Category: Family Movies & Television

Christopher Awards: ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ ‘This Is Us,’ Dolly Parton and More …

Hacksaw-Ridge-This-Is-Us-ChristophersHollywood can often seem hostile to family values, but The Christopher Awards intend to honor good where it can be found, whether in movies, television or books.

The Christopher Awards were created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Today, March 28, The Christophers — founded by Maryknoll priest Father James Keller in 1945 — released the 68th Annual Christopher Award winners, to be presented in New York City on May 16.

Said director of communications Tony Rossi:

“The powerful love of family is a thread in so many of our winning projects this year, be it family we’re related to by blood or those whose kindness and selflessness lead us to form an emotional and spiritual connection with them. These are the kinds of bonds that can change people’s lives and change the world.”

The movie winners are “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hidden Figures,” “The Hollars” and “Queen of Katwe” (or own Father David Guffey reviewed that one). Said “Hidden Figures” director Ted Melfi (a previous winner for “St. Vincent” in 2014):

“Movies that entertain are the norm, but films that enlighten, educate and inspire are so rare, yet so important and the Christopher Award shines light on these films, further illuminating their footprint on the planet. As one candle has the ability to cast out darkness, such is the power of one film to impact hearts and minds for the better. It’s truly an honor to be considered for a Christopher Award…and an incredible blessing to be awarded one.”

The TV offerings blend TV-movies, scripted series and documentary. They are “60 Minutes: Gold Star Parents,” “America ReFramed: In the Game,” “Born This Way: Bachelor Pad,” “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love,” “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing” and hit freshman drama “This Is Us” (I had my say on that one).

Click here to read the whole release, including the rundown of worthy books for adults and young people.

Image: Courtesy NBC/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. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

5 Ways to Use Nemo and Dory to Teach Family Prayer

Finding Nemo-Poster copy

How do we learn to pray?

Unlike breathing, prayer is not an autonomic reflex. It has to be taught and practiced. Unfortunately, many of the times we spontaneously turn to prayer are pressure moments where we can’t give it a lot of thought.

But, movies can help, especially for parents and kids.

While watching a movie — or a TV episode or online video, for little ones with shorter attention spans — we can stop and talk about how to pray for the characters.

For example, there are many scary moments and big decisions to be made in a film like “Finding Nemo,” and talking about the characters’ dilemmas, rather than those of people you actually know, allows everyone to take a step back and think carefully.

I consulted with a few parents on how to do this, and here are some of their suggestions …

  • Pick a movie or TV episode you’ve seen many times before. The last thing you want to do is make a kid wait to see what happens next when you’re trying to teach him or her something.
  • Don’t do it too often in the video. Pick just the big moments, the crisis and decision points, and ask, “If you had to pray for Nemo or Marlin or Dory here, what would you say?”
  • Ask, from time to time, what the kids think God might want the character to do. Don’t be afraid to disagree with screenwriters’ choices. That improves critical thinking.
  • Keep it quick and light. This is Prayer 101, not a Masters in Theology.
  • If this sparks kids to talk about their own lives or that of their friends, keep that pause button on. No movie or teaching opportunity is more important than connecting with a child who’s willing to open up.

So, pray that movie … and please share your experiences or suggestions in the comments, either on the post, or on Facebook.

Image: Courtesy Disney/Pixar

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. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Happy Birthday, William Shatner — Thanks for Working With Us!

William-Shatner-The-Soldier-ffbIn the early ’60s, before he landed the gig on “Star Trek,” which premiered in 1966, William Shatner was just another young actor in Hollywood looking for interesting work.

Among the places he landed was Family Theater Productions, on Sunset Boulevard, run at that time by its founder, Irish-born Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. Among FTP’s projects released in 1962 was a series of short films that were meditations on the Psalms, and Shatner appeared in three of them.

The first one features his narration and focuses on Psalm 83:

The next one features Psalm 3:

The last one, with Psalm 41, also gave an aspiring filmmaker his first official credit, as an assistant cameraman.

His name was George Lucas.

Shatner continues to be a force in entertainment and on Twitter. He turns 86 today and shows no signs of slowing down.

Happy Birthday!


Image: Courtesy Family Theater Productions/Wikimedia Commons: Gage Skidmore

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. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

What ‘This Is Us’ and Jack Teach Us About Fatherhood on St. Joseph’s Day

This-Is-Us-Milo-Ventimiglia-Mandy-Moore-ffbNBC’s hit family drama “This Is Us” just ended its first season — to a chorus of strong emotional reactions. For the sake of those who haven’t seen it yet, I won’t go into what happened, but a lot of the show is about fatherhood, and that’s very appropriate for today, March 20, the Feast Day of St. Joseph.

Joseph, a simple but honorable carpenter in Nazareth, was the spouse of Mary. He not only had to take on the notion of a wife who became pregnant by supernatural means, but raising a child who was also the Son of God. Now, THAT’S a dad.

“This Is Us” looks at a family at two points in time: the past, when the young parents, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), are dealing with marriage and raising triplets, including an adopted child, taken in after one of the triplets dies at birth; and, in the present day, as the siblings (Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, Justin Hartley) in their mid-30s, deal with dating, marriage, divorce, kids, etc.

We see Jack raising his own children, and then, after his death, his divorced friend Miguel (Jon Huertas), stepping in as a stepfather, with all the complications that brings.

In the present day, daughter Kate (Metz) has a lot of issues surrounding the loss of her father (she still watches football games with the urn containing his ashes). At the same time, adopted Randall (Brown) is in the middle of an emotional maelstrom with his birth father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), whom Randall just found, but who has been dying of cancer. Randall is also a loving father of two daughters himself, with patient wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson).

The show deals realistically with a lot of the challenges and joys of being a dad, but it offers a portrayal of fatherhood that’s much too rare in today’s entertainment. Today, many young men are reluctant to get married, let alone become fathers. And a lot of TV fathers — and real fathers — seem to be willing to do anything to get away from their wives and kids for a time.

But Jack, the son of an abusive father, has desperately wanted to be the dad he never had, and to be there for his children. He’s sacrificed for them, taken jobs he didn’t want, swallowed his pride to ask his father for money to get a home, and even sold his prized car.

As hard as he tries, Jack’s not perfect. There are some marital issues, there’s drinking, and there are times he’s working too much.

But in one episode, called “The Big Day” — a prequel that shows what led up to the triplets’ birth — which aired in January, Jack is out with Miguel and other friends at the golf course. There, the guys explain how golf is their escape, how it gets them away from their wives and families for “five blissful hours.”

Even though very pregnant Rebecca is a little nuts at the time, Jack doesn’t want to get away from her. He says, “I want to freeze time just so I can get a little more.”

The same episode featured firefighter Joe — seen briefly in the pilot — who brought the abandoned baby that would grow up to be Randall to the hospital, after he was left at the fire station. In “The Big Day,” the firefighter, who’s a sincere Catholic, confesses to his priest about the breakdown of his childless marriage.

Joe first brings the baby home to his wife, in hopes of salvaging the relationship, but she orders him to take the infant to the hospital. But later, when they talk again, the wife admits that his gesture touched her heart.

They reconnect with the love they felt at the beginning and go out with a coffee date.

And it doesn’t end in youth. Obstetrician Dr. Katowski, or Dr. K. (Gerald McRaney), reflects on picking up the pieces after the death of his wife. Years before, they lost a child, which inspires him to suggest that Jack and Rebecca adopt Randall. But first, he needs to tell his own worried children that he will grieve and move on at his own speed and in his own way.

Here’s the promo:

Life is complicated on “This Is Us,” just as it is in reality — the family is nominally Christian but not churchgoers, and there are some edgy elements — but one of the strongest messages that comes through is that fathers matter, fathers can love their families just as much as mothers do, and that, if we didn’t have good fathers, we aren’t necessarily doomed to repeat the mistakes.

With hope and faith, there’s always a choice to be better and do better.

That’s a message lots of fathers — and mothers — need to hear every single day. You can do this, and despite all the trials and heartbreaks, it’s worth it.

You can watch the whole first season of “This Is Us” at, or at Hulu.

Image: Courtesy NBC

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.

Patrick, Francis and ‘City of Saints’ — New Saintly Stories

City-of-SaintsMarch 17 is St. Patrick’s feast day, but as all Catholics know, we are surrounded by a cloud of saintly witnesses every day of the year.

Now, the Augustine Institute and the Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey are offering new ways to see and hear saintly stories.


Released today, “The Trials of Saint Patrick,” the second production from the Augustine Institute Radio Theatre, tells the truth behind the legend. From the homepage:

The Trials of Saint Patrick tells the dramatic story of how a kidnapped slave risked his life to become a champion of the Christian faith to the outer-reaches of the Roman Empire. With the Augustine Institute Radio Theatre’s high-quality acting, cinematic sound design and musical score, the much-loved Saint Patrick will be seen in a fresh new light.

Augustine Institute audio dramas capture the power and passion of the most compelling stories on the best theatre screen there is: your imagination.

You can listen to episode one by clicking here.

Brother-Francis-Augustine-LighthouseIt follows on the earlier release of “Brother Francis: The Barefoot Saint of Assisi” (the link also features a trailer video).

It’s described as:

A young man of wealth who became a traumatized prisoner of war and outcast. A holy beggar, he embraced the lepers, challenged a Pope, debated a Sultan and shook his world to its very core. Discover the Francis you never knew in Brother Francis. The Barefoot Saint of Assisi. 10 exciting episodes with over 50 actors capturing the power and passion of Francis of Assisi.

Both are available on CD, from Lighthouse Catholic Media.

Also, in the inbox today landed “City of Saints,” a seven-episode series from the Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey (in Orange County, California), and Kinnane Films.

We don’t know much about it yet, except the trailer (click here for that; it can’t be embedded), which shows scenes of the Norbertines and of various people, says that the series tells seven true stories, and reminds is that “Every saint has a history; every sinner has a future.”

If you enter your email, the first episode lands in your own inbox on Monday, April 10.

If you don’t know about the Norbertine Fathers, here’s a little vignette of their communal life, from 2010:

Image: Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey/Kinnane Films

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.

[UPDATE: Caviezel Out, David Boreanaz In] Jim Caviezel to Star in CBS Navy SEAL Pilot

Jim-Caviezel-Family-Theater-Rosary-Bowl-FFBBeloved by viewers for both his performance as Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2044 blockbuster, “The Passion of the Christ,” and as the star of the long-running CBS series “Person of Interest” — which ended after five seasons last spring — Jim Caviezel may be returning to CBS this fall.


Once a CBS drama star, always a CBS drama star. Jim Caviezel, who headlined the network’s long-running procedural Person of Interest, has been tapped to lead the cast of its untitled Navy SEAL drama pilot from former Justified executive producers Ben Cavell, Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly and Shameless executive producer Chris Chulack.

Written by Cavell and directed by Chulack, the project follows the lives of the elite Navy SEALs as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high-stakes missions our country can ask. Caviezel will play Jason, the respected, committed leader of his assault team who’s been through more than a dozen deployments.

Cavell, Timberman, Beverly and Chulack executive produce for CBS TV Studios.

In the Navy SEAL pilot, Caviezel joins another actor from a long-running CBS procedural: former CSI: NY co-star A.J. Buckley. Also previously cast in the project are Max Thieriot, Neil Brown Jr. and Toni Trucks.

Caviezel next stars in The Ballad of Lefty Brown, which just premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival. He is repped by ICM Partners and attorney Frank Stewart.

Along with being a film and TV star, Caviezel is also a longtime friend of Family Theater Productions, having met our founder, Father Patrick Peyton, by chance, in 1991. The aging priest agreed to the young actor’s impromptus request for confession and gave him sage advice.

Click here to watch the moving video — a screenshot is below — in which he describes the life-changing encounter.


UPDATE on 3/22: As reported by

As Bones is heading into its series finale next week, star David Boreanaz has been tapped as the lead of CBS’ Navy SEAL drama pilot. Boreanaz replaces Jim Caviezel, who was cast in the role last week. Cavizel, who has a long history with CBS as the star of the long-running crime drama series Person of Interest, has parted ways with the network and the Navy SEAL pilot’s producer CBS TV Studios over creative differences.

Incidentally, Boreanaz was raised Catholic, and his character on “Bones,” FBI Agent Seeley Booth, was also a Catholic.

Here’s to hoping Caviezel pops up somewhere else …

Image: Family Theater Productions/Wikimedia Commons: Gage Skidmore

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.