A group of filmmakers of the John Paul II generation, looking to spread the Gospel of Christ, is working to produce a new high-quality short film, called "Bandit," in San Diego, Calif.

The short silent film aims to explore the innocence of childhood through humor, as a masked and mischievous little girl sets out on a quest to cheer up a friend.

Students at John Paul the Great Catholic University plan to use the project to further launch themselves into the world of Hollywood film production.

"It's really going to capitalize on a sense of childhood innocence and beauty, and look at laughter as medicine for sadness, all within a Charlie Chaplain-style film," Maria Mitchell, a graduate student in film production at the university, told CNA on July 1.

The project is part of the greater mission of the university, known as "JP Catholic," which is to "Impact Culture for Christ."

"Oftentimes Christian media can be very cheesy and preachy and it's just not as well done," explained Mitchell, one of the three producers of "Bandit."

"But we need to be better; we need to be funnier; we need to be smarter. We need to be more powerful."  

JP Catholic students seek to make movies with the universal properties of truth, goodness and beauty, which are accessible to everyone and can "give you something to chew on," Mitchell noted.

"'Bandit' is an example of that: it's meant to be really charming and comical and beautiful."

"We're not trying to be in your face with it, and we're not going to be explicitly talking about the faith, but we'll be presenting beauty, and man craves beauty."

The short film – and the mission of JP Catholic as a whole – is based on Blessed John Paul II's call to use media and communications to further the New Evangelization and spread the Gospel of Christ.

"He said that the question is not whether modern man can accept the Gospel, but how can we use the communications media to communicate (the Gospel) effectively to him? So that's what we're trying to do," Mitchell reflected.

As a producer, Mitchell remarked that she is somewhat of an "event coordinator," in charge of the logistics of bringing the film to life – hiring actors, drafting contracts, finding catering for the set, and fundraising enough money to make the film a reality.

"The most enjoyable thing about this program has been finding that this is my skill set," she explained. "The hardest part is fundraising."

"Bandit" will cost $15,000, and the production team has a limited amount of time to reach their goal. They have set up a webpage to seek donations.

"When you're not in film it's really hard to understand why it would cost $15,000, it seems like just a bunch of kids running around," Mitchell said.

But being better, funnier, smarter, and more powerful than typical Christian media requires an investment, she explained.

Between hiring and housing 20 professional actors, feeding a cast and crew of 40 people for three days, and securing a location and all necessary equipment, costs quickly add up.

"We're doing a student project on a professional level," Mitchell said.

After the film is made, the production team will be submitting "Bandit" in various film festivals, where it may win awards and be picked up for further development.

Essentially, Mitchell said that this film is a way for her and her classmates to "break into the industry."

"We really have to start somewhere, and this is our somewhere," she explained.

She said her time at JP Catholic has prepared her to be a faithful Christian in the Hollywood environment.

"Within our media department, the majority of our professors currently work in the industry," she said, "and they're highly committed Christians who are swimming against the current."

Professors at the university urge their students to maintain their values and standards while working in Hollywood, and to witness to Christ by doing their job well and through simple friendliness and personal relationships.

"You can't have the mentality that you're going to convert the whole place. But to be a person of morals and standards, and be a witness in the way you handle yourself…that alone will speak volumes, and people will notice," said Mitchell.

Her professors also emphasize the need for more Christians in the film industry.

"We can't complain about the content if we're not willing to go in there and change it," she observed.
"MTV is preaching its gospel pretty loud and clear," she continued.  "How culpable will we be for not doing it better and 'fly-er,' and in a more attractive manner?"

Spreading Christ's Gospel is what motivates Mitchell to work on films such as "Bandit" with her classmates, so she can one day work on bigger projects that can impact even more people.

Investing in the project is "not so much investing in the film alone, but in the next generation of JP2 filmmakers," she said. "And what we're trying to do is answer his call."