- Catholic Television in Africa at the Heart of the 12th SIGNIS TV Seminar in Nairobi
- Nairobi to Host 12th SIGNIS TV Producers Seminar
- Pope’s Last Farewell to Be Broadcast Live
- Dario Vigano Is the New Director of the Vatican’s Television Center
- SAT-7’s Lebanon Studio Flooding Halts Live Broadcasts
- Salt and Light Celebrates 10th Anniversary
- SAT 7’s Christian Flashmob Wins First Prize at Film Festival
- SIGNIS Awards TV Drama "Nicky’s Family" at Prix Italia 2012
- Pope Visit to Lebanon: Tele Lumiere Offers Free Programs for International Media
- New CRTN Website Highlights ’Best of’ Catholic Productions
- 11th SIGNIS TV Seminar Gathers Community of Catholic Producers in La Rochelle
- 23rd Sunny Side of the Doc International Documentary Market
- 11th SIGNIS TV Producers Seminar to Take Place in La Rochelle
- Kuangchi Program Service Produces New Weekly Program on Taiwan Television
- 31st International URTI Grand Prix for Author’s Documentary
- Catholic TV Producers United at 10th SIGNIS Seminar in Costa Rica
- SIGNIS Goodnews Network Web TV Launches in Japan
- SIGNIS Awards TV at 63rd Prix Italia 2011
- 10th SIGNIS TV Producers Seminar in Costa Rica
- UK Launches World Youth Day Video Campaign
- Barrier-free Film "Living With Mother Teresa" Recommended by SIGNIS Japan
- Radharc Awards 2010
- Tele Lumiere Launches Multi-lingual International Platform for Cultural Diversity
- SIGNIS Awards TV at Prix Italia 2010
- CRTN Special Program Offer for Mother Teresa’s 100th Birthday
- Christian Life and Sports: 2010 World Cup’s Special Programs on Tele Lumiere
- Prize Winners at the 17th European TV Festival of Religious Programmes
- 9th SIGNIS TV Producers Seminar
- "Miracles: In the Name of the Virgin", a Look at Pilgrimages and Christian Spirituality
- 9th SIGNIS International TV/Producer Seminar in Luxemburg
- Tele Lumiere Broadcasts Special Programs Supporting Iraqi Christians
- BaKaForum 2010: Cooperation in a World of Cultural Diversity
- SAT-7 TÜRK Launched on January 1, 2010
- Documentary Launches Film and TV Producer Frank Desiderio into National Program of Forgiveness Retreats
- "The Queen and I" Receives SIGNIS Prize at Prix Italia 2009
- TURK-7 to Merge with SAT-7
- Puskat Film Wins Niepokalanow Award
- Fr Thomas Rosica of Salt+Light Television New Vatican Consultor on Communications
- Magnificat 2009: 5th International Catholic Festival of Christian Films and TV Programs
- Zélie and Louis Bless the Family of Tele Lumiere
- Short Film Made by HKDAVC Wins at Tokyo Video Festival 2009
- Pope Hails 25 Years of Vatican Television
- SAT-7 KIDS Marks First Year of Broadcasting with Special Christmas Programs
- Benedict XVI Launches Bible-Reading Marathon
- CFA Video Salutes "Candles in the Dark"
- SIGNIS Prize at the Prix Italia TV Festival 2008
- H2Onews: Salt+Light Takes Top TV Award
- Benedict to star in TV bible show
- 7th SIGNIS TV Seminar Gathers 50 Producers in Buenos Aires
- 7th SIGNIS TV Producers Seminar to Take Place in Buenos Aires
- Prix Jeunesse International 2008 - Promoting Excellence in Children’s Television
- BBC’s "The Passion" Viewed by Peter Malone
- BBC’s "Passion" for Holy Week
- Ukweli Video Productions’ Fr Richard Quinn Retires
- SAT-7 Kids, First Arabic Christian Channel for Children
- TV Maria Soon to Have its Own Channel in the Philippines
- US Vocations DVD Wins Gabriel Award
- Only Christian Television in Holy Land Closes Down
- 6th TV/Producers’ Seminar in Bucharest
- SIGNIS Awards Television in Prix Italia 2007
- "Mist in the Mountains" Tackles HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea
- Filipino ’Pondo ng Pinoy’ Documentary: Moving Images, Touching Lives
- Good Religious TV Vitally Important, European Broadcasters told
- Austrian Film Wins SIGNIS Prize at Monte Carlo TV Festival
- Updated CRTN Website Is a Platform for Distribution of Catholic Programming
- Kuangchi’s Jesuit Documentary on Matteo Ricci and Paul Xu Guangqi on China TV and DVD
- Vatican TV Releases DVD Collection
- Vatican Begins Move to High-Definition TV
- Head of BBC Religion and former Prime Minister of Norway to speak at WACC-SIGNIS Religious Television Festival
- "I-Watch": Oblate Documentaries for Justice
- 16th SIGNIS-WACC European Television Festival
- "An Auschwitz Retreat": Praying in the sites of the Holocaust
- Rome Reports Launches Broadband TV
- 5th SIGNIS TV Producers’ Seminar: a platform to meet and exchange
- Catholic TV Congress Begins "New Era"
- BBC sees a renaissance in religious programming
- Interview of Peter Thomas
- SIGNIS Awards "Road to Guantanamo" at Prix Italia 2006
- Introducing the World Congress of Catholic Television
- SIGNIS and UNICEF to Give Child Rights Award at the ’Facing Children’ festival
- Monte-Carlo 2006: SIGNIS Jury Awards “Magnificent 7”
- SAT-7 Celebrates Ten Years of Cutting Edge Ministry
- UNESCO releases series of seven human rights related films
- Music Video on Jesus to be Released
- Catholic TV Program Ends after 39 Years
Interview of Peter Thomas
Peter Thomas is Vice-President of SIGNIS. Before 2002 he was also very active in the Board of Unda. As a producer he was always aware of the audience. Since 2003 he is one of the people responsible for the Producers’ Group of SIGNIS.
SIGNIS Media: Peter, I understand that you founded Albert Street Productions?
Peter Thomas: In 1985, after having worked in both television and radio in the secular sphere, I found myself working for Catholic Communications an agency of the Archdiocese of Melbourne producing TV and radio that was propaganda for the church and therefore relegated on the program schedules to timeslots reserved by stations for this kind of material. It was a very worthwhile experience but always not enough as we were severely restricted in content, and whether true or not, perceived by stations to be worthy only for those timeslots reserved for church programs.
A young Jesuit, Michael Kelly working in my office at that time, encouraged me to look for a solution that would enable us to take “Christ into the marketplace.” We formed a separate legal entity, Albert Street Productions and for some years worked within the Diocesan offices producing television and radio productions for both Catholic Communications and Albert Street Productions. At the same time we invited the late Fr Joe Dunn in Dublin who was producing programs for the Irish public service broadcaster, RTE, to come to Australia and co-produce a series of programs that he could broadcast in Ireland and that Albert Street could sell to an Australian broadcaster. With Joe we produced a series of programs on Aboriginal Spirituality and the following year a series in South East Asia on refugee camps. These programs sold to broadcasters in Australia and indeed throughout the world.
SM: Is Albert Street Productions a Catholic Production House?
PT: Albert Street has a charter that insures that it produces material that promotes gospel values. Other than that Albert Street is free to and does receive commissions from a range of organizations including commercial work. Quite recently I completed a series of commercials for a telephone counseling service and last year we did a documentary on the making of a comedy movie for one of the commercial TV networks. These ‘secular’ productions have the benefit of financing the ‘gospel’ charter but additionally bring us into a wider contact with the industry at large.
SM: Are Albert Street documentaries purely religious?
PT: Of the hundreds of documentaries produced over the years most would be about social issues; mental health, street-kids, suicide, drugs, indigenous issues. I rarely differentiated between these and what some people classify as ‘religious’. It always seemed to me that if these productions were designed to help people then we were faithful to the message of the gospel. On the other hand we have made documentaries on interfaith issues, meditation, priests, nuns, ecumenism, missions, etc.
SM: Who is your audience?
PT: Generally when the program is made for public service free-to-air television the audience is large and diverse. Probably in recent years the production that has had a most enduring impact has been The Teacher . Made in 2000 it has been shown in Australia three times and was picked up by Discovery in the United States and sold to at least another dozen other markets around the world. The Teacher featured the Dalai Lama together with the Jesuit ascetical theologian, William Johnston. My greatest thrill was to see The Teacher screen at a cinema as a support for the 1997 Martin Scorsese film, Kundun . We make for cable and satellite broadcast some medium to low budget productions, often commissioned by organizations rather than broadcasters.
SM: In 2004, rumor has it that you semi-retired. What does this mean?
PT: In June 2004 I stood down as the Chief Executive Officer for Albert Street Productions in order to concentrate on the creative aspects of filmmaking, a task that was becoming increasingly more difficult whilst managing a company. The complexity of structuring or brokering deals and securing finance and trying to produce, write and direct, was too difficult, so I relinquished the role. I’m also getting older! A bonus is that it gave me more time for SIGNIS, giving me the freedom to allow my nomination as Vice President to proceed. I also dabble in radio and do TV production work for an ecumenical agency.
SM: What have you done lately?
PT: In 2004 I finished Hazaribag Jesuits , a story about young Jesuits leaving Australia in the 1950’s and their subsequent inculturation into Indian life over the next 50 years.
In the last 18 months I have produced a series of studio talk shows for a major commercial TV network, a Christmas and Easter special for an ecumenical agency for commercial TV and three documentaries for a national cable and satellite station.
The first documentary, All God’s Beggars is about Asylum Seekers in Australia, a major social issue that has divided the nation that has had tremendous support from the churches. Late last year I completed Eileen , a documentary-drama about Eileen O’Connor, the founder of the Brown Nurses. It was great to reacquaint myself with drama script plotting, actors, period-costumes and all the other bits and pieces that constitute the production of drama. Right now I’m in post-production on a documentary about nuns, An Unfolding Reality . It’s an attempt to demythologize the stereotype.
SM: Is there another way you reach audiences apart from broadcast?
Oh yes! For years Albert Street has distributed its product on video and DVD. I assume in the future it will have opportunities to take it on-line and perhaps with modified versions through cell phones. Interested buyers can go to http://www.albertstreet.tv
SM: The future?
PT: It’s a tougher world out there today and there are many more filmmakers in the marketplace than ever before. The commercial constraints are daunting and generally budgets for documentaries have been declining. Whilst I applaud the churches involvement in operating TV stations I’m reasonably optimistic that opportunities will remain for producers to offer broad religious material for mainstream television.