Hollywood Loses Popular Christian Mentor

Jack Gilbert
Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert, a mentor to a generation of Hollywood writers, died March 26. The 62-year-old passed away in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia.

Gilbert ran the script-writing training program for Warner Brothers for many years, where he taught television writing. He was more recently a fixture at Act One, a Hollywood mentoring program that teaches screenwriters who desire to make on impact on the entertainment industry from Christian points of view.

Some of those Gilbert mentored include Dean Batali (That ’70s Show), Clare Sera (Curious George, The Princess Diaries), Barbara Hall (Law & Order, Judging Amy, Joan of Arcadia), Carl Rogers (The Blind Side, The Book of Eli), Janet Scott Batchlor (Batman Forever), Melissa Glenn (the new Hawaii Five-O and Leverage) and Ben Lobato, (The Unit, Justified).

The Christian writer was also a visiting instructor at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles and Columbia College in Chicago.

“Jack was an amazing example of grace, humility and servant leadership and we must endeavor to carry on his legacy that had such a profound impact on so many,” Act One Chairman Chuck Slocum, and executive director Terence Berry wrote on the Act One website. “We can take comfort in knowing that he fought the good fight and ... heard his Lord say to him, Well done good and faithful servant.”

Movie reviewer Rebecca Cusey remembered: “Jack was a Christian working in Hollywood at a time when Evangelicalism looked down its long nose at anything with even a whiff of Hollywood. He was one of the lucky few talented and dedicated enough to actually make a living in Hollywood. He loved stories and made them his life’s work. He loved God and wasn’t afraid that made him uncool in a town where cool equals money.

“He didn’t hide his faith from the mainstream, just as he didn’t hide the mainstream from his faith, Cusey continued. “ Jack stood in a lonely gap. On one hand, he represented faith to the industry. On the other, he tirelessly explained to young, dewy-eyed believers that, no, there was no one magic movie that would change everything and save the world. That, yes, one had to be willing to slave in the bowels of silly or unsavory TV shows to earn enough respect to have a voice.”

The love Gilbert’s students had for him is evident in recent Facebook postings following his death.

One student wrote: “There are men and women who do great things for vast numbers of people who they will never meet. Then there are the Jack Gilberts of the world—those who do incredible & compassionate things for people on a one to one, face to face level. I wonder how many people consider Jack’s passing last night as one of the worst moments of their lives? I’ll bet it’s in the hundreds.”

“I am so sad that we have lost his guidance and enthusiasm,” another wrote, “but grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know him. He was a man of immense faith, and I’m happy that his battle here is over. He is missed already.”

A memorial service will be held for Gilbert at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 12, with reception following. It will be held in Los Angeles at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, 16221 Mulholland Drive. In accordance with his family’s wishes, a scholarship fund for educating Christian screenwriting students has been set up in Gilbert’s name at Azusa Pacific University. Donations may be mailed to: Azusa Pacific University, University Advancement, 901 E. Alosta Avenue, Azusa, CA 91702. Write “Gilbert Memorial Scholarship” in the memo line.

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