Speaker shares struggles of screenwriting religious movies for secular audiences

Photo by Linsey Flinn

Sebastian Gonzalez
Staff Writer

A screenwriter and script consultant said it is challenging to make a religious film for secular audiences at a talk Friday at 3 p.m. in the Gentile Gallery.

Barbara Nicolosi, a coordinator of script and screenwriting programs at Regent University, spoke about writing for secular audiences when it concerned religious content at the next installment of the Franciscan University of Steubenville Academic Lecture Series.

Nicolosi was the screenwriter of the movie “Fatima” and used that movie as an example.

“My lot in life professionally has been secular Hollywood and evangelicals,” Nicolosi said.

Nicolosi recalled the moment when someone in Australia had called her about the idea of creating a movie based on the Marian apparition of Fatima. Mel Gibson, the director of “The Passion of the Christ,” recommended Nicolosi to the interested person.

Nicolosi shared some of the challenges faced during the production of “Fatima,” including trying to make a movie with wide appeal, making a movie without cultural power, dramatizing theological mysteries and writing religious content for secular audiences.

“I wanted to make a movie that would give honor to our faith,” Nicolosi said.

Nicolosi said there were creative differences between the director and her vision, such as the concept of hell being downplayed more than Nicolosi wanted in her original concepts. Despite these hiccups, “Fatima” has a fifty-seven percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Mary Beth Hayes, senior, said she enjoyed the talk.

“I came to this talk because … I’m interested in spreading Catholic culture through writing,” she said.

Mari Montgomery, sophomore, said, “I came because I’m interested in being a screenwriter. What she said was really helpful and inspiring because as a Catholic who’s interested in media it felt daunting (that) the media can be so secular. So, it feels Catholics don’t belong there, but we do.”

The Academic Lecture Series will continue Friday Sept. 24 in the Gentile Gallery at 3 p.m.