When Art and the Catholic Church Collide

First there was Scorcese and Last Temptation of Christ. Then there was the uproar over Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code and Ron Howard’s film adaptation. Now: Cinema Cake has gotten into the mix? Huh?

Yes, that’s right. Cinema Cake. That is the name of the studio owned by Dave Williams, a wedding and event filmmaker out of Philadelphia, PA. Dave is a visual genius. A true artiste. In the words of Kung Fu Panda, if you were to watch one of Dave’s films, you’d probably be blinded by the sheer awesomeness. So what has David done to piss off the Catholic church? He made a Doritos commercial.

Dave and his crew of filmmakers is one of the dozens (if not hundreds) of entries into the “Crash the Super Bowl” commercial contest. First prize is one meeeeelyon dollars. (No really. It’s $1,000,000). Dave’s team submitted the video “Feed the Flock,” where a pastor prays for a sign, hears a crunch, then starts offering Doritos chips a la communion to a line of church goers. Dave’s corresponding Pepsi entry has the pastor offering Pepsi in little communion plastic cups. It’s actually a very clever and funny commercial with amazing production values. (It was shot on a 5D Mark II. See other specs below the video.)

The controversy lies in the fact that the commercial pokes fun at one of the most holy and sacred rites and sacraments in the Catholic church. (To be fair to Dave, they made it a conscious choice to refer to the main character as a pastor not priest. They also never show a cross, a chalice, and notice what the church sign says at the end of the video.) To Catholics, the bread and wine in communion don’t just represent the body and blood of Christ, they believe that they actually become the actual body and blood of Christ. That’s why the priest will finish off any of the wine that is left as opposed to throw it out.

Dave Williams in full blown directing mode.

After dozens of positive comments, Dave’s entry started getting negative comments from Catholics and other Christians as being highly offensive. That if he were to have made a video poking fun at Islam or Judaism, there’d be a bigger outcry (I think there’s some truth to that). He even got phone calls and emails. A number of people are up in arms over it.

A Bit of Irony

On one of the videography boards I frequent, many came to Dave’s defense, calling these guys who are complaining “quacks”. Now, for the record, I’m a Christian and I did not find the ad offensive (but, I’m not Catholic). And I know many other Christians who were not offended. So, I obviously don’t agree with the take these other believers have on Dave’s commercial. But, I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “quacks.”

In fact, if I recall, just a few days ago I blogged about an Epson ad which kind of compared wedding videographers to hot dog vendors in the way of a photographer at a wedding. Guess what? A bunch of videographers were very upset over it. They wanted to Tweet bad things about Epson. They wanted to jam Epson’s blog with negative comments about how offensive that ad was to professional videographers. I wonder if the powers that be at Epson were calling us “quacks” for our reaction to that ad?

The thing is, we’re just videographers, not saviors of the world or revered deities. So, if we can get our underwear all in a bunch over that Epson ad, how can we in the very same week call quacks the devout believers who were offended by Dave’s commercial? I think one could argue that a person’s faith is a tad more serious than wedding videography. If they’re quacks, then we are too. (And I’m the HEAD quack because I wrote the blog post about the Epson ad).

Don’t Worry About Dave

Dave knew ahead of time this video would be controversial, so don’t feel sorry for or worry about him. Whether or not he wins (and I can’t imagine Doritos or Pepsi touching it with a 10′ pole), the exposure he’s getting over the controversy (this blog post included) is priceless. Given the creativity and execution of those videos, I wouldn’t be surprised if the “Mad Men” come calling on his services. The people you should feel sorry for are the brides he won’t be able to shoot videos for because he’ll be too busy shooting commercials. πŸ˜‰

Great work Dave.

Film Geek Info

  • Shot on a Canon 5D Mark II
  • Crane shots done with a 25′ jib
  • Lenses: 24-70, 70-200, and 85 1.2 – all Canon L-glass
  • Cinevate Atlas for slider shots
  • Crew of 8, 5 paid actors and 35 unpaid extras

13 thoughts on “When Art and the Catholic Church Collide

  1. I don’t think it would have been right for Dave to parody Islam because he himself (I assume) is not of Islamic faith or heritage. I mean that would be like a white guy making jokes about black people. Folks who grew up Christians or are from that background will often poke fun at Christianity, the same way that Jews regularly poke fun at Judaism (they even have a yearly festival dedicated to this self-deprecation), and today even some moderate Muslim comedians are having a bit of a jab at their Islamic heritage.

    At the end of the day we shouldn’t be taking ourselves too seriously.

    Peace to all πŸ™‚

  2. Wow – thanks for the shout out Ron. However, I want to clear up a few things.

    We produced this under our 8 year old corporate/commercial brand, Media Wave Video Productions. http://MWVP.com

    Many of our wedding & event friends like yourself may not be aware that we have a great team of pros who create all kinds of productions. We are no stranger to commercial work.

    Secondly, the commercials that will be selected to air during the Superbowl have no cash prizes unless the ratings rank them high. There is, however, a $25k payout to the top 10, announced on Jan 3rd. Once that announcement is made, the public votes on the top 6 to be aired on Superbowl Sunday.

    Thirdly, our ad does not “poke fun” at anything, except the fictional people so crazy about Doritos and Pepsi Max that they’ll literally line up down the street to eat and drink them. I will admit, it looks like communion, walks like communion, and almost talks like communion, but that is the joke. As you mentioned, there are a lot of little clues, including one you didn’t mention; the many extras dressed in various religious garb. Some are subtle (Jewish guy and Amish girl at :33) but how did you miss the Hare Krishna at :34? The biggest clue is the marquee in front of the church at the end which you mentioned but glossed over the importance. This is the punch line that says “You thought you were watching a communion with Doritos and Pepsi, but look at that – they are coming because of the sign out front!”

    The communion-like imagery is there to build tension, make people nervous, then we whack them in the face with the sign and of course the pastor who now has lots of applications. Believe me, I hate explaining a joke and it makes me doubt if we actually pulled it off, but until the other day when one pissed off parishioner started a campaign, complete with marching orders, no one said a thing. 99% (even Catholics) LOVED it.

    Finally the Feed Your Flock campaign can be used in many ways. “Your Flock” could be your family, the guys at the firehouse, or the soccer team. We’re hoping they buy into this concept and look beyond our first “flock” choice.

    With all that said, the genie is out of the bottle with the people who are rallying the troops with marching orders and what has now been labeled as “Awakening The Catholic Giant”.

    We’ll see, but we still have our fingers crossed that Pepsi and Dortios brand team see this for what it is and have a little guts with their campaign.

    I hope you are wrong about Pepsi “not touching it with a 10 foot pole”.

    Again, thanks for publicity – I think we may need it. πŸ˜‰

    1. Hey Dave. I apologize for the errors on my part. Thanks for clearing everything up. I do hope your team goes far. The production deserves it. πŸ™‚ I hope I’m wrong too about the Doritos/Pepsi people, but you know how corporate legal people can be. We shall see.

  3. Funny video. Well written and directed. Now with that said, as an Eastern, Orthodox Christian, who has similar if not the same beliefs about the Eucharist (i.e. communion), as Western, Catholic Christians, it is irreverent, crass, and portraying something sacred in a casual manner. However, I expect that now. Nothing is truly sacred in the media anymore and everything is up for game now. All symbols can be used and portrayed in whatever manner an artist wants to because, I believe, SYMBOLS TO MANY OF US IN OUR POST-POST MODERN, DECONSTRUCT SOCIETY NO LONGER BELIEVE THAT SYMBOLS IN AND OF THEM SELVES HAVE ANY POWER! Whether it is the American flag, the head of Geronimo, or of course religious symbols. Now, because symbols do not hold the same influence in the conscious minds of many, how they are used does not matter. As an example, there are many symbols and images associated with the tragedy of 911, would the major populous allow as casual use of these symbols. I think not. I personally do not think positively about the casual use of any symbols (i.e. communion) because this contributes towards the apathy of our mass culture towards anything sacred and meaningful. This also does not surprise me because many people in the privacy of their own hearts to quote Thoreau ” lead lives a quiet desperation” We have all become the Superman (and women) of Friedrich Nietzsche, amusing ourselves to death wit mass entertainments.

  4. Having read Dave’s comment, I do believe this also: any person of faith whether Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim: it’s far more valuable and influential and powerful, instead of attacking what you believe is an in proper portrayal of what is sacred to you, TO CREATE, PORTRAY, AND PRESENT, A CLEAR, ACCURATE, AFFECTING PICTURE OF WHO YOU FOLLOW AND BELIEVE, in order to encourage a transformational conversation in the mass media, one that will genuinely encourage reflection and change and not just a Hegelian dialectic that just divides. And second, LEAD A GOOD LIFE. St Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying to his friar brothers, “We preach the Gospel and sometimes with our words.”

  5. @Evro. I see what you’re saying. I do differ though in that we should take ourselves seriously but realize that their are times to have fun. And for those of you who may be wondering, I am the proud, younger brother of a certain blogger, film maker, videographer named Ron Dawson (lol)

  6. “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzs1r1R493k&playnext=1&list=PL3342F5B29ACC0F74&index=2”

  7. I was not offended. As someone who has worked closely with the church in positions of leadership, I saw this as any one of my former Pastors trying to find SOMEWAY to keep the people interested in coming to church.

    If anything it was the truest depiction of the just how hard it is to get people into those pews regularly. I would assume that at least half the people complaining about the commercial will be the very ones sitting in their couch pew on Super Bowl Sunday….instead of their CHURCH pew.

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