James Hubbell: Between Heaven and Earth

Friday, November 15th, 2019

I’m happy to report that I was able to play a small part as an executive producer in the production of a new documentary: James Hubbell: Between Heaven and Earth.


First, a note about James. No, he’s not connected to the telescope!


He is an internationally acclaimed southern California artist known for producing spectacularly original art in many mediums.


Director Marianne Gerdes writes about him this way: Inspired by nature and filled with humanity, at age 87, his is a quiet, yet compelling voice of an artist who shows us that power has nothing to do with how old you are, or how big you are, or how strong you are, that creativity transcends everything.


The film has been shown so far in two festivals (including New York Architectural and Design Film Festival) and won for Director Marianne Gerdes the Mary Pickford Award at the Coronado Island Film Festival. It has also aired on San Diego’s KPBS, and there is talk of plans to air it across the PBS network.  I’ll keep you updated!


Their mountain art/workshop/home compound is now a non-profit and is open to the public every Father’s Day. It’s called Ilan-Lael, which is Hebrew for “A Tree from God”


On a side note: Fred and I are blessed to know James and his wife, Anne, personally. In some ways, James is the unstoppable Zen master of how to do art at any age, no matter what intervenes. Some of the footage shot by Michael Gerdes, the film’s cinemaphotographer, is heart-stopping footage taken after the Cedar Fire ripped through the Hubbell’s compound in 2003, destroying many of his hand-crafted buildings and almost half of his produced art. Anne and James on-the-spot reframing the experience into one of gratitude is one of those transcendent moments everyone needs to see.


I’m so happy I have, and I hope you get to, as well.

An Open Letter about God’s Photo Album

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

An Open Letter about God’s Photo Album and winning the Grand Prize for The Faith in Film International Screenwriting Competition.

I’ve been working on the screenplay for GOD’S PHOTO ALBUM since the year 2000. That’s when I acquired the rights to make Shelly Mecum’s luminous book, God’s Photo Album, into a screenplay.
I’ve written that screenplay from every possible angle. Over and over again. When you work with a real person and her experience, it’s a holy act of getting right the’ truth under the truth’, even if incidents are compressed, changed, or invented.

Shelly has steadfastly believed that God has had this, the entire way. The timing has never concerned her. Her serene ‘knowing’ has helped sustain me through times when I felt the enormous weight of this responsibility.

I’ve been lucky enough for the past four years to be part of an actual “miracles” community, (Your Year Of Miracles), headed by Debra Poneman and Marci Shimoff. Everyone in the group each writes out three ‘Miracle Intentions’ a year…and for all four years, one of my intentions has had to do with God’s Photo Album, that I create what God sees and wants His screenplay to be, and then, that He tenderly guides it into the right hands, hands of people, like me, (when it came to writing it, and Shelly, when it came to writing the original book), who were invited by God and simply HAD to say yes.
So…for all these years…I’ve been working.

My hope is that my telling you this will help you in some way on your own journey. I do know we’re each called to do a piece of–for lack of a better term–I’ll call ‘Light Worker’ work. And then…?

It’s what Debra and Marci address so eloquently: the ‘not knowing’ piece…and showing up…anyway. Not having all the steps lined out…but taking that one small step…anyway. The fierce pain lodged in our hearts when we know, KNOW, we’re meant to do something specific…have NO idea how it’s going to unfold…and choose to begin, believe, do the work…anyway. Do it awkwardly. Do it in silence. Do it in tears. In noisy rooms with sticky counters. On trains. On steps. And IN steps. Do it.

And in time, sometimes…(as in the case of God’s Photo Album, after what seems like a time period that’s long enough to earn it’s own historical era designation), something begins to shift. And then there’s a glimpse of light. A flicker of warmth. A voice.

Hold on, Dear Ones. Those of you I know in person, and those of you’ve I’ve only met here. Hold on. Do the work that you have been called to do.

Do it, as the iconic songwriter Damian Rice writes, “in sorrow and song…come wherever you are. Just come. Come. Come along…come let your self be wrong. Come wherever you are. Just come.” Wow. What a powerful message. Allow yourself to be wrong. To try and fail. Show up for yourself, Dear Ones. Show up not knowing. Show up afraid, bewildered, tired out.

We’re here. We love you. And the world very much needs the gifts you are here on this planet to bring.

Susan Arnout Smith


Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Wow. Just received the official word my screenplay, GOD’S PHOTO ALBUM, (based on the book, God’s Photo Album, by Shelly Mecum), has just won the Grand Prize in the Faith in Films International Screenwriting competition. As the winner, my script will be distributed to production companies and other industry professionals, opening the door for potential future production.