Writer's road to Hollywood has been journey of faith
Vicki Peterson has some good news to share with Catholics who have aspirations of making it in the entertainment industry – “God is alive and well in Hollywood.”
Despite the common perception that Hollywood has an aversion to meaningful, faith-based films, Peterson, an experienced Catholic writer for both stage and screen, has found that there are plenty of opportunities for those who wish to bring the mission of the Church to mainstream movies. The trick, however, is knowing the right way to present the message.
Peterson, who serves as director of the writing for film and television programs of Act One, Inc., will bring her years of experience and wealth of knowledge to the RE:IMAGE Film Festival April 16. She will be available to meet with individuals aspiring to work in various areas of the film industry to discuss the realities of the business, the mistakes to avoid and the benefits of Act One, a non-profit training program that helps Christians get a solid start as writers or executives in Hollywood.
Call of Conversion
A native of San Jose, Calif., Peterson developed an interest in writing and entertainment at an early age, which eventually drew her into the local theater business.
“I wanted to create entertainment that was socially conscious and socially aware, entertainment that people would get something out of and that they would feel good about,” Peterson said. “That dream has been instilled in me really my whole life.”
Her desire to make such art wasn’t rooted in religious belief, however. Peterson was not raised in the Christian faith and it was not until 10 years ago that, through the encouragement and guidance of others in her life, she felt called to God and converted to Christianity.
In 2003, Peterson ventured to Hollywood but was still skeptical about the role of Christians in the industry. Despite her doubts about the quality of Christian entertainment, she joined the Act One writing program and was pleasantly surprised that it was entirely the opposite of what she had feared.
“The people here are just so focused and centered on their faith and on their art, and wanting to do things that are great. That was something that really spoke to me,” Peterson explained.
Through the influence of Barbara Nicolosi, founder of Act One, and other Catholics involved with the program, Peterson began to develop a curiosity about the Catholic faith. She and her husband began studying Catholicism and found themselves truly called to the Church. Upon completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program run by Nicolosi, Peterson, her husband and their two children were all brought into the Catholic faith in 2008.
Looking back, she feels that without her faith conversion she never could have made it in Hollywood.
“Faith is really the glue here,” Peterson said. “Honestly, I don’t think I could be here without it. I know for sure that if I were a young 20-something again and didn’t have my faith that I probably would have been chewed and swallowed up just like so many other people are here.”
Conveying the Message
Peterson credits her training in Act One as being the bridge between the idealistic view of wanting to make a difference through storytelling and actually achieving that end as a successful screenwriter. Now, as an alumnus of the program and a teacher herself, she attempts to pass on that same knowledge to the next generation.
“I see a lot of the new writers who come in through the doors and everybody wants to change the world, which is wonderful, but very few people know how to actually do that,” Peterson said. “And I feel like going through Act One gave me the tools to be able to really look at what that means in a critical way.”
The most common mistake that Peterson has observed is when well-intentioned Christians set out to make a film that has a specific agenda, such as converting people to the faith or conveying a pro-life message.
“The best way to communicate an agenda is not to have an agenda at all,” she explained. “Anything that is written with an agenda in mind can be off-putting to its audience because it is actually turning away the very people that it seeks to include.”
Instead, Peterson said that she attempts to teach young writers how to tell a story that will attract the interest of a wide audience and, through its inherent artistic beauty and vision, will lead them to the filmmaker’s intended message through an indirect path.
“Entertainment should first and foremost entertain,” she said. “And in that is the opportunity to speak into lives in a way that is going to inspire the good, inspire the true and inspire the beautiful.”[[In-content Ad]]
To schedule a free, 15-minute consultation with Peterson during the RE:IMAGE Film Festival April 16 in Manasquan, call Rose Kimball at 609-780-7092.