Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pt. III - Wichita Interview

Q: Aside from formatting and style, what are the most prevalent shortcomings in scripts by Christians?

The biggest shortfall I find in beginning writers - Christians and pagans - is the failure to understand and harness the real power in the screen art form. Anyone who wants to write great movies has to plumb the depths of the multilevel nature of cinema and then begin to exploit the levels to create paradox.

The real power to help and heal the audience in a work of art is in paradox. We really want to haunt the audience in the way, for example, that Flannery O’Conner’s stories are haunting. She’s the one who created that phrase, saying that in order to make a story a work, she had to find a “haunting moment.” This refers to a moment in a story that is at once completely true and completely shocking. I have really brooded over this a lot, and it is clear to me that a work of art stays with an audience, and leads them into rumination, in so far as it incorporates paradox.

So, what happens in a movie is that the audience walks into the theater distracted, munching their popcorn, burping and scratching. Then, they encounter the movie, and suddenly they find themselves at the end with a new and irritating/pressing question: “Rats! I have a question now that keeps coming back to me!”

Too many Christians think we are supposed to use the arts to give people the answers. We’re not. We’re supposed to use the arts to lead them into a question. And that is just one stage in their personal journey of divine revelation. Once they have a new question, they will be on a search - consciously or subconsciously. They are going to read, they are going to meet people, God is going to send other things in their life. They are not going to get dunked in the baptismal font and raised to the altar from a movie. That’s too much. But the arts can definitely send people delving.

If you understand that, then you understand presenting an artful paradox is enough. We used to say in the convent, “Humble tasks are still necessary ones.” I think the arts task is very humble in getting people to a place of discomfort, what Plato called the stinging fly around the thoroughbred, getting it so angry that it runs. That is enough.

Of course, the purpose of the art is not this. There is no purpose! That's why it is art. But there are goods that come from the arts, and leading peole to wrestle with the Truth is one of those goods.

So, the first mistake beginning screenwriters make is the failure to even understand what the art form is. That is, the power to combine he different levels of meaning in a movie to create paradox that will lead people to ask questions.

The second mistake that keeps many writers from greatness is the inability to create visual imagery that is truly metaphorical and resonant. For example, I just worked on a screenplay set in the Spanish Civil War. It struck me so much that the whole age was defined by this climate of polarization and hatred, very much like our own. Spain had its secular Left and its religious Right just completely excoriating each other, and getting to the point in their cultural dialogue in which both sides are basically saying “You can’t talk to these people, there’s nothing you can say to them. They’re not even people.”

That’s the kind of thing I’m hearing in our nation today. After Bush’s election, someone passed on to me a message from a TV writers' Internet forum which stated, “We have to conclude that the Christians are not really human beings the way we are.” I’m not joking. It’s really a post I read that was posted to a group of TV writers. And no one disagreed. The gist of the discussion following the message was, “Yeah, those Christian red-staters are a different kind of being from us good people.”

Anyway, writing this movie on the Spanish Civil War, I was trying to find visual metaphors that would be in the background of the scenes in which hatred was particularly active in the story. So I came up with seven or eight things hatred is like and backgrounded my scenes with those. One scene begins with a shot of weeds climbing all through this fence, tangling, completely choking. Another scene takes place with this terrible cacophony of noise going on, where both characters are so scared of each other, but they are screaming and neither can hear each other. See,these are both metaphors of hatred: it is like a weed, it chokes. It is like cacophony, it prevents you from even hearing the other person. I came up with five or six others and these are in the background of the scenes.

This kind of writing takes a lot of patience - for experimenting.

Q: And reflection.

Yes, you really have to brood over it. My mother used to say, "Anything that doesn't you cost you anything, probably isn't worth anything." This is true in storytelling on the screen. The amazing things most often show up in the rewriting.

Very often, I hear myself saying to writers, “What is the theme of your work?” And they’ll say something like, “Well Joe marries Mary.” But see, that’s not a theme. That’s a story. That is what happens - not what it means.

So, what’s the theme? It starts to show up in the second or third draft, when the writer stands back and asks, "What am I getting at here? What is this storying trying to say about life?" Our students, because most are coming from Evangelical backgrounds and so haven’t had philosophy, don’t tend to even know what theme is. They associate it with "the moral of the story." But that’s not quite what theme is, it isn’t the moral of the story - it's the meaning of the story.

A good theme can be argued. An example of a good theme is, “Man is immortal.” One person says, “I don’t agree with that,” another says, “I do.” So, as a writer, I stand back from my story and see that that theme underlies the story as a presupposition. If you don’t buy into my worldview – in this case, the premise that man is immortal – the story doesn’t make sense because the hero is going to make choices that wouldn’t make sense if we don’t have another life waiting for us. So you have to try on my theme, my worldview when you watch my movie.

A good example of immortality as theme can be seen in A Man For All Seasons. If man doesn’t live forever, that movie makes no sense at all. The audience will have to say “Well, Thomas More believes he lives forever," at least. They have to try on the theme in order to identify with the character's choices. No one watches A Man For All Seasons and says “What a fool! He’s got nothing waiting for him after he loses his head. He should have just signed the divorce statement.” No one says that.

A good theme in a work of art is a point of view by the artist about the meaning of things. Good themes are always couched in universals. So, a bad theme is, “Broccoli is good for you.” It isn't big enough. It isn't worth traveling the journey of the art to come out with broccoli. A good theme is, “In the end, the truth always comes out.” And some people will disagree with that. But the movie becomes a demonstration of that universal.

Theme - as presupposition - should be so imbued in the text that no one ever comes out and says it in the movie. For example, in my Spanish Civil War movie, the theme probably ended up being, “When God gives you a mission, He doesn’t give you a map.” Another way to say it in a more universal sense is “Just because you know your destiny doesn’t mean you know how to get there.” I don't ever say it in the movie, but it's there underneath everything that happens. I hope it emerges from the story.

Basically, I’m hoping people will watch it and then as they are going through their daily lives find themselves with the conviction, “It is okay sometimes to know what I’m supposed to do, but not how I am supposed to do it.” And this will give them some courage to persevere doing what they are supposed to do. “I know where I need to get. And it looks like I should cheat on my boss, or steal this thing, or give up on my faith, or whatever, because it seems like the most expedient way to get what I need to get. but no, sometimes heroism means hovering in faith.” I hope my movie, in dealing with that theme, will give people some room to say “Wow, I’ve felt that.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Da Vinci Code Night at Inter-Mission, L.A.

[Note from Barb: Remember, May 19th, the whole Church goes Over the Hedge!

The Da Vinci COde: Fact or Fiction?
TUESDAY, APRIL 11 from 7:00-9:30 PM

1760 N. Gower Street
Hollywood, CA 90028

Josh was challenged by a group of Christian students and professors to examine the claims of Christianity while a student. During his journey to discredit the resurrection of Christ, Josh discovered compelling historical evidence for the reliability of the Christian faith. He's received degrees from Wheaton College and Talbot Theological Seminary. Josh is an international author and speaker. He has authored and coauthored more than 100 books and workbooks with more than 42 million in print worldwide. Josh's most popular works are The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Beyond Belief to Convictions and his latest releases The Last Christian Generation and The Da Vinci Code--A Quest for Answers.

Founder and president of Shepherd Project Ministries, an organization dedicated to equipping Christians to seize strategic intersections of faith and culture. Craig speaks around the world at a wide range of events from youth retreats to theological conferences and teaches Theology and New Testament Studies at Denver Theological Seminary. He is the author of Deciphering The Da Vinci Code, The Kingdom For The Kingless and numerous articles ranging from biblical interpretation to Christian living.

In addition to being co-author of the smash bestseller A Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions About The Passion of the Christ, Mark is also the author of The Da Vinci Deception: 100 Questions About the Facts and Fiction of The Da Vinci Code (Ascension), Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did (Basilica). Mark also appears frequently on radio and TV and is a regular guest eachTuesday on "Heart, Mind, and Strength", is Senior Content Editor for and co-authors, with Dr. Scott Hahn.

Craig Detweiler is a screenwriter and author of the book, A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture. He directs the Film/TV/Radio program at Biola University. His recent projects include a production rewrite for MEET ME IN MIAMI, a romantic comedy starring Latino pop idols, Carlos Ponce and Eduardo Verastegui and PURPLE STATE OF MIND, a documentary about the red state/blue state tension in America.

MODERATED BY: Rev. Doug Millham

***Donations are appreciated to help defray costs of the event.

***Resource materials from panelists will be made available for purchase.

***Childcare provided for ages 0-6 years old for $5/child. Reservations required: 323-462-8460 x333

***Questions: Call 323-462-8460 x113

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pt. Wichita Interview

Q: Why is it important for Christians to get their rear-ends to the theater on the opening weekend of a worthwhile film?

Right now, opening weekend is the measuring stick for all of the future investment in a project by the industry. By Sunday morning industry watchers can pretty much tell you how many more prints of the film they are going to strike and distribute, and whether the theater run is going to be expanded to include more theaters, and how much money they will be spending on supporting media and p.r. They have also decided by Sunday morning of opening weekend about how how many copies of the DVD will be struck, and how much money they will spend to promote it.

Let’s say a film opens on 500 screens and does really well opening weekend. They will then expand it to 1,000 in the next few weeks, which means now they have to support it with wider spray of ads - more TV and newspaper - so the whole promotional thing kicks in even bigger and becomes more of a cultural phenomenon.

After a movie’s opening weekend, they know how many weeks it is going to be in the theaters, they can predict the global box office. By Sunday morning in America, they can tell you pretty much the kind of money a movie will make in Brazil on its DVD sales. There is a formula and they’re amazingly right most of the time.

So, going to a movie on opening weekend is like voting. If you are going to have an impact on this industry, you are going to have to be much more aware of how you are voting at the box office.

Which reminds me, with The Da Vinci Code, (scheduled for May 19, 2006) we want everybody to turn out to see another movie to skew the box office away from the blasphemy movie as a signal to the industry. There is a fun little animated family movie by Dreamworks called Over the Hedge. We want everybody in the business to wake up Monday morning and see that this little silly movie won the weekend - or at least ate a chunk of the tally from DVC.

If we take all of our kids and ourselves intentionally to Over the Hedge, and we let the industry know we are going to see this other movie on purpose as a way to register our vote, we can make a much more impressive statement that if we all just stay away from the theaters that weekend. But if we just ignore The Da Vinci Code and let your kids go, then you are voting for that kind of movie to be made. If the "Jesus is a fraud and the Church is a corporate criminal movie" is a huge hit, we will see 10-12 clones of it before too long. Why? Because that is the kind of movie Hollywood wants to make anyway, and hit status will give them economic affirmation as well.

Disney did not green light the second movie of the Narnia franchise until it was clear the movie was going to make a quarter of a billion dollars because it is not the kind of movie the creative elites in Hollywood want to make. But now they almost can’t NOT make another Narnia film, because now it’s probably going to pass $300 million in the United States alone. How can they not make the sequel? But with DVC, if it’s half a hit, we will see a spate of knockoffs.


Q: You’re a devotee of Flannery O’Conner, who often depicted violent and otherwise objectionable material. Can you talk about why a Christian writer would do that?

The thing missing in that question is how Flannery used those things. She definitely used violence, but she didn’t use gore. I find that Christian writers haven’t thought this through enough.

Flannery O’Conner had an instinctive Theology of the Body thing going on. She saw violence as being the radical effect of sin, and she had a reverence for the human person. When you read “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” which is the story of a serial killer killing a family of five, we don’t read about the bullet tearing through and exposing the blood, with brain matter on the ground and the person choking on their own vomit. That kind of obsessive staring at gore in entertainment really turns human beings into mere props - like chairs that get smashed up in a bar scene. Just wreck 'em and throw 'em away.

Christians still have a sense of privacy about sexuality on screen, but, curiously, violence doesn't seem to trip our triggers. Watching a human being shot should have the same impact on a believer as looking at people having sex. There is something sacred there. We don’t gape at it because it’s sacred and we have no business violating another human person's privacy for our entertainment - yes, even if they give their permission! They have no right to give their permission to be violated. (We're in such a weird moment of humanhistory!) A person being completely violated in their physical nature is not something we gaze at curiously and eat popcorn while we are doing it.

At the same time, Flannery said that when you have God in your life you are healthy, and the healthier that you are, the more you are going to be aware of the sickness all around you. She said it takes a healthy person to recognize a freak. So therefore, Christian arts projects today should be stuffed with freaks! What else can we do with the euthanizers down the hall waiting for grandma, and the weird scientists wanting to experiment on little humans, and barbarians coming over the walls in every sense!? Entertainment has to be better than real to be engaging for an audience. When "the real" is a freak show....

The other problem I find with young writers has to do with the failure to create real comedy. I think it is safe to say comedy is almost dead is a genre. For comedy to work, you have to have purity. The audience has to start with some sense of normalcy and purity for something to else to register as a joke.

For example, I was at a real live freak show not long ago with a woman who is a studio writer. Her daughter was playing in a soccer game. This woman was divorced and remarried. So, sitting at the game was my the woman and her ex-husband in the center - because they are the "parents of note", even though they don't live together. Next to the woman is her new husband cradling their new baby. Next to husband number two is his fifteen year old - really bored son from his previous marriage. Meanwhile, on the other side next to the ex-husband is his new wife with their new baby. And next to her is Debbie, with whom the father lived for three years after the initial divorce, and before he married the new one. In the three years of co-habitation, Debbie bonded with the little girl out there kicking the ball around, because she was there from 8-11, so Debbie was another pseudo mother figure. But wait, Debbie’s new boyfriend is also there. And then also in the line is the nanny, who has been the only real constant in the little girl’s life.

I’m sitting there, and all these people are all healthy and chatting and meanwhile, they are all kind of fervently there for the little girl so they can show that they are really invested in her, and they have so screwed up her life. She is a mess. I’m saying to myself, “What is comedy for this kid?” Her life is a circus. It’s an absolute feak show that can only have one predictable result as a child-raising strategy - nightmare! But anyway, in terms of the child's ability to appreciate comedy, exactly what is going to make her laugh? Real perverted, twisted stuff. And that is in fact the case.

And so I think the loss of purity has everything to do with the destruction of comedy. There is no sense of surprise anymore. When I was at Sundance, I was struck by how every comedy that I saw was essentially sneering: “Look at that idiot. What a loser! How stupid is that!” This is not the stuff that Charlie Chaplain, Buster Keaton, Lucille Ball or Carol Burnett did. Think of the great people who have made us laugh throughout the history of the industry. It was not built on finger pointing at some idiot and kind of separating yourself from him with a sense of superiority.

Chaplain said his comedy was supposed to make the audience humble. He called it the laughter of the gaps, where the audience would become aware of who we really are versus who we want to appear to be. And so the audience would laugh gently at the Little Tramp, relate to him and his pretensions, and come away with a sense of “aren’t we funny? aren’t we ridiculous?” That is different from “You’re an idiot, you’re screwing up my world.”

Q: Do any recent films come to mind that convey truth beyond a PG rating?

Yes. Pretty much any one that is beloved by anybody probably reading this thing. Recently, I would say In America. This was a film that Christians didn’t see that they should have. It was made for adults. There was a sex scene in it, but it wasn’t graphic or erotic.

Q: It was husband and wife.

Which arguably should make it more sacred - but the way it was shotdefinitely perserved the privacy of the act. And it was so pro-life! The conception of this child was tied to the sacrifice of prayer that this neighbor artist is making at the same time for the family, which has experienced such trauma. This movie was fantastic.

Another example of something I loved was In the Bedroom. I thought it was very Flannery O’Conneresque, and all about grace being offered. I’ve had Christians say “How can you recommend that movie? At the end, the two murderers get away with it.” No they don’t get away with anything. They are insane at the end of the movie. No one wants to be them.

I think The Straight Story, a few years ago was a great film. It was a David Lynch movie about a brother going on this journey of reconciliation to his brother - a beautiful film that is one of the most powerful films about reconciliation that I’ve ever seen. Again, we didn’t go see it.

On a lighter, just general entertainment level, how about Return To Me, that Bonnie Hunt did, a lovely delightful film about family, faith and friendship. It was a romantic comedy with nothing geeky or weird about it, just a really good romantic comedy. What do you get out of romantic comedy in these serious times? You get a gentle sense of God in the universe and can laugh together without in any sense being degraded or demeaned. This is a good thing.

That list of good films even in just the last few years would be very, very, long. The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, October Sky, Hotel Rwanda, Narnia, Passion, Spider Man, X-Men, Corpse Bride, Millions - I could go on. In just the last five years there have been some amazing movies made that too often are not successful financially because Christians are out of the habit of looking for them.

I also think it would ruin our paradigm if we had to go see a movie that came out of Hollywood that was good, because how do we think of them now? The mass media making something good? They’re supposed to be evil!

Friday, March 17, 2006

You scored as D'Artagnan. You are D'Artagnan, the brash Gascon who embodies the high ideals of the Musketeer. You are sometime your own worst enemy, but your motives are pure and your character is unimpeachable. You are destined for great things and passionate (though often ill-fated) love.







Edmund Dantes










Which Dumas character are you? (pics)
created with

Pt. I - The Really Long Wichita Interview

I was in Wichita recently for some talks and press interviews. One young writer, the enterprising Del Torkelson, set up his tape recorder and then proceeded to ask me to articulate pretty much every thought I've ever had in my head! Seriously, it ended up being like 7,500 words. He used some of it in an article, and thenforwarded me the rest of it.

I thought I would excerpt it here over the next few days (or weeks...or months!) just so that Del's hard work does not go for nought! And also,in the event that I get suddenly hit by a truck, this archive will make my doctor of the Church process go that much easier. Ahem.

Anyway, so here's the first installment of the Wichita interview.


Q:So, one of your constant themes is that the gulf between the arts and the church is only a recent development, that our time is an anomaly. Isn’t one of the reasons you’re doing what you’re doing with Act One because at a previous job you were so consistently disappointed by the quality of the screenplays submitted by Christian writers?

Well, submitted by everyone. The good news is, there is just as much banal work - a lack of artistry and craft - on the secular side, but there are more of them, so they have the luxury of being lousy.

Q: Sheer numbers?

Yeah. We Christians do not have the luxury of being lousy. If we are really only going to have a substantial creative impact on five films a year they cannot be sloppy and stupid.

But yes, the incentive for me to be part of starting Act One came out of a tremendous sense of frustration with the work of Christians that I was reading in the production company. The product being sent to the industry by believers was marked by a complete lack of professional understanding of the technical needs of the industry in a screenplay.

I remember a guy who wrote a movie about drug-running by the CIA in Central or South America. I opened the script and it was typed in the wrong font. He had pasted articles all over it. It had handwritten corrections and was just a mess. So I sent him a format guide with a little cover letter: “Persevere, we need good people,” whatever. So, somehow, he got me on the phone and started screaming at me that if I cared about social justice I would have looked at his script despite its "small technical flaws." I told him I did way more for him than what most of Hollywood would do - just throw it out. That experience said to me that not only are we Christians technically insufficient as artists, but we’re arrogant.

You don't get extra credit for being an ass.

Q: What are the worst misconceptions Christians have about Hollywood and visa versa?

BRN: The worst misconception Christians have about Hollywood is that it is basically a monolithic, antireligious legion of people that hate Christians and the Church. It’s just not true. Nine out of 10 people in Hollywood may be liberal Democrats, but their agenda is not politics. It’s art - creativity and entertainment. They want you to laugh much more than they care about how you vote.

The problem is, the 10 percent left in the business - the ones who do have an anti-religious bias - tend to also be the people with the most power. Is there is a single head of a studio or network or top agency that is not a fervent secular humanist? I don’t know a single one. Certainly few of the most powerful folks in entertainment go to church or temple with any regularity. The secular humanist philosophy is very homogenous in the top levels of the business. And these are the folks who can ultimately say thumbs up or thumbs down to a project going ahead.

So, what do we do about that? We work our way up, we persevere and we get some clout and influence the way that anybody gets influence in Hollywood: money and talent. Then we will have the powerful chairs and you will start seeing a lot more of the things we want green lit–and things not being green lit that should never be made.

The misconception that people in Hollywood have about the Church is the same–that we are monolithic and fit a certain caricature as fetus-loving, Bush-supporting, homosexual hating, uncreative fascists who have no use for science or reason. Right after the re-election of George W. Bush, there was a sci-fi writer giving a talk in a bookstore in northern California and she was raging against the Christian Right that had put George Bush in office. Her speech was transcribed and got circulated to a lot of Hollywood writers. At one point in her diatribe she said, “Christians can never understand what we (literary people) are doing here because they have no sense of art or beauty. Christians could never make anything beautiful because they are so full of fear and anger.”

I was thinking to myself while reading this, “What about every Christian writer for the last 1,000 years? What about Dante, Dickens, Austen, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, just to name a few.” In fact, when I said that in another interview, a mainstream journalist said to me, “Come on, you’re not claiming Dickens was a Christian writer.” I said “Yes! I am! He was!” Anyway, it is so telling that this woman would basically castigate an entire religious tradition as being made up of people that are full of hate and fear.

Both sides have been very comfortable with caricaturing each other.

Q: What’s a good example of a film making a profound impact on you or someone you know?

BRN: Once when I was 24 and still in the convent, I was stationed out in Los Angeles. I found myself totally at odds with a sister with whom I was living. We practically hated each other. It was pure personality. We just could not synch. We ended up going to a screening of this movie, Romero that Fr. Bud Kieser had made about Archbishop Oscar Romero. The movie's portrayal of man’s inhumanity to man was unflinching and horrific.

There was one particular scene in which the El Salvadoran government is basically torturing his priests to get the Archbishop to do what they want. The movie does not show the torture, it shows Romero alone in his cell up against a gray wall and we are hearing the priests being tortured and it’s on the Archbishop’s face. He can’t compromise, because it would sell out the people of El Salvador and the Gospel. At the same time, his priests are being tortured.

It was so devastating–the struggle, the man, and how evil we can be–that the next thing I knew, that sister and I were holding hands in the theater and we were friends from that day on. There was something about that experience together that got us past all our little garbage and stupid little things of personality separating us. The movie cut through our idiocy and helped us see that the main thing should be the main thing, that we are united in Christ and that we both want the same things. That was a unity that the movie awoke us to.

That was such a powerful experience for me. It was because of that film that I went to film school and then wrote Fr. Kieser a letter, which led to my first job in Hollywood. I was hired by him to work on his Dorothy Day movie, Entertaining Angels. I’ve had many other experiences like that with movies and television, but that was the most visceral.

Q: What about a film making a profound impact for the worse?

There are many. I remember one young man who saw the movie Saved, for example, who then said to me, “That movie opened up to me how the Christian Church is just a pack of hypocrites and liars.” Now, I heard some p.r. folks in the business describe Saved as being just a light comedy poking harmless fun at Evangelicals. But the kids who watched it were left thinking, “I don’t want to be one of those hypocritical/stupid religious people and I don’t want to be associated with any trappings that even look like that.”

Saved is an example of a whole genre of movies that are out there right now. The Sundance Film Festival was packed with them. They are not healthy satire in the sense in which humor can gently lead us to a humble awareness of the gap between who we are and who we think we are. There can be such a thing as good political satire if it skewers both sides. That is what satire ought to do. It ought to show the hypocrisy of both sides. The problem with Saved was that it made religion very political/culture-warish, and then only skewered the people that believed in Jesus, but not the secularist students.

To show the hypocrisy of the liberal/pagan kids who mouth equality and social justice but live basically as self-absorbed narcissists - there is a lot of skewering you could do there. I know, I teach undergrads! But the movie unfairly only skewered one side, which is why I think it was an evil satire.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

DVC "Othercott" Reminder - Spread the Word!


May 19th is the date the Da Vinci Code movie opens. A movie based on a book that wears its heresy and blasphemy as a badge of honor.

What can we as Christians do in response to the release of this movie? I'm going to offer you the usual choices -- and a new one.

Here are the usual suspects:

A) We can ignore the movie. ........

The problem with this option: The box office is a ballot box. The only people whose votes are counted are those who buy tickets. And the ballot box closes on the Sunday of opening weekend. If you stay home, you have lost your chance to make your vote heard. You have thrown your vote away, and from Hollywood's point of view, you don't count. By staying home, you do nothing to shape the decision-making process regarding what movies will make it to the big screen.

B) We can protest. ........

The problem with this option: It doesn't work. Any publicity is good publicity. Protests not only fuel the box office, they make all Christians look like idiots. And again, protests and boycotts do nothing to help shape the decisions being made right now about what movies Hollywood will make in the next few years. (Or they convince Hollywood to make *more* movies that will provoke Christians to protest, which will drive the box office up.)

C) We can discuss the movie. We can be rational and be ready with study guides and workshops and point-by-point refutations of the lies promulgated by the movie. ........

The problem with this option: No one's listening. They think they know what we're going to say already. We'll lose most of these discussions anyway, no matter how prepared we are, because the power of story
always trumps the power of facts (why do you think Jesus taught in parables?!). And once again: rational discussion of history does nothing to affect Hollywood's choices regarding what movies to make.

But there's a fourth choice.

On May 19th, you should go to the movies.

Just go to another movie.

Save the date now. May 19th, or May 20th. No later than Sunday, May 21st -- that's the day the ballot box closes. You'll get a vote, the only vote Hollywood recognizes: The power of cold hard cash laid down on a box office window on opening weekend.

Use your vote. Don't throw it away. Vote for a movie
other than DVC. If enough people do it, the powers that be will notice. They won't have a choice.

The major studio movie scheduled for release against
DVC is the DreamWorks animated feature Over the Hedge. The trailers look fun, and you can take your kids. And your friends. And their friends. In fact, let's all go see it.

Let's rock the box office in a way no one expects -- without protests, without boycotts, without arguments, without rancor. Let's show up at the box office ballot box and cast our votes. And buy some popcorn, too.

May 19th. Mark your calendars now:
Over the Hedge's opening weekend. Buy a ticket.

And spread the word. Forward this e-mail to all the Christians in your address book. Post it on your blogs. Talk about it to your churches. And let's all go to the movies.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Devotions for Dog Lovers

A few friends of mine have just come out with a book about dogs as gift of God. I'm much more of a cat person, (!!!) but I love my friends and I found the book kind of cute. Check it out on Amazon here.

Here is their press release...


A top canine expert on “people behavior” claims dogs can teach even old humans new tricks, because "they’ve got a paw up on training techniques." Notes long-time canine human's best friend, Morgan Wells, “Human trainers just teach short commands. We canines communicate complex concepts: true friends are forever; don’t growl, trust; we are useful, whatever our age. We can even help the two-foots get to know their Master better.” To bless a dog's pet humans and help them grow, and get extra treats and snuggles too, he urges dogs to try these tips.

1. When you’re hungry, don’t stare at your food bowl. Gaze at your food bowl-fillers. This will help your humans look to their food bowl-Filler too.

2. Keep woofing when you think there’s danger, even if your people don’t take the hint. If you’re right and they get robbed, at least they can’t blame you. They’ll learn to heed your warning barks…and God’s…more closely next time.

3. Learn the names of your toys. Fetch them on command, and lay them at your masters’ feet. It will help them obey and lay things at God’s feet when He asks them.

4. Treat your humans like rock stars, especially when they see extra wrinkles, more white hair, and a bigger “spare tire” staring at them in their mirror. If you love them for who they are inside, it reminds them God does, too.

5. Buy a book called FOUR PAWS FROM HEAVEN: DEVOTIONS FOR DOG LOVERS (M. R. Wells, Kris Young & Connie Fleishauer, Harvest House Publishers). It has tons more training secrets. Morgan's best friend and six other canine experts wrote it through their people. Most booksellers don’t take kibble in payment, so you’ll have to use your master’s credit card. Just input the number online or by phone with your nose. Then lie by the door till the book is delivered—because if your humans see it first, they’ll grab it and read it and pass it to friends—and you’ll never get your paws on it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Catholics Respond to The Da Vinci Code

[NOTE FROM BARB: My friend Matt Pinto sent me the following message. He said I could post ithere....Remember, May 19th everybody goes Over the hedge!]

Dear Friends,

My co-worker Lisa sat with her husband, Tim, at the theatre. They were out on one of their "date nights" to see the new film, Firewall. As the spots for upcoming movie releases began to roll, they were about to be stunned. The preview for The Da Vinci Code came on, and moviegoers were treated to a fast-paced, heart-pumping two minutes of excitement and suspense. The preview, which included scenes of a murder and an Opus Dei "monk" whipping and cutting himself, ended with the phrase, "Seek the Truth."

But what came next was totally unexpected: A rousing applause from perhaps 200 people in the audience. A few people even stood up. I'm not sure about you, but I've never seen anyone stand up and applaud a movie preview.

This is not good news.

An estimated one in three adult Americans have read The Da Vinci Code, according to Outreach Magazine (March/April, 2006). More than 40 million copies have sold in 44 languages. It's been on the New York Times Best Seller List for nearly three years. Untold damage has been done to the faith of millions.

Lindy Lowry, editor of Outreach, conducted "man on the street" interviews outside of a local Barnes & Noble store. Sarah, a 21-year-old college student, responded that she was now confirmed in her belief that Jesus was just a man and that Christians were "full of it." Sarah is not alone. Not long ago, two family members spoke to me within a few weeks of each other about serious concerns and questions they had about the book's claims.

These corrosive seeds have been planted in the minds of millions.

Catholics Must Respond

As always, evangelical Protestants have taken serious steps to respond to the May 19th release of The Da Vinci Code movie. They're running national video conferences, conducting massive mailings to churches, and they've written a dozen books (compared to just a few from Catholics). Yet, The Da Vinci Code is about the Catholic Church! We Catholics need to respond.

This is why I'm writing you about the Da Vinci Outreach initiative ( A growing coalition of Catholic groups, including Catholic Exchange, Ascension Press, the Catholic League, Human Life International, and others have joined together to respond.

We have prepared free materials to equip you and/or your parish to respond to this major cultural event that is going to slam us in full force in the months ahead. The Da Vinci Code will be the cultural conversation in April, May, and June of this year. You can help your family, friends, and parishioners get prepared-with relative ease.

The website features FREE, ready-made resources, including:

  • Parish Action Plan
  • "Homily Helps"
  • Parish Discussion Guides
  • Youth Group Guide
  • Posters, flyers, bulletin announcements
  • Speakers Bureau
  • A Da Vinci "Blog" where you can read comments from leading Catholic commentators.
  • ...and more!

The Perfect "Give-Away" Book

Click Here!

As with A Guide to the Passion, we've created another invaluable resource that is perfect for "giving away" to family, friends, and parishioners.

The Da Vinci Deception features 100 questions and answers on all the major themes, issues, and errors in The Da Vinci Code. And, best of all, you can get them for as little as $2 each, a super-low price for this 130-page book.

To order The Da Vinci Deception, please call 800-376-0520. Steep bulk discounts are available.

Be sure to visit today to see the many resources available to you, your family, and your parish. We have everything you need to effectively respond to The Da Vinci Code, and defend Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.


Matthew Pinto
Program Director, Da Vinci Outreach
President, Ascension Press

Monday, March 13, 2006

See Barb in DC! See Barb in Seattle!

I will be traveling again in a couple weeks, giving four speeches in fourdays. I believe that all of these talks will be open to the public.

In metro Washington, DC area:

Wednesday, March 29, 7pm - McLean Bible Church, McLean, VA
Topic: "Greetings From the Church in Hollywood! What Have We Learned? Where Do We Need to Go?"

Thursday, March 30, Mt. Saint Mary's, Emmitsburg, MD
Topic: "Creating Community that will be Creative in the Church"
Info here.

Friday, March 31, 1pm-2:30 pm, Domincian House of Studies, Washington, DC
Topic: "Why Patron of the Arts? Beauty and the Church"

In Seattle:

Saturday, April 1, 7pm, Benefit Gala for Taproot Theatre (location somewhere up there)
Topic: "The Prophetic and Priestly Role of the Artist"

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Checking In...

Sorry I've been such a bad blogger lately. Life has intervened repeatedly. There have been so many things I wanted to talk about but I only have time for a few notes here....

....So, now, I have a reddish, inch-or-so long scar on my wrist from my recent surgery. I noticed the other day that I also have a similar looking scar on the top of my left foot from a battle with a lava lamp back in college. So, one of my friends concludes that I have "catty corner stigmata." Ahem.

...A cool director whose work I really like loved my Josemaria Escriva/ Spanish Civil War screenplay. He would like to direct it tomorrow! Barb is excited. Please keep project in your prayers.

...I was surprised by how much I liked Capote. It is a classic actor's piece. All about going in close and making a mole-hill out of every freckle, in a good way. It is unfair to dismiss the film as either a pro-gay or anti-capital punishment screed. It is neither. It is much more about the creative temperament.

...I also send kudos across town to Alcon Entertainment for the very enjoyable 16 Blocks. It isn't a perfect film, but it is a solid thriller and includes an engaging redemption journey. Good ol' Bruce! Parents can absolutely let their teens go to this one without trepidation. There is no sex, only a couple of instances of violence, and only one very defensible instance of vulgar language. I give it 16 thumbs up.

...I found the Oscars weird and dull, but not disgusting and embarrassing. Okay, well I did find Clooney's speech ("WE REALLY ARE IMPORTANT! We ARE! WE ARE!") and the clips of civil rights movies ("Yes! We ARE important! We ARE!!!!") a bit pathetic, but I thought Jon Stewart really did a good job by placing himself in the perspective of the mainstream audience instead of in the industry. It was a happy thing in the end to have a host from outside the studio swirl. I thought Stewart's posturing was amusing in a way of which he is certainly unaware. His subtext was glaringly, "I'm SO not one of these idiots. I have a CABLE show!" Ah, there is no narcissist like a show narcissist.

..I knew Crash would win. I predicted it on a few radio shows far in advance. (This goes under the sub-heading, "If I don't Tell You How Humble I Am, You'll Never Know.")

...Please note my cool new side bar buttons. These are in response to the hoards of you who are always, relentlessly, indefatiguably pestering me as to how you can buy our book and donate to Act One. Now you can just click. Go ahead, try it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Create a clean heart in me, O God. Renew in me a right spirit." Ps 51

Happy Lent. (Although my mother used to say, "If you like Lent, you're doing it wrong.")

Tonight, Fr. Willy Raymond will be celebrating a Mass at 7pm at Family Theater for our Hollywood RCIA program. Afterwards, we will have a discussion about conscience and sin.

In the spirit of the day, no drinks or food. (sigh) Just a great way to start this most spiritually vital season.

All are invited.

Every year I ask God to send me an intention to keep me motivated in my Lenten fasts and almsgiving. This year, I am offering my ridiculous little sacrifices for three-year old Kathleen Quinn, my friends' daughter. Kathleen is undergoing a grueling course of treatment for leukemia. Please do join me in praying for Kathleen, and her whole family.