Colors of Character—Review

Have you heard of Steve Skipper?

Most people haven’t, but they have seen and appreciated his work.

Skipper is a prolific artist who is best known for his sports paintings. The cost of his art didn’t wait until he was dead to rise in value. He is very much alive and the demand for his work is so high that his paintings now go for thousands of dollars each.

Before you admire him due to his rising popularity, consider that being a celebrity is a small part of who he is. Skipper’s life has transformed in front of a growing crowd of fans. Not because of his great work, but because of several miracles that touched his life

We learn about Skipper’s previous life in the Crip gang. His life is one of the few that was able to get out alive.
Skipper’s paintings include topics of sports, civil-rights, equestrian, portraiture, and contemporary Christian. He shattered the barriers of race and education.

In fact, he had a teacher that pulled him to the side one day knowing his abilities needed to be fanned into flames. She provided him painting materials out of her own pocket to give him a shot at what he did best in life.

His work hangs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and International Sports Halls of Fame. Other locations include the Paul W Bryant Museum and the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library and Museum.

He was honored with unveilings at Chelsea Piers in NYC, the MGM Grand and Monte Carlo in Las Vegas, and Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

But enough about the legend. I want to share some thoughts about the documentary.

The film was a low-budget project with a director that attempted to be artsy near the beginning of the film. Unfortunately, Chris Danielson couldn’t compete against Skipper’s breathtaking art. He would’ve been better off showing more images of Skipper’s original art.

Aside from the cutesy attempts, the opening story intrigued the audience. They wanted to invest more time learning about this man. His life story was as colorful as his artwork. In fact, I could’ve watched him for a few more hours.

Well, except for the third act when the film shifted its focus from Skipper to Dr. Martin Luther King.

While I admire how Dr. King changed our society with his preaching, I wanted to learn more about Skipper. I wanted to learn about how he affected Dr. King’s life—inspiring him to write his “I Have A Dream” speech. That’s right, Skipper facilitated some downtime for Dr. King so he could relax enough to write that speech.

But instead of me learning more about Skipper, the story shifted too far over to Dr. King. The film barely returned its focus to Skipper before the documentary closed out. This unacceptable shift in focus from Skipper soured my delight in director Danielson.

Danielson did capture Skipper’s attempt at explaining how God moves his hand when he paints. I was fascinated by his expression of how the Spirit of God uses him in every stroke.

If you’re interested in hearing a great story about a down-to-earth man touched by God, this is the picture to watch. In spite of the documentary’s faults, it was worth my time. By the end of the film, I too wanted to know how Skipper stays in tune with God’s gentle whisper of art.

The film is currently available on digital media and DVD at Best Buy, Fandango, Apple TV, and Amazon. They also have a version available for church screenings. A discussion guide is also available for group settings and family discussions.

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© 2021 by CJ Powers

Dolphin Island—Review

Annabel (Tyler Jade Nixon) and Mitzy (dolphin played by Goombay or Cayla)

This delightful family film is set in a beautiful Caribbean island with great aesthetics. After seeing some of the press materials, I was anticipating a fun story about a young teen girl who battled for the small-town coastal life where she lives versus the life her city dwelling grandparents want for her.

The promotional materials center the story around Annabel, the 14-year-old girl, teaming with her friends to battle her out-of-town grandparents. The available family study guide also references all kinds of heart-warming themes including courage, forgiveness, and faith. But that is not what the film is about.

The film is about Annabel’s fisherman grandfather, Jonah, who overcame alcoholism to properly take care of his granddaughter in the way Annabel’s parents requested before their accident. Thematically the story is about choosing the moral high-ground, which cultivates and drives respect from others.

The final story turned out very different than what the marketing team, or maybe even the director originally thought. In any case, you can image my surprise to learn the promotions did not match the actual story. Thankfully many of the performances overshadowed this mishap.

Jonah (Peter Woodward)

Peter Woodward, who plays Jonah, gave an award-worthy performance. He certainly lived up to the talents gained through his long career. His character’s love interest, Desaray, played by Dionne Lea, also gave a solid performance. While she has more potential than this script allowed her to explore, I’m confident we will see her rise in the actor rankings quickly after a few more films get under her belt.

Tyler Jade Nixon played Annabel. Instead of playing the protagonist as marketing led me to believe, she was clearly the archetype or the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the story. Her character saw to everyone’s emotional needs and fully supported her grandfather to the best of her ability.

Robert Carbunkle, Esq. (Bob Bledsoe)

Bob Bledsoe, most known for his role in Parks and Recreation, played a character who shifted back and forth from being a comedic bubbling fool to a shady lawyer. He brought life to the screen with every appearance and quickly reminded the audience that the film was created for ages 6-12, although the Dove Foundation, who gave their family seal of approval, suggests ages 7-18.

There are other mishaps with this story like the main plot point not starting until 28-minutes into the film. Prior to that a viewer has to be content watching the beautiful scenery cut together like an extended music video with interrupting vignettes. Each segment revealing what a typical day looks like for Jonah, Annabel, and her dolphin friend, Mitzy.

Overall the production team did a good job with its limited budget. Director, Mike Disa, known for his work on shows for younger kids, did a good job trying to make the script work for a more intimate budget. Due to the limitations, the courtroom scene takes place in a conference room. The ocean front conservatory teaming with wildlife is mostly imagined, as it is only revealed through the pier area, a dolphin, and two parrots.

The best part of Dolphin Island for me was its position on morals. The film built a respect for anyone and everyone who chose to live a moral life over a selfish life—a powerful message for the times we live in.

This could have been the film’s greatest achievement, especially if done in a way that kids could emulate the character’s choices. However, most of the morality was played unrealistically, not giving the viewers a real understanding of how to stand up for what is right in their real world.

An example of this disconnect from reality was seen in Bledsoe’s lawyer character making the decision to call the judge and confess his crime at the end of the story. He wasn’t jailed or disbarred. Instead, he was forgiven.

I think the director forgot that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean erase or forget the crime. Forgiveness believes in payment in full and an opportunity for a second chance. The short scene should’ve just been left out of the story since it didn’t move the story forward, especially since it raised more questions for young viewers than the value of resolving the minor subplot brought to bear.

Frankly, I think if the film was re-edited to get into the story quicker and the promotions were about Jonah and how Annabel fought with him for what was right, this film would get lots of traction. I’d like to hear your opinion on this film. You can find it available for rent and purchase at most of the major digital release outlets.

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Copyright 2021 by CJ Powers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hopes that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Left Behind When Opportunity Strikes

Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

I’ve been asked by creatives over the years how they should prepare for their big break, whenever it may come. My answer is always simple. Practice your craft. After sharing, young hopefuls typically drop their shoulders, pout, and walk away feeling dejected. Why? Because they want an easy answer that doesn’t require weekly work.

When I was in grade school, I set a cup-and-ball pencil on my dresser and pretended it was a microphone. I placed a turntable next to it with a stack of records (called vinyl today). During the next two hours I practiced being a radio DJ. I talked about all kinds of things, then would transition my comments to introduce the next song and faded up the music.

I don’t know if it gave me the right skills, but it did make me comfortable in front of a microphone. By high school, I had my own radio show that was broadcast on an FM signal to a five-town area. I took requests and developed a small fan base. While taking mass communication classes at university, I produced several radio talk shows and an award-winning radio drama complete with music and sound effects.

It was never my intention to be a radio personality. But I did want to be ready for my big break in a different area, so I’d be able to do well in interviews.

There were side benefits to learning the skills. When my family was young, WGN Radio had an audio competition. Families could create and enter their own radio drama based on the new Disney Fantasmic show. The top winning families would not only have their show play on WGN Radio, but they would receive an all-expenses paid Disneyland trip to watch the premiere of Fantasmic. My family loved that vacation.

Since those days of practicing, I’ve looked back and considered how many of my skills have been increased and polished. People who see me use multiple skills across a breadth of experiences often ask, “How many skills do you have?” Again, my answer is simple—as many as I practice.

I’ve hosted three podcasts with a couple hundred episodes over the past few years and have been interviewed on television, radio and other podcasts. The skills I use were developed over time starting back in grade school. Even then I knew that one day I’d have to speak into a microphone as if it were second nature.

Over the past months, several people have talked about doing live streaming shows with me. I typically give them a shot if their ideas sound good, practical, and inspiring. Unfortunately, most people have great ideas, but they never practice for the day. Not even for a half hour at a time over the seven days leading up to the pilot.

When their opportunity comes, they aren’t able to show even a hint of preparation. The show is scrapped and they are left behind as I move forward to the next possibility.

I’ve never been able to figure out why so many people during the making of a pilot feel awkward when they hear their recorded voice. Everyone can harness their phone to record and playback daily practice sessions until they become accustom to the sound of their voice. The sessions don’t have to be anything more than reading a book out loud followed by listening to it.

When a person’s shot finally comes, those who practice can embrace the opportunity with a smile as they give their full effort to the project. Don’t be left behind. Take time this week to prepare for whatever hope you are expecting.

2021 by CJ Powers