TRU prof's Peace Pledge to be read during U.N. International Day of Peace events in Toronto

He knows it's a bit of a long shot, but screenwriter George M. Johnson is determined to get his latest work onto the silver screen.

Peace Pledge tells the story of the pacifist movement in 1930s Britain. The story is told through John, a disillusioned First World War veteran of Johnson's creation, and Dick Sheppard, the real life Anglican priest who founded the Peace Pledge Union, a pacifist organization that opposes war and promotes peace.

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Sheppard was the vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square in London. He founded the group in 1934 and called on men to send postcards pledging never to support the coming war. Sheppard's work was often controversial at a time when the defence of Britain was paramount.

"He wrote a letter to Hitler and Mussolini asking whether he could come to their countries and talk to their people about peace there," Johnson told KTW. "People thought that was ludicrous and he got a lot of flack for that. Officials in the church were embarrassed, and they thought Christians should fight along with everyone else."

The fictional John, challenged by Sheppard to take up the cause, reluctantly becomes a pacifist and helps the priest in his work, eventually losing friends and family as he stands by his new beliefs at a time when they are wildly unpopular. The story follows John, who after Sheppard's death in 1937, continues to spread a message of peace during wartime.

The play was a recent winner in the feature screenplay category at the Wildsound screenwriting competition, and a part of the prize was that Johnson's screenplay would be read by actors in a table reading.

Soon, Johnson will have his screenplay read again, this time as part of the U.N. International Day of Peace events in Toronto on Sept. 21.

Johnson, who teaches screenwriting in Thompson Rivers University's English department, first started writing for the stage in 2007, and for the screen in 2011.

"I've got three screenplays now -- two that are pretty much polished," he said.

Johnson also wrote the stage play Mockus, which showed in Kamloops earlier this year, and The Wonder, which in 2012 was a finalist in the British Independent Film Festival Screenplay Competition and a semi-finalist in the FirstGlance screenplay competition in Los Angeles.

Although Johnson considers getting the screenplay made into a film a longshot because of how expensive it would be to shoot a historical drama in downtown London, he hope there's someone out there who wants to tell a story of peace and pacifism and get that message across.

"I think the film is meant to make people think about pacifism as an alternative, and try to show people that pacifism is not passive," Johnson said. "People think it's just about sitting down and ignoring a war or something -- it's not. The film shows you have to fight for what you believe in and against war."

Johnson thinks that message, and other themes in the story, are particularly relevant today.

"I think we're seeing a rise of warmongering again," he said. "Governments are spending a lot more money on armaments since Donald Trump came into office. He's kind of bullied other countries into increasing their war expenditures."

© Kamloops This Week



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