My Film ‘From the Sky’: Why I’m Asking for Your Support

DSC04230

The setting for the film: a remote area in Eastern Washington, standing in for the Middle East.

I am not good at asking for help and I often hide my enthusiasm which is also not good. But it’s time to continue pushing beyond my comfort zone. This film project ‘From the Sky’ is a labor of love for me. The screenplay is my sixth; a story of a poverty-stricken father and son struggling to survive in an area frequently targeted by drone strikes. The film will be among the first (if not the first) narrative works of cinema from the U.S. to show the impact of drones on civilians in the Arab world. The film also explores the roots of extremism and ultimately asks the universal question: when we are harmed, will we take the wide road of retaliation or a more narrow path by responding in life-giving ways? I intend and hope to direct the project in late April if we are able to raise sufficient funds.

My wife Lauren and I have been convicted about these issues to the point that we feel we need to step out in faith. We are bringing in $10,000 of our own in addition to a (hopefully) fully-funded Kickstarter campaign, combining to cover production and post-production costs. I don’t want to ask something of you if I’m not willing to ask something of myself first.

Today marks the launch of a 30-day Kickstarter fundraising campaign; a crucial part of the fundraising effort. Here are three ways you can support this project:

1. Offer a financial pledge. Donations can be as low as $1, and rewards for donations start at $25. You won’t be charged for your pledge unless the campaign is successful; it is an all-or-nothing endeavor. This is why we need you! Many small donations are the difference between success and failure (but I won’t stop you from giving lots).

2. Giving early makes your pledge go farther- helping to drive the campaign up on the Kickstarter site, and encouraging those who visit the page to give of themselves (because an active project is more enticing than one which appears to be lagging behind).

3. Share the Kickstarter page link with your community, your social media network, and human rights advocates. It matters! Momentum helps our chance of success.

The Kickstarter page will further reveal why this is a project I am so passionate about, as well as answer likely questions. Will you stand with us by making a donation today?

FROM THE SKY Kickstarter fundraising campaign

thank you!

 

Video Introducing my Short Film ‘From the Sky’

Photo credit: Ian Ebright

In addition to writing for this blog, RELEVANT Magazine and Red Letter Christians, I’ve been working on two different film projects throughout 2012. Those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook may have caught the status updates about one particular project that I’ve been busy with since July of last year: writing and rewriting the script, adding to the research I’ve been doing over the past decade, consulting with knowledgeable people about the Arab world, networking, and building the cast and crew.

‘From the Sky’ is my sixth screenplay, but it’s the first time I’ve crafted a story that isn’t feature-length. I hope to direct this short film in Spring 2013 and am excited to announce that Egyptian-born actor and filmmaker Sayed Badreya just recently joined the cast.

In December, my good friend Patrick Murphy and I went on a location scouting excursion starting in the Yakima River Canyon and ending in areas near Vantage and George, Washington; two very small towns separated by the Columbia River.

Click through for a short video of yours truly introducing the film’s setting and story.

(more…)

The Limitations of Mockery and the Adventure of Authenticity

Tim Heidecker in ‘The Comedy.’ 

“Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.” These chilling words are part of a valuable exposé written in the New York Times by Christy Wampole. Her piece ‘How to Live Without Irony‘ bears witness to a generational descent into routine insincerity.

Mockery on the other hand can be direct at times- a dagger shoved into one person by another- but at its core, it is not so different from insincerity. Both are often a piece of armor used for self-preservation, a way to flee human connection by focusing on the other as a caricature while exempting one’s self from the same level of scrutiny. I look around and am encouraged, because it seems even secular culture is growing weary of mockery taken to the extreme.

(more…)

Interview with Author Donald Miller and Director Steve Taylor: On the ‘Blue Like Jazz’ Production Process, On-Set Surprises, and Misunderstanding God

Donald Miller (left) and Steve Taylor. Photo credit: 2012 Ian Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

My conversation continues and concludes with screenwriter Donald Miller and director Steve Taylor about their new film adaptation of Miller’s New York Times bestselling book ‘Blue Like Jazz.’ The film opens in theaters April 13th. If you missed it, click here for the first part of this interview.

(more…)

Interview with Author Donald Miller and Director Steve Taylor: On ‘Blue Like Jazz,’ Christian Movies, and This Film’s Controversy

Donald Miller (left) and Steve Taylor. Photo credit: 2012 Ian Ebright | The Broken Telegraph

I get a call from Donald Miller’s tour manager Jim Chaffee as I’m turning into the parking lot at the Southcenter Mall, a complex located about 10 minutes south of Seattle if you take the interstate, hence the name Southcenter. The theater won’t let us in ahead of the screening so we’ll have to do the interview somewhere else. Chaffee thinks Starbucks, maybe. “I’ll go get Don, he’s in the car,” Chaffee says as I close my outdated flip phone. Why is Miller, a New York Times Bestselling author on tour to begin with, and at a theater of all places?

His second book ‘Blue Like Jazz,’ a collection of essays on faith and doubt published in 2003, went on to sell over a million copies, propelling the author into the national spotlight. Miller’s ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’ arrived in 2009 and documented the unlikely journey of adapting ‘Jazz’ into a film, with musician-turned-director Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson pursuing the author to write the screenplay as a threesome. As for ‘Blue Like Jazz,’ it’s one of those works so often mentioned by young evangelicals as the spark that re-ignited their faith after years of dismay and an upbringing in religious fundamentalism. Miller and Taylor have been on a tour bus for weeks, taking the film around the country to screen ‘Blue Like Jazz’ before it opens April 13, and tonight their stop is Seattle.

(more…)

The 10 Best Films of 2011

George Clooney in ‘The Descendants.’ Photo credit: Fox Searchlight 

It’s such a definitive title, isn’t it? And in that way, I have mislead you. I am in no shape to proclaim the 10 best films of 2011, because I missed a ton of likely contenders. On the other hand, for a married guy with a child, I gave it a valiant effort and still saw lots of movies, plus naming this post “my favorite films of 2011″ felt a bit too much like an entry in a twelve-year-old’s diary, so let’s roll with it, shall we?

(more…)

‘Moneyball’ and the Risks and Rewards of Doing Things Differently

Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

There’s a moment early on in Bennett Miller’s impeccably made new film ‘Moneyball,’ in which Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) realizes that everything must change. His team is losing three major stars to free agency, and he doesn’t have the purchasing power to keep them around or to buy replacements of similar caliber. In a league with no salary cap, Oakland is like David up against The Yankees’ Goliath. Wealthier teams comfortably drop $110 million on players each year while Oakland can only manage to pay less than half of that. Or as Beane explains to the team’s inner circle “there are rich teams, and there are poor teams. Then there’s 50 feet of crap. And then there’s us.”

Beane knows that the game is geared to favor the rich, and he’s either going to have to get creative, or else watch next year’s team chase the ball around the field. Beane decides that he will assemble a team based on statistical goals rather than star power. He will fill his roster with a bunch of no name players, grabbed at a bargain.  The problem is, the scouts and team manager aren’t seeing his revolutionary new vision. They insist on what has always been done. Surely their skill, intuition and coaching are better than a computer filled with metrics and data. A protest spreads through the head offices of the Oakland A’s, and consequences aren’t far behind.

(more…)

The Best Movies of 2010

Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer

Part of the problem with a definitive headline like “the best movies of 2010″ is that it implies I have managed to see all of the contenders. That didn’t exactly happen, for reasons married people with children understand. But let’s say I got close. Having acknowledged that, here are my favorites from the past year:

(more…)

The Half-Yearly Report: 2010′s Best Movies and TV Shows (So Far)

Ewan McGregor in ‘The Ghost Writer’

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

My goodness, here we are again already! It’s June, and we already have 6 months’ worth of entertainment to talk about. And what a year it’s been! Or more accurately, what a CRAPPY year it’s been! Now, I am aware that if you look at the entertainment reports we have done over the life of this blog you will see that the “Crappy Year” theme has been rather prominent. But, man, do they ever make it easy to keep that theme current.

It’s interesting, but ever since moving back to Los Angeles in 2007, I have met and been around more people in the creative part of the entertainment industry. I have met writers, comedians, producers, technicians, actors and even a newscaster. And when we do talk about what the entertainment industry is doing and where it’s headed, they are no more enthusiastic than we consumers of their (collective) product. That should tell us all something: if the creators are not enthused about the creations, then why should we be?

But, let us focus on the positive! Not every release this year has been at the level of a ‘Marmaduke’ or ‘Letters to Juliet.’ There have actually been some things worth seeking out:

(more…)

Reviewing the Cinematic History of Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese on the set of ‘The Departed.’

by Guest Contributor Brian Robinson

Martin Scorsese came to prominence in the early 70s and has steadily become one of the best known and most admired American directors. In addition to his directing career, Scorsese has been very active the past twenty years as a film historian and preservationist. His knowledge of cinema and its history informs every new film he makes; they are full of visual homages to his influences.  I’m going to reflect a bit more on this great American talent before reviewing some of his career highlights.

(more…)