Getting Work in the Biz: The 168 Connection

Photo: "Red Line" film set with (L-R) director Robert Kirbyson, actress Nicole Gale Anderson ("Mean Girls 2," "Jonas" "iCarly"), 168 founder & president John David Ware, actor Kevin Sizemore ("Johnny Blue," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon") on location at the Hollywood station of L.A.'s metro rail system (image by Joe Osborn).

How do we evaluate success at 168? There are many barometers we could use. We are primarily concerned with providing a spiritually profound experience for our participants.

Of course, we are dependent on individual team leadership to provide an environment conducive to growth in this area. Each year we see evidence that there is a hunger for and satisfaction in spiritual things. This year, we saw many grow closer to Jesus, at least two for the first time.

But, spiritual success is only part of the story. Each year, we prove more conclusively that the 168 experience is a platform from which cast and crew find work.

Successes are coming faster and faster for 168 Alumni. Here are some examples.

Joshua & Rebekah Weigel started their filmmaking career with 168. Their film "The Butterfly Circus," which won $100,000 at the Doorpost Film Project and has been downloaded 10 million times. “Butterfly” stars the limbless evangelist, Nick Vujicic and Eduardo Verastegui from "Bella." "Butterfly" is currently in development as a feature.

Actress Jenn Gotzon has honed her craft in ten 168 films. She sees the 168 community as a foundation, which helps keep her grounded. After her Best Actress Award-winning performance in 2008's "Stained," she has been in great demand. A cameo in "Frost/Nixon" (2008) opened the floodgates to starring roles in five feature films including “Alone, Yet Not Alone,” “Crossroads,” “Dragon Day,” “September Skies,” (from 168 veteran Don Wahl) “Dante's Inferno Documented” and "Doonby," opposite "Dukes of Hazzard" star John Schneider. Recently she climbed to a #2 rating on the Internet Movie Database Starmeter, beaten out only by actor Chris Hemsworth of “Thor.”

168 has been instrumental in connecting both cast and crew for many of these features. Jenn's husband Chris Armstrong directed "Crossroads," which will be distributed by Sony Pictures. 168 Best Editor, Chris Witt is editing "Crossroads" and "Dragon Day."

Congratulations go to 168 veteran producer Jessie Ottolini for winning the 2010 GoDaddy.com “Create Your Own Commercial” contest and grand prize of $100,000. Going against the website registrar's normally sex-based advertising strategy, Jessie’s family friendly spot paid off, proving that quality can compete with gratuity.

Most recently, through a weekly Bible Study, Boo Arnold asked his friend and fellow actor Kevin Sizemore to meet Brandon Adams, director of the based-on-scripture-and-shot-in-a-week 168 Film Project short, "Useless."

It's a cop-with-a-conscious drama from husband and wife producers Dennis & Olivia Bentivengo (& Best Film of 2011). Arnold and Sizemore became co-stars for the film and later, dual Best Actor nominees. In the end, it was Kevin Sizemore, who scored the Best Actor prize.

After Sizemore won as Best Actor, 168 Juror and casting director Beverly Holloway auditioned him for feature film "Red Line," directed by 168 veteran Robert Kirbyson.

Holloway was asked to reveal a bit of her process in recommending Sizemore for a larger role than he originally auditioned for.

“As a juror for this year’s 168 Film Festival, I had the privilege of watching some great performances by several very talented actors.

I can honestly say that had it not been for seeing Kevin (Sizemore) in the 168 film “Useless” I may have very likely passed over his submission.

Because of the timeline for casting ("Red Line") I had to be extremely selective about how many actors I auditioned. I received about 1400 submissions FOR EACH ROLE and was only able to call in about 75 people per role.

That’s a tough selection process, but when I came across Kevin’s submission for one of the supporting lead roles (Actors take note: He had taken the initiative for his own career and submitted himself through Actor’s Access) I enthusiastically scheduled him for an audition.

I did this based solely on his performance in ‘Useless” without even checking the rest of his credits or resume. (Credits listed on a piece of paper can be good, but NOTHING beats a great performance that I can see for myself.)

When Kevin came in for his audition he did all the right things, he was prepared, on time, ready to jump in and “play” but unfortunately he just wasn’t the right fit for that particular role.

I had seen him give a powerful performance and I knew he was talented, so it was worth trying in another role. And thankfully we did! We are thrilled to have him as a part of the cast!”

"Red Line" is about a terrorist bomb on an L.A. metro train. The film, which stars John Billingsly & Nicole Gale Anderson, is due later in 2011. Said Sizemore, "If not for my involvement in the 168 Film Project, (my role in "Red Line") would not have happened. This is a character that plays to all my strengths and is perfect for me.

Look for Kevin Sizemore on the small screen for Toyota and Old Navy commercials and soon in the upcoming feature "Johnny Blue" and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (July 2011)

"Red Line" director Robert Kirbyson said of Sizemore, "We asked him to read for the larger role of a father conflicted with doing the right thing (or) protecting his family. His audition was extraordinary, emotional and powerful. Originally we had discussed trying to attract a big 'name' to take on this role, but we all fell in love with Kevin and couldn't imagine anyone else in the role."

Kirbyson's directorial debut feature film "Snowmen" opened the 2010 Heartland Film Fest, winning it's highest honor, the Truly Moving Picture Award and it was voted Top Narrative at the 2010 Tribeca Film Fest World Premiere. Most recently, "Snowmen" won the Audience Award for Best Picture at the 2011 Dallas Int'l Film Fest, as well as a Jury Prize for Best Picture at the 2011 Toronto Int'l Film Fest Sprockets Program for Youth.

What does all this mean for the future of Hollywood? These successes represent the first ripples from the wave of triumphs coming from almuni of the 168 Film Project.

Persistence and dedication to craft is pays off. Be encouraged! These are very exciting times indeed.

"Red Line" Synopsis: Moments after departing from the Hollywood & Highland Metro Station, commuters on L.A.'s subway system experience a sudden explosion. Deep underground nine survivors soon discover that the danger has just begun. Not only are they trapped between the collapsed tunnel and the twisted remains of the metro, but they soon uncover a second bomb that has yet to detonate. As the timer counts down to certain death, the trapped survivors begin to suspect that the bomber has been trapped among them. With an unexploded bomb, a missing gun, and a group that's quickly turning on one another, the rescue crews might not arrive in time to save the survivors from themselves.

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