Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture.

The latest from my faith/media industry mail box –

NEW YORK, MAY 14, 2018 Nomi Network, an anti-human trafficking organization, will honor seven outstanding women at its 8th Annual Gala and Awards Ceremony for their efforts to eradicate the vicious cycle of human trafficking. The event will take place on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 in New York City to raise awareness about human trafficking and encourage attendees to take a stand against this global issue.  Award-winning actor Penn Badgley, whose credits include Gossip Girl and The Paper Store, will be presenting the keynote address. Award-winning actor Harry Lennix, whose credits include The Blacklist and Man of Steel, will also be in attendance.

“Human trafficking enslaves approximately 46 million people globally and of this number, 70 percent are women and girls. Nomi Network chooses to puts faces to these numbers and believes that by knowing our women and their stories, we honor their tenacity and the hard work of those that advocate for them. In spite of these daunting numbers, I am confident that the monumental achievements of our gala honorees will see the eradication of modern day slavery in our lifetime,” says Diana Mao, president and co-founder of Nomi Network.

 The Abolitionist Award will be presented to Emily Nielsen Jones and her daughter Lexi Jones of the Imago Dei Fund.  Mrs. Jones, who co-founded Imago Dei in 2009 with her husband, Ross, has been a longtime supporter of Nomi Network after learning how vital economic empowerment is for women when addressing the root causes of human trafficking. Being a mother of a young girl drove Mrs. Jones to adopt a ‘gender-lens’ within the grant making at Imago Dei, choosing to focus on partnerships with female change agents who are building bridges of peace and creating a world where girls and women can thrive.  Following in her mother’s footsteps, Ms. Jones has always been eager to create a world for more human beings to achieve their full potential. She has traveled to Haiti, Tanzania and Rwanda to meet young survivors of trafficking and learn about the community driven-approaches seeking to empower women. Jones was recently chosen to join the leadership program Be the Change, and was selected to participate in the MA State National History Day for a group project on the Civil Rights Movement.

The Global Ambassador Award will be presented to Jeannie Mai of Fox’s Emmy-nominated talk show, The Real. In addition to being a style expert, television personality and executive producer, Mai is also an ambassador for the Pacific Links Foundation, an organization committed to rescuing women and children from sex trafficking in Vietnam by providing employment opportunities. She also proudly supports Nightlight International, Not For Sale, Step Up, and Heartbeat Vietnam. Mai participated in the 2017 film Stopping Traffic, which centered on the relationship between child sexual abuse, child-focused cyber-porn and prostitution. She has also been recognized as one of Ciroc, Variety and Women’s Wear Daily’s 2016 Women of Empowerment.  

The Abolitionist Award also will be presented to Nicola Forrest and her daughter Grace Forrest of the Walk Free Foundation, an international human rights organization that focuses on the eradication of human trafficking. The Forrests will be coming from Perth, Washingotn, to accept their award, where they work with Nicola’s husband, Andrew Forrest, to run the Minderoo Foundation, which oversees Walk Free. Recognized as some of Australia’s most generous philanthropists, the Forrests have given away more than $222 million to over 230 individual organizations and programs. The Forrests Walk Free initiative was inspired by Ms. Forrest’s school trip to Nepal where she visited poverty stricken orphanages. Nicola is now a founding director at the foundation, as well as a communication strategist for the Global Slavery Index and an ambassador for the Humanitarian Group and The Freedom Hub, both of which focus on the empowerment of trafficking survivors in Australia.

The Corporate Social Responsibility Award will be presented to Sarah Middleton of the PIMCO Foundation. At PIMCO, Mrs. Middleton is responsible for global corporate citizenship. To achieve this, she developed PIMCO’s employee volunteer program and implemented key corporate responsibility initiatives. Middleton represents PIMCO by being on the Points of Light Corporate Institute Leadership Faculty, Executive Committee for IMPACT2030, a board member for the Sisters of St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation, and chairing the Orange County Funders Roundtable.  

This year, Nomi Network will also be debuting the new Founder’s Award for Outstanding Service, which will be presented to Board Member Emeritus Susan Lee Cheung.   Lee Cheung has over 15 years of experience in advocacy as a legal assistant at Sullivan and Cromwell LLP, program manager for development at Asian Americans for Equality, and advocacy fellow at Covenant House International, where she focused on the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act. Most notably, Lee Cheung has served on Nomi Network’s advisory board since its inception in 2009, where she leads semi-annual budget meetings to ensure proper use and stewardship of donor funds in addition to developing the methodology for program evaluation in Cambodia and India.  

This is Nomi Network’s 8th gala and serves as an important annual event to raise funds and awareness, to recognize the organization’s critical work and achievements, and to celebrate their key supporters and champions. Honorees from previous years have included actress Mira Sorvino, actress Mamie Gummer, actress and activist Julia Ormond, TOM’s Blake Mykoskie, and Patagonia’s Wendy Savage. Leading companies such as Carlson Hotels, LexisNexis, and Exxon have also been recognized for their continued support and actions.

This year’s reception and ceremony will take place on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, at 6:30 p.m., at Tribeca 360° in New York City. The evening will include a cocktail reception, seated dinner program, dancing, and a silent auction featuring many one-of-a kind items. To purchase tables or individual tickets, please contact Sweena Varghese at or purchase directly online at                              ABOUT NOMI NETWORK:

Launched in 2009, Nomi Network is a vital non-profit organization that serves as an economic agency for the empowerment of survivors and women at risk of human trafficking. Nomi Network provides direct training, capacity building for organizations and social enterprises that employ survivors, and ethical sourcing options for brands that want to reduce their child and forced labor footprint. Currently, Nomi Network is focused on serving vulnerable women in Cambodia and India. The organization also produces a small collection of bags and accessories, and 100% of the profits from product sales are directly invested back into training and education opportunities.

For more information about Nomi Network, please visit and

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

My fantasy. Okay, here’s the premise. Beliefnet buys a TV network (in this case NBC which announces its fall schedule on Monday) and puts me in charge. Yes, it’s time to indulge my crazy hobby of assembling prime time schedules once again. I’m going to assume you know that premises of the established shows. New shows, primarily from the Deadline pilot list, are below. In keeping with the spirit of Beliefnet, I believe the program choices  contain both heart and inclusiveness.

New Shows (Comedy):
BRIGHT FUTURES (Single-Camera): Four roommates all stumbling through the transition from the clueless, immature twentysomethings they are now to the successful professionals they’re destined to be.

GUESS WHO DIED (Multi-Camera): A humorous and inspiring look at the shared joys and challenges we all experience at any stage of life. Based on Norman Lear’s personal experiences. With Hector Elizondo, Holland Taylor, Christopher Lloyd, Beth Lacke and Adrian Martinez. (Note: This pilot was shot as a single-camera comedy but I think it would actually work better as a broader multi-camera series.)

ABBY’S (Multi-Camera): Abby’s is an unlicensed bar in San Diego where the regulars enthusiastically enforce a unique set of rules that give them a sense of community and allow them to avoid the frustrating behavior found at other establishments. Natalie Morales stars.

LIKE FAMILY (Multi-Camera): Aubrey and Artie formed the tightest of sibling-like bonds growing up together in foster care but are discovering that such closeness makes adulthood even more complicated.

New Shows (Drama):
SO CLOSE:  At crossroads in their separate lives, hopeless romantics Riley & Kyle are close to settling for the wrong partner, unaware that they live only blocks apart and may be each other’s soul mates. (Note: This pilot was shot as a multi-camere sitcom but my gut tells me the largeness of the concept which involves following two people’s entirely separate lives would work better, in fact great, as an hour-long single-camera drama.)

THE VILLAGE: Despite difference in age, race, culture and lifestyle, the residents of a Manhattan apartment building find that the more their lives intertwine, the more complex and compelling their connections become, thus proving life’s challenges are better faced alongside family, even if it’s the one you make wherever you find it.

NEW AMSTERDAM: The new Bellevue Hospital director’s maverick approach disrupts the status quo while always prioritizing patient care. Located in Manhattan, Bellevue is the only hospital in the world that has the capability to treat ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers Island and the President of the United States all under one roof.

STRANGE CALLS (from 2015 pilot roster): An affable but down-on-his-luck young police officer who is transferred to a rural town where — with the help of a peculiar, elderly night watchman — he starts to realize the town has a bizarre supernatural underbelly. (Note: Originally as a half-hour singlle-cam comedy, I believe the concept best works as an hour-long dramedy.)

OUR HOUSE: A reboot of the almost-forgotten NBC family drama. Here’s the show’s original premise (as described by Wikipedia): After his son John dies, retired widower Gus Witherspoon (played by Wilford Brimley) invites his daughter-in-law Jessica ‘Jessie’ Witherspoon (played by Deidre Hall) and her three children to move to California to live with him until they can get back on their feet financially. Here’s how I’d reboot the show with a more multicultural bent.

MURDER, SHE WROTE TOO: In 2014, NBC was considering a reboot of Murder, She Wrote with Octavia Spencer as a hospital administrator and amateur detective/self-published mystery novelist. I think the concept of a reboot more closely tied to the original series (i.e. say Vanessa Hudgens as the neice of Jessica Fletcher (portrayed in the original series by Angela Lansbury) who, for inspiration as a budding mystery novelist, moves into her aunt’s old home in Cabot Cove, Maine. It would be great to run after the end of Sunday Night Football in the old 8:00 PM original Murder, She Wrote time slot.

THE GILDED AGE: From Julian Fellowed, the creator of Downton Abbey. Marian Brook is the wide-eyed young scion of a conservative family in 1880s New York City. He will embark on infiltrating the wealthy neighboring family dominated by ruthless railroad tycoon George Russell, his rakish and available son Larry and his ambitious wife Bertha, whose “new money” is a barrier to acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set. Marian is about to experience a whole new world springing up right outside her front door.

PARADISE PICTURES (from NBC sister network USA’s 2015 pilot roster: A tweaked version of that pilot about the 1940’s movie businessy would focus on the largely untold stories of the black industry that created films by African-Americans for African-Americans.


Marketing: Resurrect the old NBC slogan “The Quality Shows on NBC” and actually program quality shows.

   8:00 – THE VOICE (FALL)/THE GOOD PLACE (8:00/Winter)/GOOD GIRLS (9:00/Winter)/THE VOICE (Spring)
Build off the strength of The Voice, using the winter hiatus for limited runs of two well-reviewed “bubble shows” that were on the borderline for renewal. Moving Chicago Fire to 10 PM on Mondays would both hold The Voice lead-in and provide a jumping off point for potential miniseries-like crossovers with NBC’s two other Dick Wolf-produced Chicago-base shows (which would stay in the current Tuesday and Wednesday 10 PM slots.

  8:00 – THE VOICE (Fall)/SO CLOSE (Winter)/THE VOICE (Spring)
Again building off The Voice, this time using its winter hiatus to introduce the original romantic dramedy So Close. Both The Voice and So Close would serve as compatible lead-ins for the single-cam comedies Superstore and Bright Futures which, in turn, flow seamlessly into Chicago Med.

  8:00 – THIS IS US
  9:00 – THE VILLAGE
10:00 – CHICAGO P.D.
No longer needing a Voice lead-in, the hit-in-its-own-right This is Us would lead-off Wednesday into the similarly-themed humane drama The Village

  8:30 – ABBY’S
  9:00 – WILL & GRACE
  9:30 – LIKE FAMILY
Swinging for the fences, Will & Grace would be used as the coat hanger for a night that would harken back to NBC’s glory Must-See-TV days of quality comedies and drama. I believe there’s at least one or two new hits among the four new series being introduced here.  use

8:00 – THE BLACKLIST (Fall)/TIMELESS (Winter)
9:00 – BLINDFOLD (Fall)/STRANGE CALLS (Winter)
10:00 – Law & Order: SVU
Strategy: It’s time to wrap-up The Blacklist and Blindfold with half-season orders that provide hypeable programming and satisfying conclusions to the two veteran series. I’d bring back Timeless at mid-season in the 8 PM time slot that family-friendly show cries out for while also leading into a compatible companion series. SVU would likely be reasonably solid at 10 PM.
With delayed viewing now so prevalent, it’s time to start programming Saturday nights again. This collection of NBC reality shows would be a good start. 

Sunday (Fall)
Sunday (Winter)
  7:00 – OUR HOUSE
   9:00 – THE GILDED AGE
Keeping Football in the fall is a no-brainer. Replacing it in the winter is the challenge. I believe the four shows  presented here are unique yet mainstream and capable of changing viewing habits.






Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

From the latest from my faith/media industry mail box –

From the studio that brought you  RISEN and WAR ROOM comes the story of St. Paul, who transformed from the most infamous persecutor of Christians to one of Christ’s most influential apostles. From AFFIRM Films and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST arrives on Digital on June 12 and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital June 19.

In this Biblical epic, Luke (Jim Caviezel, The Passion of the Christ) risks his life to visit Paul (James Faulkner, “Game of Thrones”), who is held captive in a Roman prison under Nero’s rule.  But before Paul’s death sentence can be enacted, Luke resolves to write another book, one that details the beginnings of “The Way” and the birth of what will come to be known as the Christian church. PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST also features Olivier Martinez (“The Physician”) as the Roman guard Mauritius Gallas,
John Lynch (The Secret Garden) as Aquila, and Joanne Whalley (Willow, “A.D. The Bible continues”) as Priscilla.

The Blu-ray, DVD and Digital releases come with more than 15 minutes of engaging exclusive bonus materials, including deleted scenes, a look at the special relationship between Paul and Luke, and scenes from a scriptural visualization of Saul’s epic story of conversion. In addition, the physical skus will also include digital versions of the movie, redeemable via the all-new Movies Anywhere App.

PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST is directed and written by Andrew Hyatt (Full of Grace, The Last Night) faithfully following the scriptures. The film is executive produced by Eric Groth, president and CEO of ODB Films.  The film is produced by TJ Berden and David Zelon.  PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST is presented by AFFIRM films and Sony Pictures Entertainment in association with ODB Films.

Bonus Materials Include:

  • Deleted Scenes: Two deleted scenes, “Crucifying The Servants of God” and “Followers of The Way,” portraying Saul’s life as a persecutor of Christians.
  • The Living Word: “Saul’s Conversion” which dives into Saul’s conversion through a scripture visualization of his journey; and “Paul’s Letter,” showing the wisdom of Paul’s words spoken by James Faulkner which bring to light the power of faith.
  • Three Featurettes: “Recreating First Century Rome,” “The Path of The Apostle: Adapting Paul,” and “An Extraordinary Friendship: Luke & Paul.” Viewers will be engulfed in the timeless beauty of Malta as the cast and crew walk through how they created first century Rome. Director Andrew Hyatt, Jim Caviezel and the cast and crew talk about their journey of faith and share how they used scripture to piece together Paul’s story on screen. Jim Caviezel and James Faulkner also speak to the evolution of their characters and this unwavering friendship.

Paul, Apostle of Christ has a run time of approximately 1:47 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images.

The Movies Anywhere Digital App simplifies and enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Consumers can also redeem digital copy codes found in eligible Blu-ray and DVD disc packages from participating studios and stream or download them through Movies Anywhere.  Movies Anywhere is available only in the United States.


Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

Items from the PR mailbag:

Filmmaker Ken Burns will receive the Christophers Life Achievement Award on May 17th at the 69th Christopher Awards presentation in NYC. The Christophers are recognizing Mr. Burns’ decades-long career exploring the important people, places, and events of American history, focusing always on the power of the human spirit.

The Life Achievement Award honors individuals whose personal and professional contributions to making the world a better place have left an indelible mark on our culture. Previous winners include jazz legend Dave Brubeck, actor Carroll O’Connor, and author/historian David McCullough.

The Christophers, a nonprofit organization, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity.  The ancient Chinese proverb —“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— serves as the Christopher motto and guides its publishing, radio, online and awards programs.  More information is available at

Danielle Panabaker’s been busy helping fight villains over on The CW’s “The Flash,” but she’s going to take a little break this Christmas to find love in a brand-new Hallmark holiday movie. The actress hasn’t starred on the network since her 2014 fall flick “Recipe for Love” with Shawn Roberts, but she’s ready to get back into it, this time for a new season and with a new love interest.

“Excited to be working with @hallmarkchannel again on Christmas Joy,” Panabaker tweeted on Wednesday to share the exciting news.

The movie, “Christmas Joy,” is based on Nancy Naigle’s novel of the same name and will feature Matt Long (“Mad Men”) as Panabaker’s co-star. Though this will be his first Hallmark movie, a Christmas-themed one is a great way to jump right in.