Politics aside, Glenn Beck has vision for values-based filmmaking

Who could have guessed that Glenn Beck’s chance encounter with my first national novel, “Christmas Jars,” would later lead to my first film of another book entirely?

This week, Glenn Beck, his team and I signed a deal to adapt “The Wednesday Letters,” my 2007 New York Times best-seller, into a feature film. It’s the end of one long journey and the beginning of another.

Glenn first discovered and began discussing “Christmas Jars” on his radio and television programs in 2005. He was instrumental in taking it from a regional phenomenon to a national hit, and film rights were sold and development began in 2006. Since then, producers have worked nearly every single day to bring the film to the big screen. But sadly, as often happens in the movie business, the best of intentions have met one hurdle after another and the project remains in limbo.

Ironically, it was a February meeting with Glenn to discuss how to jump-start “Christmas Jars” that led to this week’s announcement.

In September 2007, Glenn invited me to an on-air discussion of “The Wednesday Letters.” In the novel, three grown children discover boxes of letters written from their father to their mother over the course of a 39-year marriage until their death in 1987. The letters reveal unimaginable secrets about their parents’ early marriage and force the children to reunite in a way few could imagine possible.

Glenn’s enthusiasm for the story was infectious and the book surpassed even our wildest expectations. Studios and producers began calling about a film adaptation and a major deal was nearly inked with one of the world’s most successful producers at Sony.

Over the course of four years, the meetings and phone calls were different, but the conclusions essentially the same. One agent, one producer, one studio after another found the project too Christian, too hard to translate from paper to screen and too risky.

Not Glenn Beck.

Glenn’s highly publicized transition from Fox News to his own online network, GBTV, has inspired the creative minds at his company to expand even further into other markets. Glenn has long been more than a traditional talk-radio host. He’s offered stage shows, published multiple books a year and made radio content available as streaming video online. But now he’s launching a Groupon-style money-saving website called Markdown.com, an imprint to publish titles by other authors, a clothing line and, of course, a film unit.

“The Wednesday Letters” is slated to be his first.

Working with established filmmakers in Los Angeles, Glenn and his team will develop a screenplay and hire a cast. They’ll employ accountants, makeup artists, gaffers, grips, caterers, drivers and public relations gurus.

Some will be fans of the Beck brand, others won’t. Some will be so conservative they make Ron Paul look like a Democrat. Others will be so liberal they’ll live to the left on Nancy Pelosi Avenue. The movie will be made by Christians, Jews and many who disagree with both.

So what’s the common denominator? A love of good, old-fashioned storytelling.

You don’t have to agree with Glenn on national or global affairs to agree that Hollywood has become expert at producing forgettable movies. For every uplifting, inspirational film, there are a hundred that glorify sex, violence, infidelity, profanity, and disrespect of peers and parents. And that’s just the PG or PG-13 films.

Truthfully, I have much fonder memories of the popcorn and Mike and Ike’s than of most of the movies I’ve seen this year.

Glenn’s vision for filmmaking is a return to the values of yesteryear. Can you tell a compelling and dramatic story without compromising standards? Can you inspire an audience to live differently, to view the world in a new way or to love more fully without being slapped with an R rating?

With “The Wednesday Letters,” we’re about the find out.

We can’t promise when the film will be released. And while we don’t know how much the movie will gross, where it will rank or how many theaters will show it, we can guarantee that we will address mature themes honorably. And while we don’t know who will play the leading roles, we know they’ll be proud of the finished product.

Let the journeys begin.

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