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Like Its Film Students… JP Catholic University Steps Out Into The Wild On Its Mission

September 22, 2018 Featured Today No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Discussing a few definitely different films as The Wanderer visited with him, Derry Connolly turned to the monitor at his desk and called them up instantly, from the 1993 Western Tombstone, directed by George Cosmatos, to Scout: A Star Wars Story, released by students at his own school last year.
Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University here, has seen continuing advances in technology since this school opened in September 2006, after the Internet flourished and major gatekeepers in Los Angeles lost their control over access in the entertainment industry.
Rather than having to win favor with one of six or seven big companies, outsiders could post their own works that quickly went around the world.
Billing itself as the Catholic university for creative arts and business innovation, John Paul the Great (jpcatholic.edu) is adding a few more offerings at its campus in the heart of suburban Escondido, in northern San Diego County, musical theater, illustration, and graphic design.
“If you’re really into the creative arts and you want a Catholic institution, we’re it,” Connolly said.
JP Catholic emphasizes using media to impact culture for Christ, along with business knowledge to support the creative endeavors. In addition to a solid Catholic religious education, it includes courses in film and film equipment, screenwriting, acting, journalism, television production, animation, game development, evangelization, entrepreneurship, leadership and management, and sales and marketing.
“We’re shaping the next generation of artists and innovators with academic excellence, unparalleled creativity, and an authentic community centered on Jesus Christ,” says a promotional brochure.
The school offers daily Mass and evening rosary.
In addition to using the soundstage in the main classroom building, “Our kids are very good at going out into the wild for what they do” in making films, Connolly said. He gave an example of filming for the Scout production in the California redwoods, and a senior project done in the desert to the northeast of campus.
Look for Scout: A Star Wars Story at YouTube.
Rather than try to find distributors for completed films now, Connolly said, students “do the circuit of film festivals. That lasts about a year,” hoping to obtain “a calling card” to further their efforts.
The Toronto Film Festival “gave . . . huge legs,” he said, to the 2006 pro-life movie Bella, which JP Catholic wasn’t involved with.
About a two-hour drive down the Pacific coast from the entertainment hub of Los Angeles and Hollywood, JP Catholic draws some of its faculty from there, and offers the “Quarter in L.A.” for seniors to serve an internship with the industry around the City of Angels.
In addition to drawing its students from throughout the United States, JP Catholic attracts some citizens of other nations.
When The Wanderer asked Connolly if they come to the U.S. expecting to see movie stars nearby, he replied, “I think they’re more interested in being surrounded by students who share their values and share their passion for the arts.”
Having begun with 30 students in 2006 at a business park in northern San Diego, JP Catholic moved to larger quarters in Escondido in 2013 and expects about 300 students for its fall quarter from October 3 through December 14.
Although the school already offered acting, it recently began a musical-theater program with a two-night performance of Fiddler on the Roof on campus, followed by one night at the Escondido Center for the Performing Arts. Connolly said the show was “extraordinarily well received.”
Next on the playbill are The Crucible, in December, and Guys and Dolls, in early March, he said.
“Students were extremely interested in musical theater,” he said. “. . . We’ve always had acting, just not the musical type.”
Close to the main classroom building on Grand Avenue, JP Catholic acquired a 30,000-square-foot, one-story structure, previously used by Sears, for cinematic and visual arts. “It’s a cavernous building” that could hold three soundstages and provide for the school to have a total enrollment of 600 students, Connolly said, while the current soundstage could be converted into an acting lab.
The cost to convert the “monstrous” structure would be $8 million, Connolly said, “so we’re looking for the money to do that. Hopefully a Wanderer reader will send us a check. We’re in the miracle business. . . .
“The biggest consolation in all of this is we’re working for God, and it’s all God’s problem,” Connolly added. “. . . All we’ve got to do is show up. God will do the rest.”
Connolly said he used to think he’d have to be the one to perform the miracles, but discovered it’s not up to him.

They Like Us

The Irish-accented Connolly came from Cork to attend graduate school at the California Institute of Technology in 1977, earning his Ph.D. in five years. After employment with IBM in Tucson, he arrived in San Diego in 1988 to work for Kodak on computer data storage. After nine years, he joined the University of California-San Diego (UCSD), going on to become director of the Center for the Commercialization of Advanced Technology mentoring programs.
In 2000, Connolly said in an earlier interview, he felt the Lord calling him to start a faithful Catholic university with a different focus, but he put off the idea for three years before giving in.
Asked by The Wanderer if he hears much in the way of complaint about current Church scandals, he replied, “No, I don’t, actually. There’s people who still have a deep love for Jesus.”
Strolling out from his administration building toward the 30,000-square-foot future arts center, Connolly expressed shock at Democrat senators emphasizing abortion during recent Judiciary Committee hearings on Trump administration Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“It’s horrific, it’s actually horrific,” he said. “. . . There’s a lot of things I can understand, but abortion’s not one of them.”
Referring to caring recently for his two-year-old grandson, Connolly said, “Oh my gosh, someone would want to abort him?”
And how has JP Catholic fit in in Escondido since moving here in 2013? “They like us, and we like them. It’s one of the few conservative cities left in San Diego” County, he said.

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