Christmas Poem from South Africa

I thought you might enjoy  this from Matthew Roberts, star of the multi-award winning "Freedom Road" (168 Film Project 2013).

Matthew Roberts, Actor "Freedom Road"

The Mystery           
by Matthew Roberts

Darkness covered all the land,
plunging Bethlehem deep into the shadow of night.
So it was before the dawn of creation:
empty, lonely, without a glimmer of life or love –
a void waiting, longing to be filled.
Must mankind wait in vain?
But there is a time for everything,
And in the fullness thereof
with the precision of a laser,
Light pierced the darkness.

Oblivious of the Eternal significance of this event,
itinerant sheep-herders huddled on the hillside,
cursing their luck at having to guard the errant flock.
Baby lambs will be born this night,
lambs which will one day be slaughtered.
So too the Lamb of the world,
Who takes upon Himself the sins of many.
He is both the Shepherd strong to save,
and the sacrificial lamb, silent unto death.
Is it not strange? Is it not God?

The mystery continues
as God frustrates the predictions of the wise,
doing what we least expect of Him.
This very night He will exchange His throne for a manger,
and His palace for a stable.
Why does He not reveal Himself to learned men
in the sanctity of the sanctuary?
Because the wisdom of God is foolishness to men
And only the foolish are wise.

God chooses the simple to shame the proud,
as His glory bathes their trembling frames.
The surrounding countryside explodes
into a breathtaking display of light and sound,
as the supernatural becomes visible to human eyes.
And in the bliss of celestial celebration
mortal and immortal embraced,
for Heaven had truly come to earth.
And all the while Bethlehem sleeps,
unaware that it houses a sleeping giant.

The shepherds discard their belongings and hurry off,
eager to meet their Saviour face to face.
Breathless with anticipation they burst into the stable,
only to be faced with a crying baby
in a cattle trough.

Excited voices become hushed
as they stare in shock and awe,
for here indeed is a mystery.
Divine birth issues in the era of re-birth,
for Jesus comes to be conceived in every willing heart.


Kevin Sizemore, Climbing the Dome

                 Kevin Sizemore, Actor

My good friend Kevin Sizemore has a work ethic that we all could learn from and it is paying off.  I caught up with him recently and asked some for answers:

Tell us about your recent string of feature film roles: 

I was involved with "Red Line" (directed by Rob Kirbyson, Award Winning 168 Director) is now avail on Netfilx and Redbox. Then "Can I Get A Witness Protection" (directed and written by Robert G. Lee) was offered to me and this is a very funny comedy ensemble that's gonna catch a lot people off guard.  I then went to my home state of WV to shoot a wonderful story that will resonate with many people in so many ways.  it's called "A Christmas Tree Miracle"  (directed by JW Myers and written by Ty DeMartino).  It's avail just in time for the holidays at www.AChristmasTreeMiracle.com (you can view the trailer there also) or it's available at I-tunes, Direct TV etc.

 What's your favorite character to play so far? 

My favorite character is Gary Humphrey and he is who I play in the upcoming series "Resurrection" for ABC.  He is very complex in many different ways and is put in positions that he feels leaves him no choice but to get involved.  First and foremost, the writing for this character, and the entire show is wonderful. It's great when it's hard to put down a script you're involved with.  We debut Sunday March 9th at 9pm on ABC and I can't wait to see where they're taking Gary's character in future episodes.

You've had back to back to back films.  Describe this season of your life?  

Wonderful, super busy & gratifying all at the same time.  To start the year with "Can I Get A Witness Protection?" and then "Under The Dome" was amazing.  I never knew the show would be so big and would be seen in over 200 countries.  I just found out this week that my character is getting his own UTD trading card.  Now my son thinks I'm cool. I wasn't home a week and then I did an episode of "Necessary Roughness" and then did a short film with my son Gunnar called "The Night Guardian".  Within days of that wrapping, Gunnar and I teamed up again to do another 168 Film Project ("Heartfall"), but this time I took a back seat, letting my son take the lead role. He did a great job, earning a Best Actor nomination.  Not bad for an 8-year-old.  We finally took a vacation in Orlando, FL and we found out there that I was blessed to bring home the Best Supporting Actor award for "Heartfall" and I'm so appreciative for that.  During our vacation, my manager Laureen contacted me about "Resurrection."  Two days later, I was off to Atlanta for the next two months shooting the series.

My passion is:

Helping others!  There's no better feeling in the world to know that you can help someone.  Small or large, just helping people out and treating people the way you want to be treated is a great thing. The best medicine for when you're having a bad day, is to go out and help someone, you're feelings will change very fast.

Tell us about your journey and how it has affected your life.

Well, I'm traveling a lot more. Hollywood isn't like it used to be!  I've already shot over three months on the east coast this year and it looks like I'll be there a lot more next year.  Other than that, I think it's made me more grateful, because I know anything can be taken away in a heartbeat. This is a very small business and people like to work with people they know, trust and like.  Building relationships are vital to being successful in this business. Having done this for many years now, I've been fortunate to establish some wonderful working relationships and at the end of the day, that's what's really affected my life.  The opportunity to meet so many cool people and to have some great experiences along the way.

Describe your collaboration with the director. 

Oh boy, EVERY director is so different.  On "Resurrection," we literally changed directors in the middle of the day, from one scene to the next.  One was high energy and one was more laid back. Neither is good or bad, it's just different and as an actor, it makes you have to really pay attention to detail more.  I do love having the time to just chat about who characters are on projects I do w/ the director though.  It's nice to come into a project with you both being on the same page, instead of having to find him on set.

How does your work as an acting coach inform your acting? 

I like to teach not only acting, but the business of acting too. There are a million acting coaches in this town and some are outstanding. What I like to do is focus on the whole package and not just have the actors do their 3-minute scene two times and sit the remainder of the class. What I've learned is if you don't know the business, or how to hit your mark, or how to market yourself etc, it really doesn't matter how good you are because nobody will ever find you.  My responsibility as a coach is to bring in other actors, producers, casting directors and directors to sit in on my classes, at no additional charge to the actors.  I try to do this as often as I can, so the actors can be seen and have an opportunity to be cast and do what we hope they can do, book a job!

How has 168 helped your career and quality of work? 

When I did my first 168 back in 2011, I was so fortunate to win the Best Actor Award and our film "Useless" directed by Brandon Adams also won Best Film.  Casting Director Beverly Holloway was a judge and when I was submitted for the film "Red Line," she remembered me from "Useless" and brought me in.  I ended up booking a wonderful role it became one of the many seeds that I've planted over the years that are coming to fruition. If you want to achieve at something bad enough, all the hard work pays off.
Would you recommend 168 to actors? 
Of course! I told all of my acting students last week to get involved in the 168 Film Project.  Many are attending the Write of Passage reading at the 168 Christmas Party (cast includes Kevin Sizemore and Robert Ray Shafer).  I encourage them to either audition (for existing 168 projects) or start their own team.  Not only is it a great way to learn, get some wonderful footage, but you're doing films that are making a difference the Christian market place and it's wonderful to have more films every year hit the market place that families are able to watch together.

For more info on Kevin, visit www.imdb.me/kevinsizemore  /  Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinsizemore and FaceBook.  Video Interview here


2013 Write of Passage Winner Interviewed - William G. Jones

To order the 2013 Best of 168 DVD, including the Winning Write of Passage Spotlight Film, Click Here.

This is one of the most fascinating and candid interviews I have ever conducted. Thanks to you William for your candor and your artistry.  The world is a better place with you in it. Allen Wolf, I thank you for your prowess in leading writers as one of our Development Executives.

Without great stories, we are lost.

"When you write about 'The Church,' it becomes something bigger and more sacred. The ugly brush strokes used to tell a single character’s story tend to have universal implications. It’s not just one character you’re writing about, it becomes every Christian in every church." 
  -- William G. Jones

William G. Jones is our Write of Passage winning writer for 2013.  That means writing the best 12-page screenplay (“Stop Being a Jerk”) in one week (168 hours) with a mentor called a Development Executive (DE).  Allen Wolf is the DE (see interviews below). 

William G. Jones
Write of Passage Winner 2013

WP 2013 Prizes include $1,000 cash and introductions to writer/producers Luke Schelhaas ("The Good Wife, "Law and Order," “Smallville") and Brian Bird ("Not Easily Broken"). Any WP script may be produced for the 168 Film Festival's Write of Passage Showcase.  Writers and mentors (DE's) receive screen credit if their film is made.  

From Manitou, Kentucky, William G. Jones is a graduate of Mid-Continent University and the University of Kentucky and the author of "Driving to Belair: A Novella," currently available on Amazon.

Interview: William G. Jones

Interviewer: John David Ware

JDW: What do you do for work?

WGJ: I worked in church media from 2006 until February of this year, doing everything from broadcast editing with Final Cut Pro to graphic design and video production, to running the sound system. I needed a change and stepped out on faith, resigned my job and moved across the state. God blessed me in so many ways since then, but I’m still looking for steady full-time work.

JDW: How did you learn about 168?

WGJ: In January 2011, my friend Rita Betti brought me to Media City Church to hear Ralph Winter (“X-MEN” Producer) speak at a 168 Film Project function.  It’s not a cliche to say that night changed my life.

I’m so thankful that I got to be there and talk to so many fellow believers and see the 168 Community up close. I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Derrick Warfel, who taught me so much as my mentor (Development Executive) last year, and to Liz Hewes for her help in this year’s Write of Passage.

The 168 Film Project has made a huge impact on me as a writer and as a person. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. God has really worked this organization tremendously. Thank you so much for all the work you guys do.

JDW: What was your inspiration for this year’s story, “Stop Being a Jerk”?

WGJ: The stories I wrote for the 2011 and 2012 Write of Passage were both dark and I wanted to do something different this year, something fun. So, going in, I wanted to write a comedy. The night of verse assignment, I asked God to help me with the story, and He really started dealing with me about the nature of true repentance versus superficial repentance. That idea, mixed with my own experiences after suffering a concussion (after an auto crash), led to the treatment, which led to the initial story.

JDW: How do you see the verse in your story?

The 2013 Verse: Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

WGJ: To me, it’s all about making sure our inner life is consistent with our outer life and not just going through the motions.  With the character of Roy, I tried to present the verse literally.

Roy is extremely superficial, so when he has the experience in the church parking lot that makes him realize he’s a jerk, his immediate response is to say he’s sorry to everyone he’s offended.  It’s superficial.

But, then he runs across Mr. Jackson, who doesn’t accept his apology—that’s when Roy is forced into a position of healing the relationship to get what he wants, which is ultimately to be a good person.

At the church I worked at for years, the pastor would lead the congregation in communion but insist that anyone who knew of anybody who might have an issue with them to not take communion, but instead go into the hallway and call that person and make things right.

He would even have five or ten minutes of silence so that people could go make those phone calls, then come back and partake in communion.

JDW: The graduation of character (from superficial to healed) gives your story depth.  What is the big picture in terms of Roy’s or anyone’s salvation?

WGJ: I’m convinced God reaches out to us where we are, the Holy Spirit stirs us and opens our eyes to our need for salvation. It’s a 100% spiritual process that happens inside the new believer. I don’t believe in a works component to the initial moment of salvation.

JDW: What did the concussion do to your healthy/mental health/outlook? 

WGJ: The short answer is, the concussion completely disrupted my life. It affected every area of my mental health and even my spiritual walk. I had to fight through depression, suicidal tendencies, and even irrational thinking to end up where I am today.

I was highly emotional, easily confused, and it was hard to think or concentrate or be productive at all.  I cried a lot.  I was angry.  My temper got way out of hand. I couldn’t process noise, I couldn’t think about complicated things. I couldn’t watch TV because it got on my nerves. There were times I couldn’t remember which side of the road I was supposed to drive on.  I couldn’t even figure out how to cook a frozen pizza.

Then the headaches started, sometimes four or five days on end. They lasted about a year and a half. I had one headache that started at work.  It was so bad that I don’t remember how I got home.  I just kind of blacked out and woke up in my own bed the next afternoon.

I’m not sure which was worse, the concussion or the medication. After taking it, I became extremely depressed, then obsessed with suicide. I went through a huge internal struggle because I couldn’t just pray the problem away.

The church I was working in was hyper-charismatic and I was repeatedly told that I had sin in my life and I must not love Jesus or I wouldn’t be struggling.  So I needed to pray and read the Bible more. Eventually, I questioned my own salvation and became convinced that God didn’t want me or He would have let me die in that wreck (and go to heaven). 

I found a Christian counselor and I spent three years in therapy. I got tested for bi-polar and schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. I started getting better when I went off the medication.

Through counseling, I learned to recognize my mental state and how to change it. My counselor believed in practical application of scripture for my treatment.  He also taught me that whatever questions I asked myself, my subconscious would work to answer, so he gave me a list of questions to ask myself throughout the day: 

Who loves you?
Who do you love?
What does God want to do through you today?
How can today be a great day?
What can I do to make today great?

I had my wreck on July 3rd, 2008, and I was still battling depression as late as January 2013. By that point, I was attending several different churches.  I was desperate for God to do something.

On Fridays I went to a Messianic Jewish fellowship, Saturdays to a non-denominational church, Sunday mornings to a Methodist church, Sunday nights to a hyper-charismatic church, and on Wednesdays I was driving to a little storefront Pentecostal church just over a hundred miles away.

On January 9th, 2013, at that storefront church. I felt the Lord say to me, “Leave it here.”  That’s when the depression finally broke for me. I believe that my long joinery was God’s way of moving me to a place where He could heal me.
I know the concussion has permanently affected my ability to process information and think. Situations happen and I can see a huge difference in the way I deal with it now as opposed to before the wreck. But it’s just a change in the way I think and process information, it’s not an anchor around my neck the way the depression was.

I can look back and see God’s fingerprints all over my life throughout that whole time. I know it was all for a reason, if nothing else to strengthen my faith in God’s plan for my life.

JDW: Tell us about your 2011 and 2012 Write of Passage Entries?
WGJ: Both Scripts made it as far as the semi-finals. “The Suicide Party” (2012) is about a kid who is door-knocking as an evangelical outreach for school and stumbles across a suicidal biker. What made that story so challenging for me was that years ago, I had a gun pointed at me by a suicidal alcoholic.  

It was cathartic to write the story, and I learned so much from working with Derrick Warfel over the course of three or four rewrites, but I really wish I had picked a different topic. By the time I turned in the final draft, I was emotionally exhausted.

“At An End” (2011) is the story of a mega church pastor embroiled in a scandal. He literally walks away from everything and ends up in a soup kitchen on skid row. Having worked in churches, I’ve seen abuse and the devastation that comes from it (scandal/sin).

I’ve since realized it’s very easy for someone outside the church to see scandals like this as indictments against the entire church or against Christianity in general.

When you write about the Church it becomes something bigger and more sacred. The ugly brush strokes used to tell a single character’s story tend to have universal implications. It’s not just one character you’re writing about, it becomes every Christian in every church.  You can write about the Titanic sinking, but there’s been a million ships that haven’t sunk.

JDW: So, what then is our responsibility when writing about "The Church?"

WGJ: I can only speak for myself and I can only answer for myself.  For me, personally, the institution of church has been—at times—a very hurtful place. I think every Christian in America has some baggage with the institution of church. But even as an institution, the Church is a vehicle God uses. Church buildings are places that facilitate meetings between God and people.

It’s easy to look at the faults and point fingers at things that we know in our gut aren’t right or even aren’t Biblical. But, the truth is that the institution of the Church wouldn’t exist if God wasn’t in it.

Hurting people go to churches all the time and find a connection with God. Lost people find salvation through church. The lonely find connection. The institution of church can be a place of comfort and peace and a place to grow and be challenged in our faith.

It’s my responsibility to make sure that I don’t become a stumbling block, or provide ammunition that keeps someone from ever taking that first step into a church. Now, I’m not saying that church is the be-all-end-all of God. It’s undeniably a connection point, but the true power is God and the relationship we can have with God through Jesus Christ.

As for “The Church,” defined as the body of believers, I feel it’s my responsibility to portray Christians as real people, not perfect and not demonized. One thing I’ve tried to steer clear from is portraying Christians as caricatures of what I think a Christian should be.

My goal is to portray Christians as vulnerable and flawed yet filled with the kind of strength and peace that can only come from outside ourselves. Even at that, I don’t want to portray God as a cosmic wish-granter. I find it more interesting and more real when Christian characters must chose to trust God even at times when it doesn’t seem to make sense.

JDW: How did Mentor/Development Executive, Allen Wolf help shape your story?

WGJ: Without Allen, there wouldn't be a third act. His feedback inspired the entire hospital scene. Allen truly helped shape the entire ending. I am absolutely positive I drove him crazy with my long, rambling emails those first few days, but he was really able to pinpoint exactly where I needed to focus my attention.

Interview with Winning Development Executive (and wiseguy) Allen Wolf

Allen Wolf
Best Development Executive 
Write of Passage 2013

JDW: You are a two-time winning Development Executive of the Best Screenplay.  What is your secret?

AW: I'm honored to be part of the winning writing team for the second time. I try to inspire my writers to make their story the best by looking at it through the lens of their own experiences.

Often the first drafts I receive are beyond the scope of something that should be accomplished in a short film so I usually start by asking my writers to look to their own life experience to connect to the story they would like to tell.

With William, I noticed he had a great sense of comedy so I just tried to draw more out of him and encourage him to ramp up what he already has as well as pull the elements more closely together.  I then made suggestions on moments I think could help improve the story and William ran with it.
I think with short stories it's a great idea to start with a simple concept and concentrate on communicating moments rather than trying to communicate large ideas that are better suited for a feature film. I think William did a great job with his story.

JDW: Do you recruit?  In KY?

AW: While I'm assigned random writers from 168 that doesn't stop me from recruiting, specifically in Kentucky.

I grew up in Ohio so I know Kentucky well as it was my neighbor from years ago. We haven't spent as much time together lately but I follow Kentucky on Facebook and wish it Happy Birthday now and then.

I poked it a couple years ago and have yet to be poked back. I think of Kentucky fondly whenever I eat KFC or travel to Paris, France, as it reminds me of Paris, Kentucky, except for the people and architecture.

JDW: Do you have any ties to the Kentucky Derby?

AW: My only ties with the Kentucky Derby are with the horse named "Double Winner."

JDW: You seem to have a great deal of modesty, yes?

AW: Yes, I think I'm the best at modesty, hands down.

To order the 2013 Best of 168 DVD, including the 
Best Write of Passage Spotlight Film, Click Here.

To read some of the Best of Write of Passage, Click Here

For WP FAQ: Click Here