Category: Fr. David Guffey, C.S.C.

God the Artist: Reflections from the Director’s Chair.

Fr. David in the Director's Chair

Fr. David in the Director’s Chair

This month Family Theater Productions released Family Dinner, a short film for teens and families.  At the very same time were filming two more movies and these last weeks I have been directing short films for a project at Family Theater Productions.

When I am on a film set, I appreciate all the more what goes into creating the scripted television shows or films that I watch.   Everything you see and hear has been selected and placed in the frame by professionals.  The people on camera in each scene were selected to serve the story, even the background people who sit at  restaurant tables or pass by on the street.  Assistant Directors instructed them where to move.  The light in each shot has been crafted.  In exterior shots they may use the sun, but block out direct light, or bounce (reflecting) rays off a surface to fill a shadow.  The lighting crew working with the director of photography and the director, paint the scene with light creating night or day, warm or cool environments, shadows and highlights.   Sound and music are added in the post-production process to bring depth and emotion to the visual images.DSC01593

It occurred to me that God is the ultimate artist, the great director, who authors the story of the kingdom unfolding around us.  God has placed each of us in a carefully selected location, a dynamic studio with colors, shapes, natural elements and human creations.  God creates the greatest sets, magnificent cities, sylvan wilderness, seas and prairies.  God is our gaffer (lighting expert) providing the light, sun in the day and stars in the night.  God casts the people who enter my life, all of them: the co-stars, the featured and even the background.  As they play some role in my life, I know that each of them lives out their own arc in the Kingdom of God and that I play some role in their story too.  The hum of the city, the chatter of people, the beat of  songs forms the soundtracks of life.  It is all there by the creation of God for some purpose.  We add to it with the choices we make.

We are cast and crew for the Gospel, called to collaborate by bringing using our talents and energies to serve the story of God.   The great challenge is to discern what our purpose, our role truly is and then live it well.   Come Holy Spirit.

I believe in Providence.  That is the idea that God is actively at work in each of our lives in hard times and in times of comfort and joy.  God is ever advancing the great story of the kingdom of love, truth, beauty, hope and faith.

What story are you living now?  May the Holy Spirit help you discern the roles you are called to play, give you appreciation for the artistry of God around you, and lead you to participate in the great story of the Kingdom of God unfolding in our midst.



Dolphin Tale 2: Friends and Family Matter on Land and Sea


In Theaters Now

In Theaters Now

Dolphin Tale 2 released recently by Warner Brothers was the number two at the box office its opening weekend in September.  I saw the film Saturday afternoon in a theater packed with children, parents and grandparents.  Part of the fun of the film was hearing the giggles and responses of the kids in some parts, but their absolute silence in other scenes of the film.  The film had their attention and deserves it.

It is a family movie, not just in the sense that it has kid actors, animals and “lunge free” viewing (parents do not have to lunge to cover their children’s eyes or ears), the film is about the importance of family and friendships, of letting go and of remaining committed.

The first Dolphin Tale film tells the story of the rescue of Winter, a female dolphin whose tale fin had been cut off after being caught in a crab trap.  Dr. Clay Haskell, played by Harry Connick, Jr., takes the wounded creature to Clearwater Aquarium assisted by his daughter Hazel, Cozy Zuehlsdorff, and her friend, Sawyer, Nathan Gamble.   They pair an older dolphin named Panama with Winter and ultimately fit her with a prosthetic fin invented by Dr. Cameron McCarthy, played by Morgan Freeman.   All based on a true story.

The real Winter is a celebrity at the Clearwater Aquarium drawing many visitors, among them many disabled people.  Her ability to adapt to the prosthetic fin has inspired humans living with loss of limb or faced with physical challenges.

In Dolphin Tale 2, Winter’s dolphin friend Panama dies.  In spite of efforts by Cozy, Sawyer and the staff, Winter is depressed.  They must find a companion dolphin for her or risk her health and also the loss of the aquarium under pressure from the USAD.

Nathan Gamble star of Dolphin Tale 2 interviewed at Family Theater by Fr. Ed Benioff.

Nathan Gamble star of Dolphin Tale 2 interviewed at Family Theater by Fr. Ed Benioff.

Every character in the film seems called to clarity dedication to a purpose greater than themselves and must wrestle with what that means in terms of their life decisions. The staff at the Clearwater Aquarium rescue animals with the idea to return them to the wild as soon as possible.  Though they come to love the sea creatures in their care: they must be able to release them back to the wild.   The staff, including young Sawyer and Hazel, live the struggle of sacrificial love.

At the same time, Sawyer is offered a scholarship to a semester at sea program based in Boston.  Nathan Gamble says about his character, “The last three years at the Aquarium have been so great for him; it’s given him purpose and many friends, so he struggles with whether or not he should go.”  Can he let them go?  Can they let him go off to school so that he can become the person he is called to be?

The cast includes other greats like Ashley Judd and Chris Kristofferson, not to mention a scene stealing pelican and other beautiful sea animals.

All ages can see and enjoy Dolphin Tale 2.  It is wonderfully escapist in the sense that it has little of the cynicism and darkness of so many films today, but it still points to significant life issues that are worth a little reflection with touching moments, beautiful scenes and fun along the way.

“Boyhood” and “When the Game Stands Tall”: Cinema Looks at Boys Growing Up












It might seem odd to put Richard Linklater’s ground-breaking film Boyhood next to the fairly straightforward inspirational sports film When the Game Stands Tall directed by Thomas Carter, but both from very different perspectives show young men growing up and the mixed roles the adults in their lives play.

When the Game Stands Tall tells the story of Coach Bob Ladouceur and his De La Salle High School power house football team whose winning streak reached to 151 games.   The coach played by Jim Caviezel, repeats over and over that the winning streak is not the most important thing about the program he runs.   A reporter asks him “25 years coaching this team, favored to win your 12th consecutive championship, 150 wins, how’d you pull it off?”  Coach responds, “Winning a lot of games is doable, teaching kids there is more to life, that’s hard.”  Ladouceur creates a culture of pride, of accountability and of love of community in his players by his own example, by his teaching and attentiveness to them.   He is an adult who is present as an adult to the needs of the children entrusted to him as students and players.


When watching Boyhood, you keep wishing and hoping that Mason will have this kind of adult in his life.  Linklater’s film chronicles the life of Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane from the age of 6 to 18 and was filmed over 12 years with the cast including Ethan Hawke as the boy’s here-and-not-here father and Patricia Arquette as his struggling single mother.   The adults in Mason’s world drag him along as a bystander or baggage on their journey to find themselves.   His father played by Ethan Hawke is the largely absent, cool dad who shows up when he is in town, with gifts and advice and laughs.  Mason observes his hard-working Mother’s romances turn into marriages and implode into alcohol fused disasters.  He lives ever in someone else’s home and without a safe place of his own.  He forms friendships and then is repeatedly torn from them in successive moves.

The adults in his life love him in their own way, but they are not accountable to each other and not to him or his sister Samantha (played by Lorelei Linklater).   They parent on their own terms almost as a sideline to the bigger work of finding themselves.  Mason and his sister seem to get in their way at times.  In fact, in several separate cringe-worthy, Mason’s parents tell him that he was “a mistake.”  The words come in the guise of advice to use contraception, “you don’t want to make the same mistake your mom and I did.”

With the little guidance he gets from his family and the force of his own lovely personality, grace works in boy and you see an artist developing from the chaos of life.  After the credits role, you care enough about him to wonder how he will form family and navigate his way to adult life when he has had so few positive role models.   Will Mason find a home?  Is he prepared to create one?

There is no one really who calls him to excellence or to be his best self.  Would that the Mason’s of the world could have one of the Coach Bob Ladouceurs of the world as a mentor to help them believe in the meaning and purpose of life and experience the power of sacrificial love.

Coach Ladouceur gives a locker room speech in which he says that his mission is to help them grow up to be men that others can depend on.   Sadly, Mason in Boyhood, is not alone among teenagers in lacking adults in their lives with such a mission.


EWTN, the Global Catholic Television Network, Set to Open West Coast Studio at the new Christ Cathedral in Orange County

EWTN LogowebWe here at Family Theater Productions are excited to hear EWTN is opening a west coast studio at the new Christ Cathedral in Orange County.  EWTN broadcasts Catholic and family programming around the world, through television, radio, and the internet, while inspiring and educating the faithful.

The announcement was made by EWTN Chief Executive Officer, Michael Warsaw and Bishop Kevin Van of the Diocese of Orange at the Napa Institute being held this week.

Christ Cathedral. Photo credit: Diocese of Orange

Christ Cathedral. Photo credit: Diocese of Orange

Christ Cathedral is the formal Crystal Cathedral that was built by Dr. Robert Schuller , the television evangelist who hosted the “Hour of Power”.  After the TV ministry went bankrupt in 2010, the Cathedral was bought by the Diocese of Orange to be turned into a center of Catholic worship and outreach throughout Southern California and beyond.

The new studio will be operational and begin broadcasting news and Masses by the end of 2014.

Michael Warsaw added that the new west coast studio location will be an asset to the development of their programming by giving “EWTN a presence in an area of the country where the Network will be able to execute programs that would be difficult to produce elsewhere, particularly for our Spanish-language channels.”

We welcome EWTN to the west coast and offer them our prayers in this new endeavor.  National Director of Family Theater Productions, Father David Guffey, C.S.C. adds “EWTN has been a long time friend of Family Theater, one of our major broadcast partners who regularly play our TV and film content.  We congratulate EWTN and welcome them to the very rich, sometimes challenging media environment of Southern California.  Our prayers are with them in this new venture.”

Chef – The Word of Mouth Foodie Film that Could have been the Family Film of the Summer

Stars Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony and John Leguizamo in Chef

Stars Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony and John Leguizamo in Chef

Jon Favreau’s film Chef opened in theaters May 9, 2014, and it is still in theaters today, performing solidly against more intensely marketed summer block buster fair.  So far it has brought in almost $26 million, not bad for an independent film.  Word of mouth has brought adult audiences to the film in much the way that it did for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the summer of 2012.

I was one of the people who plopped down the twelve bucks to see it and was happy I did.  I am glad the film has done as well as it has.  It could have done so much better.

On coming out of theater amid a crowd of middle-aged film buffs and food lovers, I thought to myself this film is about 50 f-words and two short scenes away from being the family film of the summer.  This could have been a +$100 million dollar film and a tremendous gift to audiences.

Still in Theaters.   Dont' go hungry.

Still in Theaters.
Don’t go hungry.

In the film, chef Carl Casper (played by writer/director Jon Favreau) has an angry melt-down at a harsh food critic in the middle of the restaurant in front of his employer (played by Dustin Hoffman) and a room full of customers.   The chef is fired and left without prospects for his career.  At the same time, he has been the stereotypic neglectful divorced dad, arriving up late to pick-up his son (Emjay Anthony), not showing up for events.  At the suggestion of his ex-wife, played by Sophia Vergara, he starts a food truck business, involving his friends (including one played by the great John Leguizamo) and more importantly, his son.  They drive the truck from Miami to LA, cooking all the way.

The film is not a deep story but an enjoyable father-son, on the road, rags to riches, buddy film.  People who love any of these will love this movie, but they have to be over 18.  This film has an R rating, for language, a mild drug scene and some crude references.  Yes, most kids have seen and heard worse, but also yes, there are parents who still will not consciously choose to expose their children to these, especially when paying movie theater prices.

If the language had been tempered just a little, and a few scenes altered this could have been a hit family film in a summer where the cineplex has not offered much to parents with children.  A filmmaker with the talent of John Favreau, (IronMan, Elf, upcoming Disney Junglebook)  could have made this as real as it was but with language that would have made for a more inclusive audience.

I wish he had, because I would have loved to take my niece, who in her early teens is a fan of the food channel and loves cooking.  I encounter more and more kids who tell me they want to be a chef when they grow up.  It would have been great to send them and their parents to a movie about a chef in the process of growing up himself.

Instead their parents and grandparents will go alone and they are in for a treat.



frdavidFr. David Guffey, C.S.C. has been named the new National Director here at Family Theater Productions.  We could not be more excited!  Fr. Guffey comes with years of experience in the film and television industry, including a Masters in Film and Television from Loyola Marymount University and several years as our Head of Production.

He has many credits here with us at Family Theater, including several of our Manifest Mysteries series…”Carrying On”, “You Will See”, “Finding Mary”, and “Assumptions”.  He also has spearheaded efforts to increase our presence on the internet by creating content for our Youtube page, social media, and our ministry websites.

As National Director he will be responsible for all activities of Family Theater Productions, both media production and outreach.  Our outreach efforts to young Catholics and other Catholics in the entertainment industry includes Prayer & Pasta, Bible Study, a weekly Holy Hour, daily Rosary, daily Mass, and spiritual direction.

We are very excited about the future here at Family Theater Productions with Fr. Guffey leading the way.  If you are interested in attending any of our events, be sure to check out the calendar on our website.