I Got to P… November 14, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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SixFor a five-year period, I wrote screenplays–seventeen of them in all, with thirteen movies produced in an independent-film format. Trust me, I was no threat to either Aaron Sorkin or Steven Spielberg, but considering the meager budgets involved, some pretty amazing projects were completed and released into the cosmos.

What I discovered when I wrote these screenplays was that people involved in artistic pursuits are often pressured by two different camps to comply to an agenda:

  • Religious writers are compelled to profess
  • Secular ones are taunted and teased to be profane

So if you wanted to write things that were acceptable to church people, you had to profess the principles of religion faithfully, while being careful not to add anything worldly, untoward or negative to your script.

On the other hand, if you wanted to get intrigue and interest from the “film festival crowd,” a certain amount of off-beat, unrealistic and profane inclusion was necessary.

I found both camps to be obnoxious.

I don’t have to go any further than the Good Book to demonstrate the aspects of good story telling. This is the reason I believe that the Good Book still has value. The writers felt no compulsion to profess, nor did they feel pushed into making the tales more profane in order to create a wider audience. They just shared it.

So you have King David, who writes really beautiful songs and poetry, but also is a lousy father and an adulterous murderer.

You have Samson, who did mighty deeds for the children of Israel, but also ended up blinded and humiliated because he let his “little head” rule “the big head.”

You have a story of the Jewish nation which is equally peppered with both praise and ridicule for their works and deeds.

By no means did the writers of the Good Book want to either profess or be profane. Instead they went for a third Pprofound.

This is what I pursued in my screenplays, too.

And what is profound? A profound script has heart, soul, mind and strength in it.

1. Heart. What is the real emotion involved? I am not talking about made-up feelings so the writer can manipulate his characters to do as he proposes. I am speaking of the unabashed, unapologetic sensations that go along with the story and our participants.

2.  Soul. What can we use of faith, hope and love to propel our tale and still achieve better conclusions? Removing spirituality from great writing is similar to jotting down your thoughts with invisible ink.

3. Mind. What is accurate? If we’re going to be in the desert, people should get thirsty. If we’re going to be on the ocean, someone should be seasick. Failing to produce accuracy in the pursuit of either profession or profanity is a journey into faulted futility.

4. Strength. What is human? Don’t ask your characters to be superheroes. There’s too much of that in our theater today. Don’t portray them as demons. Expose humanity without fear or prejudice.

I don’t know–maybe someday I’ll start writing screenplays again. But if I do, I won’t be anemic and merely profess my own beliefs. And I won’t pursue profane, espousing the common whim of present-day society.

I will find the heart, soul, mind and strength in the journeys of my characters … and allow the words to produce profound results.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Top Ten Rejected Titles for The Wizard of Oz … June 6, 2012

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I got so inspired yesterday writing to you about Kansas that it got me to thinking about The Wizard of Oz, and in the spirit of always trying to bring something fresh to my readers here at jonathots, I was able to dredge up, through much painstaking investigation, ten originally proposed titles for the story, which, for some reason or another, were summarily rejected by those in power (I would assume to keep the “little man” down…) Knowing that you are always trying to expand your brains and have little pieces of useless information to pull out in party situations so as to make you even more obtuse, I have decided to compile these into a list for you today, which we shall dub The Top Ten Rejected Titles for The Wizard of Oz:

10.  When Monkeys Fly

9.  Dorothy‘s Purple Acid

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the trailer for the film The Wizard of Oz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8.  Which witch is which and why?

7.  The Lizard of Ooze (don’t ask)

6.  Three Babies and a Lady

5.  There’s No Home Like Place(mats)–by Martha Stewart

4.  Goldbrickers and the Kansas Brat (an independent film)

3.  Dropping Housing Prices

2.  Toto‘s Tail (a K through 9 view)

And finally, the Number One rejected title, which, in my opinion, was a mistake:

1.  TORNADOES SUCK

   

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Redlands… May 21, 2012

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I keep searching.

Every week I climb into my big, black van and go from town to town across this expansive country, trying to find a spark of revival. (I do take the precaution of bringing along my own “matches”…)

And when I speak of revival, I’m don’t mean merely a spiritual awakening, but rather, a complete human awakening, fueled by spirit. I will not bore you by telling you about the disappointments along the way. I have never been one to belabor the darker edges of the quilt of my experience. What I would rather do is tell you how encouraged I was yesterday.

I arrived in a church that had rejected complexity in preference to simplicity. They relished communication over the repetition of mere religious practice and liturgy, and they had enough vulnerability that even a stranger such as myself could come in, and as long as I was willing to be equally as transparent, they were of a mind to listen.

It’s not really very complicated. It’s all about ingredients. If you talk to four or five chefs about spaghetti sauce, each one will tell you what elements he prefers prefer to make the ideal concoction. Some want more oregano. Others insist on large doses of basil. Of course, there’s a strong contingency that will tell you it’s all about the garlic. These are all issues of flavor. The truth of the matter is, you can’t make spaghetti sauce without tomatoes. And in our society, emotionally, spiritually and mentally we lead so strongly with taste that we forfeit the tomatoes. Yesterday in Redlands, I discovered a lovely group of souls who were still focusing on the main act.

  • For instance, I talked to a trombone player from the band, who lamented that there was not printed music in the bass clef for his particular instrument–BUT he was still playing. Unlike so many other folks, who have given up playing in the band due to the lack of perfect conditions, he still remained–tootin’ away.
  • I met a women who had recently lost her husband, but rather than making that the focal point of her communication, she uses the experience to spring off with greater concern and love for others.
  • I met a fine fellow with a great interest in independent films, who transfers that passion for the movie industry into his own interpretation of how his life in the spirited realm should be revealed.
  • I saw young humans sitting in the front of the church instead of texting in the back, allowing themselves to be affected by a good thing instead of resisting it simply because it came out of an older vessel or sounded like God-talk.
  • And I met a pastor, excellent at golf, and successful in taking the same energy and intelligence he uses in perfecting his back swing, bringing it into the church service as he claps his hands during the songs and rejoices over being with his congregation–a “holy in one.”

Last night, as I mused over these comrades, I realized that they had discovered a simple procedure that makes spirituality work. It is the blending of three words: need, ability and power.

Although many churches are persistent in expressing how much we need God, it rarely gives us the impetus to tap our abilities and grant us the power of our own conviction. Then there are the more out-of-the-box religions that focus on the power without insisting that we perfect our abilities or ever express need in any way, shape or form. Both approaches leave us void of what is necessary to use our humanity effectively.

No, it’s getting things linked in the right order that gives you the kind of results that allows you to remain human without being obnoxious, while still touching the heart and mind of God. Here’s how I see it–the way I think it should work, confirmed yesterday with my visitation to Redlands:

1. A need to do better. Human beings become ugly when they cover up their inadequacy with false bravado–self-sufficient. They become equally as grotesque when they insist that they’re constantly needy, devoid of any goodness whatsoever. It’s just the admission that we have achieved something, but upon closer examination, we have a heart’s desire to do it better. it makes us sexy. It makes us happy; it makes us powerful. And mostly, it makes us tolerable to those of our own species.

2. An ability to pursue a goal. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But there are many folks who can not remain faithful to a plan simply because they feel more intelligent when they are critiquing it, ignoring it or trying to prove why it won’t work.  Just having the willingness to learn how things work, shutting your mouth and pursuing to the best of your ability may be the definition of godliness. I know this–what we call faith is really when need and ability sign a peace treaty. Faith is the magnificent emergence of a new energy created by the convergence of admitting our need while still pursuing our abilities. And as the Bible says, “without faith, it’s impossible to please God.” Some religions are too needy. Therefore, their adherents are always repenting–reluctantly. Some theologies are too arrogant about personal domination. The result is that those who follow that philosophy end up making claims to everyone else around them, who are privately hoping they fail.

 But when you combine need and ability, you get faith. And then faith gives you the third element:

3. A power to change YOUR world. You need to stop trying to change MY world. Also, you need to relieve your mind of any Pollyanna notion that you’re going to change THE world. Faith gives you the power to change YOUR world. As Jesus said to all the people who came to him, “Your faith has made YOU whole.” My faith can’t make anyone else whole. But it does give me the power to be a light to those who desire to escape the darkness.

When you get those three things placed in the correct order, human beings are really delightful, God seems like a wonderful next-door-neighbor, and the universe is absent a devilish vendetta against you.

Redlands, I hope you continue to understand how wonderful you are in your innocence. And if you do forget, perhaps you can refer back to these words I have shared this morning.  Because when you take a need to do better and mingle it with an ability to pursue a goal, you get the power to change YOUR world.

And the fact of the matter is, if we singularly change enough worlds … who knows? Maybe someday we can surprise the planet and change the whole blessed thing.

 

  

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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