Former Perth Franciscan Friar, Skateboarding hero, features in award winning Emmy Video

02 Dec 2015

By Jamie O'Brien

A music video of a skateboarding Franciscan, who spent 14 years living in Western Australia, received an Emmy at the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on 7 November.

A music video of a skateboarding Franciscan, who spent 14 years living in Western Australia, received an Emmy at the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on 7 November.

The video, Salve Regina, produced by US-based Spirit Juice Studio, displays the finely honed skills of Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate, Gabriel Cortes, as he skates through the streets and countryside of Chicago, clothed in the flowing traditional robes of his Order.

The production, which combines cinematic creativity with the musical backdrop of the US-born Friar Gabriel singing Salve Regina, won the Emmy in the category of Outstanding Achievement for Arts/Entertainment Programming.

The 37-year-old Friar, who is currently living in Bloomington, Indiana, was full of praise for the Spirit Juice team when he spoke to The eRecord about the project.

“It was very exciting and an absolute honour and privilege to work with such talented, faithful Catholic men and women,” he said. “We wanted to produce something artistic and we were able to accomplish far more than we anticipated.”

When Friar Gabriel was invited by the Spirit Juice team to film the video clip last year, he was well aware of the potential impact of mingling faith and media and was hoping a clear message would be conveyed.

“I wanted the fruits of the video to be simply love,” he shared: “the love of God and neighbour and love for the Blessed Mother that the world has not seen.”

With 27 years of skateboarding experience behind him, Friar Gabriel believes faith and sports are compatible and, in fact, mutually support one another as they provide the opportunity to exercise both body and soul.

“We do everything for the glory of God and for the love of the Blessed Mother,” he said, “and (with this video) we have been able to achieve this on so many different levels.”

The energetic Friar, who spent most of his time in Western Australia with the Order’s Community in Toodyay, returned to live in the US in April this year.

He is now part of the Ave Maria media team, promoting the message of the Virgin Mary and the importance of Eucharistic Adoration which he describes as, “the epicentre of all our activity”.

Creative Director of Spirit Juice Studios, Rob Kaczmark, was equally pleased with the exposure and success of Salve Regina and told The eRecord that the award had provided a very exciting moment for the Chicago-based Catholic design studio, which specialises in film and video production.

Mr Kaczmark said that the seed for the video was planted several years ago when members of his team saw a clip on YouTube of Friar Gabriel in Australia.

“We saw a Friar doing tricks on a board at a skate park and we thought it would be the coolest thing to do a video with him,” he recalled.

However, fulfilling the logistics of recruiting someone from the other side of the world to shoot a video clip seemed unrealistic, so the studio instead began to connect with US-based friars.

When Mr Kaczmark was sharing his idea with a local member of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, Friar Didicus, he was shocked to discover that the skateboarding Friar in Australia was Didicus’ blood brother and the rest fell into place.

“We wanted to convey that being faithful and religious isn’t something that holds you back and separates you from the world,” Mr Kaczmark shared.

“But, rather, it is something that can transform everything around you. We wanted to convey that the Catholic faith is still relevant.”

The Creative Director said that his Studio had wanted to produce an entertaining and engaging video that would capture the attention of a young demographic, particularly the 12–35 age bracket, who were raised as Catholics but didn’t, at present, have a particularly strong affiliation with the Church.

He is happy to admit that he initially underestimated the impact the video would have, but now realises it has spread far beyond the targeted group and has captured an audience of a diverse range of age and interests.

Mr Kaczmark believes a contributing factor to the success of the Salve Regina was not making the common error of other Catholic media outlets, who often became so focused on making their message clear that they inadvertently become afraid of making it entertaining.

When Fr Gabriel was asked whether he hoped to once again team up with Spirit Juice Studios to produce similar projects in the future, he left no doubt.

“Absolutely. I would love to just ‘pump them out’,” he declared. “This is both my plan and also my obligation, since I promised that I would use the media to advance His Glory and advance consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”