History of 168

Prior to 2003, founder John David Ware encountered many Christians in the filmmaking industry who were talking about making films, but were frustrated for a variety of reasons.

A timed film production competition meant the end of the talking and the start of the DOING. The length of the competition was of primary importance. The contest needed to be long enough to allow for the production of serious art that would indeed advance careers (on both sides of the camera), and short enough to allow people to collaborate and not go broke in taking time off from work. Seven times twenty-four hours equals 168, and that is how the contest got its name.

The mascot was and remains Franklin B. Dog, who starred in the John David Ware scribed "New Best Friend" (view here). Dog received a Best Animal Actor nod for his work in the film.

The competition began in 2003. At the first 168 Film Festival, thirteen films screened in Evans Chapel at Bel Air Presbyterian Church to a standing room only crowd. "I am sure that some of those folks came to see how bad these short films based on Bible verses would be," said Ware, "But, they came and saw how good they were and it created a buzz in both churches and in the filmmaking community."

There were fifty-three entries the second year and in the first ten years, over 600 films had been screened, launching careers and changing lives all over the USA and in over 20 countries. "168" films have touched people in places as diverse as Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Russia, Azerbaijan, Japan, China and many others. We are excited to energize filmmakers to produce art that celebrates the truth of God's Word.

Alumni Successes

There are many more stories than those you see here. If you'd like to contribute your story, click here!

Maggie Elizabeth Jones

Maggie Elizabeth Jones' career was launched in part by her 168 Best Actress Award in "The Party" (Best film 2010).  She has starred in "Footloose," "We Bought a Zoo" with Matt Damon, and in “Ben and Kate” on Fox TV.  She has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Her next film is called “The Girl in the Lake.”

Robert Kirbyson

A three-time 168 veteran, Robert Kirbyson went on to direct the feature "Red Line" starring 168 Best Actor 2011 Kevin Sizemore. Kirbyson also wrote and directed the Steve McEveety feature "Snowmen," which won Best Film awards at The Tribeca and Dallas Film Festivals.  "Snowmen" was chosen to open the Heartland Film Festival in 2010.

Jenn Gotzon

Actress Jenn Gotzon has honed her craft in eleven 168 films. She may be the most frequently working actress in the faith genre. She won the 168 Best Actress in 2008's "Stained." A cameo in "Frost/Nixon" (2008) opened the floodgates to starring roles in fourteen feature films including "God's Country," “Alone Yet Not Alone,” and "Doonby," (2013) opposite "Smallville" star John Schneider. Her recent TV pilot "Heaven Help Us" also stars Nancy Stafford & Lee Meriwether.

Joshua & Rebekah Weigel

Joshua & Rebekah Weigel got their filmmaking start with 168. The won Best Film Honors with "Stained" in 2008. Their multi-award-winning short film "The Butterfly Circus," has been downloaded 33 million times and translated into 23 languages by fans. It won $100,000 cash in 2009. “Butterfly” stars the limbless evangelist, Nick Vujicic, Doug Jones "The Silver Surfer" and Eduardo Verastegui from "Bella."

View Butterfly Circus

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Spiritual Impact

168 Film's impact extends beyond the competitions and Festival. Some of our films directly proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus to many corners of world. We are proud to feature these filmmakers and to declare that this genre, "Gospel Films" is improving because of our efforts. Artists wishing to produce these films are encouraged to make them great works of art. To encourage them, we have developed the "Evangelista Award."

The purpose of Evangelista is to reward the producers of the best presentation of a simple, direct description of the path to salvation through Jesus.

International Outreach

Producer and missionary, Deborah E. Brown's 2006 film Cinque Minute (Five Minutes) is the story of a suicidal woman, about to jump from a bridge over the canals of Milan, Italy, when a man claiming to be Jesus asks for five minutes of her time to tell her how much he loves her. 

"Cinque" won Best Film at the 168 Film Festival in 2006. It has been translated into 14 languages and viewed by over 1 million people. 

See Deborah Brown's moving acceptance speech at the 2006 Festival HERE.


From Pasadina to Iraq

RefugeThe Best Film of 2012, Refuge, was filmed in Arabic with English subtitles. Using Iraqi actors, they shot in Pasadena, California, which was made to look just like Baghdad with some Hollywood magic.

A film for Arabs in their own language, “Refuge” tells a tale of revenge and forgiveness, giving a hopeful, unexpected message.


"When I was in prison..."

Changed on the InsideThe 168 Film Project has had many films set in a prison, but this one was shot in an active prison. The Best Documentary (2012), Changed on the Inside by Steve Puffenberger, profiles three inmates in a state institution, who found the love of Christ and freedom while inside prison walls.

The film, and it's short trailer, Cookies Save Lives, is now being used by Kairos International to recruit volunteers for its effective prison ministry.


Post-Modern Europe


The 2008 German film Coppelius was made by a filmmaking team at a German film school. At first, they were not excited to learn that 168 was based on the Judeo-Christian Bible. However, they agreed to enter, won two awards and saw many miraculous things during the production. In the end, one of them said, "After 168 I no longer call myself agnostic, because I can no longer deny the truth of the words of Jesus."


A Bet Over "There"

ThereIn 2012, There was made in Paris, France, where one of the locals made a wager with American producer Kendal Brenneman. One thousand Euros said that the film would never get made due to a cultural lack of interest for spiritual themes.  As it happened, the film was made and nominated for awards.  The 1,000 Euros was a welcome addition to the bottom line.