It’s always a thrill for me to be contacted by former students telling me they’re doing great media work in the field, so I was understandably pleased when Billy Griffith, Youth Minister in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, emailed me. What really grabbed my attention is the ambitious new project that Billy started: a “Catholic Word Of The Day” YouTube channel that is making waves in youth minister circles. At this point, I’m giving Billy a hard time that they’re technically not “Catholic Word Of The Day” since he’s not releasing the clips daily. But to be fair, these one-minute clips are so informative and fun that just for that alone, I’m excited that these clips be seen by young and old alike.
I was able to have a good talk with Billy to get an exclusive insight into the “Catholic Word Of The Day” project.
What’s “Catholic Word Of The Day” all about?
Our goal is to present words unique to our Catholic faith in a fun-filled way. With digital media like Twitter and Vine, attention spans are shrinking, so we want every video to be one minute or less. It’s a fun challenge for us to try to be as concise as possible!
What makes “Catholic Word Of The Day” unique?
I think a few things make our show unique. First, the vocabulary we present is rooted in Catholic tradition, which, in some cases, dates back to the time of Christ. There is something I find beautiful and awe-inspiring about the antiquity of our Faith. Second, this isn’t a show that features just another talking head attempting to deliver Catholic theology. This is an animated, visually engaging show that uses quick cuts and relevant media to talk about the language of the Catholic Faith. As far as I can tell, no one else has done this!
What’s important to you when making these YouTube clips? What do you want your audience to take away from your clips?
I think it cannot be overstated that visual media, by virtue of it being visual media, has entertainment qualities that are intrinsic to its production. Today, a show – whether it is on YouTube or broadcast television – cannot survive if it does not feature captivating visuals, beautiful music, and engaging narration. I feel the last thing Catholic media needs is another guy in front of a camera talking.
I would like the audience to walk away with a greater appreciation for the Catholic Faith and our vocabulary. At the very least, I’d like the audience to be able to make informed comments about our Faith. After watching these videos, our audience shouldn’t be saying “the bishop’s stick thing.” They should be saying “bishop’s crosier.”
Tell us something about yourself, your background, your education.
I graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2007 with a degree in Theology and Philosophy. I also studied history and communication arts. I’ve always loved graphic design and videography and after taking some classes with Dr. Eugene Gan, I was really eager to continue studying communication arts. After graduation, I was hired as the Director of Youth Ministry for St. Aloysius, which allowed me the perfect avenue to blend what I had learned in theology with new media production. At first I started with simple web design, but soon moved to larger graphic design and video projects for social media.
If there are others out there eager to make engaging YouTube clips, what kind of advice do you have for them?
Don’t settle for a mediocre production. If you are going to do something, do it well. Use the techniques that are tried and true and always stay abreast of new media developments in the field. Think, “Is what I’m making something I would watch?” Don’t be afraid of feedback or criticism. Know your weaknesses and work with other people’s strengths to minimize those weaknesses. Have fun with what you are doing. “Having fun” does not mean “be unprofessional.” Have a goal in mind when you produce something. What is the end game? How long do you intend to produce a show? How will you stay dynamic and relevant without compromising the Truth of the Faith? Pray.
What are the next steps for you? How can others support your work and live the mission?
I would like to continue honing my skills in videography and putting them to use for the good of the Church. If others want to support “Catholic Word Of The Day” feel free to show it off to your youth groups and your classrooms. It’s a resource. And if you have any feedback for ways to improve, please let us know!
Dr Eugene Ganis faculty associate of the Veritas Center and Professor of Interactive Media, Communications, and Fine Art at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the United States. His book, Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media is grounded in Scripture and magisterial documents, and is a handbook and practical guide for understanding and engaging media in meaningful and healthy ways in daily life.