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Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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Mass roots appeal. If Zach Braff and Spike Lee can do it, why not Kevis Antonio? Like them, the young Catholic filmmaker has turned to the crowd-financing site Kickstarter to kickstart his own passion project.  Antonio is also borrowing a page from the Kendrick Brothers (Fireproof, Courageous) who began making their faith-based movies through Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA.

In his own cinematic quest, Antonio is partnering with another Georgia church. St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church, one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, also happens to be his home church.  The parish community has now fully committed to help bring the first major motion picture originating from a Catholic parish to the big screen,

As to the film itself, Five Blocks Away (written by Erika Hill) follows the story of Anthony Seton (Evan Alex Cole), a young and successful guy who finds his definition of success in need of revision. With the help of the Kickstarter campaign, Antonio and the parishioners of St. Catherine hope to raise at least $12,000 by October 13th to produce a “proof of concept trailer” that will help that will hopefully lead to full-scale production and distribution.  To support the project, click here.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Kevis about his effort to bring Five Blocks Away to a theater near you.

JWK: Can you tell me a bit about your background and what led you to decide to produce a Catholic-theme movie?

KEVIS ANTONIO: Having completed my work on the documentary Bread of Life (officially selected to the John Paul the II International Film Festival and aired nationally on EWTN), God’s plan for me has been clear from the start. Two years ago I went to see a pre-screening of one the highly-anticipated Christian films, Courageous, and I was thinking to myself – wouldn’t be great if we as Catholics, and to be more specific, as a Catholic church or parish, produce a motion picture ourselves? This is one of those projects that gets an entire parish on fire and provides an amazing opportunity to evangelize beyond our own brick and mortar walls. As a Catholic, I saw a huge opportunity to fill a gap in our own faith and rise up to the challenge in making the first motion picture originating from a Catholic parish. I felt the need to really address the young adult audience, as they have not been talked to directly in previous Christian films. The opportunity is here now and I chose to make a difference in our society.

 JWK: Were you moved by what the Kendrick Brothers accomplished with Fireproof and Courageous through Sherwood Baptist Church and Sherwood Pictures?

KA: Yes, very much so. There is such a thirst for faith films right now that Hollywood will never be able to quench. The Kendrick Brothers have inspired me and so many other Christian filmmakers out there to really step up to the plate and help fill the gap for great films that not only satisfy a Christian culture but with high enough production value to attract those that are luke-warm in their faith.

JWK: Your film is called Five Blocks Away. Can you summarize the plot? Do you have a full script? Who wrote or is writing it?

KA: We do have a full script! We have been blessed with the talent of Emmy Award winning-writer, Erika Hill. She is also a proud parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Kennesaw, GA.

Here is a synopsis: Anthony Seton lives the modern definition of the perfect life. Young and handsome, with a successful job and an active social scene, everything that today’s society covets seems well within his grasp. But when a series of circumstances challenges the foundations of that world, he realizes that life as defined by secular truths may not be much of a life at all—and that the real answer is a lot closer than he thinks.

JWK: How did you get St. Catherine of Siena Church to go along?

KA: Let me first say that St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church is an AMAZING parish. It is also one of the fastest growing parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. We really have a great leader and shepherd with Fr. John (Matejek). Early last year I connected with Fr. John, pastor at St. Catherine of Siena, and the whole concept just clicked from the start. We brought it forth to the Archdiocese, gained their support, and now we continue to push forward with this amazing film project.

Fr. John has been on fire about this initiative from day one. Bold projects, such as Five Blocks Away, allows for the entire parish to become involved at so many different levels …from prayer support, fundraising, marketing, and acting in the film …just to name a few. It is truly wonderful to see our pastor so excited about this endeavor. I remember Father John telling me about St. Catherine’s and how they are always on the look for projects like this. From the start, God has been guiding the path for this project. We are all instruments in His master plan.

JWK:  What led you to Kickstarter? How much are you seeking to raise? What do people receive for giving? Is the parish helping with fundraising? How do you plan on distributing the movie?

KA: Great questions! Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform, meaning if we raise our goal of $12,000 we get funded and we don’t reach our goal, no one will be charged a penny. Rewards range from getting VIP updates of our project to getting an opportunity to read a draft of our script.

We have had a lot of support from our Parish at St. Catherine’s parishioners. From help spreading the word, financially backing of our own project, to volunteering time in efforts related to our film. A truly dynamic parish!

As for distributing our film – we are actively seeking a distributor for the film.

JWK: What do you hope people take from the film?

KA: Our goal is to entertain audiences with film that will deliver a powerful message of hope and purpose in this life. One of our bigger goals is to appeal to the secular audience in such a way that brings them to re-examine their lives and want to better themselves.

JWK: Will this result in a Sienna Pictures production company?

KA: If it’s God’s will, the goal would be to make more films originating from St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church.

JWK: What about your own career? Do you plan on making more movies? Where to you see yourself in five years?

KA: We are all called to make a difference in this world. I believe that films have such an opportunity to reach so many people and deliver a powerful message that if God keeps leading me in this direction, I will embrace it and do my best in making more faith-centered films. As to where I see myself 5 years from now, well, if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans! I hope to be doing God’s will!

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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