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.

# # #


"Son of God" Great Effort for Burnett and Downey

Diogo Morgado in "Son of God"

For me, the portrayal of Jesus by Diogo Morgado in this film is what
makes it great. He was human and vulnerable and above all cared for and
loved others far above his love of self.

When Morgado "beheld" anyone in the film, you get a sense that he
really did care and there was always the chemistry that comes from a
believing Christian actor. This is hard to fake.

Some Christians are down on the film and are questioning Burnett and
Downey's sincerity and calling them new agers or worse.

Many Christians have been complaining (sometimes with good reason)
about the "cheese factor" in what are called "Christian Films." This
film is not perfect by any means, but it is a very good effort and it
should be celebrated.

It is so easy to tear down and destroy good things when they don't
exactly fit one's mold. Films are arguments and this argues a point of
view seldom seen in Hollywood.

So, I am impressed and thankful for Burnett and Downey (whatever their motives) for their tireless and excellent effort.

You Christians out there who are bashing "Son of God" should be
ashamed.  It is well within the ballpark of traditional Christian art and expression!

I humbly suggest that you try making a film. You will find how
very difficult it is and you too will get "shot at" by your own as you
lift your head above the comfort of your foxhole.

Thankfully, the tragedy that happened to "End of the Spear" (2005,
about missionaries who were killed as they literally save a tribe in
Ecuador from extinction) will not happen to this film (EOTS was
torpedoed by many due to the activism of the lead actor). What a waste
for such a powerful film.

As the Christian community goes out to see (what is better termed as)
Christian Worldview Films, then more money will be spent to satisfy
what could and should become a "reliable audience." If that can happen
then this type of film will continue to improve.

The Bible is very clear, with good or bad motives the important thing
is the message and this film is certainly promoting a lively and needed

In the Bible, Paul wrote about motives of those sharing the Gospel in
Philippians 1:15-18 (NIV) "It is true that some preach Christ out of
envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of
love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The
former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing
that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what
does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from
false motives or true, Christ is preached."


168 Best Actor Kevin Sizemore on ABC's "Resurrection" Sundays

                          For trailer click here                                         Kevin Sizemore

168 Best Actor winner Kevin Sizemore is coming to your living room via a new TV show.   "Resurrection" airs Sunday nights on ABC at 9:00 pm starting March 9th.

Sizemore portrays Gary Humphrey, a member of the church board in Arcadia. He makes his first appearance in episode 3 and continues as Humphrey for the remainder of the season.

The people of Arcadia, Missouri are forever changed when their deceased loved ones suddenly start to reappear. An 8-year-old American boy (Landon Gimenez) wakes up alone in a rice paddy in a rural Chinese province with no idea how he got there. Details start to emerge when the boy, who calls himself Jacob, recalls that his hometown is Arcadia, and an Immigration agent, J. Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps), takes him there. The home he claims as his own is occupied by a 60-year-old couple, Henry (Kurtwood Smith) and Lucille Langston (Frances Fisher), who lost their son, Jacob, more than 30 years ago.

Next on the horizon for Sizemore is a guest spot on "Drop Dead Diva" airing April 6th on Lifetime and the comedic film "Can I Get A Witness Protection" from 168 vet and writer/director .

Kevin Sizemore was 168 Best Actor "Useless" (2011) and 168 Best Supporting actor (opposite his son Gunnar Sizemore) in “Heartfall” (2013).

To follow on TWITTER @Resurrection or #Resurrection (cast will be live tweeting every episode). To follow Kevin Sizemore on twitter: @kevinsizemore

For weekly podcast on iTunes subscribe to: "Resurrection Revealed" to hear Sizemore and all cast members give in depth interviews (@ResurrectionPod on Twitter).

Unofficial podcast and blog for theories and talk about ABC’s TV show.
Unofficial podcast and blog for theories and talk about ABC’s TV show Resurrection - See more at: http://resurrectionrevealed.com/#sthash.0VtfkIse.dpuf


168 Hosts "Son of God" Outing for Low Income Families

What a feeling.  Here's the press release.  To volunteer, contact us!

For Immediate Release
March 6, 2014

168 Film Hosts Dinner and a Movie
for Low Income Families in Pasadena

"Son of God" at Americana Mall

GLENDALE, CA. – Low income families in NW Pasadena are in for a treat on the afternoon of Sunday, March 16th. Approximately 300 people will be picked up in their community and taken to a private screening of “Son of God” in Glendale, CA. The film is scheduled to begin at 2:45pm.

The event is the brainchild of 168 Film founder, John David Ware. “I have always been fascinated by the 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. When I heard “Son of God” producers Mark (Burnett) and Roma (Downey), along with Pastor Rick Warren, talking about the film being for everyone, something just clicked.  It really is thrilling to give this kind of gift.”

Experiencing the film at the state of the art Pacific Theater in the Americana Mall, attendees will enjoy an outing where they are the stars. Plans include a hero’s reception and a meal, complete with popcorn and beverage during the movie.

Logistics include six buses and food for 300.  Afterwards, a documentary will be produced to memorialize the event.  A follow-up visit to the community is planned to observe and chronicle the impact of the effort.

Ware’s 168 Film is partnering with longtime friends Stephen and Linda Tavani of WOW International.  WOW ministers to the inner city; giving gifts of food and groceries, bicycle repair, entertainment and the Gospel. According to Stephen Tavani, “Twenty-three thousand people live in poverty in Pasadena. Transformed lives transform communities.  That is the reason Jesus came and why we are here.”

Ware immediately called Tavani when he got the idea.  “We make a great team in our uncommon goal to build bridges to the underprivileged, and this is something that bears repeating,” said Ware.

In its 12th year, 168 Film is a worldwide incubator for faith-filled media that includes writing and filmmaking competitions, and training.  Filmmakers entering its flagship competition, the 168 Film Project, are challenged to communicate the message of a randomly-selected scripture.  The May 2014 competition is open to filmmakers anywhere in the world.  This year’s theme is “The Gift.”


Beginning Middle End - Why We Like Stories

A Story About a Ball and it's Owner

Why do we like stories?  Because we don’t know how they end, and we’re dying to find out (literally).  Why does God like stories?  He knows how they end and He’s excited for what he has planned. 

It has been proved that a story works best when it has a specific structure to it.  Three acts, all with a beginning, middle and an end.  All good stories have conflict to them as well and each conflict (small or large) has a beginning, middle, and an end to it.  Similarly, every moment of your life has a structure to it, beginning, middle and end.  What kind of story are you writing everyday? 

Put another way, everyday and even every moment has an attack (onset of conflict), a reaction (flight or a battle) and a resolution: Attack, reaction, resolution; Attack, reaction, resolution; Attack, reaction, resolution.  If this seems boring and repetitious to you, ask yourself, “Are you tired of fighting the battle?  At times we all are.”

A very good friend has lost her spouse and is getting older.  She is tired of the fight.  The weapons are available, but oftentimes, a sense of alone-ness is difficult to navigate.  Even when she has help and companionship, the fear and worry of the coming alone-ness is an unwelcome guest, which steals away present enjoyment.  This interloper ensures that the venture into higher ground and into joy is never a long or a deep journey.

Pastor David Jeremiah says that the Word of God is an offensive weapon, but only when it is used.  As you think about that, you may lament the times you have left yourself unprotected because you didn’t speak out the words and the promises of Almighty God. 

One of the greatest weapons is the phrase, “The joy of the Lord is my (your) strength” (Neh. 8:10). This verse has lead many downtrodden humans to the mountains, and it can lead you if you keep it close and use it as a weapon to ward off the thoughts and feelings that tear away at your peace and erode trust in the source of peace.

As Christians, we all have a claim to a victorious life.  But, we must claim the battle to claim the victory.  How is it possible that so many of us that see the glass half empty?  After seeing a life of miracles (births, healings, the sunrise and the food that grows out of the ground), we still refuse to believe in the swift and sure divine help that leads us out of our troubles or at least strengthens us to survive them.

Why do we like stories?  It’s because we don’t know how they end.  The expectation and the surprise remind us that we are in similarly tight situations, fighting our own dragons and even experiencing similar betrayals from others.  Stories give us practice in the art of patience and courage as we vicariously cheer for the hero, who is us.  We connect with stories that remind us of ours.  Mothers and fathers especially connect with films like “Prisoners,” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, because they can relate to that kind of a battle.  The logline reads: When a daughter is kidnapped, the family takes matters into their own hands.

A good story encourages (IN COURAGE, US).  Your strength will ebb and flow during your life and there are many things that can encourage you, like the “never-say-die” courage of anyone, who refuses to give in to a tendency to worry or to fear.  We are encouraged by one who will not be slowed by a difficult task or an illness or one who smiles and chooses love and faith, rather than choosing to wilt in fear, depression or loneliness.

This kind of courage is worlds away from choosing to hide our fear from others as if everything is ok.  This is not helpful to either party.  The fearful one harbors dangerous fear, anger and mistrust and pays for this myopia by having to go it alone.  Making decisions based on fear and worry never leads to fair and open-minded decision-making.  

Why does God like stories?  Because He does know how they end and he directs the perfect ending.  The ending is so glorious that it will obliterate all of the trials of this world in the flash of an instant that will make us embarrassed that we ever complained. 

Work toward that end.  Take some others with you.