy Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will join participants at St. James Cathedral, Brooklyn, at 10:00 am.


After a station on the Brooklyn Bridge, the procession will follow the cross to a third station at City Hall Park in Manhattan, and a fourth station near Ground Zero. The final station will be at St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street, concluding at 1:30 pm.


At each station, there will be readings from the Passion, a meditation, a reflection and hymns. All are invited to participate.

For more information, please call Communion and Liberation at (212) 337-3580 or visit the website atwww.wocbrooklynbridge.com.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So you think you have an idea for a movie?

I got another one last night. A person who heard me give a speech sent me a message asking me to evaluate his life story as a good spine for a movie. We folks in the movie business get this kind of message a lot. As a rule, people have absolutely no idea how big and developed an idea needs to be to become fodder for the entertainment industry to start tossing it around. Below is a two-pager I worked up for my undergrads, basically as a guideline for their final project for me in my Story and Character class. From now on, when somebody writes me that they have a "good idea for a movie" I am going to ask them to complete this sheet - which I am estimating will come in at between 8-12 pages.


Movie Proposal Format

PROPOSED PROJECT TITLE: How does this title give a sense of your theme, genre and character?

LOGLINE: One sentence that sums up what this movie is about.

SHORT PITCH: In one paragraph, sell this story to me. The following information should be included in a breezy, well-written style.

- What is the genre of this piece?

- Where does it take place and in what time period?

- What is the scope of the movie (ie. Epic studio movie? Quirky indie film? Etc.) and who will be its primary audience?

- What will make people want to see this movie? How will it be fun/entertaining for the audience? (Think something to learn, something to feel, something to dream about. Think universal truth and spectacle.)

MOVIE THEME: State in one artfully-written, arguable sentence the main theme of this project. You can also include lesser themes in other sentences.

ARENA: Describe the unique and visual world through which we will travel in this movie. What will this movie look like on the screen? How will the visuals help set the tone and the theme? If it is a standard location (ie. courtroom, bar, restaurant, living room, office), describe how we will see this standard location in a new way in the movie.

CHARACTER PROFILE: This section should be at least three pages. It should include everything that Aristotle and McKee - and um, me - says that goes into a good character (not necessarily in this order), including:

- Characterization (how old? How smart/educated/articulate? How rich or poor? Where he lives? How he looks – his personal style and quirks. Give me a thorough sense of the way this character is going to look and handle himself on screen.)

- Character (What is his genius? His charm? Why will audiences be drawn to him? What are his values and how did he find them? What would he say he needs most? What stands in his way?)

- What are the main conflicts in his life? What are some of the deep paradoxes in his life?

- Who or what is his support system?

- What is his transformational arc in the movie? What leads up to his moment of grace and does he accept it or not? How is he irrevocably changed at the end of the movie? How is his ending a new beginning?

SUPPORTING CHARACTER PROFILES: Write at least a paragraph for each of the two or three other principal characters in the piece. Give details of their character and characterizations and indicate what transformational arc they will travel in the story.

STORY SYNOPSIS: Divide the main action of the story into acts. This section should be at least five pages.

ACT ONE: Take us through the main action of the first half hour of this movie. Include the way the main character is introduced. Include how you are going to introduce your theme and any visual imagery you will be using. Hook us by indicating the entertaining spectacle that the audience will enjoy in the story. Then, take us through the inciting incident that draws the character into launching the journey of the story by making a choice. Describe the various kinds of conflict that stand in the character’s way. Introduce supporting characters and subplots. End with a high stakes, visual action/choice that puts the character in a new dilemma.

ACT TWO: Take us through the next hour of the film. How does the character’s situation become more complicated? What actions does the character take which drive the story? What changes do we start to see in the arena? Where is the character and his personal relationships in Act Three? What is it that heightens the stakes and suspense? What will continue to make this entertaining for the audience? What is the main reversal that comes at the mid-point? At the end of Act Two, how is the character’s situation as bad as it can be? What is the test that you have set up for the third act?

ACT THREE: Take us through the main action of the third act. What does the character do in the third act? What are the remaining sources of conflict and how does the character engage them? Where is the character in his relationship in Act Three? How does the character’s genius come into play in getting to the resolution of the story? How does the character “die” so as to live? How is the arena changed at the end of the story? What is the new beginning at the end?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No actually, You Don't Want a Screenwriter

Someone forwarded this on to me today. We get these kind of requests through Act One all the time, but this one was so egregiously offensive, I am sharing it for posterity....

Looking for a professional screenwriter to help get a Christian feature project ready to shoot. The project has been in development for over two years and has several drafts and treatments written by one of the producers and another screenwriter. The project has a director and producer attached, and interest from a small but respectable distribution company. The style is family comedy set in a holiday background.

The person (or persons) we are looking for needs to able to take what we have and mold it into 100 pages of a screenplay similar to to feel of Liar Liar and Groundhog Day, with major elements of Fireproof and Courageous mixed in. (If you don't know what Fireproof or Courageous are, please do not apply for this job). This is a paid position, but please keep in mind this is an independent project with a very limited budget. We are also not associated with the WGA so we require an independent writer.

Our team is spread out throughout the country, but you will mostly be working with with our producer in [somewhere far from the hub of moviemaking]. This can be done over Skype or Google.

Requirements for this job:
1. Have written at least 3 full length screenplays, and are proficient at all screenwriting formatting and industry standards of screenwriting
2. You are a writer who uses and believes in "The Hero's Journey"
3. You know, and have seen Fireproof and Courageous
4. You are an expert at using Final Draft
5. You have collaborated on screenplays with other people before
6. You are willing to work for less than you would normally get paid
7. You know how to write comedies and family films
8. You are a Christian

If you meet ALL of these requirements than by all means send me a bio, a writing sample, and why you want to work on this project.

Thanks!

Here are the snarky responses that I will not be sending back to this sorry fellow. But he really deserves them.

"Should the writer have also seen Lawrence of Arabia, Sunset Blvd, Casablanca and The Godfather? Or would that make them ineligible?

"Because I believe in the Heroes Journey, it is impossible to not see this invitation as somewhere worse than than the Belly of the Whale and certainly a more brutal Road to Trials. I am going to have to pass on the Call to this Adventure."

"No, no, I think you must be thinking of some other Ground Hog Day."

"Thank you very much, but I am going to have to pass on this offer so as to make room for professional opportunities."

"After having written more than three screenplay and extensively studied the craft of movie writing, I could not promise to mimic the unique stylings of Fireproof and Courageous. Sadly, I just know too much."

"It was refreshing to see you state upfront your intention to under-compensate your writer. Most self-styled producers don't admit that."

and finally,

"Hmmm. You have me confused. It seems clear you really aren't looking for a screenwriter. I do know an out of work youth pastor who loves movies and has a lap top. Should I send him your way?"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dec. 3rd - Save the Date!!! GREAT Event!

Much More Than a Little Feature: The Splendor of the Short Film
Film Night and Conference

Hosted by the Galileo Studio at Azusa Pacific University