Category: Kate O’Hare

‘Catholic Central’ Videos Keep It Quick, Fun and Informational

Family Theater Productions’ Catholic Central aims to boil down the history, theology and practices of a 2,000-year-old church into a series of online videos that all clock in at less than 10 minutes, while still keeping it fresh, fun, engaging to younger viewers … and accurate.

Here’s a taste:

How Is Catholic Central Created?

This Herculean task requires a team of professional writers, directors and crew people, two outrageously talented hosts, along with editors and animators, and a backup squad of researchers and theologians. There are many talking-head YouTube videos out there, and many of them are quite good (such as those by Father Mike Schmitz, a fan of our show), but Catholic Central wanted to be something different.

“Catholic Central plays a much-needed role on the Internet. Not only are Kai and Libby great at communicating the truths of the Catholic faith in a clear and understandable way, but their presentation is also incredibly entertaining and the production value very high. We need more resources like this!”

          Fr. Mike Schmitz, Catholic priest and media evangelist

Shot in FTP’s own studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, the episodes focus on a wide variety of Catholic topics, from big ones, like recent episode “What’s Catholic?”, to short explorations of holiday traditions, hot-button issues like “Creation and Evolution,” and more esoteric subjects, like “Praying With the Bible: Ignatian Meditation.”

Inspired by John Green’s info-and-graphics-heavy, but still quick and entertaining, Crash Course videos, the episodes feature striking visuals and computer-generated animation, like this dramatic comic-book-flavored take on the papal conclave:

The goal is always to come at the topic from a broad view, then narrowing down to the most essential elements. After that, it’s deciding how the information can be conveyed through spoken text (leaning toward non-theological language, with precise terms added when necessary), comedy and images. The Catholic Central style makes use of traditional Catholic imagery, mixed with striking photos and pop-culture-inspired takes (like the cardinal “Bat Signal” in the video above).

Who’s in Catholic Central?

Live hosts Kai (Kaiser Johnson) and Libby (Libby Slater) anchor from the Catholic Central desk and also portray a dizzying array of original characters, those inspired by pop culture, and figures from history in quick comedy takes.

Like this clip from “Mary” featuring Slater as the Mother of God:

All of these are then cut together into fast-paced videos that are still sensitive to the topics, never going for laughs or speed at the expense of facts and reverence.

After a long casting search, Johnson and Slater were chosen for their on-screen chemistry, poise and appealing personalities. As time has gone on, they’ve demonstrated impeccable comedic timing, an ability to be serious when the topic demands (and say some mighty big words). They’re also good sports, rapidly switching costumes, wigs, makeup and personas — sometimes several times in one shooting day.

Kai and Libby also write for the show — and they have improv chops, as demonstrated in this short episode for Lent, which begins with a script and then goes into Johnson’s improvised rant:

Where Can You Watch Catholic Central?

Available on its own YouTube channel, the show is also found at CatholicCentral.com, where each episode page features links, Going Deeper questions and such downloadable resources as an episode transcript, and activity guides for individuals and small/large groups. The guides and questions are developed with input from the show’s own Catholic staff, in consultation with educators and theologians.

While the classic YouTube format of one or two people just talking directly to the camera can be very effective, Catholic Central takes it up a notch, producing videos that are not only suitable for the ordinary seeker who may stumble across them on YouTube but also for families and the classroom. The style is intended to be visually interesting and entertaining, emphasizing sound doctrine and history while keeping it sharp, funny and relevant.

The show even now has a Millennial showrunner, Mary Ashley Burton. A talented writer, she also directs episodes, and manages the writing team and the physical production.

There are several new episodes up at CatholicCentral.com — take a look!

Image: Family Theater Productions

Kate O’Hare is a longtime entertainment journalist and the Social Media Manager for Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

‘Smallfoot’: Bright Animation But a Dark Message on Faith

Hitting theaters on Sept. 28, Warner Bros. Animation’s Smallfoot is presented as a bright, joyous celebration of life, love and curiosity — but there is a downside.

Set on a cloud-encircled mountaintop that is home to a hard-working community of friendly, innocent, sweet Yetis (a k a the Himalayan version of Bigfoot) informed by their tradition that humans (a k a “Smallfoot”) are just myths, and that they should never question any doctrines. In fact, “Ignorance is bliss” is one of them.

One Yeti accidentally encounters a human, and that sets him on a voyage of discovery to find out what lies beneath the clouds.

The animation is bright and cheerful, the original songs are catchy, and Smallfoot features a quality voice cast. Unfortunately, though, its positive messages about family and curiosity are couched in the notion that belief systems are merely lies told to protect the populace from “the truth.”

It’s hard to escape parallels to what some people wrongly believe about Christianity, that it squelches exploration and intellectual curiosity. For sure, Catholics know that’s not true. Even if individual clergy or religious figures refuse to allow questioning — perhaps because of their own fear or ignorance — the Church has a long and storied intellectual tradition. Just a cruise around modern Catholic websites will turn up a lively discussion and debate of all Church teaching, which is widely available online.

Smallfoot also takes a very negative view of humans. While the Yetis are harmless and blameless, humans come off as mindless destroying monsters (unless they’re entirely devoted to the environment, that is).

Also, the remote village at the bottom of the mountain strangely resembles not so much a Himalayan enclave as an urban Chinatown, awash in garish neon signs.

Any parents of faith that choose to take their children to Smallfoot — and the kids at the screening I attended loved it — should be prepared for a post-movie discussion about what faith truly is and how the film may misrepresent it.

There are a few scary moments but no overt violence of sexuality.

Image: Courtesy Warner Bros. Animation

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.

Ken Burns Reveals the Mayo Clinic’s Catholic Roots in PBS Documentary

Airing on Tuesday, Sept. 25 and repeating Wednesday, Sept. 26, on PBS stations (check local listings; channel, dates and times may vary), acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns’ latest effort, The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science explores the history of the famed Minnesota hospital and medical-research facility … and finds some determined Franciscan nuns.

From the press release:

When a deadly tornado tore through their small community in 1883, the Mayos took charge of recovery efforts, enlisting the help of the nearby Sisters of Saint Francis to care for patients. Afterwards, Mother Alfred Moes, the leader of the convent, told Dr. Mayo she had a vision from God that instructed her to build a hospital, with him as its director. She believed it would become “world renowned for its medical arts.”

Blending historical narrative with contemporary patient stories, THE MAYO CLINIC: FAITH – HOPE – SCIENCE is a timely look at how one institution has met the changing demands of healthcare for 150 years—and what that can teach us about facing the challenges of patient care today.

Born in Luxembourg, Mother Alfred Moes was the founder of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, who eventually became a teaching order in the Midwest. They cared for orphans and educated girls from early childhood through their teens.

From her bio at the order’s site:

Our Lady of Lourdes Academy and several other schools under Mother Alfred’s direction were flourishing in Minnesota, when on August 21, 1883, a tornado ravished the area. Mother Alfred and her Sisters opened their schools to the victims. After this experience, Mother Alfred recognized the great need for a hospital. She petitioned Dr. Mayo to plan and staff a hospital at the expense of the Sisters. Within a few years, on September 30, 1889, Mother Alfred opened St. Mary Hospital, Rochester, Minnesota, which eventually became the renowned Mayo Clinic.

Although Mother Alfred died in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 18, 1899, her ministry, as that of St. Francis of Assisi, “to rebuild the church” continues to this day by the Congregations known as “Al’s gals.”

It’s clear from Burns’ documentary that St. Mary’s, and the eventual Mayo Clinic, would not have been possible without the physical and fundraising efforts of the sisters, who transformed themselves in many cases from teachers into nurses.

The sisters remain involved with the world-renowned clinic to this day, which maintains a St. Mary’s Campus as part of the overall Mayo Clinic property.

Ken Burns

Burns’ documentary not only highlights the Church’s long involvement with healthcare — stretching back centuries — but shows how the involvement of a higher purposes and a higher calling can elevate science.

Said Burns; “The history of healthcare is a larger reflection of who we are as a nation. It includes advances in science and technology, but also touches on more universal themes of love and compassion. This is an extraordinary story that places our fundamental need to care for each other within the larger framework of America’s healthcare system and modern medicine.”

The two-hour documentary airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Tuesday, Sept. 25, on many PBS stations; and repeats on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 10 p.m. ET.

Also, with a PBS membership, you can watch the whole thing here; or you can buy the DVD here.

Images: Courtesy PBS

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.

‘Repent and Submit’: The Catholic Hipster and Steve the Missionary Take Over CatholicTV

On Oct. 1, CatholicTV premieres Repent and Submit, a new series featuring two of social media’s favorite Catholics: Tommy Tighe (a k a the Catholic Hipster) and Steven Lewis (a k a Steve the Missionary).

Tighe, who tweets under @theghissilent and, and Lewis, who tweets under @SteveMissionary, are known for using lots of original humor to talk about their personal faith and to evangelize. Here’s a quick sample of recent tweets:

 

Tighe is also an author, having written “The Catholic Hipster Handbook” for Ave Maria Press. Here’s his bio there:

Tommy Tighe is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked in community mental health since 2006. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2003 from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University in 2005.

Tighe has contributed to Catholic DigestAleteia, and CatholicMom.com. He records The Catholic Hipster Podcast with cohost Sarah Vablulas. He has appeared on Relevant Radio, EWTN Radio, and The Catholic Channel on SiriusXM Radio, which runs his podcast The Chimney.

He lives with his wife, Karen, in Livermore, California. They have four sons. (Ed: His website says five. He and his wife lost one, and they have another on the way — so far healthy!)

Lewis is a video blogger (his YouTube channel is here), has worked as a campus missionary and focuses on evangelizing the young. He’s also single and worried he’s not doing it right.

Together, the two plan to take a humorous look at topics large and small. Or, you can hear them describe it themselves.

In a recent piece for Angelus News, Tighe wrote:

Repent & Submit is a fast-paced show covering tons of Catholic topics in a brief amount of time, all aimed at helping you have a great time because these are the exact conversations you’re probably having with your Catholic friends on a daily basis. We try and show that, while we may have drastically different opinions on issues within the Church (music style, prayer life, the best way to highlight the younger voices in our parishes), we can still come away as friends and hopefully learn a little something at the same time.

If you’re excited to see something new, something fresh, and something exciting in the world of Catholic television, you’ve got to put Repent & Submit from CatholicTV on your calendar! You can catch it live on air every Wednesday 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CatholicTV starting the first week of October, or stream it any time at CatholicTV.org or on the CatholicTV app (available for pretty much every device out there).

CatholicTV is indeed available live online, as an Amazon app, on Roku devices, on select cable systems and in lots of other ways.

Repent and Submit premieres live on Monday, Oct. 1, at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. You can read more about it here, in the digital version of CatholicTV’s magazine; check out the show’s official homepage here; and follow it on Twitter @RepentSubmitCTV, and Catholic TV on Facebook.

Image: Courtesy CatholicTV

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.

‘God Bless the Broken Road’: Mixed Reviews for New Faith-Based Film

In theaters Sept. 7, “God Bless the Broken Road” tells the story of a Kentucky-based Afghan War widow, church musician and single mother struggling with her faith and the possibility of a new relationship.

Here’s how the official Website describes it:

God Bless the Broken Road tells the story of a young mother who loses her husband in Afghanistan and struggles to raise their young daughter in his absence. The film combines elements of faith, country music, and stock car racing while paying tribute to those who serve in the United States Military.

Harold Cronk (“God’s Not Dead”) directed the movie and is credited as co-writer with Catholic Jennifer Dornbush, who wrote the book version, which came last summer. Cronk specializes in films aimed at the faith audience, but with the mainstream success of recent films like “I Can Only Imagine,” mainstream news outlets are taking more notice of films targeted at the faithful.

And, like “I Can Only Imagine,” “God Bless the Broken Road” is inspired by a song, this time one by Rascal Flatts called “Bless the Broken Road.” And, like “I Can Only Imagine,” it features actress Madeline Carroll.

Lindsay Pulsipher (“True Blood”) stars as widow Amber; Makenzie Moss plays her daughter, Bree; Kim Delaney (“NYPD Blue”) is Amber’s mother-in-law; and Andrew W. Walker plays Cody, a NASCAR driver who is interested in Amber. Making his film debut is NFL great LaDanian Tomlinson, who plays Amber’s pastor.

Early reviews are positive about the performance of Pulsipher’s performance but not so much about the movie itself.

From The Washington Post:

There are powerful themes of doubt and redemption here, and character actor Gary Grubbs (“The X Files”) is convincing as Joe, the avuncular auto repair-shop owner who teaches “Speed Racer,” as he calls Cody, to slow down when he takes a curve. Ironically, this faith-based film requires a suspension of disbelief: Joe’s lesson is an apt metaphor for life, sure, but how could Cody have had any success on the track if he didn’t already know when to slow down? The parables of Jesus are instructive because they speak to real struggles, but Cody’s hubris is pure contrivance.

… The filmmakers display technical proficiency — shot rhythms and graceful camerawork suggest an omniscient power gently observing His charges — and there is a natural drama in seeing flawed humans struggle with their belief.

But aside from Grubbs’s genuine wisdom, the characters for the most part play inspirational pawns more than three-dimensional people, their relationships held together by the most slender of threads. “God Bless the Broken Road” plants a seed of evangelical drama, but its efforts to proselytize are unlikely to bear fruit.

From the Tribune News Service:

“God Bless the Broken Road” is a very strange Frankenstein’s monster of a film, the story trying to combine too many elements while reverse-engineered into incorporating the title of a popular country song. It is unclear what anything in the movie has to do with Rascal Flatts or the song, except that Amber sings it at the end in her triumphant return to church, after her many come-to-Jesus moments: losing her home, her daughter running away on a go-kart and going to live with her judgmental, multi-level-marketing-shilling mother-in-law, finding out the story of her husband’s death from his Army pal, a climatic NASCAR race wherein her new boyfriend drives a commemorative car decked out in pink camouflage and eagles.

What “God Bless the Broken Road” does have going for it is a better-than-expected performance by Pulsipher, who plays the winsome but broken woman with a deep sense of sensitivity. At the center, she holds together this hodgepodge of random story elements that otherwise don’t make much sense together at all.

And, from AZCentral:

Just to be clear: “God Bless the Broken Road” would be just as bad a film if it were set in, say, an Orthodox Jewish community, rather than the Bible Belt (specifically Kentucky). Like nine out of 10 faith-based films, it lets the message crowd out the other elements of good art: character development, thematic complexity, even basics such as a compelling conflict.

After nearly two hours of plodding storytelling, and despite an affecting performance by Pulsipher, we know nothing about Amber other than her difficult circumstances and maybe the fact that she likes Rascal Flatts and Scrabble. And the world she lives in is equally gauzy, filled with good-willed people of faith who, except maybe for her mean boss, all have her best interests at heart.

None of this reaction is surprising, and some of it may be accurate. But it comes from reviewers who are very unlikely to be counted among the film’s target demo. So, faith-based viewers will have to decide for themselves about “God Bless the Broken Road.”

Images: Courtesy 10 West Studios/A Really Good Home Pictures

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.

New Animated ‘Pete the Cat’ Lands at Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 21, With Diana Krall and Elvis Costello!

After Amazon Prime Video’s holiday special, “Pete the Cat: A Groovy New Year,” a new series based on the hit children’s book series hits the streaming service on Sept. 21.

Created by author/illustrator James Dean, “Pete the Cat” spreads over 40 books, translated into 13 languages and the recipients of 18 literary awards, including the Theodore Geisel Seuss Award.

Here’s what Amazon had to say about the new series (click here for the homepage):

Amazon Prime Video today announced Friday, September 21 will be the global premiere date for the anticipated animated kids series Pete the Cat. Based on the best-selling children’s books, Pete the Cat is a fun, musically driven series about exploring your world and trying new things, while being smart, accepting, and optimistic. Whether you’re making new friends or facing all of life’s ups and downs, Pete always finds a way to put a groovy spin on things. The series stars Jacob Tremblay (Room) as Pete the Cat, and musicians Diana Krall and Elvis Costello as his Mom and Dad. Pete the Cat features original music from Grammy Award-winners Costello and Krall, which will also be available to stream via Amazon Music. Jessica Biel (The Illusionist), Atticus Shaffer (The Middle) and internationally acclaimed musician KT Tunstall also star in the series.

In season one of Pete the Cat, the show highlights themes of self-discovery. Pete stays cool as he tries new things, sets out for picture day, writes his first song, learns to surf and even has his first performance for his band. Scored with an upbeat, groovy soundtrack, Pete the Cat encourages children to be curious, creative, and positive while rockin’ to their own beat.

Pete the Cat is a co-production with Amazon Studios and Alcon Television Group. It is developed by Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (Phineas and Ferb) and Appian Way Production Company. Marsh serves as executive producer along with Alcon’s Andrew Kosove, Broderick Johnson, and Laura Lancaster, as well as Appian Way’s Jennifer Davisson.

Take a peek:

Image: Courtesy Amazon Prime Video

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.