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The 168 Film Project: 20 Years of Faith and Film

We often see Christianity and the Film Industry in many places. Separately. Witnessing the melding of faith and film through a Christian film festival is extremely rare. However, for the past 20 years, John David Ware has provided a space for Christian filmmakers to create and cultivate their films while fellowshipping and growing as people and servants of God. This space is called the 168 Film Project.

God Is In The Details

Celebrating its 20th Anniversary, the 168 Film Project naturally originated in the Los Angeles, California, area. John David was led to introduce a “Speed Film Write of Passage” screenwriting competition that catapults projects in a short time. This mentored competition welcomes writers from all over the world to produce a short faith-based film script in ONE WEEK – 168 hours to be exact!

Over the years and through the pandemic, the 168 Film Project Festival has remained strong. Now held annually in the beautiful newly developed Town at Trilith (affiliated with Trilith Studios in South Atlanta, Georgia), The 168 Film Project Festival is a part of the Georgia “Hollywood of the South” creative community – where almost as many films are made as in California. Although the location has changed, the calling for Christian filmmakers remains the same and continues to grow! In 2023, a talented filmmaker (Krista O’Conner) joined the 168 Film Project team as Assistant Director.

The Need For Speed

The 168 Film Project process involves each filmmaker being assigned a random scripture. Some Christians may argue that any assignment is God-led and not random. After scriptures are assigned, preproduction ensues, followed by shooting and editing a finished film. YES – this is all accomplished in ONE WEEK. To be eligible for awards, films must meet the required time guidelines. Recently, the 168 Film Project has introduced several additional competition categories. The new categories are – Short Film, Kid Vid, Animation, and Write of Passage Spotlight (this category allows a filmmaker to produce another writer’s script).

2023 Festival Award Highlights and Winners

The prestigious Best Film title was claimed by Planted, directed by CC Weske, and produced by Joshua Yadon, Haylee Graham, and Tim Weske. Planted earned six awards, including Best Director – CC Weske, Best Screenplay – Haylee Graham, 168 Exclamation Awards – Leslie Laursen and Alora Weisz, and Best Speed Film.

  • Best Making of 168 BTS Film – Christian Hitmen – Abbey Moe
  • Best Sound DesignThe Likes of You, Joe Valdez
  • Best Original Score – Lifeless: A Musical Zomedy – Aaron Fullan
  • Best Production Design – Lifeless: A Musical Zomedy – Maddie Klaus
  • 169 Award – Deborah Brown—for Ministry to the World Through Film
  • Best Screenplay – Planted – Haylee Graham
  • Best Screenplay – Comedy – Lifeless: A Musical Zomedy – Darren Cogan
  • Best Scriptural Integration – Family Therapy – Lauren Shelfo
  • Evangelista Award – Family Therapy – Lauren Shelfo
  • Best Editor – The Likes of You – Matt Green
  • Best Cinematography – Lifeless: A Musical Zomedy – Micah Powell
  • Best Supporting Actor – Simone Scigliano as Dad in Family Therapy
  • Best Supporting Actress – Darby Cappillino as Delilah in Lifeless: A Musical Zomedy
  • Best Actor – Miles Anderson as Paul in Flatline
  • Best Actress – Liz DeCoudres as Mom in Family Therapy
  • 168 Exclamation Award! – Steven Fitchpatrick as Hitman #1 in Christian Hitmen
  • 168 Exclamation Award! – Chase Gamwell as Pete in Family Therapy
  • 168 Exclamation Award! – Victoria Jackson as Angel in Lifeless: A Musical Zomedy
  • 168 Exclamation Award! – Leslie Laursen as Grandma in Planted
  • 168 Exclamation Award! – Alora Weisz as Lilly in Planted
  • Best Director – CC Weske for Planted
  • Best Documentary – Redeeming the Time – Mona Hylton
  • Best KidVid – Shades of Hope – Kathryn Owens
  • Best Write of Passage Film – Flatline – Justin Manntai, James Lee Beeler
  • Best Alumni Film – Dumplings – Abbey Moe
  • Best Student Film– The Art of Kindness – Michaela Ray
  • Best Comedy – Lifeless: A Musical Zomedy – Darren Cogan, Christopher Shawn Shaw, Susan Shearer, Gary Voelker, Aaron Fullan
  • Best Proof of Concept Film: Hard Side of Miracles – Director: John Fornof, Producers: Justin Manntai, Steve Stiles
  • Best Film Runner-Up – Lifeless: A Musical Zomedy – Darren Cogan, Christopher Shawn Shaw, Susan Shearer, Gary Voelker, Aaron Fullan
  • Best of the 168 Film Festival – Planted – Director: CC Weske, Producers: Joshua Yadon, Haylee Graham, Tim Weske
  • Angel Studios Invitations: these short films will be considered by the Angel Studios Guild for feature funding and distribution.

The Best Is Yet to Come 

When asked for 2023 festival reflections, 168 Film Project Director John David stated, “I am excited for these filmmakers. I have always had the gift of encouragement. That’s what I do. To watch them grow in this program and continue to succeed on HIS (God’s) terms is amazing. I see lights go on and training wheels come off. And I keep saying fear not. This movement IS a movement, and these filmmakers are preparing for their shot at being the storytellers – which will come as soon as they are ready…”

Certain people walk in their calling, shining a bright light while inspiring others to shine. John David Ware is one of those rare gems who makes people feel special simply by being himself.

The Future of Christian Film

While on the red carpet, I enjoyed chatting with six students from Oral Roberts University. Each of them had a glimmer of excitement, hope, and youth in their eyes. As we discussed their experiences as Christian Student Filmmakers in a world where they could choose to create films about an array of “ungodly” topics, there is no doubt that these Gen Z’ers will make a positive impact on the film industry with God ordering their steps. Stay tuned…            

The 168 Film Project would like to thank its generous sponsors (Advent Media, Inc., Hollyland, and CT Cantina & Taqueria Trilith). The festival culminated with a lively after-party catered by the newly opened Trilith restaurant, CT Cantina & Taqueria. Click here to learn more about the 168 Film Project and future events:

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