“BRO: Men with Hope to Bring” - a Documentary Feature by Nich Perez, CSC
An documentary on a group men in the Catholic Church who live their lives with the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. This 90-minute feature focuses on the lives of "consecrated men" from different parts of the world; individual stories of hope of religious brothers who work as teachers, lawyers, social workers and etc., as they live in community and in service of others.
Running Time: 90-100 minutes Format: Shot in Canon 7D
Rationale: “What is a Brother?”
Not a lot of people know that men like this still exist. They are NOT Catholic Priests but they have given up their lives for a mission, living in faith with others and in service of others. But who are they? Are they like modern-day monks who look like normal human beings, working and living in community in a secular world that is full of dissonance? How does that work? Are they lawyers by day and monks by night?
Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, in many parts of the world, the vocation of a Religious Brother has been the forgotten species that is lost in the limbo of hierarchy, or to the silence of their decreasing numbers. They are incognito behind the pews because they live and work with the people they serve. Some would say that they are the “best-kept secret of the Church,” but what does it really mean to be a Catholic Religious Brother? How are they different from the monks and the priests? What roles do they play and why should people care who they are?
My name is Brother Nich Perez, CSC and I am a Holy Cross Brother. In my eight years as a temporarily professed Religious Brother, and the youngest Holy Cross Brother in the United States of America, it has always been my mission to get this word out. The men that I have met and lived with for the past few years are exceptional human beings who have given their lives for something that is true and honorable. Their inspiring stories have been my impetus to make this film. To let the people of the world understand why we exist and why the mission of bringing hope to others is important, especially in this very unique lifestyle as vowed religious working and living with the people.
“BRO” will explore what this vocation is all about and why the brothers are unknown and forgotten. As we follow these Religious Brothers from Brazil, Ghana, India, and the United States, we will try to find out what it really means to be a brother through the the stories of these Holy Cross Brothers.
Among these Brothers is Brother Jesús Alonso, CSC, Ph.D., whose story begins in the fields as a Mexican migrant worker.
He recently finished his doctorate in Microbiology studying deadly viruses like Ebola and Marburg.
With such stories, the audiences will be provided with profound insights on how and why this scientist commits himself perpetually to living a life of obedience, chastity and poverty in a secular society.
Also in the list are:
- Brother Edson Pereira, CSC – the vocation director in Brazil
- Brother William Dooling, CSC, - a Harvard grad who is currently a court judge in San Antonio, Texas
- Brother John Affum-Badu, CSC – a teacher in Ghana
- Brother Yesu Thansan, CSC – the director of Abayadhama, an orphanage in India.
On a personal level, I firmly believe that it is my obligation as a filmmaker to tell their stories and to show the Church and the world that we exist. I share this wholeheartedly with my crew. Our task is to show how human Brothers are by presenting their struggles as normal people finding the divine in their community life, their ministries and their own personal journeys. This documentary will hopefully share to the world the lives we live and the lives we have changed in the work that we do despite the pressures of secularism and conflicts in our different ministries worldwide.
As a film teacher and as a film buff, I have been curiously researching the history of cinema and media, and there is not a single film or strand of popular culture that depict the brothers. For the past few decades, when one watches a movie about the church, the focus is on the Catholic priests and, in a derisive tone, focusing on the abuse in the church.
So what is next for us Brothers? And why is this a dying vocation? Why are our numbers waning?
As a disclaimer, I wish to point out that my crew and I will not sugarcoat the realities that we will tackle. “BRO” will also cover the current challenges of Religious Brothers in the United States, using the research of CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) at Georgetown University and the NRVC (National Religious Vocation Conference). This study will be presented by Brother Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, the executive director of NRVC. He will discuss their findings, shedding some light on why young men and women in this generation decide to become consecrated religious.
“BRO” is for all audiences, catering to people who are searching for meaning, people from any race or religion who can understand the language of human condition and hope. It is a film about the Brothers made by a brother. With the help of my interns at Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, Indiana and colleagues we will be able to finish this project by October of 2013, which means we will have enough time to participate in a number film festivals in the United States and internationally in 2014 to spread the word that the Brothers still exist.
The Production Process
Currently, we are forty percent done with this project. We filmed the footage from Brazil last June of 2012, and in India last December of 2012. This coming May of 2013, we will be in Ghana to wrap up some shots and interviews for this project with our Global Perspectives students from Holy Cross College. I have interviewed nearly a hundred Brothers in the past four years but we need more quality footage to make this project work.
We Need Your Help.
Even though we are using some of the equipment from Holy Cross College for this production and the crew's accommodations will be provided by the Brothers when we travel to Texas, we still need additional equipment, meals, and stipend for the crew. We also need a lot of help with the post production process, from additional hardware to distribution. Since we are also planning to submit this project to film festivals, expenses will be inevitable in the process. Making a full-length documentary like this is a difficult endeavor; even though most of our crew members are experienced filmmakers, we need all the help that we can get. This is a non-profit endeavor. It is only through your support that we can make this feature film a reality and a success.
Get a Digital copy of the song, "Men with Hope to Bring"
Words form the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross and music by the talented Khiry Hollowell.
Meet The Crew:
Brother Nich (Director, Writer and Editor) has been a lover of films and filmmaking all his life, even way before he joined as a Religious Brother in the Congregation of Holy Cross. A native of the Philippines, he has worked in a variety of productions in Asia, from feature films to commercials. He went to film school in New York, and he has received a Master of Arts in Communications Studies with a focus on Cinema. Currently, he teaches Communications / Film at Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, IN, where he shares this exciting endeavor with his students.
Chelsea Crane (Producer) is a Saint Mary's College of Notre Dame, IN graduate. During college she travelled to 3 continents in 4 years and majored in Biology. Her passions led her to various jobs teaching science in the Florida Keys, creating short nature documentaries in Ecuador, and learning to appreciate collaboration and diversity in every aspect of life. Currently she is working as a lab tech at the University of Notre Dame and taking on freelance film and photography projects. www.chelseacrane.com
Jeff Kyle (Motion Graphics and Associate Producer) is a recent Holy Cross graduate with a passion for 3D animation and all things post-production. While majoring in communications and minoring in graphic design, Jeff took on numerous roles as audio engineer, graphic designer, 3D artist, colorist, film editor, and production assistant in over 30 projects for Holy Cross. He has also assisted in motion graphics and film editing projects for the University of Notre Dame and Anthony Travel. Tenacity and amiability are at his very core, learning more and more with each passing project. http://jeffkyle.us
Karam Salem, Khiry-Jurrell Hollowell and Shawn Tallet (Music / Score)
Karam graduated in 2012, and both Khiry and Shawn are seniors at Holy Cross College. Their exceptional talents in music will provide the film the musical backbone it needs. These musicians also worked on a few music videos and film projects, which beats are versatile and profound - something that this film should have.
As we wrap up this project, it is our hope to show this film to all the students of our Holy Cross schools that are now almost empty of Brothers around the United States and the world. And to inspire others as we share our stories with them.
When we are done with this project and we are able to share this film with the world, we hope to encourage others to share that hope. Perhaps when that happens, there will be no need for us to ask "what is a brother?" again.
Risks and challenges
As we have stated above, no one has ever created a documentary about the Brothers. It is for this reason that we have nothing but our own intuition and experiences from which to generate ideas. We have free reign to tell this story in our own unique way, but its success depends on a number of factors: content, execution, passion, and finance. Weighing all of these is indeed challenging, but it is through careful planning, proper guidance, and understanding acceptable risk that we will see it through. Everyone in our team is working completely for free because we are so passionate about this project.
$5,000.00 is even too little to ask for a feature film like this. We actually need more as we travel around the Midwest and to Texas and New Orleans this summer as we finalize our interviews and to film some quality B-Rolls. The funds that we will hopefully gather from Kickstarter will mostly be for gas, the crew’s accommodations, and meals, which is definitely too tight for a 5-week production.
One of the biggest challenges we are facing is scheduling. Considering most of our crew members are students, we have built the production schedule around our work schedules and the classes of our crew. Issues might arise on the days of our interviews and principal photography, but overall it is a matter of efficient planning.
Secondly, if any of our equipment from production to post-production (cameras and computers) malfunctions, it might affect our production quality or the deadline of our final cut.
Since Kickstarter has an “all-or-nothing policy,” we must reach or surpass our goal in order to proceed with this very important documentary project.
Still and all, we will try our best to complete this project successfully by the end of this year.
- (30 days)