Thursday, August 28, 2008

On Art and Healing the World

[NB FROM BARB: A friend sent me this and asked me to post it. I don't personallyhave any experience with this group but it sounds great to me.]

Subject: Artists on Call: A Diaspora of Hope

Greetings. At the risk of clogging your email, I wanted to ask for your
help in reaching artists, educators, social workers and even medical
personnel with an exciting project that is developing at BuildaBridge.

I am writing you because of your support for BuildaBridge's mission of
bringing hope and healing to the most vulnerable of our world's children in
the tough places of the world--through the arts.

I am asking you to forward the attached flyer to artists, and others who
understand the power of arts for transformation.

Most of you know that BuildaBridge has worked in many parts of the world
since 1997. We have learned much over the years and provided excellent
opportunities for arts-integrated service. Last month we returned from
Guatemala working with 200 children in a slum of Guatemala
( Our Arts for Peace camp was
a continuation of our partnership in the country that began last
Thanksgiving. During this time we refined our arts camp for kids based on a
theme, with a very defined class structure and ritual focused on dealing
with trauma, peace-making, and hope. It was excellent.

Over the past months we have received requests for similar arts camps for
kids from different parts of the world. So we thought: What could happen if
there was a diaspora of artists from all over the world bringing artistic
hope and healing in the tough places of the world.

Artists on Call: A Diaspora of Hope is such a project. In November, this
fall, we plan to lead teams of artists to Guatemala, Haiti and Kenya,
engaging as many as 50 artists in teams to these countries. Each country
has its own unique challenges, each country has many children who suffer
from trauma, a lack of education and adequate health care, and a lack of

While we are beginning with a call to send 50 artists this Thanksgiving, our
ultimate goal is to register 1000 artists world-wide who would give at least
a week of their lives to bring hope and healing through artistic creativity.
We have an excellent start with 150 artists already registered and 30
artists who have inquired within the past several days for Diaspora 2008.

Thank you for sharing this with artists and educators, social workers,
creative arts therapists, and medical personnel who you may know who
understand the effectiveness of arts-based service.


Dr. J. Nathan Corbitt, President
205 West Tulpehocken Street
Philadelphia, PA 19144
610-656-3499 (cell)

Enjoying Southern California

My friend Laura and I have been making our way up and down Southern California this week taking in the sights, the shows, and probably too much great food.

Under the category, "Southern CA is one of the most paradise-ish places on earth" are these photos of Laguna Beach.

Here's Laura about to propose we set out for a lovely lunch overlooking the ocean at the newly restored, famous Laguna Hotel. Excellent.

Then, we were on to the San Diego Zoo. We had wonderful good fortune as we got there at feeding time and got to see pretty much every animal. Sometimes they are hiding in their paddocks because of heat or sloth. But it was a cool day so the animals all seemed to be out in the open, playing and well, working out, zoo animal style.

And then there was the tiger laying right next to the glass...

Panda mommy nursing her baby panda!!! Top that National Zoo!

Yeah, I think maybe it's a rhinoceros butt. But it's hard to tell. In election years it is very hard to tell one ass from another in Southern CA.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Act One Story Conference News

----------------------------------FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE---------------------------------

MEDIA CONTACT: | (323) 464-0815

HOLLYWOOD | AUGUST 13. Bringing together the sharpest minds in Hollywood to talk about the nature of story wasn’t enough; Act One had to grab the sharpest mind in academia, too.

Boston College professor of philosophy Dr. Peter Kreeft, a prolific author and one of the foremost Catholic philosophers in the United States, has been confirmed as one of several keynote speakers at the Act One “Storytelling for the 21st Century” Conference this fall. Kreeft’s many books range in topic from philosophy overviews to imagined dialogs between Socrates and Jesus, and Act One is excited for what he brings to the Conference table.

Also confirmed as speakers:

- World renowned lecturer and University of Southern California film professor Bobette Buster.
- Television writer and producer Karen Hall, who’s credits include critically acclaimed shows “Judging Amy,” “Northern Exposure” and the final episode of “M*A*S*H”.
- Dean Batali, writer and producer of such hit shows as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “That ‘70s Show”.
- Screenwriter, Founder of Act One and Vice President of Creative Development at Origin Entertainment Barbara Nicolosi.
- Plus more to come!

“Many of us will have to wait a bit longer to sit at the feet of Socrates or Jesus, so for this conference we got the next best thing,” said Vicki Peterson, conference coordinator. “Our speakers are world-renowned for their expertise in stories, and their combined insight into art and contemporary culture is sure to engage.”

Act One’s Storytelling Conference will focus on high level discussions about the nature of story, its effects on the masses and just why people love stories in the first place. Each speaker will present a 20 minute lecture followed by a round table discussion that will challenge the audience to deepen their thinking about just what it means exactly to tell a story.

Whether you’re a writer working on a script, a pastor working on a sermon, or an executive looking for the next great story, Act One’s Storytelling Conference will help you hone your craft.

When: Oct. 17 and 18, 9am-5pm
Where: Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood CA
Cost: $125
To register, email

For more info, go to or check out our conference page on Facebook

Act One, Inc., is a nonprofit organization that has trained Christians of all denominations for careers in mainstream film and television for the past ten years. Stressing artistry, excellence, professionalism, and Christian spirituality, Act One prepares students to pursue careers marked by personal integrity and professional excellence, in writers rooms, on sets, and in studio and network offices. The end goal is not to produce explicitly religious entertainment, but movie and TV projects that respect and serve the global audience, combining mastery of craft with great depth and meaning. Over ten years, Act One has amassed a vast alumni network of writers, producers, directors and entertainment executives who are dedicated to producing excellent work for a global audience.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Not Much to Wine About

Bottle Shock, could do for Chardonnay what Sideways did for Pinot Noir. At least it will send wine Neanderthals like me surging out of the theater desperate to slake a strange new thirst for the Napa Valley golden wine that is the heart of this quirky little movie.

Bottle Shock won't get the attention that Sideways did, because it is not as outrageously crass as that prior movie, but it actually has a better and bigger story. I'm not sure that the film makers were completely aware of this fact, however, because they spend an awful lot of screen time diddling around with mostly draggy and often irrelevant character moments. But the movie for me was ultimately saved by the charming and "triumphy of the human spirit" story elements which are based on real events.

The movie relates the story of how the Napa Valley wine industry was born, taking the Valley's vineyards from the expensive hobby - almost fetish - of some California farmers and idealists to the triumphat introduction to the global wine stage that occurred when Nappa vineyards defeated the dominant French wine industry at a 1973 blind wine tasting held outside of Paris. There is a lot of time wasted in the film in broken family-father/son angst and interracial romance, and in scratching heads over the weirdness of the 1970's, but the movie manages to ascend these sidetracks to make for an enjoyable piece of entertainment that has something for the mind, something for the heart, and the sparkle of deep reds, golden whites and purple grape laden vineyards.

As with Sideways, I enjoyed everything in the movie about wine and winemaking. The whole wine thing in movies, seems to me to be a metaphor for the human nature thing. Our love and appreciation of something like wine demonstrates powerfully that men are not beasts, and that there is something called the beautiful that exerts a powerful draw on us.

Similar to a movie like The Perfect Storm, Bottle Shock is almost entirely about an arena and the people who inhabit it. Who are these people who slog away in the hot sun of Nappa, mortgaging everything they have to buy one more set of barrels all to get the most perfectly clear Chardonnay? The character stories the film makers manufactured here to satisfy the Hollywood formula of small world foreground story aren't particularly profound, but they work as part of the backdrop of the whole Valley life and culture.

Alan Rickman is perfect as the British wine snob who loves French wines, but loves wine itself more - which allows him to get past his disdain of the roughshod California ranchers to really experience the beauty and wonder of what they are bottling in Nappa. The other main draw of the film is the look and sweep of Nappa itself - the vines wrapping around gentle hillsides, the sun's rays finding a ripe purple clump of grapes, the lush perfection of a deep red vintage being poured into a glass. It's nice.

The theme of the movie is expressed by Bill Pullman who plays a struggling Nappa rancher, obsessed with developing the perfect Chardonnay. He says to his young intern (slight paraphrase) "We don't water the vineyards too much, because it makes the vines have to struggle. Vines that struggle produce a tough grape and then a full-bodied, complex wine." Very cool.

There is really nothing here people need to be afraid of - a quick out of wedlock tryst, and maybe one or two curse words - but both are appropriate in context.

Bottle Shock has a gentle, quirky aura. It's texture is alternately light and then surprisingly affecting. The aftertaste is pleasant and satisfying. You'll want to stock this one in your cellar.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Attention Authors and Writers...

[NOTE FROM BARB: My good friend Bobette Buster is one of the folks participating in this telesummit. She truly is one of the best in the business as a script analyst and writers coach. I don't know about the other folks. Sorry about the formatting. The file they sent me was problematic.]

The Writers Telesummit

What if you could be coached by 24 of the Best in the Business - All without leaving the comfort of your home?

Join us for an Amazing Virtual Writers' Conference!

Imagine spending a full hour with each of 24 world-class writing professionals. Each one dedicated to helping you write regularly, effectively and more profoundly. They want you to sell what you write and have your part in living the writing dream!


Thursday, September 4-Sunday September 7, 2008

24 great sessions. 6 one-hour sessions over four days conveniently scheduled to suit your needs whether you live on the East Coast, the West Coast or anywhere in between. (And if you live elsewhere in the world, all sessions are recorded!)


Right in the comfort of your own home or office!


The Writers Telesummit brings together an amazing team of knowledgeable, successful - and genuinely helpful - industry professionals. They will all be in one place, talking directly to you and taking your questions.

This is a not to be missed opportunity. Not only is our roster excellent, but our presenters will be focused on telling you what you need to know to really move your writing career forward. They'ss share the things they wished they had learned starting out. The keys. The very best tips.

Unlike an ordinary writers conference, with The Writers TeleSummit you don’t have to choose between sessions or choose a track. At a regular writers conference you get one or two keynote speakers and then you have to make choices. Here all of our 24 speakers are keynote speakers. You get to hear them all and learn from all of them as they present—and listen to them again at your leisure.

Acclaimed author and creativity coach, Eric Maisel, PhD., has arranged what may be the best writers conference ever put together, to be held as a teleconference and web streaming event from September 4 – September 7, 2008. As a creative person you really must check it out.

The Writers TeleSummit features 24 world-class professionals in the field. Accomplished authors, agents, publishers, all at your disposal for four days. The cost? Only $295, a fraction of the cost of any other kind of conference of this caliber.

All calls are professionally recorded and available for play back and download. Your registration includes audio downloads of all 24 keynote addresses for the entire four day conference. That's 24 hours of inspiring audio available as in MP3 format included in the low cost of registering. There is also an option for having CD's of all events sent to your door.

There are several great free gifts that are ours to keep when we register. We’ll get four lessons from Eric Maisel's popular Coaching Writers Training, lessons that you can’t get anywhere else. If you wanted them, you would have to pay more than the cost of The Writers Telesummit to join the training. You get them for free when you sign up. We'll also get three professional tips from each presenter, that's 72 tips to jump start our writing/creative careers before the conference even begins. And if we are in the first 50 people to register, we get a free copy of Eric Maisel's E Book "Sleep Thinking." It's an incredible value.

Our amazing presentations:

0. The Odyssey of the First Novel

. The Odyssey of the Memoir

0. Writing and Selling the Romance Novel

. Writing and Selling the Contemporary Novel

. Writing and Selling the Mystery Series

. Writing and Selling the Children’s Book

. Writing and Selling the Nonfiction Book

. Writing and Selling the Interview Book

. Writing and Selling the Self-Help Book

. Writing and Selling the Illustrated Book

. Writing and Selling the Travel Memoir

. Writing and Selling the Nature Book

. Writing for the Niche Market

. How to Turn Your Expertise into a Bestselling Book

. The Fundamentals of Screenwriting

. The Art of the Spiritual Book

. The Nonfiction Collaboration

. Literary Agent Basics

. Finding the Right Literary Agent

. What Editors Want

. How to Handle Rejection

. Book Publicity Basics

. Branding, Positioning, and Self-Promoting

Our amazing roster:

Rebecca York - our speaker on “Writing and Selling the Romance Novel”

. A New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-selling and award-winning author, Rebecca has written over 115 books. Since 1983, Rebecca has authored or co-authored 85 romances and romantic thrillers, for Berkley, Harlequin, Silhouette, Dell, Kensington and Tor, many with paranormal elements.

. Her KILLING MOON was a launch title for Berkley’s Sensation imprint in June 2003. Seven more books in the series have followed. Her next Intrigue is CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, October, 2008.

. Her many awards include two Rita finalist books. She has two Career Achievement awards from Romantic Times: for Series Romantic Suspense and for Series Romantic Mystery. Romantic Times recently honored her as a Pioneer of Romance.

Cindi Myers - our speaker on “Writing and Selling the Contemporary Novel”

0. Writing as Cynthia Sterling, Cindi wrote seven historical romances for Berkley and Kensington before turning to contemporary fiction.

. Cindi has published more than 30 romances and women’s fiction titles, among them MY BACKWARDS LIFE, LEARNING CURVES, THE RIGHT MR. WRONG, and A SOLDIER COMES HOME.

. Almost half a million copies of Cindi’s books have been published around the world. Her books have been translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, German, Dutch, Korean, Japanese, and Greek.

Camille Minichino - our speaker on “Writing and Selling the Mystery Series”

. Bestselling author of the periodic table mystery series, whose titles include THE OXYGEN MURDER, THE LITHIUM MURDER, THE CARBON MURDER and THE NITROGEN MURDER.

. Camille also created a second mystery series based on her lifelong love of miniatures. Writing as Margaret Grace, her titles in this series include MURDER IN MINIATURE and MAYHEM IN MINIATURE.

. Has a Ph.D. in physics from Fordham University, is on the staff of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has written wildly popular articles like “Experimental Very High Pressure Equation of State and Thermophysical Properties of Liquid Ta and W” and “Thermophysical Properties of Liquid Tantalum and Molybdenum” and further demonstrated her range by penning MEMOIR: THE BOSTON BRAVES.

Sheree Fitch - our speaker on “Writing and Selling the Children’s Book”

. Sheree is a multi award-winning writer, speaker, and educator and the author of twenty-three books in a variety of genres. Since the publication of her first book, TOES IN MY NOSE (Doubleday 1987), she’s traveled the globe as a visiting author, writing instructor, and literacy educator.

. Sheree is one of Canada’s best-known and best-loved children’s book authors. Her books for children include THERE’S A MOUSE IN MY HOUSE!, IF I COULD WEAR MY SNEAKERS, NO TWO SNOWFLAKES, THE HULLABALOO BUGAGABOO DAY and many others

. Sheree received the Vicky Metcalf Award for a body of work inspirational to Canadian children and two honorary doctorates for her contribution to Canadian literature and issues affecting women and children.

Ed Hooks - our speaker on “Writing for the Niche Market”

0. Ed has been a theatre professional for three decades and teaches acting to both animators and actors. His books include THE ACTOR’S FIELD GUIDE, ACTING STRATEGIES FOR THE CYBER AGE, THE ULTIMATE SCENE AND MONOLOGUE SOURCEBOOK, and ACTING FOR ANIMATORS.

. Ed has taught for many companies, including Disney Feature Animation (Burbank, Orlando and Sydney, Australia), Ubisoft, Blue Sky, DreamWorks/PDI, Lucas Learning, Animal Logic, Rising Sun Pictures, Microsoft (X-Box/Fasa Studios), Big Idea, Scanline Productions (Munich Germany) and Crystal Dynamics and twice instructed at The Ringling School of Art and Design (Sarasota, Florida).

. Last year Ed taught in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ed’s newest book is ACTING IN ANIMATION: A LOOK AT 12 FILMS.

Cathleen Rountree - our speaker on “Writing and Selling the Interview Book”

. Author of the bestselling interview series ON WOMEN TURNING 30, ON WOMEN TURNING 40, ON WOMEN TURNING 50, ON WOMEN TURNING 60, and ON WOMEN TURNING 70

. An entertainment critic, film critic and movie lover who wrote THE MOVIE LOVER’S CLUB and who writes for Documentary Magazine, Film Arts Magazine, GreenCine, and many other publications

. Cathleen is also the author of THE WRITER’S MENTOR: A GUIDE TO PUTTING PASSION ON PAGE, a book for – and beloved by – writers.

Jennifer Louden - our speaker on “Writing and Selling the Self-Help Book”

. Created the internationally known and bestselling Comfort Queen line of books, including THE WOMAN’S COMFORT BOOK, THE COUPLE’S COMFORT BOOK, THE PREGNANT WOMAN’S COMFORT BOOK, and COMFORT SECRETS FOR BUSY WOMEN

. Prolific author whose other books include THE LIFE ORGANIZER: A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO A MINDFUL YEAR and whose articles appear regularly in Body + Soul Magazine

. An in-demand speaker and a leading spokeswoman for women’s well-being, she has appeared on the Oprah Show, Later Today, MS-NBC, Fit TV, and more than a hundred local news shows in most major markets.

Bobette Buster - our speaker on “The Fundamentals of Screenwriting: Finding the Story in Your Script”

0. A world-renowned lecturer on “What’s the Big Idea? The Art and Craft of Feature Film Development,” a course which she created as an Adj. Professor at the University of Southern California’s Peter Stark Producing Program, while working as a Hollywood creative film executive with Tony Scott, Larry Gelbart and Ray Stark.

. An in-demand worldwide workshop leader and lecturer who for the past dozen years had been visiting faculty at the University of Milan, La Femis in Paris and the Media Business School in Rhonda, Spain, as well as the creator of the Origination Lab for Screen Training Ireland, guest lecturer at Pixar Studios, advisor at the Sundance Lab for Latin American Writers and speaker and advisor to film programs in Mexico, Cuba, Germany, The Czech Republic, Italy, Denmark, Norway and Japan.

. During each of the past ten years, one of the Top Ten Box Office films has been from a student of Bobette’s. Her students are now major Industry players, writers/directors, executives and producers and have been nominated for or won the top awards in Europe and Hollywood, including the Emmys and Oscars.

Janet Rosen - our speaker on “Literary Agent Basics”

. Janet is a senior agent at the prestigious Sheree Bykofsky Associates Literary Agency, where she represents a wide range of nonfiction.

. Former president of the NYC chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, former associate book editor at Glamour Magazine, and – hold on to your hats – stand-up comedienne, appearing at some of NYC’s better and seedier clubs.

. Specializes in the areas of business, health and fitness, humor, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, psychology, religion and spirituality, self-help, dating and relationships, and current affairs.

Roccie Hill - our speaker on “The Odyssey of the First Novel”

. Roccie has worked as the executive director of several non-profits, among them Earthshare of California, The Housing Trust of Santa Clara, and The Leakey Foundation. She is currently the executive director of Guide Dogs of the Desert.

. Her first published novel, THREE MINUTES ON LOVE, ran the gauntlet of over 100 rejections before finding its home at The Permanent Press and its publication October, 2008.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hollywood Catholic Underground Aug. 16

Catholic Underground ©, a.k.a. CU, is a cultural apostolate of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal - It is a direct response to a call that began with Pope John Paul II, and is continued by Pope Benedict XVI. JPII said that because the Gospel lives in conversation with culture, we must be fearless in crossing the cultural threshold of the communication and information revolution now taking place.

The first part of the evening is Eucharistic adoration, and begins with Vespers (Evening Prayer). This is the universal prayer of the Church - prayed by the Catholics throughout the world in every time zone and in every language. After Vespers, there is a time of simple praise. This provides a window for each person to personally encounter Jesus Christ. The beauty of the darkened Church illumined by candles helps us enter the mystery of our Lord's presence in the Eucharist. The holy hour ends with solemn Benediction.

The second part of every evening showcases Catholic artists. Here we experience the “new evangelization”. The Underground includes music, poetry, visual art, dancers, film, drama, etc.

AUGUST 16 - Singer-songwriters Judd and Maggie will be performing. Visit their website at

Hope you can make it!

Catholic Underground - Los Angeles
The Intersection of Catholicism and Culture
Third Saturday of the Month
8:00pm - 10:00pm
St. Victor's Catholic Church
8364 Holloway Drive
West Hollywood, CA

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Season at my Favorite Theater Company

Actors Co-op Season Tickets Now Available!

The membership of Actors Co-op invites you to join us for a season of theatre that transports your mind and transforms your spirit. The coming 2008-2009 season includes :

  • the powerful and challenging drama The Elephant Man
  • the side-splitting comedy Leading Ladies
  • a world-premiere musical Makin’ Hay
  • and the classic drama “The Crucible.”

Shows start in September. For more information, please go to our website or call (323) 462-8460.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Barb in Glimpses

I did an interview recently with Heather Goodman for her weekly eZine "Glimpses." The eZine is for Christians who are artists or who care about arts and culture and I recommend checking it out and possibly subscribing. I'm going to put the whole interview here because there isn't a place you can link to it on line.

In Her Story
interview with Barbara Nicolosi: art for the masses

Barbara Nicolosi is a screenwriter, founding director of and teacher at Act One, and co-author of Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture, and that's only the beginning of her C.V.

I first heard Barbara speak at the symposium, Transforming Culture: A Vision for the Church and the Arts. She had us laughing so hard, we threw our heads back and snorted. She understands the artist, and yet she doesn't excuse the artist. She speaks what she thinks. More than that, she lives what she thinks.

HG: Tell us about your move from a nunnery to Hollywood (couldn't help myself--it's Shakespeare in the Park season). What was the catalyst for this?

BN: Everybody always wants to know why I left the convent. I think it is a much more interesting question why anyone in this day and age would go into a convent. But since you asked...

For nine years in my twenties, I was a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, which is a women's religious community dedicated to evangelization with the media. We published books and ran bookstores, and were supposed to be engaged in using all the modern means to spread the Gospel. Unfortunately, the community had actually retreated into serving just the very limited constituency of Catholics who go into Catholic bookstores. There wasn't any real interest in the community in what I thought was the most compelling part of our constitutions, which was the mandate to master the most powerful means of communication - movies, television, radio, music - as vehicles for the Good News. We also had a mandate to provide formation for media professionals, but none of the folks with any clout in the community seemed to want to take that on either. So, I found myself categorized as a bit of a rebel in the convent, just because I wanted to do what I thought I would be doing when I joined the community. I was always either bored unpacking books in the centers, or kicking against the goad, to borrow from St. Paul, by trying new things and getting in trouble under the heading, "Who do you think you are?"

I left the community with many friends, and I still feel a great affection for many of my former sisters. When I think of them I always feel a wave of sadness though because the world really needs from them what they were supposed to give. But, personally, I wasn't a patient enough person to let thirty years of my life pass in frustration.

HG: It seems that often, we're facing frustrations no matter what field we're in. Too many of us, though, don't do anything about it...

How did Act One get started?

BN: My first job in Hollywood was as a creative executive at a production company. I spent my days and nights reading scripts, books and articles trying to find project ideas for our company. Because our company was run by a prominent Christian, we got a look at lots of scripts from believers, and pretty much all of them were terrible. By terrible, I mean they were unprofessional in their format, and had very little understanding of the possibilities of the screen art form. They tended to be completely preachy, lacking in dramatic tension, and frankly, lame.

I had come to Hollywood thinking that Christians were being persecuted here. I realized very quickly that we were committing suicide. So, a group of other Christians and I got together under the banner of Inter-Mission, which was an Evangelical ministry to Hollywood, and we concocted a rigorous program that would combat the four principle problems that we saw in the efforts of Christians as they started out in the business. Act One with its keynotes of professionalism, artistry, ethics and spirituality was the result.

HG: What is your vision for Christians in Hollywood?

BN: Hollywood matters because it is the global center for art, entertainment and storytelling. Art is the way that human beings respond to the cosmos. Every generation is supposed to put something beautiful out there as an expression of gratitude and love, for future generations to brood over and in which to take delight. Storytelling is the way human beings learn. It is the way we define our values. It gives us heroes and noble dreams. Entertainment is the way we stretch ourselves beyond the limits of our work a day world to experience the depth of our human nature. Our entertainment should lead us to laugh hard and to cry with empathy and to feel exhilaration and wonder.

It makes no sense at all that Christians would be missing from this unbelievably influential and urgent landscape. We have something to say that would be sorely missing in Hollywood were we not here. Namely, we bring a note of hope. We also bring a mandate of concern for the needs of the audience. And we bring the glory and creative energy of the Holy Spirit.

My vision for Christians in Hollywood is basically that we be here. That we be here as artists and professionals of integrity and probity and nobility and skill. And that we are here as presences of prayer and charity in the heart of every studio lot, office, set and writers room.

HG: How can non-filmmakers support this vision for Christians in Hollywood?

BN: Act One has been extremely successful at identifying, mentoring and launching hundreds of Christians into the business. What we haven't been successful at, is convincing the broader Christian community how vital it is for us to be here training, mentoring, exhorting and challenging. We are a shoe-string non-profit that struggles every month to meet the salaries for our grossly underpaid but wonderfully dedicated staff. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Christians outside of the industry need to see organizations like Act One as missionary efforts that need their financial and prayer support. We are here on the front lines, trying to make the future for your kids better in terms of movies, television, video games and the Internet. People can donate to us through our web site at, and that would be a huge thing people can do to make a difference.

The other thing that needs to happen is prayer. We need Christians to be praying fervently for a new generation of faith-filled artists and professionals to come to Hollywood to be writers, directors, actors, executives, agents, publicists - everything. There will be no substitute for having Christians on the ground here, befriending people and changing hearts one at a time. We have to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send many laborers into Warner Bros, Paramount, Dreamworks, Sony, ICM, CAA, etc.

HG: How can Christians get beyond curse word counting and overtly pious themes to determine if the message of a movie is Christian or not?

Christians need to view movies and television with a sense of context. That is, when considering a movie or television show, the questions need to be who is this show for, and what here is true? And then, what is there in this show that is a sign of the times that I can use as a means to talk to people about the Gospel? Too many Christians are not even reading the signs of the times. We are so engaged in ducking and running, and wishing we lived back in the 1830s. No, this is our time. This moment with its post-modern confusion, with its 24 hour chattering news cycle, its post-Sexual Revolution cynicism and vulgarity, and with the incipient sloth which is the ultimate gift of all our modern conveniences.

Christians need to grow up and understand that this is a very dark world which is locked in a high stakes struggle. What I mean by that is, we have people on one side thinking homosexuals can make a marriage, and scientists over there are experimenting on baby humans, and folks over there are wanting to euthanize grandma. This is not a moment in which a Precious Moments style message and apostolic approach is going to help anything. Christians should be the ultimate realists who are not shocked by the ravages of sin. An old nun once said to me, "Only fools are scandalized." The Scriptures say that Jesus knew what was in the heart of man, and so must we if we are going to tell stories that will lead people to compunction, and then grace.

Monday, August 04, 2008

We interrupt this pop-culture blog... save the elderly and chronically ill from the State of California.

Good grief, I hate to be right sometimes, but I saw this coming two years ago when the Chinese doctor on ER euthanized her father as a Christmas present.

Don't you love the rhetoric of this latest way to kill people? "Terminal sedation." Doesn't it just take you back to killing unborn babies as "dilation and extraction"?

Please pray.


Dear Friends,

Our faith and the church itself are being gravely challenged at this moment. Bill AB 747 on terminal sedation is anticipated to pass the Senate in August and be sent back to the Assembly where it was narrowly passed last month.

The bill will mandate a physician to offer terminal sedation to all patients a doctor believes has a terminal illness; this can be anything from cancer to diabetes. It requires the doctor to tell a patient they can be sedated till unconsciousness and then starved to death. It will lead to euthanasia and place in jeopardy many souls who might select this treatment out of fright when told they may have a life threatening illness, even if it can be treated.

It will jeopardize all Catholic hospitals as they may be mandated in the future to provide such care. From a moral stand point it may mean the closure and loss of the Catholic presence in our community and across the nation. This is what they want.

I urge you to call, write, and do all you can to convince (especially Democratic Assemblymen) to vote no on this bill. We need only to change 4 votes. Thanks.


Dr. Vincent Fortanasce


Apparently this story goes back to late June, and the Catholic Bishops managed to rally a coalition of care providers to stop the bill. Here is a message from the CA Bishops web site:

AB 2747 - A Legislative Victory

Late on Wednesday, June 25, Assemblywoman Patty Berg (D-Eureka), the author of AB 2747 , End of Life Care, was forced to take the amendments which removed the language creating a platform for the legalization of assisted suicide. She accepted the amendments—which had been requested since the introduction of the bill in February—in order to secure the votes needed for her bill to pass the Senate Health Committee. On the following morning, the amended version cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee—only after the author accepted a number of other suggested technical amendments. The Judiciary Committee chair, Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), who may have been opposed to the bill in its original form, was the deciding vote which she cast with the caveat that "a lot of work still needs to be done on this bill."

The author's capitulation occurred because of the outstanding work of the lobbyists and physicians of the Northern California Oncologists' Association (ANCO), the representatives from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)—as well as the advocacy of the many dedicated members of Californians Against Assisted Suicide , and the emails sent to Senators by the subscribers of the Catholic Legislative Network . If you participated in this effort—a heartfelt thanks to you!

The amendments in the revised bill included:

* Expansion and clarification of the definition of "healthcare provider"
* Removal of the definition of palliative sedation
* Removal of the definition of Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking (VSED)
* Removal of the "one year or less to live" trigger for discussion of end-of-life "care" options
* Removal of palliative sedation and VSED from the menu of end-of-life "care" options
* Recasting of the section requiring the transfer of a patient requesting a treatment his/her healthcare provider declined to offer—to allowing a transfer only when the healthcare provider did not comply with the patient's request for information on end-of-life care options.

The last amendment listed above disabled the author's intent to funnel patients to Compassion & Choices (formerly Hemlock Society) and satisfied the oncologists—who already provide information early and often to their patients.

This "event" was an important win for us. The amendments the author accepted now make the bill a hospice/information bill only—not a stealth bill setting up a mechanism for hastened death. We remain committed to quality end-of-life care including ensuring that patients are aware of the benefits of hospice and the availability of adequate palliative care and pain medication. We will continue to work with others to secure that reality.

Thank God for this victory, and thanks to Bill Cork for the update. But we have to know it is only temporary. As soon as the Culture of Death figures out how to make killing the elderly profitable, they will be back with a whole new rhetoric of choice and how to control your dying. I am sure their are lot so fpeople now who are regarding the whole grey-haired baby-boomer generation with capitlistic glee - how to make $$$ by sending to their graves the generation that sent millions of unborn babies to theirs. Ah, the delicious irony of history.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Brideshead Eviscerated

How dare they.

No, I mean really, how DARE they?! Imagine if someone did a new adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird and it ended up savagely racist? That's what they've done here. A profoundly Catholic novel, in this "adaptation", Brideshead Revisited is viciously anti-Catholic. They turned a movie about God and the soul, into a lurid love triangle between a homosexual, his sister and a hapless hunk. It's lame. It's bad.

I will have much more to say about why I think this happened, and what the failings of the movie are even setting aside it's gutting of its source material's core themes. But I wanted to put this out there fast now, so that faithful fans of the novel like me who might be planning on spending $12.00 a piece to see the movie this weekend, should stay home. The filmmakers here have done a hatchet job on this book and their effort deserves outrage and not any kind of box-office rewards.

I'm going to Mass to pray for them.


Okay, I'm back now and want to flesh out my initial warning off of Julian Jarrold's new adaptation of Brideshead Revisited

Where to start? Hmmmm.... How about here.

(from the London Telegraph, 7/19/2008)

But now a new film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited will out Sebastian Flyte as a homosexual and even feature a gay kiss between him and Charles.

In one controversial scene in the new £10 million film, which has its world premiere in New York on Tuesday, a love struck Sebastian attempts to kiss Charles on the mouth before his amorous advances are resisted.

The scene has been welcomed by some gay rights campaigners who have already dubbed the film “the most overtly” gay Brideshead ever...

Andrew Davies, the Bafta winning dramatist who co-wrote the film’s script said: “I think it will probably upset the purists.

“But one thing we wanted to make clear was that Sebastian was gay and that Charles although terribly fond of him is heading in another direction sexually."

... The film’s director, Julian Jarrold however admitted that things weren’t so clear cut in the book.

“There is a level of ambiguity in the relationship between Charles and Sebastian in the book. Sebastian needs and wants Charles but it is veiled...

"Veiled?" Only if you are an idiot, or willfully imposing an agenda on the text. The nature of the relationship between Charles and Sebastian is quite thoroughly discussed in the book. And Sebastian is repeatedly set off from the group Evelyn Waugh dubs "the sodomites" who are led by Antony Blanche - who in the book is THE homosexual in the story AND whose role in the story is to articulate the point-of-view of well, Satan. The key discussion of the relationship between Charles and Sebastian comes through the analysis of the Italian mistress, Kara. She speaks of "these romantic male friendships that you British have," which occur in youth and are a precursor for adult love. Her warning about the relationship has to do with the fact that chumming around getting sloshed and being feckless with your buddies is something children do, and that growing up will mean letting the idyllic, wistful summers of childhood go. And she thinks Sebastian is going to struggle to accept adulthood.

AND THIS is what Brideshead Revisited is about. The invitation of grace to "grow-up" and assume responsibility for our lives (which invitation, Dostoevsky refers to in his Brothers Karamazov in his words (paraphrase) "The greatest temptation to human nature is to give over one's responsibility for one's own life.") Sebastian isn't a drunk because he wants to be gay and the Church has filled him with guilt about it. He is drunk because he doesn't want to accept the limits and urgency and intensity of adult Christianity.

Good grief!

The ethical question that is here to be discussed is this: In adapting someone else's work, do you owe any fealty at all to the original author's intentions? Would it be a problem, for example, to do a Christian Mein Kempf, you know, and actually make it a lovely, inspirational piece about the power of the human spirit? Do I, as a writer, have a right to take something that has come out of someone else's brain and heart, and using it's name for notoriety and marketing, gut out its heart?

Obviously, it is one thing to violate source material because you are too stupid to understand the heart that you are gutting. This diminishes moral culpability, although it seems to me you could still end up in hell for having the hubris not to step aside when a task is so far above your skills and experience. (I would call this obama-ishness.) It is quite another problem morally, to hate the heart you are about to gut, and then willfully subvert it.

In the case of this new version of Brideshead both of the above are coming into play to render the project a mess. The task was above the intelligence, insight and skills of the adapters, AND they hate what the book is really about: "that Catholic thing."

I could cite probably twenty examples of the film's anti-Catholicism. But let me just use one of the most egregious. In the book, the Flyte family basically opposes Julia's engagement to Rex. In fact, the catchesis of the moral pygmy Rex Motram, who as a purely materialist capitalist is in Julia's words, "half a man", takes up the whole mid-point of the book. The family is seriously worried about Rex's lack of "spiritual curiosity," but Lady Marchmain respects her daughter's freedom too much to interfere in her daughter's marriage. Then, when it is discovered that Rex had been previously married and divorced, the Flyte family vigorously opposes the marriage and eventually Julia is cut off for leaving her faith to marry a divorced man.

In the movie, when Charles asks Julia why she married Rex she basically says that her mother forced her to do it because Rex was a rich Catholic.

Ya see what I mean?

I have to be frank and say that it is difficult for me to analyze the aesthetic flaws in this new movie. I was so distracted during the screening by the way that every scene in the movie had the settings from the book, but with a twisted heart, that I had to force myself to focus on the movie as movie. After the first fifteen minutes when it was clear that Jarrold and writer Davies were going to tell a completely different story than what was in Waugh's novel, I started saying to myself, "Okay, ignore what you know from the book and just see what they are doing here."

But it was nearly a futile enterprise. I really know and am in awe of this book much too much to completely separate myself. So, I did bring a friend of mine who is an astute and highly sought after Hollywood script doctor. She hadn't read the novel, and I wanted her there to help me just look at the movie for itself. And she said, 'I would not ever revisit this Brideshead."

My friend's main notes had to do with the utter lack of sympathy with which all of the characters in the film were drawn. The audience is supposed to believe that Charles Ryder has fallen in love with the Flytes. (In the book, evil Antony warns Charles to be careful of the Flyte "charm" - which for Waugh is a code word for the sacramental sensibility of "matter is good and delightful" and also "frank seeing life in the face and naming it truthfully" which is predicable of the Flytes who are Roman Catholics, albeit tortured ones.) In the movie, the Flytes have no charm at all. Sebastian is flamingly effeminate, narcissistic and contradictory. Julia is reduced here to just a babe, and a mean one. Cordelia has only two or three lines in the movie. Bridey is a blinking-eyed, officious idiot. And Lady Marchmain is a one-note, bitter fundamentalist who is intent on destroying her children's lives by saving their souls, and then wonders in her last days, "Why do they hate me?"

There is no "charm" in any of the characters. It's been stripped right out in the filmmakers' efforts to unmask the Flytes as victims of the ravaging effects of religious dogmatism and specifically Catholicism. For a Catholic not to be offended by this piece is inscrutable. "Do you not have eyes to see?"

It's not an accident that the movie is hostile to the Church. Here are a few choice quips from the screenwriter, Andrew Davies:

I must confess that as a vicar's son, I am only too familiar with the sinuous arguments that inflict themselves on adolescent Christians...

On the one hand, you have Charles, the outsider, desperately cramming on the laws and customs of these privileged peacocks, in the vain hope of acceptance. On the other, you have Sebastian and Julia, experts in the intricacies of their own caste systems, choking on their own religious guilt.

It gets so bad that you want to scream at them to run and never look back.

With this in mind, the role of Charles Ryder leapt out at me. Here is a young man on a thoroughly modern journey of self-discovery that embraces tolerance of the spiritual with a more contemporary, individualistic search for meaning in this life.

...Contrary to some reports, God is not the villain of our adaptation. The villain is man-made theology; the emotional and moral contortions forced on to individuals by their adherence to a particular set of codes and practices. Inevitably, as in Waugh's novel, the film debates the merits and demerits of such belief systems in people's lives.

As for the sex, I've always believed there's a visceral relationship between a yearning for spiritual bliss and sexual ecstasy. Look no further than Bernini's The Ecstasy of St Teresa. Like laughing and crying, sex and religion are twins. The film will not shy away from that. (More of the interview here)

Here's the writer further revealing his anti-Christian bias in press for his earlier film, the highly panned, anti-Christian hit piece Driving Lessons:

"My [vicar] father was an intelligent and articulate advocate for old-fashioned notions of kindness and liberalism, but in the end I just did not feel that loving him was a justification for believing in a whole theocratic system. Religion in certain circles has become increasingly exclusive and aggressive. Fundamentalist attitudes pervade, and that, in its most extreme form, means you can kill anybody you want to because they’re an unbeliever." (Jeremy Brock interviewed by Sheila Johnson in the [London] Telegraph.)

At a Sept. 2006 Los Angeles screening, Jeremy Brock explained that "if you do the Evangelical thing to that extent, you’ll invite chaos."

The guys a fire-breathing Christian-hater. What a shock that his Brideshead gets us so wrong. The only question is, why would producers choose a writer who so completely despises the core themes of the source material to adapt them for the screen?

I dunno. I think it is probably more evidence for Satanic interference in human affairs. Just doesn't make any sense from any purely human reasoning standpoint.

Another objection to the piece is how desperately clunky it is. Especially the dialogue. And this is particularly egregious because the dialogue in the source material by Waugh is so fabulously elegant. Why would you depart from it? As a screenwriter, I would consider the dialogue in Brideshead as an embarrassment of riches. Writer Davies refusal to use Waugh's words in scene after scene is also revealing of his ideological agenda. He can't use Waugh's dialogue, can he? Because he doesn't agree with what Waugh wants to say. So, in scene after scene he substitutes his own on the nose, agenda-driven hackiness, without the subtlety, magic and layeredness that makes Waugh's work so wonderful.

Also terribly clunky is the structure. Starts at the middle. Moves to the end. Juts back to the beginning and then skips through time madly trying to fit in set pieces. It had clearly been edited to death trying to create some kind of pacing, but alas. No suspense. Barely coherent story.

Just bleckkkkkkk. Bad, bad job, screenwriter. Offensively, bad.

Ooops. Gotta run. Will continue this later.....