Nearly five years ago, author and entrepreneur Gay Hendricks had an idea to create a DVD club that would provide films about love, compassion and inspiration.
His idea soon grew into Spiritual Cinema Circle, a subscription-based DVD club which finds movies at film festivals around the world and delivers them to members each month on a DVD that they get to keep.
So, what exactly is spiritual cinema?
Box office hits such as FIELD OF DREAMS, GHOST, WHALE RIDER and WHAT THE #$*! DO WE KNOW are all well-known examples. According to Hendricks, “Spiritual Cinema is the kind of entertainment we really need these days: movies that make you feel at better about being human.”
One perfect little gem of spiritual cinema is the short film VALIDATION, which is available free at WatchValidation.com. As a way of saying thank you this holiday season, Spiritual Cinema Circle (SCC) is providing a free on-line viewing of this heartwarming film (16 minutes) which exemplifies the uplifting movies SCC offers its subscribers.
This enchanting film tells the story of a parking attendant who gives his customers REAL validation by dispensing both free parking and free compliments. It’s a great reminder of how we can all create a better world, instantly, by sharing a smile and a few kind words. Please visit Spiritual Cinema Circle and watch this film, share it with your friends too. It will bring a smile to your face and maybe even some joyous tears!
I recently caught up with writer/director of VALIDATION Kurt Kuenne to find out more about his film. Kuenne is an award-winning filmmaker and composer of both fiction and documentary films. Upon the release of his first feature in 1999, he was named one of the Top 25 New Faces of Indie Film by Filmmaker Magazine.
His work as a writer/director/composer includes the teen drama “Scrapbook” (1999) starring Eric Balfour, the PBS documentary “Drive-In Movie Memories” (2001) with Leonard Maltin, and a series of popular short film musical comedies – “Rent-A-Person” (2004), “Slow” (2007) and “The Phone Book” (2008) – the last two of which are currently playing festivals around the world. His award-winning documentary “Dear Zachary: a letter to a son about his father” premiered at the 2008 Slamdance Film Festival and opens theatrically nationwide this year.
Arielle: Where did the story for VALIDATION come from?
Kurt: One day, I was at the mall and forgot to get my parking validated. As I was walking back to the validation booth, it occurred to me how nice it would be if, when I asked for validation, they gave me “real” validation. And then I realized, “That’s my good friend, the brilliant actor, TJ Thyne (“Bones”). That’s what he does!” I knew immediately that TJ would play a parking attendant who dispensed both free parking and free compliments. The story grew from there.
Arielle: How did making this film change you?
Kurt: We filled out the cast with dozens of actors from TJ’s theatre troupe, Theatre Junkies. We had a wonderful time making the film and I now have a wealth of new friends in my life. Showing the film at festivals has been very rewarding. Kiwanis has begun using the film in its leadership training programs, certain ministers use it with their congregations, and some organizations tell me that they show it to their employees to boost morale. I never would have anticipated that reaction, and it’s wonderful to know that people are finding something in the film that perhaps I wasn’t aware was there.
Arielle: What are your favorite films with transformational themes?
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (whose title is on the movie theatre marquee in VALIDATION by no accident), E.T., BACK TO THE FUTURE, FORREST GUMP, and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.
Arielle: What’s next for you?
Kurt: My documentary, DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER just opened theatrically in New York and began rolling out nationally. (Cities and theatre info can be found at www.dearzachary.com) The next film I’m shooting is called MASON MULE. It’s a screenplay for which I won a Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences a few years back. I’ve been trying to get it going for many years and it looks like I’ll finally be directing it late spring of next year, fingers crossed.
About Spiritual Cinema Circle
Spiritual Cinema Circle, a Gaiam company (www.gaiam.com), is a leader in subscription based spiritual home entertainment. Spiritual Cinema Circle is a film community co-hosted by Stephen Simon and Mariel Hemingway that offers uplifting and spiritually-themed short and full-length films and insightful discussions on their meanings and lessons. For more information, please visit spiritualcinemacircle.com
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It will look like this: Validation – Inspiring Short Film From Spiritual Cinema Circle
Directed by Kurt Kuenne, United States, 2006, 16 minutes
Validation is a short film that follows Hugh Newman, a parking assistant in charge of validating parking tickets, and his quest to get Victoria, a DMV photographer, to smile.The films starts out with a depressed driver walking to the validation stand with his ticket, as he arrived Hugh Newman begins to complement the driver and ends up making him smile.Soon everyone from George Bush to Saddam Hussein is smiling because of Hugh Newman’s ability to make people smile.However, when Hugh goes to the DMV to get his drivers license renewed, he runs into Victoria who simply won’t smile.This sets Hugh off on a quest to get Victoria to smile and this short follows the adventure that eventually changes Hugh and Victoria.
I stumbled across this film while searching for short films and fell in love with it very quickly due to its ability to blend the unbelievable with the believable.For instance this ability shows up in the beginning of the film as Hugh begins to talk to his first client about how amazing he is.I thought at first that Hugh was making fun of the man because of the way he expressed his complements however he was being completely serious.Then there are other details that stand out as unbelievable but yet the director is able to make them believable.One example of this is where the validation stand is located, it appears to be in a living room with a fireplace on the right.If you also looked at the DMV photo room, there are chandeliers and it appears to be filmed in a large ballroom.However, throughout the entire short, you never second-guess the fact that some of these things don’t add up or that some of them are simply ridiculous.While some people will claim that the film works hard to suspend belief from the beginning through crazy musical routines and just the insanity of it, all films must contain some believability.Without this believability, people won’t sincerely look at the video and will loose interest in it quickly.By perfecting this balance between the believable and unbelievable, Kurt Kuenne creates a unique and compelling story even if some elements don’t come close to lining up.
This ability to mix the believable and unbelievable is something that if mastered and correctly applied to a film adds a comedic and fun experience that cannot easily be obtained through other means.However, as a post production fanatic, I find it odd that in production or post production the chandeliers in the DMV photo room were not removed or covered up.While it may not bother most people, as a man who loves post production, keeping these elements in the film seems sloppy.However, this isn’t a issue to really get upset about, the film is a masterpiece that I truly enjoyed.