Category: Christians working in Arts and Media

‘The Shack': FTP’s Father David Guffey Talks About the Controversial New Movie

The-Shack-Sam-Worthington-Octavia-SpencerComing out this weekend, “The Shack,” based on best-selling book by William Paul Young, explores what happens when a grieving father (Sam Worthington) has an encounter with all three Persons of the Trinity, played by different actors — including “Hidden Figures” star Octavia Spencer as God the Father, or “Papa.”

Personifying the Trinity, and other aspects of the book’s theology, have caused some concerns.

Secular outlet The Hollywood Reporter had this to say:

With its sparkly spin on the New Testament, the film will be too New Agey for those who hew closely to doctrine (some conservative Christians have criticized the novel as a work of misguided heresy). But beyond theological debates, the feature is a leaden, belabored affair. However universal the perennial questions and struggles that The Shack illuminates, under Stuart Hazeldine’s plodding direction, its faith-based brand of self-help feels like being trapped in someone else’s spiritual retreat — in real time.

And this, from Catholic deacon and movie critic Steven Greydanus:

Like many popular sensations, from Titanic to Twilight, from Dan Brown to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, The Shack is easy to rip apart if one has a mind to. It’s too didactic for drama, too literal for allegory, too artless for poetry, and too fuzzy for theology. The writing is folksy and florid; when Mack falls in his driveway, he doesn’t just get a bump on his head: The lump emerges “like a humpbacked whale breaching the wild waves of his thinning hair.”

Although an enthusiastic cover blurb from Eugene Peterson compares The Shack to Pilgrim’s Progress, generically and thematically it’s somewhat closer to C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Lewis’ brilliant book, however, focuses on familiar foibles of human nature; Young attempts a portrait of sorts of the divine nature.

The Shack is essentially an imaginative exploration of theodicy, of the problem of evil, experienced not in the abstract, but as an existential crisis of faith. More broadly, it could be called a response to disappointment with God and disillusionment with religion.

David GuffeyAlso concerned, CatholicMom.com founder Lisa Hendey turned to our own Head of Production, Father David Guffey, C.S.C., to get his take. Here’s some of what he had to say:

The film is not a religious teaching on the doctrine of Trinity, any more than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a study of physical appearance of God. Each of these use artistic license to point to great truths of faith. Film is an art form and as art, evokes the imagination to discover mystery of life and the workings of God’s grace within it. I would not use this film to talk about Trinity, but instead as an opening to discuss the many ways that God is close to us and the ways that God actively tries to be part of our lives in the best of times and especially in the hardest of times.

I would encourage you to see this film with someone you can talk about it with afterwards. You will want to. It would be a great family movie night film the weekend of March 3, 2017.

After watching the film, invite family members to talk about the times in their life when they feel closest to God. Is it in nature or in a church or at a family gathering? How do we recognize the hand of God at work I the people around us and the events of our lives? Second, and perhaps more difficult, I would encourage a conversation on how the Phillips family coped with loss and grief.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Image: Courtesy Lionsgate

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

5 for First Friday: Family-Friendly Viewing for the Month of March

Shark-Tank-castIt’s the First Friday of March, and we’re starting a new feature, spotlighting family-friendly viewing each month. Enjoy!

“Shark Tank”: There are always several episodes available to view on ABC.com and on Hulu, but watching “Shark Tank” live on Friday nights can be a nice way to start the weekend.

Though the reality show is its eighth season, and is already a multiple Emmy-award winner, the new episodes continue to be as fresh and exciting as the ideas that each entrepreneur brings into the “tank,” in search of funding from the panel of “sharks.”

Every episode presents a real opportunity to witness the American dream come true for hardworking and creative people, and gives viewers an insight into what it takes to win over investors.

This week, a mom from San Diego and two brothers get their shot. There’s also a profile on “shark” Robert Herjavec who shares his story about immigrating as a child from Eastern Europe to North America, escaping Communism and how this experience influenced his very impressive business success.

“Lark Rise To Candleford”: If you’re looking for a television series to binge-watch without having to worry about “explaining” questionable scenes and storyline choices to your kids, this BBC show—set in the English countryside and chronicling the small town life of its characters—ran for four complete seasons and every episode is available to watch on Amazon Prime. It is clean but also charming, heartwarming but also clever… as you might expect a British show to be.

“peg + cat”: This an animated kids series is in its second season on PBS right now, but if you have a preschool or kindergarten-aged child and you haven’t yet given it a shot, it’s worth checking out with them. There are several episodes available on Amazon Prime and YouTube—some for free and others for a small fee.

The show introduces basic math to little ones in a way they can understand. It is surprising how capable young children are of picking up introductory math concepts (like counting, recognizing patterns, sorting, proportions, drawing diagrams) if presented in a way they’re entertained by—and if you have daughters, you may especially appreciate that the protagonist is a little girl.

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Research continually shows that girls are less confident and more anxious about math than boys are, even at a very young age. The show provides a female role model who demonstrates skills—especially creative and persistent problem solving—that are vital to understanding math and eventually science as well. The other plus to “peg + cat” is that if you watch this show alongside your child, you will also get ideas on how to incorporate math concepts into simple games and exercises at home.

“Savoring Our Faith”: Although many are aware of the existence of EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, the expansiveness of their programming seems to be a better kept secret. Did you have any clue that EWTN has its own cooking show?!

The host, Fr. Leo Patalinghug, is quite likeable, a skilled chef and adept at weaving lessons from the Bible into lessons for the kitchen. You can find the list of episodes and airdates here—from the U.S. and Canada all the way to Africa and the Pacific Rim—or just check it out on YouTube.

You can also watch EWTN live online.

“Heartland” – Another not-so-well known programming outlet for families? Light TV. Light TV is a digital broadcast network that was launched by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey at the end of last year. When over-the-air stations — your local network affiliates and independent channels — went digital, the expanded bandwith capacity meant there were digital “subchannels” available. Some show programming related to the main channel; others are given over to independent networks, like Light TV.

They can be accessed with a digital antenna or on selected cable systems. Click here for an earlier blog post about the network and how to find it.

The series and movies that air on Light TV are chosen specifically because of their family-friendly nature, so while the content is not brand new, it may be new to you and you can be sure it’s pretty safe to watch with your kids.

“Heartland” was one of the first shows to air on Light TV and definitely represents the vibe that Light TV is aiming to accomplish. A Canadian series, which is in its tenth season and continues to film original episodes, follows a family with a love for horses and a common goal to keep their ranch running after they suffer a serious tragedy. The show is also available to watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Just one parenting note: I would skip over the opening scenes as they contain some content regarding the aforementioned tragedy that could be scary for little kids.

See you next month!

Korbi is a former full-time TV blogger, writing for sites such as E! Online and Yahoo!. She is now a full-time mom of twin boys. In her free time, she moonlights as a Marriage, Family & Individual Therapist.

Image: Courtesy ABC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Launching Lent: Fr. Tony Ricard, Patrick Coffin and Other Catholic Media Pros Reflect on Family Prayer

Sister-Nancy-Usselmann-Joseph-Nesta-Patrick-Coffin-Father-Tony-Ricard-Family-PrayerToday — Wednesday, March 1 — is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of the Lenten season. In case you were wondering what Lent is all about, here’s Family Theater’s new video explaining it:

One thing all Catholic families can do better is praying together, and Lent may be a perfect time to jump-start that in your home. As part of our ongoing “Faith in Media” series, we talked to Catholic mcdia professionals about the importance of family prayer.

To start with, podcaster, author, speaker and radio host Patrick Coffin gave us his own family prayer:

Coffin also offered us a longer take on family prayer, emphasizing that family prayer is the “great untried solution” to many of the ills besetting the modern family, including divorce and the splintering of family members.

Father Tony Ricard, a priest, speaker, author and evangelist from the Archdiocese of New Orleans discussed the importance of not only talking but listening in prayer, and how we, as a people, have to be “about the business of God.”

Then, Joseph Nesta, senior community-relations officer for Immaculate Heart Radio, told us about how saying a family rosary can create beautiful memories.

Finally, Sister Nancy Usselmann, F.S.P., of the Daughters of Saint Paul, the national director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, explains how family prayer nourished her own vocation, that of her priest brother, and of her married sister and single sister.

Pray on!

Images: Courtesy Family Theater Productions

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground': Martha Williamson on Faith, Love and a Touch of the Blues

Martha-Williamson-Signed-Sealed-Delivered-1On Feb. 2, “Touched by an Angel” creator Martha Williamson sat down for a talk at Bel-Air Presbyterian in Los Angeles, as part of its faith-based Beacon Hollywood ministry.

Williamson is currently known for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” a series of movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, which premieres a new installment, “Higher Ground,” on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 9 p.m. ET.

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The series focuses on the “POstables,” a team based in the Denver, Colorado, office of the U.S. Postal Service, which attempts to deliver mail lost in transit and left undelivered. It’s up to the POstables to make sure the “dead letters” are, as Williamson says, “delivered late, but right on time.”

Here’s what’s happening in “Higher Ground,” from the official Website:

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans handyman and blues singer-songwriter Gabe Recolte was left homeless before he had the chance to express his love for club owner Hattie. Oliver and his team retrieve Gabe’s love letter years later and face challenges in solving the mystery. Stars Keb ‘Mo, Eric Mabius, Kristin Booth, Crystal Lowe and Geoff Gustafson.

While the stories of the POstables continue through each movie, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” also lets Williamson tell a story about new characters in each Martha-Williamson-Signed-Sealed-Delivered-2installment — as she did with “Touched by an Angel” — with faith themes threaded through.

We’ll deal with “Touched” in another post, but here are some selections from what Williams had to say about her new project.

On the tentative romance between head POstable Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius) and postal detective Shane McInerney (Kristin Booth):

I wanted to explore a man who’s a Christian, whose life was messed up. So, he’s married, and his wife has left him and taken off to Paris. He’s finally worked through that, and what it meant to be a man of honor and not take up with this other woman, even though he hadn’t even seen his wife for almost three years. But he wanted to do the right thing until he was released to do something else, and he was really was struggling.

He’s basically in love but hasn’t said it yet to Shane.

She is a 21st-Century technology woman, and he is a 20th-Century, basically a Luddite, who doesn’t even own a cellphone. The two of them should not be together whatsoever, but that’s not how God works, and so they’ve been going back and forth.

She’s not a believer and he is, so to pitch that to Hallmark without them thinking it it’s going to be a Christian show, was a real tap dance. But I said, “Just trust me, and as we develop these characters you’re going to want to see what happens, and you’re going to want to see his level of faith.”

On how Hallmark responded:

Michelle Vicary, the senior executive vice president [at Hallmark], said, “I’m not afraid of God,” which I thought was a very powerful thing to hear at a network.

They’ve been very supportive and I think the challenge for this that they are human. They are walking in faith, and they are at different points at faith. And they actually are responsible for maintaining other people’s faith. It’s a tremendous act of faith.

How fan response planted a seed for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”:

I found some letters that had been written to me that I never read. Fan letters. I was reminded of how people’s lives had been changed. …

I’ll never forget this one little boy in an airport once he said, “My mommy and my sister and me, we watch [‘Touched by an Angel’] all the time. My daddy watches it too, but he watches it in the den because he cries.”

And I thought that was just adorable because it said so much, that this poor man, you know, was wanting to feel things but he didn’t want to appear weak, apparently. So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to have somebody like Oliver, a guy who’s really weak in so many ways but strong in his faith and that’s what keeps him going, and he’s a kind person?”

There’s this amazing web of fans for this crazy little show. They just deconstruct every single line. They see the Biblical references in it, even though it’s not there. … What they love is there’s this really sexy guy who struggles. He has fallen and gotten himself back up. He made bad decisions but he can still be a man of faith, and he’s a gentleman. He opens the door not because you’re a woman, he opens the door because you’re a human.

Martha-Higher-Ground

On the mature love story in “Higher Ground”:

Keb ‘Mo is one of the most remarkable blues artists in the country. Back, a few months ago performed in the White House for President and Mrs. Obamam and he performed with James Taylor and Eric Clapton. I mean, he’s an incredible musician and he’s an old friend.

One more thing you should always do is never be afraid to reach out to somebody you admire and tell them that you admire them and say thank you. Which is exactly what I did with Keb ‘Mo, and we ended up begin friends, and now he’s on our show. Hallmark is not known for its diversity, and so it took three years to get this romantic couple on the screen, and I’m very happy about that.

And also, we know this, they ain’t young. They’re older folks. Who can fall in love too.

On the romances you’ll see — including Oliver and Shane — and the future:

I didn’t know if “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was going to be picked up for three more movies, so I wrote this with the intention that, if this is the last show that we ever see in this series of movies, we will resolve some things.

The two couples that you see will come together in ways that the audience has been waiting for for a long time. I’m very happy about that, but most importantly, we finally see Shane realize, step up and become something of a believer, I would say.

She acknowledges that God has been working in her life. That’s huge. So, all the little tiny pieces were pulled together, and happily, we were picked up for three more movies for 2017, so I’m going to be busy for a while.

Here’s a sneak peek at “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground” …

Images: Courtesy Hallmark Channel

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

 

 

Chris Brancato: The ‘Narcos’ and ‘Of Kings and Prophets’ Writer/Producer Shares Showbiz Wisdom

Chris-Brancato-NarcosDuring my years as an entertainment journalist covering television, I got to meet a lot of great people. One of them was Chris Brancato, a writer/producer I first interviewed when he was working on a Syfy (then Sci-Fi) Channel drama called “First Wave.”

Luckily for me — and especially for Chris — his career trajectory continued upward. He’s written and produced for such shows as NBC’s “Boomtown” and “Hannibal,” Netflix’s “Narcos” (which he co-created) and ABC’s Biblical drama “Of Kings and Prophets” (click here for a story about that).

Last November, he accepted an invitation to come and speak at Family Theater Productions’ monthly Prayer and Pasta event, discussing the challenge of keeping the core of your project alive during the pitching and production process.

But, the week before that, I headed to his offices on the Walt Disney lot to capture some of his wisdom on camera. The result is this trio of videos, which are a tidy little masterclass for anybody interested in making TV series, from someone who’s been there.

Enjoy!

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.

Movieguide’s Faith and Values Awards Gala: An Awards Show You Can Get Behind

movieguide-faith-values-award-reelz-benhur-hacksaw-ridge-risen-andrew-garfield-joseph-fiennesOn Feb. 10, Christian media group Movieguide offers the 25th Annual Faith and Values Awards Gala, an awards show that might be upbeat and positive — and about showbiz instead of politics.

What a concept, eh?

Terry Crews is host, overseeing a slate of nominations that includes Epiphany Awards for a TV show and a movie that “greatly increased man’s love or understanding for God,” according to the press release.

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The movie nominees are (in alphabetical order):

  • “Ben-Hur (2016)”
  • “God’s Not Dead 2″
  • “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • “Hail, Caesar!”
  • “Miracles From Heaven”
  • “Risen”
  • “Silence”
  • “The Young Messiah”

And the TV nominees:

  • “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”: Season 3, Episodes 20-22, “Emancipation,” “Absolution,” “Ascension” (ABC)
  • “The Bridge Part 2″ (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries)
  • “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” (NBC)
  • “Operation Christmas” (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries)
  • “The Passion: New Orleans” (Fox)
  • “Pocahontas: Dove of Peace” (CBN)
  • “A Time to Dance” (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries)

Also, the Grace Awards honor an actor from one movie and one TV program for offering, as the release says, the “most inspiring performances in movies and television demonstrating God’s grace and love toward us as human beings.”

For movies:

  • Roderigo Santoro (“Ben-Hur (2016)”)
  • David A.R. White (“God’s Not Dead 2″)
  • Melissa Joan Hart (“God’s Not Dead 2″)
  • Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”)
  • Josh Brolin (“Hail, Caesar!”)
  • Robert Pike Daniel (“Hail, Caesar!”)
  • Jennifer Garner (“Miracles From Heaven”)
  • Kylie Rogers (“Miracles From Heaven”)
  • Cliff Curtis (“Risen”)
  • Joseph Fiennes (“Risen”)
  • Adam Greaves-Neal (“The Young Messiah”)

And TV:

  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”)
  • Faith Ford (“The Bridge Part 2″)
  • Ted McGinley (“The Bridge Part 2″)
  • Alyvia Alyn Lind (“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”)
  • Gerald McRaney (“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”)
  • Dolly Parton (“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”)
  • Tyler Perry (“The Passion: New Orleans”)
  • Devielle Johnson (“A Time to Dance”)

Here’s a look at what else is on the agenda:

For 32 years, Movieguide and Companion Christian Film and Television Commission have been “redeeming the values of the entertainment industry by influencing industry executives and by informing and equipping the public about the influence of the entertainment media.”

The honors will be telecast on Easter Sunday, April 16, on the REELZ cable channel.

Images: Courtesy Paramount/MGM; Lionsgate; Sony/Affirm; 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.