Faith ’N’ Film Summit at NAB Show - Review

The Faith ’N’ Film Summit at NAB Show was amazing.

Jefferson Denim's worship music kicked off 12 1/2 hours of programming on a high note!

Corbin Bernsen and John David Ware

Michael Jr's (“The Tonight Show,” Comedy Central) comedy kept us in stitches and we laughed hard.

Against my better judgement, I sat in the front row for the no-holds-barred (Christian) comedian. At the appropriate time, I held up a sign reading "10 min." This is a common practice to keep a show on time. As I expected, he seamlessly folded ME into his routine, calling attention to my sign. Five minutes later, I held up a "5 Minutes" sign. So he said, "He just held up a '10 min.' sign and now a '5 min.' sign, so I figure I have 15 minutes." It's hard to be the heavy.

Faith ’N’ Film Summit attendees voted on best "168" film from in three categories. Congrats to the winners:

Best Speed Film: “Child’s Play” Owen Kingston, Tom Cooper
Audience Favorite: "Good News?" Theo Love, Jessie Love, Eric Lee, Susu Keepman Lee
Best Write of Passage Spotlight Film: "Clip" Jeff Rose and Wes and Amanda Llewellyn

Also screening were:

"Useless"Dennis & Olivia Bentivengo
"The Main Thing" Stephen Puffenberger
"Rescued" Ted and Karen Eachus *
"Breaking and Entering" Mark Blitch and Joey Williams
"Blood Oath" David & Jerusha Kiang

The Las Vegas audience had many newcomers, so I enlightened them on the the subject of: Speed-Faith Film: What is the 168 Film Project and why is it changing lives? If you don't know the answer to this question, consider that 168 employs around 1500 cast and crew each year, causing Christian and secular team members to focus on a divinely-selected Bible verse. God does the heavy lifting and many lives are changed amongst a very influential population.

The panel discussion was enlightening. "Market Forces in Faith and Family Content" featured:
Ted Baehr, founder and Publisher publisher, Movieguide
Brian Bird, writer/producer, "Not Easily Broken," "Touched By An Angel”
Paul Crouch Jr., vp of administration, Trinity Broadcasting Network
Ken Wales, producer "Amazing Grace," "Christy"
John David Ware, founder/president of the 168 Film Project (Moderator)

We attempted to answer these questions:

Where is the Best Market for Buying and Selling Faith and Family Films & TV?
Is a Secondary Market Desirable or Needed?
How is the Internet Changing Faith-Based Programming?

The panel seemed to agree that yes indeed, we do need a new market in which to peddle faith & family wares. This is vastly different from what I have heard in the past. The term "Christian Ghetto" comes to mind (as used by Bob Briner in "Roaring Lambs"). It applies to a secondary marketplace that accepts mediocrity and allows Christian ideas to flourish in films and TV despite the inferior quality of these vehicles when compared with secular entertainment. The existence of this "ghetto" allows the somewhat tarnished display of superior ideas in inferior programs that would otherwise never see the light of day. The communication of these ideas is made harder due to the fact that consumers (Christian and secular) are accustomed to a much higher standard.

However, if we had the luxury of asking Jesus which he prefers, "theological cheese" that is biblically sound OR slick, edgy, but vapid art with worldly messages. I think we know which he would prefer.

On the panel, we also learned of the soon-to-be released online offering, "iTBN," which will be like a Hulu for Christian films, said Paul Crouch Jr. When broadcasters are putting such great resources and energy into their internet offerings, it really shows how far we have come since the advent of the WWW. This will mean new outlets for Christian content.

I asked point blank, "How can producers get production money from TBN?" The answer was simple: you need a great "faith-forward" idea that is thoroughly thought out and polished with completed market research and demographics. So now that you know, go likewise and do it!

We had a good laugh about how many "Deliciously Bad" films are received each year at TBN. While these may provide an occasional guffaws, they will never receive any funding.

We learned a great deal about the untitled story of Ashley Smith and 2005’s Atlanta hostage crisis, because three of our presenters are currently working on the Fox Searchlight production, Brian Bird (writer), Ken Wales (producer) and Derrick Warfel (Assoc. Producer).

The production is due to start filming in summertime.

Dr. Ted Baehr gave a great apologetic for why the film industry should be making "good" films--they make more money! He also gave away copies of his new book, "How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul." It describes working in the industry from a Christian Worldview with commentary from many including, writer/producer Randall Wallace ("Braveheart," "Secretariat"), exec. producer Phil Roman ("Garfield," "The Simpsons") and Richard Cook, former chairman of Disney Pictures.

There was great excitement as we discussed how far we've come as a community of artists. You know of some of our many successful budding artists, like Jenn Gotzon, Joshua and Rebekah Weigel, Jesse Ottolini and others. Watching the work of our best speed and Write of Passage Spotlight filmmakers was very impressive.

The teaching of Derrick Warfel and Brian Bird was enlightening. Derrick disected a scene from Mark Blitch's "Breaking & Entering," comparing it to a scene from Aaron Sorkin's work on "The Social Network." It was fascinating to watch the scene in the Harvard President's office, while hearing the expert critique and commentary on the beat-by-beat motivations of the characters--delicious. This is what we call StoryLab, and we will do more of this soon.

The Vegas crowd was from all over the world and they got their 1st taste of Amoeba Networking (like speed dating for business professionals). They will never be the same. They experienced firsthand the metaphor of a single-celled community, which is dependent on each other. In the Amoeba exercise, all must meet someone new by rotating at a certain point in time or the whole community suffers.

Think about it and remember to pray for this community, our U.S. president and all of our federal, state and local leaders.

The Q & A with writer, director Corbin Bernsen was fascinating. He is on a spiritual journey, which we get to explore with him because his workbook is his films. I remember a quote from my college philosophy class from the book "Illusions," by Richard Bach, "The world is your exercise book, the pages on which you do your sums. It is not reality, though you may express reality there if you wish. You are also free to write lies, or nonsense, or to tear the pages."

While the book is decidedly new-agey, the truth is that we are here to write, to learn and to teach. Tearing the pages is hopefully something we do less and less of.

We watched "Rust," a largely autobiographical work, born of Bernsen's relationship with his dearly departed father. The film was fascinating in many ways and it has quite a backstory.

It was shot in sub-zero weather in Kipling, Saskatchewan, just north of North Dakota, Home to 1,100 people.

Despite not even having a movie theater in the town, the residents of Kipling financed a Corbin Bernsen movie through $1,000 unit investments. Individuals, families, even a group of senior citizens voted with their pocketbooks to bring Hollywood to Kipling.

And if not for one red paper clip, no one would know about Kipling.

Internet sensation, Kyle MacDonald's successful quest to (in a year's time) became a homeowner through a series of trades, starting with one red paper clip became a reality in Kipling. MacDonald's last trade was for a role in a Corbin Bernsen film.

Catching the fever, the town of Kipling asked for a more family-oriented film, which they agreed to finance. Their enthusiasm captured Bernsen's attention and he committed to writing and shooting “Rust” in Kipling and to using town residents as actors.

In our interview, Corbin spoke of the deeply personal nature of "Rust," and how it paid homage to his father and to his journey of faith. He also told of how the studio/distributor actually asked him to include an altar call in the film! Jaws were on the ground on this one, but it proves that the secular studio knows the core audience for this type of film and they see that an altar call scene is good for profits. Shocking.

Corbin plans to build a museum for his collection of snow globes (7,000 & counting).

In conclusion, I must say that the 1st Annual Faith ’N’ Film Summit at NAB Show was a smash. Praise Jesus.


John David Ware


Anonymous said...

Met you at Amtc Mr. Ware, last summer. Since then have been following 168 and praying for your work and for the work of faith in Hollywood! Thanks for your stand there to tell actors to "just say no! " when asked to do something that compromises their faith... How else will Hollywood change? There are too many "just saying yes! " That has stuck with me! Keep fighting the good fight! We'll keep praying !
Annemarie Egli

John David Ware said...

Hi Annemarie. Thanks for writing. It's good to know that something I said is helpful and memorable. Yes, keep fighting and praying! John