‘Engaging the Culture’ Weekend Report

Posted June 15, 2009 5:40 pm by Tirian

NarniaWebber Odette attended the ‘Engaging the Culture’ weekend this April at Asbury College and had the opportunity to meet Micheal Flaherty. Here’s her report for NarniaWeb.

I was able to attend the “Engaging Culture Weekend” at Asbury College on behalf of NarniaWeb!

Me with the Asbury sign—in my "Highbridge Film Festival" shirt!

Me with the Asbury sign—in my "Highbridge Film Festival" shirt!

First of all, I want to say to the skeptics of the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, of which I was one before this weekend, there’s nothing to worry about! You’ll have to take my word that the important moments of the The Voyage of the Dawn Treader book are staying accurate, and that it will be a great movie!

Asbury College Admissions allowed me to stay with a student, gave me meal tickets, and arranged for me to attend all the events for free! So, thank you to Asbury College Admissions!

On the first evening of the “Engaging Culture Weekend” the music department showcased their talents with a performance of “Sounds of Stage and Screen.” It was a musical revue of movie soundtracks and Broadway musicals. The hand bell choir did an awesome rendition of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, so I thought they could have done a Chronicles of Narnia theme, but they didn’t!

The next morning, I missed the first workshop of the weekend, “Engaging Culture with Film,” to take a tour of the campus. I’m glad I took the tour, because otherwise I might have missed the C. S. Lewis corner of the college library! I checked it out thoroughly later.

After the tour was chapel, where the speaker was Micheal Flaherty, president of Walden Media, the producers of the Chronicles of Narnia movies. I caught a glimpse of Mr. Flaherty before chapel, and got a chance to speak with his host, Greg Bandy, to confirm being able to interview Mr. Flaherty.

Mr. Flaherty in chapel...my camera sometimes takes blurry pictures...sorry!

Mr. Flaherty in chapel...my camera sometimes takes blurry pictures...sorry!

In chapel, Mr. Flaherty talked about Walden Media’s mission of expanding children’s imaginations and making good films for kids. He said the vision for the company came from Lewis’ statement in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that Eustace Scrubb was unimaginative because he read all the wrong books. Walden Media strives to encourage children to read and imagine. Mr. Flaherty also mentioned in passing that Walden Media is hoping to start filming the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader this summer. (A fact that most NarniaWebbers and Narnia fans knew already.) The entire chapel message can be heard on the Asbury College chapel website at http://www.asbury.edu/chapel/podcasts (look for the 4.24.09 message).

I was able to meet with Mr. Flaherty after chapel. I had hoped to do an official, taped interview, but he asked to be off-the-record. All I can say is that from what he told me, we NarniaWebbers should be very excited about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader!!!

Mr. Flaherty and I!!

Mr. Flaherty and I!!

Because of the interview, I missed the beginning of the second workshop, “Subversive Storytelling,” so I went to lunch and then checked out the C. S. Lewis section of the library. It has all of Lewis’ writings, several commentaries, and many videos including the old BBC versions and the new The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but NOT the new Prince Caspian. There’s also some concept art from Prince Caspian and a wardrobe–complete with fake firs inside and a fan art of Mr. Tumnus and the lamppost. I took a picture of me going into the wardrobe.

Me entering the Wardrobe!

Me entering the Wardrobe!

What the C.S. Lewis section looks like...

What the C.S. Lewis section looks like...

The concept art of Prince Caspian.

The concept art of Prince Caspian.

I attended the rest of the workshops—”Theatre in the Trenches,” “The Art and Business of Producing Creative Media that Matters,” and “Auditioning for Film.” They were all pretty interesting. All were filmed in order to be posted online, but I haven’t found them on Asbury College’s website yet.

The last workshop of the day was a presentation by Dr. Devin Brown, author of the Inside Narnia and Inside Prince Caspian books, called “The Spiritual and Character Lessons from the Narnia Films.” The title basically sums up the content of the workshop! At the end, Dr. Brown and Mr. Flaherty answered questions about the Narnia books and films. I did want to highlight a few things that Mr. Flaherty said about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. First, Dr. Brown asked Mr. Flaherty to answer “yes” or “no” to a series of questions about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Dr. Brown: “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is being made?”

Mr. Flaherty: “Yes. Some things need to work out, but it is on a very good path to being in production this summer.”

Dr. Brown: “It’s going to be a great movie?”

Mr. Flaherty: “Yes.”

Dr. Brown: “It’ll be filled with great adventure like the ones we’ve already looked at?”

Mr. Flaherty: “Yes. It’ll be a great adventure—it’ll feel closer in tone and spirit to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. It has all the themes that people enjoy about the book. Eustace is one of the best realized characters we’ve had in any film—the writers and Michael Apted have nailed Eustace the same way that Andrew [Adamson] really understood Lucy. It’s incredibly bittersweet at the end when Lucy and Edmund realize that they’re not coming back to Narnia as well. Definitely very excited about that one.”

Later, he mentioned that his favorite character is Reepicheep, which bodes well for our fearless warrior. Also, he said that one of his favorite scenes from the Chronicles of Narnia is the un-dragoning of Eustace and how it emphasizes the fact that grace cannot be earned and that forgiveness is a gift. Hopefully, this means that this scene has stayed accurate!

At the Narnia workshop, I randomly met a NarniaWeb fan (she’s not a member YET) named Sarah. We ended up spending the rest of the weekend together! She’s a great gal and I really enjoyed her company! On Saturday, we went to the theatre performance, 12 Angry Jurors (an AMAZING stage adaptation of the 1957 movie 12 Angry Men), and the “Highbridge Film Festival” (the culmination of the “Engaging Culture Weekend,” a competition of student-made 8-minute films). Mr. Flaherty was a judge for the “Highbridge Film Festival,” but all we saw of him was when the judges were introduced. The “Highbridge Film Festival” was the last event of the weekend, so I returned home the next day.

Me in front of the "Highbridge Film Festival" signs in my "Highbridge Film Festival" shirt!!

Me in front of the "Highbridge Film Festival" signs in my "Highbridge Film Festival" shirt!!

**I do need to make sure I include some thank-yous and credit all the people who helped me! I want to thank everyone at Asbury College for their kindness and help! Thanks to: Abby, the admissions worker who gave me a place to stay, food, and admission to all the weekend’s festivities; Kate, my host, who provided a bed, friends, and tons of fun!; Abigail, the best tour guide at Asbury EVER!; all of Kate’s friends who accepted me and let me join in their merrymaking; Dr. Devin Brown, for being so welcoming and for being a true scholar of Lewis. I especially want to thank Professor Greg Bandy for setting up this weekend and for allowing time for me to be able to meet Mr. Flaherty. Thank you very much to Mr. Flaherty for allowing me to talk with you as well as being so kind to me!!**

Finally, a GIANT thank you to NarniaWeb, especially Tirian and Rilian, for allowing me to report on the weekend and for permitting me to represent NarniaWeb to Asbury and everyone there!

Thanks Odette for your great report!