Winner of 26 International Awards and starring Academy Award® nominee, James Cromwell
We invite you to enjoy a complimentary viewing of PEPSTAR Founder John Viscount’s 20-minute short film, Admissions. This uplifting tale about the power of forgiveness represents an example of peace entertainment that has impacted hearts and minds all around the world. It also inspired the creation of PEPSTAR.
The film stars Academy Award® nominee, James Cromwell and has won 26 international awards, been translated into Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, Farsi, & Italian and broadcast to 80 million people worldwide.
Admissions also helped launch PeaceNow.com, which is gathering one billion signatures for a proposed UN Global Resolution that establishes peace departments in governments worldwide. The film continues to screen all over the world to a growing global audience.
Theme Song: “The Time Is Now”
Aslan Media Interview with John Viscount:
How did the Admissions project come about? What inspired you to write the film?
I originally wrote Admissions as a response to 9/11. After that tragedy, I felt an overwhelming compassion for the family of humanity because I knew we were entering into another destructive cycle of attack and counter attack and ultimately war. This made me want to communicate a more forgiving interpretation of life’s events so people could more easily find a pathway to forgiveness and peace, no matter what the world served up.
To accomplish this, I created a modern parable that not only included a heartbreaking terrorist attack, but also a teaching moment where those involved would have to face each other in the afterlife and reconcile. Through the use of classic teachings on forgiveness, I hoped to demonstrate that by simply changing our thinking, we could create peace in every single situation.
When I first wrote the script, I sent it to the Producer of the film, Gavin Behrman, and he thought it was very powerful. But we were busy with other projects at the time and didn’t do anything with it. Then 10 years later, I came across the script again and realized it was just as relevant as when I first wrote it. The teachings seemed timeless so at that point we decided to get the film made.
What is forgiveness to you? What is peace?
To me, if you want to live a joyful life, forgiveness must be automatic and unconditional. Forgiveness takes on these qualities from the realization that there is only one of two things that is ever really happening in this world. People are either being loving and expressing love, or they are crying out for love. So the perfect response, every time, in every circumstance, is to be loving.
When life is viewed from this perspective, forgiveness and compassion become the natural response to everything you witness. The joy that you then get to experience by removing all grievances from your heart makes you a healing asset to the world. In this same vein, peace is just the knowledge that on the deepest level, all is love, all is forgiven, and all is one.
What distinguishes Admissions from other films written about forgiveness and peace?
I think what makes Admissions a memorable experience is its high intensity. I wanted to create a setting – the Admissions Room for the afterlife – that was clean and simple, putting the spotlight on the characters and their words. The drama in the piece comes from the dialogue, so I didn’t want anything to compete with that. This is why a super clean shade of white was chosen for the color of the room so the actors would really stand out in stark relief.
I also wanted the room to be small because the close proximity in which the character’s intertwined fates are revealed, increases the emotional stakes. They are forced to confront head on, in a very tight space, the way their thinking has lead them to where they are. In this simple, stripped-down setting, there is nothing for them to hide behind.
Another unique aspect of Admissions is that most films would never have a scene in one room that lasted 18 minutes. But because of the setting, and the profound things that are being talked about – things that take the audience on a journey to truth on a whole other level – the film actually seems action packed. This is accomplished with no punches thrown, guns drawn or even a single change of scenery. Ultimately it’s just a healing conversation, which is what I hope the audience can partake in after seeing the film.
Why the decision to create this as a short film? What place do you think shorts have in the broader medium of film?
The subject matter in Admissions is pretty heavy, so I wanted to get in and get out without beating the audience over the head too much. I think as content creators, it is our duty to use the audience’s time wisely, presenting them with something concise and to the point. This is why I believe short film is a perfect vehicle for modern parables. You can put forth transformational teachings in a format that audiences are comfortable with, reaching those who otherwise may never pick up a spiritual book. Plus, you can do it in a short amount of time so there is a better chance of keeping the audience’s attention. In the future, I really hope to see more writers using shorts for this purpose. It’s a great medium for content that elevates while it entertains.
How long did it take you to perfect the actor’s lines?
I believe dialogue should be dramatic and have an action all its own. It is entertainment that we are trying to provide, so I think the actor’s lines should be rich, multi-layered and smart. If it sounds like stuff you hear every day, then it’s really not earning its keep on the screen. Boring conversations just aren’t that compelling – in life, or the movies.
When writing the dialogue for this film, I started with more than I needed. Then, I sculpted it down to the bare medium that was required to get the point across. Once the script was put into the extremely capable hands of our gifted Director, Harry Kakatsakis, and the remarkable actors in our film, this sculpting continued with the entire team. The actual time spent writing and then editing the script was probably about six months.
Admissions was a unique challenge because there were so many important teachings that I wanted to include, but I had to make them sound conversational and natural. I definitely had a message I wanted to send, but I couldn’t make it too obvious or people would be pulled out of the story. It is unique demands like these that make the creation of transformational content so difficult to execute and so deeply rewarding when you do.
What was the most challenging character to write, develop and cast?
The Clerk was the most challenging, by far. With that character you are attempting to create a spiritual master from scratch. I wanted the Clerk to say some very important, high concept things, but he couldn’t come across preachy. He also had to be likable and even have a sense of humor, while staying above the battleground in the room. Getting Academy Award nominee, James Cromwell for that role was a huge gift because he has the gravitas and authority to actually pull off the lines in the film. In the hands of the wrong actor, those same lines could have come off as trite.
It was also extremely helpful that James is so well versed spiritually. He always had brilliant suggestions, and his delivery took the film to a level it would not have achieved without him. In real life, he is a peace activist so he understood the importance of the film. But even with all that he has done over his long and distinguished career as an actor and activist, he remains incredibly accessible and down to earth.
Anna Khaja, Oren Dayan and Anthony Batarse, besides being great actors, are also very beautiful people with wonderful, loving hearts. Their considerable talent is obvious to see in the film and I think it also helped that they believed in the message of the film and saw the importance of getting it out to the world. Because of this, they were extremely generous with their time and talent, as was James Cromwell. I’d say the most interesting background note is that Oren Dayan has Israeli parents, so it was very rewarding to see him embrace the role of the Palestinian with such passion and empathy.
Can you talk a little about the balance you found in showing the responsibility both sides play in the conflict?
The balance I really wanted to show is that both sides have suffered tremendously in the Middle East conflict, and both sides need love and understanding. I also wanted to demonstrate that the attainment of lasting peace requires the establishment of shared interests.
When the characters first enter the room, they seem to have nothing in common. But through the telling of the story, they discover the other side’s suffering. It eventually takes the feminine energy of the Israeli wife to begin the healing process, but in the end, the sense of loss they share over their loved ones creates a bridge which they cross to reach common ground.
The common ground that all humans share is that we are love beings. This is demonstrated by the fact that unconditional love is what’s most healing and sustaining to us. When people are attacking and condemning others, they have simply strayed from their essence, and just need to be gently redirected back to what they truly are.
It is also important to realize that the oppressed are not the only ones who are suffering in this world. The oppressors are suffering as well because they have strayed far from love. This means if you want to heal the world, then everyone must be forgiven, without exception. If you want to freeze the world in a state of separation, then simply hold on to grievances, and the world’s continued suffering will be assured.
Contrary to popular opinion, the real evolution of life on earth is not from single cell organisms to the complex creatures roaming the world today. Our real evolution is the journey from separate interests to shared interests. Thankfully, forgiveness is the most direct route to that healing common ground and everlasting peace that is our birthright.
In writing the script, did you try to put forth the agenda of forgiveness that is stripped of political and religious influences or did this just happen organically?
Anything that creates separation makes forgiveness impossible to attain. Unfortunately, religion and politics can sometimes be some of the greatest creators of conflict known to humankind. Therefore, true forgiveness has to steer clear of these limiting factors so it can rise above them and truly bring people together. It requires a spiritual point of view in which one sees past the material world of bodies to the underlying spirit that unifies us all.
In Admissions, hell is represented by separation and heaven is represented by joining. By shedding all grievances, the Israelis and the Palestinian get to enter heaven and rejoin their natural state. Back on planet earth, we create heaven and hell with every thought we think. If we choose to judge and condemn others and leave them out of our circle of love, we have created hell for ourselves. If we choose to forgive, our circle of love expands and we get to live in a heavenly state of mind.
What lessons in this film do you personally implement?
Admissions takes place in the afterlife, but the ideas in it are meant to be applicable to the here and now. Essentially they are designed to create a psychological structure for attaining inner peace, so I try to implement all of them in my daily life. One of the reasons I wrote Admissions was to share some of the helpful teachings that I have been exposed to through various belief systems. Sometimes, when I read a passage that just sets everything right, the gratitude I feel inspires me to share the wisdom with others so they can feel the joy that I just experienced. Admissions is full of the wisdom nuggets that I have been lucky to discover. Whenever possible, I try to let them guide me through the vicissitudes of this life.
What impact do you want Admissions to have? What will you consider a success?
My biggest hope for Admissions is that it removes some suffering from the world. If the film can do that for even one single person, I would consider it a success.
October 6, 2018
Pomona, CA – Ahimsa Center at Cal Poly Pomona, Transformative Education: Lessons from Ghandi, King, Chavez and Mandela
September 30, 2018
Redondo Beach, CA – Peace in the South Bay International Peace Day Interfaith Celebration
September 30, 2018
Maid of the Loch, Scotland (Via Skype) – 2018-2019 Business Abundance Think-tank
September 26, 2018
Stanford, CA – Stanford University class with Dr. Fred Luskin
September 25, 2018
San Rafael, CA – Dominican University class with Dr. Gay Lynch
September 16, 2018
Santa Monica, CA – #11 Days of Global Unity Event
March 20, 2018
ROTARY E-Club of WORLD PEACE Special Online Screening
February 13-16, 2018
Stanford, CA – STANFORD UNIVERSITY – 4 screenings with Dr. Fred Luskin, Founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project
February 12, 2018
San Rafael, CA – DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA with Dr. Gay Lynch Special Screening
License agreement with LaScuola SPA in Italy to provide 4000 DVD’s of the film to schools
November 4, 2017
Santa Monica, CA – PEPSTAR LAUNCH Special screening at the home of Amy & Adam Holiber
November 7, 2017
Los Angeles, CA – PEPSTAR LAUNCH Special Screening at the home of Shana & Ahmet Zappa
November 19, 2016
Pomona, CA – CAL POLY POMONA UNIVERSITY, DARBI S SETH FOUNDATION CONFERENCE on VIOLENCE, “Giving and Forgiving” Special Screening
August 23, 2016
Atlanta, GA – JIMMY CARTER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM Special Screening
July 13, 2016
Washington, DC – WASHINGTON DC ROTARY CLUB Special Screening
July 13, 2016
Washington, DC. – SPECIAL SCREENING EVENT with James Cromwell
March 14, 2016
Rock Island, Illinois – AUGUSTANA COLLEGE 2 Special Screenings
Feb. 21 & 23, 2016
Sedona, Arizona – SEDONA FILM FESTIVAL Featured Film
Oct. 17, 2015
Washington, DC – PEACE ALLIANCE CONFERENCE Special Screening
Oct. 15, 2015
Salt Lake City, Utah – PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLDS RELIGIONS Special Screening
July 25, 2015
Potomac, MD – SHAHIN MAFI Residence Special Fundraiser
April 26, 2015
Washington D.C. – DUMBARTON UNITED METHODIST CHURCH Special Screening
March 21, 2015
St. Petersburg, FL – INSTITUTE OF NOETIC SCIENCES Special Screening
March 22, 2015
St. Petersburg, FL – AWAKENING INTO THE SUN Special Screening, Outreach and Educational Festival
March 1 & 4, 2015
Silver Spring, MD – BRAHMA KUMARIS MEDITIATION MUSEUM Special Screening
March 1, 2015
Potomac, MD – SHAHIN MAFI RESIDENCE Special Screening
February 12, 2015
Detroit, MI – “WHITE RABBIT” FUNDRAISING EVENT Special Screening
January 22, 2015
Erie, PA – GANNON UNIVERSITY Special Screening
December 6, 2014
New York, NY – NEW YORK UNIVERSITY Special Screening, Tisch School of the Arts/Insight Film Festival
October 30, 2014
Santa Barbara, CA – AWAKENED WORLD FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
October 16, 2014
Harrisonburg, VA – JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY Special Screening
September 18, 2014
Indianapolis, IN – UNIVERSITY OF INDIANAPOLIS Special Screening
June 21–29, 2014
Yerevan – Armenia FRESCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Best Message
June 11, 2014
Santa Monica, CA – EXPRESSIONS OF PEACE PEACENOW.COM FUNDRAISER Special Screening
April 17 – 21, 2014
Ginsberg – South Africa GINSBERG FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
April 20, 2014
Paris – France ETHNOGRA FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
March 10, 2014
Chicago, IL – HOSTELLING INT’L CHICAGO 2014 PEACE CONFERENCE Special Screening
December 4, 2013
Jakarta – Indonesia INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
FOR SPIRITUALITY/RELIGION/VISIONARY Official Selection
December 3 – 8, 2013
Sao Paulo – Brazil MOSTRA DE CINEMA E RELIGIAO Official Selection
December 2 – 6, 2013
Boulder, CO – BOLDER LIFE FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection Student Outreach Program
November 20, 2013
Lincoln – UKRITZ INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
November 15, 2014
Pune, India – GYAN SETU KATTA Special Screening with Speaker Murtaza Bootwala
November 6, 2013
Chicago, Illinois – MORAINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE Special Screening
October 30, 2013
London – UK WORLD ISLAMIC ECONOMIC FORUM Special Screening
October 12, 2014
Croft Farm Arts Center, Cherry Hill, NJ – BEST OF GARDEN STATE FILM FESTIVAL Special Screening
October 3 – 6, 2013
Colorado Springs, CA – INDIE SPIRIT FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
April 11–13, 2013
Jacksonville, FL – WORLD ARTS FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
April 6–7, 2013
Lewiston, ME – LEWISTON AUBURN FILM FESTIVAL Nominee – Best Short Film
March 15–17, 2013
Manchester – UK INSIGHT FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Coexist Award
February 3, 2013
Los Angeles, CA – GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL ENTERTAINMENT STORY CONFERENCE Special Screening
November 28, 29, 2012
New Orleans, LA – SOCIAL CHANGE FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
November 9, 2012
November 10, 2012
November 11, 2012
Napa, CA – NAPA VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
November 4, 2012
Los Angeles, CA – ARTIVIST FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Artivist Spirit Award, Best Short Film
October 23, 25, 2012
Uppsala – Sweden UPPSALA INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Best Children’s Film
October 23, 2012
Palma de Mallorca – Spain EVOLUTION INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Honorable Mention
October 22, 2012
Los Angeles, CA – G.A.T.E. “THEATRE WITHIN FILM SERIES” Agape International Spiritual Center
October 13, 2012
Carmel, CA – CARMEL ART & FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Best Short Film
October 11, 2012
Portsmouth, NH – NEW HAMPSHIRE FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
October 6, 2012
Teggiano, Salerno – Italy
October 9, 2012
Bassano, Viterbo – Italy
October 10, 2012
Meran, Bolzano – Italy
October 18, 2012
Trento, Trentino – Italy RELIGION TODAY FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
October 6, 2012
Chicago, IL – CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL CHANGE FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
October 1, 3, 2012
London, UK – RAIN DANCE FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
September 29, 30, 2012
Crested Butte, CO – CRESTED BUTTE FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
September 21–23, 2012
North Hollywood, CA – LOS ANGELES LIMITED ENGAGEMENT Laemmle’s Noho 7
September 21, 2012
Toronto, ON – Canada COMMFFEST GLOBAL COMMUNITY FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Making a Difference Award, Short Film
September 19, 20, 23, 2012
Boulder, CO – BOLDER LIFE FESTIVAL Winner – Audience Award, Best Short Narrative Honorable Mention – Best Short Film
September 15, 2012
Los Angeles, CA – THE NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL FILM & VIDEO FESTIVAL – LA EDITION Winner – Best Short Film
September 13, 2012
Los Angeles, CA – LA SHORTS FEST Official Selection
August 30, 2012
Jakarta, Indonesia – INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FOR PEACE, INSPIRATION AND EQUALITY Winner – Best of Festival Special Jury Award, Lead Actor – James Cromwell Special Jury Award, Screenplay – John Viscount
August 5, 2012
Los Angeles, CA – ZEITGEIST MEDIA FESTIVAL Official Selection
August 1, 2012
Woods Hole, MA – WOODS HOLE FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Jury Award, Best Narrative Short Winner – Audience Award, Best Dramatic Short
June 2, 2012
Hoboken, NJ – HOBOKEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Best Short Film
May 16–26, 2012
Cannes, France – FESTIVAL DE CANNES SHORT FILM CORNER Official Selection
May 5, 2012
Loveland, CO – LIFETREE FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Lifetree Film Award
May 4, 2012
Los Angeles, CA – AWARENESS FESTIVAL Winner – Buzz Award, Short Narrative
April 26, 2012
Beverly Hills, CA – BEVERLY HILLS FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
April 14, 2012
Villanova, PA – HEARTS AND MINDS FILM FESTIVAL Official Selection
April 14, 2012
Edinboro, PA – SPIRIT QUEST FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Best Short Film
March 24, 27, 28, 2012
Cleveland, OH – CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Honorable Mention – Audience Choice, Best Short Film Award
March 24, 2012
Asbury Park, NJ – GARDEN STATE FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Best Short Narrative
February 25, 2012
Chicago, IL – PEACE ON EARTH FILM FESTIVAL Winner – Best Short Narrative
December 7, 2011
Victoria, BC – Canada CANADIAN DEPT OF PEACE INITIATIVE, VICTORIA CHAPTER Special Screening
October 14, 2011
Venice, CA – OTHER VENICE FILM FESTIVAL Abbot Award – “Most Excellent Short”
October 6, 2011
Cape Town, South Africa – 2011 WORLD SUMMIT for THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR MINISTRIES & INFRASTRUCTURES FOR PEACE Special Advance Screening