Film School 101

About that whole interested-in-filmmaking talk I’ve been rambling on for the past half a decade…Well, it’s finally being realized. Matthew Perdie moved to Alabama, and has temporarily taken up residence in the Fair Hills Farm Guest House as a live-in tutor in filmmaking for the Read family. Having our minds crammed with months and years worth of film school in a few weeks hasn’t been the smoothest and most peaceful process. But we’re learning a lot, and the prospects of future productions are exciting!

The lessons have involved film analysis…

More "Notorious".

Analyzing Hitchcock’s “Notorious” has been thrilling and amusing.

Rachel filmed a clip of the scene in which Devlin "finds out Alicia is assigned a spy job which requires her getting lovey dove with another man."

DEVLIN’S “CONSTERNATION”: Rachel filmed a clip of the scene in which Devlin “finds out Alicia is assigned a spy job which requires her getting lovey dove with another man.”

More Hitchcock...this time, "Rear Window".

More Hitchcock…this time, “Rear Window”.

Now for some good ol' historical drama...John Adams (2008).

Now for some good ol’ historical drama…John Adams (2008).

…as well as producing our own short films.

Amanda's Epic Fail

My first attempt at actress/director. You can see the result in my face: This just bombed.

Oh, the complexities of editing a movie!

Oh, the complexities of editing a movie!

THE LIST Screen Test (Lesson 5, 360p)

Amanda Read and Matthew Perdie experiment with a scene from one of their project scripts. The bonus blooper reel demonstrates improvised ways of staging the same scene, which is actually written to take place at a café bar. “Fred and Ginger’s” was a café name invented by Rachel Read while playing around on the chalk board during staging.

Playing Chess (Lesson 2, 360p)

How is Ben to keep his big sister Beth from beating him in chess? Little sister Becca comes in handy…This short film was made on day three of our film school with Matthew Perdie. Our roles were assigned to us at random upon drawing our names out of a basket. We added an amusing blooper at the end, which gives a glimpse of the challenge behind directing small children (and having a young boy hold the boom mic for so long).

Closet Doors (Lesson 1, 360p)

A little boy attempts to sneak past his brother to get a board game out of the closet on a stormy day when he gets more than he bargained for. (This is the result of our first film lesson with Matthew Perdie. He gave us the assignment of shooting a short film in five hours with no advice or help with equipment we had never learned how to use before. Amanda had a more elaborate, lighthearted plot idea, but when we started running out of time, the plot took a dark turn – no pun intended, but we misjudged the lighting too on that stormy day.)

Look at that! The green screen at Longleaf Studios!

Look at that! The green screen at Longleaf Studios!

We’ve also done a little location scouting for the web series. Until next time…

Get ready for the adventure!

Get ready for the adventure!


The Power of Narrative

Our languishing culture is made up of individuals, not a collective mass audience. Most of them are blasé, complacent individuals. To simply confront them with holier-than-thou accusations or rah-rah chants is fruitless. Moral outrage doesn’t make sense to them anymore, and misplaced skepticism is profuse. How do you cure a patient who refuses to believe they are ill?

This is an age-old problem with an age-old solution. Do not merely inform them. Show them.

Imagine the thoughts that must have gone through the prophet’s mind as he walked to the residence of the King of Israel. Nathan was approaching David, the legendary musician and warrior who was – as God Himself said – a man after God’s own heart.

But David had just committed adultery with Bathsheba, and after learning she was pregnant by him he deliberately had her husband put on the front line of the fiercest battle so that he would be killed. After Bathsheba mourned her husband’s death, David took her as his wife. David had disgraced himself in front of YAHWEH, but he had grown so full of himself that he hadn’t even realized it.

How did the prophet break the news to the complacent king? With a parable.

Despite its subtlety, the story was powerful enough that David empathized with the story’s protagonist who was done wrong. He was so outraged by its heartless antagonist, in fact, that he said, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die” (II Samuel 12:5).

Then Nathan exclaimed, “YOU are the man!”

The realization brought David to his knees. He felt conviction because he had witnessed his own actions analogized in a story he had never heard before – a story from which he was otherwise personally detached. He was thus caught vulnerable, with no witty excuse prepared in order to plead his innocence. David was truly guilty.

The American people need to be told stories about themselves that they haven’t heard before – stories that suddenly reveal that the sort of character we despised is what we ourselves have become.

That’s why Matthew Perdie and I (likely to be joined by my siblings and some friends) are planning a venture into narrative film. He’s doing all the groundwork in New York City while I’m doing the screenwriting out here in Ohatchee, Alabama. I experimented with screenwriting a few years ago, and as I have just three classes left before graduating from college, I look forward to trying my hand at it again. Historical drama and epic are my passion, but modern themes will likely be explored first.

Our goal will be to use narrative film to awaken people’s consciences to seek the truth.

Alabama recovering from tornadoes, country music stars plan benefit concert

OHATCHEE, Al., May 18, 2011 – On June 14th, “Bama Rising: A Benefit Concert for Alabama Tornado Recovery” presented by Verizon will take place at the BJCC arena in Birmingham. Among the artists to be featured are Taylor Hicks, Kellie Pickler, Martina McBride, Bo Bice, Sara Evans, Ashton Shepherd, Darius Rucker and the group ALABAMA, which will be reuniting for this performance, having retired in 2003.

The Bama Rising website quotes ALABAMA’s Randy Owen stating on behalf of the group, “My hope is that this will bring happiness and help to my fellow citizens in Alabama. I believe it’s extremely important that we do this benefit, and I want everyone in the state to feel like they are part of it. I hope we all can pull together to help get through the worst natural disaster I’ve ever seen in Alabama. I appreciate my friends in country music, everyone that’s been involved, and anyone that’s helped in any way.”

Tickets will be available on Friday, May 20th at 11:00 A.M. Central Time, ranging in price from $25-$150.

In light of the many events that have happened, I’ve struggled to figure out which article should serve as my column’s overdue breakfast. It’s fun to appear invincible online publicly, without having to acknowledge that my absence was due to such mundane things as midterm exams, final exams, and lack of electricity, water, telephone, internet and sleep. But I suppose it would only be fitting and proper to acknowledge some of the issues before more time passes…

Click here to continue reading at The Washington Times Communities.


LITTLE BROTHERS AFTER THE STORM: David (8) and Benjamin (4) Read inspect damage from a tree that fell across the family swimming pool and garden arbor. (Photo by Abigail Read)

NOW WE HAVE TO CLEAN IT ALL UP: Joseph Read (16) takes a look at an uprooted tree. To put it in perspective, he's at least 6 feet tall. (Photo by Abigail Read)

SURVIVED THE STORM: A Canadian goose nesting at our pond hatched out three adorable goslings right after the tornado. (Photo by Abigail Read)

“For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm…” – Isaiah 25:4

Alabama governor ridiculed for evangelistic remarks

Governor Bentley

As a citizen of Alabama, I’m always on the lookout for news from my state that would interest a national audience enough to highlight in a column. Thus, the other day I was at first excited to see that our new governor had made broad headlines.

Disappointingly, the story turned out to be another one of those nonissues that only get attention because the media knows the effective additives to leaven them with.

After his inauguration on January 17th, Governor Robert Bentley (R-AL) spoke to a large crowd at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (once pastored by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.). David White of The Birmingham News reported the incident as follows:

“‘There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,’ Bentley said. ‘But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.’

Bentley added, ‘Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.'”

In summary, Bentley reiterated Jesus Christ’s message of spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood (Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35, Luke 8:21) to a bunch of churchgoers, and extended a hand to any in the audience who might not yet be followers of Christ…

Click here to continue reading at The Washington Times Communities.

Alabama Policy Institute Dinner features Fred Barnes, Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Moore

Photo by Brandon Robbins

Photo by Brandon Robbins

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., November 11, 2010 – The conservative outcome of the midterm elections was a reigning topic of the Alabama Policy Institute’s Annual Dinner, which took place at the Cahaba Grand Conference center. Established in 1989, the API is “a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families,” and drew an audience of 1100 people to its annual dinner.

Alabama’s newly elected governor and lieutenant governor, Robert Bentley and Kay Ivey attended the event. Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Moore and Fred Barnes formed the panel of guest speakers, all of whom have spoken at previous API events.

“The panelists are all people whose opinions and insights are highly regarded,” Gary Palmer, API president and panel moderator told me via e-mail. “In addition, they are all individuals that I have known for many years and that have also known each other for many years. I think the familiarity helps account for the excellent chemistry of the panel.” …

Click here to continue reading at The Washington Times Communities.

My father took this picture of me with Fred Barnes

My father took this picture of me with Fred Barnes