Past Newsworthy Dads

Multimedia Man

In the aftermath of 9/11, Joseph Campo dedicated himself to making films that capture the depth and meaning of life. As executive producer of  Grassroots Films , which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., his most recent release is The Human Experience, a visually stunning story of two brothers who travel the world to find the truth about existence.

His other works include a short vocations film called Fishers of Men, which is used by the U.S. bishops, and the popular “Catholic Vote” television ads.

Campo has worked closely with Father Benedict Groeschel’s Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, runs The St. Francis House in Brooklyn and hosts  Youth 2000 retreats .

Fathers for Good: Where do we find good father figures in the media?

Campo: Unfortunately, I do not see fatherhood depicted in a positive way in the media - TV, movies, music and videos. Most of the time men are portrayed as wimpy, weak and living without any sense of courage. As depicted in a recent commercial, a pre-teen son teaches his father by instructing him how to “become a better man.” The ad ends with one word to sum up the entire commercial “priceless.” In the real world, kids should not be giving wisdom to fathers, but vice versa.

FFG: Why do we see so many negative portrayals of men and fathers, and what does this say about (and do to) our culture?

Campo: It is a reflection of our society. Are films influenced by the culture, or is the culture influence by films? Certainly, there is an interplay of forces. There is confusion in media that is attacking manhood, and we as men need to combat that with honesty. As Jesus said, let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”

It is the nature of human beings to learn by acting on what we see, and with the lack of fatherhood in today’s society, it is easy for our young men to be misguided, especially by the media’s distorted portrayal. If people are constantly bombarded with an idea, that idea might someday become the norm, and the danger is that the norm is not always the Truth.

FFG: Tell us about Youth 2000.

Campo: Youth 2000 is a Eucharistic-centered retreat for young people ages 15 and up. I brought Youth 2000 to New York City in 1992 after experiencing a retreat in Dallas with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. After meeting the founder there, I knew that we’d have to do this in New York.

The purpose of the retreat is to educate and reeducate people to the beauty of the Catholic faith through inspirational talks, meditations, Mass, rosary, confession and adoration. It would be impossible to tell you exactly how many people have actually attended all of the events since 1992. But we can confidently say there have been thousands.

FFG: How did Grassroots Films start?

Campo: I’ve been a professional photographer for more than three quarters of my life and have always had a desire to make films.

A young man by the name of Charles Kinnane moved to The St. Francis House. He had taken an internship with a film company in the city and moved in with us because he needed a place to stay. His first day on the job was September 11, 2001. Incidentally, it was also his last day.

People had been telling me for years to write a book on The St. Francis House, but I wanted to make a film, so after seeing Chuck’s work, I said to him, “Chuck, you want to make films?”

He said, “Yes.”

So I said, “Then let’s make films together.”

And Grassroots Films was born.

FFG: It seems you’ve gone from the religious, to the political, to the meaning of life. What is the mission?

Campo: The mission is all of those things. It’s that simple. Why? Because that’s life and all of those encompass our culture. Our film productions are designed to communicate messages that have a positive effect on our culture.

The influence of film is undeniable. It is used to entertain, provide information, and influence change. Films offer the potential for art to be open to theological possibility, often by dealing with hidden aspects of the human experience.

FFG: Do you have a word of encouragement about the media – how can a father protect his kids from the worst and expose them to the best?

Campo: Cultures are judged by their art. It is important for the artist, through his craft, to explore the human condition with creativity, compassion and respect. It is the responsibility of fathers to leave a legacy that sets a standard for our children. Once that is accomplished, children can be protected from the effects of negative media that pollutes the soul.

New production companies are springing up with similar concerns, and desires to produce films of faith, hope, love and integrity. As fathers, we need to support these new companies as part of our legacy and doing our part to help shape the future of the media.

Our children look to us for answers, and expect us to know. It is the responsibility of every father to equip them with the courage, compassion, knowledge and truth, so that they may be themselves one day good sons and daughters, good husbands and wives, and good fathers and mothers.