Or at least I can say I’m a script writer of award winning films ūüôā

Last week the John Paul II Film Festival¬†in Miami, FL awarded the video, “Zombies Vs. Jesus” an award for the best short film. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was the main script writer for the video, even though it turned out to be different (and better!) than I had imagined it.

This is the second time a short film I was a part of has won an award! Last year, the short film Palm Sunday won a Telly Award for best religious short film.

Two things in common with both films: Eric Groth of Outside Da Box produced it, and Rob Kaczmark of Spirit Juice Studios directed them. As a script writer, it’s exciting to work with people who have a great combination of faith and creativity to pull of the hard work of bringing stories to the screen.

But the best thing about winning awards is it gives people (like me) an excuse to promote the films again. In case you haven’t seen them, take a look!

Another script has come to life! Man, I love seeing what people do with the words I type.

When I wrote this back in January, I intended the idea of being put on trial for being Catholic as an obvious fantasy. But these days it seems closer to reality than before, doesn’t it?

Regardless, that’s not the point of the video. The question is: do we truly live what we say we believe? I remember when I was a teenager someone asked, “If being Christian was against the law, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” That question always resonated with me, especially with all the legal “loopholes” that are present in our society today. So I thought it would make a cool video and hope it allows the viewer to reflect on if they are truly living their faith in a public way.

What do you think about it?

Thanks to the amazing folks at Outside Da Box for doing such a great job with it.

I assume that most of you have seen The Avengers since it’s broken about every box office record it could. Personally, I thought it was the perfect comic book movie: a great blend of humor, action, and epic story telling.

I remember sitting next to someone at a movie theater a few months ago when an Avengers trailer came on. This person turned to her friend and said, “It looks just like the Transformers.” The tone of her voice made it clear that it wasn’t a compliment.

I wanted to turn to her and say, “This movie is nothing like Transformers!” But then tried to see the trailer through her eyes: Lots of explosions, big city buildings getting knocked down, and huge creatures fighting each other. Yep, that’s Transformers alright.

I didn’t like Transformers, either. So why was I excited about this movie and she wasn’t? The answer was simple. I wasn’t going to see the movie because I wanted to see New York City destroyed. I wanted to see what was going to happen to the characters.

WIth a big budget and a good special effects team, any studio can make movies where things blow up. But the novelty of disaster films has worn off. How many times have we seen Grand Central station destroyed? Yes, the final battle of The Avengers is pretty spectacular from a visual point of view. But that’s not what makes it exciting.

What makes it exciting is that Bruce Banner finally finds a way to control the Hulk. The Black Widow has a chance to do something good to make up for her past. Iron Man learns what it means to sacrifice for the sake of the team. We don’t just root for the bad guys to get destroyed, we cheer for the heroes who have discovered something in themselves and have made the right choice. To put it simpler, we get excited about what they do because we know who they are.

This is a great lesson, not just for any story teller, but for anyone who wants to pass on the faith. Msgr. Eugine Kevane once wrote that “catechesis is about being acquaintanced with persons.” The most effective way to catechize is not by teaching topics but by talking about people.

The person we should talk most about is, of course, Jesus Christ. And our faith is filled with amazing stories of men and women who have conquered their own personal demons to do something great for God. Isn’t that the same kind of drama we saw in The Avengers?

In passing on the faith, don’t just talk about the what. Talk about the who. I imagine that every Christian knows what Jesus did on the cross. But do they really know who He is?

That was one of my few critiques with the movie, The Passion of the Christ. It was a lot of what but only a little who. As a result, many Christians who knew Jesus had a powerful experience watching the film, but people who didn’t know Christ thought (to use the words of a non-Christian I know who saw the film,) “it was just a movie where a guy got the crap beat out of him.”

The Gospel has been rightly called “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” A great story has great characters: the incredible love of Jesus Christ, the struggle Peter has to know what it means to follow Him, the betrayal of Judas, the sorrow of His mother. The main reason I wrote my novel, Between the Savior and the Sea, was to try to make that drama come more alive in a contemporary literary genre. Because as I travel around the country (yea, the world) sharing Gospel stories, that’s what people respond most to.

I imagine that many people look at Catholicism the way the woman next to me watched the Avengers trailer: a montage of images and people that didn’t make any sense unless you already knew the characters. It’s up to those of us who pass on the faith (which, by the way, is all of us) not just to talk about what we believe, but Who we believe, and how we’ve been inspired by the stories of others who have done super-heroic things through the grace of the One they believed in.

The zombies are coming.

I get to write a scripts for Outside Da Box. They asked if I could write something for teens about “the healing power of the Eucharist.”

My first shot at the script had a teen go through the day under constant attack: mom says he’s grounded for the weekend and then throws a grenade at him, girlfriend dumps him and then sword fights with him, etc. The idea is that he would be “beaten up” by his daily activity but then comes into the chapel and is healed and refreshed by the Eucharist.

But the script was deemed too violent. So I wrote a zombie one instead.

Oddly enough, that worked.

The short film will be out in the next few weeks, but there is already a fun buzz about it on Facebook. And if you’re just dying (or, more appropriately, undying) to know what happens, you can highlight the invisible text below to get a special SPOILER for the film:

Jesus wins. 

Great twist ending, isn’t it? I think it will surprise everyone who sees it.

I’ll let you know when it comes out and post a link to it on this blog. I’m eager for you all to see it but even more eager to hear what you think. Until then, I will attempt to satiate your love for all things zombies with my favorite song about zombies (“re:Brains” from Jonathan Coulton) preformed by a guy dressed as a zombie translating the lyrics into American Sign Language.¬†Because that’s what the internet is for.¬†

Having children that range from 4 to 13, there are times I watch the Disney Channel. I love the cartoons (Phineas and Ferb!) but not a fan of their sitcoms. Aside from the bad writing, lame jokes, lack of good parental role models, and the laugh track (which I only appreciate because it lets me know when they were trying to be funny,) the thing that bugs me the most about these shows is that I wonder what will happen to these “child stars” when they get older.

The track record is not good.¬†Let’s turn the wayback machine to 1981 when an adorable Drew Barrymore (6 years old) helped her brother with the E.T. in his closet. She was smoking cigarettes by the age of 9, drinking by the age of 11, smoking pot by 12 and snorting cocaine by 13.

Miley Cyrus got a lot of publicity after she turned 18 and became overtly sexual with her outfits and lyrics.

Do I need to go into details about Britney Spears and Linsdey Lohan?

Most recently, Demi Lovato (Disney star of Rock Camp and “Sonny with a Chance”) has come out of rehab for drug addiction and shared with the press that she still struggles with self-injuring. She’s 19.

And it’s not just the girls who are at risk. Macaulay Culkin, star of the classic¬†Home Alone¬†movies, was just ten when those started. He’s been mostly silent about his personal life during his teenage years, though he was arrested for drug possession when he was 24.¬†Haley Joel Osment (when he was 18) flipped his car because he was driving under the influence and also possessed drugs.¬†Daniel Radcliffe reciently confessed that as a teen he regularly came to the Harry Potter set drunk.

Kids and fame don’t mix. We all know that TV and movie sets are not a healthy place for them, ¬†but we have more “child entertainers” now than ever before.

Is anybody doing anything to stop this?

Is there anything we can do to stop this?

It is easy to shake our heads when former child stars end up on the cover of People magazine because of one scandal or another, but aren’t we also at fault? It’s not as though this surprises us anymore. Here’s the obvious truth: The more famous a child becomes, the more likely they will get involved in dangerous and unhealthy behaviors that could even lead to their deaths (like River Phoenix.)

Sadly, I don’t have a conclusion to this blog. It’s more of a lament. I see children in danger and an economy and society that encourages their destruction.

If you think about it, it’s not unlike the Hunger Games. So perhaps¬†Peeta offers us the best advice: “If no one watches, then they don’t have a game.”

What about you? Any thoughts?