iCarly Star Nathan Kress on Faith and Hollywood

In 2007, Kathy and James Choiniere's 168 Film "Bag" starred a very young and undiscovered Nathan Kress. The film won Best Comedy and Nathan received a Jury "Honorable Mention" award as a Supporting Actor for his role as Albert.

The film was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Best Scriptural Integration and Best Editor.  Here are some thoughts from Nathan on 168 Film, Faith and Hollywood.

Nathan Kress

How did 168 affect your career?

168 provided me with a chance to stretch myself and do something out of my comfort zone. Everything about the concept of the festival was so foreign to me, from the audition process to the DIY (do it yourself) feel of the production. I think it caused me to be more confident moving forward with other opportunities, because I was better equipped to handle an assortment of new hurdles that I hadn't encountered before.

What do you think is the value of doing short films?

I think short films are great because it has benefits and drawbacks. The cool thing is that it doesn't take long to put together (even shorter for 168) compared to larger projects, so it's a great way to learn the ropes of the industry in a more forgiving, entry-level way. The disadvantage, however, is that you have to have a talent for telling a story clearly and concisely. There is no room for over-drawn exposition and lengthy setup. You have to be able to convey the message in a short amount of time, which takes quite a bit of creativity.

Would you recommend 168 Film to actors? Why?

Absolutely!! It's just a great environment, full of uplifting people and a SAFE place to work on your craft. I think that's my favorite thing about it... you know that there won't be compromises in content. Just creative people making stories worth telling. Plus, it's great for seasoned actors, as well as newbies. It's a wonderful opportunity to get your feet wet.

What's next for you?

I did a movie that's currently out in theaters, called "Into the Storm," and am eagerly anticipating the release of a web series that I was given the opportunity to be involved in. It's called Video Game High School, and I had been a fan of it for years. The makers of the show found out, and offered to write me a part! It's set to premiere October 13th.

Do you have any aspirations behind the camera?

Definitely. As I've gotten more experienced, I've been very interested in the production aspect of the industry. I actually have plans to make my directorial debut in a few months!

What do u think of the recent success of so many faith based films?

I absolutely love it! It's so encouraging to see that those films are gaining traction. It's great to see the increase in production value and money being put into these movies, because the industry is finally realizing that people really do want to see them.

How has the success of iCarly and your being so recognizable to so many affected you?

It's changed my life in a lot of ways. It has brought about incredible blessings that I could never have imagined, and also brought it's fair share of trials as well. Since the show took off, I've kind of lived in a fish bowl, often being watched and scrutinized. It's hard being a role model, especially in this industry. But, it's something that I feel so strongly that I have to do. Every day, I hear from kids all over the world that they look up to me and respect me for the way I live my life. And that's a phenomenal burden, that can ONLY be carried by walking hand in hand with God. Without him, I'm nothing in this place.

What's your favorite film/kind of film to watch? To act in?

I'm a sucker for military movies, or anything action-adventure. If I could take my pick of one genre to be cast in, it would definitely be some kind of gritty war piece.

What advice would you give to struggling actors to encourage them?

Well that's challenging... because my words depend heavily on their relationship with God. If they don't have that, it's very hard to say anything meaningful. But to those who are trusting that they have been called to this industry for a purpose, we have no choice but to stay the course and keep God as our central focus. If we lose sight of that, we become victims of a merciless profession. God is constant when all else is variable.


Harvest Crusade Anaheim 2014

Volunteers and Staff Setup

A Full House

I spent a couple of days at the Harvest Crusade in Anaheim this weekend.  It was a blessing to see such a big event handled so beautifully.
Were there problems?  Sure, there always will be. The question is how do these get handled.
They pray and they work hard, just like we do here at the much smaller and scrappier 168 Film Festival.  Proverbs All hard work brings a profit (Proverbs 14:23).
Watching the throngs of those afflicted with God's leading was truly moving and there is no greater feeling to be used in that way.
The tears on the field in repentance were shed in earnest response to Pastor Greg Laurie's impassioned, at times hilarious, message.
He imagined what it'd be like to meet all of the heroes of the Bible.  And to sit and break bread with them.  "Hey Lot, pass the salt," he said.  "Aw come on, you've got to stop being so sensitive."

It's a bit of an inside joke, but something for "bringers" and newbies to discuss. In the Bible, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back as they fled the wicked city.
Laurie does not skip over the convicting parts of the Bible.  Second-guessing the Bible for the sake of seekers is not part of the program and he layed it out quite starkly as he told the over-capacity (45,000+) crowd who would be at the gates of hell and why.
Scaring the "hell" out of them may be a way to producing more lasting conversions.
I have personally seen many fall away and I wonder if it would be different if they had been given the facts on not only heaven, but hell as well.



For Immediate Release:
May 29, 2014

Contact: John David Ware                                                                                         info@168project.com
FRIDAY MAY 30, 2014
Producers and Directors Assemble to Celebrate Their Success
Cast Features 5 Emmy Award Winners

On the Set in the Hollywood Hills - photo by Pete Brown

Red Carpet at the 168 Film Festival- photo by John Farrell

168 Film Festival: September 12-13, 2014
Aratani Theater at the Japanese American Cultural Center

BURBANK, CA.– After crossing the finish line for the 12th annual 168 Film Project (168) speed filmmaking contest (www.168film.com), local filmmakers will gather, with or without sleep, to celebrate their ordeal and be interviewed at the Lighthouse Church at 2828 W Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, CA from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Friday, May 30.

The contest finishes with a bang and an upload on the same day, May 30 at 11:00 AM PDT.  The stakes are high as late uploads (even by a second) mean no awards-eligibility. The global competition challenges filmmakers to create a short film based on randomly-selected scripture in one week (168 hours) from any location worldwide.

Film industry award-winners include four-time Emmy winner Michael Learned, “The Waltons, who is acting in films by James Runcorn and by first-time producer, April Manor.  Emmy Winner Vincent Irizarry, “All My Children” stars in Millena Gay’s 168 entry for 2014.

Gay’s work acting on “The Young and The Restless” has enabled her to assemble a cast of talented pros including actors, Melissa Scott Clark (Melissa Biggs) “Baywatch,” Peter Kwong, “Big Trouble in Little China” and “The Golden Child,” Stoney Jackson, “Angels in the Outfield,” Aloma Wright, “Scrubs” and Reatha Grey, “Betty White's Off Their Rockers.”

The 168 Film Festival will be held September 12-13, 2014 at the Aratani Theater in Los Angeles.  Prizes are valued at $20,000 including $5,000 cash for the Best Film Winner.  “Best” Awards are presented in more than 20 categories.  Since 2003, 168 Film has commissioned over 800 films. An estimated 15,000 cast and crew have participated. 

Past and present Hollywood participants include actor/writer/director, Corbin Bernsen, “Psych,” Kevin Sorbo, “Soul Surfer,” “Hercules,” Howard Kazanjian, Producer “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” Ralph Winter, Producer “X-MEN Origins: Wolverine,” Zachary Levi, “Thor: The Dark World” and Grammy winner Rebecca St. James.

To speak with a 168-winning speed filmmaker or actor, or obtain B-roll footage, production stills of 168 filmmaking teams in action and/or clips from films, contact 168 Film Project at 818-557-8507, or info@168project.com.


168's Team Features Gigi Guizado from "I’m in Love with a Church Girl"

Gigi Guizado

Faith-based is hot and shows no sign of cooling off. With the success of "God is Not Dead," "Son of God," and others, has Hollywood got religion?  Well

Anyway, here's a team that proves the point, the train is here and it's not slowing down.

Team 21 in the 168 Film Project 2014 includes Actress Gigi Guizado (I’m in Love with a Church Girl) and Las Vegas author Jonathan Sturak (Clouded Rainbow) have teamed up with Las Vegas filmmakers Jim Sams and Marlon Jay Manuel to collaborate on a 168 Short.

Guizado will exploit her strong resemblance to Tina Fey in an original, redemptive dramedy written by Sturak, whose novels are frequently set in Las Vegas.  The team will have 10 days for pre-production, including screenwriting, followed by 168 hours to shoot and edit their short film based on a theme and a Bible verse.  

Las Vegas, aka Sin City, will be the setting.  Pre-production is set to begin May 13, 2014, and production week is May 23 – 30, 2014.

Of course all 168 Speed Films know they will be disqualified if they write before their foundational verse is randomly assigned. But that doesn't stop them from legally brainstorming as this group is doing. 

International Christian moviegoers will recognize Gigi Guizado as the title character’s protective mother, playing opposite Jeffrey “Ja Rule” Atkins, in I’m in Love with a Church Girl.  Guizado will serve as both star and producer on this new project.

With three published novels set in Las Vegas’ grittier environs (From Vegas With Blood, Vegas Was Her Name, Geek vs Vegas), UNLV Film Department graduate Jonathan Sturak knows the territory well.  Sturak contributes his talents as both co-producer and screenwriter of this short film.  His debut thriller novel "Clouded Rainbow" was published in December 2009 and has over 100,000 downloads on Amazon Kindle. 

The 168 Film Festival will take place September 11-13, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA.


Biblical Justice: “Son of God” and the Popcorn Bridge

On February 11th, 2014, I was inspired by "Son of God" movie producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, along with Pastor Rick Warren, talking about the film being for everyone.

(L-R) Roma Downey, Mark Burnett, Miles McPherson, Ray Johnston, Rick Warren 
at Saddleback Church Febuary 11, 2014

But, not everyone can afford the expense of popcorn and movie passes.

Yet, the power of story is the greatest motivator on the planet.  As proof, look at the many stories Jesus used to teach, challenge and lead the masses.

I've long been fascinated by Jesus' Matthew 22 parable in the Bible.  The poor were invited to a wedding banquet in place of the wealthy, who were too busy to come. Something just clicked as I took it all in at Saddleback Church.

Actor Diogo Morgado's portrayal was powerful.  He made Jesus very real and very accessible to all, regardless of financial means.  For a long time, I had been praying for fresh vision and I knew that this was from God and that nothing could stand in the way.
Simply put, the plan was dinner and a movie for those who are unable to afford it, and an invitation to follow Jesus. “Son of God” was the perfect film for this outreach, which was code-named "The Popcorn Bridge."

See the 4-minute documentary video here: http://youtu.be/IgNGEZThGDM

The plan was implemented quickly, and on March 16, six buses brought over 250 people from families in low income areas of Pasadena to the Pacific Theater at the Americana Mall in Glendale, CA for dinner and a screening of ‘Son of God.’  After the film there was a short Gospel message and an invitation to follow Jesus. 

On that day, one hundred Bibles were given away and nearly one fifth of the attendees made a decision to follow Jesus.

The Popcorn Bridge is about valuing all people, especially those who may not be able to afford a night out. They get VIP treatment food, drinks and of course, popcorn, making it a memorable event for everyone – children, adults and entire families. 

On March 16, the thrill turned to absolute wonderment when members of the “Son of God” cast arrived at the theater to greet them after the film. In attendance were Darwin Shaw, who played Peter and Sebastian Knapp, who played John the Apostle.

Sebastian Knapp, John the Apostle; Joe Osborn; John David Ware, Founder and Director, 168 Film; Darwin Shaw, Peter the Apostle

To create this bridge to the low-income community, we called on many partners including Stephen and Linda Tavani and Ceasar Cano of WOW International, Harlan Redmond, Executive Director of Harambee Ministries, Community Clergy Coalition (CCC), Pasadena Church and Lake Avenue Church.

I interviewed Redmond at Harambee Ministries, which includes community empowerment through tutoring, Bible Clubs and a college scholarship program.  Harambee is located at the intersection of Howard and Navarro Streets, which was once the most violent corner in all of Los Angeles.  Redmond detailed the positive change that has occurred in the neighborhood over twenty-seven years through the pioneering work of John M. Perkins, civil rights activist and founder of Harambee.

(L-R) Ceasar Cano, Officer, WOW Int'l; Harlan Redmond, Director Harambee Ministries; Stephen Tavani, Director WOW Int'l; John David Ware, Founder and Director, 168 Film

Perkins was born a sharecropper’s son.  His leadership in civil rights demonstrations resulted in repeated harassment, beatings and imprisonment. Harlan Redmond has worked his way up from janitor to his current position.  Redmond’s achievement completes Perkins vision of community renaissance through hard work and divine intervention.

“I am persuaded that the Church, as the steward of this gospel, holds the key to justice in our society. Either justice will come through us or it will not come at all,” Perkins said. *

John M. Perkins

Justice means caring enough to do what is right and going out of one’s way to help advance important causes started by those who have gone before.

It is fascinating to learn about Mr. Perkins and how much he has accomplished non-violently, through the power of God and the church.  Social Justice is a great movement in our world.  But, according to Perkins the Church is the key.  "Biblical Justice" is stronger.

Much work remains to be done.  Digging deeper into the community, one finds a mix of pain, despair and hope.  The Popcorn Bridge is a simple way to kindle that hope in communities lacking it.  It is caring enough to share what we have with the less fortunate.

The results of the March 16th “Son of God” screening will last a lifetime.

A Packed House, March 16, 2014

Audience member Justina (interviewed on video clip) wept tears of joy during and after the film.  Meeting Jesus for the first time, she exclaimed, “Thank you Jesus, I feel like a new baby!”

Two students wept throughout the film. The next day they said, “I love your Jesus.” They have received Christian materials in their native language.

According to Pastor Walter Mills of Grace Community Bible Church, “Many are dealing with substance abuse issues touching their families.  Others are underwater in their mortgages.  A day like today (at the theater) means more than you can imagine, especially to families, many of which are seeing this film together as a family, which is a rarity.”

On the bus to the screening, I interviewed a former notorious drug dealer, who in the past, had helped to destroy the community.  But today, he brought many family members to celebrate the story of God’s love in Christ.

I am grateful to Mark Burnett and Roma Downey for their beautiful film, “Son of God,” which inspired all of this.  I have a vision to see this and other films like it used to create bridges that all can walk upon.

Thanks in large part to the excellence of the “Son of God” film, the Popcorn Bridge has been a huge success.  In the future, more of these events are planned with “Son of God” and other films in other cities.

To learn more about building a Popcorn Bridge in your Community, click here.
 * “With Justice for All: A Strategy for Community Development” by John Perkins (1983)


Event Review: Brian Bird, Writer and Executive Producer

This Event was Held 3/30/14 at CBS Studios

Brian Bird, Writer/Executive Producer

Fresh from making 12 episodes (in six months) on the Vancouver set of his original TV series for the Hallmark Channel, Millennium Entertainment and Word Films, "When Calls the Heart,"
Brian Bird explained the non-stop nature of TV series production and answered questions about writing and producing television.

 It was a pleasure to sit down with friend and 168 Board Member Brian Bird to unpack the production of 12 episodes of his Janette Oke-inspired TV series, "When Calls the Heart."

Oke is a Canadian author of inspirational fiction. Her books are often set in pioneer times and centered around female protagonists.

Set in 1910, "When Calls the Heart" is about a wealthy young schoolteacher who goes west to teach a community where one third of the men have been killed in a mining accident. It's a town full of widows and fatherless kids.

Brian continues to work with his longtime producing partner, Michael Landon, Jr.  In 2013, they also worked on the feature film “The Ultimate Life,” with James Garner and Peter Fonda about a billionaire with questionable priorities re-examining his life.

INTERVIEW: (Moderator, John David Ware)

In his 30-year career in film and TV, Brian Bird has seen many battles.  He sees success as a healthy balance of God, family and work.  Here are just a few nuggets from our time together.

Brian described a conversation with his pastor Pastor Rick Warren, who said “We need to preach what we practice, the culture needs it and just because they’re not asking for something doesn’t mean they don’t need it.”

Here’s a new term.  Brian is a  “Retro Pioneer.”  This refers to his efforts to help to put “the family” back into family TV.

“Name five shows that you can watch with your family,” Brian said. The audience was hard pressed to do that, but “Monday Night Football” was mentioned.

Brian's TV series for the Hallmark Channel, "When Calls the Heart," has received some unexpected marketing support. A group has started organically that is rabidly appreciative of the TV series, especially of the fact that they can watch the show as a family.

They call themselves the "Hearties" and they are now over 5,000 members in the first three weeks, including an Indiana Congressman's wife.  This viral group is bound and determined to keep the show on the air and if they have their way, to order another season.

Unlike other producers, Brian was not shy with the numbers.  He said it’s the Wild West out there in TV with all the fragmentation -- a thousand channels and 10,000 choices of programming every day.  There is an endless appetite for content and all the channels are interested in producing original programming.  But all of the appetite and all of the networks mean that the media pie is carved up into much smaller slices.  This means much smaller budgets than the major networks.

The budget for "When Calls the Heart" was $1.4 Million per episode or about half of what the bigger networks spend.

The road to making "When Calls the Heart" was extremely difficult and took almost six years.  At one point, in 2008, Brian had to shut down production on the original movie behind the series because of the financial meltdown on Wall Street.

It was deeply discouraging and he even considered getting out of the business.  But Pastor Rick Warren told him that nobody who is called to a mission gets "uncalled" and so Brian stuck with it.

The film had to be “rebuilt” because some of the original actors were not available to finish production. 

Brian had to use great creativity in “re-imagining” the story.  The goal was to preserve and not waste what was shot in 2008.  He used the existing footage as the entire middle of the film, treating it as flashbacks framed around a new story, taking place 20 years later.

Audiences love the multi-generational aspect of the story and the use of the flashbacks as "journal entries" discovered by the niece of the original heroine of the film.

In summing up the experience of making "When Calls the Heart," Brian had a great quote for this success: “Persistence beats resistance.”

Brian’s film "Captive," the true story of the 2005 Atlanta hostage crisis, is currently in post production.  He wrote and executive produced the film with Ralph Winter and Ken Wales.  The film stars Mimi Rodgers, Kate Mara, David Oyelowo and Michael K. Williams.

In addition to his most recent work on "When Calls the Heart," Brian Bird's 30-year career in Hollywood includes writing and producing credits such as the 2013 feature film, "Captive," the true story of the 2005 Atlanta hostage crisis, currently in post-production; "Gametime" for NBC (2012), "Not Easily Broken," adapted from the novel by T.D. Jakes, for Sony/Screen Gems (2009); "The Confession" (2013) and "The Shunning" (2011) for Sony Affirm, "Saving Sarah Cain" (2008) and "The Last Sin Eater" (2007) for (20th Century Fox 2007), "Call Me Claus" (2003) for Sony, and "Bopha!" (1993) for Paramount, along with 250 episodes of network TV, including "Touched By an Angel" and "Step By Step" and "Evening Shade."  However, his best productions to date are his five children with his wife of 33 years, Patty.




$20,000 in Cash and Prizes 
Kids Films to Play a Prominent Role

BURBANK, Calif. (March 25, 2014) –168 Film (168) announced the call for entries today for the 12th annual 168 Film Project speed filmmaking contest.

The worldwide competition requires teams to create a 10-minute film based on randomly selected scriptures in one week (168 hours).  Entry fees ($168-$298) include tickets to the annual 168 Film Festival, an online screening for eligible films and the chance to win $20,000 in cash and prizes.  This year’s theme is “The Gift.”

The signup deadline is May 6, 2014 for all teams worldwide.  Selected films will screen at the 168 Film Festival, September 4-6, 2014 in Los Angeles.

According to Director John David Ware, “Great surprises are coming.  This year will be our most exciting ever. The competition is one of the most challenging out there.  It allows beginners and pros alike to see who they are under pressure and learn the skills they will need to make it in this industry.”

Filmmakers get ten days for pre-production and then exactly 168 hours to shoot and edit a 10-minute (or less) film.  Entrants are responsible for all arrangements regarding their team and budget.  Stories may be conceived in advance, but no writing may occur until the verse is assigned.

A new entry category this year is KidVids.  These 5-minute-or-less films will be fun and instructive for children. Before filming, producers will specify one of two target age ranges: films for 3-5 year-olds; “G” rated, and 6-10 year-olds; “G or PG.”

Acccording to Ware, “The spirit of KidVids is a return to the very conservative standards of 1950's media. KidVids will be protective of children, unlike many recent films receiving ‘G’ and ‘PG’ ratings. An increase in the quality and quantity of kid films is an investment in our future.”
In the first eleven years, the 168 Film Project has inspired over 750 films. An estimated 12,000 cast and crew have participated.  168 has become a launching pad for emerging filmmakers and stars like Maggie Jones, from “We Bought a Zoo” and “Ben and Kate.”

Crucial dates include Verse Assignment (which marks the start of Pre-Production) on May 6.  Film Production and Post Production Week starts May 23rd and continues exactly 168 hours or seven days.  Late entries or films even a fraction of a second over the maximum run time, are ineligible for awards.

Past sponsors include Sony, Panasonic, Advent Media, Arri, Roush Media, iKan, EIKI, Movieguide, Mission Pictures, KinoFlo, Regent University and Red Digital Cinema’s Reducation.

To speak with a winning speed filmmaker or actor, obtain B-roll footage and/or production stills of 168 filmmaking teams in action or clips from their films, contact 168 Film at 818-557-8507, info@168film.com, or visit www.168film.com.

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