Verse Assignment, Casting, Sneak Preview 2010

Well, the verses are all picked and the horses are on the track and running. "Hearing God" is the theme this year and the teams are all very excited at the prospect.

(Photos Courtesy of Nathaniel Bluedorn)

As usual, verse night was electro-charged. There's so much anticipation in the room as the producers waited in line for their destiny.

Hollywood Prayer Network Director Karen Covell prayed for all of the competitors and told them that each team has their own personal prayer intercessor at HPN. Pretty cool.

See link to all pics above. During the verse assignment, one gentleman broke down sobbing as the verse he got overwhelmed him. It's always a range of subtitles that God uses to speak to us; some needing a sledgehammer and others, simply a gentle word from a friend.

He wasn't able to share about the verses' personal meaning, but I'm sure in time he will. God is always present at this our holy-est of events.

I remember in 2007, when Chris (who had lost his daughter 8-months prior) got the verse that said, "While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue ruler’s house saying, 'Your daughter has died. Why trouble the teacher any longer?' But Jesus, paying no attention to what was said, told the synagogue ruler, 'Do not be afraid; just believe.'” (Mark 5:35-36).

Wow. It seemed cruel at the time, but God knew what he was doing and at the end, Chris crossed the finish line with his finished film and was absolutely ecstatic, having finished the race and come through for his daughter. He had also passed many miles thorough the valley of grief and into the brighter days ahead.

As usual, before the verse assignment, we give the teams our best advice and try not to make them suffer too long before giving out the verses.

At the verse assignment, just before the malestrom begins, it's a bit of in-one-ear-out-the-other proposition, but it's our best chance to catch them before the madness of 10-days of pre-production and then (on Feb. 12-19 for the USA), 7-days of shooting, editing and delivering.

This year the main message (with a theme like "Hearing God") was to LISTEN. At all of our events, we have heard countless stories of hearing God, such as the stories 2nd Unit Director Greg Michael ("The Mummy," "G.I. Joe") told of the necessity to be nice and to be respectful of EVERYONE on your crew, because they hold the keys to your life, your production and literally the keys to God's plan for you.

To be sure 168 can be a sleepless, and sometimes hand-wringing time. But, the benefits and personal growth potential is exponential. When do you really grow? When you are faced with insurmountable odds.

People say "wow, you put the filmmakers under a lot of pressure." Not true. We tell them that if they do it right, then all of the pressure goes on The Almighty shoulders and they are along for the ride. Easy to say and hard to do, but miracles happen each year and everyone gets what they need.

Some are forced to drop out and that is hard. But, in general it is a time of testing your limits in your chosen field. The actors, producers, directors, editors, set designers, composers, sound, makeup and everyone else get a chance to MAKE A FILM that will screen at the 168 Film Festival.

It's really such a rush. I know, I did it the first year (2003). I wrote one of the 13 films "New Best Friend" and won second place in the contest. After the breakaway success of year one of the 168 Film Project, I decided that it would look pretty bad if I managed to win the contest I started, so since then, I have stayed behind-the-scenes. The second year there were 53 entries.

Casting was Saturday, Feb. 6th, 2010. It's always a little crazy. Over two hundred actors and dozens of roles up for grabs makes the atmosphere rife with competition, anticipation, hair gel and Starbucks Coffee.

Casting Pics 2010: Click Here (Thanks again to Nathaniel Bluedorn)

I got to run around doing man-in-the-street interviews with many of the actors. It was very interesting to hear them talk. Many had flown in from around the country specifically for the 168 casting and that was very exciting.

This year, we made a much bigger push for online submissions and thus, got many more submissions than ever before, over 1000. Casting coordinator, Susanna Velasquez and Tige Charity have certainly had their hands full wrangling all of the actors. It rained like a flood in the wee hours of the morning, but the day turned out to be exceedingly beautiful.

It was amazing to find out that many of the actors had no idea that the 168 Film Project is Bible based. I asked one girl why she entered and without hesitation, she said I love the competition aspect.

"What verse?" was her response when I told her what she was getting into. She didn't have a problem with the verse. She saw it as an interesting challenge. People are up for learning new things. I think we often make it way harder than it needs to be.

I spoke to another gentleman, an actor who also didn't know the structure of 168. I told him that all the films are based on randomly selected Bible verses and he got that look on his face that says, "Oh... what did I get myself into."

He gave me the standard Cally-speak, "I'm spiritual, but not religious." Then, I told him about the theme, which is "Hearing God," and his eyes lit up. He was passionate about that aspect and excited to be involved.

I pray he got a part and is well on his way to hearing from God. I'm sure he is.

It's been fun. Please pray for all of our efforts. I hope to see you at the Alex Theatre on March 27th.

Soon we will have a complete sneak preview for you of the upcoming films, but here's a taste:

Team #1: W.G. MacMillan - North Hills, CA is making TWO films this year.

Team #3: Christopher Shawn Shaw’s LA cast includes deaf lead actress Lexi Marman, the first deaf/hard of hearing entertainment host hired to perform on the Disneyland stage. They’re shooting on RED with steadicam in LA, Thousand Oaks, and Ojai).

Team #16: Lynda Stein is back for her 2nd year. She and assistant producer Bruce A. Haase will be Haase: Just wrapped a film with Kate Hudson, and Jessica Alba, and Bill Pullman as assistant producer. Shooting in Orlando, FL.

Team 17: Susan Shearer and Amber Deegan are returning co-producers. Their writer is Elaine Zicree of “The Table” and director Eric Tozzi is also back again with the team. Their verse: John 15:1-2 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (L.A.)

Team #18: Theo Love - (Anaheim, CA) is back again, new year, new genre…shhh!

Team #21: Owen Kingston - Croydon, Great Britain.

Team #25: Greg Yost/Jimmy Hendricks & Pioneers East Africa - Nairobi Central, Kenya

Team #29: Grace Craig & veteran 168 producer Rebekah Score have elected to make one of our “Write of Passage Spotlight Films,” sponsored by Resurrection Pictures. These films mark a new direction for 168 in that they are from scripts that are already written. The film is entitled “Regular Charlie Church,” and it was the winner of the Write of Passage competition.

Team #31: Newlywed producers Greg and Sarah Williams (Jerusalem, Israel) entry into the "168 Unlimited Documentary" contest is called "Desert Ark." As an unlimited doc, the producer's have picked their own scripture (instead of getting one randomly assigned), Hebrews 11:7 "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." The documentary tells the true story of a man named Avishi, who helps save victims of the Sudanese refugee crisis as they flee from Egypt and the Sudan.

Team #40: Deborah Brown – Italy. Deborah’s team won best picture in 2006.

Team #46: Onggo Susilo – Indonesia

Team #49: Eddy Nganji – Cameroon

Team #57: Repeat producer Caleb Brown is done with touchy-feely films, at least for now. He plans to make an action film and even blow up a car. He’s reunited with the Holecek brothers once again (“305”, a spoof on “300”: The Office meets "300" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wpa2Qplm8M) and with Joshua M. Bott.

Team #59: Alan Tregoning - Plano, TX. Alan wrote the 168 Write of Passage screenwriting competition winner (“Regular Charlie Church”), but elected to compete in the 168 signature, 1-week filmmaking competition. He may be one of our most prominent writers this time around.

Team #63: Kyrgyzstan is back in play. Always exciting to have such a vastly different cultural entry.

Team #71: Veteran Actor Gwen McGee, (“ER,” “My Name is Earl,” “Monk.”) saw the TBN interview and “had to sign up.” Her lead actor is David Ramsey, who is credited with "Dexter," (17 episodes, 2008-2009), "Hollywood Residential,” (8 episodes, 2008), "The West Wing,” and many others.

Team #72: Producers: Mike Wech and Tim Lowry are back together again. Mike directed in 2008 from a neck brace. They have cast Victoria Jackson, SNL Star from the 1980s (This is her second turn in the 168 Film Project, having been nominated as best actress last year.

Mike had a vision in 2008 of a car crash, so he was preparing to shoot a car crash. Two weeks before the competition, Mike was nearly killed in a car crash. He recovered and persevered as the film’s director in a neck brace. The whole team experienced many revelations, including both Tim and Mike awakening at the same time, but in different households with the same vision for the film. As a result of their process, one of the actors came back to faith and checked into a drug rehab.