My great challenge and goal in the upcoming year will be to commence creating a dream: The Cinapologue Project. The web site for The Cinapologue Project is www.cinapologue.com. Here is a brief description of the project:
Cinema (the art of making motion pictures) + apologue (an allegorical narrative usually intended to convey a moral)
The Cinapologue Project is the conceptualization, production and distribution of 156 contemporary short films with inspirational themes related to the three-year schedule of scripture selections of the Roman Catholic Church’s Sunday Lectionary. Additionally, they would serve as catalysts for group discussions on topics with a subtle moral feature and attract an audience seeking entertainment with a inspirational and uplifting component. The films would run between 5 and 20 minutes long, and would be produced with the high production standards of the commercial film industry. They would feature noted national actors in fictional stories, and would touch on relevant issues of our current culture and their underlying spiritual themes to which the ancient canonical scriptures speak. Much like sophisticated animated films, they would also be accessible on other levels and to a variety of audiences.
The films would be distributed online at a dedicated Cinapologue website, with additional resources available to enable further exploration of their spiritual, religious and humanistic themes. On the website, they would be organized in a variety of ways such as by each week’s scripture and a specific theme related to it; by topical themes such as community, loyalty, facing mortality; or by seasons. The films would be downloadable or streamed at no cost by individuals and groups for personal use or for workshops, lectures, or retreats. All rights would be retained by the Cinapologue Project.
Rationale for the Project
While the Church continues to be the most important instrument of access to God through Jesus, the truth is that it is increasingly not meaningful to many of its members, particularly younger ones. Church attendance is declining, and even for many who do attend, it is often a dry, irrelevant and lifeless experience. Many people who have studied this development have convincingly argued that the Church needs to utilize modern media effectively to communicate the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis, with web broadcasts and Twitter and Instagram posts, clearly understands the need. Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of modern forms of media lies in its ability to extend and expand the reach of ministry beyond the walls of the church.
Stories that Americans watch in movie theaters, on television networks and on the internetInternet have become formative, and are often a dominant influence on their lives. While they function primarily as entertainment, they also provide insight into human motivation and hope, and increasingly they serve as prominent and accessible spiritual and moral reference points in our culture. Indeed it can be argued that film stories today may have a far greater impact in these essential areas than the venerable religious institutions, which have served that function in the past.
Their power is derived from a tool that Jesus himself used to convey his messages: the parable. His parables were relatively simple stories with compelling characters in unique situations. Those stories communicated a moral message, but they were effective because of the power of story that runs through them. In our age, the stories have become visual, with an impact not even imagined in an earlier era. It is this impact that the Cinapologue Project hopes to have.
Project Origins and Intentions
One of the inspirations for The Cinapologue Project was a television series called “Insight”, which was nationally broadcast from 1960-1983. Produced by Father Ellwood “Bud” Keiser of Paulist Productions in Los Angeles, the series presented half-hour dramas illuminating the contemporary search for meaning, freedom, and love. There were often very explicit religious motifs. Well-known actors of the era (William Shatner, Patty Duke, Martin Sheen, among others) appeared on the show and worked without pay.
Although there are some similarities in terms of themes, the Cinapologue audience, format, length of films, and focus is substantially different. The Cinapologue Project is actually derived from the lived experience of real contemporary ministry in the Church, and specifically in the deeply effective use of imaginative storytelling in homilies. When stories of ordinary people’s everyday experiences are woven through a homily – sometimes initially with no apparent connection to the Gospel message – people of all ages in the congregation tend to listen and react, often on emotional levels. When the stories are revealed to be related to a teaching of Jesus, a lesson from the Gospel, the Scripture is opened up to people’s hearts in new ways.
It is a fair assumption that if such stories were available as short films on an easily accessible platform on the internet, they would be an invaluable resource to enhance the weekly experience of the liturgy for children, adolescents, and adults; to invite viewers of mature mind to consider the deeper meanings in our human interactions, to evangelize people of all ages who are ‘unchurched’ and to promote a Christian understanding of the human condition.
Initially, the Cinapologue film scripts would be based upon homily stories from the archives of James Mayzik SJ: stories that demonstrably affected real church congregations at Sunday Masses over the last 15 years. The stories would not be specifically religious in nature, and at first glance their underlying spiritual meaning might not be obvious. But when screened within the context of a specific scriptural lesson, they would reveal their deeper meaning and would help deepen an appreciation of the Word of God. Other Cinapologue films would be commissioned from other authors, tailored to specific themes of a reading of a Sunday liturgy.
Cinapologue films would be produced by Companion Pictures of Stamford, CT, and in association with other selected production companies. Production crews would include professional guest directors, freelance production and postproduction artists, and student interns. Guest actors of national and worldwide reputation who have Catholic/Jesuit/Christian affiliations would be recruited for starring roles, with supporting actors selected by audition. Films would be shot at various locations around the United States.
Various funding mechanisms for the Cinapologue Project are being considered. An initial funding target of $30,000 is being sought for the purchase of production equipment. An additional $30,000 is also being sought for the first film production later this year. A donor or series of donors will be required to fund the entire project, and it is hoped that a funding grant may be obtained from a Catholic or Christian funding foundation.
The Cinapologue Project would be developed and administered under the auspices of the not-for-profit corporation entitled The Cinapologue Project, with a board of advisors, and an administrator.