Friday, June 16, 2006

See Barb in Washington, DC

Renewing the Culture: A View from Hollywood

A panel discussion, featuring:

Barbara Nicolosi of Act One, Inc.

Karen Covell of Hollywood Prayer Network

Michelle Suh of Hollywood Connect

Three Hollywood professionals and entertainment industry ministry leaders discuss
what Hollywood Christians are doing to transform the culture,
and what you can do to help.

When: Thursday, June 29th at 7 pm Where: Mclean Bible Church
Community Room A
Admission is free. 8925 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182

Barbara is founder and Executive Director of Act One. She has an MA in Film from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. She has been a 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. Barbara recently co-edited the book Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture from Baker Books.

Karen Covell is a TV producer and director of the Hollywood Prayer Network. Her producing credits include Headliners & Legends with Matt Lauer for MSNBC and America's Throwaway Children. Karen and her husband, Jim, have authored two books, How to Talk About Jesus Without Freaking Out and The Day I Met God, both published by Multnomah Press. They speak across America challenging the church to see Hollywood as the world's most influential mission field.

Michele received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Southern California in Violin Performance. She has performed with artists including Leann Rimes, Rod Stewart, David Benoit, Guns N Roses, Burt Bacharach, composers Lalo Schifrin, James Horner & Michael Kamen, and world renowned classical conductor Zubin Mehta. She has also performed with Christian artists John David Webster, the Kry, and Morgan Grace. With an equal passion for unifying faith-based artists in the arts and entertainment ministry, she has served on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ's music ministry for 12 years, started and led an Industry Women’s Support Group for four years, served as the Assistant Coordinator for Media Fellowship International Los Angeles, coordinated the Hollywood Prayer Network Studio Lot Prayer Walks for five years, and in 2003 through Hollywood Presbyterian Church, started the organization Hollywood Connect, an arts and entertainment ministry helping to equip industry Christians to realize their God-given calling.

For more information about the panelists and their organizations, please visit:,,

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Half a Million Served!

Hey, I just noticed that at some point today, this humble blog logged its 500,000th visitor!

How cool is that?!

Thanks all of you for stopping by - even you obnoxious trolls, for you too add to the glory of my site meter!

Waiting for Karen.

This photo belongs to a whole genre of pictoral moments which are forever etched in my brain under the category "Waiting for Karen." Here is our third companion Sr. Anne, waiting with me for Karen in a shoestore in the Madrid airport. (Don't ask.)

Here, on the right, is our cab driver waiting with me for Karen outside our parador in Santiago Del Compsotello.

There was waiting to go to the airport while repacking was done. Much, much waiting in hotel lobbies, restaurant foyers, church vestibules and outside souvenir shops. Pretty much every memory of the two week spread could be bookended by the obligatory "Waiting for Karen" moments. Waiting to go. Waiting to come back.

And on the scale of one to one thousand, with one thousand being my most hated thing to do, waiting falls probably right around 999.98. Which means that this trip was a spiritual pilgrimage for me on a whole other level.

It got to be funny, which shows real growth I think. Ahem.

But it was worth it. Absolutely worth waiting for.

Here is my forever memory of the Pope's Penetecost 2006 gathering with all the New Religious movements. I took this after I realized that I was hopelessly separated from my companions who were out there, somewhere behind a barricade.

All you have to do to experience the glory of that day in St. Peter's Square is carry this photo under a sun lamp set for 82 degrees while you have ten or so friends shove you from all sides....

Can't you almost smell the crowd? Ahhhh....

St. James the Patron of Nicotine?

I loved this.

Here's a happy old fellow who hangs out in the square in front of Santiago Del Compostello. Dressed like St. James the Apostle, he poses for pictures with the tourists for tips.

I just loved catching him on a cigarette break in full apostolic pilgrimage regalia.

What is it with Europeans and smoking btw? Didn't they get the cancer memo? Every where one looks in Europe, young and old can be seen sucking on cigarettes with cel phones pressed to their ears.

Thanks God St. James didn't get a call while I was watching him. That would have totally ruined my day.

From Barb's Mail Bag - A Professional Artist?

The following is a question I get quite often, followed by the answer I give just as often.

It isn't so much that people are wondering if they are supposed to be artists, as they are wondering if I can make it easier for them to pursue a professional artist's life. I can't. And according to JPII, we shouldn't want to. It is the sacrifice of the artist's life - its brain-wrackingness, its plenitude of rejection, its isolation, its instability, etc. - that makes the artist's life a way to holiness. For them and their work. And then us through their work.

But, anyway, here is the latest permutation of this question and answer...


Dear Ms. Nicolosi:

[Extravagant praise for Barb and Act One deleted in humility.]

I have been wondering lately how I know if I am an artist. How can I know?

M, in Minneapolis

Dear M:

Everyone should be an artist at something. John Paul II said we are all called to be the artists of our own lives - making our lives a masterpiece.

Artistic talent, however, usually shows up early. What is it that you were better at in kindergarten than all the other kids? These things aren't subtle. You could sing or draw or dance or act or write better than everybody else in your class. And you liked doing it. Or else you couldn't and didn't.

But I think you are wondering about whether you might be called to be a professional artist. A professional artist is one who has a heightened level of natural talent in some area, and has been rigorously trained. So the sign of a professional is that he or she can summon their craft to serve their will as needed. You know you have enough talent to be a professional artist if the work that you have done routinely elicits emotional responses in people. Powerful ones. Ones that people are willing to pay for.

Hope that helps. Good luck to you and God bless -

More Santiago Del Compostello

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Parador at Santiago Del Compostello. (I know I'm not spelling that right.) This was a medieval hospitality house for ones. It was full of castlely things and royal chapels and massive courtyards.

But the best thing is that it was diagonally across from....

...this. The MASSIVE basilica of St. James the Apostle. Photos are impossible, folks. You just have to go there.

It has been the destination point for pilgrims for nearly two thousand years. Very holy place.

Don't think. Just go.

Just when you think you've seen the greatest churches.... end up in Leon. "Now, there," I thought to myself, "is another one the Archdiocese of L.A. can try!"

The whole story here is the windows. Amazing. Monumental. Not made for us down here because we can't see their fabulous detail from ten stories below. They were made beautiful for the gaze of the Divine.

Which points to what is wrong with our liturgical art today. We are making stuff for us.


This is the Marian shrine for Asturias. It is dedicated to Our Lady of Covadonga, in whose honor the Spanish king Pelayo halted the Muslim invaders who had conquered the rest of Spain. There was a great symbol carved all over Covadonga of an "M" over a crescent.

I'm thinking we should be propagating this devotion lots more these days....

More of lovely Asturias

Here is the backyard of the Parador at Cangas de Onis where we stayed for a night. It is a first millenium Benedictine monastery that has been refurbished by the Spanish government to now serve as a hotel. We stayed at several of these and they were all truly awe-inspiring.

Here is the front yard of the Parador.

And for my Dad, the fly-fishing is great in Asturias...

Are you jealous yet?

From Oviedo in Asturias

My friend Cris (shown here next to the statue beside whom everyone apparently must be photographed in Oviedo) has been telling me for several years that her place - Asturias - is the best of all Spain. Well, it turns out she is right.

Asturias is wonderful. Green rolling-hilled vistas and ocean views, with hearty, ountain food and great wines. Oviedo is a true gem - fashionable and smart but still a small enough town that my friend met three people she knew while we were walking the streets.

Here is a shot of the majestic cathedral of Oviedo which is dedicated to Christ the Savior. (I think anyway, my Spanish isn't what it could be.)

On one of my two visits too the Cathedral, I was being escorted by a charming Spaniard journalist guy. As we were standing in the back of the Cathedral looking up into the massive Gothic arhces, he was whispering to me how he used to believe in religion but then he grew up. I looked at him and then gestured around to the Cathedral and whispered back, "Are you kidding me? If you can't believe religion, can't you at least believe in this place?"

And, once again in Oviedo, we saw great devotion to Our Lady. This statue was adorned in the Church of St. Isidore of Seville, in Oviedo. The people had brought many bouquets of flowers as it was the Feast of the Visitation the day we were there - which is my mother's birthday. Iit was cool to attend Mass and, not understanding a word of the service, just sit there contemplating the beauty of Spain's Marian devotion and pray for Mom.

Stepping all over my point...

Here is another visual paradox of the artist's offerings separated by five hundred years. I call it "Medieval Majesty Meets Modern Metal Poop."

What is wrong with us? Honestly?!

Xavier Castle, Sanguissa

If you want to raise a kid to baptize 200,000 pagans, all you have to do is have a place like this for him to play as a child.

So, Francis Xavier certainly went whole hog on the "God is real" side of Pascal's wager. He gave up a lot.

The best thing about going to the places the saints frequented is the realization that they were just like us. We have plasterized them too much. But when you can reach out and touch a wall that the saint must have touched thousands of times, or look out over a vista that was probably remarkably similar to the one he looked at, you realize what truly, truly ridiculous schleps we are because we are not what the saints were. They weren't special. They had just made up their minds and then acted on it.

My favorite church in Spain, the Basilica of Zaragossa, and not just because it figures prominently in my screenplay about St. Josemaria Escriva. A gorgeous, astounding structure, it is the site in which Mary appeared to St. James standing on the column of a broken down Roman temple. She indicated that a church should be built on the site. And so, the main devotion of the church is to the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Pilar. The people bring all of their cares and worries to the tiny image standing on a pillar in the church.

A great Zaragossa anecdote... The first time I visited Zaragossa a couple years ago, the regional team had just won the national soccer championships. The whole team, led by the mayor and town dignitaries made its way in a procession to the basilica the day we were there to present the soccer trophy to Our Lady of Pilar. Inside the basilica, the little statue had been draped in the soccer colors of the Zaragossa team.

At first I was scandalized. I could only imagine the general ridicule in the secular and religious media in the States, if we ever draped Our Lady in a Boston Red Sox uniform. (Of course, it would be a sacrilege to drape her in pinstripes...but that's different.)

But then I realized that I was the perverse one in Zaragossa for not getting that Mary is mother in every sense to the people of Spain. It's great.

These other two images are from a wall in the basilica in which two bombs are attached to the wall. The bombs were dropped on the basilica by the communists/Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War to try and destroy the people's attachment to Our Lady of Pilar. Well, they kind of just bounced. There are two holes in the roof of the basilica which have been left to show whered the two direct hits crashed through the roof and then the bombs just bounced along the floor of the church and never went off.

Astounding. "For those without faith, no explanation is psossible. For those with faith, none is necessary."

Anyway, I did think as I was walking around looking at the glorious five story green alabaster altarpiece in Zaragossa, if the bad guys ever attack the L.A. Cathedral, please let the bombs go off...

What I'm talkin' about!

I snapped this on the grounds of Montserrat. I call it, "How Art as Political or Egalitarian Statement is Always Ugly and Sometimes Really, Really, Really Ugly."

This was one of several "statues" (it doesn't feel right to use the same word that defines the Pieta and the David as this monstrosity) around Montserrat that are efforts by the contemporary keepers of the shrine to bring in a touch of modern art.

HORRID! My friend asked me how to describe it. I said, "It reminds me of that old joke about why Nikita Kruschev's mother named him Nikita. ...Because she couldn't spell 'bleeeeeccccccckkkkk!'"

More than anything, this kind of work manifests a lack of craft. If you had any talent at all, you wouldn't be satisfied to stop in your work and call this thing done.

We saw this kind of thing in several places in Europe. In every place the old stuff made the new stuff look cheap and inadequate. I was embarrassed for my age.

Ah, Montserrat!

You just have to break down and go to this place some day. It's one of those holy places to which Christians have been trekking for over a thousand years.

The Madonna of Montserrat is seated and her face has turned black. The people come from all over Spain - and the world - to climb up the steps over the main altar to venerate the statue and place themselves under her care. It's lovely and childlike and I know is one of the reasons the world hasn't been turned over to the demons.

We stayed for a night in the hotel on the grounds of the monastery. Very cool. (Thanks, Karen.) Of course, the fact that we were overnight retreatants did not sto the annoyed Benedictine priest from tossing us out of the Basilica promptly at 8:30pm. They don't believe in keeping churches open in Europe. When they want to eat or siesta, the churches close.

Karen kept saying that it would be a good idea to plan any spiritual crises around the hours convenient to the European eating and napping schedule.

More Barcelona

Here are some native Barcelonans dancing in the square in front of the Cathedral. It was so charming. They all knew the steps of the dance and they were all very engaged in doing the dance well. Again, I was struck by how different Europeans are from us Americans. Just try and get a few hundred Americans to dance in front of one of our cathedrals. You know, for free.

Of course, we do regularly go in to our cathedrals, which many of the Europeans do not....

Sr. Anne "Nunblog" Flanagan, fsp, and Karen 'Some Have Hats" Hall on the waterfront in Barcelona. We were on our way to our first of many servings of sangria and paella.

I don't really like Barcelona. It feels a little out of control to me. And a bit decadent.

In Barcelona

This is the Church of St. Maria del Mar. It was the church in front of which St. Ignatius begged shortly after his conversion. I took the shot of the people sitting in the square in front of the church doing nothing becuase it is such a typical European sight. They aren't in as big a rush as we are to be doing something productive. They sit alot in front of beautiful things....I suppose if we had as many beautifuk things, we'd sit in front of them too. (Somehow, I don't think the newly renovated St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood is going to fit the bill...)

There was a wedding going on in the church while we were there and all the locals didn't seem to realize that their plain old parish church is one of the pureest examples of Gothic ecclesial architecture on the planet. My dumb old camera doesn't do it justice. It is breathtaking.

At the coliseum

It's hard not to cry in this place. It's one of those weird places on the earth in which history is powerfully present. I kept imagining the Christian martyrs being led here to be slain in front of the mobs. What they were feeling and thinking...and how it certainly WASN'T that Jesus of Nazareth was just a nice guy with a cool message.

I took a few crumbs of brick off one of the walls. And, no, I can't really excuse that because if every visitor did it we wouldn't have a coliseum, but I'm a dramatist, and I got this idea in my head that it would be cool when our time of matrydom comes to be clasping some of the coliseum.

Here are bloggers Karen "Some Have Hats" Hall and Sr. Bernadette "In Rome" in front of what our completely secular guide assured us was an entertainment complex no different from those we frequent today. It was hard not to laugh as our guide vented weird wrath on Western civilization, and seemed to be pining away for the days when 100 lions and 20 elephants were set upon each other for the amusement of the Roman mobs.

I love them, but Europeans can be very odd. (Let's not even start on bathrooms.)

Here are two people I don't know being granted clemency outside the Coliseum by the Emporer of Imperial Rome and a handy centurion. I know he is a centurion because of his hat.

Just add gelato and a couple of coins over your shoulder

My all time favorite thing in Rome. The Trevi. Glorious.

I remember the first time I went to Rome, and I looked around at the hoards of Romans just sitting there staring at the Trevi. I thought, "Don't they have something to better to do?" I have seince learned. No, there isn't anything better to do.

Pictures from Rome/Spain Pilgrimage

Here is the front of one of my favorite churches in Rome, the Gesu. This is the Jesuit church and the apartments of St. Ignatius are right next door. (From which, he, you know, wrote many letters to his guys everywhere who were being variously martyred...but hey, writing is hard too. [Barb, no longer in the KH vortex lives dangerously.])

Whenever I am in the Gesu, I forget all the insanity currently rampaging through the Jesuit order, and I know that the sacrifices of the countless Jesuit martyrs which are in the eternal now before God will eventually balance things out. They'll be okay again someday.

My favorite Gesu anecdot: There are a couple side altars in the church that have hundreds of human bones behind glass. I asked the caretaker once, "Which martyrs are these?" He shrugged quite nonplussed and waved his hand, "Eh. Multi martyri" God knows their names.

Being Good At What it Is: MI3

I saw MI3 yesterday in a surprisingly sold-out screening. It was so L.A. that on a lovely Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people filled out a dark theater to see a movie that has been in release for a month. This is the definition of movie town.

Anyway, my friend and I both enjoyed MI3. It is what it is: a taut, fast-paced, suspenseful action movie. There are a few moments which had me turn to my companion and say, "Cool." The gadgets and stunts are great. There is no bad language in the film, or gratuitous sex. The violence is not graphic, although there is a lot of unbloddy violence going on through-out. The movie deserves credit for doing a good job of being what it is: an action picture.

I give the movie a thumbs up as harmless fun popcorn. Sometimes we need that.


On the way home, my friend and I were talking about our favorite action movies of all time. MI3 won't be on that list, we decided, because it doesn't have enough "lead character enjoyment time." You know, moments where you can just enjoy the personality of the lead hero - Han Solo being boastful, Indiana Jones being scared of snakes, True Lies Arnold setting up his wife, James Bond doing just about anything he does in between killing bad guys. These moments have much more to do with an action film working than does the consistency or probability of the plot.

I was wondering if there has ever been a great action film that doesn't have huge, global stakes. It seems not - like global stakes are part of the essential elements for this genre - but I defer to some of you who know this genre better than I.

But, here are the films I am putting on my list of all time favorite action movies. No particular order here. Do feel free to suggest more in the comments.


1) X2
2) Star Wars: Episodes IV, V, VI
3) Spiderman
4) Raiders of the Lost Ark
5) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
6) The Terminator
7) Terminator 2
8) Where Eagles Dare
9) 007: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Leave me alone! I'd watch Diana Rigg read the phonebook.)
10) 007: Goldeneye
11) True Lies (I know, I know... But the characters were great.)
12) The Adventures of Robin Hood (Yes. The one with Errol.)
13) The Matrix
14) The Great Escape
15) Air Force One

Saturday, June 10, 2006

X3: Take a - Essentially Unheroic - Stand

I caught a screening of X3 last night. It is certainly mostly okay for the young adult audience, as long as your kids aren't too much of the thoughtful type. I have only heard my Christian friends raving about the movie, but, um, was anybody else bothered by some of the story? There's a lot to like in the look of the picture and the action sequences. It is stylish and cool. But, it loses its way from our perspective. (By "our" here, I mean the enlightened Christian world-view perspective.) I was disturbed, and I had the distinct sense that the audience felt disturbed and unsatisfied at the end.

It is hard to excuse a comic book film which forgets what a hero really is. Hell, it's hard to excuse any story that does this. But it seems to me more egregious in the clear blacks and whites of the comic book genre.

Two main problems in the narrative....

1) Jean Grey comes back after having given her life for her friends. But she comes back not better, but worse, murderous and kinda demonic. What is the film saying here? She ends up killing two of the very people she died saving in X2. This narrative choice really messes with the whole Christ-figure parallel. Through the whole second half of the movie, we get endless cuts to Jean watching her friends struggle against evil. We keep thinking she is going to rise like the Phoenix and make the huge difference for the good. They set her up as the greatest mutant ever, but instead of saving the day she dies with a whimper.

And the way she dies...

2) The film ends with an essentially unheroic choice in which Logan euthanizes Jean after she exhorts him weakly, "Save me." Paraphrasing JPII, any time we see the solution to a human problem in the death of a person, we have bought into the Cutlure of Death.

But I think we can see this choice as problematic, just on a plain old narrative level. It isn't good story-telling to have the lead character, Logan in this case, build up to doing, (as Storm foreshadows the choice) "the right thing" which is really a very terrible thing - murdering someone as an act of mercy. It isn't sympathetic to have the main character concede to such an unheroic action. A good story builds to a moment in which the lead character conquers himself to do something great. In X3 Logan's character builds to the point that he can kill what's left of his true love in the name of the greater good.

Double effect prohibits this choice. We are not allowed to do an evil to bring about a good. We are only allowed to do a neutral act, which will allow an evil to result, but one that can be justififed by the greater good which results. In the moment in which Logan kills Jean, she has reverted weakly to her good self. She asks him to save her. He kills her. We're a long way from Casablanca here.

Heros in movies don't give up on people. That's what some real people do - and not the best of us. Entertainment heroes are entertaining because they are better than real. In opting to kill Jean as the best solution to his problem, Logan makes a choice that is not only not better than real, it is less than what a real moral person would do. For example, suppose someone you love is caught in a terrible addiction. It would be heroic to never give up on them. It is anti-heroic to do away with them because you lose faith that they are ever going to be able to get themselves under control. It isn't mercy to stop someone else's struggle towards the good. Even if it is a struggle that seems to be consuming them.

This is true for the virtuous man, never mind the supernaturally virtuous Christian.

Having X3 end this way felt like a huge concession to contemporary cynicism. It isn't what people need in their stories. Especially the young people who have made this film huge.

But one has to wonder why the franchise went to all the trouble to set up Jean as a Christ-figure, just to forget about that in the final movie. I am betting they just didn't think the implications of the character's choices through.

Help me out here, Leo. I am I missing something?

But, because I feel sure that most of the audience won't think about the film too deeply, but rather just see it as good comic book guys beating the crap out of bad comic book guys, I give it a thumbs-up. But or anybody out there who thinks deeply about things, I recommend a pass. You'll be disturbed by what is passing for heroism here.

See Barb in SD

--------------- 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? San Diego.

Act One, Inc., a Los Angeles-based training program for writers and other film industry professionals, is partnering with Maranatha Chapel to present the Act One Screenwriting Weekend, a conference for professional and aspiring screenwriters. The workshop, slated for June 23-24, 2006, at the church, is an intense, practical overview of screenwriting basics and the current film market.

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 Barbara Nicolosi, a screenwriter (The Work, Select Society), author (Behind The Screen), columnist, and Executive Director of the Act One programs. In addition to his teaching post at Azusa Pacific University, Dr. Thom Parham is a screenwriter and script consultant whose credits include JAG, Touched By An Angel, Steeplechasers, and Inside Out. Jack Gilbert, the head of Act One’s television program and former director of the prestigious Warner Bros. Writers Workshop, has consulted on numerous Hollywood scripts (including Batman Forever and The Addams Family) for companies like the William Morris Agency, NBC, and MTM Productions. Karen Covell, an author, producer (MSNBC), and the founding director of the Hollywood Prayer Network, and Michele Suh, a professional musician and Director of Hollywood Connect, round out the faculty.

“San Diego’s significant and ongoing contribution to film and television makes it the perfect city for one of our conferences,” says Conference Coordinator Lauri Evans Deason. “And we’re thrilled to be working with Maranatha Chapel to provide new inspiration and community for local writers who share our common goals of excellence, artistry, professionalism, and spirituality.”

The seminar begins with a 7 p.m. Friday evening screening and panel discussion with the faculty, open to anyone interested in film and its impact on popular culture. The conference continues Saturday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. with the intensive screenwriting workshop. 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 . Space is limited, and early registration is encouraged.

Tickets for the Friday evening session only are $10 and are available at the door.

Lauri Evans Deason

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Act One Newsletter

In this issue:



Presented by Act One, Inc. and Maranatha Chapel. To register online, visit

June 23-24, 2006
Friday, 7:00 - 10:00 pm
Saturday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Maranatha Chapel
10752 Coastwood Road
San Diego, CA 92127


(Includes Saturday breakfast and lunch)

To register online, visit


Peter Kreeft will be the guest speaker for the Act One Summer Writing Program’s 2006 Closing Banquet on Saturday, August 5th.

While we typically limit our closing banquets to our alumni and faculty, this year we are happy to offer a limited number of tickets for purchase at $50/ ticket including dinner and the program or $10 for a seat to attend Peter’s keynote address only.

Tickets must be ordered by Friday, July 28th. Payment may be made over the phone by calling the Act One offices at (323) 464 - 0815 or by sending a check to the address below. (If you pay by mail please make the address c/o Becca Bennett and include your email address.) Tickets will be sent to your email account.

Act One, Inc.
2690 N Beachwood Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90068


"Act One Launches New Faith-based Screenwriting Program"

Hollywood, CA – May 16, 2006 – Act One Inc., a faith-based nonprofit organization that trains Hollywood writers and executives, today announced plans for its new Saturday Writing Program, to launch this September, designed especially for the L.A. based working professional with a fixed schedule.

Like Act One’s renowned Summer Writing Program, the Saturday Program will be taught by working professionals and will cover the craft, business, and spiritual dimension of writing for TV and film. Instead of one intensive month during the summer, however, the Saturday Program will run for six hours every Saturday, from September 2006, through May 2007, allowing those with a fixed schedule to participate.

"We've designed this new program to bring Act One's world class training to aspiring film and television writers who are already living and working in Southern California, many of them in entertainment industry jobs, and whose work schedules make it impossible for them to attend our month-long summer intensives," says Writing Program Director, Chris Riley.

Like the summer program, the faculty for the new program will be made up of over fifty working writers and producers, including Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), Ralph Winter (X3: The Last Stand, X2:X-Men United, Fantastic Four), Barbara Hall (Joan of Arcadia), and David McFadzean (Home Improvement, What Women Want).

The new writing program joins Act One’s growing stable of programs and services, including the summer Writing Program and the Executive Program, which launched in 2005. Over three hundred writers have completed the month-long writing intensives in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC. Act One alumni include two ABC/Disney Fellows and a Cosby Fellow. They have landed jobs writing for many small to mid-level production companies, as well as at Dreamworks, Disney, Universal, CBS, PBS, and PAX. Several are represented by Endeavor and other top agencies. Act One Executive Program alumni have gone on to work for companies like Alcon Productions and Crystal Sky. Act One has been featured in Newsweek, The Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly, Details, and Premiere, among others.

# # #

Contact Spencer Lewerenz, Act One Writing Program Associate Director, at 323-464-0815 or or visit our website at


Every Executive Program student is placed in an internship with a studio, production company, agency, or law firm. The following companies have committed to or are interviewing 2006 Executive Program students for internships:

1019 Entertainment
Alcon Entertainment
Beacon Pictures
Brant Rose Agency
The Coppage Company
Crystal Sky
Dreamworks Animation
Fly Over Group
FOX Studios
Grammnet Productions
Guy Walks Into A Bar
Industry Entertainment
Innovative Artists Agency
12 Men Productions
Kopelson Entertainment
Misher Films
Modus Entertainment
Motive Marketing
Nickolodeon Features
Oxygen Network
Paulist Productions
Revelations Entertainment
Shapiro-Lichtman Agency
Stokely Chaffin
Thomas Winter Cooke
Thunder Road
Thunderpoint Studios
Vanguard Animation
Village Roadshow Pictures
Warner Independent Pictures
Writer’s Guild of America
Winter Films

Congratulations to Joel Veenstra, alumnus of the 2005 Executive Program, on his recent promotion to Story Editor at Alcon Entertainment!


Act One alumnus Stanley D. Williams has authored the book "The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue & Vice for Box Office Success" to be published this May by Michael Wiese Productions.

This book explains how the Moral Premise — a statement of truth about the protagonist’s psychological predicament — is a fundamental part of every successful movie’s structure. It is also a book about how the filmmaker can appropriate the Moral Premise to create great motion pictures that resonate with large audiences.

To see more about the book, go to:



Summer Writing Program Alumna Jennifer Dornbush's documentary film, Armand, was recently selected to be screened at the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuk,
Michigan, known as "the Sundance of the Midwest." Armand will be part of the Michigan Film Lodge, which will be screening all Michigan films on Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11.

More information is available at


Act One founder and Executive Director Barbara Nicolosi will be speaking at McLean Bible Church on June 29th, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

McLean Bible Church
8925 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182

The topic is yet to be announced. Stay tuned!


Actors Co-op, in association with Act One Inc., is proud to offer a five-week intensive singing course, directed at professional adult actors. The course offers students a thorough introduction to the three main aspects of singing: vocal technique, music reading, and vocal performance. This program is highly useful for anyone interested in musical performance, or even just in learning skills of vocal projection for the stage. At the conclusion of the course, students will be featured in a public recital to benefit the Actors Co-op.

For more information or a registration form, visit


A new book written by the faculty and staff of Act One is now available for purchase at online and neighborhood bookstores.

Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film & Culture presents a
fascinating look at the much-maligned film and television industries through the eyes of Christian writers, producers, and executives living out their faith behind TV shows, on movie sets, and in studio offices.

Writers include Scott Derrickson (Writer, Director, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), Ralph Winter (Producer, X-Men 2, Fantastic 4), Barbara Hall (Creator, Joan of Arcadia), and Dean Batali (Executive Producer, That '70s Show).

Available now at

ACT ONE, a faith-based non-profit organization, is creating a community of
Christian artists and professionals to transform Hollywood from within. To make
a donation online, visit

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Kudos to Val!

While I'm pilgrimaging, my sister Val is keeping the family name in the media. Here's a review she sent me that just came out for an opera she is in in Florida...


Great cast makes this 'Barber' fun
Published June 4, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - What a character Figaro is. Barber, wigmaker, surgeon, all- around operator - you name it, Figaro does the job. From the Beaumarchais plays to the Mozart and Rossini operas, he was the great man of the people in revolutionary 18th century Europe.

The Figaro of Rossini's Barber of Seville commands the stage in the performance by Jon Truitt in a superb production at the Palladium Theater. Truitt, who also directed, seems born to play the swaggering role and sing Figaro's famous "Largo al factotum,'' which brought down the house Friday night. The baritone's hammy good nature, rough-and-ready timbre and rapid-fire pacing had an uncanny natural quality.

And right up there with him is a matchless Rosina, sung by mezzo-soprano Valerie Nicolosi, who has the agile technique to go from charming shtick to heart-stopping aria at the drop of a trill. She hit a perfect high note in Rosina's introductory aria about how she is obedient and sweet but can turn into a viper if crossed.

The singing and acting by Truitt and Nicolosi and the rest of the cast are so engaging that everything just feels right in this treatment of Rossini's comic masterpiece. The performance, which takes place on a minimalist set by Megan Byrne, strikes a deft balance between a fully staged opera and a concert version.

Mark Sforzini conducts the Florimezzo Orchestra at the rear of the stage behind a scrim. The singers occupy the front of the stage, with no apparent difficulty following the conductor's tempos. Amy Cianci's costumes, especially Rosina's elegant gowns, and lighting by Byrne add visual flair.

Tenor Bryce Westervelt, the Count Almaviva who dons various disguises in pursuit of Rosina, was properly ardent once he recovered from a wobble or two in his opening serenade. Russell Franks' Bartolo, the coquette's other suitor, was dashing in the patter songs and surprisingly touching in his Act III aria in the old style. Todd Donovan brought resonant warmth to the music teacher Basilio. Liana Valente was hilarious in Berta's exasperated aria to marriage.

The cast takes obvious pleasure in the slapstick of Rossini's tongue-twisting ensemble numbers, such as the quintet "Buona sera'' when Figaro, Rosina, the count and Bartolo give Basilio the bum's rush offstage.


We're on the last day of our Roman-Spain tour. We're back in Rome for a couple more meals - I mean days, of course - and then we're back to the States tomorrow. Allowing for a couple days of jet-lag, I should be blogging again by mid-week.

It's been an amazing trip. Holy and awe-inspiring and God-haunted. And weird. I've been sick for the whole two weeks. In a handful of different ways, usually all at once. And we ran out of money once because of dysfunctional cash machines in backwoods Spain. And we were accosted by drunken gypsies in Leon. And then there was the hotel which lost our booking. And then, the airline that lost our luggage. Which still hasn't appeared.

I waited a lot. Waiting is my lot in life.

But mostly it has been wonderful.

We were in St. Peter's Square kind of accidentally this morning amidst the 350,000 religious movement folks celebrating Pentecost with the Pope. We just wanted to get our religious articles blessed, but then we were swallowed up in the crowd. In a flash, I got separated from my friends, and then spent the next three hours being jostled around by what seemd to be mostly European pilgrims...which, I admit, gave me a whole new, and not necessarily jolly sense of 'religious movements.'

I did have a few moments of, "Wow, the Church is amazingly big and universal!!" But more of the time I was marveling at the way Europeans can shove their way over, around and past anyone who happens to be standing where they want to go! At one point I was sure I was going to be trampled to death against a colonade between a group of Dutch folks and some Poles. Hopefully, before Christ returns, the Italian/Vatican authorities will figure out how to do crowd control at the Vatican.

I am eager to get back to the States. As I understand that there were millions and millions of evangelistic opportunities provided by Christians to the Da Vinci Code, I am giddy that maybe I won't even recognize the U.S. anymore. Maybe, the whole country has already been assumed into heaven!

(So, two weeks in Europe haven't completely redeemed the caustic wit... Which will be an immense relief to some of you, and a source of teeth-gnashing to others!)

Gotta run. There is time to eat a couple more artichokes surely...