An Inside Look At What It’s Like To Film A Catholic Movie About A Saint

by Movie Reviews and Recommendations, Saints, Testimonies

On one of the last chilly mornings of October, I received a text from a producer friend of mine, telling me that there was a an opportunity to be part of the crew for a film called “Triumph of the Heart.”

For someone laying upside down on their bed, sponging fallen nutella off their sweatshirt with their last bite of toast, I was surprised at the quickness of my own thumbs as they typed out: “I can leave tomorrow!”

Forty-eight hours later, I landed in Warsaw.

But isn’t that just like God?

To call the unprepared but willing? The upside down and chocolate-stained? 

I took a car from Warsaw to the remote town of Piotrkow, where I was told I’d find the huge Airbnb rented out to house the film’s cast and crew. As my driver followed his GPS down a bumpy dirt road, we exchanged a worried look in the rearview mirror. He pulled up in front of a completely dark house and asked: “Here?” 

I shrugged nervously and handed him four-hundred Polish złoty before leaving the car and dragging my suitcase up the mysterious staircase. 

I knocked but there was no answer. Knocked again, still nothing. Testing the handle, I realized the house was unlocked but…was that really how I was going to introduce myself to the cast and crew? As the girl who just lets herself in?

I killed ten minutes unlocking and locking my phone screen, as if it might magically manifest international service, before deciding I’d rather be rude than cold. 

I pushed the handle and became the girl who just lets herself in. 

“Hello?” I called, to no response. 

Once it became clear that I was the only one there, I decided to get a little nosy and poke my head into one of the first floor bedrooms. To my shock, there were around ten beds and mattresses shoved into the room and lined up next to each other, like something out of a fairytale cottage. 


I decided to Goldilocks about a bit more, peering into a bathroom boasting fourteen different toothbrushes, when a voice startled me out of my snooping!

“You must be Clare!” 

I turned around and saw a cheery, small woman who somehow fit right in with my Brothers Grimm vision. Through a smile that was both cheery and exhausted, she helped me with my bags and showed me to the room with four beds, where I’d be staying. 

Soon after, my roommates (all other members of the cast and crew) came piling in and collapsed on their beds before telling me their names and responsibilities on set. We went to bed soon after and the next day we woke up at seven to carpool to set. 

The weeks that followed were more or less similar to that first day: wake up early, throw together some sort of house-wide breakfast, carpool to set, work till seven or eight at night and then carpool back home. I was a bit of a swing volunteer, so some mornings I helped with hair and makeup, or at least tried to. The haircuts I gave the actors were notoriously patchy and if there was some sort of technique to applying makeup to their hands and feet to imitate dirt, I never quite caught on. Some other days, I spent manning the production offices or strategizing marketing plans for when we returned home with a completed film. However, the most memorable work day was when I had to excuse myself because a six foot long snake had been brought in for a scene in which he would symbolize the devil. 

Needless to say, I did not hang around to watch the snake’s acting debut. 

The weeks flew by and while the pressure was high, it did more to solidify the community between the cast and crew than to divide us. Friday nights were spent singing Billy Joel around the house’s stand-up piano or roasting sausages over a bonfire in the backyard. When production began to come to a close, and crew members started to fly back home, we’d send them off with shots of Polish hazelnut vodka and a toast to a job well done. 

When it was my turn to leave, I spent a final few days in Warsaw before my flight back to Boston. I wandered the city with my journal in hand, trying to figure out how to surmise the experience I had just had on set, but it wasn’t until I went to Mass and received Communion on the day before I headed home, that I figured it out. 

In the US, when it’s time for Communion, we all file out of our pews in order. It’s arguably the most rote part of an otherwise very thoughtful sacrifice. In Poland however, Communion is a free for all. When the time comes, anyone who wants to receive the Eucharist just shoots out of their seat and clamors for the altar.

The first time I saw it, I laughed out loud. The otherwise reserved Poles seemed to abandon all sense of etiquette when it came to the most solemn part of the Mass. But on that final night, after a week of watching the Triumph of the Heart team make not just something, but everything, out of nothing, I understood it for what it was: holy chaos.

Just like a Polish Communion, the Catholic independent filmmaking isn’t just an act of muscle memory but rather a belly crawl to the hem of Jesus’ cloak.

It was desperate and disorganized;  the natural reaction of a soul starving to death,when offered bread. Only once I was able to see and understand the two side by side, I was finally able to appreciate what a gift it was to run to the altar alongside this cast and crew.

How Can You Be Part Of This Catholic Film?

Triumph of the Heart is a feature film about St. Maximilian Kolbe and his companions’ triumph over darkness.

We started this project without what we needed to finish, knowing that there would be people who would want to partner with us to make it happen. 

We are under consideration for a distribution deal with our dream studio and we have already raised $80,000 for post-production through this Kickstarter campaign. Our next goal of $200,000 will allow us to put more funds into post-production, but more importantly it will allow us to reach more people. 

We want to reach 1,000,000 with our film and your help is needed to do that. Learn more HERE!

Lent emails Catholic

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