Category: Family Movies & Television

Should Christians Even Try to Break into Hollywood?

Christian-Catholic-filmmaking-cinemaSo you’re a screenwriter, director, actor or producer, and you’re a serious Christian. Is working outside the Hollywood system the only way to find success?

It’s one way — but it’s definitely not the only one.

After all, Christ teaches us that everything is possible, if we’re oriented properly.

In the first daily Mass reading for today, April 28, from the Acts of the Apostles, regarding the failure of movements that rose up against nascent Christianity, we hear (emphasis mine):

So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

So, what is a Christian Hollywood hopeful to make of this? Will Jesus descend from the Heavens with an army of angels and help you storm showbiz?

Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we should necessarily abandon the entertainment industry to rampant secularism and the dictatorship of relativism. If you really want to influence the culture and evangelize for Truth, Beauty and Goodness, why not use the megaphone that already exists?

Is Indie Film the Only Way to Go for Christians?

Not at all. You can work within the system, but first, you’ve got to identify your strengths and your niche, and become great at what you do. That’s the advice Catholic screenwriter Jennifer Dornbush gives in this video.

It’s not easy for anybody to break into the TV and movie studio system. But it can be done, as seen with the success of Sony Pictures’ faith-based Affirm Films division.

From a November 2016 piece in Deadline.comhere’s a selection from an internal memo by Steven Bersch, president of Sony Worldwide Acquisitions, who oversees the label. The occasion was the promotions of two executives to work under Rich Peluso, who has run Affirm since 2007, and who was also promoted to Executive Vice President.

These well-deserved promotions come at an auspicious moment for AFFIRM Films. In the past few years, our studio has become the industry leader in films for audiences of faith; by forging powerful connections with incredible reach, AFFIRM has no peer in reaching the core audience for these films. Behind films like War Room, which hit #1 on the domestic box office chart on the way to $68M and RISEN, and as the faith-based marketing partner for the Columbia Pictures Miracles from Heaven and Heaven is for Real, which became the #2 faith-based film of all time, the studio has now notched seven of the top 10 faith-based domestic openings of all time and is currently the most profitable faith-based studio, delivering over $420 million in domestic box office.

And, by the way, according to his LinkedIn profile, Peluso is based in Nashville, so not all of Hollywood is in Los Angeles.

OK, But are Big Studios My Only Alternative to Independent Film?

No. All big studios were once small studios, or even other businesses that grew studio arms. That process is still happening. In the digital space, look at how streaming content suppliers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have quickly become major players in production.

Netflix has just leased Hollywood studio space; Hulu is making strategic partnerships, such as this one with A&E Studios for an Afghanistan War drama; and Amazon Prime’s latest pilot slate even includes a Christian-themed science-fiction drama called “Oasis.” 

At the same time, faith-based service PureFlix has become a substantial studio itself, including its recent $3M “The Case for Christ,” which has a 79% rating at secular site Rotten Tomatoes.

Hollywood Hasn’t Given Up on Faith-Friendly and Family Fare, So Don’t Give Up on Hollywood

By all means, if you want to make a film on your own, go for it.

Successful TV producer Chris Brancato even endorses the idea:

But just because the existing entertainment industry seems hostile to Christians, remember, in one way or another, it’s hostile to everyone.

If you are talented, excellent, persistent and determined — and you’re lucky enough to have Christ on your side — you can find your voice, and you can find your place.

Just look at Father Patrick Peyton’s Family Theater Productions — we’ve been on Sunset Boulevard since the 1950s, and we’re still here.

It won’t be easy, but nothing’s ever easy in the TV and movie business. You may fail spectacularly and wind up taking another road, but the only absolute guarantee of failure is not to try.

To further your education in the Hollywood area — with a Christian influence — try programs offered by Act One, John Paul the Great University, the School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University, the Cinema and Media Arts Program at Biola University, or the Cinematic Arts department at Asuza Pacific University.

Image: Adobe Stock

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.

David Henrie and Maria Cahill’s Big Catholic Wedding

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Instagram/DavidHenrie

Star of hit TV series marries former pageant queen. It’s not an unusual story … or is it?

On Friday, April 21, “Wizards of Waverly Place” star David Henrie married Miss Delaware 2011 Maria Cahill … in a Solemn High Mass at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Wilmington, California. It’s very pretty.

Peter and Paul Church

The bride and groom looked pretty good too (from David Henrie’s Facebook page):

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I couldn’t be happier :) marriage is the most beautiful thing. DEO GRATIAS! Link in bio for the story via @people

His “Wizards of Waverly Place” castmates showed up, including Selena Gomez (also from David Henrie’s Facebook page):

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It was truly and honor to have my whole cast come to my big day! Could be more blessed and appreciative of all that we did together… Many memories I’ll never forget and always cherish. @selenagomez @jaketaustin @comeagainjen14 @daviddeluise and Maria! @christineskariphotography

Contacted for comment, “Wizards of Waverly Place” executive producer Peter Murietta said exclusively to the Faith & Family Media Blog:

So proud to be part of a show that fostered the kinds of relationships that kept them so close after all these years.

All amazing people and such an amazing time.

People magazine had the whole story — well, almost. Henrie said to People:

“You always hear you should marry your best friend, and I actually get to do it,” Henrie, 27, told PEOPLE exclusively before their Old Hollywood-inspired wedding in Southern California on Friday. “You don’t meet girls like her every day.” Added Cahill, 26: “One of my favorite things about him is how funny he is and how we just get each other. Being married is going to be just that much better.”

People didn’t mention this was a Catholic wedding at a Catholic church — it just said the couple exchanged “traditional vows” — nor did it mention the strong beliefs of the happy couple.

Mezzo-soprano Clara Chung, who sang at the wedding as part of the de Angelis Vocal Ensemble, told the Faith & Family Media Blog:

It was a really beautiful and reverent Solemn High Mass, and they did well in choosing music that would properly adorn the liturgy. It was clear that the beauty of the Sacrament was of utmost importance to them.

Henrie reconnected to his Catholic faith while filming the 2015 film “Little Boy,” saying in an interview quoted at WorldReligionNews.com:

He added that the cast had helped him “to find the greater good and awaken the little boy in my heart, and led me back to my faith, led me back to my beliefs, and it has completely changed my life.”

Since then, he’s become a devout Catholic and a common visitor at Masses around the Los Angeles area.

As for Cahill, People entirely omits that the cradle Catholic, one of seven children, is a speaker (book her here) on the issues of pro-life, chastity (which Henrie has publicly addressed as well) and modesty, which got her in some trouble during her pageant years. From her speaker bio:

After winning Miss Delaware less than six months later, that talk was released to Youtube, starting controversy, especially in the pageant community. During her year as Miss Delaware, she was instructed to remain silent on her pro-life views, being told that speaking about this issue would hinder her chances of becoming Miss America. Maria continued to speak and spread the love of Life, Liberty, and Happiness for every single one of God’s children.

Here are a couple of videos from 2016 in which Ms. Cahill, now Mrs. Henrie, talks to Catholic high-school students and then sits down for a post-speech chat:

It’s a rare day that a young Hollywood wedding is also a big Catholic wedding. We hope the witness of David and Maria impacted everyone there, along with young people across the country and around the world.

Images: David Henrie Instagram; Wikimedia Commons; David Henrie Facebook Page

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.

 

‘The Promise': A Long Road Paved With Good Intentions

The-promise-christian-bale-armenian-genocide
“The Promise,” releasing on Friday, April 21, has worthy intentions, but a slow pace and many extraneous scenes of traversing landscapes and climbing mountains, along with a morally questionable love triangle, hamper the telling of an important story — the Armenian Genocide in Turkey (a charge the Turks vehemently deny).

The story places three fictional characters — two Armenian Christians: an apothecary/medical student (Oscar Isaac) named Mikael, and a French-accented expatriate (Charlotte Le Bon) named Ana — and American reporter Chris Myers (Christian Bale). against the backdrop of the horrific events during World War I.

Myers and Ana are an unmarried romantic couple, and Mikael is betrothed to a girl back home, whose family is bankrolling his medical studies in Constantinople (now Istanbul).

While heroically covering the slaughter of Armenians by Turkish troops, Myers is also a long-suffering cuckolded boyfriend, since Ana betrays him with Mikael, who, in turn, betrays his betrothed with her. And, as a cherry on top, Mikael and Ana sit in a Christian cathedral, holding hands while listening to a monk sing sacred music.

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So, in an unforced error, Christianity takes a moral hit. At the same time, though, the brutal excesses of the Ottoman Turks are unflinchingly portrayed — while their Islamic faith is noticeably downplayed. There is also a fourth fictional character, a young Muslim Turk, a friend of Mikael from medical school, who winds up being heroic.

Fortunately, there are also Christian clergy portrayed as heroes, trying to save Armenian orphans from wanton slaughter (and even the French get a big moment at the end).

“The Promise” could have easily been a half-hour shorter, and one wishes the Christian characters took teachings on sexual morality more seriously, but still, this is a overlooked episode of 20th Century history that deserves to be dramatized.

It’s rated PG-13. While there isn’t overt sexual content (it’s implied rather than graphically shown), there is a lot of suffering and wartime violence portrayed, so it’s not necessarily a film for the whole family.

Images: Open Road 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. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Smithsonian’s ‘The Real Jesus of Nazareth’ Has Problems With Faith

Robert-Powell-Real-Jesus-Nazareth-Smithsonian-FFBAnyone who’s watched any number of cable documentaries about Jesus and Christianity knows to take them with a grain of salt. Or a shaker. Or a bowl.

Airing Easter Sunday and Monday, April 16 and 17 (8 p.m. ET/PT, both nights), Smithsonian Channel’s “The Real Jesus of Nazareth” is no different. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Franco Zeffirelli’s outstanding 1977 miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth,” it sends that show’s star, Robert Powell, on a quest to find the historical Jesus.

Like most of these documentaries, scholars rather than clergy discuss Jesus, and here, it’s a mixed bag.

Dr. Candida Moss — also seen in CNN’s well-done “Finding Jesus” — is a Catholic, and one scholar whose general tone does not exhibit overt skepticism, although she keeps her personal beliefs out of her comments. That’s too bad, because a scholar who’s actually a sincere believer is a rare creature in secular documentaries on Christianity.

Other scholars discussing Jesus include Dr. Bart Ehrman, a former Christian who now describes himself as an atheist; and Dr. Helen Bond, whose personal religious beliefs I was unable to verify. But in both cases, there’s a obvious skepticism about Christ’s divinity in their comments, and both are careful to avoid giving credence to any supernatural claims. This may just be a scholarly discipline, but especially in the case of Ehrman, it comes off as dismissal and even disdain.

In contrast, Powell is charming throughout, respectful and curious and kind. He’s a long-married father of two (he wed just before filming “Jesus of Nazareth”) and has continued to work steadily in British TV and film.

In a 1977 interview conducted on the set of the miniseries, Powell said:

Robert, whom American audiences have also seen in the films ‘Mahler’ and ‘Tommy’ explained it to me this way: “There was an aspect of Christianity that always distressed me. The meaning of Christianity is so simple, but its tenets are complicated. This is what put me off. Before I began this film, I had no particular interest in religion and absolutely no opinion of Christ.

“Now, I do believe in Christ and His divinity, even though I do not necessarily go to church. Prior to being cast in the part, my knowledge of Christ was limited to Sunday school teachings and religious stories, all on a rather immature level. I knew this would never be enough for me as an actor, to work with in developing a character. So I read the Bible through thoroughly, which I’d not done before, taking it apart and analyzing it. I also consulted works of reference and commentaries on the Bible because I wanted to obtain other people’s ideas as well.

“An actor has to be objective when interpreting a part. Nonetheless, after playing Christ for all these months, it would be difficult not to really believe in him.” Concluded Robert.

Overall, “The Real Jesus of Nazareth” is no worse than any of these sorts of documentaries, and better than some. But bolstering faith is not its intention, nor will it likely be a result of watching it. But, it is lovely to see Powell, now 72. reminiscing about the role for which he will always be best known.

He’s the best thing about “The Real Jesus of Nazareth,” but if you want to have a faith-filled family experience for Easter, I’d recommend just skipping this and watching “Jesus of Nazareth,” available for streaming on Amazon and iTunes.

It’s also on YouTube:

Images: Courtesy Smithsonian 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. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Easter Sunday: James Dean Proclaims the Resurrection in ‘Hill Number One’ on EWTN

James-Dean-Hill-Number-OneEverybody’s got to start somewhere, and for screen legend James Dean, that was Family Theater Productions.

One advantage of being founded in 1947 is that we’ve gotten to work with some of the biggest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age — from Bing Crosby to Gregory Peck to Maureen O’Hara to Jimmy Durante.

On March 25, 1951, when the Korean War was in full swing, we released a TV special called “Hill Number One” (click here to watch). The reluctance of a group of American G.I.s to take one more hill on Easter Sunday provides the backdrop for an unusual retelling of the Passion, and that first hill, Golgotha, also known as Calvary.

Hill Number One 1

The cast includes Roddy McDowall as Pvt. Huntington (The Professor), Ruth Hussey as the Virgin Mary, Leif Erickson as Pilate, Joan Leslie as Claudia Procles, Jeanne Cagney (sister of James Cagney) as Mary Magdalene, Gene Lockhart as Matthew. and a very young James Dean — in his first speaking role — as John.

Hill-Number-One-James-Dean

 

As described at the IMDB:

A respectful interpretation of what might have happened among Jesus’s followers in the three days before Crucifixion. The story is told in the modern context of an US Army company stationed in Korea during the Korean War.

As the Catholic chaplain (Gordon Oliver) tells the tale of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the scene switches to Jerusalem. When the action returns to Korea, the chaplain finishes his talk with an exhortation to listen to Mary and pray always — and use the rosary.

He says, “Of course, the beads don’t tell it to me; I tell it to the beads. That’s what meditation is. That’s what prayer is.”

Father-Patrick-Peyton

It’s a fitting addition, since FTP’s founder, Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. (above) — who produced the special  — was deeply devoted to Mary and to the rosary, earning the nickname “The Rosary Priest.” He appears at the end to speak about the thing dearest to his heart, getting families to pray the rosary together.

Click here to learn about his life and the cause for his sainthood.

As it did last Easter, “Hill Number One” airs Easter Sunday, April 16, on EWTN, at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.

The DVD of “Hill Number One” can be bought from the online store of Holy Cross Family Ministries, the parent organization of Family Theater, or from Amazon.com. It can also be streamed on Amazon Prime Video,

Among the comments at Amazon, from “Chief”:

Just as I was walking out the door on my way to Church this past Easter my wife was channel surfing and this movie caught my eye. I was unable to watch it and of course by the time I returned from Mass it had ended. So the next day I looked it up on Amazon ordered it and to my delight it was available, delivered before the expected delivery date and in the condition stated. The movie is corny but the message is timeless and needed now more than ever in this country. This will become a staple for my Easter time movie watching in addition to Jesus of Nazareth.

Last but not least, a peek at James Dean:

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

Norbertine Web Series ‘City of Saints’ Premieres With ‘The Good Thief’

City-of-Saints-Episode-1In the Catholic world of Southern California, the white-robed Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey are well-known — now the world gets to meet them.

On April 10, “The Good Thief,” the first episode of “City of Saints,” a seven-part series of short Web videos, premiered on CityofSaints.com. It traces the story of a troubled young man whose encounter with one of the Norbertine priests changed his life, comparing it to the story of St. Dismas, the “good thief” who was crucified alongside Christ.

Click here to watch; the page also offers background information on Father Norbert Wood, the Norbertine priest featured in the episode, and St. Dismas.

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St. Michael’s Abbey is in Silverado, California, in the heart of Orange County. The Norbertines operate a boys’ boarding school at the abbey, administer parishes in Orange and Los Angeles Counties, release chant CDs — and now, star in a new Web series.

Asked what a Norbertine is, here’s Father Norbert’s reply:

A priest whose life is anchored in the Mysteries of the Altar and who bathes there every day in the fountain flowing from the Savior’s open Heart.

A priest who begins anew every day to walk the path of conversion and who seeks to love and serve with a generous heart like St. Augustine and St. Norbert.

A priest who hungers and thirsts for the Lord and for the salvation of His people and who renews that hunger and thirst each day in prayer.

Here are the upcoming episodes:

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Image: Courtesy Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey

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.