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Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Heads UP. I just watched the film festival-winning short film with all the delight of finding a lost episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s the story of Simon (Brian Stepanek of Disney Channel’s Suite Life of Zack and Cody), a self-doubting entrepreneur battling the negative voices inside his head. The film is a spiritually-themed tale about man’s personal struggle against dark and destructive thoughts. It’s thought-provoking (no pun intended) in a way reminiscent of the aforementioned Rod Serling TV classic.  In fact, clocking in at about 20 minutes, it would make a pretty good pilot for a modern-day Zone-like anthology series. Another possibility is expanding the fascinating premise into a full-length feature. In any event, what’s on screen is executed brilliantly. Bottom Line: Some savvy distributor should reach out to the producers to pick this up and run with it.  You can catch the film’s trailer here.
Simon Says is written by USC School of Cinema and Television graduate Steve Storm and Jamie Sterba (the award-commercial director also directed). The film is executive produced by actor Boo Arnold (who has a role). The producer is respected TV executive Betsy Green.
Synopsis ( as described by the film’s creators): Plagued by the disconcerting thoughts inside his head, a self-doubting entrepreneur begins to suspect that they may not be his own.
The story deals with the power of our thoughts and the importance of recognizing and rejecting the lies that often control us. Beyond this we see the impact of moving from isolation into meaningful friendships, especially as Simon confronts the lie that his value comes through what he accomplishes rather than his inherent worth.  
I recently had to the opportunity to discuss Simon Says with director and co-writer Jamie Sterba.

JWK: Tell me about Simon Says. What’s it about?

JAMIE STERBA: I was planning on making a short film and came upon a small thumbnail drawing I had made of a man with a window on the side of his head.  In that window was the vast office of his mind. Much like that from the film, The Apartment, with Jack Lemon.  It was just an idea.
Later when re-reading The Screwtape Letters, it dawned on my that perhaps there was a Boss that was ruling this man’s life.  From then on I could not stop thinking about this idea and story.  After a number of drafts, I shared it with Steve Storm, who then came on as a writer.  He elevated the story to new levels, especially expanding and deepening the character of Simon.
JWK: What do you hope people take from the film?
JS: That people see the power of their thoughts and the importance of recognizing and rejecting the lies that often control them. 
Beyond this we see the impact of moving from isolation into meaningful friendships, especially as Simon confronts the lie that his value comes through what he accomplishes rather than his inherent worth.  

What is the “Inner Voice” doing to us?  Where is it coming from?  How can we overcome this type of thinking?  Where is God in this?

We all hear the negative voice in our head. The goal is to provoke questions. This ideally leads to a discussion about God, paving the way for people to experience the freedom that comes through Christ. We thus begin to see ourselves as God sees us.

JWK: Tell me about some of the organizations that have expressed interest in showing the movie to their members.

JS: Multiple churches. Men’s and Women’s groups. Schools, Businesses, and Mental Health and Counseling groups. We are working on a small study guide that will accompany the film to be used in small group settings.

JWK: It’s a short film — clocking in at 20 minutes. I personally could see it being expanded into a feature or perhaps serving as a pilot for a sort modern-day Twilight Zone TV anthology. What are your thoughts on those possibilities?
JS: We are looking at both forms right now, as a feature and a possible series.  While the short ends in hope, the reality is that the fight is just beginning. The battle and journey Simon is about to take is quite something. The fight is really just beginning.  The battle and journey Simon is about to take is quite something
JWK: Do you have another project on the horizon?
JS: Right now, this is the main focus.

JWK: How can people contact you if they want to know more about the film?
JS: They can reach out to us via our website.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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