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Jahmal Holland, of Gardena, is interviewed for the film he was involved in entitled Crossing Over at media day for the 168 Film Project at the Lighthouse Church in Burbank. (Tim Berger / Burbank Leader / May 30, 2014)

In just seven days, Jahmal Holland and Henry Wong shot and produced a short film about the reunion of an estranged father and his son who went through the foster care system.

They're part of one of the 64 teams participating in the 12th annual 168 Film Project, a faith-based film competition in which each team is assigned a verse from a Bible, and has about two weeks to write, shoot and edit a film inspired by the verse.

"It draws a lot from my own personal story," said Holland, who worked with children in group homes after growing up without a father. The film festival, he said, was instrumental in his decision to pursue filmmaking, and led him toward pursuing a graduate degree in film production from USC.

This year, films were submitted from five countries, including South Africa and Indonesia, with some films featuring Emmy Award-winning actors, such as Michael Learned, known for her role in "The Waltons," and Vincent Irizarry.

Each team had 10 days to write and cast, and another week to shoot and edit, a 10-minute film based on a Bible verse with the theme "The Gift." On average, teams spend $2,500 producing their films.

"We're really excited about how were able to launch careers," said John David Ware, founder of the film competition and a Burbank resident. "My gift is encouraging people. I like to say we get them close to the cliff, push them off and watch them fly. Sometimes they crash — that's a learning experience, too."

At the 168 Film Festival in September, 21 awards — including best actor, cinematographer and director — and $20,000 in prizes will be distributed.

In its 12 years, the 168 Film Project, named to represent the number of hours each team has to create their film, has yielded more than 800 films.

Filmmaker Travis Grenke picked Genesis 27:4, a verse having to do with food, prompting him to pursue a dramedy in the kitchen in which three estranged sisters competed for a precious family heirloom, a 150-year-old cookbook.

"(The festival) will show you your strengths in filmmaking and your weaknesses in filmmaking very fast," Grenke said. "You always have the pressure of time on your shoulders."

Actor and first-time producer Gigi Guizado, of Henderson, Nev., created a film about a family of four that face temptations during a trip to Las Vegas, she said.

"The forced creativity of the deadlines and time frame of the festival was really useful," Guizado said. "It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and stretch, which is ultimately a good thing, but a challenge as well."

Film screenings will take place at the festival on Sept. 12 and 13.

-- Follow Alene on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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