Christian comedy is a risky endeavor. So often, the comedy either falls flat, or it leans towards the sacrilegious. Heaven Bound joins the ranks of the select few which are spiritually sound yet wildly hilarious.
Heaven Bound is the story of Ted and Josie, a picture perfect couple. Ted is a successful dog food marketer until his negligence causes him to not only lose his job, but to become the town outcast. In desperation to restore their finances and social standing, Josie concocts a sure-fire plan to steal from her dying boss. The couple is joined in their heist by her fun-loving but deadbeat brother. Their adventure takes an unexpected twist when Josie’s boss holds the trio captive until they give their lives to Jesus.
It’s a crazy sounding premise, and yet the filmmakers pull it off. It helps that they have an incredibly talented cast. Nancy Stafford, Torry Martin, and Michael Joiner lead the way with hilarious performances, but every cast member pulls off the comedy. I didn’t notice a single weak link.
I’m not a laugh out loud person when watching movies, but I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. And then, I cried. Then I laughed some more. Everything, from the writing, acting, cinematography, set design, music, everything was done with excellence!
Heaven Bound is what Christian movies should be like!
Easter will be here before we know it, and kicking off Easter weekend this year is a great Christian movie perfect for family viewing. The Pilgrim’s Progress releases to theaters April 18-19 which is Thursday and Friday before Easter, so a perfect activity for Good Friday.
The Pilgrim's Progress | Official Trailer (2019) - YouTube
As you can tell from the trailer, The Pilgrim’s Progress is a beautifully rendered animated version of the classic story. While the book is much more in depth, this movie adaption manages to maintain authenticity to the original story. The characters and locations are as I visualized except a few that are even better than I pictured. What caught me by surprise is how quickly the movie moved. It seemed like almost as soon as Christian left on his journey, he was arriving at his destination. They managed to pack in so much and at such a pace that it never dragged.
If you have children or grandchildren, you’ll want to take them to see this classic story brought to life on the big screen.
I’m excited to announce that I have two different giveaways with three winners each.
Three lucky winners will each win The Pilgrim’s Progress illustrated storybooks. These are coffee table- style hardcover books.
Three other lucky winners will each win 2 free tickets to see The Pilgrim’s Progress at the theater.
To enter to win one of these giveaways comment below either “storybook” or “tickets”. The first three to respond to each giveaway will be the winners. I’m afraid you’ll only be able to win one of The Pilgrim’s Progress giveaways, so choose which one you’d most prefer.
Disclaimer: I received an advance screener and am being compensated with product and tickets for this giveaway. Opinions expressed are my own.
I’ve been following Unplanned since it was first announced. When I learned the behind the scenes story of actress Ashley Bratcher, I knew I had to see it. I was especially excited because two of the Unplanned actors are actors from our movies. Robert Thomason, who was Graduation Speaker in Summer of ’67, is Abby Johnson’s dad in Unplanned, and Stacey Bradshaw, who was Teen Rachel in Providence, is Karen, one of the pro-life volunteers.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the movie. Honestly, I expected it to be heavy on sermon and light on story. I also assumed it would be pretty graphic since they gave it an R rating. I was pleasantly surprised by the story itself and appreciated the unexpected editing of time as well as the artistic techniques.
As a filmmaker, I found Abby’s abortion scene to be particularly cinematic. The gore didn’t bother me because I was too busy appreciating the camera angles and editing. I also appreciated the juxtaposition of the teen girl’s abortion gone bad with the praying crowd outside. The frantic hand-held camera during the trauma added to the emotional impact. Finally, I loved the use of closeups on the eyes. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and in this case, the filmmakers made certain to allow us to glimpse into the character’s souls through their stylized camera work and lighting.
Pure Flix isn’t known for having sympathetic antagonists, but with the exception of Cheryl, the Planned Parenthood characters are shown as sincere in their desire to help women. Even Cheryl, while tough, is typical of many women in corporate management positions.
I came out of the movie feeling a burden for all the women involved. For those who have chosen abortion, for those who are working in the clinics, for those who are standing outside praying. Each woman is following her heart and doing what she thinks is best. Unfortunately, the effects of their decisions can be longstanding, and it pains me to think of the guilt and suffering that many of the women deal with.
If you’re not already following Unplannedon social media, you’ll want to do so to read the behind the scenes stories of God at work through the making of the movie and now through the screenings.
Unplanned opened in 1,000 theaters and is expanding to an additional 700 this weekend. Whatever side of the argument you’re on, you need to watch this movie to have a better understanding of what these women are going through. And bring a package of tissues. You’re going to need them.
I love attending industry events like National Religious Broadcasters Convention and International Christian Retail Show because of the great connections we make. Michelle Layer Rahal is one of those connections. Michelle is a former radio news reporter and published educator. She and her husband make beautiful music together as long-time members of a Christian band called Work in Progress. Michelle also recently released her first book, Straining Forward, a memoir of Minh Phuong Towner.
First, introduce yourself as an author and speaker.
My name is Michelle Layer Rahal, first time book author, but life-long writer. With a master’s degree in education, I’ve mostly authored educational articles and reports for various agencies and institutions. Prior to this, I worked as a radio news reporter and anchor in Buffalo and Dallas, TX. So, I’ve been writing and reporting in the non-fiction/research vein for more than 30 years.
You have quite an interesting background as an educator, editor, author, and radio news reporter. Which came first?
How do they all connect?What came first? Waitressing. I did that for a long time—even after I graduated with a degree from Hofstra University in theater performance. I love words—written and performed.
I always thought I would be a children’s writer or actress. Instead, I discovered that I had a knack for research. When you add that to my theater training, news casting seemed like a perfect fit! It was for a while. But eventually I grew disenchanted with the politics of the news business and went back to school to become an elementary school teacher.
My favorite subject to teach was writing. Go figure! But my teaching career didn’t last long once I was identified as the girl who could write publishable lesson plans and assessment reports! I basically wrote my way out of the local school district and into the national education scene.
You recently debuted as an author with Straining Forward. Tell us about the book.
It’s a memoir, but it’s not mine. Straining Forward is the true story of Minh Phuong Towner’s journey from oppression to redemption in the wake of the Vietnam War. We travel with Minh as she moves from Vietnam to France to Australia and finally to America. We experience her trials of abuse, prison, torture, rape, and betrayal as we walk into the dark with her in search of the light. Straining Forward is a spiritual journey of hope and healing that reminds us that even in our most desolate moments, we are never truly alone.
What led to your interest in Minh Phuong Towner’s story?
God. I did not set out to write this book. God told me to. One Sunday morning, in broken English, Minh Phuong Towner gave a stirring testimony at my church that began with the execution of her beloved father and ended with God’s grace. Her witness left the congregation stunned and teary. I didn’t know her; she didn’t know me; but as I wrote in the introduction to Straining Forward, the first words I ever spoke to Minh were, “I want to write your story.” I didn’t select those words. God put them in my mouth. I couldn’t say anything else.
It took a long time for Minh to grant me permission to write about her life. She knew her experiences were spiritually inspiring and book worthy, which is why she was cautious to select a writer she could trust with her sacred story. About 7 years after Minh had given her testimony at church, she approached me and simply said, “God told me he wants you to write my story.”
What’s the greatest challenge of writing a memoir about someone else’s story?
The greatest challenge was making sure I didn’t replace Minh’s voice with my own. Minh speaks three languages, but English is her weakest, and she has an Australian accent! She also has a clip to her vocal cadence and generally speaks in an abundance of short sentences. Then there’s her witty sense of humor, which I discovered is her protective reflex. But above all, Minh is a deep thinker who carefully ponders everything she says. I strove to infuse all these attributes into the text.
The greatest challenge of writing Minh’s memoir was getting her to fully open up and share the darkest routes of her journey. The first year was the hardest when Minh had her protective wall up—both consciously and unconsciously. Consciously, her greatest fear was that people would not like her once they learned the whole truth about her life. Unconsciously, she had buried some of her memories so deep she had difficulty retrieving them. I interviewed her like a good reporter would, but I tried to do it in love like God commands. In time, and through much prayer, I became Minh’s confidant. It took us five years to uncover her past, expose the truth, and complete her story. In the process, Minh and I became closer than friends—we became sisters.
What can we learn from Minh’s story?
There is SO much to learn, but I’ll highlight just three things!
First, Minh’s story teaches us that God is always with us. Though He may not be visible in the midst of suffering, that doesn’t mean He isn’t present. He may show up in the stars or in a stranger. Whatever the approach, God has a plan for our lives, and if we keep our eyes open, we will begin to recognize his abiding presence and trust in His promises. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Second, Minh’s story teaches us to reach out to the refugee in their distress. We privileged Americans have no idea what it is like to live in true fear. Instead of embracing and caring for the refugee in our midst, we often shun them or simply look the other way, never taking the opportunity to understand their plight. But every refugee carries a sacred story that has the potential to foster compassion and transform listeners into the best versions of themselves. (James 1:27)
Third, Minh’s story teaches us to persevere, to never give up hope. Life is messy, and for some it appears hopeless. But the valley of the shadow of death is only so long—it does not go on forever. Instead of quitting, Minh’s story inspires us to take one more step towards the goal. Press on by relying on God’s strength.(Philippians 3:13-14)
What’s been the response to the book so far?
Overwhelmingly positive. According to the reviews on Amazon, readers call Minh’s life story horrific, shocking, tragic, and traumatic, but they also say it is powerful, courageous, captivating, and full of hope. (Xulon Press, my publisher, selected it as one of its top books of 2018 and highlighted it at last year’s International Christian Retail Show, which is how I first became familiar with your blog!) Vietnam veterans have sought Minh out at our various book signings to apologize for not being able to save her, and Minh graciously reminds them that the war (which the Vietnamese call “The American War”) was not their fault.
What I find most interesting is that men and women react quite differently to Minh’s story. Though both genders are visibly moved, the women tend to express empathy and the men tend to express remorse. More men have cried at our book signings than women, even though more women are buying this book. I am no psychologist, but if I had to explain the difference in gender responses, I would say that women have an innate understanding of what it means to suffer at the hands of power-driven men, whereas men are shocked to learn how evil and controlling their race can act toward women.
Do you have plans for future books or other projects in the works?
I have a couple of ideas—in the non-fiction category, of course, which I am still bouncing around in my head. Now that I’ve written one book, I see no reason not to write another. Hopefully, it won’t take as long!
I would like to say that Minh continues to amaze. No one knows better than she does that life is short, so she makes the most of every moment. She works hard, plays hard, and gives 100 percent of herself to every endeavor. When life hands her lemons, she makes lemonade. At age 56, Minh received her Masters of Divinity Degree, making her the 3rd Asian woman in America to be ordained a Presbyterian pastor (PCUSA). While working as a chaplain for the last five years, Minh has embarked on a number of mission trips, ranging from a sports camp with high school students to overseas mission work with Syrian refugees in Bulgaria. Currently, she is working on a Doctorate of Divinity Degree through Gordon Conwell Seminary. I can’t wait to see what God will accomplish through Minh over the next 10 years! And beyond!
When Robert Thomason gave his speech as the Graduation Speaker in Summer of ’67, he had the undivided attention of every individual on set. The chaos and commotion from moments before were forgotten as he launched into his speech. By the time he finished, many of the actors were in tears, even though the camera was only on Robert. It was one of those rare, magical moments you have when you’re filming and everyone forgets that they’re just actors and instead lose themselves in the moment.
I keep running into Robert in other films, and now I can’t wait to see him in Unplanned, releasing to theaters this weekend. He’ll be playing Abby Johnson’s and I know he’ll do an amazing job.
When did you first develop an interest in acting? What was your first acting role?
Well, it certainly was not out of a personal “interest” that I as an elementary student was “encouraged” to be Lamb #3 in a nativity scene in a church production…. Nor, was it for a drama credit as an ensemble member in a middle school song and dance tribute to Motown and other classic tunes!
I would say that my first genuine acting role came unexpectedly during my early college years. My roommate at the time was a theater major and he asked me to come along to a musical audition to read a scene opposite his hopeful role. He also roped me into singing a crazy little tune so that he could demonstrate his own guitar playing skills. As a journalism major at the time, this seemed like a huge sacrifice to make at the expense of my pride for my good friend. I think it was my apparent fish-out-of-water nervous energy that caught the director’s eye who then had me read another scene and sing a few bars. Dazed at what just happened, I actually left the theater that night cast as the lead for the musical “Pippin”, and yet, still good friends with my encouraging roommate who couldn’t believe it either!
What is your acting training/background?
The short story is that I caught the theater bug and became a theater major, transferring to another university to explore the field. Although I primarily studied stage and lighting design, the requirements for the BA in Speech and Theater necessitated that I also participate in many roles including dramas, musicals, and one-act plays. It was during this time as a stage actor that there was a curious transition within myself from stage fright to an owning of the present moment as an extraordinary sense of freedom, excitement, privilege, as well as a sense of responsibility. This is when the power of story upon an audience became so incredibly evident to me in such a powerful, almost palpable manner.
After graduating from college, I did some freelance design work around Atlanta. Through various churches, I was also able to act, direct, and design various ministry-related productions.
Following a hiatus for a period of many years, I was led back into acting. This time, however, it was clear that I was to be retrained from my theatrical background into a film acting direction. The contrast was immediately made apparent to me by participating in the AMTC (Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ) program, exploring disciplines such as film and commercial technique, cold-reads, and scene study within a relatively condensed amount of time. Continuing after that, I was blessed to be mentored under the direction of some of Atlanta’s best educators through on-camera intensives, workshops, and classes.
Having been exposed to a wide variety of approaches to the craft, none made more of a personal impact for me as did my training through the Meisner technique. As with any acting training, Meisner is simply a tool and I do not allow my roles to be defined as a technique on display. Having said that though, I have found it to be an incredibly accessible, honest, and safe preparation process in order to seek an authentic palette from which to work. Basically, it has served me well as a friendly reminder that any real and grounded character is as close as I am willing to be honest with myself as a human being first.
What led to your involvement in film acting?
This is kind of the hard part to talk about….As I mentioned, there was a period of putting the whole “acting” thing on the shelf as I moved through a season of life before becoming involved in film acting. Having lost 2 children through miscarriages, we were to be led through another challenge. While in the womb, a third child was diagnosed with a severe disorder of bone growth that took her life immediately after being delivered at full-term.
The Lord demonstrated a powerful display of long-suffering with me as I became, shall we say, distant and more than willing to let him know my thoughts. As the psalmist puts it, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (Psalm 73:21-22) Eventually, the grief process with Him led me to a place of what I would describe as a still lake on an otherwise overcast day – a placid peace but a peace that still had awareness that the earth was still turning and people were easily moving about their lives. And somewhere along the way, I surrendered…. The psalmist continues his story (that became mine) in Psalm 73:23-28, “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”
It was following this point in the journey that the Lord spoke to me leading me to return to acting through the venue of film, but this time I was to focus on telling of all of His works. I eventually capitulated, not trusting anymore in my own understanding, and responded with something like,“OK. But You have to be my manager this time.”
And so began the new journey of faith-based projects.
What films have you been in?
Short film – Harmony, Valiant, Hidden in Plain View, Bump, Invisible, No-Ruins Everything, Post-It
Feature film – Stand Your Ground, Trouble in the Plate, Summer of ’67, Like Arrows, Unplanned
Some of the topics in these films have included sex trafficking, war hero tributes, courtroom drama, gospel-centered parenting, and pro-life protection of the unborn among others.
How do you choose which films and film roles to do?
Prayerfully. I believe in faith that the Lord not only hears my prayers but that He answers in His way and in His timing – often times through something that He has already spoken long before my need to make a choice. I do believe strongly in the sola scriptura high view of His recorded word – NOT in a solo approach. In other words, the body of Christ is referred to as a body for a reason – we aren’t spoken of as individual islands left to come up with our own interpretations of His words, ferreting out “new truths”. In most cases, I take a collaborative approach to seeking trusted counsel before making a decision. If I sense that there is a thematic truth that has a traceable thread back to His heart, then I will begin there. However, just because a film may honor Him in one way or another doesn’t mean that it is right for me. The specific roles I choose must be an extension of some truthful part of who I am already. I simply owe it to audiences who pay hard earned money to see these films to ask myself on the front end, “Can I set down my masks and pride in order to give them honest aspects of who I am so that this role can have human depth that will connect – or not?”
Tell us about your role in Unplanned.
I am so honored to portray the role of Mike who is Abby Johnson’s father. Mike and his wife Kathleen find themselves caught between an obvious deep parental love for their daughter Abby who is climbing the Planned Parenthood ladder as a clinic director and their own unflinching view of the sanctity of the unborn. This, of course, creates a compelling real world example of tension between parents and children who have come to a place of opposing views – in this case between literal life and death. Writer/director Chuck Konzelman described Mike as having a “quiet, supportive, yet highly attentive demeanor towards Kathleen which allows her to ‘shine brightly’ in social settings, because he knows and loves who she is…and they make a great pair.”
How did you get the role?
On a Friday afternoon, I received a call from a mentor of mine who had just had a conversation with a member of the production team of Unplanned who said they were trying to cast a supporting role of a father. Following a brief description of the project, role, and timeline, I was asked to send production my materials immediately as the casting time frame was extremely tight. They quickly reviewed my profile. What I did not know at the time was the prayers that had been going on prior to our contact. I told them that I would have to read the script. Within minutes it was in my inbox along with a sense of urgency regarding their timeline. What followed was a truncated form of my typical process of reviewing projects and roles as I described earlier. Through a flurry of prayer, reading, and more prayer, a sense of peace came over me that this was a step of faith that I had to take. I notified production that I was prepared to move forward in the process should that be of interest to those within the vision/decision making process of the film. Within minutes, I was welcomed on board by the writers/directors. That was Friday late afternoon. I was on a plane within 48 hours and the following day began my first day of filming.
How did I get this role? My Father gave it to me so, “that I may tell of all your works.”
What’s been the response to the movie so far?
For those who have seen pre-screenings of the film, the vast majority have been overwhelmingly positive responses in so far as their assessment of the film’s clarion call for all to see abortion for what it actually is – murder. Many who see the film for the first time are commenting on the need for a time to process all that they just saw. This is a hard film to watch but it is necessary. Some have even seen it as the opportunity to begin talking about truths that have been suppressed for a long, long time.
What excites you the most about this movie?
The timing of this film’s creation and release after years of delay is tremendously exciting to me. The journey of 1 person who had a change of understanding concerning the humanity of all life, beginning at conception, who intrinsically have the right to live is amazing. It excites me to think how in our present culture of death, selfishness, and convenience, this film is released offering a door that is wide open for those who are brave enough to begin walking in a new understanding concerning the personhood of every human life. It excites me to think of people who will humble themselves to say, “I was wrong” in order to begin healing. It excites me that children, yet to be, may literally be allowed to live.
I’m also encouraged to see the church potentially become more engaged in the battle for life than it historically has been as a whole over the past several decades. Proverbs 24:10-12 states, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken..
The faith-based world can be a pretty small community, especially for filmmakers who film in neighboring states. The same actors work on films in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. I first learned of Candy Beard from actors who were working on one of our films and had worked on hers in the past. Then I met Candy in person at the MayDay Film Festival in Kentucky. Our paths keep crossing as we continue our journey through the film festival circuit.
First, introduce yourself and your film background.
My name is Candy Beard and I reside in Terre Haute, Indiana. I started my company, Dreams Come True Films in June 2011. I am the screenwriter and executive producer of all our films. I have no formal training, but I love what I do and I feel this is God’s calling on my life, so I continue through the good times and the really bad ones.
What led to your involvement in filmmaking?
Crazy but true … my youngest son was bullied in school from first through seventh grade. It was relentless and pure torture for him. No one in the school system would do anything to help. They did not want to admit they had a bullying problem, so they denied it, hoping it would go away, but it only got worse. Eventually those bullies told my son to go home and kill himself. They told him it would make the entire school happy because he was worthless and everyone hated him. When he came home and told me this, it was the last day he ever attended public school. I withdrew him the next day and began home schooling. And then, I wrote a 20 page book about what he had endured all those years. I self published this book, hoping it would open eyes as to how painful bullying really is.
Family and friends loved the book and encouraged me to keep writing, so I wrote three more books on the subject of bullying in school. I was then encouraged to keep going so I started writing novels for women. I self published those as well, publishing 12 books in all. And then I decided I would try my hand at writing screenplays, with the goal that Lifetime Television would maybe produce my work. When that never happened, I started my own company.
What films have you produced?
I have produced In a Cage (about domestic violence), Guilty (a short fantasy film), Vanished (about child abduction), My Mother’s Replacement (about mental illness & suicide), Cries Unheard (about child abuse, bullying & racism all in one), The Promise (a rom-com about keeping promises & finding love) and my most recent Christian film, A Second Chance ( The story of three teen girls who commit numerous crimes against an elderly woman)
How do you get the inspiration for your movies?
It varies. For instance, the storyline for Cries Unheard came to me while I was hanging laundry out on the clothesline. For Vanished it came to me in a dream and I dreamed it really happened to me. I woke up crying my heart out, fearing the unthinkable was now my life. As for A Second Chance that was all God! He definitely put this one in my heart. I believe you can find inspiration absolutely anywhere, whether it be a headline in the news or a song on the radio. I often have well meaning friends say, “Hey, I have this great idea for a movie you can write and produce!” But the truth is, I have written sixteen feature films and have only been able to produce five so far, so I am absolutely not looking for outside ideas. I want to produce my own work and will never get to produce them all, I’m certain of that. But yeah, I have more than enough ideas to keep me busy.
What’s been the highpoint of your film career?
Oh definitely becoming an award winner, for sure! I began this journey in 2011, and it was not until 2018 that I could say I was an award winning producer. Vanished won Best Thriller, The Promise won Best Comedy (twice) and A Second Chance won Best Christian Film (in New York of all places!) I give the glory to God, because it was He who inspired me to take my son’s bullying situation (as horrible as that was) and turn it into a blessing and a career for me. I am now inspiring total strangers with my films and it feels amazing!
What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a filmmaker?
How much time do you have? lol Wow, there are so many challenges, from casting just the right actors that you believe can bring your story to life, to raising funds and scheduling is often a nightmare. But I guess my biggest challenge and the one that keeps me awake at night is trying to find traditional distribution. That has been a dream of mine since I began writing screenplays in 2007. I dreamed my films would open in theaters, be stocked in brick & mortar stores and I can’t forget hoping they would appear on Lifetime Television, which used to be my favorite go to channel. But everything is changing now, and you have awful people out there waiting to take advantage of unsuspecting and naive filmmakers such as myself. It’s really hard. When I began this journey, I had no one to lead me by the hand and offer advice, so I’ve had to learn everything the hard way, and believe me, I’ve had way more struggles than I care to admit to. But I just lean on the Lord all the more and seek His will for my company and my films and trust that at the end of the day, everything will be alright.
What advice would you offer aspiring filmmakers?
For one thing, you can’t have a thin skin in this business. I used to, but it’s gotta go. You’re going to have people who don’t like you and don’t like the kinds of movies you make. And that’s okay, not everyone has to like you. Move on and forget about it. I would also say to surround yourself with people who will lift you up, encourage you, inspire you and pray for you. And finally, be happy for your filmmaking peers. Don’t be jealous of their success, your time will come in due time. There is enough success out there for all of us.
What are you currently working on?
At this moment we are in pre-production of a film I am so passionate about. It’s called The Text and follows two families who are torn apart by one woman’s addiction to texting and driving. I plan to go into production in the summer of 2020. I began writing this script in the summer of 2013 and just finished it December 2018. I worked on it only in times when the passion was the most strong. That’s how I work on scripts. Sometimes I can write one in a matter of a week or two, other times several months or five years!
What are you most excited about right now?
Right now I am anticipating two film festivals. The Branson International Film Festival is coming up the first weekend of April and A Second Chance has six nominations, including Best Feature and we actually get to attend this one! So I’m counting down the days. The other festival is the International Christian Film Festival in Orlando and we are nominated for Most Inspiring Film which is quite an honor. Thought I cannot attend that one, I have a few cast members who will be there to represent our film. The nominations for both of these festivals was so humbling and quite the surprise to me, I still can’t quite believe it.
I’d just like to give a few shout outs if I may. First and foremost to God for being the Greatest and for bringing the blessings of filmmaking into my life. This is not something I aspired to be when I was young, God sort of just said, “Girl, you have a writing talent, now use it.” I love the passion He has placed in my heart. Second of all I want to thank my son Daniel, who was my work partner (and the greatest at that!) for six wonderful years. He was my Director, my DP, my Editor and everything in between and he worked his tail off, even after having a major knee reconstructive surgery in 2015. He’s so very talented, but unfortunately, talent is not the same as passion, and his passion is not in filmmaking, so he walked away after we premiered A Second Chance. I will miss him terribly. My husband Mark has paid for all my films and been incredibly supportive, and my youngest son Chris has been my number one fan since I started writing in 2005. And finally, I want to thank all my wonderful cast members throughout these last 8 years and my amazing fans. I have some of the greatest fans on the planet and I am so grateful for the support they give me year after year. My cast and fans are truly family to me. And thank you to you, Sharon for this interview opportunity!
When I got the invitation to be a part of the launch team for Eat Live Thrive Diet: A Lifestyle Plan to Rev Up Your Midlife Metabolism, I got excited. Yes, please! The bold print on the back cover enticed me, “Turn Back the Scale and The Clock With This Inspiring Lifestyle Plan.” What more could I ask for?
I couldn’t wait to get my copy to see if I could truly turn back the scale and the clock. Now, after a month with the book, I’m afraid the scale and clock are still the same, but, it’s through no fault of the book. If I’d actually followed the advice and finished the book, things could have been different.
Eat Live Thrive Diet opens with an introduction to authors Danna Demetre and Robyn Thomson sharing their backgrounds and their struggles with diet and health. They’re basically saying, “We did this. It was hard, but if we could do this, so can you.”
I really like the writing style of this book. It reads like a letter from a friend rather than feeling like a textbook or book of rules. Danna and Robyn mix personal stories, information they learned from their health research, and their advice to apply what they learned. The chapter on self-talk was particularly thought-provoking. I breezed through the first six chapters getting more and more excited. It all sounded so good. I could do this.
Then I reached page 60 and saw the elimination phase – level one, level two, and level three – with level one being minimally restrictive. For that level, all I had to do was eliminate all grains and sugar for two weeks. (I won’t even tell you all the things you had to eliminate for the other levels.) I can see where that might work just fine for a lot of people, but I’m married to a man who likes few vegetables and expects bread at every meal. We also eat out a lot. For three days we followed the diet. But I found that very few of my recipes were grain and sugar-free, and for the life of me, I couldn’t seem to find any menus at our local food haunts that followed the diet. Also, at the end of the three days, i’d not seen any significant weight loss. I gave up on day four and quit reading the book.
It occurred to me that I should probably finish the book just to see what they had to say, and now I wish I’d done that sooner. They weren’t saying you had to eliminate grains and sugars for the rest of your life (although you’ll likely feel and look a lot better if you do). In the Lifestyle section they explain how to get into a healthy lifestyle rather than a continuous diet. They also cover other aspects of healthy living besides just diet.
I’m thinking I may try this again. Now that I have a better understanding of where the plan is headed, maybe I can develop the commitment to stick with it for long-term results. I sure would like that. I feel confident if I do follow the advice in the book, I will look and feel better. I just have to keep reminding myself that each time I want to grab a handful of tortilla chips or a sourdough roll.
If you’re in your midlife years looking for a way to turn back the scales and clock, check out the Eat Live Thrive Diet book and let me know how it goes. Eat Live Thrive Diet releases March 26 and is available for preorder before then.
Last month we got together with a group of friends and watched Priceless. After the movie ended, we sat in silence for awhile trying to comprehend it all. What followed was a discussion of sex trafficking and what could be done to stop it. Since then, we’ve been sharing articles and resources on the subject.
Each day I receive press releases from publishers, publicists, authors, and filmmakers letting me know about their books and movies. I often skim through them, unable to respond to them all. But one caught my eye. The Least of These; One Man’s Remarkable Journey in the Fight Against Child Trafficking. It’s not a book that would usually be in my wheelhouse, but after our movie night and discussion, I felt I should at least check this one out.
I didn’t have high hopes. I’m not a big fan of issues books, but when I got it in the mail, the cover intrigued me. It’s a beautifully illustrated cover of legs and feet. Not your usual cover.
I started reading and was immediately drawn in. I didn’t know what to think about the opening scene that takes place in a red light brothel in India. It was shocking and intense. But author Jeff Brodsky doesn’t keep us there. He backtracks and explains his childhood and what led him to being at the brothel. He shares about being a clown and making people laugh. It’s easy-going and light hearted. Then he takes us back to his fight to rescue children caught in sex trafficking.
At first he focuses on his international efforts. He takes us to the Philippines and India, to unspeakable settings, and explains the expense and trouble it takes to rescue just one young girl. It’s disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as what comes next, explaining the sex trafficking grooming process that takes place in the US, in schools and church youth groups. It hit way too close to home for my comfort level. I immediately began wondering when and where it’s going on and I’m not even aware.
Dr. Brodsky closes the book by talking about what we can do to make a difference. One of these is to host a Barefoot Mile to raise money for rescues.
JOY International Barefoot Mile 2018 - YouTube
It’s so easy for us to close our eyes and pretend like sex trafficking isn’t really a problem, that it doesn’t affect us, that there’s nothing we can do. Unfortunately, pretending like it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away.
If you’d like to help make a difference, I’d encourage you to get a copy of The Least of These and consider sponsoring a Barefoot Mile.
Years ago when I taught children’s church I fell in love with The Land of Far-Beyond, a children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress written by Enid Blyton. I read a chapter or two of the book each week and the children all enjoyed it as much as I did. Later, I decided to read the original Pilgrim’s Progress, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as The Land of Far-Beyond.
I hoped that the new animated movie release of The Pilgrim’s Progress would capture the story as well as Enid Blyton’s storybook version. I got to see an early screener, and guess what. It was the perfect visual representation of the beloved story.
The Pilgrim's Progress | Official Trailer (2019) - YouTube
The Pilgrim’s Progress releases to theaters Easter weekend for just 2 days – April 18 and 20.
Thursday, April 18, 7:00p
Saturday, April 20, 12:55p
I’ll be posting my full review closer to release date, but in the meantime, I get to giveaway THREE copies of the interactive, digital adaptation of The Pilgrim’s Progress! I’ll also be giving away illustrated storybooks and movie tickets. How cool is that?
To register for a FREE interactive, digital adaption of The Pilgrim’s Progress, comment below with your favorite obstacle that Christian faces on his journey.
For me, I liked morality and legalism. This movie does a particularly great job with that scene.
I never intended to be a filmmaker. I was a bookworm and never even really watched movies. But my husband had a broadcast communications degree and ten years into our marriage decided he was going to make a documentary about the history of the small town we’d moved to. Somehow that documentary morphed into a narrative feature with me writing the script, directing it, and starring in it. I had no clue what I was doing and hated it. But ten years later, he convinced me to do another movie. We ended up doing seven movies, and at some point, I decided if this was what God had us doing, the least I could do was to learn how to become a better screenwriter and filmmaker.
What filmmakers would you say were your greatest sources of inspiration and who had the greatest influence…