Through Being Cool

Tonight, I talked to a friend who was going to see Bill Maher's film, "Religulous" with his church group. What? I asked. Why would you vote for more movies like that by giving them you money?

I suggested to him that if you must go, then when you are offended (that is Maher's schtick, rather than having an honest dialogue), walk out and demand your money back. That will send an even louder message than staying home.

Many Christians want to go to anti-Christian movies (like this one and "Davinci Code") so they can be "culturally relevant."

The truth is, they don't want to be different. They want to fit in. They want the right to "be cool." We all do. But, the gospel of Jesus has never, nor will it ever be "cool." As followers of Jesus, we don't have the right to "be cool."

We get the privilege of being not cool and then watching as God allows us to be accepted (by some) and respected (by some) despite sticking to our convictions.
Then we can watch as lives are changed because some of us are the real deal.

The 168 Film Project is an example of how Christians can reach out to a very strategic group of Christians and not-yet-Christians.

There are very few things we can agree on as a nation. Food is good, although you will never get a conclusive agreement on which food is good for everyone. Clean air and water is good, though zero agreement will ever be had on how clean is clean enough. And everyone loves a good story.

So for 168, we let the group that is passionate about telling stories get together and tell them using the best-selling book in all of history, the Bible.

Throw these ingredients into the pressure cooker and bake for 168 hours:

-People of all faiths, or no faith at all,
-Their dreams within reach (Being a Filmmaker)
-The Word of God
-A deadline

The results are magic. We have made over 300 short films in 6 short years.

Please see the website for more.



168: What is it?

What is the 168 Film Project?

The 168 Film Project is an annual, worldwide filmmaking competition and exhibition. Films are based on Bible verses and made in one week. The challenge to filmmakers—draw a random scripture and in just one week (168 hours) shoot and edit a short film. Our goal is to focus emerging filmmakers on excellence and the Word of God. The 168 Film Festival is a glitzy red carpet affair held in Los Angeles.

168 provides a training ground for emerging filmmakers, reducing barriers and creating opportunities for pros and newcomers alike. It is like a "farm team" for artists, who are given tracks to run on as they improve their skills.

The contest is built upon faith and art, two passions the participants already have. 168 provides a structure that allows them to complete a project in only one week, and to gain confidence to then do it again, bigger and better.

Films are produced from ANY location and turned in for the deadline. Our mission is vital to a post-Christian world in which the language of the culture is media. We are changing our little corner of the industry from the ground up by teaching filmmakers to incorporate their art and their faith.

How did the project begin?

In 2003, a group of filmmakers led by John David Ware (me) decided to create a contest similar to the timed production contests of the day. Too many wanna be filmmakers kept saying "I'm gonna. I'm gonna only works for so long. After that you become the boy who cried wolf. We decided to let them put their money where their mouth was.

At the first meeting, nobody came except me. I kept having meetings and telling people about it anywhere they'd let me speak until the buzz got to the filmmakers in the congregation and beyond.

Thirteen films were made the first year and premiered to a standing-room-only crowd in Evans Chapel. The next year there were 53 films and it was recognized as a way to get started as a filmmaker of faith. In six years, over three hundred films have been created in over 20 countries.

What kind of films is 168 looking for?

There is no "typical" 168 Film. They range in degree of evangelism, but most of them are not preachy. I tell our entrants, no blasphemy, no gratuitous sex, language, or violence.

I used to say no gratuitous preaching, but even more importantly, I want them to be true to what God (not agenda or political view etc.) has laid on their heart. If they want to make an outspokenly evangelistic film, then they should do it to the very best of their abilities, never looking back or apologizing. There is room and a definite need for a broad spectrum of films in our contest.

Why is it important for people of faith to make films?

Everyone has some kind of faith. Science, secular humanism, nihilism, Christianity. All of these are very well represented in the mainstream media except one. Only one demands a complete re-birth of ideas, self-concept and concept of others. Only one forces change and cessation/beginning of processes and practices, which are completely counter to our nature at the most basic level.

Taking that long hard look in that long, hard mirror is something all humans will fight. It's hard and it's not pleasant. Examination of what is truly at our core is often not pretty either.

The artist is the one who sees the truth as shaped by their faith and has that "burning inside" feeling that dictates: I must express this truth. Their version of truth comes from whatever faith shapes their ideas. 168 asks them to examine and challenge what they know or think they know.

What opportunities exist for filmmakers after the 168 Film Festival?

We are working on many avenues for distribution on the web and on TV. Future 168 plans include greatly expanded online offerings and a path to feature length film production and TV.

There are now ninety-four "Best of 168" films available on DVD. The planned television show entitled "Project 168" will take the best elements of reality, documentary and news thus spotlighting the filmmakers "168" journey with interviews, behind-the-scenes, and the resulting film. It's ready to go, just waiting on the Lord for a green light.

Tell me some success stories?

Many 168 filmmakers go on to enjoy great success on the film festival circuit. Some have won awards, such as Talin Parseghian, Jim and Dawn O'Keeffe, who's film MAX was part of the International Cinematographer's Guild Showcase in 2004.

There are others making headway like Michael Costner, from 2005 (yes he is related to Kevin). His company (New World Sun Productions) started in 2007 and will be producing at least 3 movies this year.

"The Feast (168 project from 2005) was really the 1st film I ever produced. The nurturing, spiritually-open environment, combined with the pressure of actually getting a film done in that short amount of time, really brought us all together creatively and personally. It made me want to keep doing it. Now I get to do that for a living, with a lot more time, and I thank God for that." --Michael Costner

David and Kim Kiang are working on webisodes (see teaser) and feature length projects from their 168 shorts. It's very exciting to watch. http://alliwant.tv/home.html is the 2007 entry, and http://www.betteroffsaid.org/ is their website for the 2005 short.

MUCH MORE TO COME. We have 33 entries as of today.