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Not coming up short

areer: Gary Emrick, on verge of retiring, makes 11-minute ‘Enigmata,’ which will be shown at Christi

Posted: March 19, 2010 10:40 p.m.
Updated: March 20, 2010 4:55 a.m.

"Enigmata" producer and writer Gary Emrick sits with a Bible next to him on a table as he describes the process of making the 11-minute short in a week. The short will be shown at a Christian film competition. Peter Eaton was the director for the film, with the cast and crew numbering 63.

 
For the past 35 years, Gary Emrick has worked the camera for broadcast television shows and specials such as "Big Brother," the Rose Parade, the People's Choice Awards and "Jeopardy."

"I feel like I've shot almost every television show ever seen, at least once," he said.

Content with a collection of five Emmy Awards and two Golden Mic Nominations, the 59-year-old Newhall resident was just about ready to retire.

That was until he received a new calling.

Last year Emrick attended the 168 Film Festival showcasing dozens of Christian films from around the world. The 168 Hour Film Project provides a training ground for filmmakers, creating opportunities for pros and newcomers alike, according to the organization's Web site.

At the end of the festival, awards are given to producers for all artistic and technical merit.

"Here are 80 Christian 11-minute films, and I cried through the whole thing," he said. "God said, ‘You need to do this.'"

So he did, and as the name of the film festival hints, he only had 168 hours - a week's time - to film, produce, edit and turn in the film.

"I'd never shot film in my whole life," Emrick said. "This was a whole new step of faith."

Three parables in one
Project producers must base their films off a Bible verse. They gather at a church and randomly choose a rock engraved with biblical scripture.

On Emrick's rock was written Luke 8:10: (Jesus) said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others, I speak in parables so that," ‘though seeing they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'
Emrick said he decided to portray three parables within the film - a parable itself.

The storyline follows a homeless man, Christopher, who mysteriously affects the lives of everyone he meets in a swanky outdoor nightclub.

Each time the homeless man speaks, his words reveal events in three character's lives where the devil, Damion, plays a role. Christopher comes across the nightclub owner whose wife is dying in the hospital, a woman about to sign her divorce papers and a rich young businessman.

After their stories unfold, Christopher attempts to be a voice of reason with words such as, "In finding you will lose, but in losing, you will find."

"He triggers thoughts and memories in them where they realize they're dealing with the devil in their lives," Emrick said. "It deals with a lot of concepts without words."

The film is itself is a parable, hence the name "Enigmata," Emrick said.

More than 50 percent of the film was shot at the Saugus home of David and Lilia Crane, production manager. The film crew transformed the Cranes' backyard into a nightclub.

The amazing race
Emrick, the writer and producer, and his 63-member cast and crew worked around the clock to complete the film.

With only five minutes until deadline, Emrick and his team finished loading their material and drove in a panic from the editing house to the church where the 11-minute film was due.

"It's an amazing race against time to complete an 11-minute film in only 168 hours," Emrick said. "We had an outstanding team of Hollywood professionals who volunteered their time for this project, and we completed our film with only 10 seconds to spare."

Emrick was proud of the product he'd turned in. He estimated that the donations and volunteer talent contributed to a $100,000-worth project.

"It looks like the quality you'd see in a full-blown motion picture," he said.

But one technical error kept his film from qualifying for the competition. Project 168 officials informed Emrick that parts of his film were missing sound.

"Truly, I was disappointed," he said. "But at the same time, I thought, this was God's project. He had a plan for it."

Project 168 gave Emrick the opportunity to fix the technical issues. Although it will not be in the running for any artistic awards, his film will be shown on the big screen along with all the others at this year's festival on March 27.

‘It's a ministry'
Emrick believes his film is a ministry. The film's storyline and production challenges ministered to him and crew members and he hopes the short movie will impact viewers at the festival and any future showings.

He sees Project 168 as a way to impact Hollywood, he said.

"It's a ministry tool to introduce Hollywood to films that are good, entertaining, family-based," he said. "A film doesn't have to be gory, profane, violent or sexual to be marketable and profitable."

Emrick plans to return to Project 168 next year and wants to pitch his film as a television series.

"Four weeks ago I had never done a film in my life," he said. "Now my film is going to be on the big screen."

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