Sunday, February 26, 2006

Fest in Show, er... Show in Fest

The short film I wrote, THE IMPORTANCE OF BLIND DATING, has been accepted into the Method Fest.



Lack of Imagination...

Apropos to the discussion of the diminishment of imagination: I was reminded of the G.K. Chesterton quote from ORTHODOXY while listening to Mars Hill Audio Journal: “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything but his reason.”

What he is getting at here is that the insane fellow tends to have a perfectly thought out, step by step rationale; the problem is the rationale is based on a faulty premise, and the madman lacks the vision to see that.

Ken Meyers was discussing this with Alan Jacobs in reference to C.S. Lewis’ argument that a person required imagination and reason to be able to fully interpret the world. The move of the modern era to denigrate imagination is what opens the door to madmen taking power and becoming tyrants. More than simply an entertainment device, our creative muscles include a moral imagination. (Get the audio journal – I am not doing their explanation justice.)

The danger that Lewis predicts is that it doesn’t require insanity to do the insane if relying solely on the intellect.

We can see the impact of separation of imagination from reason in our own nation. The pictures coming out of Abu Ghraib are beyond a doubt horrific, nightmarish; this is exactly the kind of treatment of other human beings that required the removal of Iraq’s dictator. But it wasn’t Saddam committing/condoning those atrocities, it was us.

And the torture was logical – if you buy the original premises: that our personal safety is worth any cost, that our enemies are less human than we are, that there can be no boundaries for the patriot. If the soldiers involved in the scandal could have seen the photos before the war, I don’t believe they would ever have gone on the step by step journey that brought them to such inhumanity.

They had the logic, but lacked the moral imagination to see where their actions would take them.

I fear that our leadership also lacks such imagination. I believe that is why they can not bring themselves to agree that America will not participate in torture, and why they are more outraged about the photos of Abu Ghraib getting out than they are by the atrocities themselves. John McCain has the foresight to see where the road of torture leads (to the abdication of humanity), but then again he has seen the results first hand.

Do we all need to be imprisoned to have such vision? No. G-d has given us the skill needed, He has equipped us with imagination. We just need to exercise it, to stop labeling imagination as of no value, and we need to meld it with our reason.

Two television programs recently did a nice job of “imagining” for us. JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (yes, the “cartoon,” go ahead, dismiss me now) recently had an episode where a true patriot understood the potential danger of a superpower greater than the United States (the JLU), and transforms himself into a being powerful enough to handle the threat. He ends up battling non-superpowered heroes, and eventually regular citizens who have recognized that he has become the enemy he sought to fight. (Just as we became the torturers we sought to depose).

And the best and most balanced view of life in a post-911 world, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, recently played out a story arc involving the Battlestar Pegasus, a ship that again relied on reason without imagination. We saw the results of justifiable atrocity, and they weren’t all that pretty.

I hope our nation’s leaders watch the Sci-fi channel. We could use more of that kind of imagination.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, February 24, 2006

James Frey and Reality TV

Over in our friend Alice Bass' blog, there is an interesting take on truth in literature.

From the comments to Alice's entry "What's a Memoirist To Do":

"as for the james frey debacle, i have a theory on why there is such an audience for the outrage (this is what facinates me - not the conversation over what frey did - but my observations of why it seems to be such a swirl) is because we have a society that actually believes in reality tv. they think there is such a thing. they still believe the news is objective and that history, science and medicine are unbiased and factual. there is no such thing when it comes to language. language is not reality, at best it is the retelling of reality. by its nature language is always story."

Go to The Fairfax and see how Stacy Barton connects this issue to all fiction, as well as a plug for BIG FISH. Then join in the conversation.

What are you still doing here? Jeepers, don't I have any authority at all?

Just someone elses thoughts,


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Who Knew BABE Was Confusing

Variety did a story on the Chinese government and animation today. As part of the story, they reminded us of this tidbit from the recent past:

"Chinese regulatory authorities are notoriously skittish regarding broadcast and film themes that include the supernatural or fantasy, including talking animals. "Babe" was banned on the basis that animals can't talk and some viewers would be confused."

They are afraid that people will see BABE and start expecting animals to talk -- if it is in the movies, it must be true.

Laughable. Then I think about all the American debates about fantasy, symbolism and metaphor in our films, especially some of the brou-ha-ha over the Potter and Lewis movies. We don't trust our audiences to know that Harry's wizardry is fantasy, or that Aslan is a metaphor for something bigger than a lion.

And we probably don't trust them for a reason; as a nation, we seem to be excercising our creative imaginations less and less. Our children are not expected to take a card board box to the moon, or use a sheet and a stack of pillows to create a fort capable of warding off the Viking horde. We don't read to them, knowing they will build sets and costumes in their mind; we don't chase them around the yard, racing invisible chariots around a crowded Roman arena.

Instead we set them in front of videos that give them the costumes and backgrounds, and computer games that show them the actual moon, and video games that provide the chariots and Viking horde.

Hey, I'm not against video or computers. I just want to make sure that we feed imaginations, and don't just replace them.

My nieces and nephew watch videos, and play computer games. But when you visit them, they can tell you that the sun room is where the wicked witch lives; and that travelling across the plush carpet can make you sleepy, since it is a poppy field; and that the wizard pops up from behind the couch, so you have to stand in front of it just so to address him.

Of course, if you just looked around with the right eyes, you would see it for yourself, and not have to humble yourself to ask the children.

Just my thoughts,


How Much Is That DOOGAL In the Window?

Since I post about HOODWINKED alot, I've been pointed to notices regarding DOOGAL, which in some ads was touted as "from the creators of HOODWINKED." Well, here's what I've been able to find out...

DOOGAL was not directed or conceived by the three gents that brought us HOODWINKED (Cory, Todd and Tony). The team did do a rewrite a year ago, but another set of writers rewrote them -- and the HOODWINKED folk will not be getting writing credit on the movie.

Apparently DOOGAL is a major television show in England, and the movie opened there to huge success. For the American release, the producers wanted more American actors and a less British humor. Hence the big stars and rewrites. But the animation was completed prior to the involvement of our Hooded friends.

Cory, Todd and Tony are definitely set to write HOODWINKED TWO: HOOD VS. EVIL, as well as the animated sci-fi feature ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH, which Tony will direct.

And that's all I know. Seriously, don't ask me any math questions, because I don't know anymore.


Weekly HOODWINKED update

Dropped this week to number 14 for the 4 day weekend. The two films that opened wide the same weekend: GLORY ROAD at 26; LAST HOLIDAY at 42. (Source is Box Office Mojo)

HOODWINKED has made $53 million worldwide to date, which is more than I make in a whole year.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Making HOUSE Calls

Just an insight to my guilty pleasures: I like HOUSE. I mean the TV show; I'm not complaining about apartment living. But watching Hugh Laurie play American grump so well that I keep forgetting that he is the brilliant Brit from the BLACK ADDER series is pure fun.

Why "guilty" pleasure? Because I know that every episode has the same plot. Patient arrives with weird symptoms; House reluctantly takes the case; misdiagnosed which causes a medical emergency to end act one; finds out a secret to end act two; the secret didn't solve the problem so there is another med emergency; find the answer and administer despite protests of patient/lawyer/adminstrator/residents; cure patient.

Hey, the plot is only an excuse to spend time with the characters. And insights like in "Three Stories" or "Damned If You Do" from last season make the visits worthwhile.

Of course, I'm partial to Oscar the Grouch as well.

Just my thoughts,


Way Up North

I'm heading to Castro Valley, up near San Fran, for the weekend to teach a three part mini-seminar on Screenwriting.

Just didn't want you to worry if I was late for dinner.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Worth Its Wait In Gold

The Joseph story in Exodus has come up a lot in my life lately, so of course my thoughts turn to it often. I’m particularly struck by something pointed out recently by writer Bob Lee.

Joseph, as you will remember, was stuck in jail under a false accusation. While in the pokey, he interpreted – correctly – the dream of the Pharaoh’s cupbearer. The butler promised to remember Joseph upon release from jail; a promise that he promptly forgot. In fact, Joseph was forgotten for years, until Pharaoh had his nasty dream about some anorexic supermodel cows eating other heifers.

Several extra years in jail. Unfair? Absolutely. The best thing that could have happened to him – and us for that matter? Yep.

You see, if Joseph wasn’t stuck in his lousy, unfair position, he would have been long gone by the time the Pharaoh needed dream therapy. Which would have meant that Joe wouldn’t have been there to save Egypt from the famine. Or his family. Which means no descendants of Jacob. Which means no Moses. Or King David. Or, dare I say, Jesus.

Gotta remind myself while waiting for the oh-so-many things I seem to be waiting on these days.

The waiting isn’t about fair. It’s like comedy.

It’s all about the timing.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Our friend's movie, HOODWINKED, stayed in the top ten this past weekend -- making number ten. Five weeks in the top ten, even with the newer family entertainment competition of the likes of NANNY MCPHEE (#7) and CURIOUS GEORGE (#3).

Hang in there, Twitchy!

Oh, and here's the French poster -- apparently it takes a whole lot of words to say "Hoodwinked" in French.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Who Put the Dash in GdashD?

Some folk have asked why I often use a dash instead of an “o” in spelling the name G-d, so I thought I would address that here.

I’ve always griped about how we as Christians get freaked when we see/hear the f-bomb, or s-bomb dropped on tv or film or theatre, but have no problem with G-d’s name plaguing the scripts we watch (“Like, oh my g-d, Billy totally likes me.”) The valley girl in the preceding sentence just broke one of the ten commandments; the gun-toting anti-hero who said “get the f**k away from me” didn’t.

Yet, despite my oh-so-righteous judgmentalism, I found my own scripts littered with such phrases, especially the “Oh my…” line. Just came naturally – which I realized was a reflection of my own speech and inner speech life. We are told to not take the Lord’s name carelessly; I didn’t even know I was doing that, which is about as careless as one can get.

In exploring my issue, I was reminded of the notion that the Israelites would leave out the vowels in Jehovah’s name. I decided to try that as an exercise for myself – leaving out the vowel for the name I most associate with G-d. What I found is that it is a pain in the butt, because it means every time I type that word I have to think about it.

Which, I’ve realized, is the point.

And thus relearned a lesson I got years ago when I was looking for a little spiritual renewal. I took the Nazarite oath (promoted by the likes of Paul), thinking that maybe there was some spiritual power to be had in not using a razor or eating grapes. Akin to fasting, I discovered no spiritual power in and of the act itself. What I found instead was my thought life drawing ever closer to G-d.

Because every time my hair got in my eyes, I thought, “I have to get my stupid hair cut, or wait, I can’t because…” and I thought of G-d.

Or every time I went to get a bowl of cereal and had to read the ingredients to see if grape juice was used as a sweetener (you’d be surprised), I’d think of what a pain that was, and “why am I doing this again? Oh, right…” and I would think of G-d.

I could do worse than actually stop and think of G-d.

And someday, when the dash no longer makes me stop and think, I will re-add the “o” to my typing repertoire, and come up with some other trick to help keep me from living a life in vain.

Just my thoughts,


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shining Light

Elena means "shining light."

Welcome to the world, Elena Rose Gaffney, born of Sarah ("princess") and Luke ("light giver").

We could use more light.

Your uncle,


Another Referral: 10 Mistakes Conservatives Make...

As long as I am stealing from others...

First saw this on Jeffrey Overstreet's blog, and he got the heads up from someone named Bubba.

"Ten Mistakes Conservatives Make in Art and Entertainment" byErik Lokkesmoe as posted on

Time saving device: Read this link, then you don't have to read my longer rant on boycotting.



Clayton Emmer, fellow Act One alum, posted this Flannery O'Connor quote, which is just so apropos to the day, I had to steal it.

"Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an ax, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed. We reflect the Church in everything we do, and those who can see clearly that our judgment is false in matters of art cannot be blamed for suspecting our judgment in matters of religion."

Just Flannery's thoughts.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006


So, if you’ve been reading the prior posts, you know that I am ranting about the organized protests of television shows, movies and theatre in the name of Christianity. I’ve mentioned that I think these protests promote the wrong things, while doing little to nothing to curb negative things. But even if it did work, I still oppose the idea – at least in the manner that it is being done.


Because, speaking as a born-again Christian, it isn’t who we are.

During the last presidential election, John Stewart (THE DAILY SHOW) interviewed a leader in the Democratic Party. In selling Senator Kerry as a candidate, the leader listed all the things wrong with George Bush. John asked him if Kerry was only “not-Bush,” or if there was anything that made him his own man. The leader responded that, of course, Senator Kerry wasn’t defined by Bush, he was his own man. John asked for examples.

And the leader repeated a list of things that were wrong with George Bush.

The democrats did not lose the last presidential election because the majority of voters love George Bush. They lost because their campaign was telling America only what to vote against, without ever offering something to vote for.

Let me speak to the Christians reading this for a minute: We have been spreading lies.

We have been telling people in loud, proud voices that the term Christian is defined by what we don’t like. We have been telling people that Jesus came to this plane because G-d so hated the world that he sent his only rebuker.

Did Jesus speak in negatives? Yep. Were there things in his culture that required standing up and saying “stop that!” Absolutely, with an overturned table here and there to make the point clearer. Was Jesus’ message defined by what he was against? Not on your life.

Or, more appropriately, not on your soul.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love G-d; the second greatest – to love our neighbors. Do this, and we won’t even have to be bothered by the “shalt nots.” We will be too busy doing the right thing to get bogged down in the harmful things.

Writer Robert G. Lee put it best: “Christianity is not a reactive religion, but a proactive one.” And Pope Benedict has come out with his first encyclical, speaking to what love means to the Christian – a positive, proactive, agape love.

Jesus said they would know we are his followers by the love we show. And yet somehow we seem to prefer they know us by what movies and tv shows we don’t want to see.

Here’s a test for you: the next time any organization asks you to join a letter writing campaign, or a picket line, or a boycott against a show, ask them first what shows they are actively for.

Get a list of the shows where they organized a letter writing campaign in order to let the writers know that they were doing truly interesting work (where was the campaign for BOOMTOWN?).

Ask for the number of their membership that showed up to chant in support of a movie that entertained us as families – adults and children – without having to go crass (where is the Christian campaign for HOODWINKED?).

Ask them how many advertisers they swamped with letters saying that they would go out of their way to buy their products because they chose to advertise during smart, quality programming (did the advertisers of LOST get a boost in sales the week “23rd Psalm” aired?).

If they can’t produce their list, if they are only against and never for, if they only understand the tactics of hatred and not the tactics of love… I guess you might want to reconsider what is Christ-like about their Christ-ian boycott.

And then write a fan letter to some poor tv writing schmuck that got something right.

Just my thoughts,


Boycott Boycotting: Part 2 of 3

In response to Christians claiming personal responsibility for the demise of THE BOOK OF DANIEL, I’ve made the claim that these organized boycotts by Christians do not work on Hollywood. (See blog below).

Here’s “Sean’s Reason’s Why Not.” (A reference to a show that nobody protested but still was pulled even quicker than DANIEL.)

1) People who aren’t watching a show and who decide to boycott that show do not affect the numbers.

I am not Latvian. I have never voted in the Latvian elections. And this year, I am boycotting the Latvian elections. And my not voting won’t change the elections one jot or tittle. (Victor Von Doom has a lock.)

Boycotts only work if you take your money away from the business – if you would normally give it to them but then choose not to. THE BOOK OF DANIEL is not a show that the protesters would have watched anyway, so choosing not to watch it made no difference.

2) Misplaced boycotts hurt the shows you don’t mean to hurt.

I remember a few years back when there was an organized boycott against Disney movies. Disney had made some controversial movies (under another company logo), and folks were ticked. So they organized a boycott of all Disney movies, including the inoffensive ones.

Let’s look at a model of such a boycott if it is successful. A movie company, called Goofy Movies, makes movies that Watchgroup likes, and movies it doesn’t like. Watchgroup boycotts, and does major damage, causing Goofy Movies to lose twenty bazillion dollars. Cool, right? Now, imagine what a business chart of sales would have looked like the year prior to the boycott (the chart shows sales by Goofy for both types of films they make, copasetic and controversial):

  • Last year: Copasetic films made $60 bazillion; Controversial made $45 bazillion
  • This year: Copasetic films made $40 bazillion; Controversial made $45 bazillion

You can see that Goofy lost 20 bazillion dollars on their copasetic films – the films Watchgroup regularly attended before the boycott (the controversial films weren’t affected – see number 1 above). The exec in the annual meeting will look at this chart, and think: “Hmmmm. Copasetic movies are losing money. Controversial films, however, are staying steady.”

Any exec worth his salary would draw the proper conclusion: Goofy Movies has to start making more controversy films if they are going to stay in the black.


3) And finally, when we tell the producers of entertainment to dismiss us, they are likely to dismiss us.

Dean Batali wrote a great essay on how Christians (and anybody else!) should respond to what’s on television or at the Cineplex (read his essay in BEHIND THE SCREEN: HOLLYWOOD INSIDERS ON FAITH, FILM AND CULTURE). In it, he wisely points out that letters opening with variants of “You have made me so mad that I’m never going to watch your show anymore…” have just become irrelevant. If the writer isn’t going to watch the show anymore, then there is nothing that the producer can do about it. So why cater to the guy that won’t watch the show? Instead, the producer will focus on the guy that is staying with the show, and maybe finding new viewers that are not like the letter writer.

Seriously, how can we expect Hollywood to start producing the kind of things we like if all we tell them is what we don’t like?

But that is a topic for Part Three.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, February 06, 2006

HOODWINKED Holding Strong!

Our friend's movie, HOODWINKED, just celebrated its fourth week in the top ten (based on weekend box office), coming in number five for the second week in a row. For reference, GLORY ROAD has slipped to tenth (or eleventh, depending on which report you believe).



Boycott Boycotting!

Okay, something that you need to know right off the bat: boycotting and protesting by Christians did not cause BOOK OF DANIEL to be pulled off the air. It being a poor quality show that couldn’t sustain the interest of the general viewing public is the root cause.

I know there are many folks out there claiming credit. And it makes me sad. (I remember reading a form letter a while back from a Christian based protest group claiming that their efforts and prayers were directly responsible for the cancellation of a television show – and after only nine seasons! Sigh.)

I am sad because this “success” story will spur on those that derive political and monetary power from organizing such boycotts. I am sad because thousands of my brothers and sisters, who honestly love G-d, will be duped into behavior that hurts the very name Christian.

In case I’m not being clear in tone, I think that organized boycotts by Christians are a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe in standing up and being heard. It’s just these organized, highly publicized attack fests that get my goat.

There are three main reasons that I am not a fan: 1) They tend to promote negative aspects of our culture; 2) They don’t work; and 3) I believe they grieve G-d.

Let me tackle number one first, and we will start with a multiple choice quiz:

Mr. Watchdog decides that The Evil Show is morally reprehensible. In response, Mr. Watchdog insists that every media outlet available cover this Evil Show, so that for months every magazine, newspaper, television station and radio is broadcasting to the world that The Evil Show is chock full of R-rated goodies, and will begin airing on such-and-such a date at such-and-such a time on such-and-such a channel. Because of Mr. Watchdog’s actions:

a) Bazillions of people who may have never heard about The Evil Show otherwise will now hold the show in the forefront of their consciousness

b) Bazillions of people will know that this show is the cultural hot spot to watch

c) Bazillions of people will know exactly when and where to tune in

d) Bazillions of people will be driven by curiosity to at least sample the thing

e) The producers of the show will save millions of dollars in publicity and marketing expenses

f) The show will initially do better than if Mr. Watchdog didn’t go on a publicity campaign on The Evil Show’s behalf

g) All of the above

A show (or movie or theatre piece) that is really poor in quality will fail on its own. And a show that is mediocre but not awful can have a healthy run just on this kind of publicity alone.

Man is by nature a curious beast. And when someone points up to the sky, our first instinct is to look. Even if he is saying, “Don’t look!” the fact that he is pointing to the sky draws our attention there.

I remember hearing several sermons protesting LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST when it came out. The gist of the sermons: “This is bad, don’t go see it. We are really upset because they cast a hot actress to play Mary Magdalene, and she runs around nekkid. So don’t go see it, ‘cuz if you do you will see the hot actress nekkid. ‘Cuz she’s nekkid. In the movie. Nekkid.”

Yeah. That really hurt the film.

Tune in later for my take on why boycotts don’t work, and that whole grieving G-d thing.

Just my thoughts,

- Sean

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

When I start thinking my creativity is hot stuff...

I get put in my place just by taking a gander at real creativity.

Presenting my niece or nephew.


Retreating and Teaching

Oops. It's been a week since we last posted anything. Sorry for the delay.


Our church drama team (Bel Air Drama Department - also known as B.A.D.D.) was on a spiritual and artistic retreat in Montecito. Perfect location. Great worship, prayer, seminars on voice overs and on-camera technique, small group time. Good stuff. Sean & I are quite blessed to serve alongside these crazy and talented friends. (Bowling a 135 on the last day, was pretty fun for me too!)

Actually, I'm staying at work. But today, Sean is off to Kansas City to teach at the national Lillenas Music & Drama Worship Conference.

His classes include the following:

The Use of Drama in the Church
A look at the many uses of drama in the church, from scripture readings to outreach productions. We'll discuss what to expect of drama, the most common mistakes made by churches that under-use or negate the power of drama, and the difference between what churches say they want and what they really need.

Playwriting: Writing Dialogue That Sounds Right
In a play most of what you write will be dialogue. This class will help you develop an ear for good dialogue, and learn tricks that help make dialogue flow.

Playwriting: Stronger Characters and Stronger Scenes
Taking cues from the classics, this class provides insight to evaluating your script for strengths and weaknesses. We also explore practical means for deepening character and getting your scenes to sing.

A Work in Progress
Receive feedback on your writing from a professional writer and an editor. Those interested must register for this class and submit a cutting from their original work prior to December 17, 2005. In class, Sean and Kim Messer will offer feedback on the writing. Limited number of scripts accepted. Click here for details and to pre-register. All are welcome to sit in on the discussion.