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‘Wildcat’ Producer on Flannery O’Connor’s Lasting Influence

Eric Groth, president of ODB Films and executive producer of “Wildcat” stops by the show to talk about the film about the late Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. ODB Films is an award-winning not-for-profit Catholic film company whose mission is to foster an encounter with Christ through artfully made, spiritually rich films.  Their newest movie, “Wildcat” was written and directed by Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke and details O’Connor’s struggle to publish her first novel. 

Flannery O’Connor was a devout Catholic living in the Jim Crow Era south in the ’50s and ’60s. When she was 23 years old, she began writing, hoping to leave her home in Georgia and see the world. At age 25, she was diagnosed with Lupus. Over the next 14 years O’Connor wrote “A Prayer Journal,” more than 30 short stories and two novels. 

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Eric explains why he believes her writing was so important. “She was addressing a very contentious, racist south. As a Catholic, she was really calling out a lot of Protestant brothers and sisters — she was calling out the Church that would be worshiping Jesus on Sunday and wearing the Ku Klux Klan hoods on Monday, and the culture of white supremacy that was masked as Christian ethics.”  

“She wrote a lot about grace and her stories were tough, because we want heroes in stories and in her stories, [we wonder] ‘Who’s the protagonist? Who’s the antagonist?’” Eric continues. “But she showed how God delivers grace, however God wants to deliver grace, and we as humans often resist grace because it can be painful.”

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Father Dave and Eric discuss the origins of this movie and how it began 10 years ago with Ethan’s daughter, Maya Hawke. “This really started with her,” Eric says. “She was 15 and going to Catholic school in New York and she read Flannery’s ‘A Prayer Journal’ and fell in love with this woman.” Maya would later go on to ask her dad to write and direct a movie about O’Connor that she could star in. Eric and ODB films were eventually approached for financing and a producing partnership. Eric tells Father Dave what attracted him to the film. “I love my Catholic Faith. I Love our stories and telling great stories and she [O’Connor] was a bit of a mystery.”

“This film was super special for a lot of reasons,” Eric says. “Flannery was a devout Catholic, so we could bring the beauty of the Catholic faith naturally and organically in telling the story without ever having to force it in any way.”