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

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