Tuesday, April 24, 2007

“Fixing” Hollywood, One Script at a Time

How Mainstream America is Influencing the Film Industry

(ARA) - For several years now, attendance has been in decline at movie theaters all over the country. While ticket prices are up, overall receipts are down. A recent Zogby survey found that 45 percent of American moviegoers had decreased their attendance over the last five years, with the highest percentage of that decrease in the 18- to 24-year-old demographic; at the same time, 21 percent of respondents said they never went to the movies. One of the main reasons listed for this trend was the quality of the films.

What can Americans do to bring back the “golden age” of Hollywood, when films were designed to appeal to the whole family, and were based on good stories that inspired and uplifted? The answer, according to many industry insiders, is not to simply stay at home and save your money, but to get involved in the process. Good films begin with good stories, and where are the majority of these to be found? in the hearts and minds of everyday people all over the country.

People like R. Wyatt Scott, Daniel S. Elliott and Stan Himes, who recently split a $50,000 award given for writing “spiritually uplifting screenplays.” The contest is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and presented by “Movieguide: A Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment.”

From communities as diverse as Jacksonville, Fla., Rochester, Minn., and West Des Moines, Iowa, and with careers as far removed from the entertainment field as a surgeon and an ad copywriter, these winners represent the broad-based outcry from across the nation, for films that both entertain and uplift, and that whole families can enjoy together.

Just how quickly, really, can winning a script contest effect real change? Try less than a year. Two of last year’s contest winners, David Anthony and Heather Hughes, have had offers made on their scripts from major film companies. Anthony has even been hired by the production company PureFlix, to direct his film. PureFlix is new film company based in Hollywood whose goal is to create more of these types of films, and having a choice of these kinds of scripts in the pipeline helps make this possible.

So, the message to Americans out there everywhere, who want to see more films they can support at the box office, is do your part. If you have a great idea for a movie, or know someone who does, send it in. Information on the script contest can be found at www.kairosprize.com. Entries from first-time screenwriters are sought to keep the ideas fresh and creative.

Secondly, check out new companies like PureFlix, that may not get wide support as they often have to distribute their films independently. And when you know of a film releasing soon that you want to see in your local theater, call you theater managers and tell them about it. If enough public support for a film is generated, they will be more likely to try and bring it to their theater.

Some of these new films to be on the look-out for include Scott’s “Cheers & Laughter,” a drama focusing on a professional athlete whose career is cut short by injury -- a story line that appeals across the board, and, while not being “preachy,” shows the value of redemption and grace in bringing hope out of tragedy and despair. “Movies are a great medium for reaching people in need of this kind of comfort and encouragement,” says Scott.

Himes’ “Sarah’s Gift” is a comedy -- a genre that seems an unlikely winner for a spiritual competition. However, writer Stan Himes captures well the struggle of a teen trying to fit in, in a light and humorous way, as the only non-musical member of her family. Sarah learns about the power of prayer, as hers are answered with the gift of singing -- but only in church. She then becomes prideful of her new gift, but comes to understand the importance of humility, family commitment and sense of community as she is faced with the loss of more than just her singing talent. “It’s more than a faith-based film; it’s a fun, family movie,” says Himes. He believes Hollywood needs more of these “good movies with spiritual values rather than preachy movies that people don’t want to see.”

Elliott’s “By Might & Power” is an adventure story chronicling Captain Robert Scott’s ill-fated 1911 expedition to the South Pole. While not inherently spiritual, the script deals with the issues of purpose and meaning in life, and is very inspirational to others as Captain Scott comes to realize the true legacy he must leave for his son. “There is something far more grand in producing something that edifies, motivates and changes peoples’ lives,” Elliott summarizes, in comparison to writing a film or script that merely entertains.

While none of these winners plans to “quit his day job,” they are each open to what the future might hold. As part of winning the competition, their scripts are being reviewed by top Hollywood producers and studio executives, and any one of these films could be optioned and made into a real Hollywood blockbuster.

Stan Himes, especially, is hopeful for the future -- not for him alone but for the industry as a whole. He believes his script is an example of what most people are looking for in a movie -- a positive energy that taps into many emotions, with an eyes-watering, feel-good ending.

And that’s just what Hollywood needs more of.

More information is available at www.kairosprize.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stanford Study Finds No Conclusive Benefit from Treating Kleptomania with Medication

Somehow we missed this release. Well worth a read & some thought on the way some minds work!

3-14-07 A small clinical trial of a medication to treat kleptomania has failed to find any conclusive benefit for patients with the impulsive stealing disorder, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. But the results leave open the possibility that some medications, including the one in the trial, may still be an effective treatment for certain patients.

More than 1.2 million people in the United States are thought to suffer from kleptomania, the guilt-ridden, impulsive stealing of inexpensive and unneeded items. The condition differs from shoplifting, in which the action is usually planned and motivated by need or monetary gain. People suffering from kleptomania often fail to seek treatment for fear of legal repercussions.

The medication in the trial was escitalopram, marketed as Lexapro. The drug belongs to a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and earlier studies have suggested that SSRIs can be effective in treating some impulse control disorders, such as skin picking.

In an earlier, non-blinded open-label phase of the kleptomania study, when trial participants were aware that they were taking escitalopram and not a placebo, 78 percent of the patients responded to the drug. In the second phase of the study, conducted as a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the benefit was not seen.

"When we randomized people to drug vs. placebo, the same proportion of people relapsed on drug as relapsed on placebo, suggesting that it was really a placebo response in the initial phase of the study," said Lorrin Koran, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and first author of the study, which will be published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

In the double-blind trial, 15 subjects were assigned to receive either a placebo or escitalopram. For both groups, the relapse rates were effectively the same, with three of seven patients on the drug relapsing, compared with four of eight on the placebo.

Koran says that the small number of subjects in the study makes it impossible to know with certainty whether the results of the trial are really indicative of the effectiveness of escitalopram. "For some people, I think these drugs really do work. And for others, maybe not, but until you have large studies you can't tease that out," he said.

Koran emphasized that the results of the clinical trial are not definitive, and some people may be helped by therapy involving medication. For others, receiving psychological treatment, perhaps in combination with medication, may prove most effective. But regardless, he said, "People with this disorder should definitely seek treatment."

This study was funded by Forest Laboratories, which makes and markets Lexapro. Koran has served as a paid speaker for Forest Laboratories, as has second author Elais Aboujaoude, MD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of Stanford's Impulse Control Clinic. Nona Gamel, clinical research manager, was also a co-author on the study.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Coca-Cola Company: Retooling Its Atlanta Headquarters to Conserve Natural Resources, Combat Climate Change

Collaboration with Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute is good for the environment and good for business
Actions to eliminate over 10,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions each year, save in excess of $1 million in annual operating costs

ATLANTA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Coca-Cola Company today announced that it was implementing measures to reduce energy consumption at its two million square foot world headquarters by 23 percent and reduce its water consumption by nearly 15 percent. These efforts are expected to eliminate more than 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, which is the equivalent of removing 2,000 cars from the road.

“By taking bold measures to conserve natural resources in our own backyard, we want to send a message to companies and individuals that combating a leading global environmental problem demands local action,” said Bryan Jacob, The Coca-Cola Company’s energy and climate protection manager. “We all have a role to play, from using energy-efficient lighting where we can, to repairing leaky faucets and watering our lawns only in the morning and the evening. Each leaky faucet in our homes or offices could be wasting 180 gallons of water per week.”
The Coca-Cola Company’s efforts to protect the Earth’s climate at its Atlanta headquarters include an approximate $3 million investment in energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning equipment, rainwater harvesting techniques and advanced irrigation control systems. Furthermore, Coca-Cola will continue to enhance its state-of-the-art building automation system to increase the effectiveness of these improvements.

“As the number one ingredient in our beverages and an essential component to life on Earth, water is important to our Company,” Jacob continued. “Since climate change will have a profound impact on freshwater resources, we are making water conservation – in our plants around the world and at our headquarters – a priority. The irrigation improvement projects at our Atlanta Office Complex will reduce the water used for landscaping by an estimated 75 percent.”

The Coca-Cola Company is collaborating with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in these efforts to reduce water and energy consumption. “Companies have long embraced innovation to improve their products, services and operating practices, but we’ve entered a new era in which new technologies can help us become even better stewards of the natural resources that sustain our businesses,” said Bill Meffert, group manager of the Environmental and Energy Management Services Division with the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “Companies like Coca-Cola have the ability to make a tremendous impact in their operations and through the example they set for others.”

Currently, The Coca-Cola Company’s Atlanta Office Complex spends over $6 million annually on utilities, and substantial efforts to improve efficiency have been phased in gradually over the last ten years. For example, a recent project converted the North Avenue Tower’s famous marquee from neon to more energy efficient LED lighting that is expected to produce over $10,000 a year in energy savings.

The initiative being announced today represents a significant increase in the Company’s efforts to deliver even better results faster. Many of these planned upgrades are already underway and all are expected to be finished within the next twelve to eighteen months.

The Coca-Cola Company’s environmental protection efforts – global water stewardship, sustainable packaging and energy and climate protection – address areas that are most important to its business and are where the company can make the biggest impact. Each of these initiatives helps reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

The Company’s announcement comes ahead of Earth Day, which is commemorated in the United States and around the world on April 22. Since it was first celebrated in 1970, Earth Day has helped focus national attention on the progress that businesses, individuals, communities, governments and other organizations are making to protect the environment.

The Coca-Cola Company is the world's largest beverage company. Along with Coca-Cola®, recognized as the world's most valuable brand, the Company markets four of the world's top five nonalcoholic sparkling beverage brands, including Diet Coke®, Fanta® and Sprite®, and a wide range of other beverages, including diet and light beverages, waters, juices and juice drinks, teas, coffees, energy and sports drinks. Through the world's largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the Company's beverages at a rate exceeding 1.4 billion servings each day. For more information about The Coca-Cola Company, please visit our website at http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How Grocers are Helping Fight Childhood Obesity

ARA) – These days, too many children are growing up snacking on candy and cookies rather than foods that are good for them like fruits, vegetables and grains. But if America’s grocery stores have anything to do with it, that’s about to change! Area grocers throughout the U.S, from Massachusetts to Idaho, from Minneapolis to San Antonio, from the suburbs of Chicago to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are encouraging healthy eating habits in their communities.

Realizing they have the ability to make a difference, local grocery stores are partnering with Field Trip Factory to offer free field trips that teach kids how to make smart food choices. It’s good for our communities and our kids.

“The field trips reach a wide cross-section of the youth in our area. These children go home and influence their parents to adopt healthy habits,” says Bob Gumbleton, manager of the Shaw’s Supermarket in Lynn, Mass.

“When we reach the kids and schools in our community, they bring their parents back to buy the healthy products they try during the field trip,” adds Dale Watson, manager of the Albertsons store in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

On these hands-on field trips kids get to sample healthy foods, and come away with an understanding of the essential concepts about nutrition and diet, as well as the importance of staying physically active. A little math is worked into it too as kids learn about pricing. The trip is designed with the goal in mind of producing not only healthy kids, but smart kids.

Meijer stores in suburban Chicago, kids learn fundamental concepts about how exercise, balanced meals, and healthy living will positively affect them. Jan Olszowski, store director of the chain’s store in Rolling Meadows, Ill., says the kids always leave smiling.

“In essence, the trips show kids that shopping for groceries at a Meijer store is fun. A lot of the chaperones have commented they have never been here before, and they will now return to shop here for healthier foods in the future,” he says.

Down in Texas, H-E-B stores are also finding that their trip helps build a partnership with kids in the community that goes beyond food. The Be A Healthy Buddy program focuses on making healthy decisions as well as teaching students about careers in the grocery retail business. “It’s important to us to have a positive impact on kids and their health. They are our future shoppers as well as our future employees,” points out Keith Jackson, who manages one of the chain’s San Antonio, Texas store.

At Rainbow Foods stores in Minnesota, stores see the benefit to both students and their families. Carole Fust, store manager for Rainbow Foods in Plymouth says, “We expose students to information that will help them make better nutrition decisions. They go home and share what they’ve learned with their parents and siblings.”

Over 2,000 local grocery stores are now offering this important real-life health lesson. These grocers are making a difference in their communities by encouraging kids to eat healthy today so they can make a difference tomorrow. Rommel Morrison, manager of the Lowes Foods store in Jamestown, N.C., adds, “This program is a valuable asset to the community.”

To learn more about these free, experience-based field trips, log on to www.fieldtripfactory.com and type in your zip code to find out which programs are available in your community. If you don’t have Internet access, call (800) 987-6409 for more information.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Karl Rove, Christianity, Nastiness and Historical Cycles...

As I handle a number of on-line newspapers I get tons of press releases. I'm seeing more and more releases like the one below. We are becoming more and more polarized. Christians are complaining more and more about being denied basic free-speech. Double standards abound. There's more and more nastiness.

I'm a so-so student of history, read a bit, loved it in school... we're in a cycle and it isn't a good one. Who knows whether we're going to repeat a historical cycle, be a blip in the history books someday (written in spanish? chinese? arabic?).

Not only am I seeing more of the ugliness, the attacks, the stories like the one below, but I'm also hearing more and more folks talking about the U.S. going down the tubes. There's an old saying that if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything. Is the U.S. heading for a fall? We're certainly sending the world a mixed message about what we stand for in this great country.

Here's the release that sparked this blog:

"Students Attack Karl Rove with No Arrests Made"

Law enforcement officials are now responding to events bases on the political beliefs and viewpoint of demonstrators rather than their actions," states Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition

WASHINGTON, Apr. 4 /Standard Newswire/ -- Lawlessness and discrimination reign in Washington, D.C. Students violently attack White House Advisor Karl Rove with no arrests made. See today's news coverage: USA Today -- Karl Rove heckled and pelted on college campus (http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=6rqql5bab.0.idirl5bab.hl94yxbab.13633&ts=S0235&p=http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.usatoday.com%2Fondeadline%2F2007%2F04%2Fkarl_rove_heckl.html) and NBC TV-4 video -- Students Pelt Karl Rove In Protest (http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=6rqql5bab.0.jdirl5bab.hl94yxbab.13633&ts=S0235&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbc4.com%2Fnews%2F11516096%2Fdetail.html)

Meanwhile peaceful Christians are threatened with arrest and ordered to stop praying on a Capitol Hill public sidewalk during a Stations of the Cross Celebration last week (http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=6rqql5bab.0.kdirl5bab.hl94yxbab.13633&ts=S0235&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.christiannewswire.com%2Fnews%2F821612645.html).

The Christian Defense Coalition has written a letter to the Library of Congress seeking a public apology and clarification concerning the unconstitutional disruption of public prayer.

The Coalition is being representing by the American Center for Law and Justice and will seek further federal legal action if the matter cannot be resolved. See the letter online at www.earnedmedia.org/libraryletter.htm (http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=6rqql5bab.0.ldirl5bab.hl94yxbab.13633&ts=S0235&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.earnedmedia.org%2Flibraryletter.htm)

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, comments:"There is now a new standard in Washington, D.C. concerning public demonstrations and political gatherings. If you are involved in an anti-war protest, you can violently attack White House officials with no arrests. You can spray-paint the United States Capitol with no arrests or consequences. You can disrupt news conferences with no arrests. And, you can take over congressional offices with no arrests. Meanwhile, if you peacefully chose to exercise your First Amendment rights by praying in the public square you are ordered to stop, are harassed and threatened with arrest."

Law enforcement officials are now responding to events based on the beliefs and political views of demonstrators, rather than their actions. This kind of discrimination is both unconstitutional and dangerous and brings us back to a tragic time when people were arrested simply because of their skin color.

"Is there any person out there who believes, that Christians or conservatives would not have been immediately arrested if they had violently attacked Speaker Pelosi or spray painted the United States Capitol Building? Could you imagine the response of law enforcement officers if pro-life demonstrators had shouted down a news conference by Senator Hillary Clinton?"