Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pirates Pillage the Audience Again

In case you are one of the four people who didn't go to see Pirates of the Caribbean this past weekend, don't. I went despite fair warning by several critics whose opinions I generally respect, like Jeffrey Overstreet. This movie is not worth me trying to come up with a better chapter of faults than Jeffrey has already done:

Not even a dozen Captain Jack Sparrows can save this overstuffed ship from sinking. If less really is more, Verbinski must have missed the memo. (In last summer's Dead Man's Chest, he proved that excess can be a good thing; it's hard to have too much fun with slapstick sequences as inspired as those. But here, it's just chaotic action, a lot of shooting and swordplay without character development to give it gravity.)

...Verbinski and the effects team work overtime to spoil your appetite. The previous Pirates movies have shown a flair for the grotesque, and this time, they pull out all the stops. In fact, they dismember them. Characters have a troubling tendency to snap off digits, gouge out eyes (and suck on them), rip brains out of craniums (and lick them), and yank out beating hearts (and maybe even stab them). It's like touring the popular "Bodies" exhibit (featured in Casino Royale), only to see the corpses come to life and dissect themselves.

...Three hours is a long time to sit watching self-centered buffoons scrambling about the deck of an unsteady ship. For all of the talk about love and freedom, these "mateys" are as fickle and reckless as a cafeteria full of juvenile delinquents. Everybody lies to everybody. Understanding their motives and grudges is like trying to comprehend sectarian violence in the Middle East. The movie's most telling scene involves a super-sized Mexican standoff, in which the gunslingers can't decide who to shoot. Who can blame them? They're all losers. Moviegoers might as well root for Lord Beckett.

Thus, the movie ends up like Davy Jones himself—many-tentacled, full of bluster, and devoid of a beating heart.

It's just a mess of a film. Impossible story. Too many characters. Half the dialogue unintelligible because of bad accents or inconvenient costumes/makeup. Depp's usual delightful characterization has grown stale and without surprises. Keira Knightly pouts her way annoyingly through yet another film.

My eight year old nephew - WHO LOVES PIRATE ANYTHING! - was bored and disgusted. He proclaimed the movie "a scam" when it finally ended. He is right.

The only pluses in film are the stunning visuals. It's really a showcase of what is possible with the latest CGI effects.

But that isn't enough to justify sitting through three hours of tedium. Wait for the coffee table book. Judging by the unrestrained marketing connected with this franchise, I'm sure a cofeetable book must be forthcoming.

Pass, matey. A thousand bottles of rum couldn't obscure this movie's flaws.

Try this, Maine!

I'm on vacation in Orlando with my sister, nephew and brother-in-law. It's kind of a rebellion for us to be here. My family has only ever gone to one place for vacation: Maine. Specifically, the Belgrade Lakes region of central Maine. My Mom is from Waterville, ME. And it's a lovely place. But after thirty years, my sister and I decided we had fished enough under-sized trout, shivered in enough icy cold waters, and critiqued enough quilts at the Windsor Country Fair, for several lifetimes. So, we decided to pick a vacation that is the categorical opposite of a cabin on Long Lake. Hence, we've been Disneying, Sea Worlding, Universaling, Wet N' Wilding, MGMing, boating, swimming and putt-putt golfing for the last ten days.

And, honestly, I think I'm done. It's been fun watching my eight year old nephew, whose expression every day says more eloquently, "We are a long, long way from eastern Connecticut." Of course, we're all a little insecure about the fact that he seemed to have as much fun splashing around in the free resort pool as he did in the $65 theme parks. It was funny to see in nearly every theme park, around 4pm, parents practically shaking their kids, "You can't be done yet! We have to have more fun! Do you know how much this is costing?!"

Still, it was a great change for all of us, and we are going back to our lives much tanner and replete with yummy seafood and simulated thrills. And I got through six hundred pages of "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" - fabulous read. It's been a good time.

Here was one place that was relatively cheap, and really good "8 year old" bang for the buck. We spent about two hours putt-putt golfing (I came in last....rats.) at Congo River Golf. They had live aligators!

Here are the brave New England tourists fearlessly feeding hotdog chunks to the ferocious beasts (none of whom were more than three feet long...)

Here's JT at Disney, schmoozing with the great and good Lotte the Bug Lady. (Thanks so much, "Lotte"! You are our hero!)

Here's JT and my sister releasing ladybug carcasses into the Disney gardens. Um, there were a few still crawling around, but I think the Overlords at Epcot need to consider turning down the fridge where they store the poor bugs.

And here are some shots of the teenage Chinese acrobats doing amazing things outside Chinaland in Epcot. I like to call this series of photos, "Why We Never Want to Get in a War with These Folks."

It was Flower Festival Week at Epcot. Breathtaking everywhere you looked.

And then Sea World.

Yeah, I know they are horses. My nephew wanted to know why they are there too. Something about the Busch beer folks owning the theme park. They have to keep them somewhere, right? Besides, free beer samples very quickly reconciled us to the presence of horses at Seaworld.

SeaWorld is always my favorite themepark. And the dolphin show this year is, by far, the coolest, most wondrous thing of its kind I have ever seen. There was none of the science talk about mammal characteristics. No talking at all, really. Just a beautiful colorful synergy of music, dolphins, birds, and human divers and swimmers. It's a must see.

See Barb in Los Angeles

My next speaking gig will be at the Blue Army Conference in Los Angeles on July 1st. I will be given two talks - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I will be talking about positive things going on in Hollywood, and also specifically about my experience in Australia working on a new movie that is in the works about Fatima.

Clickhere for the conference schedule.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Most Successful "Documentarian" in History....

When I was in grad school, the first question I had to answer for the film program was whether I wanted to be in the documentary track or in the narrative track. Even at mostly Marxist Northwestern University film school, my agenda -riddled professors understood the difference between making up a story and reporting one. Sadly, this is a question that no one ever asked Michael Moore, apparently. This following piece is from a longer story about the new documentary on Michael Moore called Manufacturing Dissent. The project comes from two liberal documentarians who started off as Moore admirers. But as they proceeded in their investigation of the methods of the "most successful documentarian in history," their enthusaism and their project's bent changed.

In another bit from Roger & Me, Moore explains how Nightline planned to do a special on Flint, where struggling local leaders were to talk with Ted Koppel via satellite hook up. In the next scene, a local TV reporter informs audiences that the special has been cancelled because ABC's satellite truck was stolen by an unemployed GM worker. What a gem. How did Moore get it? Caine and Melnyk made some calls.

The answer is, he made it up. There was no laid-off car thief. No truck had been stolen. There was no truck to be stolen. Nightline had never attempted to do a special on Flint. Moore made the entire incident up, gave a script to a cooperative reporter and passed it off as real...

...The premise of Roger & Me was that Roger Smith, (the CEO of GM) would not talk to Michael Moore. In Manufacturing Dissent's big payoff, Melnyk and Caine learn that Moore actually did get two interviews with Roger Smith, in which they talked--for longer than Moore talked to Melnyk--about Flint and GM. There are videotapes, transcripts, and witnesses (whom Moore subsequently asked to deny everything). So the very founding conceit of Roger & Me, the film that launched Moore's career, is predicated on a lie.

The thing that frosts my cookies the most about this is strictly personal. I had a roomamte once who fancied herself a "socially awakened Christian" who claimed Michael Moore as her guru of enlightenment. She said to me several times, "Roger and Me changed my life." It's always problematic when a Christian cleaves to any other guru than Jesus Christ. "These are not the times to pin your soul on anyone's sleeve. Pin your soul on Christ." (St. Teresa of Avila)

Go here to read the whole piece. Hat tip to the Overlords atThe New Advent

Friday, May 18, 2007

Transforming Culture Symposium, April 2008

Here is a web page for a neat conference at which I will be speaking next year. (I am very honored top be asked to be part of this event. Although I admit it's depressing to me that I am already booked for April 2008. I may otherwise have been able to become a forest ranger by then, except now I have to give one more speech.)

Anyway, if you are into the stuff of this blog, this symposium will be right up your alley.

The Last Judgment of the New Evangelization

And on the last day, the Son of Man will be seated in judgment of the various generations of men. And the People of God from the age of technology will also appear before Him.

And He will turn to those on His Right, who were Lampstands in the culture, with their laptops and microphones and scripts and notebooks radiant and transfigured. Suddenly, just beyond them will appear millions of souls, the saved from the age of technology. And they will plead for the Lampstands whose stories and songs are engraved in the individual books of the saved.

And the Judge will turn his eyes to the writers who told stories, and He will say to them, “Enter into joy. For I was cynical and unmotivated, but you gave me a hero to enthrall me.”

And He will turn to musicians and singers and say, “Enter into joy. For my heart was hard and dead, but you sang me stirring melodies.”

And He will find actors and say to them, “Enter into joy. For when I was obtuse and couldn’t see myself you became a saving mirror for me.”

And He will turn to journalists and say to them, “Enter into joy. For when I was uncertain and ignorant, you sought out the Truth for me.”

And He will turn to the makers of images and say, “Enter into joy. For when I was blind, your paradoxes compelled me to see.”

And He will wave in those who wrote mediocre CBA novels and sentimental Christian movies and ‘the Painter of Light’ saying, “And even you all come in. Because at least you tried. (But not the ladies who danced in leotards and red sashes at Catholic Churches. You can't come in.)"

And he will turn to those who just made entertainment. And He will say, “Come, Blessed of my Father and enter into your joy. For when I thought I was alone, you were my friend. When I was depressed you made me laugh. When I was pitiless, you gave me tears. When I was bored, you gave me the joy of life again. When I was empty, you inspired me.”

And the Lampstands will say to Him, “Lord, when did we tell you stories or sing to you? When did we teach you or inspire you or make you laugh and be your friend?”

And the Judge will say to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, any time you spent hours practicing scales for an audience, or delving into a character for a producer, or auditioning for a cold director, or submitting an article to an editor. You did it for me. Now, inherit the Kingdom that has been prepared for you.”

And then, the Judge will turn to one of the angels of the apocalypse and say, “And where are those who are supposed to be on my left?

And the angel will reply with more than a hint of frustration, they are waiting for You in their caves. They have spent their age in personality wars and fighting over which of them is really a Christian.

And the Judge will have His angels flush the Cave Dwellers out and He will say to them, “Depart from me, you who have sent no souls ahead of you.”

And the Cave Dwellers will say, “Oh, but Lord. We did send some souls. See! Here are a few members of our families and also several of the folks in our church small group. (Sadly a lot of them were, you know, seduced by the evil media and lost. That damn Hollywood!)

And the Judge will stare at them in utter disbelief for what will seem like a few centuries and then say, “Depart from me, you slothful, fearful, worthless disciples. You not only did not read the Signs of your Times, but you took pride in ignoring them.

“For I was a poet who was supposed to give words to the fears and longing of my times, but you told me to get a real job.”

“For I was a composer who had an anthem that would have rallied the world to communion, but you cut my budget.

“For I was a novelist, with a story that would have brought insight to millions, but you grew impatient with my first efforts.

“For I was an actor who was bent under rejection, and you told me to just quit.

“For I was a radio host who gave you company and comfort many days when you would alone in your car, but you never found a way to support me.

“For I was a director with a prophetic vision, but you just shrugged and said, ‘Movies are all garbage.’

“For I was the global audience, that was desperately in need of meaning and encouragement and communion. That needed to be persuaded to choose life and not death. And to know that they are not alone.

And the Cave-Dwellers will turn to Him and say, “Lord, when did we see you needing meaning, out of work, or rejected or alone?”

And the Judge will say, “Whenever you failed to embrace the arts and media, you failed to embrace millions of souls. And you failed to embrace me. Away with you to wail and gnash your teeth and watch lame reality show reruns for all eternity.”

And the Cave-Dwellers will be led away to languish forever in sloth and fear, but the Lampstands into the joy of unbridled and perfect creativity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Act One News

Go here to check out Act One's updated and redesigned web site. It looks really great and has lots of new blurbs from the alumni about the program, as well as an expanded section just for alumni - of which Act One now has 600.

Please consider putting a link to Act One on your blog and helping us get the word out by sending an email message to your friends (especially the rich ones!) inviting them to check out the site. Then everybody can click HERE to make a donation to Act One so we can keep this very important effort going.

Our lease is up next July. We anticipate having to sustain either a major jump in rent, or (much better!) making a move to a better home with more room. It's going to take money of which we have little. Thanks for anything you can do.

Friday, May 11, 2007

20% full of shame and self-loathing...

You Are 80% American

You're as American as red meat and shooting ranges.
Tough and independent, you think big.
You love everything about the US, wrong or right.
And anyone who criticizes your home better not do it in front of you!

It's a good day....

...any day you turn in a screenplay. Which I do today when I turn in the first (actually third...I never turn in a first draft) draft of the Jane Austen adaptation (more of a resetting)/ Santa Barbara polo movie that I have been working on since last Fall.

Screenwriting is such a weird activity, in that you go from complete ignorance on a subject to the level of unbelievably abstruse intelligence. Screenplay research requires a minuteness for detail so that you can allow the audience to experience what I think of as the rush of arena fascination. They want to learn without realizing they are learning, and this all happens in the teeny little flourishes of detail that the screenwriter picked up in a letter that she found in a long-out of print book at a Church used book sale on an island somewhere in the geographical middle of the Black Sea....

The weird part is how much you want to share what you have written, while at the same time dreading having people read it. especially people who know you. I want to sit under the elbow of every one who reads my script registering every flicker of muscle movement on his or her face as they traverse it line by line. "Why are they laughing there? That wasn't supposed to be funny." "Why aren't they laughing there?! The Neanderthalism! That is hilarious stuff! Or else maybe I have no sense of humor?! I might need therapy instead of more screenplay jobs...." "What just made you jolt?" "Why do you look like you are in a sitting coma?"

Then there is the character attachment. The screenwriter creates characters who - after a while, you can't believe aren't really real - because their psychology and choices becomes the default object of your thoughts for months or years. You spend much more time with your characters while writing than you do with most of the real people who pass through your life. While you brood over your characters' speech, your imagination spends hours and hours in their homes and favorite haunts - which you also have to create. You dress them up, and make them fall in love, and break their hearts and you try really hard to not make them too obviously like anyone in your immediate circle of friends and family.

Anyway, then, you turn in the script, as I will today, and it's not just yours any more. Your pat them on the shoulder and send your characters and ideas into the treacherous and often (for the characters) barbaric terrain known as Notesville. Notes. When people who have read your script once quickly in between watching The View and picking the kids up from kindergarten, get to tell you that a character's choice is unmotivated. Notes. In which a moment you thought is haunting and profound ends up becoming just one more derrivative proof of everything that is wrong with movie writing today. Notes are very great when they are good, and they are necessary, but wow, is it humbling.

I often experience envy of the guy down at the hall who bags gorceries at Mayfair. Nobody ever takes him aside at the end of the night and says, 'What did you mean by putting that shampoo in with the Raisin Bran? And in a paper bag?!??! Don't you realize that every other grocery bagger is packing ceral and hair products just that way? How could you be so unoriginal? It just doesn't work for me. And that weird little thing you did with letting the lettuce peak out of the top of one of the bags? What the hell was that? The customer isn't going to get it, when the lettuce is all wilted by the time she gets home. You are going to have to find another way. Tomorrow we will talk about this weird cliche you use in putting the heavy stuff on the bottom of the bags. Get over it already. "


Anyway, so, I turned in Polosuasion today. Now I wait for notes, and then I spend another month on a rewrite. And then I wait for more notes. And then I spend another month on a polish.

And then, I am done with horses and Argentinian polo and Santa Barbara whale watching and waterfalls and Samoan welcome dancing and birthing breeched foals and tango dancing and all of the other areas that had to become daily bread for my imagination while I was working on this project. I will be done with Anne and the Colonel and Admiral Croft and his wife Sophia and Frederico and Carlos and Elizabeth and Adelaide Russell, and Manuel the Latin butler who I really like very much.

And then, I have to start rading books about growing up in Indiana during the Depression, and C.S. Lewis and Oxford in the 40's and WWII at Pearl Harbor and the theology of conversion and yachting in the Carribbean and all things A Severe Mercy.

It's a weird way to make a living....But very cool too.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Here's where I'd be this weekend if...

...I wasn't heading back home to CT for my nephew's First Communion. (Which I am actually really excited about. Haven't been back in New England since Christmas.)

My friend, the luminously intellected, Sr. Marianne Trouve, fsp is giving a talk about Mary and the Theology of the Body at this event in Texas this weekend. The conference is definitely worth checking out if you like cerebral meanderings through the ongoing development of dogma (our understanding of it, anyway).

Here's more info and the conference schedule....

Mariological Society of America 58th Annual Program on The Virginity of Mary

May 22-25, 2007

Cedarbrake Retreat and Renewal Center
P.O. Box 58, Belton, TX 76513

TUESDAY, May 22, 2007

6:00 p.m. Dinner
7:30 p.m. Welcome--Prayer Service
Moderator: Father John Phalen, CSC

WEDNESDAY, May 23, 2007


7:15 a.m. Morning Prayer and Eucharist
8:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:45 a.m. Registration
9:00 a.m. Welcome, Announcements

9:15 a.m. "Mary's Virginity as 'the sign of her faith': A Study of the Nature-Grace Dynamic"
Patricia Sullivan (Assistant Professor of Theology at Saint Anselm College, New Hampshire)
Moderator: Father Thomas A. Thompson, SM

10:45 a.m. "Francisco Suarez, S.J. (1548-1617) on Mary's virginitas in partu"
Rober Fastiggi (Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, MI)
Moderator: Father Thomas Buffer, STD


12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:30 p.m. "Virginity and the 'Wholesome Person'"
Sr. Elena Lugo (Schoenstatt Sisters, Puerto Rico, Pontifical Academy for Life)
Moderator: Sister Jean Frisk

3:00 p.m. "Survey of Recent Mariology, 2007"
Father Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm.(Nokomis, Florida)

5:00 p.m. Dinner

7:30 p.m. "Virginity and the Theology of the Body"
Sr. Marianne Trouve, FSP (Boston, MA)
Moderator: Dr. Virginia Kimball

9:00 p.m. Marian Devotion/Evening Prayer

Thursday, May 24, 2007


7:15 a.m. Morning Prayer and Eucharist
8:00 a.m. Breakfast

9:15 a.m. "Mary, Virgin and Ever-Virgin, in Patristic Iconographic Tradition"
Father Johann G. Roten, S.M. (Dayton, OH)
Moderator: Father Thomas A. Thompson, SM

10:45 a.m. "Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of the Father and of the Virgin Mother"
Dr. Deyanira Flores (Oca de Montes, Costa Rica)
Moderator: Sr. M. Catherine Nolan, OP


12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:30 p.m. "Recent Literature on Mary's Virginity"
Father Johann Roten, SM (Dayton, OH)
Moderator: Father Thomas Thompson, SM

3:45 p.m. Business Meeting and Elections


5:00 p.m. Dinner and Festive Reception

8:30 p.m. Marian Devotion/Evening Prayer

Friday, May 25, 2007


7:15 a.m. Breakfast

A BUS TOUR to visit the "Painted Churches" around the Austin area will be provided, with lunch included ($35.00). If interested, book your return flight for later in the afternoon on Friday. The tour ends at the Airport (see below).

8:00 a.m. Bus departs for Tour

Note: We will celebrate Eucharist together at Sts. Cyril and Methodius (Dubina, Texas) and share a catered meal at the parish hall in nearby Hostyn, Texas.

4:00-4:30 p.m. Tour ends at Austin Airport

Monday, May 07, 2007

Barb's Next Frontier!

On Friday, Origin Entertainment, (a production company based in Santa Monica at which I am a new partner), received the documents from Harper Collins securing the movie option rights to one of my all-time favorite books FOR ME TO ADAPT AS A SCREENPLAY!

This is a wonderful and scary thrill for me, as the book and I have traversed quite a storied journey already since I first read it in college in 1981. (Stay tuned. Someday soon, I will certainly blog about it....) But now, the real adventure gets started. A literal journey as well as spiritual and creative - the book takes place in Hawaii, the Carribbean, Oxford and the rolling hills of Lynchburg, VA. (Several friends have already heroically and selflessly volunteered to be my traveling research assistant on this one.)

If you haven't read the book yet (and to that, can I just say, "Eeeek!!!!"), go here and order it right away. You will feel for me giving you the heads-up, "quick gratitude" (linguistic hat tip to Emily D).

Please keep this project in your prayers. I am rarely excited about anything, but I admit to anticipating this project with wonder (and fear and trembling).

Of course, we will be looking to partner with one of the new studio entities that are hungry for "fodder for the Christian audience" on this one. It is SOOOOO much NOT fodder. Haunting narrative. Theologically profound. Psychologically subtle and rich. Cinematic on several levels. Way, way more to work with here than, wel, - going out on a limb here - a Thomas Kincaid painting....

Anyway, Origin would like to go into a partnership with a strong as hand as possible. Consequently, we will be making a few trips around the country to make presentations on the project for investors. If you would like to host an event for your rich friends who might want to be part of bringing a really beautiful and wonderful project with strong transcendent themes (and a cameo appearance by C.S. Lewis!) to the screen, please send me an email. This one is too good to hamstring with an inadequate budget and untried talents. Please do keep it in your prayers.

(P.S. Did I mention I left Act One primarily because I was sick of begging for money?...Sigh....The truth is, entertainers are pretty much all beggars.)

The title of the book comes from The Confessions of St. Augustine in which the saint is compelled through suffering to accept the saving grace of God. Here's the snip...

Thus I was sick and tormented, reproaching myself more bitterly than ever, rolling and writhing in my chain till it should be utterly broken. By now I was held but slightly, but still was held. And thou, O Lord, didst press upon me in my inmost heart with a severe mercy, redoubling the lashes of fear and shame; lest I should again give way and that same slender remaining tie not be broken off, but recover strength and enchain me yet more securely.

I kept saying to myself, "See, let it be done now; let it be done now." And as I said this I all but came to a firm decision. I all but did it -- yet I did not quite. Still I did not fall back to my old condition, but stood aside for a moment and drew breath. And I tried again, and lacked only a very little of reaching the resolve -- and then somewhat less, and then all but touched and grasped it. Yet I still did not quite reach or touch or grasp the goal, because I hesitated to die to death and to live to life. And the worse way, to which I was habituated, was stronger in me than the better, which I had not tried. And up to the very moment in which I was to become another man, the nearer the moment approached, the greater horror did it strike in me. But it did not strike me back, nor turn me aside, but held me in suspense.

It was, in fact, my old mistresses, trifles of trifles and vanities of vanities, who still enthralled me. They tugged at my fleshly garments and softly whispered: "Are you going to part with us? And from that moment will we never be with you any more? And from that moment will not this and that be forbidden you forever?" What were they suggesting to me in those words "this or that"? What is it they suggested, O my God? Let thy mercy guard the soul of thy servant from the vileness and the shame they did suggest! And now I scarcely heard them, for they were not openly showing themselves and opposing me face to face; but muttering, as it were, behind my back; and furtively plucking at me as I was leaving, trying to make me look back at them. Still they delayed me, so that I hesitated to break loose and shake myself free of them and leap over to the place to which I was being called -- for unruly habit kept saying to me, "Do you think you can live without them?"

But now it said this very faintly; for in the direction I had set my face, and yet toward which I still trembled to go, the chaste dignity of continence appeared to me -- cheerful but not wanton, modestly alluring me to come and doubt nothing, extending her holy hands, full of a multitude of good examples -- to receive and embrace me. There were there so many young men and maidens, a multitude of youth and every age, grave widows and ancient virgins; and continence herself in their midst: not barren, but a fruitful mother of children -- her joys -- by thee, O Lord, her husband. And she smiled on me with a challenging smile as if to say: "Can you not do what these young men and maidens can? Or can any of them do it of themselves, and not rather in the Lord their God? The Lord their God gave me to them. Why do you stand in your own strength, and so stand not? Cast yourself on him; fear not. He will not flinch and you will not fall. Cast yourself on him without fear, for he will receive and heal you." And I blushed violently, for I still heard the muttering of those "trifles" and hung suspended. Again she seemed to speak: "Stop your ears against those unclean members of yours, that they may be mortified. They tell you of delights, but not according to the law of the Lord thy God." This struggle raging in my heart was nothing but the contest of self against self. And Alypius kept close beside me, and awaited in silence the outcome of my extraordinary agitation.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Last Shots from Barb's Camera

Back, by popular demand, the last few shots from my recent trip to Israel. This is my version of inflicting my home movies on my friends and family...


Palm Sunday in Jerusalem

This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. If you ever go to Jerusalem, try and be there for Palm Sunday. First of all, the weather is cooler, and that makes the constant traversing up and down on stone steps much less penitential. ( If you are particularly in need of penance, go in July....) Anyway, the traditional walk route is from Bethany up and down the Mount of Olives, through Gethsemane, down into the Kidron Valley and then up to the Temple through the Damascus Gate.

People told me there were about 12,000 people there. It was the most multi-ethnic thing of which I have ever been a part. Truly, Christians from ever part of the world were there, and filled with a supernatural euphoria probably not unlike the euphoria of that first Palm Sunday. We were wedged in between a group of female Korean pilgrims who were positively ethereal in the love for Jesus shining off their faces as they danced and sang, and a group of boisterous Armenian college guys who jubilantly kept singing the same three-line song for about two hours until we finally pushed way ahead of them to fall in line behind some wide-eyed American pilgrims from Georgia.

I am glad I lived to be part of a Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem.

A shot of the crowd starting to descend into the Kidron Valley from the top of the Mount of Olives. The Temple Mount is in the background, with the procession's destination, the Damascus Gate, on the right of the Temple complex. It was a hearty walk, and I definitely got why the Lord would have done it on a donkey... I was longing for one myself many times.

Polish pilgrims gathering outside of the Carmel on the top of the Mount of Olives.

My sense was that for the Christian community in the Holy Land, the Palm Sunday procession was as much political as spiritual. There were scores of Christian Arab youth groups, their hundreds of members dressed in clothes that looked liked scout uniforms, marching in formation as if to say, "We are here and organized!"

The ever-present Israeli AK-47 toting army, watches the procession from on top of the Damascus Gate.


Church of the Holy Sepulchre

If you do go to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, be sure to stay as far away as possible from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that day! We made the bad, very bad, judgment call, of going to the CHS Palm Sunday morning. We were almost trampled to death in the loud and scary procession of what I thought of as Woodstock Greek Orthodox and Armenian style. There seemed to be some kind of religious ceremony going on, but between the yelling in languages I couldn't make out and the banging of sticks on the ground, and the shoving and pushing of the mob of believers - I was actually off the ground a couple times in the press of the crowd and it occurred to me I could die just a few feet from the place where Jesus rose! - my impression of the place was of Christian group-think insanity.

Here was a little prelate of some group or other that a phalanx of male ushers were guarding quite vociferously. I got shoved aggressively for this little man's space several times. His expression said to me that he would much rather be alone in a garden somewhere quietly talking to Jesus.

THE SPOT where Jesus' cross is believed to have been planted on THE SPOT which is thought to be the site of Golgatha.

On the road again...

I have travels coming up next week. Most of my speaking engagements this time out are not open to the public, but I am always happy to try and fit in meet n' greets the mornings or afternoons in between. So, here's where I will be for the next month...

May 13-14 - Eastern Connecticut

May 15-16 - New York City

Mary 16-17 - LeHigh Valley, PA

May 17-18 - Northern NJ

May 18-31 - Orlando, FL

June 1-2 - Milwaukee, WI

If anybody wants a get-together, send me an email at

Friday, May 04, 2007

Rosary Bowl Pasadena

Passing on this message from my friend Fr. Willy, the Director of Family Theater Productions here in Hollywood.


Dear Friends,

There are 41 billboards around greater Los Angeles announcing the Rosary Bowl for May 19th, 2007, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. This historic event comes to you from Family Theater and its parent ministry, Holy Cross Family Ministries.

Radio and television in Spanish and English, along with local newspapers, are promoting the Rosary Bowl and expecting 65000-70000 people to celebrate together under the banner of "A WORLD AT PRAYER IS A WORLD AT PEACE."

There will be three incredible speakers:

* Bishop Oscar Solis, the first Philippino American bishop and beloved Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles for Ethnic Ministries,

* Immaculée Ilibagiza, courageous survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, and author of her autobiography, "Left To Tell."

* Carl Anderson, the dynamic leader of the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world, the Knights of Columbus.

There will be music and song including a special Rosary Bowl choir and instrumental ensemble, featuring the celebrated member of the Gypsy Kings Family Mario Reyes and his group. Paul Harrigan, a frequent participant at Prayer and Pasta events is coordinating the music and song for the Rosary Bowl.

You can also join former Miss Mexico, 2000, actress and braodcaster, Jacky Bracamontes, and others as they lead the 50+ nationalities of southern California in praying the Rosary.

His Eminence, Cardinal Roger Mahony will preside at Benediction and preach at this massive gathering of the many peoples who make up the Catholic and Christian community of Greater LA.

If you wish to volunteer, please contact Family Theater at 323-874-6633 and/or visit the website.

We still need volunteers. To get involved, please plan to show up one week before the event at the Rose Bowl May 12th at 11 AM. Your participation as a volunteer would be a great blessing to all of us and most of all to yourself.

See you there!

Fr. Willy Raymond
Family Theater Productions

Thursday, May 03, 2007

More Good News from Act One Alumni

In the past several weeks, alumni of the Act One Writing Program have enjoyed a string of successes. This is the kind of thing we knew was going to start happening eventually, when we hit the "tipping point" of alumni. There seems to be good news every week lately. Here are some of the most recent things we've heard:

- In February, Fox Faith released The Ultimate Gift, starring Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Drew Fuller, Ali Hillis, Bill Cobbs, James Garner, Lee Meriwether and Brian Dennehy, with a screenplay by Cheryl McKay (Writing Program 1999).

- In March, Melissa Dogero (WP 2002) and Jessica Rieder (WP 2001) signed as a writing team with CAA and Kimberly Wilson-Lauziere (WP 2005), who is currently in the 2007 NBC Writers on the Verge program, signed with the Brant Rose Agency. Melissa and Jessica were also finalists for the 2007 Warner Bros. Writers Workshop.

- Robin Knight (WP 2004) was signed by CAA.

- Bryan Belknap (WP 2002) inked a deal with Universal Pictures and Judge Reinhold to write a feature comedy and signed with the Brant Rose Agency.

- Chris Foley (WP 2000) has optioned his screenplay Stubborn Creek to Origin Entertainment. The screenplay relates the adventures of a young boy during the Civil War.

- On April 11, the Hollywood Reporter announced that Clare Sera (WP 1999) will co-write the family action-comedy Captain Abdul's Pirate School, based on the book by Colin McNaughton, with partner Karey Kirkpartrick (Chicken Run, Over the Hedge, Charlotte's Web) for Nickelodeon Movies.

- Last week, the trades announced that Isaiah Washington (Grey's Anatomy) will star in the indie feature The Least of These for writer-director Nathan Scoggins (WP 2005). The film will begin a month-long shoot in June and is being produced by alumni James Duke (WP 2001) and Christina Lee (WP2003).

- Andy Griffith has agreed to star in writer-director Scott Teems' (WP 2001) indie feature I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down. The script, which was developed in Act One's advanced Act Two writing program, won the Emerging Narrative Screenplay Award at the 2006 IFP Market in New York.

- In addition to his extensive resume doing stuntwork, Ian Eyre (WP 1999) can currently be seen doing stunts in Spiderman 3 and have to look really close though!

"TV is getting better."

My friend, Karen Hall put a post up yesterday that has good news about the upcoming TV season. It's under the heading "Attention TV Nerds" - because I don't know how to link to a specific post on somebody's blog.... Sigh....

Here's a snip...

TV is getting better. A lot better. Cable, which was largely responsible for its unraveling, as we all struggled to understand the New World, has ended up being the thing that raised the bar and forced network TV to strive for something better -- for mercenary reasons, but what the heck. The revolution had to start somewhere.

I'm a little shell-shocked to watch what I do for a living come back from the dead. My goal, back in 1979 (woof) when my career began, was to write for the 10%. The shows like M*A*S*H and Hill Street Blues and others that I defined as floating atop the sea of garbage. As the years went by, that 10% shrank to 5%, and then 3%... Not that I was raising my standards, mind you. What I wanted to do for a living, and what I'd always done for a living, was going away. Not just the shows that aimed higher, but the shows that were built around characters. Eventually, between reality programming and "procedurals" like the CSIs, there was no room for character drama. Year after year, my agents (and optimistic friends, not that I have many) would predict its return. Year after year, they'd be wrong.

....And then I sold "Vows." That caused me to take a look at what was going on in television, which caused me to realize that everything has taken a turn away from procedurials and back to characters. What I do was coming back.

Act One Screenwriting Weekends: Dallas and San Jose

The Road to Hollywood Starts in Dallas!
June 1-2, 2007
Sponsored by CrossPointe Community Church
Registration TODAY at

And don’t forget about…
San Jose and the Hollywood Insider Event
May 4-5, 2007
Valley Christian Schools Skyway Campus
Two days of fun, fast-paced instruction from Hollywood pros
*Story    *Formatting    *Structure                *Visual Writing    *Character    *The “Biz”    *Dialogue    *Christianity and Culture    …and much, much more!
Friday, May 4th (3:30 – 10 pm)
Saturday, May 5th (10 am – 5 pm)
Valley Christian Schools Skyway Campus
100 Skyway Drive
San Jose, CA  95111
Scheduled To Appear: 
Dean Batali (That 70’s Show, Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Thom Parham (Touched By An Angel, JAG)       
$195 – (includes study materials, Saturday meals and Hollywood Insider Event)
$175 – Students (with ID) and Groups (10 or more)
$10 – Hollywood Insider Event only
SPACE IS LIMITED – Visit to register online now!
Act One is proud to partner with Valley Christian Schools in their Quest For Excellence.