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.


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.