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Tuesday, June 10, 2003
NBC'S COUPLING: PUSHING THE ENVELOPE, THE MAIL BOX, THE POST OFFICE....

So, NBC has a new show on the schedule in the Fall, Coupling, that is based on a British hit of the same name. In the words of the Hollywood Reporter, the show is libidinous enough "to make the Sex in the City girls blush." Peachy.

I know some of you are tempted to ask, "Why?" Just when it seemed like the industry was seriously starting to question itself and the impact it has on general societal health, why this kind of prime-time slime fest?

It has to do with that old disconnect between the creative people in this industry and the people, out there beyond the limits of L.A. county. As evidence, I cite words of Ben Silverman, the Executive Producer of Coupling, as quoted in Holywood Reporter (June 9, 2003):

"On other shows, people kiss and get married. On this show, our characters might have sex, but still just be friends. It's adults behaving in a way that my peer group operates."

See, he thinks most people are like him. That they have sex with no real affective connection, just like alley cats. It's a disconnect.
SO YOU THINK YOU OUGHT TO WORK IN HOLLYWOOD?
By Francine Russell, Barbara Nicolosi, and Zena Dell Schroeder

[NOTE FROM BARB - We at Act One wrote this to have something more pastoral to say than just, "Good luck" to the hunderds of inquirers who approach us every year for advice about working in the entertainment industry. Sharing it here for those of you who have yet to inquire...]

Ever since you were a little kid, you’ve dreamed of moving to Hollywood and being an actor/writer/director/fill-in-the-blank. You’ve dreamed of fame and fortune (we all have, it’s okay...). You’ve practiced your Oscar speech, and vowed to use your future wealth and influence to alleviate the plight of mankind.

Or, maybe not. Maybe you didn’t grow up dreaming of the bright lights at all. Maybe this is a very recent dream, one that’s taken you by surprise. Never in a million years did you think you’d be considering a career in show biz.

Either way, you’ve got the calling! Or, at least, you’re pretty sure you do. You have the desire, isn’t that enough?

God often plants a deep desire in our hearts for the very thing that He needs us to do. Missionaries and pastors offer a great example – most will tell you that they desperately desired their mission fields long before they had the opportunity to pursue them. They LOVE what they do!

However, desire alone is not a sufficient indication of a calling to the entertainment field. This is a missionfield/professional arena in which you also have to be naturally talented. It isn't fair, in that annoying economy of God which is always just but not always fair. You have to have been born with a creative gift to work as a screenwriter, actor, director, editor, producer.

Flannery O' Connor was once asked how someone should know if they are supposed to be a writer. She answered that the only reason to be a writer is "because you're good at it." To a large extent, Hollywood is like that.

So how do you know for sure? How can you determine if God has really “called” you to Hollywood?

Act One: Writing For Hollywood has developed a list of questions for you to brood over, to help you make a decision. Do yourself a favor: be honest. This is a tough business. It is not for everyone. And a good deal too many people come here with big dreams, only to find discouragement and bitterness. Our hope is to help you better determine if this “calling” is truly from God.


EIGHTEEN THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURSUING A CAREER IN HOLLYWOOD

1. MOTIVATIONS - Why do you really want to be in the entertainment industry? What will success look like for you?
The first reason to pursue a career in Hollywood as a writer is NOT
a) Because you think that film and television are huge potential media of truth; NOR
b) Because you are tired of the liberal/Democratic/secular/godless agenda that is the ideology of choice for many in the business; NOR
c) Because you love the feeling that you get when the lights go down in the theater and you think that making movies must feel as easy and fun as watching movies; AND CERTAINLY NOT
d) Because you want the money and power and fame that is associated with the industry.

The only reason that makes any sense to pursue a career in Hollywood ias an actor or writer or director or producer or whatever is because YOU ARE GOOD AT IT. It is what YOU were made to do.


2. TALENT What do you bring to the table (besides desire for success)?
Contrary to what productions like Jack Ass and Anna Nicole seem to indicate, real talent is appreciated and respected in Hollywood. It is the oil that keeps the cogs and wheels turning. Yes, there are those with seemingly negligible talent who have gone on to great success. But don’t be naive – they DO have talent, it just lies in areas that aren’t so readily apparent (i.e., manipulation, flattery, PR, sensationalism, and the use of other rather sketchy “gifts” that we’re not going to get into here . . .), or maybe they were just born into the industry.

You will need genuine talent to survive and thrive, as a professional. But even more, you will need it to thrive as a Christian, because, by definition, you answer to a Higher Authority and don’t have the option of “making it” by means of those other “gifts.”

Are you truly talented? Here are some questions we give to wannabee screenwriters to help them discern whether they should set their sights on a writing career. There are exceptions to every rule, and all of these may not fit some famous writer out there. But as we say at Act One, "Do not strive to be the exception to the rule when it comes to craft." So, then, how do you know if you might be called to be a professional writer?

a) You have always done it. You have always written long letters, successful skits. You've kept journals. You are the one everyone in the office asks to write memos, or brochures. You are the editor of the school yearbook, the church bulletin, the college newspaper. There isn’t a time in your life when you can’t remember writing.

b) People tell you they like what you do. This is really important. It isn't just about whether writing is therapy for you (private revelation...) but your writing has also consistently "worked" with other people. Do others affirm your talent? Do others like your writing? Do people say things to you ike, "You are so funny - you should write a TV show!" or "I love getting a letter from you." or "You should write a book." If others are not encouraging you in this area, or if they don’t even know you dabble in it, you are probably NOT called to Hollywood.

c) You are a word person. You play Scrabble and Boggle and do crossword puzzles. (Emily Dickinson used to read the dictionary like others do cheap paperbacks.) You have consistently scored well on verbal tests in school.

d) You are a reader. Even if you don’t want to be a writer, a person in pretty much any aspect of the entertainment industry will be always reading, besides going to movies and watching television. You need to be a reader – of the Great Books, of the best sellers, of the industry trades, of other people’s screenplays. You need to shape yourself into a thinker who comes up with clever twists and wonderful plot points. You have to be a historian. A psychologist. A theologian. A poet. A salesman. If you don’t like to read, guess what: You are NOT called to Hollywood.

e) You have something to say. That is, you have something developed to say. Not just opinions, but arguments. You are one of those people who hears something absurd on talk radio and then formulates a speech about why it is wrong. You come up with better allegories than the preacher who is trying to relate the Scriptures to the suffering congregation.

Professional screenwriters need stories to tell. Lots of stories to tell. If you have only one project, you will not have a career. You need to be constantly brooding on the parables of Jesus and transforming them, and everything else He said into new applications for today.


Okay, so once you decide that you do indeed have talent, you can at least CONSIDER a career in Hollywood. But Talent alone won’t cut it. You must also have:


3. R-E-S-P-E-C-TWhat are you dumb at?
Beginners in Hollywood need humility. You cannot learn unless you respect the teacher. And anybody taking up the craft of the very complex screen artform has much to learn. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in many Christians who come to the business because, as a Chruch, we have made an artform out of disdaining Hollywood.

Be in awe of the things that Hollywood takes for granted. About storytelling and suspense. About creating characters and making them talk. About crafting visual images. About collaborating in such a way that everybody’s best gifts serve the whole. These are lessons about storytelling that the industry mastered 80 years ago and which make our cinema the envy of the world.


4. PASSIONIs there anything else you could really do with your life?
You have to love the movie business. Really love it. If it is just the money or influence you love, you will end up poor, forgotten and embittered.

We need Christian filmmakers who love the art form so much that they go to everything that comes out - because they really love it. They watch movies as filmmakers, not as fans. They look at serious projects as benchmarks in the development of the artform. Fans tend to talk about celebrities. Filmmakers tend to talk about directors, or writers or a genius bit of editing, or a remarkable moment of performance.

Secondly, you have to be passionate about your own talent and career. You have to believe in yourself. Believe in your project.

Passion is essential so that you will have the energy to make the sacrifices that will have to be made if you are going to make a go of it in this very competitive and difficult arena. You need to be so in love with this business that you will continue to find a way to be part of it even if you NEVER make a dime from it, even if you spend your life in poverty and obscurity. The odds are very good that you WILL spend your life in poverty and obscurity, so you’d better love what you’re doing. If you don’t, then you risk a life of bitterness, anger and regret.


5. PATIENCEHow long will it take you to get discouraged?
Creatives in the entertainment industry must learn the art of what script doctor Linda Seger calls "hovering." Much patience is required to learn the craft. To do the reseach. To wait for the call back. To make the deals. To wait for the collaborators. To do the rewrites. To wait until the script is really ready. To wait. To wait. To wait. If you do not have the patience to develop your craft or to increase your skill, you are NOT called to this business. People who tell us that they are coming out to Hollywood to try it out for a couple of years should just stay home. You must have a profound longterm commitment.


6. OPPORTUNITYIs your life "empty" enough for an entertainment career?
Having a career will require a bit of a starvation period. There will be serveal years in which you will be making very little money while you work your way up. You have to be able to live cheaply and take low-paying entry-level jobs that won't have health insurance and spousal benefits.

You have to have a lot of time to "waste" on things that don't seem to have a specific pay-off in sight. You need to go to a lot of screenings and parties and film festivals and mixers and classes and conferences. It's a hard thing for people to do who are also trying to be the Caregiver/Provider of Note for a family of three or four or five.

One indicator of God’s will for your life is certainly in the opportunities that open for you without much effort on your part. This is NOT to say that you don’t work hard. You have to. It’s an absolute must if you want to succeed in this business. But there is such a thing as finding just enough favor or weird coincidences to keep you moving ahead. Many people who are pursuing a career in Hollywood find that they are banging on doors, but the doors just aren’t opening. If the doors aren’t opening, even in small little ways, it probably means God is not directing you – you are.


7. PERSONAL PRAYER LIFE – What is God telling you?
Put your career in God's hands minute by minute. Offer Him your life over and over and over...until you actually start to let go of it. Every artist has to get comfortable with solitude and isolation - it is an essential element to creativity.

Be prepared for a negative answer. In fact, expect a negative answer. Assume a negative answer. Then, if opportunities and circumstances and natural forces still seem to be shoving you towards the Hollywood Hills – well, okay, you’ve probably got a legitimate calling to the City of Angels.


8. CREATIVE DISCERNMENT Will baby steps be enough for you?
As a professional creative person, you will have to be involved in many projects that seem to have little or no redemptive value. A lot of the product the industry churns out is just sausage to meet the hungers of the global media machine. You have to be able to see God's hand working in many unlikely places. You have to be able to understand that a baby step is not a compromise. Sometimes, you will have to back away from something that is irreconcilable with your identity as a Christian.


9. NORMALCYCan you function in a secular environment?
Is your faith of a type which would makes it impossible for you to accept other people where they are? Are you "weird" in the sense that you can't speak without Christian-ese, or you can't get through ten minutes without making your faith an issue (kind of the way homosexuals often make their sexuality omnipresent...).

Christians coming into the industry at this particular moment need to understand that their first witness will be the excellence and beauty of the work they do, united to simple, virtuous lives of probity, rectitude, gentleness, self-donation, loyalty, and integrity.

Maybe you really like living in a Christian sub-culture surrounded by people who agree with you on the things that matter to you, and that is where you are supposed to thrive. That could be fine. Comfortable. But nobody who is that kind of comfortable is also going to change the world.


10. INDUSTRY ETIQUETTE Do you have any self-discipline?
This is just respect again. Why is it that People of Faith most often treat people with less professionalism than pagans do? We have heard stories of many artists who have been exploited time and again by people in the name of God, than in the name of Mammon.

Don’t whine. Don't rant. Don’t expect special treatment. Be on time. Do your homework. Earn your paycheck. Be able to deliver what you commit yourself to. Know that your personal beliefs and symbols do not belong in a professional context, any more than if they were Marxist symbols.


11. ARTISTRY What does mastery of the craft mean?
Believe that, as Dostoevsky said, “Man will be saved by beauty.” KNow what he was talking about. And then spend time figuring out where the potential for beauty exists in the art form you have chosen. "Good enough" is NEVER good enough.


12. FELLOWSHIP Where will you find authentic community?
If you do not find a cenacle, you will lose your soul – or at least your difference. The cenacle is not for living in, but rather a place to rest, to regather your sense of identity and vocation and message. This business has its own unique problems, and people outside the business rarely understand them (even pastors). It’s crucial that you have mature Christians to whom you can turn for advice and guidance. It’s even more crucial that you have friends who are wise in the Spirit to hold you accountable. If you isolate yourself from regular Christian fellowship, it will be the beginning of a very nasty downward spiral. Trust us.


13. TRUSTCan you ever "let go"?
We cannot make any impact on the industry from the outside. We need to worm our way into the business, to renew it from within. There has never been a reform in the Church that started in the laity. In the true spirit of ecumenism, “The goal is not that we all become one, but that they all become us.” Too many Christians are out there on their own setting up piddly little production companies and making three million dollar movies that will never get into theaters. They do this because they are afraid to lose control of their projects, and they are afraid to get sullied by collborating with non-believers.

You have to be able to step back from your proejct and let other people mess with it. You have to accept that no production will ever meet all your hopes for it. You have to put yourself and your project in the hands of people who may only have the project itself in common with you.


14. SPIRITUAL MATURITY - Do you have your spiritual act together?
Will you be able to avoid the pitfalls of hell hidden amidst the palm trees and swimming pools? Surviving in Hollywood is hard on everyone. And surviving as a happy Christian in Hollywood is even harder. God holds us to a standard that no one in this city understands or acknowledges. You will come to learn what being “in the world but not of the world” truly means. Understand that this is a business motivated by fear (of failure, of aging, of poverty, of being fat). Ironically, there is little fear of success, which is often the greatest corruptor of souls. And if you crave stability or security, then you are SO in the wrong place!

You will have to give an account for yourself in a way that will be intelligible for people who don't get you, and who may think Christianity is what is wrong with the world. You need to know your faith well enough to explain it. You need to know when you are standing safe among ravenous lions, and when it is time to get out because they are starting to chew on you.


16. PRIORITIES - What in your life would you most mourn if you lost it?
If you are going to be of any use to God in Hollywood, He must make certain you are ready for the challenge. This is a painful process. He may have to go to extreme lengths to ensure that your priorities are in order. And the best way to teach these lessons and have their roots sink deep is through failure and disappointment. God can’t trust you with success or power until He knows that you won’t let Him down.


17. BIG PICTURE THINKINGWhat else will you have in your life besides the business?
Get involved in something that has nothing to do with entertainment, and nothing to do with you or your career. Volunteer at your Church, a soup kitchen, help the homeless, work with the Special Olympics, give blood, rescue abandoned dogs and cats. It will help you keep things in perspective, so you don’t lose sight of the larger world. Another source of income will also give you a more stable sense of self (not to mention rent) while you are weathering the initial years of rejection. If you can’t see beyond lights, camera, action, it’s a pretty good bet you are not called to Hollywood – You’re obsessed with it. A healthy Christian is involved in ministering to others and has interests in line with Christ. If you don’t, you need to be before you come to Hollywood.


18. FAITHIs there anything the world can throw at you that would make you doubt God's love for you?
As a Christian artist you have to have the ability to see everything you do as part of God's plan for you. You can't look at your life in terms of wasted years, wasted classes, wasted relationships, wasted efforts, wasted dreams. In the end, we really do not know what role it is that we are accomplishing for the Kingdom. If Hollywood is where you are supposed to be, then come and be here. Throw your heart into it, set your face into the wind, and don't look back. Don’t be distracted by the success of others – never judge your own life by theirs. If God sends you to Hollywood, then He has a job for you to do, and it may not be the job you anticipated. Don’t argue.

Don't ever allow yourself to live the statement, "Okay, God, I can take it from here."


Okay, now we can say it. Good luck!
Monday, June 09, 2003
BE NOT AFRAID: PART I - WHY ARE CHRISTIANS SO AFRAID OF HOLLYWOOD?

Already, a few of you are scoffing. "We're not 'afraid' of Hollywood, we just disdain it." If you need to say that, fine. But how about if I asked you, "Are you afraid of Hollywood's influence on your children or grandchildren?" Okay, then.

Some anecdotes...

- I spoke at a NC Christian Writers Conference recenty and met with a man who has published many successful novels that have crossed over from the CBA into the ABA. When I suggested to him that he should consider adapting some of his work for the entertainment industry he was taken aback (and, I think, almost insulted). He assured me, "I've been a writer my whole life, and it never, in my wildest moments, occurred to me to try and write for movies or television." Humph. Why is that?

- At a Eucharistic COngress in DC a few years back, after I gave my usual spiel about supporting the godly artists among us, a woman approached me with the statement that, "Our daughter has always wanted to be an actress. But her father and I told her we would pay for her to go to college to study ANYTHING but acting."

This is actually a story I have heard dozens of times from the young Christian actors I work with in Hollywood, but in the hope of getting this particular woman to think things through, I pretended to be shocked and confused. "Why?"

"Well," she explained, "we don't want her to lose her soul."

Oh, good, now, she'll just lose her mind instead.

- (This next anecdote stands for about a dozen similar anecdotes that I have been a sorrowful player in the last seven years. So much money being wasted...)

A group of Christians recently asked me to screen a roughcut of a feature film that they had made without any input or assistance from Hollywood professionals. The project had cost about five million dollars. None of the people involved in the project had ever made a movie before. Now, they wanted me to give them notes as to how to "edit the movie into shape."

I told them that movies are like liver on your dinner plate. You can cut it up and move it around and eat it to a nice soundtrack, but in the end, it is still liver. You can't edit garbage into shape.

So, why are we so afraid? I'll put my understanding of the fear and then my response to it. Amy Welborn weighed in with a characteristically thoughtful answer. My own take on the matter is much less subtle. I'll put Amy's thought first.

Why Christians are Afraid of the Entertainment Industry

1. (from Amy Welborn) "Might one fear be the fear of success? A strange fear in an industry that apparently consumes its young (and
old) and is very difficult to succeed in, but still...it's also a very lucrative industry, and centered in a part of the world in which (or so I
understand) the "good life" is not exactly rooted in Gospel values. Are we (generically) afraid to succeed because we are afraid of being corrupted by success and the material fruit it brings?"


My only question here would be that there is success to be found in many other fields. By this reasoning, shouldn't we be afraid of succeeding at politics, or law, or business, or medicine? (Maybe we are...)

2. Because we have been so victimized by it.
We have been misconstrued and misrepresented. We have been set up as hypocrites and vilified for our teachings. Our faith has been blamed for many social ills, and we, its adherents have been labeled as being intolerant, ignorant and fearful. Our clergy have been represented as oppressive, fear-mongering meglomaniacs. Anything else?

My response: As an old Italian nun said to me once when I was complaining about something, “Eh. It still isn’t the agony in the garden.”

3. “It is nothing but a [insert your own anti-motivational adjective here - some typical ones: liberal, Democratic, pagan, secular, godless, Satanic] stronghold.”

My response: AND??????????? How very heroic of us. Remember when the Church used to send missionaries into the worst parts of the world? I can’t see the Jesuit martyrs of old, basing their apostolic initiatives on which tribe of savages was less inclined to eat them.

Even if Hollywood was as bad as all that, that should only be a greater incentive for us to roll up our sleeves, and, as Teresa of Avila said, "bring God where He is not." But really, this is a bad rap. Hollywood is no worse than Wall Street or Silicon Valley or Capital Hill or the Ivory Tower. Let's talk about the medical profession, for example. Maybe Hollywood is polluting the airwaves, but we aren't aborting 1.5 million babies a year now, are we? The truth is, every segment of society is sick. The media just gets in our face with it.

3. “Movies and television can’t be good if the masses like it.”
This fear pretends to be based in the Scripture that, "You are not of the world." It eschews anything popular with a kind of Christian gnosticism. The end result is in affirming our people in wiping their hands of the need to engage the culture.

My response: Some things are popular because they are great. Like soap or the wheel…. This is elitist doo-doo.

4. “I don’t believe in art by committee.”
This is a fear that seeks to disguise itself by diminishing the artform, rather like Aesop's fox diminished the grapes he couldn't reach. The insinuation is that the screen artform is somehow lowly because it very often is qualified by business concerns. The collaborative nature of cinema somehow prevents it from really being considered a work of art, because art is a God-to-artist, One-to-one act of inspiration and creation.

My response: You know nothing about the art of cinema. "Art" is anything made. It is anything in which there has been a selection of elements. Beautiful art is found in the harmonious selection of details. Cinema is composed of several different art forms. Literary, performance, composition, music, architecture, costuming, make-up, lighting, editing, etc, etc, etc... Each of these artfroms requires the isolation, reflection and creative act of the particular artist. Then, that artist harmonizes their product with the work of the others. So, cinema is a harmony of harmonies. It is essentially art by committee.

5. “It’s all garbage.”
This is a fear which finds its root in sloth.

My response: Ignorant. Lazy. Wrong. There is so much good work being done, that I have no patience with this at all. The problem perhaps is that there is so much media being produced, that it is more difficult to glean through it all to find the great work. But that just means it is harder to be alive today. It is a particular temptation today to try and simplify that which is by its nature complicated. These are trying times. Trying to pretend that they are not will only result in making messes.

6. “It is dangerously passive recreation.”

My response: Yeah, like reading is aerobic? I have no idea if watching movies is dangerous for human beings in the long-term anthropological sense. All I know is, it is here to stay, and the Magisterium has repeatedly called for us to be actively engaged in using it to spread the Gospel.


Stay tuned....
Sunday, June 08, 2003
NOT A JOB WELL DONE

I saw The Italian Job last night. The word in the pews is that actor Mark Wahlberg has become quite the serious Catholic, and I like to support our own. I also like a good heist movie. Oh well. The only good heist here is the one perpretrated on the audience. The film is refreshingly free of sex and crass language, and there are only a couple of moments of violence. I don't want to spend more time reviewing this movie than the filmmakers spent thinking through this story, (and I think I'm pushing up against that ceiling already...), so let me just say that The Italian Job wasn't as good a heist film as was Oceans 11. And Oceans 11wasn't that good a film.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
44 MINUTES ON FX

One of our Act One faculty members, author and screenwriter James Scott Bell, sent me the following heads-up about a docudrama that aired recently on the FX channel. They will certainly air it many more times so keep an eye out for it.

Don't know if anyone saw the FX movie last night, 44 Minutes. It was a docu-drama about that infamous shootout out here in a Los Angeles suburb, in 1997, when two guys in full body armor and with assault rifles tried to rob a Bank of America, and ended up shooting everything and everyone they could--and, miraculously, no one but the two of them ended up dead.

FX is an upstart, "cutting edge" network (shows like The Shield) that pushes the envelope on taste and language. Thus, this movie had four letter words and plenty of blood.

BUT...amazingly...

One of the lead characters was an African-American cop who is an up-front evangelical Christian. We see him at the beginning reading his Bible and praying that God will help him to do right. As I watched that I thought, "Uh-oh, here comes the fanatic, maybe he's one of the shooters."

BUT...amazingly...

We next see this cop arresting a 16 year old gangbanger wannabe, sitting him down in the squad car, and showing him pictures of slain gang leaders...trying to scare the kid straight. The kid has attitude. Nothing is going to work.

Then, the cop and his partner get the call about the bank robbery. They drive over. So, the cop decides to let the kid go, because this is more important. The cop then gives the kid a small, worn, hand sized Bible and says, "Read this."

The kid looks at him quizzically. "Huh? Read what?"

Cop: "Whatever applies to you."

He presses the Bible in the kid's hand and dashes off. The story progresses. The Christian cop is shown behaving bravely in battle, and then gets shot. He's almost going to die. But near the end of the movie he's rescued.

THEN...amazingly...

As he is being put into an ambulance, we see the kid. He has reappeared. He is looking at the cop with concern. The cop sees him. The kid nods at the cop and shows him he's still got the Bible.

My wife and I were stunned and pleased and, yes, amazed. Here, in the least likely of places (FX) was not just a respectful, but a downright favorable, portrait of a Christian man.

If you get the chance to see this movie, do so. It is well made and realistic (I remember watching the news coverage, with mouth agape, that this was happening a few miles away.) And it has a real Christian message in there. The cop, at the end, reminisces and says, "It was truly a miracle that no one else was killed."
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
"NUNC DIMITIS..."

His serene astuteness, Mark Shea, King of all Blogdom, has written a great article on blogging which you can copy to all your friends and family who still don't know what a blog is. I meet these people all the time and find myself looking at them in shocked consternation. "How can you not know what a blog is?"

Reminds me of something Emily Dickinson once said about the life of the mind. (Substituting "blogs" for Emily's "thoughts.")

"How do most people live without any blogs?
How do they have the strength to get out of bed in the morning?"

Mark's piece is rendered even more estimable by his reference in the piece to this lowly blog. Thanks, Mark!
BE NOT AFRAID!

The talk I gave in NYC is one that has been taking shape for several years. I got the idea for it from the following quote from Pope John Paul II, from his address for World Communications Day in 2001:

As much as the world of the media may at times seem at odds with the Christian message, it also offers unique opportunities for proclaiming the saving truth of Christ to the whole human family. What is therefore needed in our time is an active and imaginative engagement of the media by the Church. Catholics, do not be afraid to throw open the doors of social communications to Christ, so that his Good News may be heard from the housetops of the world!

The lack of impact by Christians in the popular culture and specifically Hollywood comes back to fear. We mask our fear with disdain or elitism or faux-prudence, but in the end, we are afraid and it renders us mediocre as artists and ineffective as communicators. I will flesh out some of the notes from my talk here over the next few days (or weeks or months...) using the this outline:

A) Why are we Christians afraid of Hollywood?
B) What mistakes do we godly people make in our cultural forays because we are afraid of Hollywood?
C) What could we learn from Hollywood if we could stop being afraid of it?
D) How could we serve Hollywood – what could we bring to it? – if we could stop being afraid of it?
E) Act One as a test case of effective engagement

Stay tuned...
DEBTS OF GRATITUDE

Thanks to everyone who made the Chicago and Washington events such a success these last two weeks. Special thanks to Chicago Alumn Maureen O'Grady for hosting our Windy City Reunion evening. During my adventures, I taped a show at Telecare, the TV station operated by the Archdiocese of Long Island. Thanks to Rose Ann Palmer and Fr. Tim Hartman for their hospitality. I'll try and let you all in the Tri-State area know when the show airs.

Thanks too to all the people who made the NYC event such a success. Jen Hall (you amaze me!) and the people at the Marketplace Ministries of Redeemer Presbyterian Church were wonderful. Jo and Chris Kladecek for dinner and unflagging affirmation and support. Special thanks to Jesus for torpedoing the Haven event that was supposed to happen that night, so that all the Haven people ended up coming to my talk. [Note from God: "Don't mess with Act One."] The talk was videotaped, and they tell me it will be put up on the web site of The Voice Behind.
Monday, June 02, 2003
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED REVISITED AND RECONSTITUTED

Rats. My all time favorite book is about to be desecrated. This from British entertainment columnist Melanie Reid. A snippet...

Oh dear. 'Tis true. We must all give a languid sigh, clutch our teddy bears closer to our hearts, and prepare to see fond memory debased. Poor old Brideshead Revisited is to be the next victim of Andrew Davies, the screenwriter currently charged with remixing classic works of literature for the Christina Aguilera generation. We cannot foretell what dire things await us, but few people will be taking bets against at least one explosive gay scene involving Aloysius the bear, Sebastian Flyte, and Charles Ryder.

Mr Davies is the man responsible for both Daniel Deronda and Doctor Zhivago, the two costume dramas presently vying for viewers on a Sunday night. We have barely recovered from his previous over-hyped offering, the dark Victorian-themed Tipping The Velvet, a bodice ripper with lesbian overtones.....

...Mr Davies is quoted as saying that he thinks the original ITV version "got the wrong emphasis". He went on: "I'm more interested in the religious side of the book, rather than the Oxford days . . . It essentially begs the question, 'Is God more important than love?' It's a Catholic novel."

He is, of course, correct. Sebastian Flyte's family are ancient aristocratic Roman Catholics, tortured and split and ultimately claimed by their faith. Waugh said his theme was "the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters". But if anyone thinks that this new version of Brideshead, circa 2003, could get financial backing and then hope to be a box office success by merely exploring the question, "Is God more important than love?", then their heads are buttoned up the back. No, Davies has been hired to inject some, lots of, sex into Brideshead, and we must, as I say, quail for the scenes which Aloysius the bear will witness. Perhaps there are enough of us who remember the 1981 series to club together to buy him a blindfold...
Saturday, May 24, 2003
NOTHING ELSE REALLY MATTERS...

(From AOL Sports Page) "New York has dropped 10 of 11 at Yankee Stadium for just the second time in franchise history and lost 10 of 13 overall to fall 1 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East."
Friday, May 23, 2003
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION

I am tromping back and forth across America again in these next two weeks, trolling for funds, students, promotional opportunities and basically kindred spirits to affirm and support what we are trying to do in Hollywood.

I'll be giving a talk in NYC on Monday, June 2 that will be open to the public if anybody out there wants to skip repeats of Alias or Smallville... The talk is being sponsored by a group called The Haven, which is a large Manhattan based prayer, ministry and networking group for creative/arts types in the Tri-Sate area. My talk will analyze the mistakes "the church" - we're speaking the broadest sense here - makes when it approaches the entertainment industry, and propose a more effective model of facilitating cultural renewal. Here's the info...


"BE NOT AFRAID!" A Strategy for Renewing Entertainment

Featuring screenwriter and Act One Founder, Barbara R. Nicolosi

Barbara will lay out a vision for Christians in entertainment and field questions/discussions points in helping artists, writers, business people, actors.

MONDAY JUNE 2nd, 7pm
The Williams Club
24 East 39th Street
(btwn. Madison and Park)

Event sponsored by Redeemer Presbyterian Church Market Place Ministries
Thursday, May 22, 2003
MORE BRUCE, GOD AND TOM

One of our Act One alumns, Dan Ewald has a good interview article with Tom Shadyac over on CCM. It basically fills in a bit more of Tom's theology and personal journey. Here's a snip:

Some people are surprised when they learn that the director of such outrageous and bawdy comedies [as Ace Ventura and Liar, Liar] is a Christian. Shadyac is cautious when talking about religion because so many of his peers in Hollywood have a distorted view of Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus. On the other hand, he believes that the church also has an unclear view of show business. "I think people in America generally view Hollywood as an atheistic place, and I don’t see it [that way]," says Shadyac. "There are some very God-centered people who I’m honored to know and share a profession with. When I knock on their trailer doors and see the books they’re reading, it surprises me."

Shadyac says he’s quite the book worm as well. One of his favorite authors and greatest influences on his career is Madeleine L’Engle. "To read a book like Walking on Water 10 times over is very encouraging, knowing that someone understands the struggle of being a Christian and wanting to be a storyteller," Shadyac admits. "She was accused of everything from [practicing] witchcraft to being a heretic for A Wrinkle in Time. She understands the challenge to be in the world, yet depict faith and belief in God through your stories."

Walking on Water poses questions like: What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Shadyac believes it is his faith in God that differentiates him as a director. "I’ve spoken at several religious conferences, and the movie they’re always showing is The Mission—which is wonderful—but they miss movies like Scent of a Woman, which is basically the book of Ecclesiastics," Shadyac says with marked enthusiasm. "Christians think that to write a religious or spiritual movie, it has to have a priest, minister, nun or a church in it. But Jesus told stories that had seemingly nothing on the surface to do with religion, yet they were spiritual stories. He told stories about a farmer, a man who had two sons and the parable of the 10 virgins. We tell stories—and this one in particular is about Bruce Nolan, who is a reporter."

Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is a local journalist, hoping to land the anchor job that just opened up. But like Job’s experience in the Bible, life turns ugly for him. He gets fired, a rival reporter gets the job, and Bruce is beaten up for trying to help a homeless man who has been roughed up by a street gang. On the way home, he asks God for a sign to show him He still cares. "We’re so drowned out by the noise in our head that we [often] don’t see signs from God," explains the director. "That’s what happens to Bruce. God is pretty much all over his life at the beginning of the movie, but Bruce is too blinded by his own agenda, selfishness and self-indulgence to see the signs."

Cut to the next day. Bruce Nolan’s pager goes off repeatedly. He throws it out of the window, where it gets run over by a truck. Cut to the day after. Again Bruce hears his beeper, but it’s going off in the middle of the street. It has been smashed to pieces, yet it is still working. He calls the number and is asked to come in for a job interview held in a warehouse. This is where he meets God (Morgan Freeman) and blames the Almighty for all his troubles.

It’s something that most people—even Christians if they’re being honest—have done at one point or another. Shadyac confesses: "I have a very honest relationship with God. If I experience disappointment, struggle or anger, I will express it honestly. It’s a relationship. The answers for me come so much quicker when I’m honest." Shadyac says he believes that God is big enough to handle our human emotions. Besides, nothing is hidden from Him. "It’s silly to put up any kind of dishonesty. There’s nothing wrong with me saying, ‘God, you know what? I don’t know what You’re doing. Apparently You do know what You’re doing because You’ve taken care of me up to now, but I don’t like this. I, as a human being, take exception to Your divine plan."


We had Tom at Inter-Mission the other night and he said a lot of very encouraging God-related things. But he impressed me much more at the end of the evening when, suddenly, throngs of actor, writer and director wanna-bees all surrounded him asking for personal advice or just to have a peice of him somehow. Tom sat there on the stage surrounded for well-over another hour, speaking very gently and encouragingly to every single person. It was very lovely.

Celebrity is tough, and many people do not handle it with anywhere near the grace and humility that Tom has. I remember one event in the recent past, in which one celebrity-type told the audience that if they wanted to be great filmmakers, they needed to be people of compassion who really love their characters. As soon as the speech was done, this same celebrity high-tailed it out of the room not making any eye contact with any of the people there presumably as some kind of defence-mechanism against being hit up for something. It had the effect of making all the people there feel a little small. As though they would be the kind of clinging desparates who might sully this celebrity. Even if some of them would've it was, well, rude. The eveniing's message ended up being that if you want to be a good filmmaker, you have to love your characters, but it's okay to treat real people like garbage.

The rolling of eyeballs...

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
WHAT IF SHAKESPEARE WROTE THE HOKEY POKEY?

(Someone emailed me this without any attribution to the author. As a fellow writer, I am loathe to post anything without giving credit where it is due. But it is so funny I wanted to copy it here to class up my archives. If anyone out there knows who wrote it, please let me know so I can add their name.)

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heaven's yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.
Saturday, May 17, 2003
THAT THEY MAY ALL BE....US?

Someone posted a comment below that has raised an issue that comes up pretty much daily for me. I am a Catholic who runs a determinedly interdenominational program, Act One. All of us who are part of the program take hits from the conservative wings of both the Catholic and Protestant universes for "dancing with the devil," as one sweet, but anonymous Catholic emailed me once about the subject.

It has been a difficult commitment to maintain. We could get a lot more funding if we would only surrender to be one side or the other. And we need funding. But our contention is that we need each other more.

I just happened to be reading the ecclesial document Aetatis Novae ("Dawn of a New Era") the other day and stumbled over this relevant passage. This is, you know, a statement from, the, you know, Magisterium. It represents the, you know, authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. (But, as some of you will no doubt point out, it was not an ex cathedra statement, so maybe we can all just ignore it?)

#29. A pastoral plan for social communications should be designed...
d) To collaborate with ecumenical organizations and with other churchs and religious groups regarding ways of securing and guaranteeing access to the media by religion, and to collaborate in the more recently developed media especially in regard to the common use of satellites, data banks and cable networks.."


My own commitment to interdenominational collaboration has developed in a few epiphany moments that I couldn't ignore, rationalize or forget (which, I suppose is the definition of epiphany moment. Back to you, Department of Redundancy Department, back to you...).

The first came to me in my early twenties when I went through a John XXIII obsessive phase. I read a lot of books about him and every encyclical by him. One line from Journal of a Soul became part of my fabric. Relfecting on his amazing ability to prevail in ministerial assignments where many others had failed, John XXII noted, (paraphrasing here), "If I have had any success, it is because I have chosen to focus on what I have in common with people, as opposed to what divides us."

Secondly, among the many talks that I went to by Fr. Benedict Groeschel in my Daughter of St. Paul days, there was one of his "schticks" (and I say that with the utmost respect...you have to know Fr. Benedict...) which stuck out for me and stayed. He would be talking about the book Mysticism by the Anglican scholar Evelyn Underhill, and then say something like this:

"Make no mistake. You can say the WRONG prayer, to the WRONG God, in the RIGHT way, and be heard. And in the same way, you can say the RIGHT prayer, to the RIGHT God, in the WRONG way, and not be heard."

There was a visual epiphany moment too, of course. For a year or so in my twenties, I worked in Central Square in Cambridge, MA. I would make the two mile walk from my apartment through Harvard Square every day that it was warm enough to breathe outside. Whenever I would hit the crux gathering point of Harvard Square, I would make my way with a blend of fear and fascination past the hoards of very scary looking young people who would sit sullenly smoking and scowling by the T entrance. They would all be dressed in black with tatoos all over them and chains, and something that looked like challenging hatred flaring out their disgruntled eyes.

It struck me many times, then, that the line between good and evil was much less subtle than the corporate Catholic people I used to hang around with ever guessed. (Not that the young people were evil. But whatever it was in human society that had created them is evil.) There is a hopelessness and a darkness all around us, that makes a joke of the weird distinctions we followers of Jesus love to draw between ourselves. In the end, there is really only Jesus and not-Jesus. That is the dividing line.

The final epiphany has been in the wonderful non-Catholic Christians with whom I have had the honor of being partnered in the work we are doing. True, I have met many intolerant and suspicious Evangelicals who think I am, as a Catholic, part of "the problem." But I have also met many loving, unbelievably generous and thoughtful Evangelicals who reek of that mature calm and steadfastness which is always a hallmark of grace.

Particularly in the entertainment industry, I have found much more support for the moral teaching of the Catholic Church in Evangelical courts than in Catholic ones. (ahem...enough said?)

So, the point is, these are "interesting" times in which internecine warfare among the followers of Jesus must be avoided at all costs, lest in fighting each other we end up losing all effectiveness in the real test outside the walls of the Church.

Having said all that, I can also say without any inner-contradiction that I think the goal of ecumenism must ultimately be that they all may be us, because we have the fullness of truth, eh, saving stuff. But I don't believe in force feeding people delicacies.
Friday, May 16, 2003
ON BEING "SCANDALIZED"

#675
What Soft - Cherubic Creatures -
These Gentlewomen are -
One would as soon assault a Plush -
Or violate a star -

Such Dimity Convictions -
A Horror so refined
Of freckled Human Nature -
Of Deity - Ashamed -

It's such a common Glory -
A Fisherman's Degree -
Redemption - Brittle Lady -
Be so - ashamed of Thee -

Emily Dickinson
UNDERMINING OURSELVES

I admit it. I used to be a bit obsessive about Ayn Rand. It was in the first years of the Clinton presidency, and somebody pointed out to me how Clinton's class-warfare speeches had been ominously anticipated in Rand's novels. So, I read everything she ever wrote with eagerness.
As I went on, however, I would have to quell more and more the disquiet I felt over her militant atheism. I kept thinking I could separate out her political notions from her philosophical ones. And then, the facts of the tragic awfulness of her own personal life, as she strove to live out her selfishness, ended up making all the lofty ideals of her novels appear to me to be a sham.

Objectivism is really rotten through and through, and is incompatible with a Christian social thought. It is a dangerously seductive set of ideas that calls for and validates elitism and selfishness. When I was in the early stages of withdrawal from Randianism, I asked Catholic philosopher Ronda Chervin, for a "good Catholic response to Ayn Rand." She shot back, "All of Catholic teaching."

So, imagine my excessive disconcertedness yesterday, to read in Daily Variety that Crusader Entertainment has just purchased the rights to make a movie of Atlas Shrugged.

Crusader Entertainment is one of the film production entities recently set up by Christian billionaire Phil Anschutz. I have met with the principles there on several occasions, and they have stated to me their intent to produce films that would reflect a Christian wolrdview. So, okay, let's make a movie that will send thousands and thousands of people out to read Ayn Rand!

GOOD GRIEF!!!

I can't figure out if this is a sell out, or some kind of wishful thinking, like I used to have, that it would be possible to separate out the secularism of AYn Rand from her ideals for human development. It ain't. You can quote me.

But instead of me, why not quote Ayn Rand herself:

Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought.

And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: I.

The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man's consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence...Man's mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God... Man's standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith....The purpose of man's life...is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.

Here's more on the subject from her followers

DARE TO BREAK FREE OF THE MATRIX RELOADED

FADE IN

EXT - AN URBAN CINEPLEX - NIGHT

A MOVIEGOER (in the prime demographic, male 18-35) stumbles out of the theater door and into the street. He approaches a park bench where a WARNER BROS MARKETING EXECUTIVE wearing a black trenchcoat and dark sunglasses counts a large pile of money.

EXECUTIVE
Ah! You are wondering what you are doing here. You
are wondering if you are losing your mind.

MOVIEGOER
I need answers. I think...I think I may need a refund.

A Wells-Fargo cash truck careens around the corner and slams on its breaks just before hitting the two men. They yawn.

EXECUTIVE
Now, that is where you are wrong. There are no refunds.
For most, there will only be regrets. For others, there will
be palatial estates on the coast of Southern France.

MOVIEGOER
I don't understand. We've been waiting so long. We were all
so sure, that - that - this movie was THE ONE!

Executive resumes counting cash. He chuckles softly.

EXECUTIVE
And what makes you think it isn't the one?

MOVIEGOER
Because it was so - so - so LAME! There was no story. There was
no suspense. The whole first act was one long boring piece
of banal crap. There was nothing original here! The Matrix Reloaded
is a terrible movie!

The Executive rises from the park bench and carefully places the cash in a nearby briefcase.

EXECUTIVE
Only for those who have brains.

He opens the door of the Wells-Fargo truck.

EXECUTIVE
You have paid a price for your new knowledge. $10, I believe on Fandango.
It is a green pill that has now freed you from your illusion. The Matrix
Reloaded
is not what anyone thinks. Not a movie at all. It's A
movement. A momentum. A way of life. A marketing campaign!

The Executive climbs aboard the truck. The moviegoer falls to the ground his head in his hands.

MOVIEGOER
But what am I going to do? The rest of the summer...
What will my friends and I talk about?

EXECUTIVE
Now, you have a choice. Hang on, and then in a few more months,
we can offer you a chance at recovering your illusion. For another
$10. It's your decision, Moviegoer. Get a life. Get unplugged. Or
forget this entire conversation, and go back to your friends and pretend.
Which is it going to be, Moviegoer?

FADE OUT
Thursday, May 15, 2003
"DAUGHTER OF GOD, ON, ON, ON! I WILL HELP YOU, ON!" (God to Joan of Arc)

Great news! CBS has picked up the new show, Joan of Arcadia from recent Catholic convert Barbara Hall (Judging Amy). Barbara happens to be the sister of Karen "Disordered Affections" Hall who will be show-running Judging Amy this coming season. Joan of Arcadia will air on Friday nights at 8pm. Here is the logline from Mediaweek for the show:

JOAN OF ARCADIA
A typical family facing typical situations is thrown off balance when the teenage daughter (Amber Tamblyn) starts having sudden, and unexpected, conversations with God.


I am reminded of Jesus' promise, "Those who serve me on earth, my Father will honor." Joan died alone and in disgrace, but her purity of heart keeps earning her heavenly honor. Now, CBS joins in the chorus of the centuries.

Please keep the progress of this show, the producers, cast and crew in your prayers. And tell everyone you know to watch the show!

"The story of Joan of Arc is the most extraordinary story of Christian times: The most dazzling and the most secret...It seems to me that, first and above all, Joan was sent as a marvelous adieu of the Lord God to medieval Christendom on the point of ending.

In spite of the vestiges of barbarism it still carried, this Christendom was the highest summit of Christian civilization in human history. Let one think of the admirable faith of the whole Christian common people of that time, and even of the great of that world. Let one think of the immense work of reason - in the highest spheres of thought, and under the light of faith - accomplished by this time; of the intellectual and moral heritage which we owe to it; of its mystics, of its saints, of the builders of its cathedrals, of the idea of honor, of human dignity, of the service of the poor, which, however betrayed it may have been in practice, was nevertheless bequeathed to us....

God loved this medieval Christendom, and rejoiced at all the goodness and holiness there was in it. In the moment when it was about to perish, He made to it, an altogether extraordinary gift in the person of Joan - not as recompense (to whom would it have been directed?) but as sign, sign of love and of gratitude.

It was as if Heaven had made a gift to the earth of an incomparable icon of blue and of gold, in a screen studded with flowers of paradise moistened by the Precious Blood and the tears of the most Blessed Virgin." (Jacques Maritain, On the Church of Christ)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
"ONLY FOOLS ARE SCANDALIZED." (Mother Paula Cordero, fsp)

The much-esteemed and always compellingly lucid Amy Welborn has a very thoughtful consideration on her blog today about the problem of representing sin in entertainment. How do you realistically show bad choices -- the primordial stuff of drama -- without promoting those bad choices? She uses the example of the cable series Six Feet Under to illustrate her point.

"6FU features a homosexual character - one of the brothers who owns the funeral home, a guy named David. David started the show in the first seasons closeted and repressed and struggling - and much of his struggle came from his religious faith (an aspect of his character which has been dropped of late). Over the past two seasons, as he has come out, the show has showed him in a relationship - a difficult one, by the way.

Is the inclusion of this character a "promotion" of homosexuality?

I'm sorry, but I just can't get my head around that concept. If David were an angel - perhaps the only nice guy on the show who spends his days feeding the poor while everyone else hung out by the pool, or if his relationship was the only good one on the show...or if the portrayal of gay life were somehow sanitized...you might have a point. But it's not. David is still uptight, is actually far less sensitive to his client's needs than is his heterosexual brother, and always has the bottom line in mind - is perfectly willing to push the most expensive casket on the wall, while his brother worries about the cost to the family. David has been involved in aspects of gay life that are destructive and shallow and are portrayed as such. David's relationship is problematic, to say the least. Alan Ball, the creator of the series, who is a homosexual man, has no fear of playing with gay stereotypes or showing the diversity of gay life, even the negative aspects.In other words...as a character, David is three dimensional."


I have been wondering a lot lately whether this creative "problem" is purely a post-sexual revolution animal, or whether it has always been a problem for Christian artists.

Did the fellows who painted the rape of the damned on the walls of the Cathedral of Orvieto have a colloquium first about whether their images might end up salacious instead of salvific?

Did Dostoevsky worry about making his murderer too sympathetic, by telling Crime and Punishment largely from the murderer's point of view?

Was Hawthorne worried that by making Hester Prynne a strong and resolute woman, people might also think he was endorsing unwed motherhood?

My sense is, these artists did not worry over these things. They just decorated their world from whatever was inside of them.

It seems to me to be a particular burden we put on artists today to have to doubt themselves. Maybe they have been infected by the climate of their world, and if they ust start decorating, they might unconsciously be emitting more pollution?!? All the time they are trying to vent the creative impulse, they keep having to question themselves, "Is it good? Is it good? Is it good?" (And by "good" I don't mean technically. That's a given.) I find this tension in my Act One students and even more sometimes in the faculty, and I wish I could be sure that it doesn't get in the way of the storytelling. It seems to me more akin to fear than freedom.

I'll meet Amy's Flannery O'Connor reference, and ante up another one that seems applicable here.

"About scandalizing the 'little ones.' When I first began to write, I was worried about this thing of scandalizing people, as I fancied that what I wrote was highly inflammatory.

I was wrong - it wouldn't have even kept anybody awake, but anyway, thinking this was my problem, I talked to a priest about it. The first thing he said was, 'You don't have to write for fifteen year old girls.'

Of course, the mind of a fifteen year old girl lurks in many a head that is seventy-five, and people are everyday being scandalized not only by what is scandalous of its nature, but by what is not. If a novelist wrote a book about Abraham passing his wife Sarah off as his sister - which he did - and allowing her to be taken over by those who wanted her for lustful purposes - which he did to save his skin - how many Catholics would not be scandalized at Abraham's behavior?

The fact is, in order not to be scandalized, one has to have a WHOLE view of things. Which not many of us have...

I mortally and strongly defend the right of the artist to select a negative aspect of the world to portray. And as the world gets more materialistic, there will be much more such to select from."
(The Habit of Being)
Monday, May 12, 2003
HOLY WIND VS. WIND BAG

I guess this story is a few years old but it's great. I found mention of it on Touchstone's blog Mere Comments. You can find the whole story on the Catholic World News website here. Here's the good part.

That evening Pope John Paul II attended a much-publicized concert by-- among others-- the American folk-rock legend Bob Dylan. After Dylan's rendition of his most famous ballad, "Blowin' in the Wind," the Pope was ready with an answer. "How many roads must a man walk down?" the song's lyrics ask. "One!" the Holy Father replied. "There is only one way for man, and that is Christ, who said, 'I am the way.' It is he who is the way to truth, the way to life."

Continuing to pick up on Dylan's lyrics, the Pope continued: "The answer to the questions of your life is blowing in the wind; that's true. But this is not the wind that disperses everything into the nothingness; but the wind which breathes the voice of the Spirit, saying: 'Come!'
ALL ACT ONE, ALL THE TIME

Here is the transcript of an interview with Zena Dell Schroeder, the Associate Director of Act One, for Radio National of Australia. We get a lot of inquiries from Down Under and have been approached to do Act One-Sidney at some point. "Here I am, Mate. Send me."

Here's a good bite from the interview.

Q: If we’re talking in non-theological terms, about things like evil being punished, and virtue being rewarded, and sacrifice, the power of love, this kind of thing – isn’t that what a lot of big Hollywood films are already about?

Zena Schroeder: Sure, that’s true, except for in many of those films, what you have are [good values] being portrayed to an audience in a way that ends up violating them. So, for example, you might have a film that [has a good moral], but then it has a love scene in it, that frankly is violating to the audience. Or you have violence that – we’re not opposed to showing violence, but we have to show it in a different way, a way that doesn’t end up wounding the audience, or putting them in a worse spot. There are certain things we don’t need to see, that we can still allude to for the purpose of story. When we show sin, we don’t want it to be an occasion for sin for the audience....