The Special Gift

Davey felt like a 12-year-old misfit. While his peers were showing an interest in soccer and football, he preferred to play. Make-believe was his favorite pastime and he was good at it. In fact, he’d find himself daydreaming when he least expected it.

His penchant for creativity trumped all other areas of his life and the girl he met at the park during his preschool years, Susan, had both a serious side and a playful one. He daily contemplated how to get her attention and every year he longed to send her a birthday present, but he didn’t want his weirdness to show.

No matter how many other girls at school caught his attention from time to time, he thought of Susan far more often, except for one girl who moved away before his seventh birthday. But he figured that he was too young to hunt her down and wrote off any potential relationship as being an immature infatuation.

One summers day, Davey’s imagination got the best of him when he came across a giant troll lying on its back in the park. The troll was twenty times larger than he ever imagined, and friendlier too. Davey cocked his head to see what the troll was looking at in the sky, but one of the trees was in his way. Hustling to the troll’s other side, Davey laid down in the grass and tried to see what had sparked the troll’s interest.

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“Hi, Davey,” said the sweet voice next to him.

Davey turned abruptly and found Susan lying next to him with her arms behind her head. Jolted to an upright seated position Davey asked, “How long have you been here?”

“I watched you come around this big troll with your eyes so glued to him that you never saw me,” she said. “Do you not like how I look?”

“I love how… I mean, you look great.”

“Thank you.”

Davey leaned back and looked up in the sky. He shifted his head a bit closer to Susan’s to see what she was looking at. “Are you counting sheep or watching a parade of elephants?”

Susan giggled. She thought Davey was silly, but wondered if he ever paid close attention to her. She liked him a lot, but was tired of waiting for him to ask her to go steady.

“Davey, what do you see in the sky?”

“I see an adventure waiting to unfold.”

“Tell me about it, please.”

Troll_ClubA boisterous growl came from the tree line. Davey and Susan jumped to their feet. A large troll with a giant club came out from the trees. The kids made a run for it. They sprinted through the tall grass, across a footbridge that wasn’t patrolled by trolls, and down a winding street. They slowed once they realized that trolls couldn’t run fast.

BANG!

Troll_TossA large crushing metal sound reverberated from the parking lot. The two ran to the corner and saw a giant troll toss a boulder, crushing a car. Davey scanned the area and saw several smashed cars with people fleeing. As the troll raised another rock, he knew this was his chance to save Susan’s life and win her affection. He reached for her arm, but she was gone.

Davey moved quickly through the woods in search of his friend, but she was nowhere in sight. He wondered if she had been lifted up into the air and carried off by another troll. troll_cook.jpgEmerging from the bushes, Davey found the troll’s campsite. A kettle was boiling with the catch of the day over hot timbers—the poor man.

Troll_CageSuddenly he saw Susan dropped into a cage and held for an afternoon snack. Davey waited patiently for the troll to settle in his teepee for a nap. Moving silently around the perimeter of the camp, Davey unlocked the cage and ran with Susan through the tall grass and into the plains.

They were in the clear. They shouted with joy and twirled around. And like spinning flowers, they slowly dropped to the ground side-by-side and gazed up into the sky. It was a good day.

The alarm clock sounded and Davey woke up. He climbed out of bed and got dressed. His time with Susan was over. He felt a sense of loss and decided to grab his calendar to see if he had really missed her birthday. With only a couple days before she celebrated, Davey realized that he wasn’t going to be able to send her anything in time.

His sadness shifted and a smile rose on his face when he realized that he could send her an imaginary gift. He figured that if she really liked him, she would pretend to receive an imaginary gift, knowing in her heart that he’d want to give her something. And if their unspoken love was true, they’d both look forward to the day when they’d share what each other dreamt about. How amazing, Davey thought, if they both dreamt of the same gift.

THE END

© 2018 by CJ Powers

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WGN Around Town’s Ana Belaval

CJ_AnaIn the spirit of this morning, I cooked a tasty omelette and then headed downtown to Marcel’s Culinary Experience where WGN Morning News’ “Around Town” was shooting seven live segments with reporter Ana Belaval. I had the opportunity to meet Ana, her producer, and camera person. The team does live segments everyday plus Facebook video posts.

Ana came to WGN from Univision where she started as an assignment reporter for the Chicago affiliate and climbed the ladder to become a network correspondent and substitute anchor in New York. Her long-term goal was to work in the general market, which happened when WGN picked her up—one of the few Spanish reporters to cross over to the English broadcast market.

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Watching her mad skills was an absolute joy. Not only did she capture everyone’s attention in the room, but she came across naturally and approachable. Watching a couple of the live segments allowed me to see why she was able to win three Emmy Awards. But reporting wasn’t her only ability.

She bantered with the producer several times and constantly salted in off-the-cuff jokes from her quick wit. It was clear that the producer loved working with her and that the team had a true entertainer in their midst for those slow moments waiting for the clock to signal the next live segment. I couldn’t help but notice that Ana’s ability to keep her team fresh guaranteed high production values.

Ana’s humor flowed naturally in the moment with great precision, as if she had stand up comedy experience, which I later learned she does. Several years back, she was asked to participate in a celebrity stand up comedy event and received more laughter and applause than she expected. Inspired by the audience that night, Ana started writing jokes and testing them out in comedy clubs and during television appearances.

ana_coffee.pngHosting WTTW-TV’s “The Chicago Stand Up Project” was a great side gig for Ana to perform her routines, while introducing the latest comedians joining her on stage. She also spent time on local shows for the Latino community, giving back to her Puerto Rican heritage. Blogging was even a part of her life for a time, having developed the popular “Ay Mama” blog that eventually ended due to time demands required by her and her writers’ families and professional schedules.

I have no doubt that Ana’s natural talents will continue to shine for years to come and are likely to show up in additional venues. She can be followed on Facebook at http://facebook.com/wgnanabelaval/ and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/anabelaval or @anabelaval.

Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers

New Fan Based Studio to Launch

Have you ever wondered how much crazier our culture can get? Did you ever ask yourself who can make a difference and turn our society right side up? Well, in a short time you will be able to do something specific to make a difference. That’s right, you.

With your help, Maverick 7 Studios will launch this month. Maverick 7 Studios is a fan based film and television company that produces movies and shows to counter trends in the seven areas of culture: Arts & Entertainment, Media, Education, Business, Family, Government, and Religion.

Maverick 7 Studios will launch a new regulated crowdfunding offer to unaccredited fans up to $1MM plus an A+ regulation offering to accredited investors. The total goal is to raise $50MM in funding for the new studio, a part of which you can own.

The first titles headed into development are all redemptive stories. In redemptive movies the protagonist lives in error or evil and takes action to improve his life, but falls short until someone shows grace and saves or redeems his life for the good.

Based on current negotiations, the following titles are in development to be produced:

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Based on the best selling Christmas book by MaryAnn Diorio,

Jody Pettit O’Dair ran away to experience a life of adventure and excitement, but since her departure, she was abandoned by her husband, lost her job, and struggled to keep her two children respectable. Seven years after she last spoke to her mother, Jody dreams about her past family Christmases and decides to head home with the hopes that she’ll be welcome.

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In association with Powers Productions.

Maverick Detective Cassie Steele battles PTSD memory loss, while fighting to keep her cover intact. Her plans to bring down the drug kingpin get side tracked as she spends extra time with Diaz, blurring the lines between justice and her growing love for him.

Realizing her precarious situation, Cassie sees to her son’s safety and works hard to regain her memory from the night of the opera house fire—the night Diaz lost his first love and started his killing spree with all involved in the death of his “Carmen.”

Racing against the clock, Cassie tries to find balance between her motherly duties, her infiltration as the kingpin’s girl, and her role as the officer tasked to close the case. Cassie is forced to face her fears in discovering the missing piece of her memory that will bring Diaz down.

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In association with Midst Entertainment.

Eric Stafford, a renegade law student whose life is not his own, struggles to break free from his father’s plans. After his father gets a mobster boss exonerated on a technicality, Eric begs him to seek justice and restore the family name. When Eric learns that he’s next in line to work for the mobster, he selects a 2,000-year-old debate for his mock trial with the hope that it will break him free from a future of supporting injustice. As the case unfolds, Eric learns that the greatest injustice in history has a life giving power that he’s never known.

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In association with Powers Productions.

Take a group of spirited kids… put them in charge of a streaming web-based television station in a resort with visiting guest stars… and you’ve got intergenerational antics galore!

KIDS-TV offers lots of laughs as the kids and their special guests learn they have more in common than they think.

In the pilot episode, new crewmember Carolyn Morris suffers from a terrible identity crisis. Stacey, the station manager, mistakes Carolyn for someone else, and puts her in an embarrassing situation – during a live broadcast. With a little help from her new friends, Carolyn manages to show her real stuff – through a dazzling animated/live-action musical production number, the likes of which Stacey has never seen.

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From Best Selling Authors Peter Marshal and David Manuel.

The Admiral: A Voyage of the Soul” focuses on Christopher Columbus, a complex man driven by two opposing forces: missionary zeal and a growing desire for money, position and power.

In his personal journals, Columbus reveals the inner passion which compelled him to sail west – a divine call on his life to, in his own words, “bear the light of Christ” to peoples of undiscovered lands. The Admiral explores the inner drive which sustained Columbus through years of frustration and disappointment, and how once he had discovered the New World and its gold, the purity of his motivation became corrupted with the great seductions of the world – money, position and power. The irony is as tragic as it is obvious: Columbus abused and enslaved the very people he had set out to convert.

As an old man, the Admiral looks back with regret on all the suffering he has inadvertently caused. Painfully he acknowledges his diversion from his calling and returns to the conviction of earlier years, where he finds peace.

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In association with Powers Productions.

Pastor Paul Ryann breaks his promise to his wife when a junior high kid’s bad choice prompts him to intercede. Returning home two hours late, his wife sends him on their anniversary trip to Israel alone, in hopes of him learning how to respect her.

During his flight, Paul meets two traveling companions. Together, they tour Old Jerusalem and stumble upon two men assaulting a woman. The men notice Paul capturing the incident with his camera and chase after them. They dodge in and out of crowds and alleys until they duck into an old dark shack where the floor gives way and plunges them down into an ancient stone well.

As the water rises, Paul, in true “Indiana Jones” style leads the three to safety. When they emerge, they find themselves thrust back in time—33 A.D. during the triumphal entry of Jesus of Nazareth in Jerusalem.

During the week leading to his crucifixion, the three are loved by the Master and forced to face their deepest internal pain. In return, Paul struggles with the decision of saving Jesus from his harsh death and making sure it happens.

 

Additional Projects in Association with Powers Productions.

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Grandma’s Attic

This spectacular holiday musical is about three kids who are told to go into grandma’s attic and find one thing that reminds them of her before the contractor who swindled the property bulldozes the house down.

Filled with new songs of fond memories, Grandma’s Attic is bursting with comedy, the hunt for grandma’s hidden secret that’s sure to save the house, and a patriotic finale that puts the contractor in his place.

Space Academy

High school students living in a space station in geosynchronous orbit, use a space elevator to return to earth for history class in their school’s holographic simulator. During each class the students “relive” history as they walk among historic figures who made a significant difference during their lifetime.

JC Agents

A group of teens go undercover using high technology to perform random acts of kindness throughout their community. This series features missions that kids can do at home and thrilling adventures using tomorrow’s technology.

Adventure at Thunder Falls

Thirteen-year-old Kit Calloway has trouble trusting God after the death of her little brother. When an ill-fated camping trip with her family and friends places her in life threatening danger, she must risk trusting God again.

My Professor’s Study

The professor’s study is an imaginative and safe place where kids can explore their own character traits and make right choices in developing additional skills on their own.

Wonder Worm

Animated children’s series about a mild-mannered worm who fights for truth, justice and Biblical morals.

Crucible of Freedom

The true story of George Washington based on the best selling book The Light and the Glory.

Esther: The Musical

Pageantry, intrigue and treachery based on the biblical book of Esther.

 

© 2017 Powers Productions, Inc.

Facebook Hackers Attack

FacebookBy now you’ve noticed that my personal Facebook profile no longer exists. That means I’m no longer able to communicate back and forth with you in Facebook. Why?—Because my profile was hacked and then deactivated.

My blog and books generated about 6-40 new “friends” a week, but suddenly jumped to 100-300 and then to 500 daily until I hit the 5,000 friend cap. The growing number of new friends attracted the unscrupulous who sneaked in. One person even figured out my password and removed me from managing my page.

But now, if you’re reading this post in Facebook, you found my professional page and either liked it or I transferred you as an initial like. The number of likes will drop in the first few days as some will unlike the page. And, some who wanted to communicate with me will have to hang in there for a bit before I reopen communications with “friends.”

If you want to like my new hack free page on Facebook you can search for me in Facebook with the following: @cjpowersppi

Or, you can use the URL: http://facebook.com/cjpowersppi/

I’ll get back to my postings in the near future, after resting up from the 48-hour hacker battle I endured.

 

 

Star Trek vs. Faith-Based Canon

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Star Trek is one of the most revered science fiction franchises that hold tightly to its canon. The 13 motion pictures and 6 television series all follow the production bibles that have painstakingly been kept corruption free for 50 years. Even the independent fan films have focused on excruciating details to honor the canon.

A recent copyright infringement suit sped its first part of judgment thanks to the accuracy of the canon and the many production companies that continued adhering to the rules of the franchise world without exception. Many Star Trek bible elements have been released and highly supported by the fans, forcing production companies to scrutinize every aspect of their production in order to stay true to its canon.

But in the faith-based films that include stories based on the Bible, a canon of 66 books, few production companies adhere to it. The Young Messiah was released last March and was touted as one of the best faith-based films of 2016, but it broke canon with little repercussions.

The film is a story about Jesus at age seven and his family’s departure from Egypt to return back to Nazareth. This fresh childhood perspective gave audiences an explorative glimpse into how their future Savior grew into his religious identity.

Breaking canon in the name of “creative license” is something that Star Trek storytellers would never do. But, the makers of The Young Messiah had no problems stepping away from canon. According to the book of John, one of the 66 books within the Christian canon, Jesus performed his first “sign” or miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. But, in the film, which takes place years earlier, he brought a dead bird back to life, healed his sick uncle and restored sight to a Rabbi.

While the director intended these signs to reveal the humanity of Jesus, which it did, it broke canon and distorted the truth for its viewers. This creates conflict between those defending faith-based films and those who teach from the canon in real life. And it doesn’t end there.

Back in the 1960’s a group of historical revisionists decided to adjust the thinking of the church through the media. They created a story that Jesus’ hands weren’t actually pierced when he was put on the cross because the Greek word for hand also included the wrist. They also stated that Jesus’ hands would’ve torn open due to his weight, and therefore, he was actually pierced in his wrists when they crucified him.

This notion broke canon, but evangelists liked the “new revelation” and spread the word throughout the world. Today, most pastors who weren’t around for the origin of this story teach that Jesus was pierced in his forearms, albeit close to the wrist. They shifted to the forearm because the wrist is just a series of bones that couldn’t be pierced, and the canon said not a bone in his body was broken, which piercing his wrist would have done. These further adjustments took congregations even farther away from the purity of the canon.

By the way, a couple years ago I interviewed a nurse who worked for an orthopedic hand surgeon. She said that Jesus could easily have been pierced in his hands because of the vast network of ligaments that crisscross like a web inside of the hand, which is also strong enough to hold the body’s weight without tearing.

This Easter a new faith-based film that has broken canon will be released by the title of The Shack. The most obvious departure from canon is that God the Father shows up as God the Mother. Canon states that God wanted to be called the Heavenly Father, but historical revisionists are pushing for God being able to show himself as anything he wants, which meets the canon of the Hindus and Universalists, not the Christians.

What I don’t understand is how Christians, whose lives depend on its writings, are so willing to break canon in the name of creative license, but Star Trek will do everything in its power to maintain their sacred canon. Even J. J. Abrams during the filming of Star Trek 2009 talked about the difficulty in maintaining canon, but how it was well rewarded by the audience’s appreciation.

So, why do faith-based films not follow canon? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, especially since Star Trek is make believe (suggesting that canon doesn’t matter) and Christianity is reality (suggesting canon is critical).

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers

Turning Right into Creativity

Security camerasWhen I first met the spy, I thought he was kidding about his occupation. However, his explanations were plausible, so I listened further. It wasn’t until he started teaching me how to escape from a populated area that I knew he was telling the truth. Well, that is except for his name. I’m certain the personal information he shared was not real.

The best way to escape from any arduous state of affairs is to plan alternative routes in advance of a dicey situation. The preplanning process must be nonchalant and atypical of the most efficient route that we all conform to over time. This is true within the creative world, which helped me relate the need to escape with high-pressured creative sessions.

Here are the three spy lessons that have helped my creativity.

TURN RIGHT, NOT LEFT

To draw from your creative instincts during intense circumstances is like the spy who has to shift to his plan “B.” The man told me the first step in creating an alternate route is to turn right at your normal first left turn. This sends you in the opposite direction and forces you to make new decisions in developing a B-route.

During a creative session, at the first observable moment that a story beat is supposed to happen, its time to turn right into a new creative perspective. Coming up with a completely unexpected turning point in a story propels the characters into a mode of exploration. Further development is required to determine what direction or next step they must follow to survive.

Spies like unexpected twists in circumstances since few can guess what their next move might be. Only the well-prepared plan-B can help the spy survive the new reality as it unfolds, losing those who attempt to follow. Due diligence during the exploration phase will empower the spy to move quickly during the execution of the plan.

The search for new routes or creative viewpoints forces us to be alert. We are no longer able to function on autopilot, which helps us to avoid traps hidden within our customary creative reserves. When we lose the ability to rely on our habits to get by, we’re forced to innovate and keep one step ahead of the audience.

SKETCH NOTE NEW SURROUNDINGS

The spy told me to turn right and drive for a block or two, then pullover and sketch note everything I observe. The notes would be like a location scouting report with enough picture detail for strategic planning. Once the sketches are complete, he suggested I drive a couple more blocks, stop and repeat the process.

It was also important to figure out what the common next step might be for the average thinker and establish an unexpected action. This choice would then lead me down a new road for a couple of blocks. I’d then pull over and sketch again. Capturing every detail helps the spy during rapid escapes, and helps me during intense creative sessions.

WORK PLAN “C”, “D”, AND “E”

When on the run, spies know their pursuer is trying to out guess their every move to get two steps ahead of them. Those with great manpower throw several agents against the half-dozen possibilities with the hope that one will capture the spy or at least learn his next steps.

In the creative world, there are always a few in the audience who try to figure out where the story is headed before it gets there. I’m one of those who can usually guess the ending ten minutes into the film. Few movies startle me with interesting plot points that captivate my attention with surprise. When a director has multiple plans to draw from the audience is typically amazed at the new and fresh ending.

Pixar is known for brainstorming a dozen endings and then throwing them away for the sake of coming up with that one new idea no one thought about. Their productions take extra time to develop because they don’t want anything to seem old. They work every possible plan until they find the one that stirs the audience with both delight and surprise.

Meeting the spy gave me some interesting viewpoints to consider within my realm of communication and creativity. I even learned how to back into parking spaces for quick get-a-ways. But, there was one other thing I learned from the spy that bothered me. He said, “And whatever you do, don’t trust anything a spy says because he’s probably using you as a disposable asset in the moment.”

As the man disappeared from my sight, I realized that he might have lied about being a spy. And if he did lie, could I trust what he taught me? Certainly if he had told the truth, it was clear that I couldn’t trust a single word he had shared. Hmm, maybe the lessons in today’s blog aren’t lessons at all.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers