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Catholic college in Escondido attempting to attain huge in Hollywood


On a patch of sand close to the Oceanside Pier, a scholar director referred to as “Motion” on a current Friday afternoon, sending actors into movement throughout the filming of a comedy quick named “Choose Up Chicks.”

The plot, involving a man attempting to catch the attention of a younger lady, was goofy and paper skinny. However the filmmakers have been flat out critical as they hustled to get an excellent shot whereas the lighting was good.

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Hollywood has come to San Diego County by the use of a tiny, nearly unknown Catholic college whose 253 college students may match into a big lecture corridor — if it had one. Which it doesn’t.

Because it nears its twentieth anniversary, John Paul the Nice Catholic College of Escondido has emerged as a vibrant commerce college for the movie and TV industries, one which’s sending alumni to leisure powerhouses, together with Netflix, Paramount and Marvel Studios.

Theology is a part of the core curriculum. So is philosophy. And everybody will get a really deep grounding in enterprise. However the emphasis is on turning college students into every part from actors and administrators to screenwriters, digicam operators and sound consultants.

“We’re non-traditional in each method,” says Derry Connolly, the varsity’s founder. “College students get their fingers on the tools instantly. They’re doing shoots on a regular basis. [Sometimes] they movie at my home, and I’ve seen them actually get into it. You need to be passionate to be good.”

JP Catholic President Derry Connolly is trying to promote Christian values through filmmaking.

JP Catholic President Derry Connolly is attempting to advertise Christian values by means of filmmaking.

(Pat Hartley / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Over the previous 12 months, college students labored on greater than 150 productions, starting from fast hits like “Chicks” and music movies to documentaries and a brand new feature-length film referred to as, “O, Brawling Love!”, which makes use of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” as supply materials. It was written by Bella Lake, a scholar, and was directed by alumna Maggie Mahrt, a revered Hollywood filmmaker.

Referred to as JP Catholic for brief, the college plans to supply one main film a 12 months. And the varsity will quickly have extra room to work. It’s about to spend as a lot as $5 million to renovate a bland brick constructing in downtown Escondido in order that it will probably home characteristic movie manufacturing amenities, a recording studio, an actor’s Black Field studio, a nice arts workshop, and a digital manufacturing lab.

The growth additionally will assist flesh out the varsity’s animation, illustration and graphic design applications, and greater than double tutorial and manufacturing house.

Director Maggie Mahrt, left, reviews a shot with Katie Gerlach during shooting of "O, Brawling Love!"

Director Maggie Mahrt, left, critiques a shot with Katie Gerlach throughout capturing of “O, Brawling Love!”

(Andrew Glaudini)

There are plans to greater than double enrollment to 600, in addition to to transform a part of Escondido’s former Middle Metropolis Excessive Faculty, which the college owns, right into a chapel.

“We’ll be participating with extra college students who’re on the lookout for a spot the place they’ll combine their religion and keenness for storytelling in movie and tv,” stated Nate Scoggins, a Hollywood author and director who additionally teaches at JP Catholic.

The college’s sensible, get-it-done, high-energy method displays Connolly’s character, training {and professional} background.

He’s an Irish immigrant who earned a doctorate in utilized mechanics at Caltech in 1982 and went on to function a senior engineer at an Eastman Kodak imaging facility in San Diego, and as an advisor to IBM.

Connolly, 67, additionally was an affiliate dean at UC San Diego, the place he helped develop digital media and internet know-how.

“It was fairly clear within the early 2000s that the web was going to be enormous,” Connolly says in a YouTube video that recollects the varsity’s rise.

“It was additionally extraordinarily clear that media was an evil pressure in our tradition. More and more, Devil was utilizing media to take souls away from the Lord.”

Connolly’s dedication to push again is mirrored within the college’s motto: Affect tradition for Christ.

Whereas some college students go to work in conventional evangelist media, the college has its sights on careers within the mass market.

Professor George Simon of John Paul the Great Catholic University helps film students set up a camera for a scene.

Professor George Simon of John Paul the Nice Catholic College helps movie college students arrange a digicam for a scene on July 14 at their Escondido campus.

(Pat Hartley / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The college’s school say they’re attempting to supply expert storytellers who create content material that has broad enchantment and explores humanity in clear, candid methods, notably relating to religion and household.

“I’m occupied with movies like ‘A Quiet Place,’ which is a few household in a post-apocalyptic setting the place you will get destroyed [by aliens] when you make a sound,” stated George Simon, who teaches movie manufacturing at JP Catholic.

“The youngest baby will get killed within the opening of the movie. Two years later, the mom is pregnant and the household is making ready to convey one other baby into the world, regardless of the hazard it poses to their survival,” he defined. “It says that life is value combating for, value nurturing. This isn’t a Christian film. However the Gospel is current.”

Reaching the lots is also a precedence for Connolly, whose tackle the matter is a bit harder-edged than Simon’s.

“Christian movies kind of really feel good however by no means appear to wrestle with what I’d name the horror of sin,” he stated. “From a Catholic perspective, we’re significantly better at coping with depravity. We don’t sugarcoat it.”

College students are permitted to discover any challenge they need, together with abortion. However there’s unease about addressing the political wars which have divided the nation.

“I used to be on Twitter taking a look at [comments about] this horrible capturing in Highland Park,” Connolly stated. “They have been saying, ‘Can we establish this [shooter] with the left or with the precise?’

“I used to be like, my gosh, there are six folks useless. There are 50 folks shot, and also you’re on the lookout for a political agenda? So we now have discovered with the coed physique that it is much better to avoid political issues that divide.”

JP Catholic enrolled its first college students in 2006, when it was positioned in an industrial park in San Diego’s Scripps Ranch group. The plan was to begin small and develop incrementally, even after the college moved to Escondido in 2013. There was no want to attain the kind of measurement and cache loved by the movie applications at UCLA and New York College.

Connolly runs a lean operation. The college does little or no promoting, relying as a substitute on phrase of mouth and social media to generate consideration. And JP Catholic principally hires business professionals as academics, reasonably than creating a standard, and probably costly, tenured school.

George Simon, center, teaches students how to use a movie camera.

George Simon, heart, teaches college students how one can use a film digicam.

(Pat Hartley / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Tenure “is a disservice to all people,” stated Connolly, whose phrases are sacrilege in typical increased training. “We’re a performance-based tradition. If we now have school who carry out effectively, they stick with us eternally. For those who’re not performing, you go.”

His hires embody Scoggins, who enlisted the assistance of 20 college students and alumni final 12 months whereas he was directing the homicide thriller “What Stays” in Texas, and Simon, who not too long ago gave college students an inside take a look at how he was making ready to shoot “Don’t Get Eaten,” a zombie comedy filmed in Michigan.

It may be a problem for college students to maintain up with all of it. JP Catholic is a year-round college that’s damaged into three quarters, every costing $9,000. The purpose is to get college students by means of school in three years as a substitute of 4.

Just about all college students obtain monetary support. The college, which had an $8-million finances final 12 months, is also underwritten by comparatively small non-public donations. The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego has not been one of many college’s monetary supporters. However JP Catholic operates with the diocese’s consent.

College students are sometimes left to determine issues out for themselves. That’s the place Faustina Ortiz discovered herself not too long ago when she confirmed up in Oceanside to direct “Choose Up Chicks.” The seaside was packed on a balmy afternoon, which meant she needed to be cautious about how she framed her pictures.

“This little challenge is making ready us for real-world experiences,” Ortiz advised the San Diego Union-Tribune between takes. “I’m working with actors, discovering out what they should give their greatest efficiency.

“It’s all very useful, very helpful.”

Close by, classmate Bryson Armstrong stood by, prepared to assist, and was having fun with the expertise.

“I’ve had the chance to work on full-length options, impartial movies, shorts and documentaries,” he stated.

“And I’ve solely been right here 9 months.”

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