Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review of Beyond the Mask: Official Movie Guide

Beyond the Mask: The Official Illustrated Movie Guide

By Sara and Shannon Burns

Published 2015; Paperback, 168 pages 

In this book, authors Sara and Shannon Burns detail the stories behind the Christian historical-fiction movie Beyond the Mask.  The book is divided into 6 main sections: Secrets of the Past, The Production, The World of Beyond the Mask, A Colonial Cast, Masquerade, and The Studio.


Because of its 1776 setting, history played an important part in Beyond the Mask, and “Secrets of the Past” details some of the true stories incorporated into the movie.  It discusses the East India Company, the assassination plot on Washington, Mr. Franklin’s experiments with electricity and even an island off Philadelphia known as Windmill Island.  This section has an excellent blend of movie stills and original paintings to illustrate it.  It ends with a piece by screenwriter Paul McCusker about his work in helping write the story.  This section has graciously been shared by Burns Family Studios and is available at:  


With the movie’s plotlines written, the next section “The Production” contains interviews with some of the key crew members like the director, producer, and composer.  Each heads a different department responsible for a different piece of the movie.  This section is lavishly illustrated with “behind-the-scenes” photographs, showing how a movie set actually looks.  One entertaining picture shows a jump between two non-existent “rooftops” with a neon green panel as the background.


               Since Beyond the Mask is a historical-fiction movie, recreating the world of the 1770s is an important part of making the movie.  In the section titled “The World of Beyond the Mask”, the authors describe and illustrate the process to create many sets.  This section describes the creation of the Philadelphia street, the windmill, the ship and several other sets, whether physical or computer-generation.  The pictures show the progress from concept sketches to finished movie scenes, and illustrate this section well.  This is the most fascinating section to me, as I had the opportunity to help construct many of the sets shown, including the windmill, Philadelphia’s street, and the ship.  In addition, I am in one of the photographs!  This was an exciting find when I first paged through the book.  If you would like to find me, I am on page 62, wearing an olive-drab coat and a gold-laced tricorne hat, while standing next to a man in white.


               Of course every movie needs actors, and the book’s next section describes some of them.  Entitled “A Colonial Cast”, it begins with interviews with the casting director as well as the acting coach.  William Reynolds is the hero of the movie, so his section comes first.  It is an interview with Andrew Cheney on how he relates to the character and the journey of William Reynolds.  This section is illustrated mainly by groups of photos showing the various “masks” (identities) that this character wears throughout the movie.


               Beyond the Mask’s leading lady, Charlotte Holloway, is played by Kara Killmer (spelled with two L’s) and her section is next.  It is mainly a narrative of her time on set with quotations from Miss Killmer.  This section also contains an interview with the wardrobe designer and concept sketches for costumes.


               This book would be incomplete without a section on the movie’s villain Charles Kemp, played by John Rhys-Davies.  This section describes his time on set as well as Mr. Rhys-Davies’ views on Western Civilization and the character of Charles Kemp.  “I have no brother, I am like no brother…I am myself alone,” he quotes from Shakespeare’s King Henry the Sixth to describe his character.   This section is illustrated by photographs and a description of Mr. Kemp’s elephant-headed cane.  With the three main characters covered, the next several pages describe supporting characters such as Basil and Jeremiah Flack.


               The section “Masquerade” provides a good look at the many different pieces required to make a movie.  Various departments such as Location, Wardrobe, Art, and Camera are all covered sequentially, that is, in the order they would be required to create the scene.  Behind-the-scenes interviews with different people in each department, from set-dressing to catering, allow the reader to see just how much work goes into making a movie.


Wrapping up the book are two short sections: “The Studio” and “Conclusion.”  These two sections go hand-in-hand; the first shows how Burns Family Studios came into being and the second highlights the main message of Beyond the Mask: “It’s not what you do that defines you”.


In conclusion: this book is an engaging, full-color look into movie-making and the world of Beyond the Mask.  I would highly recommend it. 5/5 stars.


Would you like to read this book after making it through my review?  It can be purchased at

Friday, February 19, 2016

Introducing Red Coats and Ruffles!

Hello everyone!  I recently started a new blog called Red Coats and Ruffles.  Red Coats and Ruffles is dedicated to my painted toy soldier collection.  Each soldier will be tagged with their historical era, manufacturer, and army.  There will be historical figures as well as some from movies and books (like Will Reynolds, left).  The primary era Red Coats and Ruffles will cover is the 1700s and most soldiers are in 54mm scale.  Visit it at!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lay Down Your Life-A Short Story

Because today is Valentine's Day, here is a short story that I wrote for my family's newsletter.  This story was written 6 years ago (February of 2010) and my writing style has improved.  But because of its clear message and humor, I regard this story as one of my finest.  Enjoy!

Lay Down Your Life

A Short Story by Jordan Jachim

Sir Christopher watched with dread as the crossbow was deliberately pointed at his wife, whom he had loved and cherished for so many years.

“Kill me, but spare her!” he shouted desperately to his captors. None honored him with a response. At last, he came up with a plan to preserve her life—at least for the moment. As the crossbow bolt was discharged, Sir Christopher leapt in front of it, taking the arrow in the region of the chest. The enemy was stunned as the gallant knight collapsed to the floor.

“Christopher, why?” his wife managed to gasp out through a deluge of tears.

“Greater love hath no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He struggled for breath, and when he had finished this speech, every word of which was an unspeakable burden to utter, he died. The dark knights stood stupefied. This was so contrary to their idea of “survival of the fittest.”

Wow, I thought as I closed the book momentarily. I imagined myself doing that for my wife, who was in the distant future. What a spectacular example of love, and it would really twist the nose of the bad guys.

“You need to wash the dishes now!” my mom called.

“Coming,” I said reluctantly as I slammed the book shut.

Why do I have to do something as useless as washing dishes? They’ll just get dirty again anyway. Why can’t I do important stuff, you know, like the author of that book? That’s something BIG for God, not like dishes.

I sulked as I slowly wound my way out to the kitchen. While I ran hot water in the sink, I fumed over this disturbance to my reading all the while.
That night, I regaled my dad with a short, imperfect, and choppy synopsis of the book.

“Wasn’t that neat how the guy just died for his wife? I mean, now that’s sacrificial love!”

My father smiled. “Yes,” he agreed, “that is a good example of laying down one’s life for his friends.” Then he changed the topic. “Your mother tells me that you were reluctant to do the dishes. And delayed obedience is the same as disobedience.”

I was caught red-handed.

“But, Dad,” I began, then couldn’t think of anything else to say in my defense.

“Do you realize,” my father continued, “that washing the dishes for your mother is laying down your life just as much as that fictitious knight did?” He reached for his Bible and flipped through the thin gilded pages. They made a pleasant rustle, but at last he stopped. “Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31,‘I die daily.’ This is not literal, but instead refers to the crucifixion of the selfish desires, which is a battle we must fight every day.”

“So, I just have to give up everything I want to do?” I retorted.

“Not exactly,” my father countered swiftly. “But it does mean that you should help others before thinking of what you want.”

My father ended the conversation, challenging me by saying, “Why don’t you try laying down your life tomorrow? Then, you’ll be doing the same thing as that knight.”

Well, I decided to follow my father’s advice. That morning before starting, I prayed that God would help me as I tried to lay down my life. I washed the dishes cheerfully, without being asked. When I had finished, I sat down and opened my book. “Where was I?” I muttered. It was then that my little sister had a problem with pressing flowers. The stack of books fell down and made a horrific noise, scattering books and flowers all over the place.

“Would you help her?” my mom called, with her hands deep in breading chicken. So, I shut my book and stuffed her flowers back into the dictionary, under the monumental pile of other books. Then I helped her cut some more flowers and press those, too. When everything was arranged to her satisfaction, I plopped on the couch and opened the book. But, my little brother decided that he wanted me to play Monopoly, or, more precisely, he wanted someone different to hammer with his real estate smarts. I complied, and he pummeled me, winning with over $20,000. “That was fun!” he said. I had a slight difference of opinion, but did not bother to voice it.

Well, it would bore you if I was to tell everything I did that day, but I could put it into a single sentence which gives you the point. Every time I sat down to read, I needed to help someone with something. I was tempted many times to feel sorry for myself, but I rejected that idea with God’s help.

That night, I had a hard time sleeping, so I went over the day in review.

I didn’t get a lot of time to read, but I did lay down my life, just like my dad challenged me. And, I thought, maybe this is harder than taking a crossbow arrow, or a bullet, for someone you love. After all, you can only die once, but you have to deny your own selfishness multiple times in a day, every day. So possibly, I did something harder than that knight in the story. I yawned and rolled over. Maybe I should write a story about laying down your life every day. Yes, that’s it…zzz.
The End
Originally published on A Legacy of Faithfulness at

Friday, February 5, 2016

British Regulars from the Movie Alone Yet Not Alone

I recently watched the movie Alone Yet Not Alone.  It is set in the French and Indian War and follows the journey of a young girl captured in an Indian raid.  She lives with the Indians for four years until she escapes and reaches safety at Fort Pitt.  While much of the clothing and the scenery is visually beautiful, this movie unfortunately contains two historical errors.  I will deal with the first one in this post and the second one later.  This is not a full movie review, but perhaps I will (later) give a brief overview of what I thought of the movie itself.

Production photo of the British battling an Indian.
Picture from Alone Yet not Alone's Facebook page:
In Alone yet not Alone, the British regulars are portrayed as lacking in hand to hand combat skills and having no concept of teamwork.  Thankfully, this portrayal is confined to one scene because all other fight sequences are between the Indians, colonists, and French.  Their depiction of the British soldiers is as follows


*Spoiler warning*

 The heroine of the story named Barbara Leininger has finally reached British-held Fort Pitt in the year 1759.  She and her three companions call across the Ohio River for help.  To investigate them, a British-manned bateau is launched from Fort Pitt.  After ascertaining that Barbara and her friends are true refugees and not decoys to lure them into ambush, they disembark to conduct them to Fort Pitt. 

Suddenly they are attacked by a lone Indian named Hannawoa, who shoots one Brit with his musket and charges headlong toward the rest.  They respond with a scattered volley of shots and charge Hannawoa one at a time.  The first redcoat swings his musket butt like a club but is dispatched by Hannawoa.  Two other soldiers run up to their foe without attempting to injure him with their muskets (which oddly enough do not have bayonets fixed).

Left: a painting of a grenadier of the 46th Regiment
Right: a photo of a private soldier, possibly of the 46th
The British officer draws a pistol, shoots Hannawoa in the shoulder and draws his sword, but is defeated.  Now Barbara fumbles in the belt of the wounded officer, draws another pistol and shoots Hannawoa.  As he hits the earth, a British soldier skewers him with a bayonet.

*Spoiler warning ends*


This, then, is their portrayal of the British soldiers of the French and Indian War, with no group cohesion and not generally armed with bayonets.  How does it compare with history? 

Author Stuart Reid is an expert on British infantrymen of the 1700s.  He says: “…The individual soldier probably found it more easy and effective to simply butt-stroke rather than to stab his opponent in a hand-to-hand skirmish.  Contemporary bayonet fighting drills consequently reflected and stressed the need for soldiers to act in concert rather than individually.”  (1, emphasis mine)

In his attack in Quebec in 1759, General James Wolfe stressed the importance of the bayonet: “The light infantry of this army are to have their bayonets, as the want of ammunition may at some times be supplied by that weapon, and because no man should leave his post, under pretence that all his cartridges were fired.  In most attacks of the night it must be remembered that bayonets are preferable to fire.” (2)

This is the red-with-blue-lapel-and-cuff
uniform discussed in the text.
Having established that British soldiers were armed with the bayonet and knew how to use it, let us look briefly at group cohesion.  The redcoats in the movie are a detachment of 6 men drawn from two regiments: the 46th and the 60th Royal Americans. (3)

The uniform of the 60th Royal American Regiment
From the Seven Years' War Project at
 “Nothing will make a soldier like service,” said Sir William Erskine (4) in 1776 and the 46th and 60th Royal Americans were seasoned campaigners.  In 1758, the 46th and 60th had participated in the Battle of Fort Carillon (5).  In 1759, they were involved in a campaign to capture Fort Niagara, where they decisively defeated a force of French soldiers, couriers du bois and Indians at the Battle of La Belle Famille. (6)  Because of their previous battlefield experiences, these men would be very competent soldiers.

Considering their previous service and their distinct victory over the Indians at the Battle of La Belle Famille in 1759, it is unwarranted (to say the least) to depict these tough regulars as incompetents.  While the Indians were excellent warriors, by 1759, the British too had learned the ways of woodland warfare.  Why should one side be portrayed as nearly invincible while the other is made up of bumbling buffoons?

I’ll end with an apropos quote from Timothy J. Todish and Todd E. Harburn: “In the end, both the Indians and the British were just doing their jobs for the cause they believed in.” (7)


  1. pg. 38, Like Hungry Wolves: Culloden Moor 16 April 1746 by Stuart Reid (London: Withrow & Greene Ltd, 1994)
  2. pg. 16 Quebec 1759 by Stuart Reid (Oxford: Osprey 2003)
  3. This is a tricky point.  Their specific combination of plain white lace on blue lapels and cuffs is closest to the 2nd Coldstream Guards.  The Coldstreams, however, were nowhere near North America, as they were in London in 1759!  The 60th Royal Americans were stationed in North America in various detachments, but their blue lapels had no lace.  I have decided to identify them as the 60th despite the white lace.
  4. pg. 120, With Zeal and With Bayonets Only by Matthew H. Spring (University of Oklahoma: Norman, 2010)
  5. Because the dating in Alone Yet Not Alone is not explicitly given, these soldiers could either be garrisoning Fort Pitt as the expedition to take Fort Niagara assembles; alternately, Niagara could be in British hands at this point because it surrendered on July 25, 1759.
  6. pg. 107, The British Military and the Pontiac Indian Uprising of 1763-1764 by Timothy J. Todish and Todd E. Harburn (Fleischmanns: Purple Mountain Press, 2006)