Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 9 - Act One Writing Seminar

Day 9: June 29, 2010

9:00 – 9:15 Jack Gilbert: Prayer
Three ways to pray:
1. List (Specific names rather than “Act One Summer class.”)
2. Sequential (What do I need to do to get this project done?)
3. Spatial. (Mind mapping)

9:15 – 12:00 Tom Provost: Introducing Your Character
Lots of film clips. It was fun.

1:00 – 2:45 Clare Sera: Fresh is as Fresh Does
Did many exercises to ignite our imagination. It was fun!
From my notes: Cover up the names of all characters and read the dialog and see if it’s different—all should be unique, even if it’s one character that speaks in long sentences and another one in short sentences.

3:00 – 5:00 Ron Austin, Author of the book Into The Light
Was born in Hollywood and a child actor. His first director was Charlie Chaplin, who was in his sixties at the time. Two cute girls were around: Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Became a Christian in his forties.

5:30 – 7:45 Terrance Berry’s That Evening Sun screening
Starring Hal Holbrook.

8:00 – 9:00 Discussion of the movie with Act One faculty Terrance Berry and Act One alum and Director of the movie, Scott Teems
Based on the short story by William Gay (published in his collection of short stories). This team also made another William Gay story into a short film called “A Death in the Woods.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 8 - Act One Writing Seminar

Day 8: June 28, 2010

Whew. We had a full day today. Here are the folks who took time out of their schedules and lives to talk to us today, to teach us, and to invest in us, along with a few notes. What a privilege.

9:00 – 9:30 Fr. Willy Raymond on Prayer
If we are not in prayer from the heart, in touch with the living God, we are in danger of forgetting why we are doing this.

9:30 – 12:00 Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon: Does It Sound Like a Movie?
Chuck and Cary are a writing team who have been writing and pitching movies in Hollywood for fifteen years. They wrote the supernatural thriller Tokyo Ghost Story. In 2008 they began to pursue Christian-themed projects, completing their first, What If?, slated for a 2010 release.

From Chuck and Cary when talking about all the challenges of working in Hollywood: "Prayer is the only thing that will save us. In one hour of prayer we’ll get farther than in ten years of work."

1:00 – 2:45 Bill Marsilii: From Premise to Plot: Breaking Your Story
Bill Marsilii is the writer of the movie Déjà Vu starring Denzel Washington.

3:00 – 5:15 Bill Marsilii: Déjà Vu and the Mechanics of Theme
Part 1: Writing the Christian Screenplay
You can write a Christian screenplay. Or you can write a faith-based movie that people will come to, people who wouldn’t be caught dead talking about God.

Part 2: Being a Christian screenwriter in Hollywood.
There is a secret hunger for Christian themes among many filmmakers

5:15 – 7:00 Dinner (We went to Rosco’s for chicken and waffles. Yum!)

7:00 – 9:00 Grant Nieporte: Discussion: Seven Pounds
Grant Nieporte is the writer of the movie Seven Pounds starring Will Smith. We got to hear a lot about his adventure as his screenplay came into being.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 7 - Act One Writing Seminar

I enjoyed this day off. I attended church at the Hollywood Presbyterian Church, which was the home church of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and Jimmy Stewart. It's an easy two-block walk from where I'm staying. The church is one of those wonderful old buildings with dark wood pews and balcony. It has beautiful stained glass windows depicting Bible stories, and I really wish I would have had more time to study every one of them, as I had planned to do after church.

But, as it turns out, a couple sat down next to me and welcomed me as a visitor. We got to talking and I told them why I was there--that I was taking the Act One class which will be held at the Mears Center in their church next week. They invited me to go to Sunday school with them after church, and the Sunday school class meets in the Mears Center, so I got to see where I'll be this coming week.

They are without their usual Sunday school teacher right now, so are having guests come in. She was telling me the teacher that was there today is wonderful. Knowledgeable, down to earth... When he began to speak, he told them that this series of five classes will be his last. You could hear the disappointment in the audience and I sensed this was a really big deal.

Then he announced that the first book he wrote, back in 1958 (published in 1961), didn't sell well at that time. But he has republished it and just yesterday, he received a box of books from his publisher. After 50 years, his book is back in print! (And, of course, I snatched a copy!) It is titled The Significance of the Synoptic Miracles: Taking the Worldview of Jesus Seriously and the author is James Kallas. He was on the founding faculty of the California Lutheran College (now University), was the President of Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, and played for the Chicago Bears. (He doesn't look like a big enough man to do that!)

He taught a wonderful class about so much church history. Here are some tidbits from my notes:
Greek is based on nouns. (What is it?)
In Hebrew, verbs are the building blocks.
This result is understanding God in different ways. Greeks think, "What is God?" Hebrews think, "In the beginning God created..."
This man also talked about Constantine and Alexander the Great. It was an interesting class!

After the class, my new friend and her husband (who are from Sweden, by the way. Have I mentioned my paternal grandmother was from Sweden?), decided I needed to meet Barbara, since she is a film producer. Barbara is currently producing her first feature-length film, Three Times a Lady. It looks like a fun time!

After all that, I took a walk down Hollywood Boulevard, which is only another two blocks away, looking for some lunch. That's about the time my roomy, Lisa, called and we met up and walked down the Boulevard to the Kodak Theatre where the Academy Awards are held. We saw street performers and lots and lots of stars in the sidewalk with names we recognized. It was a lot of fun.

Got postcards. Had lunch.

Tomorrow we start classes again at 9:00am until at least 9:00 pm for the week. Can't wait!

Day 6 - Act One Writing Seminar

Day 6: June 26, 2010

8:00 – 9:00 Breakfast

9:00 – 9:30 Rebecca Ver Straten McSparren: Devotion
From Luke: the story of Jesus’ encounter with the bleeding woman and Jairus’ daughter
Suggested Prayers for Others:
God, bridge the gap between ____’s love for him/herself and Your love.
Heal all of ____’s memories.
Place Your Healing hands around ____’s lovely and hurting brain and heart, and heal him/her.
Turn ____’s heart of stone into a heart of flesh.
Free ____ to love You with all of his/her heart, soul, and mind so that ____ is free to become all that You meant him/her to be

(9:30) 10:00 – 12:15 David McFadzean: The Writer’s Point of View (POV)
The Bible is a story, a series of weddings up to a wedding feast.
Character is only interesting within an interesting plot. Character itself does not drive the story.
The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but the inward appearance of things.

12:15 – 1:15 Lunch

1:00 – 12:00 Panel: What is an Act One Film?
Chuck Slocum: Assistant Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, West.
John Shepherd: President of Act One, President of Mpower Pictures, produced Bella and The Ultimate Gift
Barbara (Nicolosi) Harrington: founding Director of Act One, Chair of the Board of Directors. She wrote Mary, Mother of the Christ, with Ben Fitzgerald (The Passion of the Christ) for a 2010 wide-release by MGM, staring Al Pacino and Peter O'Toole, directed by James Foley.
David McFadzean: writers, producer, and partner in Wind Dancer films.Created and executive produced Home Improvement.

Chuck Slocum
How can you show a character is a person of faith?
Watched some scenes from Friday Night Lights.

Barbara Harrington
Mastery of craft united to an unusual quality of depth.
If we can pump 50 of you into the business each year…it is a small business. Some of you will make a difference.

Instead of Christian movies vs. non-Christian movies, I prefer to call them sacred vs. non-sacred. Overtly Christian are sacred as opposed to not overtly, but I hope all are Christian.

John Shepherd
Three circles with a tiny intersection: Commercial, Mission, Art. And an Act One film aims at that tiny point of intersection.
The script itself: If you’re trying to scrape up the money, maybe it’s not a good script. Good scripts are attractive and people want to produce them. So if you’re having trouble, maybe it’s not a good script.
Act One operates on a shoe-string budget and really needs Christians and churches to support us with donations and prayer.

Quotes from today:

“Why are we here at Act One? Why is Act One even needed? Because Protestant Evangelicalism has decided not to embrace Hollywood but only to complain about it.” – David McFadzean

“I came out here [to Hollywood] thinking Christians were getting martyred. But they’re committing suicide.” – Barbara Harrington (because Christians didn’t know the craft and were doing many things wrong, like font and format, yet were getting angry that their scripts weren’t getting accepted. That's why she helped start this training seminar for Christian screenwriters.).

“Theater is the place where people go to sit in the darkness and let people in the light tell them what it is to be human.” – Barbara Harrington

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 5 - Act One Writing Seminar

Day 5: June 25, 2010

8:00 – 9:00 Breakfast
It was Ethics day at Act One. Here are some tidbits from my notes:

9:00 – 10:30 Chuck Slocum: Theology of Entertainment
The Assistant Executive Director of the Writer’s Guild of America, West, asked questions like, “What knowledge, thoughtfulness, preparation do I expect from my Pastor? How similar do I expect my Pastor’s sermons to be to the Bible? How much will I hold him accountable?”

We’re not making toaster ovens. We’re making movies that reaching inside a person. There’s a higher responsibility. We have the same moral and ethical responsibility that Teacher/Preachers have.

Do a Theological rewrite (last). Don’t start with a Scripture, but with story. Write dangerously. Let the story go where it needs to go. But then ask what theological issues does my story bring up and how am I treating them? Do I agree with the position I’m representing?

10:30 – 12:00 Barbara (Nicolosi) Harrington: The Ethics of Artistry, Professionalism, Meaning & Spirituality
Discussion on not violating our contracts with our viewers, collaborators, and more.

1:00 – 4:30 Vicki Peterson: Film and Discussion: The Audience of One
Film: The Audience of One (Made by a nonbeliever? I think that's what was said, though I'm not positive.)

A documentary about a San Francisco Pentecostal church that started to make a movie. WYSIWYG Productions. Michael Jacobs, film maker. Oh my gosh. They stepped out in faith to make a movie, but they had no idea what they were doing. It was a disaster. As a Christian, it's embarrassing. (This documentary is available at NetFlix and Amazon.)

Then we discussed what happened. And why. Both sides of what happened. Faith. Wisdom. Doing what God says. Discerning what God says. Accountability... And more.

Here’s something crazy: We’re watching this film and I think, “Gee whiz, that looks like ___ sitting over there across the room.” After the film, sure enough. It was her. She answered an ad and went to find out about this project, but she felt something was wrong and didn’t go back. That was in 2002. Another one in our class worked with WYSIWYG Productions one summer while in college. Small world.

4:30 – 6:00 Social/Spiritual Reflection time
I had a computer video conference with my beloved husband. That was fun!
Then spent time working on my story assignment: Make a list from my own life experiences that finishes: “This I know to be true…” Then write a story on one of those.

6:00 – 7:00 Dinner

7:00 – 9:00 Discussion Panel: Ethics: Karen Covell, Bryan Belknap, Charlie Carner
Talking about being careful with words when people are not nice, and not “selling yourself” in a town where everybody is selling themselves.

Quotes from today:

“Every big sin has the mark of Judas on it. His biggest sin was disloyalty to Christ and every sin is that.” – Barbara (Nicolosi) Harrington

“If you want to affirm your faith in the Lord, do something really crappy. You’ll feel so bad that it will confirm, ‘Yeah, I am a child of His!’” - Bryan Belknap

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 4 - Act One Writing Seminar

Day 4: June 24, 2010

8:00 – 9:00 Breakfast – With the “Breakfast Club” Felecia, Monica, Vicki, Lisa, and Me

9:00 – 9:30 Kevin McCloskey: Devotions in Galatians
What can I point to in my life that says, “Yes, God has appointed me to be a writer”?
How does the process of storytelling draw me closer to Jesus?
Where is God opening doors for me that I might not want to have open, but where is He leading me?
Am I willing to let go of my timing and my plans and follow God in this journey?
Who is going to go with me, or who is with me on this journey?

9:30 – 11:30 Sibyl Gardner: Structure: Is There a Formula for a Good Script?
Analyzed: Forty Year Old Virgin according to the book Story
Analyzed: Lars and the Real Girl according to the book Save the Cat

11:30 – 12:00 Jack: Eight Essential Story Points

3:30 – 6:00 Jack Gilbert: Format and Writing Direction
For the Writers: Talked/learned about the actual formatting of the script on the page. I’ve read the book, but still to see examples of how writers did it is really informative and helpful.

For the Producers: went away and had a discussion with Howard Kazanjian, producer of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi, and Dan Lin, producer of Sherlock Holmes, Terminator Salvation and more.

7:00 – 9:00 Sean Gaffney: The Genre Game
Wow, what a great workshop from someone who works as a Story Administrator for Warner Brothers. Oh my goodness this was so good.

Quote from today: “We have to choose between what is right and what is easy…”
- Albus Dumbledore (in Sean Gaffney’s talk)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 3 - Act One Writing Seminar

Day 3: June 23, 2010

8:00 – 9:00 Breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 Barbara E. Miner, Psy. D.: The Lovers, The Dreamers, And Me
This was wonderfully helpful, with an exercise to write down all the things you've been called because you're an artist (weird, odd, eccentric, etc.--if it's too painful, you don't have to write it down). Then make a list of all your gifts that make you a good artist (insightful, good communicator). Now, in the first list cross off all the ones that you know are not true about you and circle the ones you accept. In the second list, circle the one that is easiest for you to "own" and the one that is hardest for you to own.

At the end of this workshop we sang along with Kermit the Frog his “The Rainbow Connection” (which for someone who never heard this song was a real treat!).

10:00 – 12:00 Vicki Peterson: Movies and Meaning

A sample of the discussion: Bella vs. Juno
Bella was embraced by Christians as a great pro-life movie.
Juno was embraced by the world.
Bella set out to make a movie with an agenda. Critics says they actually did the opposite. (she didn’t get an abortion).


1:00 – 3:00 Tom Provost: Screen Art Form
This workshop was filled with so much good stuff about directing. (Right now the writers and producers are all together in these classes, so I'm getting to learn just a bit of the business side. Which is really interesting and will help me be a better writer. It's like in publishing where writers really need to know the publishing business if we are to write a book that sells. I'm learning screenwriters need to know some about how things work on the set so we can know what will work in our scripts and what simply won't work.) Tom Provost talked about lighting and color and sound and all those things I didn't even know they worked so hard on in movies. We saw lots of clips.

3:00 – 5:00 Nancy Miller: Screening and Discussion: Saving Grace
We watched the season 3 (last year) finale of Saving Grace (which just had the series finale last Monday). Hear a lot about how Nancy Miller created this TV show, what other shows she has worked on and how she got started.
Hour for spiritual reflection

7:00 – 9:00 Discussion with Scott Derrickson, co-author and director of the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Wow. Such a lot of good information and interesting stories.

A great day loaded with awesome information. I'm learning so much! Making great contacts. Asking a lot of questions and getting a lot of answers. Today I felt great--finally am getting caught up on my sleep I think (which is weird with getting six hours of sleep or less each night. I have to think it's all your prayers giving me energy and stamina).

Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 2 - Act One Writing Seminar

Day 2: June 22, 2010

Things just keep rolling right along here at Act One. So far the students for both classes have been together. There are twenty of us in the Writer's Class and I think about fifteen in the Producing Class. It has been very helpful to for this little writer to mingle with Producers. That's a side of the business I don't know a lot about yet, but I need to learn (just like a writer of books or magazine articles needs to learn about the publishing industry).

Here's the recap of the day I promised, though it's very brief:

8:00 - Breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 Barbara Nicolosi Harrington: Prayer and “Writing Your Credo”

10:00 – 12:00 Barbara Nicolosi Harrington: Spirituality for Hollywood Storytellers

12:15 – (Lunch in the middle) – 2:00 Dick Lyles: How to Optimize Your Learning in the Midst of Chaos

2:00 – 5:00 Dick Lyles: How to be a Star Collaborator in a Collaborative Industry

5:00 – 6:00 much needed break


7:00 – 9:00 Karen and Jim Covell Sex, Lies, and Relationships
                   Shun Lee Fong: Hollywood Entertainment

Dianne’s Favorite quote of the day: “You will do as much good as holy you are.” (Old Italian Nun told Barbara Nicolosi Harrington that.)

Now it's time to sleep fast! And then do it again tomorrow.

Day 1 - Act One Writing Seminar

Day 1: June 21, 2010

Whew! What a day! Got up at 5:00am, left home at 6:00am. Got to Denver International Airport around 8:00. Checked my bag, got through security, and was at my gate by 8:20. Took off 9:05 and got to LA 10:50 am (local time). Shuttle got me to the retreat center by about 1:00. Ate lunch. Wrote my Mom.

3:00 – checked in at Act One

4:00 – 6:00 Opening and ice breakers with Jack Gilbert.

6:00 – 7:00 Dinner

7:00 – 9:00 Barbara Nicolosi Harrington: Act One History, Values, Philosophy, & Keynotes. Barbara is a founder of Act One and the Chair of the Board. She gave a historical overview of Act One, core values, mission. (And she was wonderfully encouraging and inspiring.)

9:00 – 10:00 Writing exercises with Vicki Peterson

Today’s best quote: Barbara Nicolosi Harrington spoke about “What is a “Christian movie”?

Barbara says foundational to this course is Flannery O’Conner’s thought (now…this is Dianne’s paraphrase!) that a “redemptive story” is not one in which the character is redeemed; it’s one in which the audience is redeemed. That’s a Christian film.

Now. Me. To bed. Waaay tired.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Heading off to my Act One adventure!

This blog normally is about the adventure of self-publishing, freelance writing, and the progress I'm making on my self-published book Deliver Me.

But I need to take a temporary turn for another adventure. I'm going to be gone for the next few weeks because back in April, I applied to a screenwriting class in Hollywood and guess what? I got accepted!

I first heard of the Act One program about ten years ago when a representative came to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Barbara Nicolosi talked about how she and some of her Christian friends working in Hollywood felt increasing concern about what they saw coming out of Hollywood and they wanted to figure out what they could do about it. Their answer: train Christians to write for and work in Hollywood. And so they opened Act One. Although writing moral, decent content for Hollywood to produce is part of their vision, Act One also is training Christians to become excellent producers, directors, assistants, and more to work in Hollywood right alongside those in Hollywood who don't share our faith. In this way, Act One hopes to shine a light to others about what Christianity really is (since Hollywood seems to have a pretty skewed view of us Christians) and affect what comes out of Hollywood for the good.

What is produced in Hollywood is seen in countries other than the United States -- in fact our entertainment is seen around the world. That's why two veteran Hollywood professionals who have been on faculty at Act One, Jim and Karen Covell, challenge the church to see Hollywood as "the world's most influential mission field."
Ten years ago I never thought I'd be going to Act One. But over these past ten years, I have studied screenwriting, attended screenwriting workshops and seminars, and practiced through opportunities like http://scriptfrenzy.org/. A year ago, for my birthday, my beloved husband took me to Hollywood for my birthday! We stopped in to visit at Act One, and I was encouraged to apply for the writer's program.

Viola. Here I am. Done applied. Got accepted. And...I fly out Monday morning and classes start Monday afternoon! So...for the next few weeks, instead of writing about my book-in-progress, I'm going to chronicle my adventure at Act One.

I'm hoping to blog daily and let you know what happened in class each day, but that promises to be challenging since Act One has told us classes will run from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm! Nevertheless, I'm hoping to post a daily update (although it might be late at night before I get it done!).

If you're the praying sort, I'd appreciate your prayers for God's guidance (and stamina!) through this adventure. I'd also appreciate your prayers for all my classmates. There is a writing class going on, and an executive's class simultaneously. I believe we'll be together at least some of the time. I have challenged my class to be the "best Act One class ever," meaning the most fruitful for God's kingdom. You can be a part of that by upholding us in prayer.

And whether you're a visitor to this blog, a classmate at Act One, a Christian writer from CWFI, or a dear friend, please feel free to leave a comment of encouragement or a prayer to let us know you stopped by and you're thinking of us.

(And please continue to pray for the book, Deliver Me. Perhaps it's a good time for me to take a break from that project because I am terribly frustrated with it. I...um...I could go on, but... Time for a break.)

My thanks in advance to each of you. Another God-directed adventure! Here I go!
Next post: Hopefully on Monday and from Hollywood!

If you're interested, here is more information about Act One :

The class I'm heading out to: http://www.actoneprogram.com/programs/writing-program/

What Act One past classes are already doing in Hollywood:

Act One's mission statement: http://www.actoneprogram.com/about-us/who-we-are/

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Updated Count on Contributors

Can you believe that letter I sent out on Monday, June 7th, already found that writer and she has already contacted me?! Another Hurray! She is working on her Publishing Agreement, too. So I'll update the count:

Contributors (Need Publishing Agreements from): 43

Publishing Agreements received from: 22

Haven't received Publishing Agreements from: 19 (Got a call from a writer yesterday with some questions. Now that he has the answers, he'll be sending me his P.A.)

So far can't locate: 2

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Updated Count on Contributors

Last Friday I heard from a writer I hadn't been able to contact! Hurray! (I found a newer e-mail address for her.)

Yesterday I was able to contact by phone one more writer that I hadn't heard from! Hurray!

Plus, I received another Publishing Agreement yesterday in the mail. Another Hurray!

Updated count:

Contributors: 43

(Wondering why the change? I had previously counted "families" instead of contributors. I have 41 families, but two contributed two stories, one from the wife, one from the husband. So add two for a total of 43 contributors.)

Publishing Agreements received from: 22 (Whoo-hoo!)

Haven't received Publishing Agreements from: 18 (Many are supposed to be sending me theirs. I'm waiting... )

So far can't locate: 3 (Still trying. I sent a letter to the last known address of one yesterday. May have leads on the other two.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Excuses, Excuses

I'm still running to catch up with the Publishing Agreements that are coming in! What's taking so long? you ask.

I was at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference for almost a week in May. Had a great time with doors opening possibilities for other book projects, including a novel, a non-fiction book about living married but childless, and a Bible study. Then, of course, in the aftermath I'm scrambling to get material to the people who requested it.

Also, my really big news is that I've been accepted to attend Act One Program's "Writing for Film and Television" two-week seminar in Hollywood, California, later this month! So I've been scrambling to read the "required reading" books, view the "required viewing" movies, and read the "required reading" screenplays. It's all fun! And they call this homework?

But I've been working on processing the Publishing Agreements all along. It just takes way longer than I ever anticipated. This is me trying to make sure I'm not missing anything: like a change a writer requests, a bio they sent, and question about the Publishing Agreement, a needed Permission Form... There's a lot to do, and every one of my writers is unique. And I have over forty writers. So...it's taking some time.

Those are my excuses.

Here's an update:

Of the 41 writers, I have Publishing Agreements back from 16!

Some writers I still haven't been able to contact, though. Still working on that. Which is what I'd better get back to.