Friday, August 31, 2007

How You Can Impact Hollywood...Right from Home

For those of you who would like to influence Hollywood for good and support the Christians who are working there, here's one way you can make an impact. Check out these organizations:

The Hollywood Prayer Network's web site, on their "Incognito Prayer Team" page, says, "HPN was created as a strategic prayer network for the Hollywood Entertainment Industry. Ultimately, we want to see a revival in Hollywood and we believe it must begin with prayer.

"We also believe this will only happen by facilitating a global prayer ministry where Christians acknowledge Hollywood as the world's most influential mission field and pray for the people in the Entertainment Industry."

Be sure to check out their "I to I" Prayer Program page also.

The Master Media International web site states it is "mobilizing the resource of Christians outside media to support a spiritual renewal in film and television industries." Some of their web site is password protected, but for starters learn about them by clicking on the "Home" button and the "Mission" button.

You can make a difference in Hollywood...right from your home. No buts about it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Correction: Kathi Macias edited "September Dawn" the book

I need to correct something I wrote in my August 21 blog. Kathi Macias was the editor of book September Dawn (AuthorHouse, June 2007), not the movie. That was my confusion and I thank Kathi for correcting my mistake. The book was written by Carole Whang Schutter, the same writer who wrote the screenplay.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

After Seeing "September Dawn"...

Our plans changed and we couldn't make the show on Friday, but we saw a matinee of September Dawn Sunday afternoon. I'm glad we went because I learned a lot from the film. Yet even though I learned a lot, I have more questions lingering than answers learned.

The first thing I learned was about this incident in U.S. history. I'd never heard of it before I'd heard of the movie. I understand why Mormons wouldn't be thrilled about this movie coming out. I won't claim to know how LDS members, like LifeonaPlate who leaves comments on my blog, feel, but I can try to imagine. And I imagine it makes them feel similar to what I, as a Christian, feel when people say, "Christians?" and point to the Crusades. Or abortion clinic bombers. Or when Rosie O'Donnell says "radical Christianity" is just as threatening to America as radical Islam. But Mormons can give the rest of us a little credit. We can view the movie and understand that not all Mormons are out to massacre the rest of us. Even in the movie this was portrayed by a young Mormon man who was questioning what was happening and doing his best to stand for what was right. We're not circling the wagons in fear of all Mormons.

I also "learned" (or re-learned) from this movie as it brought back bits of information I'd learned in history class but had forgotten, like how the Mormons felt (or were) mistreated in Missouri and that led to them heading west. In the movie's story at least, this was an underlying cause for them to fear the wagon train from Missouri and the "immigrants" coming through. (I put "immigrants" in quotes because it really stuck out to me that the writers used that word in light of the current national controversy over immigration. I'm assuming they used that word because it was true to the time--what the Mormons would have really called the people coming through. And the screenplay was probably written before the current national discussion on immigration arose. I just found it interesting...that's all.)

The film also made me think about how I was viewing an 1850's incident from a twenty-first century viewpoint. "The wagon train just wants to pass through Utah to get to California. Why can't you just let them go?" Ah-ha! But in that day, (according to what I understood from the movie) it seems the Mormons considered that land their own nation. And they saw the wagon train folks as unwelcome immigrants coming into and threatening their nation. I can understand that fear.

As I mentioned, the film also brought up many questions for me. Here are some of the questions that linger in my mind:
  • Several references were made to the the sins that Christ's blood does not atone for. Do Mormons really believe there are sins Christ's blood does not atone for?
  • There were also several references to people needing to spill their own blood to atone for the sins that Christ's blood does not atone for. So their Mormon brothers help them out by spilling their blood for them (that means killing them)? Do I have that part right? I have to wonder, "Now how does that work out for that person in the end?" I mean, by the time a person whose blood has been spilled for his or her own sins figures out it's not going to do them a lot of good, they're dead. (Yeah, okay. I'm being a little facetious here. But then this is coming from a person who knows there is no sin Christ's blood cannot atone for.)
  • What I've heard and understand about Mormon beliefs you could probably fit in an 1857 thimble, but I have heard they believe (some?) men will become gods and will have their own planets to rule. Do I have that right? There was more than one reference to that in the movie.
  • According to Mormon beliefs, what happens to the women after this life? There was a reference to one woman becoming a goddess in the next life. (I would have liked to have had the benefit of "rewind" while watching, but the rest of the crowd in the theater probably wouldn't have liked that. And there actually was a small crowd there.)
  • In one striking scene, Jon Voight's character, Isaac Haight, is praying at the dinner table and the pastor at the wagon train was praying with that group. The scene cuts back and forth from one site to the other, juxtaposing the prayers of these leaders against each other. While the Christian pastor prays for blessings on the Mormons, Issac Haight prays down curses on the Christians. The question lingers in my mind: Is this true to what a Mormon would pray? Was this just the portrayal in a movie of a man filled with hate praying curses on another group, or is this really in line with what Mormons would pray? Back then? Even today? Of course the real answer to that question probably wouldn't be given to us "Gentiles," but perhaps only those who are (or have been) on the inside of the Mormon faith would know for sure.
  • The main character on the Mormon side (played by Jon Voight) who was portrayed as being the main instigator of what happened on September 11th, 1857, was named Isaac Haight. That's not a made-up movie character--that was the real guy's name. So my lingering question is, Is it coincidence or God's sense of humor that he was named Haight (pronounced Hate)?

The movie's story comes complete with what my husband called, "the Romeo and Juliette forbidden love" between two young people. Probably the scene I enjoyed most in the movie is the conversation between these two near a formation of rocks as they spent some time alone. The Mormon called the Christians "Gentiles" and that led to a conversation which repeatedly showed the confusion on both their faces. They were discovering the immense differences between their faiths. Like so often happens today, we use the same terms (salvation, God, atonement, Christian, Jesus, Christ, latter days, saints), but we are not speaking the same language.

Perhaps that's what Mormons really have the most to fear from this movie: that it reveals what they truly believe and how different that is from Christianity.

In my view, the movie is worth seeing whenever it comes to a theater near you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Influencing Hollywood - Act One

Something has been brewing in Hollywood. No telling when it started, but it really started cooking in 1999. Turns out individual Christians there were thinking the same thing: that boycotts and protests don't change anything. No, if Hollywood was ever going to be influenced for good, it would take Christians to transform it. And not from the outside, but Christians working within Hollywood.

When this small group of writers and producers got together, they decided to start an organization that would train Christians to be top-notch writers, producers, and other industry professionals in Hollywood. And they've been holding classes ever since.

Born as Act One: Writing for Hollywood, the program now known as Act One, Inc. has graduated a class of writers every year since then and has added courses for Hollywood executives, TV writing, and more. Many of the graduates are already working in the entertainment industry in Hollywood.

According to the web site at, "Over 100 Act One Alumni currently work at various levels in the entertainment industry as producers, writers, development executives, directors, as well as technical and administrative assistants. Our alumni are also finding recognition in a wide circle of conferences, think tanks and film festivals as speakers, panelists and instructors on a broad variety of topics relating to Christianity, entertainment, the arts, and popular-culture."

Want a taste of what they're doing? Here you go:
  • Clare Sera, a graduate of the Writer's Program (WP) '99 will co-write the family action-comedy Captain Abdul's Pirate School based on the book by Colin McNaughton.
  • Isaiah Washington (Grey's Anatomy) will star in The Least of These for writer-director Nathan Scoggins (WP 'o5) produced by James Duke (WP '01) and Christina Lee (WP '03).
  • Cheryl McKay (WP '99) wrote the screenplay for The Ultimate Gift.
  • Clare Sera (WP '99) wrote for the feature Curious George and recently sold a pitch for another animation feature film to Paramount Pictures.
  • Nina Shelton was hired to write scripts for Naomi Judd's Hallmark Channel.
  • Christ Foley's screenplay Stubborn Creek has been optioned by Origin Entertainment.

How about some awards?:

  • Scott Teems' screenplay I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down won the Emerging Narrative Screenplay Award in 2006.
  • Elizabeth Beachy's screenplay Pulse took first place in the '06 Nashville Screenplay Showdown.
  • Kimberly Wilson-Lauziere was selected for the Cosby Writing Program and ABC/Disney Talent Development Program.
  • Stephen Chang won the $50,000 ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship (the second Act One alumnus to win it).
  • Jessica Reider, Melissa Dogero and Steven Chang, who all came out of Act One's TV Spring Training Program, were finalists for the 2007 Warner Brothers Writing Workshop.

There's plenty more, but you can read it for yourself at

The faculty at Act One have their own impressive credits, too:

  • Dean Batali, That 70's Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hope and Gloria.
  • Ron Austin, Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, Charlie's Angels, Matlock, and The Father Dowling Mysteries.
  • Janet Scott Batchler and Lee Batchler, Batman Forever. Their adventure feature Smoke and Mirrors is currently in development with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones set to star.
  • Brian Bird, producing The Last Sin Eater. According to the web site, this is "the first film in his Believe Pictures partnership with Michael Landon, Jr. for Twentieth Century Fox." He's also working on Not Easily Broken for T.D. Jakes Entertainment and Sony/Screen Gems. Bird's credits include Touched by an Angel, Evening Shade, Step by Step, and The Family Man.

There's more... oh so much more. I hope I've given you enough to be as excited as I am about what is happening in Hollywood. Act One has accomplished a lot of work since 1999, and they deserve our support and our prayers.

Thom Deason, the Executive Director of Act One, recently wrote, "The next time you watch your favorite film or television show, remember to pray for everyone working to make it look easy, and for Act One as we work to train Christians in Hollywood."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What are you doing Friday? See "September Dawn"!

First, let me just quickly say that I have to admit I admire you folks who do this blog thing. When I started blogging, I thought I would write twice a week. Yeah, right. So then I thought, "Well maybe I'll try once a week until I get going and then move up to twice a week." I'm still struggling to get even that much done amidst all the other stuff I have going. But I'll keep trying...

Now, I had planned to tell you more about Act One, but something really exciting has come up that I'm dying to tell you about --and letting you know about it before the weekend is really important. So let me do that today and I'll (try to!) tell you about Act One later this week.

One thing I have learned from the folks at Act One is that it is really, really important for a movie's success to have good ticket sales the first weekend it releases. Those are the only numbers that really count -- how much a film makes in its first weekend. Therefore, if you want to show Hollywood that you support Christian films, it's really, really important that you go see that movie in the first weekend it comes out.

So...what are you doing Friday? Have you heard of the new movie September Dawn? This is a film that deserves our support.

Christian author, Kathi Macias (, had the awesome opportunity to be involved with the writing of this movie*. The film is controversial, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has been trying to stop its release. According to Kathi, the movie is the true story of "the massacre of almost an entire wagon train of settlers (mostly Christians) by Mormons on September 11 (9-11!) 1857."

In a recent e-mail from Kathi, she said, "Ladies and gentlemen, barring a successful last-ditch attempt by the LDS Church, 'September Dawn,' starring Jon Voigt, will finally release nationwide..." on Friday, August 24th. Kathi also said, "please leave the kids at home. It's a violent movie, simply because it's based on a violent act of history."

Looking on to future opportunities, Kathi's e-mail said, "The success of this movie will open so many doors for future movie/book projects ('Pirate Queen' and 'Queen of Sheba' being the next two on the drawing-board), and I will have a much bigger part in the ones to come."

If you wish to help this movie succeed, the best thing you can do is see it this weekend. My husband has checked online and, while it is not showing in our town, it will be at Tinsel Town in Colorado Springs and my husband and I are planning to drive up for a Friday night date.

Invite your friends to join you! Take a crowd. Or let your friends and church know about it. Send them an e-mail and, if you wish, point them to this blog for more information.

Hope to see you at the movies this Friday! Enjoy the popcorn.

I'll try to write again...soon!

* 8/29/07: I erroneously wrote that Kathi Macias helped write the movie. Ms. Macias was the editor of the book, September Dawn (AuthorHouse, June 2007), by Carole Whang Schutter, the same writer who wrote the screenplay.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Entertainment -- The Big Question

I will never forget when Zena Dell Schroeder, representing "Act One: Writing for Hollywood," approached the podium at the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference and posed two questions to the audience. "How many of you," she asked, "have seen something questionable come out of Hollywood recently?"

It has been several years since Ms. Schroeder keynoted at that conference, but even today when I think of her and that first question, a bunch of examples leap to my mind. Last season I remember several episodes (three, I think) of NBC's Law & Order had Christian characters. The normally professional cop-characters and lawyer-characters not only spoke to the Christians with uncharacteristic scorn, in every episode you could bet the bad-guy murderer was either the Pastor or the Pastor's gay son. And why is it whenever a Hollywood script quotes Scripture it still uses the King James Version with all the thee's and thou's? Have they never heard of the New International Version?

Then there's FOX's House. A recent episode showed a Christian rape victim refusing to abort (because it's a life, because abortion is wrong)...until the end of the show when she did what Dr. House recommended (and what everyone seemed to think was the obvious and best choice). She "terminated."

TNT's new show Heartland featured Treat Williams' unfaithful character sleeping with his estranged ex-wife...until his girlfriend walked in and he made some lame excuse for being in bed with his wife.

And if you've seen Holly Hunter in TNT's Saving Grace, it's pretty raw with Grace romping in bed with a married co-worker (who says he really needs to stop being unfaithful to his wife) almost continually and standing in front of her window naked so the neighbor man can enjoy the view. The character Grace freely boasts about sleeping with pretty much everyone.

(And about that tobacco-spitting angel on Saving Grace with the big white wings named Earl... I once heard that the angel in Touch by an Angel was originally going to be a cigarette smoking, foul-mouthed, whatever-whatever with wings until someone convinced the show's creators to tame him down to a more Biblical view of the heavenly beings. When I first saw Earl, I had to wonder if this is the creator-of-the-original-Touched-angel's-idea revisited. I have no way of knowing, but I wonder.)

I could go on, but I'm sure you have a list of your own.

When Zena Dell Schroeder asked that first question, I'm pretty sure nearly every one of the more than two hundred conferees in the auditorium raised a hand. Me included.

Then she asked the second question: "How many of you have prayed for Hollywood recently?"

Uh-oh. Suddenly the room was very quiet. I didn't see one hand go up. No one moved. Me included.

What about you? Do you see questionable material coming out of Hollywood? Do you wish you could make a difference there? If Christians are going to make a difference in what comes out of Hollywood, the place we must start is with prayer.

However... some people are already way ahead of us. Some Christians have been praying for Hollywood for a long time, and there are ways you can join them.

Others are doing what comes next...after prayer prepares the way. There are incredibly exciting things going on in Hollywood right now, and we're already seeing the results in movie theatres and on TV. And Act One (now known as Act One, Inc., is playing a major role.

There's good news coming out of Hollywood! This month, I'll let you know about some of the exciting things I've heard about that are happening in Hollywood.

Stay tuned...