Monday, July 31, 2006

To KH - So, I'm an SJ. What Are You?

Your Personality Is

Guardian (SJ)

You are sensible, down to earth, and goal oriented.
Bottom line, you are good at playing by the rules.

You tend to be dominant - and you are a natural leader.
You are interested in rules and order. Morals are important to you.

A hard worker, you give your all at whatever you do.
You're very serious, and people often tell you to lighten up.

In love, you tend to take things carefully and slowly.

At work, you are suited to almost any career - but you excel in leadership positions.

With others, you tend to be polite and formal.

As far as looks go, you are traditionally attractive. You take good care of yourself.

On weekends, you tend to like to do organized activities. In fact, you often organize them!

Nashville Screenwriting Seminar

--------------- 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? Nashville, Tennessee.

Act One, Inc., a Los Angeles-based training program for writers and other film industry professionals, presents the Act One Screenwriting Weekend, a conference for professional and aspiring screenwriters. The workshop, slated for September 15-16, 2006 at The People’s Church in Franklin, 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 two accomplished Hollywood professionals.

Christopher Riley is an award-winning screenwriter (After The Truth, 25 to Life, Actual Innocence), author (The Hollywood Standard), a ten year veteran of the Warner Bros. script department, and the Director of the Act One: Writing For Hollywood program. He’ll be joined by Azusa Pacific University professor Dr. Thom Parham, a screenwriter and script consultant whose credits include JAG, Touched By An Angel, Big Brother Jake, and Jaded, the first film release from his fledgling production company, Dos Negros Entertainment.

“Nashville’s vibrant community of artists and entertainers makes it the perfect city for our seminar,” says Conference Coordinator Lauri Evans Deason. “And we’re excited 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 8 a.m.-5 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

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Back from retreat...

Just came back from three days of retreat at the Sacred Heart Retreat Center administered by the Carmelites of Alhambra. The retreat was Ignatian, conducted by a Jesuit.

It was very good. Although all weekend I kept thinking to myself: "Holiness is not in the distance from our sinful patterns, but rather in the proximity to Jesus." Phew. That felt good.

This is the last week of our summer writing program. We have two huge events this week - the alumni bbq Thursday and the Summer Gala Saturday. Peter Kreeft is the keynote speaker at the gala. If anybody out there wants to go, we have a handful of seats left. For info send a message to

Sunday, the Sixth will be really cool as my friend Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and his wife Celeste will be in town and will be featured in an event at Family Theater on Sunset in Hollywood. Jeff has a Masters in Theology from Steubenville, and is a first term Congressman from Nebraska. He has been particularly targeted by Emily's List as he is a deeply committed Christian. His opponent was a recipient of the Planned Parenthood Award... The event is at 2pm and is titled "A Committed Christian in Public Life." If you are in Southern Cal, do consider coming to Family Theater on Sunday afternoon to meet Jeff and Celeste and hear their story.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From the Mail Bag: "Better than Real"

Dear Barbara,

I have a question about a statement you made in your comments about Superman Returns. You said, "Maybe that is more like real life. Certainly it is. But stories are supposed to be better than real life." I had a discussion with someone about this who says that real life is the best thing there is, so a story should be like real life. I said that I thougth the point was that because our vision is marred by the fall, what we see is less than real life, so that if we are to see life as it really is (in a story), it will appear to us to be better than real life. Is that what you meant, or something different?


Dear R.G. -

We say that stories must be "better" than the real as a reaction against a lot of narrative efforts in the modern era, that have been so focussed on realism that they lost the ability to serve the audience in the unique way that stories (i.e. as art) are supposed to. The real is not entertaining to people. If it was, they would sit in their living rooms at night and stare at each other instead of turning on the television.

Stories are constructed and so offer a vision of artificial necessity to an audience that experiences real life as random. That is, the parts in a story are related to the whole in a relationship of necessity. Life isn't random, of course, but our perspective is limited so it often seems to us that there is no cause and effect in our lives. This particularly rankles in the moral area: Some people to bad things, but appear to suffer no ill effects. Or else, Innocent two year olds get terrible diseases. Stories offer a "kharma" that assures the audience that their gut sense that in the end good will triumph is correct.

Stories also offer a clear resolution to an audience in an intimation of an ultimate resolution to our own individual and collective stories. We yearn for resolution (because we were made to end our pilgrimage in God) and stories give us a momentary relief from our yearning in their resolution.

Stories - as with all good art -- also present an artificial harmony to a human society that is inharmonious. In a good story, all of the parts are sifted so that only those are used that will complement the other parts. In a good story there is nothing extra, gratuitous or-vice versa, missing or incomplete. Again, real life is like this, but because of our perspective, we can't see it.

Stories are not objectively "better" than the real. But they are better for the human viewer than the real because they offer God's perspective -- one that is complete, necessary and harmonious.

Hope this helps.

God bless - Barbara

Sunday, July 23, 2006

See Barb in Boston?

I have to make a trip to Boston and Maine at the end of August. Anybody want me to give a speech somewhere around there? We are trying to set up a couple events that week maximize the use of time on the trip. If you have a place, or a group, or a millionaire I should meet to talk about Act One, please send our Event Coordinator Becca a message at:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pope Benedict: "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem."


VATICAN CITY, JUL 20, 2006 (VIS) - Faced with worsening situation in the Middle East, the Holy See Press Office has been directed to communicate the following:

"The Holy Father is following with great concern the destinies of all the peoples involved and has proclaimed this Sunday, July 23, as a special day of prayer and penance, inviting the pastors and faithful of all the particular Churches, and all believers of the world, to implore from God the precious gift of peace.

"In particular, the Supreme Pontiff hopes that prayers will be raised to the Lord for an immediate cease-fire between the sides, for humanitarian corridors to be opened in order to bring help to the suffering peoples, and for reasonable and responsible negotiations to begin to put an end to objective situations of injustice that exist in that region; as already indicated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Angelus last Sunday, July 16.

"In reality, the Lebanese have the right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected, the Israelis the right to live in peace in their State, and the Palestinians have the right to have their own free and sovereign homeland.

"At this sorrowful moment, His Holiness also makes an appeal to charitable organizations to help all the people struck by this pitiless conflict."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Devil Has Some Divine Stuff

When I walked out Lady in the Water, I walked into the last hour of The Devil Wears Prada in the theater next door. At the time, I was just trying to flush my brain of Shyamalan's murky mess, but I'm so glad I did.

This is the best film I have seen this year. I mean for me as an adult move-goer.

Now, maybe it is that the arena of Devil - the fashion world - is the evil twin of Hollywood in which I have set up my tent. But no, there was extra stuff in this for those of us who make our living in pop-culture. For everybody else there is still plenty of charm and heart, and fun. I sat there watching a wonderfully choreographed ending scene of the film thinking, "Huh. This is a haunting moment." And also, "Wow. Every Christian in Hollywood, needs to watch this film weekly just as a gut check."

Devil is an entertaining coming of age film which takes us into a world with which our culture is currently obsessed. As Streep's character evilly notes just after she has completely ratified her life-long choice to descend into hell, "They (meaning the audience) all want to be us."

Meryl Streep is amazing here. Truly. She is the focal point on the screen even when she shares the shot with thirty other folks at a banquet. How does she do that?! She is "evil Emperor" evil as opposed to "Jabba the Hut" evil. My philosopher sister noted once when we were both in highschool watching the Star Wars trilogy unfold for the first time, "The Church can work with Jabba evil, because it is still a reaching for substitutes for beauty. We can do almost nothing with the Evil Emperor evil because it is a love of darkness." Anyway, Streep has to get another Oscar nod here. Even though it is just another day's work for her, nobody else in Hollywood could pull it off as effortlessly as she does. Astounding.

The principal weakness in the film is Anne Hathaway. She was miscast here. Or else, she can't even pretend to hold up her side of the scenes against Streep. The film needed a young actress with REAL acting chops - like Clare Danes or Kirsten Dunst.

The script was heavy-handed at times, and I resented the default living in sin arrangement of the main character, but I really left this film wanting to be a more heroic person. It had me wondering what compromises I have made in my career.

That's good stuff.

Devil Wears Prada was good enough for me to delete the 2005 list of favorite films and start one for 2006. Here in July.

Lady in a Watery Grave of Storytellng

He has lost his mind.

As Mark Shea is fond of saying, "Sin makes you crazy." I don't presume to know the complete condition of Shyamalan's soul, but clearly, egomania has taken hold and so he has lost his grip on reality. In this case, the demanding and wonderful realities of the essentials of narrative filmmaking.

I remembered, somewhere in the first ten minutes of Lady in the Water that I had pledged back in the last ten minutes of The Village that I would never be coaxed to spend any more money buying this director's movies. And then it was just a matter of time before I got the energy to propel myself out of my seat.

I walked out of Lady in the Water about mid-point of the film, when it had become embarrasingly apparent that the filmmaker was splashing around this pathetic unstory, desperately caught in the undertow of his own hype. I left when it was clear that nothing could happen in the remaining hour to salvage the first half's perfect storm of narrative, character and thematic elements from devolving into a level 5 typhoon of cinematic pretension and absurdity.

What was that great insult of the Wizard to Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz? Oh yeah, this film is a "clinking, clanking, collection of calligenous junk!" But maybe I haven't expressed myself strongly enough here...

There is really nothing in Lady for the audience. It is all about Shyamalan in an icky kind of valentine to himself as a writer. He says the kind of things about himself in this film that people should let others say about them. But they will NEVER say them about this guy. You can quote me.

The greatest emotional response the film evoked from me was a monumental chortle when I recalled Robin on Good Monring America yesterday referring to Shyamalan as a "Master of Suspense". HA!

How bad is it?....Hmmmmm.... I'd rather watch a Peter Jackson film fest 20 hour marathon then a half hour of anything Shyamalan has done since Sixth Sense. And those of you who know me, know what I'm saying here...

There is nothing scary in this film. The audience I was with actually laughed at a couple of moments that were supposed to be scary, but were so badly executed that it was a cause of sneering. There is nothing offensive from a moral standpoint - unless one considers, as I do, that bad art is a moral problem. Lady is just really, really, monstrously bad storytelling.

The only thing this movie does is confirm that M. Night is class A, textbook, laughing all the way to the bank, one hit wonder. [read in the little girl whisper they've had on the TV trailers:] Pass. Pass. Passsssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dan's New Web Site

Some of you will remember Dan Ewald, who filled in for me for a few weeks on this blog. He and his writing partner have launched a new site which details all their doinds in Hollywood. Check it out...


Hello friends, family, and colleagues,

We want to tell you that the website for our production company is finally officially launched.

Please check out

Even if you've already been, please visit again as there are now pictures in a photo album.

And be sure to turn up the volume on your computer so we can talk at you. Just whatever you do, don't tap us on the heads.

Thanks for playing a part in our lives,

Dan Ewald
Rajeev Sigamoney

John Thomas update

My sister sent around this report on my nephew's broken arm. So far, the prognosis looks very good. Thanks to all of you for praying.


John-Thomas had surgery yesterday on his elbow and is recovering well. He had three pins put in and is experiencing some pain but the cast, which reaches from his shoulder to his fingers, has helped. We go back Monday to make sure pins are in the right place and haven't moved. I pray to God they are or its back to the table.

The break occurred a hair above the left elbow joint in an area that is a bit tricky. The doctor, Dr, T., seemed proficient and assured.

I suppose he would have to be, operating as he does every day on injured children. I only spoke to him for a few moments but he answered my rapid fire questions succinctly and I got the impression that in the grand scheme of things, this break was not a real challenge.

The nurses said of Dr. T. ,"He is can not imagine how he undestands the orthopedic structure of the human body. He has performed amazing surgeries, saving numerous children from deformity and pain." I only spent a few minutes with him in our pre-op conversation, but despite all the caregivers I met over the last few days, I will remember him all my life for he held my son's inert, broken, body at his mercy and healed him.

Almost Godlike are men such as these who can mend and heal that which from most of us shirk in horror. They hold mother's and father's hearts in their hands everyday which is more than most do. I found out later he had just finished a complex vertbrate operation that would allow a child to walk for the first time. It had taken six hours. Our surgery lasted one hour and went off without a hitch. Puts life in perspective, doesn't it?

Anyway, he called John Thomas' case a textbook elbow break which will limit forward-
backward joint mobility but only slightly...if all goes according to plan.

It did take quite a long time to wake John-Thomas up...much longer than the other patients. I believe our family doesn't do well when we go under.

Anyway, if all is well, the cast stays on three weeks and then he will have the pins removed and go to a smaller cast for another two weeks. The most frightening thing is the nerve damage, So far, he can not bend his thumb and his fingers feel "different" or "fuzzy". This means stretched or torn nerves which we will not really know until the swelling goes down and his arm begins to heal. Most likely this sensation should come back.

His cast takes 24 hours to harden and he is going to stay in bed all day today. Truthfully, he is exhausted, frightened, and anxious. The break was complete and left his arm dangling scaring him into thinking that he is "permanently broken" and will not be able to play anymore.

Despite our reassurances, the vision of his arm hanging like jelly has made him quite fearful which I believe is natural and will pass when the cast comes off and he sees he is fixed.

He went under anaesthesia uttering his "Angel of God" prayer and woke up and naively asked if he was "fixed". He seemed disappointed to find he still had discomfort but got over it fast enough by immediately reminding the nurse she had promised him a beanie-baby if he made it through.

He choose the ugliest orange and gray bearded dragon lizard. He claimed it needed to be loved and besides, he had other lizards at home that would keep it company.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm sick...

My beloved little nephew John Thomas was in an accident at camp today. Somehow, he fell off something and got his arm caught. It broke in a terrible way - splintered. He is in the hospital tonight and will have surgery tomorrow. Please send prayers that the surgeon is very good and that they can fix his arm to back the way it ought to be...and that JT doesn't have too much pain.

Oh dear.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The MPAA: Protecting Audiences From Christianity

I had the chance to screen the upcoming Sony release Facing the Giants last week. This is the film that has garnered what one of my industry friends is calling, "$20 million in free marketing" when the MPAA reviewers gave the film a PG rating for "Christian content." When they were called on it, MPAA spokesmen backed off of Christianity as the reason for the rating, but, too bad for them, one of their original statements had included the note that some people might be offended by the prosletizing in the film.

Here's what I think.

There is nothing in the film to warrant a PG rating. Some people are saying that the film should have the rating for "football violence" and for "the infertility theme." Puh-leeeeeeeeze. "Football violence"???!!! The last time I checked, pro-football airs on network television several times weekly for three months every year without parental warnings. And that's PRO-football. The stuff in Facing the Giants is HIGH SCHOOL football! And it isn't even really good football playing. Certainly not graphic. Secondly, the infertility stuff in the movie is far, far less graphic than what would appear in the average episode of 7th Heaven. It's so subtle and vague that six year olds won't get it and pre-teens would learn more about sex from the tabloids in the checkout aisle at the grocery store. Honestly, the film should have been a G.

Having said that, I did find the film mildly offensive. And I mean for more than the usual sins against artistry that we have come to expect in movies written, produced, directed and starred in by Christians outside of Hollywood. And though I did see some talent in the directing here, the movie is uneven in acting, it's production value is low, and the script is pedestrian. But, honestly, more offensive was the on-the-nose, born-again languagey, prosperity Gospel stuff in the movie. I brought a young Catholic intern with me to the screening and he described the experience of watching the film as "awkward and embarrassing." It's a very particular strain of Christianity being spotlighted in this film, and, unfortunately, the filmmakers either aren't aware that they will be watched by most viewers as an anthropological phenomenon, or else they don't care.

The people behind Facing the Giants had every right to make a movie for the few hundred thousand folks in their sub-culture. Understanding that they made a movie they and their friends at church want to see, the critique of the film should be limited to how well they executed the kind of movie they made -- not whether they should have made that movie. Dissing Facing the Giants for Christianese is like attacking a porn film for having nudity in it. Or attacking the Food Channel for having too many cooking shows. That's what they do. Now, the question should be how well the Food Channel does cooking shows. My sense is that many of the secular reviewers who get a look at Facing the Giants will fall into this trap. Of course, if the filmmakers behind the film put their film into the mainstream, they have it coming. This isn't a film for the mainstream audience. The promotional materials for the film should make that clear. I'd be mad to go to a football movie and get hit in the forehead by a valentine to Islam.


The film should still not have gotten a PG rating. The truth is, it isn't the MPAA's job to warn audiences that a movie is coming from a particular sub-culture. Their job is to protect kids from harm. Now, if the sub-culture out of which the movie was coming was Skinhead Fascism or the North American Man Boy Love Association, it would be the job of the MPAA to flag the film as morally problematic. But Christianity, even over-simplified, saccharin, sentimental Christianity, is not a moral problem.

Facing the Giants is only potentially harmful to audience's if you believe that Christianity is a bad thing. That it is a subversive thing. Which is why the MPAA reviewers gave this film a PG rating in the first place. Despite their subsequent demurring. What's next?! Removing the Ten Commandments from courtrooms and Nativity scenes from public parks?!!

Oh, the humanity.

Actors Being Fatuous on the Prairie

I am a Robert Altman fan. But I didn't get why he wanted to make A Prairie Home Companion. The whole thing seemed like an inside joke to me. One that I didn't get.

Sometimes Altman allows his scenes to run long because he seems to so enjoy letting talented actors actually do some acting (as opposed to mopdeling clothes and pouting). And there was a little of that in APHC - most notably in Meryl Streep's moments in front of the camera. But there wasn't much for any of this stellar array of actors to do. It was like dress up time for most of them, but with no pay off. Tremendous waste of Streep, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, Virginia Madsen, Kevin Kline, and even Lindsey Lohan. Just to name a few.

For many years now I have said loudly and often that I would watch Meryl Streep read the phonebook.....Well, sure, a phoneboook. But not this beatless, self-conscious script.

I found the humor lame. But in-your (ie. the audience's) -face-ishly so. I guess that is Keilor's schtick?

It was an odd thing to watch. Borrowing from Tommy Lee Jone's dialogue, watching APHC was much more like being trapped in an experiment in anthropology than in an opportunity for entertainment. My sense is that was the point. The purpose of the movie was to immortalize Garrison Keilor's schtick while we still have him...because he is an American treasure or something.

Which treasure I found mostly lame. But he has a nice voice.

This review is brought to you by the good folks at Ben's Soda Crackers. Don't forget to pass on this movie on your way to pick up the crispy crackers in the bright blue box.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Report from the Executive Program

Both our summer programs are in full-swing these days. We have 59 amazing and talented young Christians between our Executive and Writing Programs, and, so far, they have been getting a wonderful exposure to some of the most thoughtful and charismatic Christians in the industry.

The great and wonderful, Phil Cooke, has been a key member of the Advisory Board that has crafted the Executive Program structure and curriculum these last two years. He spoke to the Exec students last week about the crucial art of networking in Hollywood, but from the standpoint of a person of faith. It was a great talk that he has excerpted on his blog. Here is a wonderful snip...

...Help other people. Stop thinking about your problems and look outside yourself. If you can get past the "It's all about me" stage, then you'll really understand the power of networks. I've discovered that helping others connect has been remarkably beneficial for me. I honestly believe that you can get what you want when you help enough people get what they want. The Bible calls it "planting seeds."


Don't keep a balance sheet. Sometimes, you'll connect people for a great project and they'll leave you out in the cold. For some reason, people don't always reciprocate, but don't let that stop you and don't let it destroy your momentum. I know some that got the shaft, and they just can't let it go. Their bitterness is destroying their lives. Even if you get abused 4 of 5 times, that one positive experience will be worth it.

It's because of people like Phil that Act One is not only blessed - it's magic!

Pirates: Dead Man's Mess


Circuit City has been installing a new stereo system in my car for two days and over 16 hours now. Last night, they managed to still not get the steering wheel controls reconnected, and raised that by disconnecting my directional signals. There is a cineplex across the street, so I have gotten three movies in while waiting. Last night, I saw "the biggest movie in America!" with the "hugest opening in box-office history."

Yeah. I don't want to spend too much time here. My best advice is not to waste your money if you haven't already wasted it on this. This film has twice the production value of the original but offers less than half the charm and entertainment. It is a heartless sequence of sight gags interspersed with tedious dialogue sequences... I found some of the dialogue scenes really, really tedious because the actors accents or costuming made their speech unintelligible. There were some spiffy effects, but that's all really. Two hours into the movie, it was clear to me that the whole thing was basically a set-up for the next film.

Parents should be warned that some stuff in the movie - notable the dead pirates who are half men-half demonic barnacles - might be distubing for children.

Using all the narrative consistency present in Pirates: Chest, the moral of the review is, don't buy car stereo systems from Circuit City.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"Truth, Justice and all that other stuff" - Is that You Returning, Superman?

Here's what I think. Briefly.

Superman Returns had some cool stuff to look at. The glaring exception was the principle brackish set-piece island somewhere east of Long Island. It seems to me that originating as it did in a couple of lovely diamond and emerald crystals, it should have been prettier. But even though it certainly can be read as a metaphor for the kind of things that evil brings forth, the set piece was boring to look at for the last third of the movie. But still, all the sequences with Superman using his powers were cool to watch. Like so much of the best part of the summer movies - spectacle is the big studios doing what they do best. Brandon Routh was also lovely to look at. As a set piece.

Unfortunately, he can't act. He reduced Clark Kent to basically a device with which to gaze unseen at Lois Lane. Oh dear, Lois. In this film Lois Lane is completely devoid of charisma. Just a babe with a nicodine addiction and a baby, basically. A diverting question of the film for me was why Superman who, after all can fly, etc., would be so enthralled by this particular lack-lustre Lois. It's like Wolfgang Puck wanting to feast on Cheerios. Of course, the script didn't give the actors much to play, but still.

Cutting to the chase... from a Christian standpoint, the movie fails on two levels. The lesser problem - but certainly the more amusing one - was the laboring the film did to set up as a Christ-figure a fellow whose choices establish him as a basically angst-ridden small town guy who is obsessed with a girl, knocks her up and then becomes a deadbeat dad. I'm thinking that these things - lusting, loving and leaving are really "the American Way" for contemporary global audiences. I'm glad the script here didn't have the courage to call it that though. Here, after "Truth" (what is that anyway?) and "Justice" (like skipping out on your kid and on the court date that would keep a super-criminal behind bars?) , the third part of Superman's vocation is murmured out as "all that other stuff." Rich. Perfect. Anyway, the problem is the biggie for this culture: separating the personal misdeeds from the public heroism as though they are unrelated. Remember the Clinton-Monica mantra that it is possible to be a great good leader and a private cad all at the same time?

Secondly, and more devastating to the picture as a work of art, the triumphant climax of the good in the film never emotionally overcame the shockingly brutal evil in it. It's what I call The Horse Whisperer Problem. That movie opened with a horrific and shocking accident. And then, the ultimate victory in the film was only gentle and subtle. Maybe that is more like real life. Certainly it is. But stories are supposed to be better than real life. In the same way, Superman Returns never felt as good at the end as the middle felt horrible. The stabbing with a piece of sharp Kryptonite was just too much. It wasn't the stuff of a comic book movie. It was the stuff of Reservoir Dogs.

Some of you will recall I felt this way a little in X3. I wanted more fun in my summer comic book movies. Way too much angst and brooding and brutality for the genre. Certainly not suitable for my seven year old nephew for whom the original Superan was certainly not toxic.

I think the problem is that comic book movies are supposed to be for kids. But people aren't growing up the way they are supposed to be. We are staying adolescents way into our sixties by all evidence. So, we are dragging the things of childhood into places where they don't really belong, and then having to make them meatier, which kind of perverts them.

I liked a lot of Superman Returns and give it a thumbs-up for the non-squeamish young adult and adult audience. It isn't for kids. Because basically, I'm not sure it is Superman who returned here.

Still Kicking...

Hi all! Thanks so much to those of you who keep tuning in here watching for signs of life. Once, a friend asked Emily Dickinson if she had been writing much poetry, and Emily said she hadn't because "lately existence has over-whelmed being." I think I know what she means. Writing that is worth reading requires moments of "being." That is, time when a writer can think on experience. It's two different moments "experience" and "reflecting on experience". I am piling up stuff to reflect on - which I will do here hopefully soon. Just not right now. And, frankly, I don't trust what I would write in my current frame of mind. I'm very clipped lately....

So what's going on? Well, there are our two Act One programs - Writing and Executive - which are both in full swing. (Please keep our sixty students in your prayers.) Then, there have been my trips to Europe and DC (and soon Seattle - coming at you Jeffrey! Want to have lunch?) and, of course, every trip tends to generate more work in cleaning-up, following up and new leads.

There has been a lot of friend and family stuff - friends getting married; friends getting engaged; friends having babies; friends out of work; friends changing jobs; friends needing script help.

It seems like I've been shaking a lot of hands of visitors - parents and friends of our students and alumni and then just people who have heard of us. That happens in the summers when people travel. More and more people seem to be "dropping in" at Act One all the time because they just want to meet us. It's nice. Time-consuming with everything else, but certainly a sign that our profile is rising.

Then, there's the perpetual journalists. Not as many lately but there are still always one or two in my email box. Wanting sound-bites. Wanting approval of sound-bites. Fact checking. Wanting to know what a Christian movie is. Wanting to know what it is like to leave the convent and come to Hollywood. What do I think about a Christian movie getting a PG for talking about Jesus. (BTW, As I have said before ad nauseum, I think we are in a time of persecution. It's so damn obvious and it is funny to me that so many Christains are still walking around 'eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage' and scratching their head in shock at stuff like this. "CAN YOU NOT READ THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES?!!" No, we humans can't it seems. Particularly we Christians. Ever. Maybe that is part of our charm for God.)

Then, I have had some stupid physical pebbles in my corporal shoe: A two month-long bout of bronchitis. A persistent ear infection which my doctor assures me will go away if I can stay off an airplane for more than two weeks. And then that finger cyst has come back and is swollen like a grape.

Then, of course, there has been an unusual amount of fundraising activity for Act One because we will really need a good chunk of money very soon.

Oh, did I let that slip?.... We are in our usual "How are we going to get through the Fall?!" financial traumatic stress weeks at Act One. There is so much money going out for program expenses and very little coming in from grants. We really need some financial angels right now. There is a "Donate to Act One" button on the right....see it? Thanks. God bless you.

But there's something else too. It's that being "clipped" thing I mentioned above...

It probably has more to do with me not writing much lately than anything else. I'm bored. Completely, mind-paralysingly, agonizingly bored. This happens to me every ten years or so. I started realizing I was getting bored during the whole Da Vinci Code insanity. One day I woke up irritated about having to go over again why blasphemy is like pornography - not something at all that is useful or neutral especially to Christians. And I found I was triple times infinity to the tenth power of pi bored with people who want me to either not state the obvious about problems in the Church or state it is such a way that it is obscure. I know it is true that "You get more bees with honey," but what exactly do you get with two and a half parts watered down aspartame and why should I care anyway? (And please. I'm already bored with those of you who are going to tell me with umbrage that what is obvious to me may not really be obvious at all but just you know, subjectively obvious in some way, you know, to me.... Please resist.)

I'm bored with pretty much every speech I've been giving lately... before I even start. This is the pitfall of making it onto the Christian guru speaking tour circle. That is, you have to be on it. ( I really love meeting all the people! It's listening to myself repeat myself that is so awful.)

I've been really bored this Spring and summer with the greed and lust for celebrity that has been in my face lately in so many believing folks who are doing movies in this moment. I have felt spiritully sullied by the - how can I say this gently? - lying and back-stabbing and preening and posturing and over-all lack of honor that I have seen up close in at last five projects which have in some way swept me into their vortex. What is it about this business that makes good people consistently try to violate agreements that they have made? Why is a good thing never enough in itself, but always a sign that maybe this could be a much better thing which we can have if we just dump over the side the people who helped us make this thing a good thing? Boring was a lunch I had a a few weeks back in which I was I suddenly awash in scores of deja vu recollections of similar meetings when I realized that the nice Christian "producer" across the table really had no real money, no real story for a movie, and no real idea that it isn't nice to set up meetings by saying you have these things only to reveal over the salad that you really don't.

A friend said to me recently, "In my twenty-five years in Hollywood, I can count on the fingers of one hand decisions that have been made for the good of the project itself. It's always something else: greed, pride, fear."

And then somewhere in the middle of MI:3...or was it Poseiden...or maybe it was reading about the reliably hug boxoffice for Fast and Furious Really, Really Full Throttle This Time XV - I realized I was bored with Hollywood. I mean the movies. I have long been bored by the Brad/Jen/Angelina,Britney/Tom-Kat/Gwyneth has a daughter she named Apple - part of Hollywood. But I have always felt a thrill opening a new script, or watching the studio logos come up right in front of a new film. Lately, the thrill is gone. Which makes it hard to write about.

This could be burn out. It could be turning forty two. It also could certainly be what a friend said yesterday, "Sounds like you really need to start a new program." Maybe. It most certainly is the first REAL opportunity for heroism I've found yet in Hollywood. No really.