In South Pasadena: Lights, camera, video
Video ministry at Holy Family Church brings Mass to the Internet and beyond.
Tension mounts in the control room. The director gives instruction via headset to one of four camera operators on the floor. The sound man arranges his dials and checks his levels. The producer has just rushed into the room for the start of the filming.
“OK, pan left, camera one,” says Howard Ritter a veteran television director who will be orchestrating for the next hour. “Pick it up, camera two. Tighter camera one. We’re in. Now, let’s rock and roll.”
This isn’t a local television studio where a talk show or a sitcom is being taped. These folks are in a small narrow control room above the parish hall at Holy Family Church in South Pasadena. They are filming the Sunday 9:30 a.m. Mass which will be instantly transmitted via the internet on the parish website (www.holyfamily.org).
Later, a tape of this Mass will be edited for broadcast on local cable channels (Time Warner Channel 6 on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. serving South Pasadena and San Marino; and Charter Communications “The Arroyo” Channel 32 one-week delayed on Sundays serving the Pasadena area.)
Ritter and his crew are one of five filming teams that make up the Holy Family Video Ministry and Holy Family Productions which was organized nearly 20 years ago.
Ritter, along with four other professional directors --- Paul Babb, Phil Browne, Pat Caradome and Barbara Roche --- head up the teams that are guided by producer and parish faith formation coordinator Dawn Ponnet. The ministry is 45 members strong, comprised of professionals in the business and young adults wishing to learn the ins and outs of filming as they serve their parish community.
“They do an excellent job, extremely professional,” says longtime parishioner Bob Scott who, because of health issues, cannot get to every Sunday Mass. “I feel that I am able to keep up with the services on Sunday and see my priest and hear the homilies. I am very appreciative of what they do.”
Likewise, parishioner Jeannie De Mendoza finds the ministry comforting since she is recovering from spine surgery. She streams the Mass online via her home computer. “It’s very important to my spirituality,” she says, adding that the filming makes her “feel like I’m there.”
In addition to filming the weekly Mass, the ministry is responsible for preserving special parish events such as First Communions, graduations, school staged productions along with notable speakers who frequent the parish halls. The team still talks about the three-hour Easter Vigil Mass that was super challenging but extremely rewarding.
For veteran film directors like Ritter, the opportunity to put their skills to work at Holy Family satisfies on many levels. First, live television is always exciting (“It keeps me sharp”) and he is also proud to provide a service to those who cannot make it to the church on Sundays. “It’s also teaching those interested in the business the basics, and I love having teachable moments,” he says.
Indeed, for those interested in breaking into the business, the ministry has been instrumental.
Parishioner Andrew Mergenthaler, currently studying at Pasadena City College, has been involved in the ministry since he was 10 years old. Mergenthaler started out on camera and through his hard work, and with the connections he made at Holy Family, is well on his way to a career in the film business. He’s a junior candidate for the Dodge School of Media and Film at Chapman University and currently works with a professional broadcast television equipment company in Burbank.
Mergenthaler is still dedicated to Holy Family and, as the ministry’s technical go-to man, he is present at just about every Sunday filming. “I just love what they are doing and all those involved,” he says. “We put our heart and souls into this ministry and I am happy I can do what I love for my church. For me, this is a new way to experience the Mass.”
Since its inception, the ministry has certainly been a labor of love. The control room was first housed in cramped location at the basement of the church with borrowed and donated equipment. Team members always came with tool kits to do last-minute fixes.
As the ministry grew and technology changed, newer equipment was purchased. When the new parish hall was constructed, the entire upstairs area was created with the video ministry in mind; archival and editing rooms are also here along with the main control space.
And the ministry plans to grow. Producer Ponnet says that a launch of a Holy Family YouTube channel is a possibility as well as other internet outlets. “As the times change, we have to be there with it,” she says.
Upstairs in the control room, the Mass announcements are being read and the crew is getting ready for the final shots. “Dissolve camera one and get ready camera three,” says Ritter with a snap on his finger.
As the priest says the final blessing, there are shots of parishioners with bowed heads. Music starts and the procession starts walking out of the church. “Get some shots of people singing, really singing,” says Ritter to his cameramen. “Hold on the priest. Follow down. Now back to the altar and roll credits.”
And with that, the screen fades to black the crew can sit back and rest. Until next week.
Prayer of the MonthPapal intentions for November: That priests who experience difficulties may find comfort in their suffering, support in their doubts, and confirmation in their fidelity. That as fruit of the continental mission, Latin American Churches may send missionaries to other Churches.
Papal intentions for December: That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.