O, Brawling Love!, the first project in John Paul the Great Catholic University’s Feature Film Program, finished filming on Tuesday. The film was shot in Escondido, California, using locations such as Escondido Charter High School, Grape Day Park, and the university’s soundstage. Over 50 JPCatholic students, along with several alumni, were involved both on and off set.
Prof. George Simon, Chair of Communications Media, is spearheading JPCatholic’s Feature Film Program. He announced the initiative last year as a way to integrate feature film productions into the curriculum, providing students the opportunity to collaborate with alumni and professors each year in bringing a new film to life.
“This program is made possible by the talent, creativity, and passion of our students,” he said. “Every day on set, these filmmakers set a standard of excellence and professionalism that is truly remarkable. We all knew it was possible to pull off a feature film with our students, but they didn’t just pull it off, they knocked it out of the park.”
As previously announced, JPCatholic’s faculty selected O, Brawling Love! from a pool of nearly 50 student and alumni pitches. An original story by senior screenwriting student Bella Lake, the script is about two rival acting students who are forced to reconcile their differences and play lovers Romeo and Juliet in their final school play, vying for a $25,000 cash prize.
The film was directed by JPCatholic alumna Maggie Mahrt (’10), whose resume includes work for Disney Digital, Paramount Studio, and NBC. In 2016, she was selected as one of eight women by the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, through which she wrote and directed the award-winning short film Unbound.
Since January, students and faculty have been busy with courses on story development and pre-production applied directly to planning the project. Production spanned June 2-28, taking place primarily during the break between Spring and Summer quarter.
Several students also acted in the project, including senior acting student John Howard who was cast as the male lead. He participated in the blind audition process with Mahrt, and was selected from a pool of over 50 candidates from both inside and outside the school. “Starring in a feature film was a big step up from acting in short films,” he said. “It was a welcome and rewarding challenge.”
With production complete, Prof. Melinda Simon will lead a team of students this quarter in editing the project. Like previous stages of the film, the post-production experience is a class students are taking for credit. When the film is completed in late 2022 or early 2023, the university will seek distribution.
John Paul the Great Catholic University describes itself as “The Catholic University for Creative Arts and Business Innovation,” focusing on combining hands-on programs such as film, animation, graphic design, acting, and business entrepreneurship with a Catholic liberal arts education in theology, philosophy, and humanities. Launched in 2006 in the Scripps Ranch community of San Diego, JPCatholic relocated to a permanent campus in downtown Escondido in 2013 and has been accredited with WSCUC since 2015. JPCatholic operates on a year-round quarter system, with students earning a bachelor’s degree in just three years.