And the Winner Is…

168 Film Project Write of Passage LogoThe tuesday before Thanksgiving, November 26, 2013, I clicked on Facebook and saw these words: “And the winner is…” followed by… nothing. After being named a finalist in the 168 Film Project’s Write of Passage screenwriting competition, I had dreamed of seeing those four words followed by my name. I figured it was pretty much a long-shot. This was my third year, but the first time I’d made it to the finals. After reading through the other finalists scripts, I was absolutely convinced I’d be lucky if someone picked my script out of the top 10 semifinalists to turn into a Write of Passage Spotlight Film.

So, with a defeated mindset right out of the gate, I clicked on the 168 Film Project website and read this page.

Did you read it? Did you see it? I stared at that page slack-jawed for quite a while, convinced I was hallucinating.

I won.

I feel awkward typing those words even now. And yet, it feels so good.

My first encounter with the 168 Film Project came in January of 2011, during my first visit to Los Angeles. It was at Media City Church in Burbank that I went to hear Ralph Winter, producer of X-Men and Star Trek movies, speak on the role of Christians in filmmaking.

What impressed me most that night wasn’t Mr. Winter’s talk—which was wonderful and powerfully challenging—but a ten-minute short made by a pair of brothers in Texas, on practically zoned budget, about a from with cancer trying to convince his baby brother to give up smoking. That film was a standout from the 2010 168 Film Project’s signature speed filmmaking competition, where teams are given a Bible verse and 7 days to make a 10 minute film.

Movies and are shows are so ubiquitous in our culture that many of us take them for granted. It’s easy to watch and take for granted that they just happen, with little or no thought to what it takes to make it happen. Writers, actors, producers, crew—it takes a village. More than that, it takes an entire production company. Months, sometimes years of hard work gets boiled down into a product that is consumed in mere minutes. That’s the business, that’s life.

I don’t suppose I ever really considered screenwriting at all until my friend Rita Betti encouraged me to look into it. Rita is a graduate of the Act One Program, whose mission is to equip Christians in Los Angeles to write for and work in the studio system, making mainstream movies. Much like the 168 Film Project, the philosophy is simple—it’s not about preaching or proselytizing, it’s about being involved in the process and, in doing so, having our voice heard. Christians are notorious for shunning Hollywood for not representing Christian values. Act One and the 168 Film Project are those rare voices that say, “Hey, stop complaining about the problem and get involved.”

That’s a message I agree with. And it’s also why it’s such an honor to win Write of Passage.

What I’ve found in the 168 community are people who are serious about the craft of storytelling. They’re not trying to preach sermons with their work, they’re trying to tell stories as well as anyone in Hollywood. That’s pretty cool.

Writing is a crazy, crazy thing. More often than not, it feels like a futile endeavor. You put yourself out there and the sales don’t go quite as expected. You face a lot of rejection. Some people will be downright mean. Others will try to suck you dry like a vampire, stealing as much of your creative power as they can for themselves.

It’s nice to have something to look at and say, “I achieved that. I won.”

It’s also fuel to keep going, to keep writing, to keep branching out and knocking on doors and see which doors will open.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more writing to do.