Randy Engel
Randy Engel interview with Mr. Charles Parlato, the producer of Nicaea -- The Movie
By Randy Engel
February 6, 2014


In my first Renew America column of August 8, 2013, on the epic film masterpiece Nicaea currently in production, I highlighted the basic themes of this cinematic adventure which brings to the screen the great Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and one of the most incredible cast of characters ever assembled under one roof for an ecclesiastical event which would define and affirm the basic tenets of Christianity forever.

Today, it is my pleasure to interview the producer of Nicaea, Charles Parlato, who came to Hollywood via Wall Street, and in a sense, is bringing Hollywood back to Wall Street via his innovative funding platform Investors for Charity (I4C) which we will discuss in depth later in this interview.

Engel: Welcome Charles. Thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to bring our RA readers up to date on the film's progress and some of the important changes involving your production team.

Parlato: Well, I think that certainly one of the most important changes in terms of Nicaea's production team has been the hiring of a new director, Mr. Jamil Dehlavi, a graduate of Oxford University and Columbia University Film School, who has more than 40 years of experience in the film industry as a cinematographer, writer, producer and director. He has directed 12 full-length movies in his career many of which have received multiple international awards.

Engel: I presume he is multilingual?

Parlato: Yes. Jamil is a British national who first came to Britain as the son of a Pakistani diplomat. His mother is French. He speaks 5 languages including Italian, which is very important since a good portion of the movie will be shot in Rome and Italy. Interestingly, a number of his childhood years were spent in Rome when his father was stationed there.

As for the script for Nicaea, both Jamil and my writer, Gary Huber, are working feverishly to complete the final adaptation for the screen. I expect that it should be ready very shortly.

Engel: Charles, can you reveal to us anything about the casting for the production, especially the pivotal roles of Emperor Constantine and Saint Athanasius?

Parlato: As you know, we have two casting directors, one in London and one in Rome. Right now Jamil and I are busy discussing the key roles. Obviously, we want to select superb actors to play the key roles you mentioned. But at the same time we are both disinclined to cast very well-known actors for these roles as we want the audience to focus on character development rather than any preconceived notion about how these roles should play out on the screen by a particular actor. In any case, I am happy to report that we have already signed a wonderful character actor for one of the important supporting roles although I cannot as yet reveal his name.

Engel: You know Charles, when I first read the original script for Nicaea I thought to myself, "Move over Dan Brown, someone is finally going to give your fictional Da Vinci Code some serious competition with the TRUTH." Was this part of your reason and motivation for wanting to produce a film on the Council of Nicaea?

Parlato: First, let me say that Dan Brown contends that he accurately portrayed the key events surrounding the Council of Nicaea. He holds that the Emperor Constantine, by his machinations and strong-arming, MADE Jesus God on earth. This is clearly false.

The truth is that the Apostles, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church Fathers have ALWAYS maintained that Jesus of Nazareth was divine and was "The Son of the one, true living God." The Council of Nicaea, the first general council of the ancient church, strongly REAFFIRMED this central teaching of the Catholic Church, handed down from the time of the Apostles, that Jesus Christ is both God and man, that he possesses both a Divine and a human Nature. It was the bishops at the Council, gathered from the four corners of the Empire, who reaffirmed this doctrine. Constantine had nothing to do with it.

Secondly, I strongly believe that the world today needs to hear once again the answer to the question, "Who Do You Say I am?" as strongly and as boldly, as it was proclaimed at the Council of Nicaea.

I don't think that we need another Christian-themed movie extolling the virtues of Christianity. We already know of the tens of thousands of martyrs down through the Ages who have sacrificed everything for the love of Jesus Christ.

Nicaea, instead, asks the question, "Why the martyrs?" Why were they willing to follow Jesus Christ even unto death? It was because they believed that He is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. If He is not "The Son of the one true living God," as Dan Brown contends, then they sacrificed in vain. I am not willing to let Brown's interpretation of history stand unchallenged, hence Nicaea.

Engel: I have to confess that I am deeply moved by your reply, so much so, that I feel almost foolish asking you about something as mundane as how you intend to finance and distribute Nicaea. But I know it is important for this particular interview, so let me begin by asking if you tried the usual Hollywood route in getting financial backing for the movie?

Parlato: I did, and what I discovered was that in contrast to those in the European film industry who responded quite enthusiastically to the idea of Nicaea, the representatives of the American film industry whom I contacted were cordial but definitely not helpful.

You know this reaction puzzled me at first.

I had always been under the impression that if I presented a product which was good enough and could be produced inexpensively enough, I could find a major financial backer in Hollywood who would agree to undertake the project.

Since my background and experience has primarily been in business and industry, my initial plan, conceived more than seven years ago, was to find a prominent figure in the American film industry who would agree to produce Nicaea and relieve me of that responsibility. Then, when the film was finished, I could take my victory lap and return to my life as a respectable businessman.

Engel: I gather that, since we are here talking about your production of Nicaea, that things did not turn out quite as you expected?

Parlato: Quite right. My dream plan failed to take into account the harsh reality of the American film industry system as personified by Hollywood USA.

What I came to quickly understand is that the Hollywood film/star system is not an open system but a closed one. All budgets for large productions, working components and financiers work within this closed system. In practice, therefore, broadly released films of 2,500 to 3,500 screens remain closed to all but industry insiders. And movies that could be made for $50M happily get made for $100 or $125M. Obviously, this monopoly has proven to be a gold mine for the industry's insiders, but American movie-goers have been short changed.

In addition, one of the key features of the Hollywood system is that it is impervious to any new or experimental movie ideas. This is why the public continues to see the same type movies over and over again.

No one can buck the Hollywood system, including Mel Gibson or Stephen Spielberg, without serious consequences.

Engel: Do you think because Nicaea is such a profoundly religious and deeply moving movie, that this is another automatic strike against it in the minds of Hollywood producers?

Parlato: Yes, I think the criticism you bring up is valid.

Obviously Hollywood is not above producing lavishly embellished Bible stories. But films which tackle overt Christian themes are not welcome.

You see, the Hollywood industry's conventional wisdom is that movies must seek the broadest audience possible. A film subject which, in the industry's estimation, would only interest a small stratum of the population, is automatically rejected for a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. Nicaea? The cry goes up, "Non-commercial!" despite the enormous impact which the Council of Nicaea has had on world history, to say nothing of the world class figures like Constantine and Athanasius who have forever left their imprints on both the Christian and non-Christian world.

Engel: Did you at some point also consider the latest "crowdfunding" approach like Kickstarter of Indiegogo?

Parlato: I actually did seriously consider both these avenues of fundraising for the Nicaea project along with other funding mechanisms. For readers who may not be acquainted with the concept of crowdfunding let me explain that it is a financing method in which the owner, originator or developer of a project asks individual donors to make donations for the project he wants to produce. For many, it has become a very successful way to raise funds through private donations because both Kickstarter and Indiegogo have the capacity to reach millions of potential donors.

However, I myself did not feel comfortable asking individuals to fund my movie with their resources for the sole benefit of me and my team. Why shouldn't donors also receive some direct financial benefit from their donation?

Engel: Is that when you created the new fundraising concept called Investors4Charity (I4C).

Yes. I believe it is not only fairer to the donor, but it is more in keeping with the spirit and theme of the movie we want to produce in the first place.

Engel: Charles, would you explain how Investors4Charity works? It looks to me like a win-win situation. .

Parlato: You're right, Randy. Investors4Charity is exactly that, a win-win situation.

Investors4Charity makes it possible for donors to not only support a film project which is near and dear to their hearts, but at the same time helps fund charities which are also near and dear to their hearts.

This is how the program works: A potential donor goes to I4C website at www.investors4charity.org. He selects a project, in this case, Nicaea – the Movie, which he would like to financially support. Then he selects one or more of the charities listed on the website which he also wishes to support and designates the amount he wishes to donate to each. Every donation counts – small or large.

As proceeds and profits flow back to I4C from the release of the movie, I4C will in turn transfer those monies to the selected charities in accord with the preferences of the donors. The donors receive at the time of their contribution a tax-deduction in the amount of their donation. There is a reasonable probability that the donor's contribution will return more to the charities than his initial contribution to I4C.

Engel: Does the project have a time limit?

Parlato: That's an important question. Yes. The time limit for raising the minimum capital for Nicaea is 4 months using the I4C platform. Of course, the project director can raise funds apart from the I4C program from private institutional monies, and individual or government sources. These funds are applied toward the minimum and maximum amounts of funding found on I4C website for the project in question. For example, a $5M project would be fully funded under the I4C financing structure if I4C provided $2M for the project and private and government funding provided another $3M.

Engel: It appears to me that Investors4Charity translates into a direct frontal assault against the Hollywood/Establishment Entertainment industry's closed shop model which has dictated the nature and quality of films for decades.

Parlato: There is no question that if you want to change and influence for the good the caliber of movies produced by the American film industry then you have to be willing to challenge and change the current funding mechanism for the industry. This is what I4C intends to do.

Everyone who deplores the current quality of many Hollywood flicks needs to understand that it is money which controls the content and direction of a movie. By investing in I4C the donor is casting his vote for movies with a superior quality, content, emphasis and message that reflects his or her beliefs and values.

Why is this important? Let me givel you an example.

At the beginning of this interview Randy, you mentioned The Da Vinci Code. Clearly, the proposition that Dan Brown puts forth, that the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth was merely a human invention stands in sharp contrast to the reaffirmation made at the Council of Nicaea that Jesus Christ is truly both God and man. One viewpoint is false, the other is true.

But which viewpoint shall prevail? If Hollywood has its way, Dan Brown's version of the history of the Council of Nicaea will prevail unless it is contested on the same battlefield, that is, the battlefield of the popular cinema. This is why Christians and all men of good will need to support I4C and its first project, Nicaea. History is being written every day in cinema. It is our task to make sure that history speaks to the Truth, especially when that truth embraces the eternal matter of man's salvation.

That's why I'm here, giving you this interview, even though I tend to be a very private person and I'd really rather be somewhere else.

I would like to make one other point. All contributions are important no matter the size of the contribution. The industry machinery will look at two numbers when it gauges the interest in the movie. One will be the amount financed, but equally important or perhaps more important will be the number of people who have supported this movie by contributing. The number of contributors will tell the industry whether this movie will be likely to receive support at the box office.

Engel: Ever since I read the opening lines of the original script of Nicaea, I fell head over heels in love with the movie. Obviously you feel the same way Charles which is why you have moved heaven and earth to make this movie a reality.

I am grateful that you not only have decided to produce the movie Nicaea yourself, but that you have also provided through Investors4Charity a way that each and everyone of us can play a role in insuring its successful production and distribution. Thank you, Charles, for this very informative and inspiring interview.

Postscript – Before I sent this interview to Renew America, I went to www.investors4charity.org, clicked on "Discover Projects," made my donation, and selected my charity. It worked exactly as Charles explained. It was very simple and took less than two minutes to complete the transaction. I encourage every reader to do the same. I don't think that any one of you will want to miss being a first-class passenger on the cinematic flagship Nicaea which promises to be one of the greatest spiritual adventures of all times.

© Randy Engel


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Randy Engel

Randy Engel, one of the nation's top investigative reporters, began her journalistic career shortly after her graduation from the University of New York at Cortland, in 1961. A specialist in Vietnamese history and folklore, in 1963, she became the editor of The Vietnam Journal, the official publication of the Vietnam Refugee and Information Services, a national relief program in South Vietnam for war refugees and orphans based in Dayton, Ohio... (more)


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