Category: Christians working in Arts and Media

Family Theater Priest: I Blessed the Set of ‘Annabelle Creation’

(Father David Guffey is Head of Production for Family Theater Productions, based in Hollywood.)

Several months ago, I picked up the phone in my office and heard a friend ask, “Father David, could you bless a set of a movie?”

He went on to explain that they were shooting a horror film on the Warner Brothers lot, and some of the cast were a little freaked out by the story. So, I trekked over to Warner Brothers in Burbank and found my way to the sound stage. I did not see the script, but the set itself was eerie. With stole and holy water in hand, and a small group of cast and crew present, I blessed the set, adapting prayers from the official Book of Blessings. The movie they were making is Anabelle Creation, and it opens nationally this weekend.

The film is the latest release in the Conjuring Series, from James Wann. The films feature stories of demonic possession and the people who fight it. Anabelle Creation is a prequel to the Anabelle film released in 2014. The film opening this weekend tells the story of the dollmaker (Anthony LaPaglia) who created Anabelle. He and his wife (Miranda Otto) suffered the loss of their young daughter, a beloved only child. In their grief, they become vulnerable to a seductive and sinister bargain.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed in this latest installment.

It is an R-rated (for frightening content) horror film. While most people will never experience the intensity of evil portrayed in the story, the methods the devil uses are all too familiar in everyday life. The devil is opportunistic, looking for any opening to insert himself into a person’s life. The devil is a deceiver who seduces people into thinking that something destructive is life-giving, and that life-giving things are destructive. Finally, the devil is a divider of peoples. You will find all these dynamics in Anabelle Creation.

Evil does influence life. What people of faith know is that God and the forces of love are more powerful than anything the devil can dish up. This truth was more completely realized in the original Conjuring films, which were based on the real life work of Catholic paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Anabelle Creation shows the patterns of evil with little of the hope in the forces of good. This makes for a great scary movie, but an incomplete one for people who believe and have confidence that ultimately, God wins. People of faith can resist evil and in fact do every day.

It was with this hope that I blessed the set of the film. Stephanie Sigman, one of the actresses present at the rite thanked me and said she felt more secure knowing the set had been blessed. Every little blessing helps defeat evil. You can see her this weekend playing Sister Charlotte in Annabelle Creation.

Father Guffey also participated in an Aug. 9 panel on the film, sponsored by New Line Cinema and Fuller Seminary’s Reel Spirituality, which preceded a screening at the ArcLight Theater in Pasadena, California. The panel topic was “In Defense of Evil,” and featured the film’s director, David F. Sandberg; Dr. Craig Detweiler, author and director of the Center for Entertainment Media & Culture at Pepperdine University; the moderator was Dr. Kutter Callaway, assistant professor of theology and culture, at Fuller Theological Seminary, an Evangelical institution in Pasadena.

(NOTE: According to Variety, Annabelle: Creation is on its way to a 36M+ opening weekend.)

Image: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

Patricia Heaton: The Once and Current Catholic, in Her Own Words

On Sunday, July 30, Patricia Heaton, star of ABC’s hit sitcom “The Middle,” had a confession to make on Twitter:

Then, the next day, she read the account of Christian Joni Earekson Tada, speaking 50 years after injuries from a diving accident put her in a wheelchair.

Struck by the woman’s comments, Heaton tweeted the below:

The conversation continued at her Twitter page.

Heaton’s spiritual journey has a few twists and turns, from being a cradle Catholic to drifting away after divorce, to Protestant communities, and eventually back to the Church, annulment and reconciliation.

In June, I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful Catholic conference in the Diocese of Orange, sponsored by the Orange Catholic Foundation, and Heaton gave the hilarious and moving keynote address.

Her story resonates with a Catholic revert like me, and will touch cradles, reverts and converts alike. Enjoy:

BTW, ABC has just announced that the upcoming ninth season of “The Middle” will be its last. Learn more here.

Image: Courtesy ABC

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

Miraculously Back on TV, Tracy Morgan Says, ‘Thank God’

Prior to 2014, Tracy Morgan was known for two things: cutting-edge comedy and crazy behavior. Then, on June 7, 2014, he was involved in a brutal car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike involving a tractor-trailer. It left Morgan with broken bones and a head injury, and he was in a coma for two weeks. His friend and comedy collaborator James McNair was killed.

In a Nov. 2015 interview, he said:

But after surviving something like that, I’m probably never going to feel normal. I went to the other side. This is not something I’m making up. Do you know what God said to me? He said, “Your room ain’t ready. I still got something for you to do.” And here I am, doing an interview with you.

On Thursday, July 27, Morgan sat before assembled TV critics at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, promoting a new show called “The Real O.G.,”coming out Oct. 24 on TBS.

Here’s how TBS’ executive v.p. of original programming, Brett Weitz, introduced him:

Tracy Morgan was knocking at death’s door, and possibly because God,
Saint Peter, or whoever just wasn’t quite ready to deal with his
wise-*** remarks, he was given a second chance at life and
another opportunity to bring his bold, raw, and hysterical point
of view back into our homes. For that, we are eternally
grateful.

“The Last O.G.” centers on Tray, an ex-con recently released
from prison after a 15-year stint, only to find his most beloved
Brooklyn isn’t what it once was. In his quest to acclimate,
Tracy will once again be given a second chance. But this time,
it’s to reconnect with the family he left behind, both those he
knew and those he’s just finding out about.

It’s too early to know whether the comedy will be suitable for families to watch. But, Morgan’s remarks indicated he has no axes to grind, that he just wants to tell a story about people of good will in an awkward situation trying to do the best they can.

What was most striking about the panel was Morgan’s open, heartfelt statements about faith.

Here’s a sampling …

On what it means to have a second chance at TV … and life:

Thank God. That’s all I got to say. Self-explanatory. Thank God.

On surrounding himself with such great talents as co-stars Cedric the Entertaining and actress Tiffany Haddish, rather than doing a show centered more just on him:

Maybe I’m just a better man now since the accident. Maybe I’m just a better man. It ain’t about me. It’s bigger than me. I’m just thankful — I’m fortunate to have these folks around me. …

We just lucked up and got what we wanted with the people, the folks that could do it. I’m just a better man now. I know it ain’t about me. It’s bigger
than me. I thank God for that.

On what he’s learned:

You can have a billion dollars and be a piece of s***. You have to be good to others. I know my reward is not — forget about what you all see me wearing. That is not my reward. My reward is when He welcomes me back into
His Kingdom.

And I’m rewarded that way by how I treat you all, how I treat my brothers and my sisters. I got redemption. I’m here.

Listen, I had to get hit by the truck. If I didn’t get hit by the truck, I wouldn’t be able to make the impact that I’m making right now. So, good. Thank you.

Whether “The Real O.G.” is a success or not, Morgan surely knows from whence his help comes.

Image: Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

Jeannie Gaffigan Updates Her Life After Surgery to Remove Brain Tumor

On April 18, Jeannie Gaffigan, wife and creative partner of comedian Jim Gaffigan, underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove a tumor wrapped around her brain stem.

Recovery for the 47-year-old Catholic mother of five has been difficult. She suffered aspiration pneumonia in the hospital, that landed her in the ICU for two weeks. Because of the surgery, her throat was paralyzed and she has had a temporary tracheotomy and a feeding tube.

Gaffigan and her husband have said that the ordeal has reaffirmed their faith and taught their children about being compassionate.

Now, through People magazine, Gaffigan has given an update on her condition. She still has the feeding tube, but she’s progressed to taking food by mouth, and has worked her way up to purees. The tracheotomy has been removed, and she can now breathe without an oxygen tank.

Read the whole thing here, but below is an excerpt from her essay.

As my cranial nerves start to come back to life, I have found a new appreciation for everything. Every moment is a gift from God.

My love for my [five children] which seemed boundless before has multiplied a thousand fold as has my love for Jim. The marriage vow “in sickness and in health” became more than just words, and I am inspired every day by the strength and courage of the man who held everything together through this hurricane brought on by the brain tumor.

I dodged a bullet and my life will never be the same. Don’t wait for the hurricane to hang on to your family and friends and to find the blessings and the glory in every detail. Do it now.

Image: Twitter/Wikipedia

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

Marshall McLuhan on Media and Faith, With FTP Founder Father Patrick Peyton

In his 1970s show “Matter of Faith,” Family Theater Productions founder Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., did an extended interview with media visionary Marshall McLuhan, who originated the phrase, “The medium is the message.”

Here’s how his official Website describes McLuhan (whose birthday is July 21):

McLuhan was still a twenty-year old undergraduate at the University of Manitoba, in western Canada, in the dirty thirties, when he wrote in his diary that he would never become an academic. He was learning in spite of his professors, but he would become a professor of English in spite of himself. After Manitoba, graduate work at Cambridge University planted the seed for McLuhan’s eventual move toward media analysis. Looking back on both his own Cambridge years and the longer history of the institution, he reflected that a principal aim of the faculty could be summarized as the training of perception, a phrase that aptly summarizes his own aim throughout his career.

McLuhan was also an adult convert to Catholicism. Said McLuhan:

I was reading [G.K.] Chesterton, and [Christopher] Dawson and [Jacques] Maritain and those people. That’s how I came in.

I had no instruction even from clergy at any time but there was a friend of mine who said, ‘Well, since you don’t believe in Christianity’ – I was an agnostic – he said ‘you could pray to God the Father. So you pray to God the Father and simply ask to be shown.’ And so I did.

And I didn’t know what I was going to be shown, all I said was, ‘Show me,’ and I didn’t ask to be relieved of any problems. I had no problems. I had no belief and no problems.

Well I was shown in a quite amazing way and quite unexpected: I was arguing about religion with a whole group of grad students one night at Wisconsin and one of them said to me suddenly, ‘Why aren’t you a Catholic?’ and I shut up because I didn’t know. Up to that moment, it had never occurred to me that I would ever become a Catholic. But I was suddenly caught. I became a Catholic at once within a few days.

In the three videos below, McLuhan — who had a prescient view of how man and modern media intersected, even though he’s speaking before the internet — talks to Father Peyton about how the instantaneous and enveloping nature of modern media affects man’s mind, heart and soul.

Here McLuhan discusses the value of the replay, the effects media has on interpersonal relationships, and faith and resonance.

Here McLuhan discusses resonance, joining the Church, and the Church as a source of nourishment.

Here McLuhan discusses women as victims of sexism, the mother’s role, and the nuclear family.

Looks like McLuhan and Father Peyton were well ahead of their time!

Image: Family Theater Productions

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

‘Today Is Friday’: Ernest Hemingway on the Crucifixion

Journalist and Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway is known for many things — terse, spare writing; vivid characters; wartime experiences; outdoor adventures; and his unfortunate, self-inflicted death.

What’s less-known is that he was an adult convert to Catholicism from Protestantism — an imperfect Catholic, to be sure, but one whose search for God and the Faith wove its way through his work.

Even though he divorced his Catholic second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and married two more times after that, there was a Catholic presence at his burial in Ketchum, Idaho, in 1961.

From the obituary in The New York Times, cited in an article about Hemingway’s faith at TheBlogAlsoRises.com:

The Rev. Robert J. Waldemann, Roman Catholic pastor of St. Charles Church in Hailey, Idaho, and of Our Lady of the Snows in Ketchum, will conduct the services. Father Waldemann said that there would be no formal Catholic services. He said there would be no mass and probably no rosary, but he said that the matter of accident or suicide had no bearing on the funeral. “We pass no judgement on that and asked no questions,” he said.

There still was no official decision–and there may never be–as to whether the death of the writer early Sunday from the blast of a 12-gauge shotgun had been an accident or suicide. However, the fact that Mr. Hemingway had been divorced would bar him from a Catholic Church funeral. Catholic sources said there was nothing improper in a Catholic  priest saying prayers at graveside.

Friday, July 21, is Hemingway’s birthday (he was born in 1899), and in honor of that, I’m presenting one of his lesser-known works, a little play called “This Is Friday.” It features three Roman soldiers entering some sort of tavern late at night, where a Hebrew wine-seller named George interests them in different vintages.

In contemporary language — with some mild profanity and an ethnic slur against Jews thrown in — the soldiers discuss the day’s work, which included the crucifixion of Christ.

I asked the latest addition to the Family Theater Productions staff, Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C. — priest and filmmaker — to reflect on Hemingway and this play:

“Hemingway captured the reality of human nature like no other modern author. His minimalist style reflects his themes. The prose of his novels, however, will never quite match the near poetry of believing authors such as Flannery O’Connor and (“Silence” author Shusaku) Endo, of a similar era.

“The point I make is evidenced in the attached scene. The scene is a believable interpretation of a few soldiers processing the Crucifixion events. It, like most of Hemingway’s works, doesn’t aspire to go beyond horizontal theology (if that) — they only see a man who peculiarly chose to undergo His Crucifixion willingly. A hypothetical next scene, in Hemingway’s style, would see them returning to soldiering and not writing a theological summation, a la John’s Gospel.”

To learn more about Hemingway’s faith, you can click here and here and here, but I suspect the author would like his work to speak for itself.

So, here’s “Today Is Friday,” in its entirety (linked annotations courtesy of Genius.com):

Three Roman soldiers are in a drinking-place at eleven o’clock at nightThere are barrels around the wall. Behind the wooden counter is a Hebrew wine-seller. The three Roman soldiers are a little cock-eyed.

1st Roman Soldier—You tried the red?

2d Soldier—No, I ain’t tried it.

1st Soldier—You better try it.

2d Soldier—All right, George, we’ll have a round of the red.

Hebrew Wine-seller—Here you are, gentlemen. You’ll like that. [He sets down an earthenware pitcher that he has filled from one of the casks.] That’s a nice little wine.

1st Soldier—Have a drink of it yourself. [He turns to the third Roman soldier who is leaning on a barrel.] What’s the matter with you?

3d Roman Soldier—I got a gut-ache.

2d Soldier—You’ve been drinking water.

1st Soldier—Try some of the red.

3d Soldier—I can’t drink the damn stuff. It makes my gut sour.

1st Soldier—You been out here too long.

3d Soldier—Hell don’t I know it?

1st Soldier—Say, George, can’t you give this gentleman something to fix up his stomach?

Hebrew Wine-seller—I got it right here.

[The third Roman soldier tastes the cup that the wine-seller has mixed for him.]

3d Soldier—Hey, what you put in that, camel chips?

Wine-seller—You drink that right down, Lootenant. That’ll fix you up right.

3d Soldier—Well, I couldn’t feel any worse.

1st Soldier—Take a chance on it. George fixed me up fine the other day.

Wine-seller—You were in bad shape, Lootenant. I know what fixes up a bad stomach.

[The third Roman soldier drinks the cup down.]

3d Roman Soldier—Jesus Christ. [He makes a face.]

2d Soldier—That false alarm!

1st Soldier—Oh, I don’t know. He was pretty good in there today.

2d Soldier—Why didn’t he come down off the cross?

1st Soldier—He didn’t want to come down off the cross. That’s not his play.

2d Soldier—Show me a guy that doesn’t want to come down off the cross.

1st Soldier—Aw, hell, you don’t know anything about it. Ask George there. Did he want to come down off the cross, George?

Wine-seller—I’ll tell you, gentlemen, I wasn’t out there. It’s a thing I haven’t taken any interest in.

2d Soldier—Listen, I seen a lot of them—here and plenty of other places. Any time you show me one that doesn’t want to get down off the cross when the time comes—when the time comes, I mean—I’ll climb right up with him.

1st Soldier—I thought he was pretty good in there today.

3d Soldier—He was all right.

2d Roman Soldier—You guys don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m not saying whether he was good or not. What I mean is, when the time comes. When they first start nailing him, there isn’t none of them wouldn’t stop it if they could.

1st Soldier—Didn’t you follow it, George?

Wine-seller—No, I didn’t take any interest in it, Lootenant.

1st Soldier—I was surprised how he acted.

3d Soldier—The part I don’t like is the nailing them on. You know, that must get to you pretty bad.

2d Soldier—It isn’t that that’s so bad, as when they first lift ’em up. [He makes a lifting gesture with his two palms together.] When the weight starts to pull on ’em. That’s when it gets ’em.

3d Roman Soldier—It takes some of them pretty bad.

1st Soldier—Ain’t I seen ’em? I seen plenty of them. I tell you, he was pretty good in there today.

[The second Roman soldier smiles at the Hebrew wine-seller.]

2d Soldier—You’re a regular Christer, big boy.

1st Soldier—Sure, go on and kid him. But listen while I tell you something. He was pretty good in there today.

2d Soldier—What about some more wine?

[The wine-seller looks up expectantly. The third Roman soldier is sitting with his head down. He does not look well.]

3d Soldier—I don’t want any more.

2d Soldier—Just for two, George.

[The wine-seller puts out a pitcher of wine, a size smaller than the last one.

He leans forward on the wooden counter.]

1st Roman Soldier—You see his girl?

2d Soldier—Wasn’t I standing right by her?

1st Soldier—She’s a nice-looker.

2d Soldier—I knew her before he did. [He winks at the wine-seller.]

1st Soldier—I used to see her around the town.

2d Soldier—She used to have a lot of stuff. He never brought her no good luck.

1st Soldier—Oh, he ain’t lucky. But he looked pretty good to me in there today.

2d Soldier—What become of his gang?

1st Soldier—Oh, they faded out. Just the women stuck by him.

2d Roman Soldier—They were a pretty yellow crowd. When they seen him go up there they didn’t want any of it.

1st Soldier—The women stuck all right.

2d Soldier—Sure, they stuck all right.

1st Roman Soldier—You see me slip the old spear into him?

2d Roman Soldier—You’ll get into trouble doing that some day.

1st Soldier—It was the least I could do for him. I’ll tell you he looked pretty good to me in there today.

Hebrew Wine-seller—Gentlemen, you know I got to close.

1st Roman Soldier—We’ll have one more round.

2d Roman Soldier—What’s the use? This stuff don’t get you anywhere. Come on, let’s go.

1st Soldier—Just another round.

3d Roman Soldier—[Getting up from the barrel.] No, come on. Let’s go. I feel like hell tonight.

1st Soldier—Just one more.

2d Soldier—No, come on. We’re going to go. Good-night, George. Put it on the bill.

Wine-seller—Good-night, gentlemen. [He looks a little worried.] You couldn’t let me have a little something on account, Lootenant?

2d Roman Soldier—What the hell, George! Wednesday’s payday.

Wine-seller—It’s all right, Lootenant. Good-night, gentlemen.

[The three Roman soldiers go out the door into the street.]

[Outside in the street.]

2d Roman Soldier—George is a kike just like all the rest of them.

1st Roman Soldier—Oh, George is a nice fella.

2d Soldier—Everybody’s a nice fella to you tonight.

3d Roman Soldier—Come on, let’s go up to the barracks. I feel like hell tonight.

2d Soldier—You been out here too long.

3d Roman Soldier—No, it ain’t just that. I feel like hell.

2d Soldier—You been out here too long. That’s all.

CURTAIN

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.