From Shrine to screen
Chapel plays a pivotal role in faith-based film
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BY TONI CASHNELLI
A touching scene is about to unfold at St. Anthony Shrine. And Tony Moreman knows exactly how it will end.
“This is the part where Junior and Tonya are arriving at church,” Tony says. “Junior is by himself; they’re breaking up. He doesn’t think he’s good enough for her. But she believes in him.”
Will Junior see the light? Will the lovers reunite? You’ll find out when the film they’re making comes to a screen near you.
Tony is Assistant Director for a movie called Brand New Kitchen, and today they’re shooting scenes central to its faith-based premise. Plot-wise the film is about loves lost and found. At its core, “It’s a lovely story about redemption and forgiveness,” says actress Lynn Meyers, one of the movie’s lead characters.
It’s Halloween evening and St. Michael Films, based in Dayton, Ohio, has set up shop at St. Anthony’s in Mt. Airy. Several area locations including Eden Park and Deaconess Hospital are backdrops in the film, which takes its title from a character’s job. He’s a contractor who, while working on a kitchen remodel, finds the client is his long-lost love.
For bemused Shrine Guardian Fr. Carl Langenderfer, it’s just short of bedlam as the crew swarms the tranquil hilltop mounting lights, positioning cameras and audio equipment, patting makeup on actors and commandeering the dining room for “craft services”, supplying food for the production. “I thought maybe six or eight people might be involved besides the actors themselves,” Carl says. “When the company showed up with 26 people besides the four cast members, I was completely overwhelmed.”
Director Billy McAdams Jr. walks two actors through the scene in which they separately ascend the steps of the chapel. He moves to the director’s chair in front of a monitor. Next to him a script supervisor in headphones mans a laptop to follow the action.
“Are we set?” Tony asks. “Are you happy?” Someone claps a clapboard (it identifies the shot) and says, “Let’s roll audio. Let’s roll camera.”
The monitor shows what’s happening as the camera pans down from above the chapel doors to a man entering the building. But something isn’t right with the shot.
“Billy wants to wait 15 minutes,” Tony announces. “He would like it to be darker.”
Even the director can’t summon the sunset so they regroup, shooting auxiliary footage of the grounds and setting up scenes inside the chapel. Judging from the activity, there are many moving parts to this production.
On a small set like this, “Everybody does a little bit of everything,” says Matt Legner, main lighting and rigging technician (aka “key grip”) who lives two minutes from the Shrine. Others hail from Los Angeles, Asheville, N.C., and all points in between.
“A short day for us is 12 hours,” from which they might obtain six to eight minutes of footage, Matt says. In the course of shooting a movie, he might never see a script. “But it’s neat to work and see a finished product” and think, “I built that rig or lit that.”
Production Assistant Nina Brackett has five jobs, one of which is, “Bring actors to set.” Costume Designer Tessa Hawkes, whose mom worked for fashion icon Oscar de la Renta, was one of the first people recruited for the film. “The movie is based on nine days,” she says. “So you’re talking nine plus costumes” for characters, “and there are flashbacks from 1985.”
“A movie is a wonderful meatloaf of everybody coming together,” says Producer Sunny Donovan, the go-to person for practical matters like payroll or equipment snafus. “It starts out as an idea in somebody’s head” and evolves from there. For Brand New Kitchen, the period from now to distribution could be two years. “The No. 1 most difficult thing is finding an audience,” Sunny says, “getting a movie in front of people.”
This is her fourth project with Executive Producer and screenwriter Mike Mergler, the man behind St. Michael Films. The mission outlined on its website is “to serve the New Evangelization by producing great stories that reflect a Catholic viewpoint with regard to moral and ethical issues facing individuals in our world today.” Mike’s last movie, recently screened in Cincinnati, was The Tribunal, a courtroom drama set in a Catholic Marriage Tribunal.
Mike says he and his wife are “long-time supporters of the Franciscans, going back to when we lived off Liberty Street [in Over-the-Rhine] in the 1980s. We were originally approved to use the more modern St. Joseph Chapel at Incarnation Parish in Dayton to shoot the chapel scenes, but our director wanted a more traditional look. I am quite certain that the Holy Spirit led us to the St. Anthony Shrine as the alternative.”
Although lighting and staging take more time than in other settings, “I always love shooting in churches,” says Director Billy. “The church itself is its own character.” He and the crew are respectful of their surroundings, checking with Carl at every turn as they drape a tapestry over the scrolling prayer screen, shuffle fixtures and light candles. At the end of a work day that may last until 3 a.m., Billy hopes to have finished three scenes.
Carl is impressed. “I watched them shoot one scene that lasted about a minute, but they shot it over and over, making adjustments in their lights, camera angles, and sound equipment. I probably saw them shoot the scene at least eight times, and they were not finished when I left the chapel.”
For Matt, it’s long hours and a lot of heavy lifting, “but I just love the work.” Sunny says of the crew, “We definitely have a film family. We see each other more than our own families.”
Fellow Producer Aymie Majerski agrees. “We all really care about each other. We’re not just here to make a movie.” And despite the 12-hour days, “We have a really fun job. It’s pretty darned awesome.”
In the end, Billy hopes Brand New Kitchen will resonate with viewers. “This is a Catholic movie,” he says. “I want films to have a message.”
And us? We’re just hoping for a happy ending.
(According to Mike Mergler, “Anyone who wants to see when and where our films will be available should periodically check out our website at stmichaelmovies.”)
(Pastor Loren Connell wrote about the rancor of this year’s election in the Oct. 27 newsletter. This is his column from last weekend’s bulletin at St. Aloysius in Detroit.)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
There is something awesome about citizens of multiple ages, races, and physical abilities coming together to decide the future direction of the country and the local community. Strangers engaged one another in conversation and exemplified the goodness of our nation.
Every year I am particularly grateful to the poll workers who make the whole process work smoothly. They are ordinary people who handle unexpected glitches with aplomb and the occasional disgruntled voter with respect. They are the people who make our democracy work. I make it a point to thank them as I leave. There was much to bemoan about this year’s election, and I fear that the partisan rancor will continue, but last Tuesday I was proud to be an American. I was proud to stand in line with my fellow citizens.
Peace and every blessing,
Fr. Loren Connell, OFM
Learning about life with the friars
BY FR. LUIS APONTE-MERCED, OFM Vocation Director
For years, Benji was the official greeter in Ava.Richard HessMatthew Ryan
Richard is a computer programmer for the Wisconsin Health Department. He previously attended the diocesan seminary in Detroit. He has a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Matthew is a lawyer and works as a Public Defender in Covington, Ky. He and his father recently went on a pilgrimage directed by Fr. Alex Kratz to the Holy Land.
The attendees participated in the community’s liturgy, meals and recreations. Fr. Mark Soehner gave the participants an orientation of the Postulancy Program.
They visited the ministry site at Transfiguration Parish in Southfield where they participated in the celebration of the Eucharist by Fr. Bill Farris.
Above, Bill Farris; above right, Richard and Matthew with Mike Lenz, Dan Ward, Alex Kratz, Luis, and Mark SoehnerBr. Michael Radomski
Matthew, who had visited last year, was happy to see the community again. Richard loved it because he saw we were very diverse in what we were doing. He said he enjoyed the entire weekend.
For years, Benji was the official greeter in Ava.
Benji, the longest-serving member of the team at the interprovincial prayer fraternity in Ava, Mo., died Sept. 13 at the age of 14. He was a gift to the friars when they moved into Our Lady of the Angels Friary in 2005. “Benji was the best friend and best watch dog one could ever find,” says friar Francis Wendling. “As soon as any car arrived he would immediately go to the driver’s side and greet the driver by wagging his tail.”
PHOTO BY STOCKSY.COMThis Thanksgiving, try to be a calming force.“This Will Be the Worst Thanksgiving Ever!”That was the title of an article that popped up on my computer. It referred to the rancor and hostility and divisiveness that the elections had on families. Thus, a bad Thanksgiving!The Sunday before the elections an elderly gentleman came to St. Anthony’s to encourage us to vote for Hillary. To send him on his way, I told him that all of the friars voted ahead of time. Then, we started talking. He indicated that this was the “worst election he has ever witnessed” and he’d be glad when it was all over. Then he added, “I hope my family will talk with me at Thanksgiving because they’re all really opposed to my views.”I too have witnessed many families who get very emotional, angry and hurt because of their views of the election. As friars we are called to be peace-makers and bridge-builders. We need to be a calming force in the middle of this chaos. Should we get caught up in such a situation, maybe we can suggest waiting until the new administration takes over to discuss it, distract ourselves with family memories or business, take a walk in the neighborhood and get caught up on family developments or look through old picture albums. Try anything to avoid escalating the polarization.As we approach Thanksgiving, we reflect on the gifts of the past year and are grateful for the freedoms that we experience in our country. May we all enjoy the Thanksgiving season by being a calming force that reflects our gratitude as Franciscans. –Fr. Frank Jasper, OFM
Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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From Shrine to screen
Chapel plays a pivotal role in faith-based film
PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COMVoter 154 in Precinct 136, City of Detroit, arrived at the polling station at 7:25 a.m. Tuesday. The first few minutes were spent circling the parking lot until a space opened up. When I left an hour later, the waiting line was just as long as it was when I arrived. I am a pretty impatient person, and I do not like to wait in lines. . . unless it’s Election Day.
For years, Benji was the official greeter in Ava.Two men attended the Come and See weekend Nov. 11-13 at Duns Scotus Friary in Berkley, Mich. Richard Hess from Oregon, Wis., and Matthew Ryan from Covington, Ky., are both applying for the Postulancy Program.
Friars lose a friendFor years, Benji was the official greeter in Ava.
From Shrine to screen
Chapel plays a pivotal role
in faith-based film