168 hours. One week. That's how long contestants in the 168 Hour Film Project have to produce a short 10-minute film. And, there's one other requirement. The short has to be based on a BIBLE verse.
It's the ultimate filmmaker's challenge.
"We're starting with what the word of God says and then putting it into a vehicle the world understands," said John Ware, Founder & Executive Director of the 168 Project.
Now in its fifth year, the filmmaking competition has been launching the careers of Hollywood's future producers, writers and directors while keeping them focused on their Christian faith. Over the past four years, 173 films have been produced for the competition in hopes of being recognized at the 168 Film Festival. This year they are expected to have 60 entrants.
WORKSHOPS AND MIXERS
Prior to production week, the 168 hosts workshops and mixers to get the production crews prepped and ready to roll camera. Then the BIBLE verse is assigned. According to John, "What they do in the assignment is they take a stone and the stone has a BIBLE verse on it. Then we read the BIBLE verse and boom, they're gone."
Once they have the verse upon which the film is to be based, the writers are given three days to write the script. After the three days of writing, a huge casting session is held to select the actors. With such a short time frame in which to work, most of the actors are cast that day. "After casting they finish up pre-production week. The actual 168 hours refers to the period of time for production and post," said John.
MIRACLES ON THE SET
When you have only one week and limited resources to produce a film, you're already behind the eight ball. The mere challenge of producing a film in 168 hours tests the moviemaker's faith and trust in God. But miraculously, everything seems to fall into place.
The behind-the-scenes stories of production week are equally as compelling as the films created during that time. It's not uncommon for those involved in every level of each film project to have life-changing experiences drawing them closer to God.
"We've seen so much revolutionary change," said John regarding the ways in which the competition has changed people's lives.
"There was one girl who was going to kill herself and somebody persuaded her to be on a 168 project. So she found the kindness on the set. She decided not to kill herself and she actually found the Lord on the set, too."
Pointing out another life-changing experience John said, "One guy was a producer and he said, 'Before 168 God and I weren't talking. Now we have a relationship.'"
There have been so many amazing miracles on the set that the 168 Hour Film Project is looking to produce a reality television show based on the behind-the-scenes stories of production week.
168 FILM FESTIVAL
In order for a film to qualify for the 168 Film Festival it must adhere to the strict policies of the competition. According to John, "If they're late or if the film is over 11 minutes, they're not eligible for any awards. If they're one second late, we have to say, 'We're sorry.'"
All of the eligible entries are then pre-screened and rated numerically. Then they are narrowed down to the top 20. "Once we give the 20 to the judges we have a day of judging," said John.
Using to the BIBLE verse and its meaning weighs a lot in the scoring process. "You have to do what we call scriptural integration. That's 20% of the so-called grade. If people don't get the verse right, then they don't do well in the contest. It's a marriage of dreams and following God's word. Our goals are to illuminate the word of God and train young filmmakers and advance their careers," said John.
The top 20 films are then shown during the two-day 168 Film Festival held in Glendale, California on March 23 at Star's Art Theatre and March 24 at the Alex Theatre. The public is encouraged to attend the screenings and the awards show. Twenty awards are presented at the end of the film festival including best scriptural integration, film, comedy, screenplay, actor and actress. Select films from the festival will be shown on TBN.
Last year's winning film was from Italy. "It was a beautiful story. It's been downloaded about 10,000 times in Italy," said John.
Once again showing that… God shines brighter than all the stars in Hollywood.
(For further information about the 168 Hour Film Project and tickets for the 168 Film Festival, please visit their website at www.168project.com.)