ISKCON Communications has received a grant from Odyssey Networks, America’s largest multi-faith production company, to produce thirteen short films for its Call on Faith app for smartphones.
The app delivers eighty original short videos on fourteen different channels each month for a one-time download charge of 99 cents. The videos, which convey inspirational, religious and spiritual stories from the world’s greatest faiths and spiritual traditions, are available on iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones and on the iPad and iTouch.
ISKCON was invited to join Odyssey Networks and produce content for the company in 2010 when it opened its membership to non-Abrahamic faiths for the first time since its founding in 1987.
ISKCON’s first three-minute film for the Call on Faith app, The God Above the Quicksand featuring spiritual teacher Radhanath Swami, has been available for viewers since October 29th, 2011.
But now, with the recent grant they have received, professional documentary film-maker Krishna-lila Dasi, ISKCON Communications Director Anuttama Dasa, and a team consisting largely of devotees will make thirteen more films, lasting between two and five minutes each.
Four of the films will fall into Call on Faith’s “My Story” genre, in which people of faith tell inspiring stories of how they regained their faith in God, or how they got through difficult situations and learned important life lessons.
First off will be From Wall Street to the Monastery, the story of Rasanath Dasa of the Bhakti Center in New York. The film will explore why this thirty-two-year-old MBA, who earned a $170,000 salary negotiating deals at Bank of America, left his job to sleep on the floor of a bare room shared with thirteen other Hare Krishna monks.
The next film, From Broadway to the Monstery, will tell the story of Yadunath Dasa (Joe DeGise), a stand-up comedian and director at New York City’s longest-running improvisation theater, Chicago City Limits. In the short video, he’ll talk about how he found God and inner peace through the transforming power of humor, and how he balances his job on Broadway with managing ISKCON’s 26 2nd Ave center. Meanwhile in I Am Who I Am Because Someone Loved Me, Radhanath Swami will talk about lessons he learned from his parents.
The next four films ISKCON produces for Odyssey Networks will appear in the Call on Faith app’s “Wise Words” genre, where interviewees share inspirational wisdom from their own religious traditions.
In one film, comedian Yadunath Dasa will skillfully use humor to make philosophical points on karma and vegetarianism, while in the other three, Radhanath Swami will give advice on life issues, such as If God is Good, Why is There Suffering? What is the Purpose of Prayer? and How to Deal with the Loss of a Loved One?
Another film will fit into the “Compassionate Acts” genre, in which interviewees describe how faith put into practice helps others, in the form of charity or welfare work. In Seeing God and Helping the Blind, Radhanath Swami will offer heartfelt observations about the “eye camps” he organizes in the holy land of Varsana, India, where the impoverished are treated for various eye diseases. Doctors from all over the world, who provide this service free of charge, consider their acts as their own humble efforts to “see” God.
Last but not least, Krishna-lila will film four daily prayer meditations by senior devotees ISKCON Communications Director Anuttama Dasa and his wife Rukmini Dasi. Using the sacred text Bhagavad-gita in a way that’s uplifting and meditative, yet applicable to daily life, they’ll offer prayers and speak on God’s Mercy; Hearing God Speak Through the Faith of Another; how to find Peace of Mind; and how to overcome Stress.
“Some of the interviews have already been shot,” says Krishna-lila, who recently finished the documentary Nature’s IQ as well as films about Bhaktivedanta Manor’s primary school and Mayapur’s Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. “The rest of them will be produced and edited over the summer and early fall, with an October/November finish date, although Odyssey will put each film up as it is completed.”
Krishna-lila says that filming for the smartphone genre has been a creative challenge for her.
“My background is in making half-hour to one-hour films for television, so it has been a learning process for me to figure out how to get the message and story across in only two to five minutes,” she explains. “There’s also the technical challenge of creating appealing visuals for a small iPhone screen, rather than a big flatscreen TV.”
But Krishna-lila is up to the challenge. And aiding her is the inspirational atmosphere she gets to work in.
“The topics are very uplifting, and hearing all these Vaishnavas share their personal stories and innermost thoughts is extremely inspiring,” she says. “What’s more, while editing, I’m watching them again and again to pick out the right segments, so it’s a long, deep meditation. I’m constantly in the association of these devotees, and that’s something I feel very fortunate about.”
For this reason, Krishna-lila encourages ISKCON devotees to download the app and add some inspiration to their day. But she also hopes her short films will be appealing not only to people of her own faith, but to others amongst Odyssey Network’s millions of subscribers too.
“I’ve found it very uplifting to watch videos on the Call on Faith application by people of other faiths, about how they experience God,” she says. “And I hope that they, in turn, will find our stories just as inspiring as we find theirs.”
The future prospects of working with the Odyssey Network are exciting for ISKCON. If the first thirteen films are a success, it may mean ISKCON getting its own Call on Faith channel next year, opening up an excellent opportunity to regularly reach out to the devotee community and beyond.
What’s more, ISKCON will own the copyright of all the videos it produces, allowing the society to post them on any website it desires once they have been broadcast by Odyssey first. In the future, the content may even be made available on mobile platforms in other countries beyond the US and Canada.
“Anuttama and I are very happy to have found a group of people in Odyssey Networks that are very dedicated both to their own beliefs, and to using new media technologies to share wisdom from all faiths with millions,” Krishna-lila says. “They share our values, they are very cooperative and encouraging, they have welcomed ISKCON very warmly, and we feel very good about working with them.”
To download the Call on Faith application for your smartphone, please visit:
For more information about Krishna-lila and her films, please visit
www.karunaproductions.com or www.naturesiqfilm.com