168 Newsworthy in Columbus, OH
Action! Film contest links faith, flicks
Entrants get 168 hours to create short movie based on Bible verse
John David Ware, an Upper Arlington High School graduate, presented a talk on the 168 Film Project recently at the Church at Mill Run. He created the Bible-based film competition in California 10 years ago. - Photo: Eric Albrecht | Dispatch
By JoAnne Viviano
The Columbus Dispatch - Friday December 28, 2012 - See the article at dispatch.com
When Columbus native John David Ware started his Bible-based short-filmmaking competition at his church in Los Angeles, his goal was to help fellow aspiring movie producers showcase their talents while bringing Christian-based messages to the silver screen.
Ten years later, the 168 Film Project has spawned more than 600 films around the globe on a range of topics such as missionary work in Kenya, human trafficking and the relationship between a man and his father-in-law-to-be.
The nonprofit 168 Film Project gives each entrant 168 hours (one week) to produce a film of 11 minutes or less. Each feature film must be based on a randomly assigned verse from Scripture, forcing the creators to think of their work within a Judeo-Christian framework.
The call for entries for this year’s atonement-themed competition will come in January, and production is scheduled for May. Organizers are hopeful that promotions could make the 2013 competition the biggest by far, drawing up to 1,000 filmmakers.
Ware said the project isn’t necessarily meant to create Christian films but rather to help filmmakers see ways in which they can connect their faith and their craft.
Rules prohibit gratuitous sex, swearing, violence and blasphemy — “kind of like films were in the ’50s,” Ware said. In Psycho, for example, stabbing is implied but not shown in the famous shower scene, he said.
Filmmakers are not discouraged from taking on topics such as homicide or abduction. Entries have spanned genres — drama, horror (including some zombie flicks), westerns, comedies and more.
“Our goals as Christians are to illuminate the word of God and to try to introduce people to the word of God if they don’t know it,” said Ware, an Upper Arlington High School graduate who received a bachelor’s degree in film production from Miami University. “We don’t want to see every film have a Gospel message. We want to see great stories with a Christian world view.”
While some films vie for the Evangelista Award, for a work that tells the gospel of Jesus, others may send a message more subtly. For example, 2010’s winner, The Party, shows a girl respond to her father’s abuse of her mother by lacing his tea-party drink with what she thinks is a poisonous spider.
Film producer Ralph Winter, whose work includes the X-Men series, is among the heavy hitters who volunteer to help judge entries. He said he seeks to offer “encouragement and advice to young filmmakers, who hopefully can go on to bigger and better in the mainstream culture.”
“168 is a good entry point for filmmakers,” he said. “It provides an opportunity for people of faith to see if they can tell a story. The 168-hour restriction also provides a crucible for getting it done — no excuses. Everyone has the same time resources. “Inside of those restrictions, I think it provides a great competition.”
Filmmakers pay entry fees ranging from $170 to $300, then await verse-assignment night, when each team randomly selects from one of dozens of stones on which organizers have written Bible verses. Contestants outside L.A. receive their verses online.
The clock then starts ticking on a 10-day preproduction period for writing, casting, securing locations and scheduling. The one-week shoot-and-edit period follows. The event culminates in a film festival and awards ceremony.
Ware said the competition serves as a filmmaker’s answer to American Idol, “kind of like a farm-team scenario, like a church choir for pop music.” He intends to expand his work to co-produce full-length films inspired by contest entries.
The event has led to what Ware calls “miraculous” events, including on-set baptisms and rededications to God. Once, a woman contemplating suicide was persuaded otherwise, he said.
In 2007, the father of a 14-year-old epileptic actress who had drowned in a bathtub decided to make a film in her honor. When he randomly drew his verse selection, he found a passage from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus tells a synagogue official whose daughter has died: “Do not be afraid any longer. Only believe.”
Steve Puffenberger, president of the Columbus-based Advent Media Inc. and 2nd Advent Pictures, has worked on several 168 films, including some with a team at his Upper Arlington Lutheran Church. He’s won two awards for best documentary (a special category that does not require the assignment of a Bible verse) and one Evangelista Award.
He said the 168 project has the potential to change the influential messages coming out of Hollywood.
“It is the culture on the screen that drives the culture in real life,” Puffenberger said. “If we have people writing and doing faith-based, faith-filled films ... that can lead them to think, ‘ What kind of values am I promoting?’ ”
For information on the film contest, visit www.168project.com.
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