Links for Learning
Connections for High School Teachers and Students
Links for Learners will support high school curriculum
Finding Links for
Discussion Group Leaders and Participants
- Christian lifestylesmoral values; discerning right and wrong; developing conscience
- Media/Communicationsunderstanding the entertainment media and film/television production
Look for connections
for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:
- Parish sacramental
preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion
programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
- Parents will
also find this material useful in initiating discussion around
the dinner table, in home study, at family activities.
Terms in This Months Article
Look for the key words
and terms below as you read the article. Definitions or explanations
can be researched from the article itself or from the resource materials
cited throughout the Links for Learners. You
can also find a list of terms on the glossary
page of AmericanCatholicYouth.org.
Film and Television Content?
There are few of
us who don't watch television regularly, or attend a movie at least
a few times a year. Certainly we have our ideas about what we like
and don't like, what's tasteful or displeasing, what's acceptable
or offensive. But no matter what our opinions and tastes, we're
all on the viewing end of the process. This month we get a glimpse
of someone who helps create the movies we see: Steve McEveety, a
Catholic who tries to bring his personal values to movie production.
Movies and television
are first and foremost business ventures. Production companies and
independent filmmakers compete for a chance to win development money,
and then for the backing of national film distributors. As McEveety
says, developers are not thinking much about values, only about
what will sell.
Do you know who controls
the film production process? Do you know who is responsible for
the content of television programming? The process starts with a
compelling story. See the November
1999 Links for Learners for a discussion of storytelling and
how an idea gets to be developed into a film or television show.
Once a script is written,
the writer needs to find a producer who will believe in the project
and back it all the way through to filming and distribution. That's
where producers like Steve McEveety come in. To appreciate the complexity
of a producer's job, see "What Producers Do," the list of responsibilities
put together by the Producers
Guild of America. Whether the project is theatrical motion picture
or television, each project involves development/pre-production,
production and post-production. These steps are part of any production,
from today's blockbuster movies to even amateur classroom and family
To appreciate the
long and difficult process of getting a script or concept from the
page to the screen, begin by drawing up a chart based on the three
steps (pre-production, production and post-production) offered by
the Producers Guild. Use as an example any current movie such as
McEveety's What Women Want, or select one of the American
Film Institute's top 10 films for the year 2000 (to be announced
early January 2001). Look at the newspaper movie ads, visit the
movie or studio's Web site to find the names of the writer, producer
and director, or try the Internet
Movie Database Web site. Research each of these at the Writers
Guild of America, the Producers
Guild of America and the Directors
Guild of America.
Writein the appropriate
steps on the chartthe names and roles of the individuals or companies
involved with the movie. Look at the other project credits for each
role: How do you think the writer's/producer's/director's other
work has influenced her/his present project? Can you find any biographical
data on them? What other influences contribute to their work? Can
you see, for example, where a strong family background may have
given the writer values that come through in their writing? Jot
a few notes on the chart.
Looking at the film's
credits, take note of all the companies and services involved in
the movie's production. Research the movie studios online. What
kinds of films have they supported in the past? Are they solely
commercially successful, with no apparent concern for moral and
human values in their work? Have they distributed thought-provoking
works, projects that examine the worth of human life?
How do you think the
editors influenced the look of the film? How about the music? Did
the sound designers use songs with appropriate lyrics?
Research the actors
attached to the project. What's their film history? Are they known
for their willingness to do anything for fame and popularity, or
do they have to their credit films portraying dignity and value?
Steve McEveety has worked with Mel
Gibson. What can you say about Gibson's filmography? Or research
Sheen, presently with The
West Wing, and recently featured in St.
Anthony Messenger magazine.
When you complete
your chart, discuss the influence that each role has in the process.
In your opinion, where can value be added? Who adds value? How strong
is the role of a producer like McEveety? Is there anyone who simply
executes what others dictate?
You can develop your
chart based on a favorite television show, if you wish. The steps
are the same. When you examine the companies behind the shows, realize
that the major television networks are all owned by very large corporations.
For example, CBS is owned by Viacom, and ABC by the Disney Company.
Examine what influence this may have on television programming content.
Deciding What to
like the U.S. Catholic Conference,
and other services such as CARA
(the Classification and Rating Administration) will provide reviews
for films and sometimes television shows. Where do you start when
you want to see a movie? How can you be sure a movie or television
show is appropriate for your children or students?
Start with the films
recommended by groups who share your values. Several groups encourage
value-driven film and television by awarding writers and producers.
The annual Humanitas
Prize is awarded by the Paulists
to films and shows that promote human dignity. Catholics in Media
Associates (CIMA) holds an annual award breakfast to honor films
and television shows displaying strong Judeo-Christian values. (For
the year 2000 CIMA recognized Return
to Me and The West Wing.) Family Theater Productions
of Hollywood presents the Angelus
Awards at their annual student film festival to celebrate quality
Rating services and
awards for value also help us identify films with Christian and
moral values. But how do we learn to determine value on our own?
How do we teach our children to develop conscience? How can we teach
analytical skills, reflection, perception of value?
Being a discerning
viewer will be increasingly important as technology further develops
and movies are available through other media sources such as the
Internet. Small Internet-based entertainment companies such as GalaxyOnline
are already putting video movie clips and "webisodes" online. These
sites offer unknown directors and actors, as well as out-of-work
veteran actors, exposure they would never receive through the usual
channels. Some commentators estimate that in five years this kind
of entertainment will be mainstream. Only about five million homes
can access such entertainment now, as compared with 98 million with
But the wider distribution
opportunities will make entertainment content more difficult to
monitor and rate. We will need to help our young people make their
own informed decisions about what to view. In addition to formation
done in the home and the classroom, the California-based CHARACTER
COUNTS! Coalition is a good example of a group offering guidelines
and training seminars in ethics development. The non-partisan, non-sectarian
group works to advance character education among our young people.
Related Web Resources
Marymount University Film School
Lucas' Star Wars
Mel Gibson's Icon