Reel Spirit Movie Project —
A Community Success
by CSW Associate Tony Gillman
In 2019, Rob Field laid the idea for Center for Spiritual Wisdom (CSW) to host a community forum to engage in a meaningful discourse around the religious, social, spiritual, and/or mystical dimensions of our human experience as depicted in critically acclaimed films. The program was originally intended to screen films live with the community.
But then, the pandemic hit and squelched any thoughts of live gatherings. From this setback — or springboard —t he Reel Spirit Movie Project (RSMP) was conceived with the belief that there was still a need for the community (and maybe more so during the pandemic) to meet virtually to discuss the spiritual aspects of movies. Tony and Micki Gillman, Terry and Cindy Decker, and Jean Woods were tasked with forming a committee to take the vision of RSMP and make it a reality. By all accounts they were highly successful.
The format of RSMP was simple; the community was asked to view a selected film on their own and then join an on-line facilitated discussion of the film. Facilitation duties were shared and typically clips of the film were shown (due in large part to the technical expertise of Terry Decker). Soon, facilitators came from the community itself.
The range of films selected has been broad and diverse. RSMP’s first movie — the powerful Dead Man Walking — hit the trail running. Thereafter, many types and genres of film were presented. The films ranged from the gritty experience of Children of Men to the lovely time-travel film About Time. We watched documentaries ranging from the social justice film, John Lewis: Good Trouble, about the renowned civil rights leader, and the award-winning My Octopus Teacher, a movie about the surprising relationship between a filmmaker and an octopus. We discussed old movies such as Being There (1979) as well as a film just off the Oscar stage — Nomadland. While the topic of films varied widely, each discussion shared a common thread: a community gathered in an informal, enjoyable, and lively discussion that explored the larger questions of being human.
Further, RSMP created a community of friends (many of whom live in other states) that was difficult to do during Covid lock-down. The movie discussions offered a connection and a reprieve from the loneliness often created by the pandemic. Susy Whitcomb, a facilitator and regular participant summed it up this way: RSMP “was a lifesaver for me when I moved to Brevard during the Covid lockdown and I have learned—and loved—so much from every session.”
Now after two and a half years, during which 31 films were discussed, RSMP is transitioning away from on-line discussion to in-person screenings—consistent with the original intent of the program. The Center, in partnership with the Co-Ed Cinema in Brevard, will now concentrate on offering in-person screenings of films that drive the Center’s vision. Its first in-person film — Mission Joy: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times, shown in August 2022, was an enormous success. The Center’s next film — Gratitude Revealed — a photographic masterpiece with a timely call for gratitude—will be shown at the Co-Ed Cinema on Monday, March 13. (Details HERE.)
CSW Director’s note: A huge Thank You! goes out to the RSMP team and volunteers, for their vision, hard work, and success in bringing thoughtful films to the Brevard community and beyond. I can’t wait to see how the Center will continue to explore the intersection of spirituality and film in the future. -Rob Field