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Pro-Life Crescendo

Short film to raise funds for pregnancy centers

By Sabrina Arena Ferrisi

(This article is excerpted with permission from the Legatus magazine website).

Three years ago, a group of deeply convicted pro-lifers living in the heart of Hollywood took a major gamble. They decided to make a short film they hope will impact the culture worldwide with its pro-life message.

Young Beethoven shown with his mother.

Pattie Mallette is shown with film's producer Jason Jones (right) and Eduardo Verastegui, the star of Bella.

Their movie, Crescendo, has already won 15 international film festival awards, and carries the tagline: “Can you imagine doing something that changes the world?” And that’s exactly what Legate Jason Jones and his team hope to do as they strive to build a culture of life.

Shot in German with English subtitles, the 18th-century tale revolves around a woman contemplating abortion. Her abusive, alcoholic husband is having an affair with a younger woman. The film builds to an astonishing climax, which leaves the viewer breathless by its conclusion. Crescendo is all the more powerful because it is the story of Ludwig van Beethoven’s mother.

True story

Jones, who produced the film, has put great thought and effort into changing people’s minds and hearts about abortion. In 2006, he helped produce the surprise hit Bella, a pro-life movie which garnered a host of awards and made $10 million at the box office. The film is credited with saving the lives of at least 600 babies.

Since that time, Jones had been pondering the idea of making another pro-life film.

“We wanted to produce a film that could communicate to most people,” he explained. “It had to be cross-cultural so it could be shown all over the world, it had to be timeless, and it had to have the best production value. I recognized that if we didn’t have the best quality set, wardrobe or costumes, we would fail.”

Jones and his staff at I Am Whole Life, the pro-life organization he founded, brainstormed about what kind of film to make.

“Around that time, a young man named Alonso Alvarez, who had just dropped out of film school, came to us. He said, ‘I have an idea for a short film,’ and he pitched the story of Beethoven,” Jones explained. Recognizing that Beethoven was universally admired, Jones and his team set to work.

Short film genre

Crescendo is based on a true story,” said Josef Lipp, national director of Movie to Movement, Jones’ production company which made Crescendo. “It’s based on the diaries of Beethoven’s mother. In one part she contemplates suicide and abortion. And then she has a change of heart.”

Jones opted to make a short film rather than a full-length feature because of Eduardo Verástegui’s experience with the 2009 film The Butterfly Circus. Verástegui, who starred in Bella, also helped produce Crescendo. The Butterfly Circus, a 20-minute film, won seven film festival awards and was seen by over 20 million people around the world on the Internet.

“As well as Bella did, more people around the world were able to see The Butterfly Circus because it was short and could be placed on YouTube,” Jones explained.

A short film also means that a pro-life message can be cemented with the audience in a shorter amount of time.

Crescendo won the Hollywood Film Festival in October, and the response from the secular audience was over the top,” said Jones. “You should have heard the applause!”

Launch

Jones says Crescendo’s public launch is one of the project’s most exciting aspects. He plans to have the film debut in 1,000 theaters across the country on Feb. 28. Movie to Movement is orchestrating the launch event with Heartbeat International, the world’s largest network of pregnancy help ministries. Each viewing event will be an opportunity for local crisis pregnancy centers to raise money for its work.

At the end of the viewing, audiences see a short video presentation featuring Jones, Verástegui, and Pattie Mallette, mother of pop superstar Justin Bieber. Mallette, who became pregnant at 17, was pressured to have an abortion but refused. She will share her personal testimony and encourage viewers to donate to their local crisis pregnancy center.

One day after its national debut, Crescendo will premiere online. “We want millions of people to see this on YouTube within the first few weeks,” said Lipp. “We want it to go viral and take off.”

Results

Jones admits that he’s nervous about the project.

“When Bella came out, the mass media strained to make us look like odd balls,” he said. “But I felt like after Bella, the pro-life movement began to walk with a swagger. My hope for Crescendo is to impact those with the pro-abortion ethic, and I hope it inspires pro-lifers to do the hard work they do with more confidence.”

When Jones reflects on his Catholic heroes, he draws on Blessed Pope John Paul II and St. Maximilian Kolbe.

“Pope John Paul II said that there is a limit placed on evil by Divine Mercy,” he explained. “It would have been hard for St. Maximilian Kolbe, stripped naked and starving to death at Auschwitz, to see that the Third Reich would disappear in a few short years. Similarly, it seems impossible for us now to see the culture of death crumble. My hope for this film is to help bring down the culture of death.”

During his early years of pro-life activism, Jones said he was frustrated for lack of progress.

“One day, I dropped down on my knees and began to pray. I said, ‘God, if we are going to end abortion, we need rich people, powerful people and famous people. We need Hollywood to step up.’”

Now, when Jones looks at everything that is happening in the pro-life movement, he said he feels like God is looking down at him and saying, “So, what do you want now, smart guy?”

Simple. Jones and his team want to change the world.

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.