Pro-life film 'Crescendo' could impact millions
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Imagine millions of people watching a powerful 15-minute pro-life short film, free on YouTube, that recounts the true story of how one of the more famous people in history nearly was aborted.
Now, imagine many of those viewers re-thinking their previous pro-choice views.
That's the goal behind a new short film, "Crescendo," that has received 11 international film festival honors. The film has not been posted yet on YouTube, but will be when around $10 million has been raised for crisis pregnancy centers via screenings by churches and pregnancy centers. Churches can screen it for $1,000.
The film was made by the same producers who filmed "Bella," the 2007 pro-life film that was a surprise hit in theaters and was credited for leading an untold number of women to choose life.
"We made this film for YouTube, we made this film for Twitter and Facebook," Crescendo producer Jason Jones told Baptist Press. Jones' company, Movie to Movement, makes films with the goal of changing the culture. "The long-lasting impact is going to be providing this to the world for free."
Jones has another goal: seeing more churches partner with crisis pregnancy centers. Movie to Movement will donate half of the screening fee to a crisis pregnancy center of the church's choosing.
"We would like to see greater involvement by churches with crisis pregnancy centers," Jones said. "We find that in most communities, there's only one or two churches that carry the whole load for a pregnancy center."
The film recounts the struggles of Maria Magdalena Beethoven, the mother of 19th-century composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Crescendo has received more attention than most short films because its executive producer is Pattie Mallette, Justin Bieber's mom. Mallette became pregnant as a teenager and gave birth to Justin at 18. Her friends urged her to get an abortion.
Baptist Press spoke with Jones about Crescendo. Following is a transcript, edited for clarity:
BAPTIST PRESS: How did the idea for Crescendo come about?
JASON JONES: Crescendo is really the fruit of two films -- "Bella" and "Butterfly Circus." Following Bella, we received hundreds of letters and emails from women who were going to have abortions, saw Bella and chose life. We were really moved by that. (Bella producer and actor) Eduardo Verastegui was in a beautiful short film called Butterfly Circus, and millions of people were able to see that on YouTube. So I sat down with my staff at Movie to Movement, and I said I want to produce a film that can communicate the incomparable worth of the human person across all ages and across all cultures. We said we would need a true story, it would have to have the highest production value, it would have to be about a person that has affinity across cultures, and it would have to be about someone who would be as influential in the future as he is today. And we said it needs to be a short film, because with short films you can deliver it through phones, iPads, whatever technology that will exist in the future. We put the word out with our friends in Hollywood, and a young director, Alonso Alvarez, came to us with this idea for Cresdendo. We knew the moment he pitched it to us it was exactly what we were looking for.
BP: What are the benefits and drawbacks of making a short film?
JONES: We made this film for YouTube, we made this film for Twitter and Facebook. The long-lasting impact is going to be providing this to the world for free. In a few months, kids are going to be watching this at school, people will be showing it to their friends on their phones. That's the advantage of it being short. The drawbacks: It's not going to have a big theatrical release with a big advertising budget. But thanks to our executive director Pattie Mallette, we've received more publicity than most feature films would ever get. Also, in making a short film, not one second of the film can be wasted. It takes a lot of discipline. My favorite scene had to be edited out. It just didn't push the story along. The hardest part of filmmaking is editing out beautiful scenes.
BP: What's the timeline for this to appear on YouTube?
JONES: Our goal is to raise $10 million for pregnancy centers. We're approaching $2 million. Churches or pregnancy centers can host either theatrical events or events at their church or community center. They can sign up at cpcmovie.com. As soon as we hit that mark or come close to it, we're going to release the film to the world for free.
BP: Bella was a very successful pro-life film. But do you see the goals of Crescendo as being different from those of Bella?
JONES: With Bella, you had young filmmakers who just wanted to tell a story. You could say it was accidentally pro-life. The filmmakers were culturally pro-life but they didn't understand that they were walking into a political controversy. Bella was not made with any agenda. It was based on some stories that the writer knew of a friend. He kind of took two stories and made it into one movie. He just saw it as a powerful story. The writer, director and producer, being from Mexico, really didn't understand the controversy they were walking into [in the United States]. Crescendo is not a pro-life movie in that it's not a commercial, and it's not just about abortion. We wanted to tell a story that communicated the beauty of the human person -- the human person is made in the image and likeness of God. We just wanted to make the most beautiful, powerful film we could, and tell the truth. The truth revealed in Cresdendo is how each and every human person is irreplaceable.
BP: How much of the story in Crescendo is true, and how much creative license did you take?
JONES: There's one piece of fiction. But Beethoven's father was indeed an alcoholic, he was abusive, he was a philanderer. And Beethoven's mother had written in her diary that she wanted an abortion and she was suicidal and depressed.
BP: Have you had anyone tell you that they wanted the movie to continue when it ended?
JONES: Yes. We would love to make it a feature film but it would cost about $100 million. This was a short film that was made by donations.
Crescendo is unrated but contains no language or sexuality. Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).