PULASKI, VA — Rusty Whitener, who pastors Pulaski Presbyterian Church (PCA), has won the 2008 Gideon Screenwriting Contest. His First Place Award was announced at the Gideon Media Arts Awards Banquet on April 17, the culmination of a week long Conference at Ridgecrest, North Carolina. “I was told in the weeks leading up to the conference that I was one of four finalists. That there was a tie for Third Place. I honestly thought I’d get third, especially when I saw some of the competition,” Whitener said.
The Gideon Conference brings together movie directors, producers, and actors, many of whom are committed to seeing Christian values and truths invade Hollywood.
“It’s about announcing the Kingdom of God, and using movies to do that. Movies can powerfully display God’s love, God’s truth,” Whitener noted. Whitener’s screenplay, titled “Touched,” was also a semi-finalist for the prestigious Kairos Prize in Los Angeles earlier this year. “I’ve really been surprised that people seem to like it. I’ve never written a screenplay before, but I felt God leading me to do it. And it was hard to learn how to write in what they call ‘U.S. Motion Picture Standard’ format. But it’s extremely gratifying to be recognized like this,” he said.
Whitener describes “Touched” as a sentimental, nostalgic, and funny story set in a small town in Alabama in 1971. “The story tracks a Little League baseball season, and how these 12-year-olds want to win the championship. But it includes some tough issues about human suffering, the loss of innocence, and how these things affect people’s view of God. And the possibility of redemption.”
The Gideon Conference attendees included Ken Wales, the producer of “Amazing Grace” and Executive Producer of the TV show “Christy;” Ted Baehr, the Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission and founder and publisher of Movieguide magazine; Michael Catt, Executive Producer of “Facing the Giants;” Director Dallas Jenkins (whose dad wrote the Left Behind series); and Phil Vischer, the Creator of VeggieTales.
Whitener appreciated meeting these people, but the really interesting attendees were the no-name producers, screenwriters and actors. He says, “Some of these people are working very hard to change things in Hollywood, to make more wholesome movies, and even movies that illustrate God’s love, and salvation in Christ. They are like missionaries, fighting for the Gospel on some very hard ground. They are my heroes right now.”
Whitener says there are signs that things are changing for the better in the movie industry, but it’s an uphill battle. “My wife Rebecca and I were intrigued that, right up the road from Ridgecrest, at Billy Graham’s place ‘The Cove,’ they were gathered for the National Heart Cry for Revival Conference. So Rebecca was there all week, focusing on and praying for, revival in America. Wouldn’t it be great to see revival start in Hollywood, of all places.”
So is “Touched” going to be on the big screen? “That’s up to God,” says Whitener. “Of course, that’s the ultimate goal when you write a screenplay. I’ve been blessed to get this much interest in it. It’s like everything else. If God plans on it happening, you can’t stop it. If God does not plan on it happening, it won’t happen. That gives me great peace.”
This story was taken from The Southwest Times, Pulaski, VA and is used with permission.