Opening Marlin Detweiler

Feature Article –Ken Wales on Amazing Grace by John Seel

Educational Helps by Laurie Detweiler and Ned Bustard

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February 2007




Recently, the folks at The King’s College, New York, NY arranged for me attend an advance screening of Amazing Grace hosted by Ken Wales, the producer of the movie. This movie, scheduled for release on February 23rd, is about William Wilberforce, an amazing 18th century Christian Englishman, best known for his successful efforts in abolishing slavery in England.


John Seel of Walden Media kindly interviewed Ken Wales, the producer, for our Feature Article.


Feature Article


Ken Wales on Amazing Grace


During his 15 year association with director Blake Edwards, Ken Wales produced many films including The Tamarind Seed and Wild Rovers and associate/line-produced numerous films including Darling Lili, starring Julie Andrews and Rock Hudson; The Great Race, with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, and The Party, and Revenge of the Pink Panther, both starring Peter Sellers. In TV, Wales co-produced the Emmy and Golden Globe winner, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, associate-produced the first season of Cagney and Lacy, and was executive producer on Christy. Ken is a producer in the upcoming feature, Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce, the great Christian reformer that changed the world—directed by Michael Apted and starring Ioan Gruffudd and Albert Finney. John Seel caught up with Ken in St. Louis, where he was giving a speech promoting Amazing Grace.


What was the genesis of the film Amazing Grace?

The genesis of Amazing Grace happened when Phil Anschutz[1] invited me to the Peninsula Hotel for an early morning breakfast. A mutual business friend had told Phil that we needed to meet because I had film ideas that might fit with the vision of his new film company. I remember getting there about 6:30 a.m. and sitting down and Phil arrived in his jogging suit as he had already been out running for an hour and a half.


As we began he said, “I really enjoyed Christy. Tell me what films you want to do.” I mentioned several, including the rest of the story of Eric Little[2]. But I said that the one that is really close to my heart is the story of John Newton. As the author of the most popular song in the world, it has particular potential. Phil said, “John Newton. Have you ever heard of William Wilberforce?” I knew a little about him, particularly how his life intersected with Newton. He said, “That is very much a story I want to tell.” I responded that if you want to do both those stories you should do the Newton story first, as he was 34 years older than Wilberforce. Phil said, “Ken, you didn’t hear me. I want to do Wilberforce.” And I then said. “Oh, yes!” We both laughed. He added, “I really govern my life and try to govern my business practices after Wilberforce.” What we’ve done in Amazing Grace is bring them together in one film, having Newton serve as the spiritual mentor and catalyst to the younger Wilberforce.


I knew that this was really an English story. So we tried to find a good English writer. I first called Colin Welland, who won an Academy Award as the writer of Chariot’s of Fire in 1981, I got him on the phone and he said, “Ken, good to talk with you. Ah yes. William Wilberforce, the great Christian reformer who changed the world.” I knew then that Colin would have a part in it. He wrote the first draft, but the studio thought it needed a bit more edginess so we got a few more writers to work on the script, but none of the early drafts seemed to work.


At this point the clock was ticking, because we really wanted to release the film during the bicentennial of the British abolition of slavery in 2007. Time was getting dangerously short. I suggested that we get a director so that we could get a director’s input to the script early in the process.


A year before, I had called Michael Apted to see if he might be available. He was tied up with Rome and some other film projects. He was interested, but he said that he had other commitments that he couldn’t get out of. As we were getting down to this deadline, I really prayed about how we could move the film forward and it seemed that I should go back and visit with one of the early director prospects I had talked with a year before. When I called Michael, the film he was doing had just fallen through and he was available. He said he was interested if he could use Steven Knight, a writer he had worked with on one of his earlier films. Knight is a political writer and wanted to tell the story as a political thriller, which was just what the script needed.


Why do Christian parents and students need to know about William Wilberforce?

William Wilberforce is truly a reformer who changed the world. We need to know about these world-changing events, especially when they happen for the good. We are not talking about Hitler here, but about somebody who did something for others based on his deep Christian convictions.


He became a Christian through his friendship with his old teacher Isaac Milner who he invited to go with him on holiday to the Continent. Returning to England for an important vote in Parliament, Wilberforce’s carriage crashed on a Swiss mountainside. He was knocked unconscious and the carriage teetered on the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff. Milner was thrown from the carriage. When Wilberforce came to, he felt the carriage move and looked out the window to see Milner with his shoulder under the carriage lifting with superhuman strength to put it back on the road. From that time forward, he felt that his life had been spared by God for a very important purpose. Others helped him see that he could serve God in public life, that he could bring his Christian principles to bear in his political career.


What was the greatest challenge you faced in making Amazing Grace?

The greatest challenge was in writing the script, to find the formula that really made the story compelling. It needed to be more than a biography or a documentary. Linear stories are often boring. We decided to use dramatic flashbacks, while building the story to its conclusion. It was also important to show more than how he got the bill passed, but why he did it, his underlying Christian convictions.


How is this movie also the beginning of a potential movement?

Wilberforce was a man of those times. In his example, he needs to become a man for our times. His second great object was the reformation of manners, morals, and civility. Wow, do we need this today. Few realize that there is more human trafficking today than when Wilberforce lived. We’re in some deep water here. Wouldn’t it be extraordinary to take a man of those times, a respected person, a hero, and reclaim his vision for our times two hundred years later. He’s become my hero. He was also Abraham Lincoln’s hero.


Tell me about your new book, Amazing Grace of Freedom.

It has been a delight to develop a companion book to the film, written with Ted Beahr, Chairman of The Christian Film & Television Commission and my wife, Susan, who is a fiction writer. Susan has a knack of reaching into history and breathing real life into the characters. So this book, Amazing Grace of Freedom, tells the individual stories of the characters we show in the film. There are essays about Wilberforce as well as the other characters in the film, and an essay about how we made the film. There are wonderful pictures included in the book taken during the filming.



Educational Helps


If you are like us you are always looking for family activities. And I love it when it’s something that can be tied into history. The moving Amazing Grace has a down-to-earth believable Christian worldview with many lessons for us and our children to learn by example of Godly leaders who have fought righteous battles. William Wilberforce is not as recognizable a name as Jonathan Edwards yet had a great impact on our Christian heritage. As we seek to recover a lost educational model we need to help our children understand that what they do today matters for tomorrow.


I recommend that you do one or more of the attached activities before going to see the movie whether you homeschool or are part of a school activity. At Veritas Academy we do something called First Fridays in our secondary school. We plan a social activity for all the secondary students as a way to promote school community.  There are rarely movies that I can suggest to take the students to, but this one will be on the list.


There is another lesson for older children to learn form this movie. Our third son, Travis, senior at Veritas Academy, has musical theater and acting aspirations. He knows that as a Christian this is a difficult filed in several respects presently. How is his world view going to impact what he does and how is this going to help take back culture. He has been exposed to both the secular and Christian world of theater. One of the things that constantly bothers him is that Christians seem to do things in a “cheesy” way that doesn’t even meet the performance standards of the secular world.


Through a number of providential circumstances he was able to meet with Ken Wales a couple times and he was impressed. It gave him a vision for what can be done. We think this message bears spreading. Help your children see this message. The gospel affects all of life. As you can tell this film has affected our family. As we seek to take back culture and see the Gospel affect every man lets use and enjoy the tools that God drops in our laps.


Click here[PC1]  for some exciting tools and helps created by Ned Bustard to learn more of the godly example of William Wilberforce.


Laurie Detweiler


Free Offers


Free Book on William Wilberforce

The book mentioned by Ken Wales in the article above, Amazing Grace of Freedom, is free for the asking with a $100 order or may be purchased for $12.00 during February. The book retails for $19.99. [PC2] 


Free Offer from Abondante Living

During the month of February, Abondante Living is giving away some wonderful items—even the shipping cost is free (Shipping charges will apply outside the US). Click [PC3] to go directly to the web site. Then click on Shop/Featured Items. There you will find you need to make a very difficult decision on what you want—free! Be encouraged to tell your friends, this offer is not just for epistula recipients.





Q. Teaching logic is intimidating, especially when I never had a logic class myself. How does one go about teaching logic?  How much do I guide and help the student in thinking through and answering questions, and how much do I let them formulate on their own?

A. Logic is a discipline that intimidates many people. The materials we recommend are very teacher-friendly—thousands have used them effectively. You can, too. One of the best (and easiest) ways to take on this subject is to buy the CD’s and let Jim Nance do the teaching for you. In this case we recommend sitting in on the lessons to learn for yourself and better help your child work through the material. The importance of learning logic cannot be overrated. RC Sproul has said that the failure to know and practice logic is the greatest reason for failures to understand the Bible.


Q. Is it necessary to use the resources on the Veritas Press history cards?

A. No it is not necessary, but it is wise. The only information that the children are tested on in the tests we provide is on the back of the flashcards. However, we suggest you refer to resources for a number of reasons. It is a great way for children to learn how to do research at an early age, it allows them to delve deeper into the subject matter and it reinforces what they are learning on the cards when they read extra material about it.


Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to




8th Annual Classical Christian Education Conference

Ken Myers (All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes and Mars Hill Audio) and Andrew Pudewa (Institute for Excellence in Writing) are two of many exceptional speakers at this annual one day conference in Pittsburgh, Pa on February 24, 2007. It is a wonderful conference at which we have spoken and are honored to have our materials sold. The folks at Blackburn Study Center do a great job putting it on. For details check[PC4]  or download information by clicking here[PC5] .


History or Bible Project Competition Winners

It was quite obvious that many of the entries we received had been carefully thought out and meticulously carried out. What a blessing they were. Yet we promised winners. So, here they are:

Homeschool Division

1st            Joaquin Juan (8) and Tristan Juan (6) of New York, NY

                (Egyptian Party Project including invitations in hieroglyphs, making a mummy, making Egyptian headgear, having a treasure hunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

2nd          Thomas Lockwood (15), Anna Lockwood (12), Phillip Lockwood (9), Mechanicsville, VA (Created a book titled Historical Headgear, Hats, and Helmets: The Ancients with full user-friendly instructions to make many authentic looking pieces.)

3rd           Allen Martin (10), Jackson Martin (9), Grayson Martin (6), Macy McClung (9), Miranda McClung (11), Hope Salmon (9), Abilene, TX

                (Over six weeks created “Cluckankhamen, ” the mummified chicken. The beginning was celebrated with the baking and eating of edible mummies—hotdogs wrapped in crescent rolls cut into long strips.)

School Division                   

1st            Mary Chache (Teacher) and her 3rd graders, Geneva  School, Olyphant, PA

(Learning Greek and Roman architecture, students created a three-dimensional city including buildings with varied architectural styles of arches, columns and domes.)

2nd          Denise Monroe (Principal) and the 5th graders, Redeemer Christian School, Mesa, AZ

(Learning about Magellan, students created Magellan’s fleet of five ships using personalized detail as their research directed them.)

3rd           Mary Chache (Teacher) and Nathan Pinces, Audrey King and Amy Wyman (all students), Geneva  School, Olyphant, PA

                (Learning about Gutenberg, student created a book by first designing, then printing and binding the books. Dental floss and glue may not work commercially but they are wonderful ways to bind books in a classroom or at home.)


Veritas Academy Teacher Training

Dr. Leyland Ryken will be the featured speaker at the 2007 Teacher Training Conference July 18–20 in Lancaster, PA. To learn more about Dr. Ryken, click here.


Those who choose to take advantage of this foundational learning opportunity will leave invigorated with clear tools, methods and plans to teach and administer a classical Christian education in their school or homeschool. We will also be offering Latin-in-a-Week July 16–20th. Look for a brochure in the spring if you:




Or to insure you receive a brochure, send your name and address to


Veritas Academy Open House

Veritas Academy still has two more open houses planned in the near future—February 22 at 7:00PM and March 31 at 9:00AM. Each open house provides parents an opportunity to see the school in great depth. Numerous families have relocated to the area to be part of Veritas Academy and the Christian community.


News from New St. Andrews

February 15 is the regular application deadline at New Saint Andrews College. To apply go to Please contact Aaron Rench with any questions at Also, starting this fall, a Master of Arts in Trinitarian Theology and Culture will be offered at New Saint Andrews. The program is being headed up by Dr. Peter Leithart. The application deadline is March 1. Enrollment is extremely limited. Contact for further information.



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[1] Mr. Philip Anschutz is a philanthropist from Denver, Co. He is Christian and member of the Evangelical Presbyterian  Church. One of his many companies, Walden Media, which funded the development of Amazing Grace also has to its credit the film version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe among many others.

[2] Eric Little was the missionary to China featured in Chariots of Fire. Look for a sequel soon!


 [PC2]Carl, please add how a customer can do this in both instances on the web.