This weekend we had the privilege of being a part of the James Bond III Film Festivals – Christian Edition in Springfield, Kentucky. It’s the first of a series of film festivals that will take place in Springfield throughout the year. In March will be the TV & New Media Edition, in July is Hollywood South, and in October is the Horror Edition.
As filmmakers, we go to a lot of film festivals. We’ve been to Christian and secular, big and small, new and established. Each one is different. Some focus on filmmakers. Others on the community. James Bond III Film Festivals managed to cater to both the filmmakers and the community.
From the initial submission process, I was impressed with their filmmaker friendliness. When I had a question, I received a prompt and courteous response. When it came notification date, they sent out notifications. Soon afterward, they announced nominees for awards. Throughout the process, they communicated with the filmmakers, providing information on the host city, offering hotel discounts, and doing everything they could to entice filmmakers to attend the event. Oh, and did I mention their very reasonable submission fees and super cheap ticket prices?
As the festival time arrived, I discovered that they were working hard to generate community attendance as well. They teamed with Springfield KY Tourism to spread the word to area folks. Their desire is to make Springfield a film destination.
I loved when we drove into town and were immediately greeted with a festival poster displayed at the city’s welcome sign. When we got to downtown, there was the Springfield Opera House with a digital sign welcoming filmmakers and promoting the event. And over the door was a festival banner. Inside was the red carpet and step and repeat, and upstairs was the theater.
The atmosphere at the festival was intimate and friendly. As soon as we arrived, we met fellow filmmakers from New York, and while we were talking to them, we were greeted by Dana, one of the festival organizers, who gave us a swag bag and a t shirt. We were also blessed to spend a wonderful hour chatting with James Bond III, a film producer who began his Hollywood career as a child actor when he was 8-years-old. He has a long list of film credits including starring in one of my all-time favorite movies, The Sky is Gray. We chatted about film festivals, the film industry, and filming in Kentucky.
Film festival organizer James Bond III
The weekend concluded with the awards ceremony, a casual event attended by the Springfield mayor and other locals. We were honored to go home with six awards for Summer of ’67 – Best Feature, Best Lead Actress – Rachel Schrey, Best Supporting Actress – Mimi Sagadin, Best Supporting Actor – Jerrold Edwards, Best Set Design, and Best Costumes.
When we returned home, we learned one more thing to love about the festival. As soon as the awards ceremony was over, they posted the winners on Facebook and sent out an email to all the filmmakers letting everyone know who’d won. How nice is that? So often festivals neglect those who couldn’t come, so I know that prompt response was greatly appreciated by all those who were at home awaiting the results.
I look forward to following future James Bond III Film Festivals and watching them grow. If you’re a filmmaker, check them out on Film Freeway or at their website at http://jamesbondiiifilmfestival.com/
What I like best about traveling with our movies are the people we meet along the way. In the case of Gwen Rollings, I actually met her aunt at a Summer of ’67 church screening, and her aunt insisted that I connect with Gwen. I’m glad she did. Gwen is a fascinating woman, a military wife, and an accomplished author with interesting stories to tell.
Growing up, what did you want to do?
Initially, I wanted to write screenplays. It all started when a contest was announced in my 7th-grade class. The winner of the best original play submitted by a 7th grader would have his/her play performed in front of the whole school. Since I loved to write, I saw this as my chance to “test the waters” for a future career. To my great astonishment, I won! Full disclosure: I was the ONLY one who even submitted anything. Nevertheless, having my play performed was a sign to me that I was destined to be a writer. As I progressed through high school and college, I gravitated more to non-fiction and especially writing about women’s issues.
During your years of child rearing did you do any writing?
Those were such hectic years. Most women can relate to feeling the need to put dreams and goals on a back burner because there are not enough hours in the day to complete even the necessary tasks. It was like always eating good, healthy meals but never having dessert. I couldn’t neglect writing completely and did find time now and then for “dessert.” Occasionally I would write something for a military wives’ club newsletter, and one of my poems was published in my college magazine. I found that writing fed my soul, and no woman should starve her dreams regardless of how hectic her life becomes at times.
What was your greatest challenge with being a military wife?
Looking back through the rear-view mirror of those years, there are so many challenges for a military wife that you could write a whole book about it. (Which I did!) The military husbands and fathers are constantly absent from the home. The wives absorb the full responsibilities of children, finances, home repairs. The list goes on and on. However, there are many single moms today who experience all those responsibilities, too. What makes the challenge of a military wife unique is the fear factor. When a military husband goes away, many times they are going to face dangerous often deadly situations. In the back of her mind, she fears that her husband might not come back to the family. That is why I feel that being a military wife is a purpose driven life. Without the sense that God placed me in that role, I would not have been able to weather those long nights of wondering if he would come back to us.
Tell us about your educational journey.
When you marry at 19 and start having babies at 22, it’s hard to be a college student. But I was determined to get a degree. I began taking classes when my son was five months old and finally graduated from the University of South Carolina when he was 10 years old! Every time we would get orders and move to a new location, I would be checking out the local colleges. I went to colleges in North Carolina, Virginia, Hawaii, South Carolina to name a few. My strategy was to first get the basic foundation courses that I knew would easily transfer, and then finish up my major at one school. God approved my plan evidently because he transferred my husband to the University of South Carolina for two years as a Military Officer Instructor. With God’s continued help and not much sleep, I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. Degree in Communication. Then I went back to George Mason University in Virginia to obtain my Master’s Degree. With my Master’s, I was able to be an Adjunct Instructor at colleges almost everywhere we were stationed after that.
What inspired you to pursue writing books?
I believe everyone has a story to tell. I had the privilege of leading writers’ groups and experienced first-hand the various needs of many people to express themselves through the written word. Maybe they want to leave a chronicled legacy or history for their family or write that great mystery novel. After my husband retired, time was available for me to take a long hard look through that rear-view mirror again; and I had questions that needed answers: Were all those years as a military wife worth it? If yes, then why were they worth it? How did this lifestyle ultimately affect my children? If I had the chance, would I do it again? That book, We Band of Sisters, was my attempt to answers those questions not only for me but every other military wife who has asked herself those questions. It was a story that I needed to tell.
Tell us about the different books you’ve written for women.
As my husband was contemplating real retirement, I had my own opinion about how retirement would work. I discovered when the rubber meets the road it often leaves skid marks! Retirement was nothing like I imagined. No other retired wife clued me into what to expect when your husband comes home and says, “Honey, I’m home forever!” Yikes, I was not prepared. So once again, I decided to do my duty and educate other wives on what was in store for them. Help! My Husband Just Retired was a fun book to write and having my youngest daughter do the illustrations was an added bonus. My very first attempt at publishing, however, will always be very special to me. It is a woman’s book of poetry, Seasons of a Woman. It was a compilation of all the poems I wrote during those hectic years when serious writing was on that back burner. Although published over 20 years ago, it is still very special to me.
What led you to branch into children’s books?
I believe women should encourage each other to pursue their dreams and God-given talents. My belief came home to roost with my youngest daughter, Brittany. From the time she was in elementary school, she loved to draw especially Disney cartoons. After graduating from college with a sensible degree, she still dreamed of illustrating children’s books. As luck (I prefer to say God) would have it, Brittany was contracted to illustrate a book for a pastor who decided after the illustrations were completed that he didn’t want to go with her illustrations. She was so discouraged, so mother to the rescue! As all mothers would certainly understand. So, I said, “No problem, Honey. I’ll write another story to go along with your illustrations.” After You Are One of a Kind was published, we kept going because it was so much fun. We decided books that revealed good moral, Christian values were still needed for young children. To this date, we have published 12 in the Molly Tailwagger Children’s Book Series.
What’s been the response to your books?
The times, they are A-changin’ is an understatement. It seems the days when people actually sat down with a real book in their hands and took time to turn pages are going by the way of a cake made from scratch. Some might still do it, but they are few. Even more disheartening are the children who sit with electronic devices that take the place of that special book whose pages can be absorbed, thought about, and revisited often. The books are on all the booksellers’ websites and even some stores, but the sales are not overwhelming. Yet the books have become a ministry for my daughter and me. We felt God leading us to donate thousands of copies of the children’s books to numerous children’s charities, Baptist Children Homes, Shriner’s, other hospitals, etc. to be given out to children in crises situations. I have also donated hundreds of Help! My Husband Just Retired to churches in the numerous retirement communities here in Florida. At times, I am asked to speak or to attend events where my daughter does instantaneous drawings for children. I tell my daughter that if we use our gifts and talents to honor God, that it is His right to determine the results of our efforts.
Are you currently working on any new projects?
Yes, we have completed another book, Molly Tailwagger Faces Her Fear, which is at the publishers now.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Well, I am once again awaiting orders. This time it is not the Marine Corps who will issue them. My husband has Alzheimer’s Disease, and that has changed everything. He is in a wonderful facility, but its location necessitated relocating again to be closer to him. After 35 moves, I was not expecting nor welcoming another one. I don’t think any woman anticipates at the beginning that her journey in life will take her through these deep valleys, but I have come to realize that they are inevitable. I also realize that my orders come from a Higher Authority than even the Marine Corps! I do know this: God put the love of writing in my heart, and I feel His pleasure when I write. Hopefully, writing will continue!
As many of you know, Summer of ’67 is our last film. We’re leaving the film world, and I am transitioning over to writing and speaking. I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers this fall, met an agent who is interested in my Victorian novel, and now I just need to get it written and sent to her. So with that goal in mind, I am taking a hiatus from blogging to participate in NaNoWriMo.
We’ll still be traveling with Summer of ’67 and promoting it, but other interviews, reviews, and promotions will be put on hold until after the holidays. While I’m gone, you’re welcome to binge read the thousands of articles, interviews, and reviews that I’ve posted in the past five years. There’s plenty to keep you entertained for some time.
If you’d like to follow along on my writing journey, you can follow me on social media. And if you, too, are participating in NaNoWriMo, let me know so we can encourage each other along the way.
I love devotional and study Bibles, especially those specifically designed for women. I have a stack of them, each with their own unique slant. The CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible, though, is completely different than any of my others.
First, the design of the Bible is pretty. It’s feminine and elegant looking with pastel designs around each of the devotional pages.
Every page has room on the bottom for journaling or writing notes. Granted, the lines are tiny, but there’s plenty of space to write bigger if you want.
Fifty women of the Bible are highlighted with readings explaining how God showed His love in each woman’s life.
The most interesting thing about this Bible is the devotions. There are ten themed reading plans, each lasting five weeks. Scripture passages are grouped together by common threads that women can relate to. They include “Beautiful Brokenness”, “Better Together”, “Daily Grace”, “Everyday Leadership” and more. Each theme has a different colored border to make them easy to find. The only negative I have with this Bible is that the devotions are actually written in pastel colors in a tiny font which makes it hard to read.
While some of the newer themed Bibles are more novelty items that quickly lose their charm, this is a Bible that keeps its focus on the scripture itself and encourages more Bible reading.
I received a complimentary copy of this Bible in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
For some reason, many filmmakers think they can just throw together a story and make a movie. But screenwriting is so much more than just a story. It’s an art that requires skill and training in order to properly bring a story to life on the big screen. Screenwriters need consultants to point out weaknesses and guide them on how to tweak their script and make it shine, and they need experienced individuals, not just screenwriter wannabes.
When I first started writing screenplays, I didn’t want advice. I was afraid of criticism. But as we continued making movies, I realized the only way to grow was to get feedback from qualified experts. I got respected filmmakers and writers to give me their thoughts on my drafts. Then, for Summer of ’67 we took it a step further and submitted to Austin Film Festival’s script coverage service. The help they provided was invaluable.
I’m excited to introduce James Christian Peters, a screenwriter and script consultant. He’s actually done script coverage for Austin Film Festival as well as a number of other consulting services. He’s judged top level festivals and read and evaluated over 700 scripts in 9 competitions. He knows what he’s talking about.
And here’s the best news! He’s offering his insight and experience to help Christian screenwriters up their game, for FREE! So if you’ve got a script you’re working on, you need to connect with James.
Sharon: James, introduce yourself and your role in the film industry.
James: Hi, everyone. I’m James Christian Peters, a screenwriter and script consultant. Recently film producer, too. Next month (November 2018) my wife Vicky and I will help with shooting Linda Palmer’s inspiring feature, Turnover, in Canoga Park, CA. And at Charles Willis’ Upper Room Film Festival in December, I’ll teach a mini-course for faith screenwriters: “Writing the Faith Screenplay.”
I’ve done a bit of everything: literary agent, screenwriting instructor at a community college, screenwriting competition judge, and writer of coverage and development notes for filmmakers, film festivals, and private clients. This year I’ve pared back a lot to focus on my own writing, especially faith stories, and on helping other faith writers.
Currently, I have two faith scripts in the hands of filmmakers: Neighbors and Strangers, based on true stories of prejudice, redemption and love. And Miracle at Mount Olive (co-written with prolific Austin writer Hanz Wasserburger), about a young pastor who must struggle to keep his dying church alive and finds a surprising answer in an African American church across town. If we have to produce these films ourselves, watch for our crowd-funding ads!
Sharon: What led to your interest in screenwriting?
James: As a kid, I wrote and illustrated short stories and non-fiction articles, some of which were published. During careers as an engineer and part-time soldier, I did a lot of technical writing plus fiction writing sandwiched in “spare time.” In 2004 the amazing story of my father-in-law’s 25 years as a CIA pilot in China and elsewhere in the Far East–led to the first screenplay, Shadow Warriors. Vicky and I went to L.A. to market the script and actually got several companies to read it, but it has languished on the shelf since.
Sharon: Tell us about your screenwriting background/education.
James: I soon learned that our first screenplays should not be Gone with the Wind epics! After floundering around for a few years I went to UCLA and New York Film Academy (Burbank)–both at the same time! About 30 credits later, two professional certificates in screenwriting and a much better understanding of the craft were the rewards for crawling (or careening) down the 405 or the 101 every day!
Having begged an L.A. agent to represent my work, I embarked on several years of work for him. Vicky and I decided to do what we could to make filmmaking “cleaner.” We actually cajoled writers to soften their profanity, overt sex, and so on! It was a huge learning experience, kind of like trying to stop the tide…
Sharon: When judging contests or writing script coverage, what are the biggest weaknesses you find in scripts?
James: Truth is, 99.9 percent of scripts we see have a wide array of issues, ranging from weak story concept to poor character and plot development. For faith/Christian screenplays, we can add a few more. Like misinterpretation of the Gospel and, especially, preachy dialogue. And there’s much, much more. Just now and then, out of nowhere, we’ll see a truly wonderful, well-crafted screenplay. Huzzah!
Sharon: What do you wish every screenwriter knew?
James: Wow! I’ve written a book about that! But the biggest thing is that screenwriting is a vocation, not an avocation. It takes years of hard work for most of us to achieve a level of professional skill that will attract a filmmaker. Faith filmmakers really need excellent, inventive screenplays from us screenwriters so they can hope to make successful faith films.
Sharon: What is one thing screenwriters can do to up their game?
James: Trick question! There’s no one thing. Most important: Be patient, go to school, learn the craft, seek God’s wisdom for your project, brainstorm original new story concepts, and plan, write, write, rewrite, repeat, polish. Realize that faith writing generally isn’t about money, rather about sharing the Gospel in compelling storytelling and, in time, enjoying fulfillment as a screenwriter-child of God. Not least: Make and nurture CONTACTS in the biz.
Sharon: What led to your decision to help Christian screenwriters free of charge?
James: As children of God, we have on our hearts the desire to serve Him. We share our time and experience with faith writers who are sincerely trying to learn and introduce the Gospel in storytelling to others. Bottom line is, It’s a ministry. We want to share the Gospel far and wide, and no one can do it alone!
Sharon: If a screenwriter sends you their script, what they can expect from you?
James: They can expect honest, industry-level coverage, usually four-plus pages of professional assessment of the primary elements. Since I work for filmmakers and agencies, I’ve learned to use the same criteria they employ to determine whether they want to read a script cover to cover and possibly invest time and money in a project. I put myself in the producer’s place and tell the truth. Do I sugarcoat my analyses? No. But yes, I do try to be kind and helpful.
Sharon: How can screenwriters connect with you?
James: The best way is via email, AListLiterary@gmail.com. Love to hear from your faithful readers!
Sharon: Anything else?
James: Faith/Christian film is improving, but it’s a slow process in an ever-changing, tough filmmaking/financial environment. We faith/Christian screenwriters must realize that effective, memorable faith films like God Is Not Dead, Heaven Is for Real, and Hacksaw Ridge begin ONLY with well-crafted, relevant, imaginative, credible faith screenplays. Yes, that includes even true stories. Faith screenwriters, content writers, and filmmakers must grapple with the need to portray the real world without displaying the ghastly realism that has assaulted us in secular film for decades. At the same time, we must escape the notion that the real world exists somewhere else and deal with realism in honest but palatable ways. Thus armed, we can share credible, enjoyable faith films with the world–not just the like-minded faithful. It’s all about Him!
Since my son-in-law, Clay Herd, grew up with Adventures in Odyssey, I knew he’d enjoy the chance to read and review Young Whit, an Adventures in Odyssey chapter book. I was right. He did enjoy it.
Guest Post by Rev. Clay Herd.
As a fan of Adventures in Odyssey, I was excited to review this book. Young Whit is a tale of young Whittaker and his adventures of his youth. This book is intended for a young audience but be prepared to help your child to understand some of the themes in this book. The story is a little different from your typical Adventures in Odyssey story. Although the characters you know and love will make an impact on you with their impeccable character development. This book is a little lengthy for young kids. Though the font is big, there are still 22 chapters, but if your child enjoys reading, they will find these pages flying by.
The story follows young Whit as he moves to a new school and must face the awkwardness of being new, facing bullies and grief, and his overall growth in his faith. There are a good amount of themes that would bring great family conversations. I felt the story also develops John’s personal faith in a realistic manner. I feel that in following novelizations that John’s faith in God will be better developed as it is in many of our lives.
This is a great historical mystery and is a great read for the whole family. I would highly recommend being involved in your child’s reading of this because it really does have some great themes that would make great conversation starters at the dinner table.
I enjoyed this read. I love the Adventures in Odyssey series and this is a great addition to it even though it is slightly different. I would be prepared to tackle some tough conversations about bullying and grief but that should in no way prohibit a child from reading this book. There are many historical themes that would also make great teaching points for your child. Overall, I would highly recommend picking up this book for your library.