FT. KNOX, KY
NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL
In 2021, when the remains of prisoner of war and Army combat chaplain Emil Kapaun (perhaps the Vatican’s next saint) are identified after 70 years, much of our nation is captivated by their journey home. When a younger former chaplain unexpectedly embarks on his own journey to greet them, he becomes inspired by the untold stories of the 419 U.S. military chaplain heroes who’ve given their lives for this unique calling. As the paths of these two combat chaplains from different eras finally collide, we’re reminded of how the profound weight of history and the immense power of love can converge to produce a life-changing moment of healing.
Combat chaplains wear uniforms, but carry no weapons. And their service can involve the ultimate sacrifice. For nearly 250 years, in every battle throughout our nation’s history, they’ve been there…quietly supporting soldiers while bullets flew by.
Perhaps more than any other profession, diversity is their unique and inspirational strength because, while they may be Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist, when they’re on the front lines of combat, they support and stand-up for soldiers of all faiths…and no faith. These are the unsung heroes who shape history, while touching lives and comforting souls.
The film boasts two prominent pillars of highly-targetable and passionate audience groups – military and faith-based. But this story is purpose-built to open the aperture far wider and speak to mainstream general audiences.
Unlike the crowded market for sports and true-crime stories, inspirational military fare with mainstream hooks fills a white space in the film landscape that audiences are begging for. Even the recent success of Sound of Freedom (which premiered theatrically on the same day as the latest Mission Impossible installment, but has out-earned it) reminds us that there’s a huge underserved market for this type of content.
The most common cause of death among U.S. military personnel isn’t getting shot in combat…it’s suicide. And combat chaplains are on the frontlines of that battle.
The critical work of chaplains (which exist in virtually every military in the world) is even playing itself out before our eyes in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as emphasized recently by a chaplain serving in the Ukrainian military: In the fog of war, a person sometimes loses his bearings. Therefore, the most difficult thing for a soldier in these conditions is to remain human. Chaplains do everything possible to treat a soldier's soul after their combat duties. It means helping them to remain human.
This film will inspire audiences with untold stories of service, courage, and sacrifice. It was created to help all of us find that fighting spirit to light our path ahead.
After producing more than 25 films and TV shows with most major studios, Fighting Spirit: A Combat Chaplain's Journey is Rich’s directorial debut. His produced projects have generated hundreds of millions of dollars, and range from young-adult movies, such as Disney/Miramax's She's All That, which is one of the most successful teen movies in history...to award-winning movies with a message, such as his PBS docuseries collaboration with Halle Berry, For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots, for which he won the NAACP Image Award.
Rich is also a founder of the ViX streaming service (formerly known as Pongalo), the first and largest global streaming service specifically for Spanish-speaking audiences, which was acquired by global media leader TelevisaUnivision. Variety recently awarded Rich its Dealmaker of the Year honors; Forbes named him to its Forbes 1000 list of America's top entrepreneurs; and OTT.X, the trade organization of Hollywood's streaming industry, awarded him its OTT.X Hero Award. He's a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences.
Justin is a former Army Chaplain. Through his first documentary film No Greater Love (Amazon), he became the first active duty soldier in combat to direct a movie, earning more than 10 “Best Documentary” awards, and being called “one of the most powerful, best documentaries ever made” by MovieGuide. No Greater Love depicts the combat deployment of the legendary 101st Airborne Division through the eyes of its Army Chaplain. It captured not only the gritty reality of war, but also the incredibly strong bonds forged between its soldiers. Justin is currently in Ukraine shooting the docuseries Do Good, which profiles ordinary people doing selfless acts.
Daniel is Director of Distribution & Strategic Partnerships at TelevisaUnivision’s ViX+, the world’s largest Spanish language streaming service. Previously, he was the Development Executive on the Oscar nominated hit film Straight Outta Compton, and he spent half a decade partnered with Dr. Dre at Crucial Films. He was also Executive Producer of the original flagship comedy series for Sony’s Crackle, Backwash, featuring Sarah Silverman, Jon Hamm, Hank Azaria, and John Cho, and the Executive in Charge of Production for the Luke Wilson film Tenure. He developed films at New Line Cinema for 5 years, and sold numerous TV series while partnered with Zoe Saldana in a first look deal at Lionsgate TV.
Mike is the President of Paulist Productions. Previously, he was the first President of Entertainment for the UPN broadcast network, helping launch the hit TV series Star Trek: Voyager and Moesha. He was Executive Producer of the hit series Growing Pains for Warner Brothers, and its spin-off Just The Ten of Us, and was Executive Producer and co-writer of The Growing Pains Movie.
Tom is Vice President of Paulist Productions. He most recently wrote, directed, and produced the Emmy-nominated documentary feature film Hollywood Priest: The Story of Fr. “Bud” Kieser, winner of the 2022 Gabriel Award for Best Documentary. Previously, he produced the documentary Isaac Hecker and the Journey of Catholic America, featuring Martin Sheen, Matt McCoy, and Bob Gunton.
Holly began her editing career over 30 years ago, and has worked at numerous top Hollywood advertising agencies as an award-winning editor. She has created trailers for countless major films and series, including Indiana Jones; Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life; Grace and Frankie; Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two; and the Disney live-action remakes of Dumbo; Mary Poppins; and Beauty and the Beast. This is her first effort as an editor on a feature documentary film.
David is director of development at Paulist Productions. He has a masters degree in Theology and the Arts from Fuller Theological Seminary, where he also served as director of the Lowell W. Berry Center for Lifelong Learning.
Brandon is currently an Army chaplain serving as the chief of recruiting and accessions for the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps. He has produced two documentary films, including Growing through Adversity (DVIDS), and created numerous short films during three combat deployments with Airborne and Special Operations units. He was awarded two Bronze Star medals while serving in Iraq, and co-founded the largest soldier-run coffeeshop in a war zone.
Paulist Productions is a non-profit production company founded over 60 years ago to create thought-provoking entertainment that explores the human condition. It has produced numerous Emmy and other award-winning documentaries, feature films, and television for Paramount, Warner Bros., CBS, ABC, A&E, Lifetime, and many others.
Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Steven A. Schaick (Ret.)
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JUSTIN D. ROBERTS
RICH HULL, p.g.a.
TOM GIBBONS, CSP
JUSTIN D. ROBERTS
BRANDON R. MOORE