Yesterday, David brought my attention to a blog posting on the Faith & Family blog discussing a recent interview given by Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington. For those of you not familiar with Ms. Nicolosi, I encourage you to check her out. She is a screenwriter, author, and professor at Pepperdine University (I wish she was there when I was!!). She founded Act One, an organization that nurtures the next generation of Christian artists and media pioneers, and is currently the Chair Emeritus of its Board of Directors. She co-edited Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith and Culture, and her latest screenwriting project is Mary, Mother of the Christ, which stars Al Pacino and Peter O’Toole and will be released in 2010 by MGM. She blogs over at Church of the Masses.
So, what’s all the hubbub about then? Well, I’ll show you the quote pulled by F&F in their blog:
“The saddest realities to look at are not Hustler magazine and Big Love. Much more tragic is what you find on EWTN and CBN, because these things are devoid of creativity and devoid of respect for the audience. They are banal. They may be produced with the best of intentions, but they have no sense of the appropriateness of the art form, of using the medium to its full potential.
Sad though it is, you would never call the Church the patron of the arts today. Never. You would be laughed down.”
I encourage you to read the full interview, which can be found here. Ms. Nicolosi knows her stuff when it comes to film and television, and she loves her faith. Although The Faithful Traveler is being aired on EWTN, I don’t subscribe to the view that if you dislike EWTN, you aren’t a good Catholic. That’s nonsense. Everyone is allowed to choose what they watch on TV. Even if that includes not watching EWTN, or our show, for that matter.
Anyway, if you check out the comments on the F&F Blog, you’ll see a lot of interesting things mentioned. I even threw my hat into the ring… I’ll post my comments below.
But I think the important take away from this entire discussion is that–if we don’t like the kind of art that’s out there–whether it be on EWTN, or in the movies, or on bookshelves, or what have you–we should take an active effort to do something about it. My comments address this point, and I think it’s a point I’ve made before on this blog.
Complaining about things never gets us anywhere. Ms. Nicolosi is certainly not just complaining. She’s out there, doing what she can to make the world and artistically better place. Kudos to her. But what are the rest of us doing?
I just want to challenge us all… let’s do something about it, and not just complain.
SPEND YOUR MONEY to support great projects.
Spread the word about really GOOD stuff that’s out there.
Or, if you’ve got the stuff, go CREATE.
Here’s the comment I posted over at F&F:
As the independent producer of a new series on EWTN, I thought I’d to throw my hat into the ring.
My husband and I produce a new travel series on EWTN called The Faithful Traveler. It debuted this past Spring—I’m curious if any of you have heard of or seen it. We visit Catholic shrines and places of pilgrimage throughout the U.S. We’ve only produced one season so far, and the future of the series on EWTN is uncertain.
Our show is the result of our love of our Catholic faith and of the Travel Channel. We wanted to watch an interesting and entertaining travel series that explored Catholic locations. None existed, so we thought we’d give it a shot.
We funded the show ourselves and produced it while maintaining full-time jobs. We visited 15 locations, exploring the saints, dogmas, Catholic traditions, architecture, and art in a lively and entertaining manner. We backed up our visuals with the contemporary and traditional music of Catholic musicians. Our goal was to produce a series that could proudly stand alongside what’s on the Travel Channel. While we certainly don’t have Travel Channel budgets, I think we came pretty close. I hope our viewers agree. If you haven’t tuned in… try it! The entire series will be rerun from the beginning starting on June 6th.
I think it’s important to reiterate the point made by Ms. Nicolosi and a few others—that producing quality art of any kind—be it television, film, literature, or visual art—costs money. Usually, it costs a LOT of money. And, the fact of the matter is, no matter how talented you are or how great your product is, no one will know about it unless you have the money to create your vision, promote it, and keep it going.
That said, the important question is, where does this money come from?
I’m not entirely sure if Ms. Nicolosi is using the term “the Church” as the institution—the Vatican—or if she’s using it to mean ALL OF US. We are the Body of Christ, we are the Church. So I’m not sure who she believes should be funding these endeavors. But I would argue that it’s not entirely up to the Church, the institution. We laypeople have got to accept some of the responsibility ourselves, too. We spend money to entertain ourselves on a regular basis. Why shouldn’t we make an effort to support artistic endeavors that promote the values that we hold dear in an artistically valuable manner?
We have two ways of doing this, I believe: We can get out there and create something, or we can support what someone else has created financially (by buying their books, DVDs, art, etc) or by spreading the word about their endeavors so that others will know about them.
It’s a well-known fact that EWTN runs entirely on donations. As a result, the quality of its programming depends on the generosity of its viewers. If we really want EWTN to be what it could be, why not help them become so by sending them a check every now and then, or by producing a program that would increase their production values? Most of all, let’s not forget to keep them in our prayers, because any endeavor taken for the greater glory of God is always fraught with temptation and strife.
I think it’s also important to remember that Catholic artists need to make a living, just like everyone else. Someone mentioned in the comments that Ms. Nicolosi should donate her time to help make EWTN a better network. I’m sure she’s got her own bills to pay, and she is entitled to a fair wage, just like everyone else. Kitty Cleveland (whose gorgeous music we use in our show) mentions this in her comments above, too. You can have the voice of an angel (which she does), and produce spectacularly inspiring CDs, but if no one knows about them or buys them, how can an artist survive and continue his or her art?
That’s my two cents.
If anyone is interested in checking out The Faithful Traveler, feel free to visit us at www.thefaithfultraveler.com. And please keep us in your prayers.