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Famed film producer talks story with students

Producer Ken Wales spoke on the power of storytelling and shared stories of his own about times with Julie Andrews, Peter Sellers and Walt Disney last Thursday in Calvary Chapel.

Students gathered in Sutherland Auditorium later to enjoy free popcorn and a showing of his latest film, “Amazing Grace,” William Wilberforce’s story of efforts against the slave trade in England. Afterwards, students participated in a question and answer session, and some stayed late for one-on-one discussion.

“It was an amazing opportunity to ask questions and hear from the producer,” said senior Brittany McComb. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. He put his heart into it. I’m interested in hearing what he has to say about social justice.”

Wales said the film has generated a lot of information and talk about teenage trafficking and modern slavery, and it has impacted many lives for Christ.

“I think it’s good to realize that things like slavery can still happen,” said sophomore Christine Hamel. “And it was great to hear from someone so influential, but also someone who still maintained a humble attitude and who has a servant-like heart.”

Wales gave students a sneak preview of upcoming projects he’s working on, including a sequel to “Chariots of Fire.” “Unlikely Angel,” another film Wales plans to produce, follows the story of Ashley Smith, who was held hostage by a murderer. Smith read from Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” and gave her captor the courage to turn himself in to the authorities. Wales also said he dreams of making a film out of his book, “Sea of Glory,” the story of four chaplains who gave up their life jackets to others when their ship sunk.

“Our lives are so inundated by films today,” Wales said. “We must support the good and create that which is best.”

Wales expanded on what makes a good story, explaining that a good story can’t exist without a bit of danger and jeopardy (thus, we have stories like Bambi and the death of his mother). The word “entertainment” means “to inform with delight,” he said, and films need to focus more on informing.

“It’s about making the right choice of the story to tell in the first place,” Wales said at chapel. “Eighty-five percent of films are going to fail because someone chose the wrong story to tell. Think what you can do making right choices of stories to tell.”

Recipient of the first-ever Walt Disney scholarship, member of the Academy Awards, actor in several films, and producer of the original Pink Panther films and the hit television show, “Christy,” Wales has a long history in telling stories on film.

Wales even introduced Julie Andrews to her husband, and he was the best man at their wedding.

Wales endured a lot of hardships as a Christian working in Hollywood. It took him 19 years to put “Christy” on television, but he managed to persevere and be an example for Christ. In his earlier years, he gave up a major part in a film because of moral issues and, consequently, went on probation. He no longer regretted this decision, however, when he once finished speaking on Christian morals and saw the film he’d left playing at a theater across the street.

Being an example can be better than preaching, Wales said, pointing to Jesus’ parables as examples of stories that were messages in themselves. Wales said his career started because he did his jobs well and was always willing to serve.

Ultimately, Wales’ message found summation in a scene from the film, “East of Eden.” In the film, a character whispers, “Thou mayest choose.”

“It’s about choosing right over wrong, good over evil,” Wales said. “God gives us, through Christ, the capability to choose.”

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