Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Friday, November 16, 2012

Personal Letters, or, Love In The Time of Texts

Someone recently asked me if it was okay to break up with their significant other with a text message.

Ah, what is this world coming to....

If someone was significant enough to become romantically-involved with, they deserve more than a quick adios typed into a phone.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I value the written word.  I have always kept and stored away any personal letter anyone took the time to write me.  In file cabinets and cedar chests all around my house there are stacks of paper bearing the signatures and thoughts of the people who made me who I am today.

One of the things I am today is an incessant scanner.  Recently, after scanning every family photo album I could lay my hands on, I started scanning documents, starting with some letters written by my first love.  It was a fascinating experience, especially from a safe distance in time where there is no fear of rekindling old longings or lingering upon old regrets.  The first two years of our relationship stand relatively mute now, but, in our third year, she transfered to a distant college and a veritable flood of letters followed.  It was like reading a novel where you were one of the chief protagonists, but what made it really surreal is that I, the reader, looking backwards from the future, knew how the story would end, while she, the innocent writer, working in her present had no idea the relationship was ultimately doomed.

Of course, this foreknowledge of doom kept me reading between the lines.  Although I obviously remembered the outcome of the relationship, the time frame had grown hazy over time.  When did it go bad?  And why?  I started looking for the cracks.  I thought I found it in a long, agonizing letter written soon after our first significant fight as a couple, but, no, later that same week she wrote me an incredibly sweet and affectionate letter which has not been surpassed in its tenderness by anything anyone else wrote to me over the course of the last century.

That's the beauty of letters.  Spoken words, no matter how kind and sweet, can be lost in the fog of memory, but the written word remains.   I have discussed many kinds of writing on this blog, but, as you get older, the personal letters you've written and received may end up holding more emotional value than that script you wrote that got made into a movie.

I was always a bit of a letter writer myself.  In fact, in the unlikely event I would achieve enough notoriety to warrant a biographer, he or she would probably learn all they would need to know about the inner workings of my mind and heart from letters I wrote to the woman above and two others who followed her.  (If they kept the letters, that is.)  The next person on the list was not a romantic-entanglement, but rather a friend from the local film community.  Her sister was sick, and she decided to move to Atlanta to care for her.   In this self-obsessed age, I found her compassion and selflessness nothing short of heroic.  Knowing how difficult her life would be, I wanted to give her a distraction.  I started writing her to keep her informed of local film business gossip and perhaps some words of encouragement now and then.  After the death of her sister, my friend was soon traveling the world making movies while I was enjoying the first stage of my career as a screenwriter.  She ultimately became a trusted advisor and consigliere and my words followed her wherever she went, but the days of stamps slowly disappeared and the era of email had begun.

The birth of email coincided with rise of the internet dating.  The third person to receive an unending stream of missives from me was a farm girl with two delightful sons who I met on a singles board on AOL -- back when AOL was cool.  We had a long fascinating romance/friendship that took many twists and turns over the years.  Once, in a moment of weakness, I asked her to marry me, and, in a moment of even greater weakness, she actually said yes.  The engagement itself could have hardly been briefer, but the road we traveled is completely documented.  Ironically, we both married our respective spouses within a few weeks of each other.  We toyed with the idea attending each others' weddings, though I don't think our respective spouses thought highly of the idea.  We remain friends, if not physically, in the primordial mists of the cyber world where we met.  Thanks, Facebook!

Upstairs tucked away in a cedar chest I have some manila folders crammed with both sides of our email correspondence.  That to me, is the major upside of internet relationships.  You can easily keep a record of both sides of the conversation.  Also, it was a little easier to avoid some fights in a relationship borne of email.  If you had a problem on a date, you could express your problems in an email.  The cyberwall gave you the distance to clearly and as dispassionately as possible discuss whatever issue had arisen, and, hopefully, resolved it without any raised voices and thoughtless words before you saw each other again.  It actually worked sometimes.  What I didn't like about internet relationships, and the emails that fuel them, is the sense of false intimacy.

It seemed to me, as I was dating women from the internet, that sometimes it seemed like a race to see who could surrender the most intimate details of their life first.  You would hear about their troubled childhoods, failed marriages and broken hearts in excruciating detail.   This flood of information would definitely give you the illusion of intimacy, but not the reality.  Intimacy is something that needs to be earned over time, not poured out freely like a glass of water.  Something cheaply gained is not held in much value.

Then there's the lies.  What is it about the computer that makes people think they can get away with bald-faced lies.  You might send that twenty-year-old picture, but eventually they're going to see the real you.  Fortunately, I didn't have that problem.  At the height of my internet dating period, women definitely knew what they were getting when they finally met me because I was appearing a number of local television commercials as an actor -- like in the one below for WBFF Channel 45 directed by Chuck Regner.

Yikes, right?

Some people were still willing to see me after that.

There was one email relationship that I often think back upon.  I met her on the singles board on AOL.  She wasn't really looking for romance.  Just online companionship.  No pictures were ever sent or received.  Or real names -- well, I gave her mine.  She never gave me hers.  She claimed to be the owner of a large computer contracting company based in the DC suburbs.  "Beltway Bandits," is what my father used to call them.  She claimed to have met my father, a systems analyst for the Social Security Administration, who often worked on contracts and bids, but she didn't want to talk about work.  She wanted to talk about life.  Or what was left of it.  She claimed to be dying from cancer and just wanted to talk to a kind stranger in a commitment free environment.  Our email conversation lasted about two months.  Then I got a final email under her name from a woman claiming to be her personal nurse.  She said my correspondent had died, and she had been instructed to inform her online friends.

So that was that.

I often wondered about that woman.  Was she even really a woman?  Or was it some guy playing with my mind.  Was it just a sick game?  Or was it really the last emotional gasp of a woman on the verge of eternity? 

I'll never know.

But I do have our correspondence in a manila folder backed away in a cedar chest or a file cabinet somewhere around this house.

One day it might be the basis of a short story or perhaps a novel.  (Not a screenplay.  Too cerebral.  Not enough action.)

At the very least I am possibly perserving a human being's final thoughts.

My advice:  Write to people.  Often.  And keep everything people take the time to write to you.  Thirty years from now an old letter might bring a needed but unexpected smile.

And write something more substantial than a text message.

How much joy will you get twenty years from now with a text that reads:  CU@8.

Write some letters.  Personal ones.

(At the very least, it will help you find your true voice as a writer.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"The Encounter" online review

How does one find a home in SeanPaulMurphyville?  Easy, post something nice about Sean Paul Murphy.

This online review by Zack Lawrence is mostly positive.  However, I decided to repost it here because of something he said he didn't like about the film.

The one thing Lawrence hated about the film was the name of the our Devil character, Officer Deville.  He thought it was very heavy-handed to give him the name Deville.  Then, we made matters worse by having a character spell out the name later (D-e-v-i-l, hey!)  in case someone incredibly dense missed it.  He thought it was somewhat insulting to the audience.

I couldn't agree more.

I just want to say that Tim and I did not name the character Deville.  Satan has been given so many names over the years by so many cultures that we had a wide field to choice from.  If there were sequels, we would use a different one in each film.

The character's name was changed on the set.

He is also named Deville in the sequel.  (In that script, he also had another name.)

He's still played by Kass Connors, and that's alright by me.

Still, despite that small quibble, go and see The Encounter.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Premature Memorial Video

It has now been over a year since my life-altering near death experience.   Not only am I still alive, but I have also mostly recovered from a longterm and potentially fatal illness.  The video below is a product of those less certain times.

I often make little memorial tributes to my late relatives.  I posted my tribute to my father here on this blog.  When I was very sick, my wife encouraged me to recover by saying that no one would be able to make a memorial tribute to me.  So I made one for myself.  Just in case....

My wife thinks it is too glib.  But here it is:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Marriage Retreat Special Edition" now in Walmart

Nothing says you're going to get paid points than seeing your little independent film lining the shelves at Walmart.

Here's the synopsis from Amazon:  When a group of best friends decide to go to a marriage retreat in the mountains for no deeper reason than to relax and have a little fun, they discover the true state of their marriages and how far apart they have drifted. Once there, Dr. Sullivan (Jeff Fahey "Lost" "Machete") and his wife Katrina (Victoria Jackson "Saturday Night Live") challenge them to confront their own sin to heal their relationship issues through some rather unconventional methods grounded in Biblical principles. Now with their marriages unraveling, the couples struggle to resolve their issues when relying solely on their own strength. When it seems like all hope is lost, true love is revealed and they soon discover it's not what they are missing in their relationships but who. Ultimately, they begin their journey finding their way back to the ONE they love.

Here's the trailer:

Friday, July 13, 2012

RIP: Richard D. Zanuck

The famous producer Richard Zanuck died and I want to express my condolences.

He was one of the most successful producers in modern Hollywood.  His credits include The Sting, Jaws, The Verdict and Driving Miss Daisy. 

I never met him, but he was very helpful to my career.  My agent, Stu Robinson, who is now also deceased, sent him my script "The Fourth Mrs. Jones" and, although he didn't buy it, Dick sent a very nice rejection letter back praising my ear for dialogue.  Stu sent me the letter.  It hung on my wall for years.  Whenever I sent out a pitch letter, I would always use his quote.  It opened doors for me.


"The Fourth Mrs. Jones" was the biggest near miss of my early career as a screenwriter.  It was to be sold to the producers of "Dead Poets' Society."  It was to be their follow-up film.  The deal was negotiated.  I was going to make a great deal of money.  The papers were to be signed on a certain Friday, but the deal fell apart at the last second.  Never heard why.

The script was one of my favorites.  I am currently undertaking a page-one rewrite.

I am sorry Dick Zanuck won't be there to read the rewrite.

Rest in Peace.

And thanks for the boost and the encouragement.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Sarah's Choice," Part 2, The Writing

Soon after Tim and I were unceremoniously fired off "In the Blink of An Eye," we got an email from our glorious leader David A.R. White.  They wanted to produce a pro-life film.  And they wanted us to write it.

The initial producer, Jeff Peterson, a very successful LA restauranteur, had just seen a famous actress on CNN talking on the subject of abortion.  Jeff was infuriated because he felt she was making factually inaccurate statements and no one on the show questioned her words.  Jeff wanted to produce a film on the subject.

I, strangely, had always wanted to write a film on the subject as well.  I had another idea about a local priest who is given a parish where the previous priest had increased attendance by revving up a tremendously passionate pro-life movement.  Unfortunately, a series of clinic bombings began in the wake of the movement.  Everyone, the police and diocese itself, suspect that the bomber(s) are part of the parish.  The bishop gives the new priest the assignment of defusing the situation and convincing the bomber(s) to surrender themselves to the police -- or at least stop.  Despite the controversial subject matter, the film was would fall in the priest as detective mystery genre.  The film would have given me the opportunity to discuss the pros-and-cons of the pro-life movement, and what I believe is the proper Christian perspective.  All while telling an exciting, suspenseful story.

Abortion is a very passionate subject, and I must admit that I always approached it philosophically, rather than religiously.  Granted, I am a product of twelve years of parochial schools.  (Shout out to my homeboys at St. D., and Archbishop Curley!)  However, despite my post-Roe-v-Wade education, I don't ever remember hearing the subject of abortion ever discussed in religion classes.  Or any classes for that matter.  Granted, I might not have been paying attention.  As the photograph below would indicate, there was very little prospect of me getting a girl pregnant, intentionally or unintentionally, during that period.  My study of abortion began as a result of my German language classes.

The Curley Boy

I took three years of German.  Sadly, my school didn't offer Italian or Latin.  Just French, Spanish and German.  Everyone said Spanish was easier but boring.  The manhood of everyone who took French was suspect.  That left German, which was said to be the hardest but coolest language.  Naturally, I went for the coolest.  (See photo above.)  Plus, both of my grandmothers were half-German.  My grandmother Margaret's family, the Fabers and Engels, came from Allenbach, Prussia.   My grandmother Rita's family, the Rosenbergers and Fleckensteins, came from Krombach, Bavaria.  This was a chance to learn a little something about my roots.

German class was cool until the third year.  Then we started dealing with the Holocaust.  We watched all those depressing documentaries and films.  I lost my taste for the German language, but I became quite obsessed with the Holocaust.  I couldn't believe that a civilized, educated society could perpetrate such a horror.  My interest became focused on German medical ethics, and how the Nazis turned doctors from healers into executioners.  It was a horrifying progression.  To me, the error came in giving the government, or individuals, the right to decide what lives had value.  I believe that all human life has inherent value.  No government or organization or individual had the right to declare one person more valuable than another.  A Mozart or Einstein might have more to offer society than a person with Downs Syndrome, but they are no more human.  No more valuable.  No more worthy of life.  To quote Thomas Jefferson, that hypocrite slave-owner, "All men are created equal."  To me, abortion was the first step on the slippery slope of assigning comparative value to human life.  Does this mean I think abortion is the American Holocaust?  No, that's a bad analogy.

My understanding of abortion remained somewhat philosophical until I actually began to meet women who had had abortions.  Some of whom were people I would have never suspected of having one.  Some of these women were heavily burdened with guilt. Others didn't regret their decision, but were none the less haunted one way or another by the decision.  I knew one thing for sure.  I wasn't going to put myself in a position where I demonized these women as heartless or killers -- either in my personal life or my work.

Jeff Peterson had written the original treatment for the film, which dealt with two journalists, a man and a woman, on a Point/Counterpoint-style opinion program.  The producer of the show wanted them to discuss the subject of abortion.  He assigned the woman to take the pro-life perspective.  She, of course, would have preferred the pro-choice position, but, she learns the evils of abortion as she studies the pro-life position. 

That was certainly a serviceable enough plot.  However, Tim and I didn't feel it would grab the heart of the viewer.  We immediately proposed a counter-story, one in which a woman has a series of three visions of the her unborn child and herself through the years, ala, Dickens' A Christmas Carol. We felt that would have more emotional impact.  Also, the mood in the country concerning the abortion debate had changed dramatically in recent years, especially among women.  The majority has gone from pro-choice to pro-life.  Most people are crediting ultra-sound technology.  Women have a hard time aborting something they can see and identify as being alive and human.  Therefore, Tim and I wanted our hero to see and interact with her child.  However, unlike the Dickens' story, each of the visions originally had two parts.  In the first part, we would see Sarah with her child.  In the second part, we would see Sarah's life without the child.  In the those parts, we tracked her growing success in business, but the increasing emptiness in her life.

Tim and I were quickly given approval to follow our instincts.  Quickly was the operative word.  It was already around Thanksgiving and they wanted to shoot the film in early January.  And, since Hollywood tends to close down during the last two weeks of December, we had to be casting within two weeks.  This was the quickest first draft Tim and I ever produced.   The notes came back equally quickly.  The second half of the visions were deleted.  The miraculous Christmas card was added.  Sarah was put under more financial pressure in order to justify her contemplation of aborting the child.  (Even more heavy-handed financial pressure was placed on her in revisions made without Tim and I.)

Before we had completed the revisions, we heard Rebecca St. James had been cast as Sarah.  I was familiar with her work as a singer, but not really as an actress.  I had seen her in Rich Christiano's film "Unidentified," but she didn't have enough to do in that movie to gauge her as an actress.  However, I watched all of her videos I could find and she seemed to be able to comport herself very well on film.  I was glad we got her.

Tim and I also heard that Brad Stine was cast as Uncle Clay.  We were both happy about that.  We were very familiar with his work and knew he would make the most of the role.  In fact, Tim and I had nearly written a starring vehicle for him the previous year, but it didn't work out.  We were later hired to write another starring vehicle for him which has yet to be produced.  A pity.  It's a great script.

The big question that remained was who was going to direct.

Tim and I met with producer David A.R. White, as well as Michael Scott, Cary Scott and Kevin Downes, in Washington, DC., at the Vietnam Memorial Wall while they were filming the ending of the still unreleased film "To The Wall."  Tim took his camera and shot some stills for the film.

David A.R. White, yours truly, Cary Scott, Kevin Downes,
Tim Ratajczak and our 16th President Abraham Lincoln.

Under direct questioning, David hemmed and hawed about who would be directing the film.  Tim and I feared it would be Chad Kapper.  We weren't happy about it since we had been fired off the last film we had worked together on.  To throw us off the scent, David actually intimated that he was going to direct "Sarah's Choice" himself.  However, when he mentioned that we would be shooting the exteriors in Canton, Ohio, we knew Chad would be directing the film since that's where he lived.  And sure enough.  Soon it was announced that Chad was on the project.

Chad read the script and wanted ten changes.  I had to laugh.  Eight of the things he wanted to change were things Pureflix partner Byron Jones had added to the script.  Good luck getting rid of them.  We only found ourselves in conflict with Chad concerning the visions.  Tim and I wanted the visions to begin with Sarah's child being old enough to speak.  Tim wanted each of the visions to end with the daughter, Daisy, about to say "I love you," but never finishing the words.  Chad wanted to the visions to begin with Daisy as a newborn, which ruined that theme.  The decision ultimately went Chad's way.

Actually, despite our initial misgivings, Chad wasn't very difficult to work with at all.  Chad was an experienced commercial director.  He was more opinionated and sought more control than any of the other directors Tim and I had worked with at PureFlix.  I had a very frank discussion with him prior to the shoot, explaining the roles of the previous directors we had worked with.

In film school, they teach something called the auteur theory which argues that the director is the author of a film and has more control over the end product than anyone else.  That's hardly the case in the real world.  PureFlix is a producer-oriented company.  The producers call the shots.  I explained that to Chad, and told him that he could expect the film to be taken away from him in post.  That comment would prove to be very prophetic indeed.

To be continued.

"Sarah's Choice," Part Three, The Shoot

Previous Installment:

"Sarah's Choice," Part One, "In The Blink Of An Eye"

Read about the making of my other features:

21 Eyes
Hidden Secrets
Holyman Undercover
The Encounter

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Father's Day

Let me take a little time away from my business promotion to put up a little tribute I made to my late father Douglas Ernest Murphy, Sr.

Obituary from the Sunpapers, originally published March 17, 2003:Douglas E. Murphy Sr., 61, Social Security analyst

Douglas E. Murphy Sr., a retired systems analyst for the Social Security Administration, died Wednesday of complications from pancreatic cancer at Joseph Richey Hospice in Baltimore. The Hamilton resident was 61.

Born in Scranton, Pa., Mr. Murphy moved with his family to Baltimore when he was 10.  He graduated from City College in 1959 and started to work for the Social Security Administration. He also attended night school at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1966, his family said. Mr. Murphy's arrival at the federal agency coincided with its early push to computerize. After passing an aptitude test, Mr. Murphy joined the automation effort, beginning a long career as a programmer and systems analyst.

Although he enjoyed hobbies such as gardening, golf and skiing, Mr. Murphy's relatives say he spent most of his time at, or thinking about, his job at the SSA.  "He should have been part of the cornerstone," said brother Brian Murphy of Baltimore. Mr. Murphy retired from the agency in 1999.

Services were held Saturday.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Murphy is survived by his wife of 43 years, the former Clara Protani; three sons, Douglas Murphy Jr., Sean Murphy and John Murphy, all of Baltimore; a daughter, Jeanne Coe of Baltimore; his mother, Margaret Murphy of Baltimore; three brothers, Paul Murphy Jr. of Hampton Roads, Va., Richard Murphy of Middle River and Kevin Murphy of Baltimore; two sisters, Sharon Sartor of Willingboro, N.J., and Carolyn Dabirsiaghi of Glen Arm; and three grandchildren.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012 Kairos Prize Awards Ceremony

Here's the video of Amy Williams, Nick Hartman and myself receiving the Kairos Prize in front of a ton of Hollywood luminaries.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Brother White: Now at Walmart

My film Brother White can now be found in the new releases section of Walmart.  You can talk all you want about film festivals and awards, but, in the world of independent film, getting your film in Walmart is where the rubber meets the road!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"The Encounter: Paradise Lost" Trailer

The trailer for the sequel to my film "The Encounter" has just come online.

Here it is:

This sequel is definitely darker and more violent than the original.  The original film dealt with ordinary people with the ordinary problems that plague mankind.  This film moves the setting to exotic Thailand following the devastating tsunami of 2004.  The drama moves into the world of cops and criminals, where the line between good and evil is more easily drawn.  Or is it?

The solution, however, remains the same.  For those who choose to take it.

I'll have much more to say about this film later.  Much later, sadly.  I'm about four films behind on the blog!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Winning The Kairos Prize

I had been aware of the Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays for years.  I never entered because I have never been much of a fan of screenwriting competitions.

Screenwriting contests are almost always comparing apples to oranges.  In the past, I have only entered contests with very narrow parameters like the Slamdance Horror Competition, where my script "Desecrated" was a semi-finalist, and the Baltimore Film Office's Screenplay Competition, where my scripts "An Italian Restaurant" and "Eradication" lost in two successive years.   I know, I know:  No prophet is welcome in his own hometown.  (Don't get me started about the Maryland Film Festival....)

Trish, on location in Australia.
Last year, however, my longtime reader and advisor, and one of the best writers I know, Trish Schweers kept emailing me notices about the upcoming Kairos Prize.  She said I should enter the contest since the subject matter was definitely my oeuvre.  I was impressed by her vocabulary.  I was also impressed by the fact that there was also a $50,000 prize.  That's a lot of money for a screenplay competition.   That's a lot of money, period!  So, on September 16, 2011, I decided to break out my well-worn credit card, plunk down the required fifty bucks, and enter my eight-year-old faith-based script "I, John" into the contest.

Here's the logline:

An obscure comment by Jesus Christ near the end of the Gospel of John had led many people throughout history to think that the beloved disciple would remain on Earth until the Second Coming.  "I, John" addresses that possibility when the comments made by a severely-wounded homeless Holocaust survivor while under anesthesia in a hospital start a chain reaction of speculation that he might indeed be the immortal Apostle John.  It is an uplifting, heart-warming fantasy suitable for the whole family.

Back to our program, already in progress:

"I, John" was my first and only spec script written directly for the independent, faith-based market.  I wrote it with the intention of producing and distributing the film myself.  However, as I studied faith-based films, I came across a few films by David A.R. White and Kevin and Bobby Downes that I liked.  I decided to see what they thought of the script.  They liked it -- particularly its sense of humor.  They did, however, have one problem with it.  David said he and Kevin liked to produce movies they could also star in, and there wasn't a role for either of them in this script.  David asked me if I would write a Christian version of "The Big Chill" for them instead.  My answer was yes, provided I could bring my friend Tim Ratajczak along as a co-writer.  David's said yes, and Tim and I found ourselves writing one script after another.  "I, John" was put on the shelf.   Forgotten.  Until....

On January 14, 2012, I received an email from Kairos Submissions that I had been named one of the seventy semi-finalists.  Wow.   That was great.  If that was as far as it went, I would have been delighted.  Still, I started researching the competition online.  Some of them had produced features.  One of them had been a finalist in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.  That's a pretty big deal.  I was no shoo-in.

On February 1, 2012, the names of the twelve finalists were announced.  Here they were:

Paul H. Boge of East St. Paul, Manitoba, CAN for MULLI
Bret Eugene Boyer of Scottsdale, AZ for TEXTING WITH GOD
James M. De Vince of Wallingford, CT for THE BASKETBALL
David (Nicholas) Hartmann of Mason, OH for A DOLPHIN IN OUR LAKE
Bryan Lake of Stevenson Ranch, CA for BOB
Jeremy David Lee of West Hills, CA for ROCK POINT DRAW
Jacalyn S. McLeod of Lee's Summit, MO for HOUSE OF HOPE
Clark McMillian of Bowie, MD for INVESTMENT IN TIME
Sean Paul Murphy of Baltimore, MD for I, JOHN
Lizanne Southgate & Alan Sproles of Visalia, CA for FIFTY SEVEN CENTS
Marcus Webb of Stamford, CT for AND THERE WAS LIGHT
Amy Williams of Marina Del Rey, CA for HALO THEORY

I was on the list.  To be honest, I had never really considered the possibility of winning until I reached this level.  Now it was real.  And exciting.  The next day I received word that I was being flown out to Hollywood for the gala awards ceremony.  Not only that, they were flying my lovely wife Deborah out as well!  I was so happy they were including her.  Deb had accompanied me to a number of film festivals around the country and a few premieres, but she had never had the chance to go to Hollywood for one of the film shoots and experience the quote/unquote glamour of the movie business.  Now she had her chance!  I was as happy for her as I was for myself.

Now the real speculation began.  Winning was a distinct possibility.  The key question was whether they were going to fly all the finalists out to the ceremony or only the three winners.  I went on Facebook to see if any of the other finalists had written on their walls that they were going to California for the ceremony.  (Fortunately, some of them had very low privacy settings.)  No one I had identified said they were going.  Then again, neither did I.  I didn't mention the trip either on Facebook.  If other finalists weren't being flown to California, I didn't want to hurt their feelings by letting them know that I was being flown there.  (The irony is that, despite all my research, I was never able to identify my two co-winners.  One of them wasn't on Facebook.  The other had a very common name.)

My wife and I preparing to leave for LA.
Boy, I really gained a lot of weight since I died.
(See my earlier blog, "Me, Post-Death")
Meanwhile, the details of the trip kept getting better and better.  First we were given airline tickets.  Before I could even write and ask for a recommendation where to stay, I was told they had a room for us at the Universal Hilton Hotel in Universal City.  They also had ground transportation to and from the airport arranged and an itinerary filled with cool events.  I had hoped to meet up with some of my west coast friends during the trip, but that wasn't going to be possible.

But was I a winner?  I finally got a definite clue.  I researched the Prize and discovered that David DeVos, the director of my film "Marriage Retreat," had received honorable mention in the contest years earlier.  I immediately called him and asked him whether all of the finalists were at the ceremony or only the winners.  He said there were only four of them at the ceremony.  That was reassuring.  That meant I was probably a winner.  Unless they offered another honorable mention award this year....  Nothing was written in stone.  Upon arriving in LA, we even tried, unsuccessfully, to worm information out of the limo driver!

The first time I found some waiting for me at the airport with a sign.
An arrest warrant, yes, but a welcoming sign, no.
They had a great room for us at the hotel and they invited us to order room service.  Deb and I had a nice romantic meal that proved unnecessary since a nice fruit basket arrived soon afterwards.  The MovieGuide folks, headed by Dr. Ted and Evy Baehr, really know how to make people feel special.  In fact, I can honestly say that everyone I met with MovieGuide was terrific.  Not only the members of the organization itself, but also its backers and supporters who had also flown out to Hollywood for the annual awards gala.  Deb and I got spend a great deal of time with them on tours, cruises and at events.  They were all fascinating and very friendly.

Yours truly with William J. Murray, son of the noted
atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hair.
On the tours, Deb and I were constantly trying to figure out who our fellow finalists were to no avail.  We didn't get to meet Amy Robinson and Nick Hartman and his lovely wife Janel until the night of the gala itself in the hotel lobby while we were waiting to be led to the red carpet.

Nick & Janel Hartman, Amy Robinson, Deb & myself
Just like my wife and I, they were also wondering if we were the winners.  I told them about my conversation with David DeVos and expressed my confidence that we were the three winners.  They seemed delighted and relieved.  So was I, until we started walking over to the red carpet.  While we did, I spotted Clark McMillian, another one of the finalists.  I recognized him from his pictures on Facebook.  Maybe it wasn't just us three....

An instant camaraderie developed between us writers.  Once we got to the Awards ceremony I don't think it mattered to any of us who came in what place.  That may seem strange to some, but, you must remember:  We are writers.  We labor in obscurity.  Even the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood are unrecognizable to the general public.  This was a rare event that, chances are, none of us would ever experience again.  I had gotten my money's worth watching the smile on my wife's face as she walked down the red carpet in front of all of those photographers.  It didn't matter whether I got the twenty-five thousand, the fifteen thousand or the ten thousand dollar prize.  My colleagues felt the same way.

Clark McMillian with America's Favorite Fatman.
Fortunately, Clark, Amy, Nick, Janel, Debbie and I were all seated at the same table.  It gave us time to swap stories about our careers and experiences.  Clark was a Marylander like myself.  He already had a film produced called "Prayer Life."  I hadn't seen it yet, but it was already on my Netflix queue.  Nick, Janel and Amy were all, like my wife, from Ohio.  Amy was actually from my wife's hometown of Austintown.  They went to the same high school!  Talk about a small world!  We were also joined at the table by Heather Hughes and Kate Wharton, two former Kairos Prize winners.  The next day they would hold an afternoon seminar to advise us newcomers how to best exploit our wins.  My director David DeVos was also at the gala, as well as Byron Jones, the former PureFlix partner.

The gala was quite impressive.  There were a number of important executives from various studios and production companies present.  I had made sure that Deb had a number of discs with .pdfs of scripts on them in her purse.  We did not, however, attempt to hand them out.  MovieGuide had already sent the winning scripts to the studios.  Plus, we were told it the gala was a no-pitch zone.  We would be getting more than enough attention.

Byron, Clark, Deborah, me, Nick and Amy.
(Janel must be taking the picture!)
I found the MovieGuide organization very impressive.  I was familiar with their website.  It is a place where parents can check out the content of films.  They had reviewed a few of my movies and they sent me to the dictionary when they said that my film "Hidden Secrets" had "a very slight antinomian tinge."  Ooops.  Sorry about that!

There are a number of websites that evaluate films for parents, but MovieGuide is different than most of the so-called "gatekeepers."  Most gatekeepers have an openly adversarial relationship with Hollywood.  They're all stick and no carrot.  MovieGuide views itself as a resource for Hollywood.  It spends a good deal of time and money analyzing movie-goers and the box office every year to illustrate their contention that films which reinforce traditional values make substantially more money at the box office.  They don't want to flush Hollywood down the toilet.  They want Hollywood to be more successful.  They encourage shows and movies which reflect this ideal by giving them substantial monetary awards.  There philosophy seems to be working.  At their first award ceremony twenty years ago, the only film that hit their criterion was "A Trip To Bountiful."  Now sixty-percent of films released to the theaters have some sort of positive or spiritually uplifting content.

Finally, the moment of the truth came.  Time to award the Kairos Prize.  I was the 2nd Runner-Up, a polite way of the saying 3rd Place.  $10,000.  I quickly made my way to the stage.  I hadn't prepared a speech since I thought to do so would be presumptuous.   Fortunately, I did manage to get a few laughs.  That said, my main concern wasn't my speech.  It was my pants.  I did not get a belt or suspenders with my tux.  I was counting on my cummerbund to hold my pants up, but it did not prove worthy of my trust.  I had to keep one hand on my pants at all time to avoid a Janet-Jackson-style wardrobe malfunction.  This was particularly important since the event was going to be televised on the Hallmark Movie Channel.*

Yours truly giving his acceptance speech.  Looks like I have
boldly removed my hand from my pants for a second!
Nick Hartman won the $15,000 Runner Up Prize, and Fitch High School's own Amy Robinson won the big $25,000 prize.  I couldn't be happier for each of them!  Clark was the fourth place winner.  It was a great time.  The best weekend of my life.  Nick, Amy, Clark, Heather, Kate and myself have frequently been in contact since the gala, evaluating each other's pitch letters and sharing information.  What a great group of people!

I want to thank Dr. Ted Baehr, MovieGuide and the Templeton Foundation for making this all possible.  It has been a true blessing!

BTW, in case your wondering, when the check arrived, it was normal-sized.  Not a huge one like they give out for Publisher's Clearing House.

Back home with the award and the check.

*Someone please remind me, in the event I get nominated for an Academy Award, to get suspenders!

Be sure to check out my exciting faith-based memoir:

Read some sample chapters:
Chapter 1 - A Photograph
Chapter 2 - My Death
Chapter 3 - Childhood
Chapter 4 - Saved!
Chapter 5 - The Promise
Chapter 6 - The Mission
Chapter 7 - Mission Accomplished

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brother White to Premiere!

The last few weeks have been very eventful.  I was flown to Hollywood with my wife as one of the winners of the prestigious Kairos Prize in screenwriting, my Mount Auburn documentary has been playing at film festivals, and I just finished the script for a new feature that will go into production in five weeks.  In addition, "Brother White," my original film for the gmc cable network, is scheduled to premiere on Sunday, March 11th, 2012. The film, co-written by Matt Richards and Tommy Blaze and co-created by Timothy Ratajczak, serves as a pilot for a possible sitcom to air in 2013 -- if enough people watch the movie.  So watch it!  I'm going to -- even if it is on up against "The Walking Dead."  (Thank God for DVR!)

Here's the trailer:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Sacred Ground: The Battle For Mount Auburn Cemetery" opens the Jubilee Film Festival

My documentary, "Sacred Ground:  The Battle for Mount Auburn Cemetery," has been given the honor of opening the 2012 Jubilee Film Festival which was established to share the history of the American Civil Rights movement.  The film will play Friday, March 2nd, at the River Center for Humanity in Selma, Alabama.  This honor is further enhanced by the fact that the festival accepted so few films.

I want to thank the festival for including us and I also want to thank all of the people who helped make the film possible.  It was definitely a labor of love.

Here's the trailer:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Betrayed Trailer

Rocket Media created a trailer for the film we made for the Counter-Intelligence Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and posted it on YouTube.  This is a rather surprising development when one considers that, originally, that no segment of the film was supposed to be posted anywhere on the internet.  Apparently the film has been so successful at explaining the insider threat of espionage that the government wants more and more people to see it.  Soon, I hear it will be playing on the Pentagon Channel.  Check it out if you can.

Here's the trailer:

Be sure to check out my book "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"I, John" -- Kairos Prize Screenplay Semi-Finalist

Good news.  My original spec script, "I, John," has just been named one of fifty semi-finalists in the $50,000 Kairos Prize Competition for spiritually uplifting screenplays.   It is quite an honor, and I am grateful to be included.

Generally, I am not a big believer in screenplay competitions.  I have only entered four over the course of my writing career, and each of them was narrowly focused on a genre or subject matter where I felt I had some expertise.  "I, John" for the Kairos Prize, obviously.  I also entered "Desecrated" in a Slamdance horror screenplay competition, where I was one of twenty semi-finalists.  Also, over the course of two years, I entered "Desecrated" and "An Italian Restaurant" in a local competition sponsored by the Maryland Film Office for scripts with Maryland locations.  I never made the cut in the local contest.  Oh well.  Hopefully, I will have better luck this time!

Here's a shout out to my fellow semi-finalists.  Good luck, God bless, and let the game begin:

Brook Abbey of Meadville, PA for SONG OF SOLOMAN
Manuel Ansoleaga of Spring Hill, FL for SOON
Paul H. Boge of East St. Paul, Canitoba, CAN for MULLI
Bret Eugene Boyer of Scottsdale, AZ for TEXTING WITH GOD
Jeffrey Bruner of Des Moines, IA for SIGNS AND WONDERS
Randall Burgess of Charlotte, NC for SCHIFFER'S REDEMPTION
Eric W. Carlson, A.J. Hill of Williamsburg, VA for UNDER PRESSURE
Brian R. Chambers & Charles A. Harrington of Dennis, MA for THE WORK OF ART
Josh Childs of Nashville, TN for PROPHET
Romeo Ciolfi of Toronto, Ontario, CAN for WALK
Michelle Cox, Torry Martin & Marshal Younger of Spring Hill, TN for JUST 18 SUMMERS
Jack Davidson of Sparks, NV for THE GREAT SIGN
James M. De Vince of Wallingford, CT for THE BASKETBALL
Marty Delmon of Neauphle-le-Château, FR for FACE TO FACE
Dennis Doud of Eagle River, WI for LIFE, LEAVING, AND THE MOTHER ROAD
Betty Ellington-Smith of Santa Fe, NM for A CERTAIN CHARM
Stan Evans of Valley Village, CA for LORD OCKLEY AND THE ALIEN
Charles Felton of Colorado Springs, CO for THE POSTULANT
Jeffrey Field of Overland Park, KS for UNDELIVERED
Joseph Fieramosca of Shorewood, IL for THE FINAL ACT
Antony Ford, Jeffey Hayden, Walter Trobisch of London, ENG for HEARTS OF AFRICA
Jon Freda & Letty Serra of New York, NY for SAY NOTHING
Domenic Fusco & Jack Murphy of Sanford, FL for JEWELS FOR THE JOURNEY
William Gebby of Indianapolis, IN for NORTH STAR
Jeanne Griffin of Hamilton, OH for GRANDMA'S LACE
Cynthia Harford of Washington, IL for JOURNEY WITH HALLAH
David (Nicholas) Hartmann of Mason, OH for A DOLPHIN IN OUR LAKE
Judy Klass of Nashville, TN for A SISTER FOR CHRISTMAS
Beverly Kuhn-Moyer of Lincoln University, PA for HIGHER POWERBALL
Bryan Lake of Stevenson Ranch, CA for BOB
Jeremy David Lee of West Hills, CA for ROCK POINT DRAW
Ryan Lee of Los Angeles, CA for WILL TO LIVE
Jacinta Maria Landrum of Westerville, OH for IN A FALLEN WORLD
Kenneth R. Marken of Casper, WY for UNAWARE
Jacalyn S. McLeod of Lee's Summit, MO for HOUSE OF HOPE
Clark McMillian of Bowie, MD for INVESTMENT IN TIME
Heath W. Miller of Cochrane, Alberta, CAN for BEAUTIFUL CATASTROPHE
Sean Paul Murphy of Baltimore, MD for I, JOHN
Brian Nelson of White Bear Lake, MN for WHITE LIGHT
John Patus & Paul Duran of Los Angeles, CA for THE STORY OF PAUL
Carol L. Paur of Delavan, WI for VALENTINE
Scott A. Peterson of Champlin, MN for THE CURRENT
Bryan Ready of Shoreview, MN for HOLEY CHILDHOOD
Marcia Chandler Rhea & Margaret Ford Rogers of Charleston, SC for THE CONFEDERATE LEGEND
David P. Searby of Panama for THE CHAMBERS CHALLENGE
Diane Short of China Spring, TX for CROSSROADS CAFÉ
Neal Sibley of Knoxville, TN for DREAM CHRISTMAS
Mabel Elizabeth Singletary of Somerset, NJ for CAMP KALEIDOSCOPE
Melissa Marie Sneed of Kingsport, TN for CASTLE IN THE SAND

Lizanne Southgate & Alan Sproles of Visalia, CA for ABE AND EVERETT
Lizanne Southgate & Alan Sproles of Visalia, CA for FIFTY SEVEN CENTS
Amy Swanson of Downingtown, PA for THE LEFTOVERS
Kathryn F. Taylor of Cary, NC for GUARDIAN ANGEL
Cody W. Urban of Palmdale, CA for NICHOLAS
Beverly Varnado of Athens, GA for BRAVE GIRL
Keith Ward of Westminister, MD for BROKEN BOW
Anthony Watson & Shelia Watson of Charleston, SC for GUARDIANSHIP
Marcus Webb of Stamford, CT for AND THERE WAS LIGHT
Rusty Whitener of Pulaski, VA for ALLAH'S FIRE
Amy Williams of Marina Del Rey, CA for HALO THEORY

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"The Wash of Time" Music Video

Since I have been highlighting some of music videos have done for other folks, I have decided to add one I did myself.

The Atomic Enema, aka The New Catholics, 1985
I was writing songs long before I wrote my first screenplay which was a somewhat difficult task since I am not and never have been a singer.  Then again, since most of my songs, whether jokey or serious, were highly-personal, I appreciated the emotional distance that another singer afforded me.  The singer in our dreadful garage rock band, The Atomic Enema (the name, at least, immortalized in "Hidden Secrets"), would sometimes bring girls to our rehearsals.  More than once, a girl pulled me aside to ask if the singer had written one of the songs about her.  I always said yes, and they always seemed strangely happy about it.  I say strangely because none of those songs were symptomatic of a healthy romantic relationship.  When we formed the band, three of the four members had just broken up with a long-time or significant girlfriends and the material definitely reflected that fact.

The Atomic Enema, 2009
This song came into being when my wife told me that they were taking her beloved uncle Sonny off life support two days before Christmas.  Her father had died two days before Thanksgiving the previous year.  We had also recently been to the funeral of my uncle Brian, who died way too young at fifty-nine.  It seemed like we were attending a veritable flood of funerals and the thought of the unending wash of time came to me.  The song came instantly.  I wrote it in about five minutes.  I recorded it on my mac using the voice over tool in Final Cut in about ten minutes, and, by the time my wife came home from work to record her harmony vocal, the video homage to our departed relatives was essentially done.

It's not necessarily a great song or a great recording or a great performance, but I wanted to do something to honor those who have gone on ahead of me.   Here's who the people in the photos are:

Mary Jordan McLane.  A paternal 2nd great-grandmother.  An Irish immigrant, she was the long-lived matriarch of my Irish Scranton family.
John Rosenberger.  A maternal 2nd great-grandfather.  Born in Krombach, Bavaria, he was one of my diminutive German immigrants.
Douglas Wayne Sartor.  The husband of my aunt Sharon.  He was a Jesuit-trained Vietnam veteran who died too soon.
Wapee (Dhu) P'tu Kumphan Murphy.  The wife of my uncle Paul.  He had to go to Thailand to find the right woman.  She was worth the trip.
Brian Robertson Murphy.  My uncle.  He fought a courageous battle against cancer.  A real man to the end.
Patricia Elsie Protani.  My 1st cousin, once removed.  MS stole her mobility, but never her spirit.  A true inspiration.
Jan Nepom Kostohryz.  A maternal 2nd great-grandfather.  He was born in Bernartice, Bohemia, but found a home in Baltimore, Maryland.
Juliana Fuchs Engel.  A paternal 4th great-grandmother.  I always find it fascinating to look into the face of an ancestor who was born in the 1700s.  Talk about the wash of time.  Will anyone be looking at a photo of me hundreds of years from now?
Donald Leroy Crum, Sr.  My wife's father.  An inventive, fun-loving guy with a great sense of humor.   I was proud to be a member of his family.
Harold Kenneth Crum.  My wife's uncle.  A true Kentucky gentleman.
John Albert Yurcho, Jr.  My wife's ex-husband.  (Fortunately, for me, it didn't work out between those two.)
Nora Hyden Crum.  My wife's paternal grandmother.  She was a homespun, hard-working woman.
James Murphy.  A paternal granduncle.  I didn't even know he existed until I started the family tree.  Now here he is on the internet.  Gone but not forgotten.
Vincent Alvin Rosenberger.  A maternal granduncle.  Another sibling of a grandparent that I didn't know even know existed.  His grave is unmarked, but his image will remain on the internet.
Mark Brendan Murphy.  My brother.  A tragic figure.  There but for the grace of God go I.
Laura Murphy Valenti.  My sister.  Her death devastated the family.  Damn.  It was pretty hard for my siblings to make it through their 30s.
Margaret Robertson Murphy.  My paternal grandmother.  I really enjoyed doing the family tree with her.
Violet Harvey Evans.  My wife's maternal grandmother.  A sweet woman.
Anthony Ignatius Rosenberger.  A maternal granduncle.  Uncle Buzzy.   A World War II vet who saw some real action.  I wish I went fishing with him more.
Helen Rosenberger Ernst.  A maternal grandaunt.  A sweet lady.
John Norbert Rosenberger.  A maternal granduncle.  Uncle Butch.  He helped put me through college.  And, had the world blown up during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he would have survived in the Presidential bomb shelter.
Vincenzo Protani.  A maternal great-grandfather.  My Italian immigrant forbearer who came to Baltimore in 1903. A colorful character to say the least.   I plan to be buried beside him in due time.
Paul James Murphy, Sr.  My paternal grandfather.  I always use my middle name professionally as a homage to him.  A great guy.  I wish I could be more like him.
Douglas Ernest Murphy, Sr.  My father.  A genius.  Gone too soon.  I don't think he gave himself much reason to live after losing two children.
Gino J. Protani.  My maternal half-uncle.  Never had the chance to meet him.
Candie Protani Garbarino.  My maternal half-aunt.  Never had the chance to meet her.
Kenneth Joseph Protani.  My paternal grandfather.  I never met him.  Had I known he lived until 1983, I would have tracked him down.
Carole Hagan Protani.  Ex-wife of my maternal uncle.
Merrill Leroy Crum.  My wife's paternal grandfather.  Probably a descendant of the old reformer Martin Luther.  Still waiting for verification.
David Archibald Evans.  My wife's maternal grandfather.  A happy-go-lucky guy.
Carolina Stark Robertson.  My paternal great-grandmother.  She never approved of her daughter marrying a Catholic.  She died of heart attack walking home from the cemetery after tending her husband's grave.
Francis John Murphy.  A paternal granduncle.  He was a great guy..
Robert Burns Pollock.  My maternal step-grandfather.  A great guy.  He always took me to get my buzz hair cuts as a kid.
Frank John Murphy.  A paternal great-grandfather.  The fire chief of Dunmore Pennsylvania, and, by all reports, a really great guy.
Mary Kostohryz Rosenberger.  My maternal great-grandmother.  She died the year I was born.
John George Rosenberger.  My maternal great-grandfather.  He went to Broadway to be a buck and wing dancer before settling down in Baltimore as a carpenter.  I do remember him, but I never saw him dance.
Assunta Mastracci Protani.  My maternal great-grandmother.  Born in Italy, I do have vague memories of meeting her as a child.  I do, however, now have her home-made spaghetti sauce recipe.
Bruno Protani.  A maternal 3rd cousin.  A sweet guy.  He was one of the first cousins I met in Italy.  I will never forget the time I spent with his family.
Loretta McLane Murphy.  My paternal great-grandmother.  A school teacher in Scranton who married for love instead of money.  I do have a melancholy poem she wrote.
Arch Robertson.  My paternal grandfather.  A nice guy.  Died of black lung.
Marietta LeStrange Zeher.  My 1st cousin, once removed.  A free spirit.
Eileen Murphy LeStrange.  My paternal grandaunt.  A sweet woman.

There they are.  Who would I be without them?  I only wish the song was longer so I could include more relatives.

Here are the lyrics:

[G] The wash of time breaks rock into sand
[C] The wash of time does the same thing to a [G] man
[D] The Wash of time.  [C]  The wash of time.  [G] The wash of time.

The wash of time turned my brown hair into gray.
The wash of time takes a little more every day.
The wash of time.  The wash of time.  The wash of time.

The wash of time turns babies into dust.
The wash of time it comes for all of us.
The wash of time,.  The wash of time.  The wash of time.

[D] You can’t run away.  [C]  cause each and every day is the wash of [G] time.

The wash of time took my granddad and his son.
The wash of time for me it now will come
The Wash of time.  The wash of time.  The wash of time.

[D] You can’t run away.  [C]  cause each and every day is the wash of [G] time.

The wash of time leaves lovers on their own.
The wash of time leaves us cold and alone.
The wash of time.  The wash of time.  The wash of time.

[D] You can’t run away.  [C]  cause each and every day is the wash of [G] time.

Copyright 2011.  Sean Paul Murphy