Monday, January 30, 2006

See Barb in Chicago!

The Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Media Apostolate, presents,

Signs of Hope from Hollywood


Barbara Nicolosi, M.A.
Executive Director, Act One, Inc.

Wednesday – February, 8, 2006, 7:00pm
Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary

Topics to be covered include:

- Post-Sexual Revolution Hollywood and the search for spirituality going on in the entertainment industry
- Hollywood after The Passion of the Christ
- Thoughts on Narnia, Brokeback Mountain, Book of Daniel and The Da Vinci Code
- What to do if your college student wants to work in Hollywood!

BARBARA NICOLOSI is founder and Executive Director of ACT ONE, INC., an interdenominational training program preparing Christians for professional careers in mainstream film and television. Barbara has an MA in Film from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. She has been a Hollywood director of development, a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a consultant on many film and television projects. She wrote The Work, a full-length feature set during the Spanish Civil War, for IMMI Pictures of Beverly Hills. Her feature screenplay Select Society is being developed by Reel Life Women Productions, Bel Air. Barbara recently co-edited the book Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture from Baker Books.

Directions: Archbishop Quigley is located just one block west of the John Hancock Building and Water Tower Place, right next to Loyola University's Water Tower Campus. Archbishop Quigley is accessible by the CTA subway train (Howard/95th Street line - "Chicago" stop), CTA bus routes, and the METRA suburban train network

RSVP to:

Monday, January 23, 2006

What they're saying about...Act One Screenwriting Weekends

I admit it. I search regularly to find out who is writing about Act One. Someone told me once this is called ego-surfing. I call it just another way to keep from writing.

Anyway, I'm glad I was at it today because I found a really nice review of our recent Screenwriting Weekend in Fort Lauderdale. Go here to read all about how these weekends unfold, and what one writer's experience was. It means a lot that somebody with no connection to us would write such a nice endorsement.

And then, recall that the next Act One Screenwriting Weekend happens in Vegas Feb. 3-4. It will feature humble moi, and Jan "the Maven" Batchler along with our alumn weekend coordinator, writer Lauri Deason. Go here to register for Vegas.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Calling All Act One Bloggers!

I am, as I keep telling you, on a blogging hiatus. [ahem] As I keep telling you.

However, lots of Act Oners are out there in blogdom, spreading the gospel of artistry, professionalism, substance and spirituality. I have created a set of links on the right of the Act Oners of whom I am aware who are blogging.

If you know of others, or if you are an Act Oner with a blog, do let me know so I can put up a link.

[Note the largesse that I link to Sean and Jan, even though they both blogged about how much they liked Jackson's King Kong.

We are not without tolerance....

More Munich

Here is an answer I posted in the comments for the Munich review I did below under the heading "Fleeting Thoughts." I want to be clear that I am endorsing the film Munich for its craft, again, in the way that John Paul II said, 'We owe secular artists appreciation for showing us what the world without God looks like." Here's my answer to Clayton's thoughtful objection...


Clayton -

I think that art - in the broadest sense - is anything made that has an element of gratuitousness to it. To be art something has to be "decoration" in the sense of not being useful for anything else -- that is, useful in itself.

Then, however, there is good art and bad art. There are two senses of this: good as technical proficiency and good as moral quality proceeding from the totality of the project - matter plus form, if you will.

Beauty is the harmoniuous arrangement of elements.

I would say that Munish is a very good film on a technical level. It uses all of its elements to work together to produce an effect - to drive into the viewer an impression. This is high art.

On the other hand, the heart of the project, as you noted, is nihilistic. Nihilism is a lie. Therefore, the theme of the project disrupts the ultimate harmony of the whole.

Hence, Munich is a well-crafted but not a beautiful film.

Does that help?


I was talking to my friend and writing partner, Ben Fitzgerald (co-writer, The Passion of the Christ) about Munich, and he made am insightful comment, "Looking at the current state of the world, if you have Jesus in your heart, you make, The Passion of the Christ. If you do not have Jesus, you make Munich."

I quite agree.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Brokeback Molehill

Big deal.

It's kind of boring. Nothing much happens. Just a lot of horseback riding and cold cowboys supposedly bonding over cans of beans and shuffling around staring off-screen. I didn't ever get emotionally engaged. I don't even know what it was about really.

Ang Lee has done much better. The Ice Storm is a masterwork by comparison. At least in that film he created some cool visual imagery to heighten and echo the themes of the piece. In Brokeback, there doesn't seem to be a theme. It's as if the film is trying so hard to not make a statement that - what a surprise! - it ends up not saying anything at all.

Seriously, I really can't say what the film is about. Maybe something like, "Love happens when it happens and woe to you if you fall in love with someone you can't be with." Which really isn't any kind of good movie theme - not being universal -- and also being so obvious that we hardly need a movie to get us all on board with it. (A good movie theme is something that can be argued.)

In the end, I didn't feel like Brokeback was advocating homosexuality as a lifestyle. The sodomy episodes at the center of the film were rough and somewhat icky. There was definitely no attempt to make people who suffer from same-sex attraction look like better human beings than people with normal sexual appetites. Ennis and Jack come off as being shiftless, self-serving and dull-witted, without any of the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" witty superficiality. I can see why some of the homosexual sub-cultures are grumbling against the film. It suggests that both the central characters are open to same-sex attraction because their father-figures were either absent or jackasses. You can't help feeling like homosexual men don't choose to be so, but become so because of abuse or neglect.

If there was anything propagandistic about the film, it was the way in which every straight male character in the film was a total jack-ass. But again, this just goes to the idea that same-sex attraction comes from people getting dropped on their head, not from God having made them that way.

From a cinematic standpoint, there is a problem in the film that results in, well, yawns on the part of the audience. The thirty or so folks in the screening tonight were mostly yawning from about forty minutes in. i was thinking about this in the car on the way home, and it seems to me that the flaw in the film is the lack of chemistry between the two male characters. I just never felt like there was any heat between them. The film never achieved romance, and then asks the viewers to pretend that it did. It is a flaw in direction that we never felt anything between the characters. Ang Lee also had this problem in Sense and Sensibility. I remember feeling that both romances in that film felt a little icky.

Come to think of it, the romances in Ice Storm also felt icky. I guess that proves Ang Lee can't do love stories. Which makes all the fuss over this Brokeback to be nothing more than turning a little molehill of a movie into a mountain in the culture wars.

I can't really recommend the film. It isn't good enough to justify getting the images in your head of men doing their twisted enemas-as-act of love thing. I can't really pan it either. It isn't thematically coherent enough to be insidious. It is what it is. Whatever that is.

The Phantom Raves...

Here is a super nice review from the insightful Michael Dalton who writes movie reviews for The Phantom Tollbooth. They will be posting a review of the book in February, but Michael posted the following on Amazon...


He who is wise wins souls, January 19, 2006

Most Christians don't associate Hollywood with wisdom. Since wisdom can be defined as scholarly knowledge or learning, and since many in Hollywood are at the top of their craft, this may not be a fair assessment. The writers of Behind The Screen point out that when it comes to movie making, Christians can learn from Hollywood. People who work there have mastered the art of filmmaking. It requires a humble attitude for Christians to be willing to learn from those who have different values, but that's what the writers of this book advocate.

Christians tend to think of wisdom in terms of speaking and act wisely and rightly so. This book contains a wealth of practical instruction from Hollywood insiders on how Christians can be an effective influence and have a positive impact on the film industry. Christians who have been successful behind the screen serve as wise guides as they take us behind the scenes.

How did this book come about? A small group of Christian writers and producers in Hollywood formed Act One in 1999. They shared the vision that change must come from within. Protests, letter campaigns and finger-pointing were ineffective. They sought to transform the industry by being ambassadors and artists. They would devote themselves to truth and beauty, while being examples of Christ's love and truth. The 18 essays found here are written and edited by Act One faculty and staff and developed from their curriculum. They could not have assembled a finer textbook to achieve their aims.

Though essential reading for those who want to live and work in Hollywood, this book is an important contribution for all who seek a thoughtful engagement with modern culture. Those whose attitude toward TV and film is primarily hostile should read this if they want to explore a different point of view. There may be disagreement on some of the finer points, but there is a lot of useful information and background. It points toward seeing Hollywood as more of a mission field than a battleground.

Consistent throughout the varied essays is a mature, seasoned perspective-a well-thought Christian view of arts and entertainment. It's entertaining and written with warmth, and provides a refreshing alternative to the ranting that's so easy to adopt. We also get a sound basis for film criticism from a Christian perspective.

Are movies fundamentally dangerous and irreconcilable to the Christian life? James Scott Bell briefly answers the question in the delightful "In Defense of the Christian Movie Buff." The title gives away his answer.

Barbara Nicolosi discusses what elements make for a film that is truly Christian in "Toward A Christian Cinema." Some may find her thoughts surprising. Her main point is this: "Borrowing from St. Paul, Christians in entertainment don't have to be always talking about God. They should be talking about everything in a godly way." Many of the essays are variations of this thought and explore it in more detail.

Ever wonder why there are so many bad movies? That question and many more are answered in this well-written and engaging book. Put this in the category of one of the best books written for Christians on the subject of cultural engagement. In addition to film, the lessons are also relevant to writing and music, but there are many possible applications. If I were to summarize the theme from just one Scripture, it would be this: "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls" (Proverbs 11:30 NASB).

Fleeting Thoughts...

I'm still on hiatus, really...but wanted to pass on a few thoughts about some entertainment projects out there, as well as some upcoming events.


Munich - Saw this finally last night. Um, wow. It seems to me that this film has to be reckoned the best of the year. (Of course, I haven't seen the "gay GWTW," yet, and I guess - in my role as sewer inspector for the Kingdom of God - I will have to...but I can't imagine anything coming near what Spielberg has done in Munich.

Munich doesn't feel like a movie. It feels more like a nightmarish warning. As I drove home, I was aware of feeling very unsafe - like some crazed person out there might veer over into my lane and smash into me. Only they would be doing it on purpose as some kind of statement - and I really don't want to die as someone else's trophy corpse. Munich left me frightened and with a feeling that the world is desperately out of control.

I don't know if this good for the world - that we should leave movie theaters feeling frightened and paranoid and like the world is out of control. But I cannot deny that making people feeling this way through a movie is a stunning achievement. Especially when you can do it to someone like me, for whom the diegetic illusion can very rarely get past my film critic barrier.

I would be interested to hear from those of you who saw the film, if you think it is morally okay to leave the audience spinning in a kind of fear and near-despair. John Paul II said once that we owe secular filmmakers much gratitude for showing us powerfully, "what the world without God looks like." Munich is a world in which all the people with power have lost faith in the power of goodness. It's a world which is reconciled to killing its way out of a deep dark hole. Again, I am reminded of JPII's definition of a Culture of Death: "When people think the solution to a human problem will be found in killing other people."

Anyway, back to the film. Talk about all the elements serving the story! Man, I couldn't believe what I was seeing sometimes. It doens't feel like entertainment - but it is mostly riveting. I can't account for that, except to say that every so often, artistic content can be so overwhelming, that an audience will be engaged regardless of whether it adheres to principles of good storytelling. (ie. the day of 9/11, we were all trained on our TV sets. Those same five shots didn't get boring.) The film is really above all of the usual ways that I would begin to critique a film - plot points, performances and character development, tone and theme. The actors didn't feel like they were acting to me. How good is that? I'm not sure how to talk about it except to say that there was no ego in this film. There was non of Spielberg's patent cutesyness, or pandering to populist thrilling techniques. It was grimly focussed filmmaking. Disturbing and definitely not for the faint of heart. (NOTA BENE: Munich is not for those who are young in body or mind. I'm not sure it is good for those who are already afraid. It's very great art - but I'm not sure who it is good for. (Damn the artist as prophet! Why do they have to do things like this?!)

I think I understand now why Steven Spielberg has been making such weirdly fluctuating choices in movies in the last several years. First you make stunning and vital statements like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. Then, you throw out themeless fluff like The Terminal and Catch Me If You Can. Then, the empty spectacle of War of the Worlds. I have thought up to now that Spielberg's problem was that he hadn't suffered. Now, I think it might be that he is suffering very much. Munich could only come from a man who is very sad and frightened. Hence, his problem as a filmmaker of unparalleled power. What do you say to the world when you can say anything, and you have been harboring a vision like Munich? If you are Christian, I think you make The Passion of the Christ. If you are pagan, you wring your hands and try to decide if it is morally legitimate to throw popcorn at people who are going on their merry way, "eating and drinking and getting married and giving in marriage" the world is about to crash down around them. But then you just have to cry out and you get Munich.

Munich was the most affecting film of the year. Terrible and devastating in its message, but masterful.


I saw a documentary on Sunday called What the West Needs to Know About Islam. Probably, it was a one-two-knockout combination to see this film right before Munich. Whatever. God willed it so. The doc has too much talking heads, and too much content, and several moments that are repetitive, and almost zero production design, but still packs a potent experience. I came away confirmed in my suspicion that Islam is an evil religion that is based on fear of women. It tells men that they can assimiliate the "greatness of Allah" - and subsequently Allah's above-reproachness no matter what. Islam validates the barbarian in man, that the love of woman usually keeps in check. It's a bad thing. It is certainly not a peaceful religion, despite the constant drumbeat to the contrary that comes from our politicos and cultural elites. Ask the wives of Islam how peaceful their life is? Islamic "peace" is built on domineering the hell out of women and infidels.

And the really bad news is, it seems like Islam is on an inexorable path to all out war with Western Judeo-Christian civilization. It's coming. Just ask Europe. The film makes the point that, in past centuries, the Cross of Christendom was a rallying point to stop the Islamic advance. The battles of Lepanto and Vienna were won as much by prayer and a common creed as by armies. Now that we have pretty much lost our Christian values, around what will the West rally to stop the complete Islamicism of the West? Will Fr. Richard McBrien and his cheering squad lead us to the ramparts? Will America magazine spur us on to the cross? Will Joel Osteen's "Good Life Now" keep us praising through torture and death? "When the Son of Man comes, will He find any faith left on earth?" Hmmmmm....

Anyway, back to the coming global jihad, I think the only hope for us may be alternate fuel sources to stop the flood of cash that is fueling the heart of Islam, or else that communist China will stamp it out...and perhaps much of Christendom too. Communism does offer a creed around which an opposition could be mounted as we have seen.

Anyway, if you want one more reason not to sleep very well at night, do try and catch What the West Needs to Know About Islam if it comes to a theater near you. And, oh, you should probably skip the popcorn for this one.


I saw a three hour play Sunday based on Doestoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. It is running at the Ford Theater here in L.A. It was an ambitious thing for even a great playwright to attempt, and the writer in this case was not great. In the end, I came away thinking that, if, as Dostoevsky asserts, "Without immortality, all things are permissible," then, so to, without a cultural climate of religious faith, all great literature is incomprehensible. The audience of L.A. theater-goers watched with scrunched up, non-comprehension while Alyosha, Ivan, Dimitri and Fyodor flailed around on stage gushing about passion and faith and innocence and shame. It was the same way in which an orgiated Roman crowd might be distracted by the fears of a lost child. Ultimately irrelevant.

But, I have to say in desperation, that I don't think it was Dostoevsky who failed. The playwright and company were as much part of the problem. They didn't get what they were doing either. So, the play, in its three hours of flailing and bombast, left out the scene of "the Grand Inquisitor." Can you imagine trying to flesh out Ivan's problem without that sequence? No, it becomes a social justice problem for him, instead of a crisis of faith. Men have died for God and faith and worms have eaten them, but not for AIDS Walk L.A.

The play also turned Alyosha into a kind of manic sheep who screamed under pressure. He was the most ineffectual of all the characters. No "Hurrah for Karamazov!" here. It had to be this way in today's trendy Los Angeles theater community. How could the man of faith be anything but irrelevant and kind of pathetic?

Since I saw the play, I can't stop thinking that as we get further and further from a climate of faith, we will lose the ability to understand the relics of our cultural heritage. Are we going to have to start all over again?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Making Better Music

Just passing on an email message I received...


What teens and young adults hear on the radio and see on television has an incredible capacity to mold their worldview, a power which the media relentlessly abuses in propagating secularism and moral relativism, even perversion. The result has been the forging of one of the world’s largest and most needy unchurched youth mission fields, and it is right here in Massachusetts.

One year ago, at the urging of some friends at Boston’s WEZE, I began spending my own limited resources and time starting a grassroots effort among churches with the goal of providing wholesome, godly music radio for Massachusetts’ younger generation. Since then, providence and prayer have confirmed that God’s hand is upon this project. Very shortly, our weekly music program anticipates being boosted to 50 thousand watts as WNSH AM 1570 prepares to become the most powerful radio station on Boston’s North Shore.

Now is the time for Christians to claim Massachusetts’ FM airwaves for Christ. God has used His faithful in America to plant popular FM Christian music stations in virtually every other United States market, from Hawaii to Maine and from Florida to Alaska. Within the past three years, a brand new low-power FM Christian music station has sprung up in Worcester, Mass., and in December 2006 another low-power station is set to go on-air in Methuen, Mass..

We at the Boston FM Project, a non-profit ministry, believe that God has plans to reach Massachusetts with the Gospel through a new, full-power hit Christian music radio station. Boston, the culture war’s ground zero, lacks the type of Christian programming that appeals to the younger generation. Our vision is to provide teenagers and college-age adults with Christ-centered music that ministers to the believer’s soul and appeals powerfully to the lost, not through proselytization but through a hit music style consistent with modern trends.

You are invited to a free “Come Together” conference on Saturday, May 20, 2006 at Calvary Christian Church, 47 Grove Street, Lynnfield, MA 01940. We want to unite all of God’s faithful, as He uses us to create an FM Christian music station in Boston. We shall prayerfully present what is involved and how you can help. Please R.S.V.P. to 781-572-1118 by the end of February.

It’s time to conquer the last major Christian music frontier. God will do a mighty work here through us that will impact history forever. Please join with your Christian brothers and sisters across New England and the nation in reaching one of the world’s greatest mission fields, right here in America. I hope you have had a blessed Christmas and that I shall see you at the conference.

Peter Vadala
President, the Boston FM Project
Christians coming together to conquer the last Christian music frontier

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Hollywood Theologian?

One of the things I do lately - while waiting for Clare S. to make time for being my writing partner again (sigh...) - is create course syllabi. On Monday nights I teach catechesis for Hollywood converts and updaters at Family Theater Productions (which is owned and operated by Holy Cross Family Ministries, the life project of Ven. Fr. Patrick Peyton.) On Tuesday mornings I teach theology for the Los Angeles Film Study Center, which is a semester in Hollywood program sponsored by the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities (I hope I am getting that name's the kind of thing I always get wrong.) On Wednesday afternoons, I teach Advanced Screenwriting at Azusa Pacific University.

I am particualrly excited about the LAFSC course, as I have never formally taught theology before. As some of you will recall, for about five months, I was a docortal candidate in theology at Fuller Seminary, in Pasadena. Then, I realized that I am not the stuff which could ever be happy in the standard academic theological circles (Somebody ask, "Is there any other kind?" Answer: Oh yeah. It's called real life, baby....You either know what I mean or not.)

Anyway, my interest in the LAFSC program, has been to craft a course in theology that would actually be of some use to the 60 undergrad - mostly Comm studies majors - who are being forced to have to take it. The whole course is built around a series of inquiries which begin with the phrase, "Why does God care about...?" So, we have classes that attempt to lay out some kind of answer to questions like,

- Why does God care about art?
- Why does God care about beauty? (What makes art beautiful?)
- Why does God care about entertainment? (What makes entertainment beautiful?)
- Why does God care about movies? (What makes a movie beautiful?)
- Why does God care about stories? (What makes a story beautiful?)
- Why does God care about theatrical and visual storytelling?
- Why does God care about Christians working in a dangerous place (like Hollywood)?
- Why does God care about shame? (Why is shame good for the movies?)
- Why does God care about artists?

I only have an hour to talk about each of these over the next 10 weeks or so. Each deserves about ten weeks of reflection. But hopefully, we can give some of our young aspiring filmmakers - and certainly consumers of lots of entertainment in the future - some real lines to cling to in the storms. Shouldn't that be what theology does?

Anyway, here is the basic syllabus. If anyone thinks I am leaving something out, do comment.


Instructor: Barbara R. Nicolosi, M.A.


This course will provide students with basic theological and philosophical underpinnings for their lives as entertainment artists and professionals, or as consumers of art and entertainment. Discussions, screenings and readings will seek to place the student’s work of entertainment creation in the context of the Christian mandate to serve and spread the Gospel to the whole world. We will consider creativity as a particularly manifestation of the universal priestly and prophetic mission of the People of God. We will consider the nature of beauty specifically in screen productions, and also the spiritual and theological goods that a beautiful movie brings which make it’s production of note to the church. We will look at the theological and spiritual ends of story and drama in general, and screen storytelling in particular. Finally, we will lay a foundation for a moral theology of the arts and consider the spiritual challenges of living as an apostle in the entertainment arena.


1) Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on God, Faith and Culture, edited by Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara R. Nicolosi

Handouts from the following works (partial list):

1) Playwriting, by Louis B. Catron
2) essay "Theology and Film," by Jocelyn Mitchell
3) Art and the Beauty of God,, by Richard Harries
4) The Mind of the Maker,, by Dorothy Sayers
5) Letter to Artists, by John Paul II
6) Only the Lover Sings,, by Josef Pieper
7) "A Good Man is Hard to Find," by Flannery O’Connor
8) essay "Christian Art", by Jacques Maritain
9) The Christian Imagination


1) Babette’s Feast
2) Crimes and Misdemeanors
3) 8 1/2, (Fellini)
4) Miller’s Crossing
5) In the Bedroom
6) The Decalogue, Episodes 5 and 6
7) Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)
8) Adaptation
9) In America


1) January 17, 2006 - WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? Writing a Personal Credo – Hollywood is hard. For a Christian, the sacrifices required to achieve success are not worth the mere money and influence the industry has to give. Sustaining power can be found in a vocational commitment to a Hollywood career which comes from an awareness of the particular contribution each student might bring to the mix. What is it you have to say, that you must say to find peace?

TO READ IN ADVANCE: Handout from The Elements of Playwriting

2) January 24, 2006 - “JUST A MOVIE”? A Theology of Entertainment – What are the spiritual goods that come through entertainment? Drama as catharsis. What can entertainment reveal to us about ourselves and God? Developmental needs in entertainment and spiritual/moral growth.

TO READ IN ADVANCE: 1) from Behind the Screen: Ch 3: “The Hollywood
Divide,” by Ron Austin; 2) Handout from Only the Lover Sings, by Josef Pieper

3) January 31, 2006 - TO DECORATE AND PRAISE A Theology of Creativity and Beauty – Creativity as the expression of Divine love and the defining attribute of humans in creation. Movies as our decorations of the world of our time. What is beauty and what do human beings get from the beautiful? What is it that makes a movie beautiful?

TO READ IN ADVANCE: Handouts from Art and the Beauty of God

4) February 7, 2006 – Outside Speaker

5) February 14, 2006 – OUtside Speaker

6) February 21, 2006 - SPEAKING IN PARABLES: A Theology of Story – The kind of theological/spiritual/moral knowledge that stories convey. The difference between a story and a book of theology. The need for stories to be “better than real”; the need for completion; the need for “kharma”;

TO READ IN ADVANCE: from Behind the Screen: Ch. 13, “What Kind of Stories Should We Tell?,” by Linda Seger and Ch. “What Would Jesus Write?,” by Sheryl Anderson
TO SCREEN IN ADVANCE: The Decalogue, Episode 5 and 6

7) February 28, 2006 - WHAT MOVIES ADD TO STORYTELLING: Haunting Moments in Cinema – Creating moments in a movie that will leave the viewer wrestling with the truth. The power of paradox, especially visual paradox.

TO READ IN ADVANCE: Handout from Mystery and Manners
TO SCREEN IN ADVANCE: Miller’s Crossing

8) March 7, 2006 - WORLDVIEW IN MOVIES: A Theology of Theme
Themes vs. story – what kind of projects should Christians make? What would be defining themes for us as storytellers? The power in movies as where you start, not where you end.

TO READ IN ADVANCE: from Behind the Screen: Ch. 4, “Why do Heathens Make the Best Christian Films?,” by Thom Parham; handout from Art and Scholasticism
TO SCREEN IN ADVANCE: Crimes and Misdemeanors

9) SHAME AND SACREDNESS: Towards an Ethics of Entertainment –
Looking for ethical guidelines in entertainment in the new theology of the body. Coarsening human culture or refining it? How can we use violence and sex in entertainment? The power in entertainment and the responsible use of that power. (deceit, distortion, manipulation, propaganda). Is it ethical to not do good when we can?

TO READ IN ADVANCE: handout “Three Faces of Evil”; handout, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

10) THE CHURCH ON THE SIDELINES: Cinema Criticism in the Church –
Considering the various prejudices and predispositions that are “out there” in the Church as regards cinema and Hollywood. Considering some of the work being done in theology and culture.

TO READ IN ADVANCE: 1) “Theology and Film,” by Jocelyn Mitchell; 2) from Behind the Screen: Ch. 14: “A Filmmakers Progress,” by Scott Derrickson and Ch. 10: “Towards a Christian Cinema,” by Barbara Nicolosi

11) HOLINESS IN HOLLYWOOD: A Spirituality for the Entertainment Industry - The priestly/sacrificial role of the Christian as artist. What comes with the territory and how to transform potential spiritual stumbling blocks into stepping stones. The demands of isolation, insufficiency and rejection, collaboration, instability, success.

TO READ IN ADVANCE: from Behind the Screen: Ch. 9, “A Hollywood Survival Guide,” by Ralph Winter; Handout from Letter to Artists, John Paul II

Request for prayer...

Dear Barb,

For two years, we in Delaware have been fighting legislation that would allow the destruction of existing frozen human embryos as well as the cloning and then destruction of new human embryos, all for research purposes. Our opponents expected to pass this legislation easily, but have been defeated at each stage by unexpectedly strong opposition.

On January 12, the proponents of Senate Bill 80 (SB80) postponed what was to have been the final vote on this bill in the wake of our Rose and a Prayer campaign. Through this campaign, made up of Catholic and non-Catholic Christians throughout the state, 1000+ Delawareans committed to one hour of prayer each during the eight days preceding the vote. The prayer was intercessory, to ask the Lord to keep destructive embryonic research from Delaware. This campaign also sent a rose to the representative of each of the citizens who took part in that prayer commitment, asking them to vote against the bill.

The bill has been modified to make it more palatable to those representatives who are on the fence or who changed their votes to "No" after our campaign. It still authorizes destruction of human embryos for research. This Thursday, January 19, the bill is to come to a vote finally.

We would like to go beyond the state of Delaware to ask folks throughout the Christian blogosphere to join us in prayer between now and Thursday. Pray that almighty God would hear His people and not allow destructive embryonic research to come to Delaware. Pray that He strengthen and purify those who fight against this legislation. Pray that He enlighten the minds and change the hearts of those who support the bill but are open to truth. And pray that He confound the Powers that deceive people and work to unleash yet another horrendous attack on the dignity and value of human life, this time in the name of scientific good.

Our plea is for prayers. This is our strength, this is our power, as disciples of Christ. If, in addition, anyone would like to contribute money to help us run radio and newspaper ads between now and Thursday, see

Thank you!

Rae Stabosz

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Learn Screenwriting - in Vegas, baby!

Act One is holding one of its world famous Screenwriting Weekends in Vegas next month. Strangely, I ended up getting one of the faculty slots (did I say 'slots'?) for the weekend, along with my friend and Act One faculty and Board member Jan "the Maven" Batchler.

I'll be doing a talk on Christians and entertainment Friday night that will be open to the general public. Then, Jan and I will do tag-team screenwriting teaching on Saturday. We will also be available for one-on-one meetings with conference participants on Saturday.

So, come have some REAL fun Superbowl Weekend! Here's the relevant FAQ's...


February 3-4, 2006

Presented by Act One, Inc., University United Methodist Church and KEEN-17 Family Television

February 3-4, 2006
Friday, 7:00 - 10:00 pm
Saturday, 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

University United Methodist Church
4412 South Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89119

(Includes Saturday breakfast and lunch)

You can register here. And here's what the weekend covers:

Act One Screenwriting Weekends are two-day workshops on writing for mainstream TV and film.
--11 hours of instruction over two days
--Taught by Hollywood pros from the Act One faculty. (See below.)
--Covers the craft and business of writing for mainstream film and TV, as well as spiritual and ethical
issues writers face
--An intensive, condensed version of the Summer Program curriculum
--Perfect for beginners and intermediates; great review for pros

Our instructors are faculty members of the prestigious Act One: Writing for Hollywood screenwriter training program. They bring the experience and know-how of Hollywood insiders and the unique perspective of Christians who work in the world's entertainment capital.

Learn how to choose the right story and why Christians often fail to tell their stories effectively. Master industry-standard script format and explore the power of TV and film to shape audience attitudes and speak powerfully to the human heart. Find out if a Hollywood career could be right for you.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Barb on Narnia to Pittsburgh

Here is a nice piece about Narnia which appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I found the journalist, Ann Rodgers, very enjoyable to talk to as she was completely uncynical. In the MSM, an uncynical journalist is two levels beyond very rare!

Here's the snip with me in it...

Christopher Mitchell, executive director of the Marion E. Wade Center, has lectured on Lewis for sponsors as diverse as the Smithsonian Institution and the Kazakh-American Free University in Kazakhstan.

"Non-religious audiences get tons out of ["Narnia"] because he writes about major human themes," he said.

"The sacrifice of Aslan is moving and powerful to a Hindu, to a Muslim or to an atheist. We all understand sacrifice."

But it is Christians who have kept most of his books in print since his death in 1963, and some can cite "Narnia" passages by heart. Barbara Nicolosi, executive director of Act One, a mentoring program for Christian screenwriters and executives in Hollywood, says Disney kept the movie true to Lewis' vision.

"The only flaws in the movie are the flaws that are in the book. It's not Shakespeare," she said.

Most changes flesh out the brief story or are alternative ways of visualizing inner transformations that the book's narrator describes. In the book, when Edmund eats enchanted candy, the description of its effect on him amounts to a treatise on how sin affects human behavior. The movie must use other images to show his fall from grace, and throws him into prison with the faun Tumnus, whom he betrayed.

"One thing that really came across well in the movie was the progression of evil. It draws you in because it is beautiful, but it keeps you because of fear," Ms. Nicolosi said.

Although her goal was to teach movie craft to Christians, Nicolosi has become an informal consultant to movie makers who have seen the monetary value of a Christian audience. Most are so profoundly secular that they are clueless about how to portray faith of any kind, she said. But, if only for its bottom line, Disney was determined to get this one right, she said. Furthermore, the production company with the rights to the story is headed by devout Presbyterian financier Philip Anschutz. He brought Lewis' stepson, Donald Gresham, on board as co-producer.

Mr. Gresham's involvement "told the Christians to relax because Doug Gresham isn't going to let his stepfather's books get wrecked," Ms. Nicolosi said.

"On the production side it meant that a lot of consideration and emphasis were given to things that would otherwise have gone over the heads of people at Disney. It meant that the heart of the themes of Lewis' works was preserved."

Breakpoint Chimes In

The encouraging reviews for our first Act One book, Behind the Screen, continue to roll in. Here is an enthusiastic thumbs-up from professor Alex Wainer, a reviewer for Chuck Colson's Breakpoint. A snip...

My personal favorite of all the fine articles in the book is Scott Derrickson’s “A Filmmaker’s Progress.” Derrickson’s most recent film, the critically praised The Exorcism of Emily Rose, demonstrates that he has achieved a prominence in mainstream filmmaking to which others aspire without compromising his faith. The chapter is a marvelous allegory, a la The Pilgrim’s Progress, of his journey through the various attitudes Christians take toward popular culture such as “The Village of Passive Consumers,” and “The Battalion of Values Changers.” Hitting closer to home for me was “The Content Assasins,” which Derrickson describes as “a small, educated band of Christians who took careful aim at Hollywood movies, then shot holes in their non-Christian content,” particularly aiming at secular worldviews.

Though Derrickson found aspects to appreciate about these and other approaches to the movies, he found the group he best fit in was what he calls the “Quality Club,” the approach that says we have to learn to do excellent and marketable work, be professional and have moral integrity if we expect to have an impact on Hollywood and its audience.

It seems that this is the path Christians aspiring to work in Hollywood must follow to be salt and light in a community more vilified than prayed for or understood by the faithful. This book is a helpful map that will guide many pilgrims on their way to fruitful vocations in a land of many creative but lost people, some of whom, like the people of Nineveh, might surprise us when they finally hear God’s call through his obedient servants.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Well, THIS explains a lot....

what decade does your personality live in?

quiz brought to you by lady interference, ltd

Learn Screenwriting in Ft. Lauderdale!

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


Each year, hundreds of aspiring screenwriters flock to Hollywood with scripts in their hands and stars in their eyes. This year, Hollywood is coming to them. Next stop? Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Act One, Inc., a Los Angeles-based training program for writers and other film industry professionals, is partnering with Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale to present the Act One Screenwriting Weekend, a conference for professional and aspiring screenwriters. The workshop, postponed due to Hurricane Wilma and now slated for January 13-14, 2006 at the church, is an intense, practical overview of screenwriting basics, the current film market, and the Christian’s responsibility to positively impact popular culture.

Participants will study the craft of screenwriting – from story development and structure to character, dialogue and screenplay format – with a panel of accomplished Hollywood professionals led by Christopher Riley, an award-winning screenwriter (After The Truth, 25 to Life, Actual Innocence), author (The Hollywood Standard), and the Director of the Act One: Writing For Hollywood program. He’ll be joined by his wife and screenwriting partner, Kathy, as well as Azusa Pacific University professor Dr. Thom Parham, a screenwriter and script consultant whose credits include JAG, Touched By An Angel, Steeplechasers, and Inside Out.

The conference ends with an optional session on Sunday afternoon, January 15, at Calvary Chapel following the last service. The free event, which is open to the public, will feature a moderated question and answer panel with the Act One faculty members as well as a film clip screening and a discussion on faith in film. Anyone interested in the Christian response to popular culture are welcome to attend.

“South Florida’s longstanding reputation for quality and creativity in film makes it the perfect city for an Act One conference,” says Conference Coordinator Lauri Evans Deason. “And we’re thrilled to be working with Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale to help provide new inspiration and community for local writers who share our common goals of excellence, artistry, professionalism, and spirituality.”

The screenwriting seminar begins at 7 p.m. Friday, and continues all day Saturday. The registration fee (which includes study materials and breakfast and lunch on Saturday) is $175. Further information and online registration is available through the Act One website at HYPERLINK ""

The free, open session on faith and film begins at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Lauri Evans Deason

---- end ----

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cool Act One News!

Act One is delighted to announce that Kimberly Wilson Lauziere,
alumna of the 2005 Writing Program and the 2005 Act Two program, has
been selected to participate in the 2006 Cosby Writing Program at USC.

Act One is further delighted to announce that Steven Chang, also of the
2005 Writing Program and the 2005 Act Two program, has been selected as
a winner of the $50,000 ABC/Disney Fellowship for 2006.

Congratulations to both of these Act One writers!

It's not too late to catch the momentum. Applications are now being accepted for the 2006 summer writing programs.

Monday, January 02, 2006

On Having Made Myself Redundant

I am still relaxing here in lovely snowy CT. So I passed on a recent email query from a young Hollywood wannabe to one of our Act One alumns, Sean, who now works at Warner Bros. Sean went to the same University as the young querier, so I thought loyalty to the alma-mater united to Christian pastoral love would motivate him to do well. He did very well, so I thought I'd start the New Year by posting his responses. (I made a few editorial changes, Sean, which are completely in the spirit of your letter.) This way, for the rest of the year, I can refer all similar queriers to the entry for January 2.

Got to get back to Testimony of Two Men. Here's the letter...


Hello [name withheld],

Barbara Nicolosi asked me to email you. I went to Act One in 2002, and I
graduated from Steubenville in 1998.

So, I'm just going to answer some of your questions:

> Do you think I can make money working as a writer in Hollywood?

Only do this if you absolutely have to. It is very difficult, frequently discouraging, and if you can do anything else, you should. That having been said, we need you out here. But we need you *out here* in L.A. There are more and more of us serious Christians out here, thanks to the battle-weary first line of generous Christians who have paved the way for us, and I think we're starting to have a small but recognizable effect.

> And do you have any connections in Production Companies that might be able to hire me?

Everyone asks this question of Barbara. "Can you get me a job?" is the most commonly asked question in this town, and it is a great way to turn people off. If you want a job in a production company, save up three to four months living expenses and move out here, pound the pavement looking for said Prod. Co. job, get an entry level job making coffee and running to the dry cleaner for your boss, and pay some dues. When your brilliant but paranoid and ex-Catholic or atheist boss sees that you're awfully nice, and efficient, you'll get a promotion. Your career will have begun.

> I have a minor in Theology and I have been blessed with a wildly creative and funny mind. So I am feeling that I should be using it, as I am wasting time.

Don't waste time. You'll never have more time to write than you do right
now, in Massachusetts. Seriously. Go buy the books on Act One's
curriculum, most especially McKee's "STORY," and DO WHAT HE SAYS when it
comes to screenwriting. Also buy Chris Riley's formatting book.

> A friend of mine is sending you my headshot. I did not know if this industry was like the networking situation in the rest of Hollywood so I don't know if there are Christian Agents or how that works.

My agent is a profoundly liberal gay man. But he gets my scripts read at studios. You just want an agent, period. Send Barb or Act One a good script,[editorial note from Barb: send the scripts to Chris Riley, Director of the Act One Writing Program or Jack Gilbert, Coordinator of the Act One Script Critique Service. Send Barbara money. In large denominations.] and I mean well-crafted and brilliant, not just devout, and they might make a call for you. But *everyone* wants that call.

>I am feeling like Mr. Gibson really opened up those doors for us and we should be working on something beautiful for the world which is starving for something real-this is another reason the reality shows did so well, and ER medicine etc.

You're totally right. Narnia did the same thing. "Christians like movies,

> I might just send you my headshot directly so your people can put it into some nice binder, or maybe it might get into someones hands that needs an actor.

Again, everyone asks Barb this question. [editorial note from Barb: My "people" is currently Drew the harried, over-worked assistant. Whenever we get a head-shot he waves it at me and says, "What do you want me to do with this?" I say, "What do you want to do with it?" We are not an agency. We are not a production company. We do not hire actors as a rule (Glenviille short films, are a weird exception). Headshots are too expensive to waste sending them to me.]

> There needs to be a movie that incorporates a girl who had an abortion and some counseling conversation- this world needs to be healed. .. Good Will Hunting,which was a excellent movie, had that power where it was healing people (from abusive childhoods), and when peoples hearts are engaged then they listen with their hearts.

If you want to make that movie, it will most likely not be made in Hollywood. Hollywood makes popcorn, with the occasional art movie. We know some people who just made a post-abortive-girl-falls-in-love movie. It had *no plot.* At all. No one will see the movie. It will probably not find a distributor. It was a pro-life movie made by people who assumed that their Catholic convictions excused them from having to deal with mundane things like plot and marketing. People in America, when they plop down ten bucks for a movie, want to be entertained. Make the pro-life girl a lady-cop in a crime thriller, and we're talking.

> So I am interested in honoring the life of John Paul the Second. And he wanted the Spiritual Oscars. Maybe we just need to have an event that can give Mel Gibson his Oscar althogh we can call it another name.

It's called the Humanitas Awards. Or the Gabriel Awards. Or the Movie Guide Awards. Or the Truly Moving Picture Awards. Or the CIMA Award. Come join the parties. The problem is, hardly anyone is paying attention to our party, so we have to join "their" party, and in the process truly become "their" friends.

> Without an organized counter culture there is no choice.

Hollywood is not counter-culture. Hollywood is culture. If you want to organize and agitate for a vibrant Christian counter-culture, that is a separate calling than working in the Hollywood "system." I applaud that calling, if that's what you're feeling called to. However, out here in L.A., we seek to rub shoulders with those whom the church has abandoned to the misery and error of their ways. We try to befriend them and invite them into our lives, and hope to be invited into theirs. Sometimes, in the process, we get a movie made, but the point is the people and the relationships we make with them. "People, not projects," is the truism spoken by a lot of Christians in the entertainment industry.

There is one girl I know out here, who went to the Disney writers' fellowship, which is a big deal; she's had lots of meetings, with lots of impressive studios and production companies. But nothing has panned out in terms of her career. And she's made it farther than most of us. So, like I said, it can be very discouraging if your only measure of success is how much money you are making or whether your name is on the screen. Tehre are plenty of other easier ways to make money in life. You come to Hollywood because you love the production process. and you're good at it, and because you love the people who are making entertainment.

Having what sounds like a very devout Catholic faith, I know that you'll see in the Hollywood life an opportunity for some great redemptive suffering. But always, always ask the question: "How can I help?" before you ask, "How can you help me?" Think "How can I help this poor jaded actress sitting next to me at the audition?" before you think "I should be cast." (Even though maybe you should be cast.)

I hope I haven't sounded too cranky. Please do contact me if you have any

Oh, and one more thing... Decide what your priority is before going any further: acting or screenwriting or producing. There are only so many hours in every week and you can't be good at all of those. You will just waste time and money. But maybe you're a trust fund baby and have it to waste! - In which case I applaud your luck and invite you to buy me dinner, oh, and read my script.

Take care and God Bless you in your discernment of what's next --