Interview with Greg Gearlds-Write of Passage Winner

Congratulations to Greg Gearlds, our Write of Passage Winning Writer for 2014.  

That means he wrote the best 12-page screenplay in one week (168 hours, based on a foundational scripture) with an advisor called a Development Executive (DE).  Allen Wolf is the winning DE.  Both are interviewed below. 

Prizes include $1,000 cash, introductions to Hollywood Pros, including Brian Bird ("Not Easily Broken," “When Calls The Heart”) and an InkTip Script Listing to provide exposure to their extensive network of producers, reps, manager, agents, and others.

Any WP script may be produced for the 168 Film Festival's Write of Passage Spotlight.  Writers and mentors (DE's) receive screen credit if their film is made. Writers and mentors (DE's) receive screen credit if their film is made.  

Greg Gearlds

From Greenfield, Indiana, Greg Gearlds is a writer/director. We asked him some probing questions and got probing answers.

JDW: What do you do for work?

GG:  Currently, I am Senior Manager of e-Commerce for a division of a global sporting goods company.

JDW: How did you learn about 168?

GG: I think I came across 168 in an internet search for Christian film festivals.

JDW: What was your inspiration for this year’s story, “The Tall Grass”?

GG: Mainly from personal experience.  We lived in a neighborhood for about five years and after we moved it really hit me that I didn't know anything about our neighbors.  I didn't know what they did for a living, how long they'd lived there and in some cases, I didn't even know their first names.  For the record, I don't think this is a good thing.  So, I took that concept of not really knowing your neighbor, threw in a conflict about the lawns and the story kind of came together.

JDW: How do you see the verse in your story? 

The 2014 Verse: Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. NIV

GG: Basically the main character in the story, even though he is a Christian and goes to church, is so self-absorbed in his own "stuff" that he simply doesn't see his neighbor the way that Christ would.  The grass and his focus on that "thing" (in our own lives it may not be grass) keep him from serving his neighbor as we are called to do.

JDW: The graduation of the character (from angry to healing) gives your story depth.  What is the big picture in terms of salvation?

GG:  It is really the path all Christians should be on.  It may not be angry to healing but we should be changing and becoming more Christ-like every day.  If we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we should be able to look in our past and see that we have grown or are growing away from our un-Christ-like traits.  Of course, we will never be perfect as long as we are living and breathing on this earth, but we should be changing.  

JDW: What obstacles have you had to overcome in life?  How have they helped your writing? 

GG:  I honestly can't really name any obstacles that I've had to overcome; my life has really been pretty easy.  That's not to say I don't have challenges, everyone has challenges, and those challenges certainly influence what I write.  

JDW: Tell us about your other films/works of art?
GG:  I've shot two short films and the real purpose behind those films was to get better as a writer.  I wanted to take what I had written on the page and translate that to the screen and see what worked and what didn't.  Both films we shot on prayers, favors and broken shoestring budgets and unfortunately they look like it.  I still believe that story is number one, but when it comes to films, production value is a very, very close second.   I love stories so I also have written a number of short stories and do quite a bit of photography. You can see the short films and some photography at www.greggearlds.com
JDW: Tell us about your family and where you live. How has your environment and family shaped your writing?

GG:  I am married and have two kids, ages 9 and almost 14.  We live on a small family farm and try, emphasis on try, to live a simple, slower lifestyle.  We have a large vegetable garden in the summer and raise goats and sheep and pigs for meat.  We also milk the goats.   We home-school the kids, which really fits well with our lifestyle.  I really think the desire for a simple life shapes my writing by making me look at the things that get in the way of that.  

JDW: How did Mentor/Development Executive, Allen Wolf help shape your story?

GG: Allen was great to work with.  He really challenged me to show not tell - the first rule of screenwriting right?  But, it’s still probably one of the most often broken rules.  Allen called me out when my descriptions were weak or in some cases missing altogether.  Through this he really helped give life to each of the scenes.

Interview with Winning Development Executive (and wiseguy) Allen Wolf:

Allen Wolf

JDW: You are a three-time winning Development Executive of the Best Screenplay.  What is your secret?

AW: My secret is being the best Development Executive ever. Period. I’ve also conquered humility. Done.

JDW: Do you recruit in Indiana?

AW:  I’m originally from Ohio so I recruited about 500 people from the Midwest to sign up for this contest in the hopes that at least one of them would end up on my team. That just happened to be Greg.

And good for him for playing the odds. People from the Midwest create some kind of magic when they work together on screenplays and Greg and I proved that without a doubt. Unfortunately that’s the only kind of magic Midwest people can create together other than levitating spoons, which has never been that handy.

JDW: Do you have any ties to the Indianapolis 500 or the Colts?

AW: I founded both. It’s hard for people to believe that but I’m kind of a slowly aging Benjamin Button but in reverse. I’ve been around for a long time. I used to own 500 colts on a farm in Indianapolis, which is where I got the idea to create both. Now I ride my colts to watch the cars race or cheer while whatshisname makes an awesome touchdown. Go, Go Indianapolis!

In all seriousness, it was a pleasure to mentor Greg throughout the process. He’s a talented fellow.


It's the Scripture, Stupid

Verse Assignment Night - 168 Film Project

I am proud to announce the Write of Passage Screenwriting Competition Semi-Finalists.  https://www.168film.com/Contests/Write-of-Passage/Jury-and-Finalists

We are grateful to our Jurors and Development Executives, who have caused many of these writers to become MUCH better, and to look into the mirror of scripture.

Believe me, reading these 36 excellent 12-Pagers has been a real journey, but not only for the reason you might expect--that they are great stories. 

In life, there are many distractions, off ramps, detours and of course food. 

A Double-Double at In & Out Burger can derail you and your career as easy as a car wreck. In this life, bound by time and space, being at the right place at the right time is an exact science.  Think about it.

What do you use to keep your life on point and progressing?

In Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting president George H. W. Bush, campaign strategist James Carville played a huge part.

In order to keep the campaign on message, Carville hung a sign in Bill Clinton's Little Rock campaign headquarters that read:
  1. Change vs. more of the same
  2. The economy, stupid
  3. Don't forget health care
Although the sign was intended for an internal audience of campaign workers, the phrase became a de facto slogan for the Clinton election campaign.

In your spiritual life, what keeps you on point?  What keeps the 168 Film competitions relevant and on point?

It's the scripture, stupid.

Yes, this phrase is kinda crass, but it's effective.  Here's a checklist: God's Word, Prayer, Meditation and good Christian Accountability Partners. Do you have all of these?

This year's Write of Passage Screenwriting Competition foundational scripture is:

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. NIV

Now, if you are open, self-honest and reading the word regularly, then this is a VERY penetrating passage.  If not, like King David after he'd murdered a man and taken his wife, then a creative tale does wonders to jog the memory.  And NOTHING convicts like a story does.

A look in the mirror is often a painful thing.  If it's not, just ask for advice.  If you think you have it all together, ask those that are close to you.  But, be prepared.  They just may tell you some painful truths.

Consider these story loglines.

A boozing lifeguard's learns, when a free-spirited triathlonist appears on her beach.
A "selfie" obsessed young woman learns to love her neighbors.
A man obsessed with his neighbor's grass, finally does something about it.

Can you see yourself in any of these stories?  If not, try substituting your own favorite pet behaviors. Try these:

A  married man is cheating on his wife AND his mistress.
A TV-addicted, shut-in must mute her voice of criticism.   
A hard living ex-con struggles to break free from his former life.

Here are some others:

A young girl learns that to serve others, she must first take off her mask.
A wealthy businessman struggles with addiction and family pressures.
An ambitious young journalist steals his co-worker’s career-changing story.

If you are discouraged, remember that His mercies are new each morning.  You are never further away from forgiveness than your knees are from the floor.


168 Film Festival Retrospective

John David Ware with Big Shoes to Fill 
Photo by Steve Puffenberger

Melissa Biggs and Vincent Irizarry Present Awards
Photo by Bryan Seltzer

Psychotic Fog Machine
Photo by Bryan Seltzer

The 2014 edition of the 168 Film Festival was a tour de force experience!   It was certainly a bigger than our resources, bigger than me, bigger than ever before – MIRACLE!  The successful completion of this project is a prayer answered; and our debt to a mighty God is substantial. 

I wore some big boots to go with this big job (literally).  See the photo of me addressing the crowd of young folks at our first ever “168KIDS!” event.

It is hard to appreciate from the outside how much work goes into even a small show like ours. I appreciate it more as I do different jobs behind the scenes.

Usually, I'm working on the award show script and taking care of a lot of different details related to my last minute, procrastinating persona. This time, I delegated better and was much more prepared. That meant that I could be intimately involved in the logistical command center and execution side of things. And – all I can say is: “WOW!”

Here’s what I mean…

In the audience, everything – or almost everything – looks smooth. But, behind the scenes, you would never know there are a thousand emergencies; one coming on the heels of another, and then another and then another!

Special recognition goes to the amazing “pastor whisperer” and PR guru Tami Outterbridge, Stephany McManus, Patrick Snitchler, Spencer Clarke and Rachel Spartan.  I would also like to recognize EJ Orlando and the staff at the Aratani Japanese Theater.

The major differences between our show and a big one is the amount of money spent and the number of people involved. Because we're small, the budget doesn't allow for redundancies of personnel or a lot of extravagant things. And when volunteers don't show up, as happens frequently, it makes things much, much harder.

The joyful part of what I get to do is be an ambassador in the greeting of our filmmakers, volunteers and celebrities. Filmmakers from all over the world came; each of them so excited to see what would transpire. Could they possibly win that coveted award?

I was impressed with the work of ALL of the artists.  Their hard work and dedication was evident over the two days of the festival and they are to be congratulated and saluted!

I sometimes find myself wishing that we could do this without awards. But winning is what makes people work hard. It is also what makes people come from worlds away.

One of the Australian gentlemen just completely made my day when he said, “There's nothing on earth like 168. We come because of how you folks make us feel.”  Wow! Thanks, Mate!

But, there are regrets as well. In the massive crush of doing this festival, inevitably, some balls get dropped.  But, on the whole, it went great.

I was ecstatic about the “168KIDS!” event that was so amazingly executed by Hannah Brown, our Festival Director.   We had about 100 kids show up thanks to our partners, Union Rescue Mission and Team United Diversity, and they were absolutely jazzed with the activities.

They saw Nathan Kress (star of iCarly), played games on the Aratani Japanese Theater patio, watched a slate of kid-friendly films and, maybe the best part of all – just hung out with each other as kids! As part of this first-ever kids event, the moms and dads came to listen to Cindy Osbrink as she talked about  "Your Child In Hollywood."

The inaugural “Pastors & Producers Media Forum” was an amazing event – as riveting as I had hoped it would be. We really did uncover some new ground in our discussion, which was themed “Capitalizing On The Year of Christian Film.” There was such excitement from the pastors that were invited.

Their powerfully positive response warrants a follow-up event; and, quite possibly, a new cooperative where we can have ongoing interactions between pastors and producers. The goal would be to revolutionize the way faith films are done in the future. Expect the video of the “Pastors & Producers Media Forum” to be posted soon.

The screening of the films went flawlessly (with one exception). My sincere apologies to the film that was left out of the screening schedule.

Next to the screening of all the films on Friday and Saturday, the best part of the night was the Awards Show. Thanks to designer Timothy Lowry, we had a new look for the show that was "TV legit."   Expect a show coming your way soon!

Our award presenters were amazing – and the teleprompter worked well this year!  

One part of the comedy in the awards show was not intended. Specifically, we had what I’ve termed the "psychotic fog machine."

Award Show Producer, Susan Shearer, did an excellent job in pulling together the resources on a short timeline. The quality of the show is largely due to her efforts.

We wanted a fog machine for the production and that sounded pretty good. I expected "Nutcracker-ish" fog, cool and mysterious, sitting on the ground in an ankle-caressing embrace of mystery. Instead, what I got was more like one of the flaming sets from the movie "Backdraft," with smoke burning my eyes and filling my lungs.

I did what I always do – I made a joke. The crowd thought it was very funny, and many of them later asked if it was planned.  Uhm – No!

We also did the ALS “gag,” which was where hostess Kerri Pomarolli called me out for not having taken the challenge of having a bucket of ice water dumped on me by "friends."

It was a lot of fun to see the audience nervously slip away as I sat on the lap of an unsuspecting gent.  There was relief when the bucket contents turned out to be confetti and not ice water!

The Roush Media After party at the Ace Hotel was spectacular. I got there tardy (11 PM), after the theater load out and cleanup. The folks stayed late and so did I, especially because I was crashing at the Ace.

When I got to my room, I was jazzed to see where God had placed me in the hotel. I was directly under the giant, blazing, red neon "Jesus Saves" sign, which has been there since the 1960's.  Thank YOU, Lord!

A good night “street taco” at 2 AM and I was out like a light!

Thanks, again, to all who participated, supported and enjoyed the 12th Annual 168 Film Festival!  See Facebook for more pics.