Monday, April 17, 2023

Trinity's Triumph Movie Premieres at Ridgewood Guild International Film Festival: Interview with the Father Stephen Fichter, the NJ Priest Who Made the Movie

Trinity's Triumph is a new movie about three young men contemplating becoming priests. What's most unusual about this film is it's authenticity. It was actually written by a priest, Father Stephen Joseph Fichter, PhD who is currently Pastor at St. Elizabeth's of Hungary in Wyckoff, NJ. 

The film stars Joe Morton (Scandal, Brother from Another Planet) as well as some young talent including Joshua Wills who plays Father Joe, Narci Regina who plays Magdalena, and Melissa Bolona who plays Annie. The film will be premiering at the Ridgewood Guild International Film Festival on April 27th at the Bow Tie Cinemas Warner Theater, 190 East Ridgewood Avenue in Ridgewood NJ (a short distance out of Manhattan and easily accessible by train.) Tickets are still available at

I had the pleasure of interviewing this talented, creative and inspiring priest about how he took his idea from a seed to fruition, and how it soon will be available for all to see and appreciate.

SBTS: In your own words, what is this movie about?

Father Stephen: Trinity’s Triumph is a modern behind-the-scenes look at life in the priesthood. Often, people only interact with a priest at a baptism, wedding, or funeral. They might see them in town, at a restaurant, or visiting someone in the hospital. For the most part, priests are part of the everyday landscape, but generally not very known well as individuals. Priests have their struggles just like everyone else. 
SBTS: What is the message you want the viewer to walk away with?

Father Stephen: Trinity's Triumph welcomes the viewer into the real world of priests, with all the ups and downs, and the twists and turns, that are part and parcel of every life. It is a story ultimately about the endurance of friendship and of being true to one's calling in life. May it help us all to take priests off the pedestal of perfectionism while appreciating their commitment to God and to serving the people entrusted to their spiritual care.
SBTS: This movie was written over a long period of time, which is not unusual for this industry, and I have heard it is a bit autobiographical. Please explain how you got this written.
Father Stephen: There were three phases of the writing process over the last 25 years. Franco Zeffirelli, the famous Italian filmmaker, was the major figure of the first part. He had a long discussion with me one afternoon at his home on the outskirts of Rome in 1998 and encouraged me to expand the points of view in my original script from one to three to make the project more interesting. It was incredible advice, which I am happy I followed. 
Part two was meeting my longtime collaborator, Kathe Carson, in the early 2000s. Over a span of approximately 15 years, we had so many conversations always beginning with one of us saying, “what if . . .” We would talk it all out and then Kathe would go away and write. The amount of revisions over 15 years has been epic, but then Kathe and I finally hit upon a story that we both felt was the film we originally set out to make.

I heard you got some advice from a famous local author!
Father Stephen: Mary Higgins Clark was a good friend and helped us to work through some of the more challenging scenes. Finally, when our director, Michael Wickham, came on board, he read the script and saw a few places where he added to the energy and dramatic effect in several scenes.
SBTS: What was the most challenging part of making this movie? Was it financing? Was it production? I heard you got a lot of help from Jersey folks.
Father Stephen: Yes, there were definitely some hills to climb in getting Trinity’s Triumph produced. Since this was the first film that Kathe and I produced together, we were starting from scratch in terms of resources. We had a great script, but in the beginning, we did not have any financing, and we did not have a big star attached to our project. We attended lots of meetings and lunches, but never really crested the hill. 
Then in January 2018, an old friend of mine pledged the first amount of significant money. Other money soon came in from around the world, and suddenly, financing was in place. Kathe and I met with a fellow Bergen Catholic alum, Thomas Hanna, who is our business manager and lawyer. Thomas helped us formulate a plan for obtaining a production company. 
Through one of our investors, we met with Tucci and Company. They produced our film and brought in fellow native New Jerseyan Michael Wickham (Wick), as our director. Kathe, Thomas, and I were always on the set to watch every scene that was shot. 

Did you like the process of making a movie?
Father Stephen: Yes, very much! I was intrigued with the art and science of making a movie. It was fascinating to watch setting up for each camera angle, the lenses, the lighting, hair, make-up, wardrobe, and continuity from scene to scene. There is also the art element when the director is working with the actors so that the right line reading will convey what the writers had in mind. I loved it all!
SBTS: What are your hopes for distribution for the movie?
Father Stephen: I am actually extremely pleased to tell you that we have a distribution deal with Quiver. The film will drop on a number of platforms most likely late this August or in early September.
SBTS: Will you be making another one?
Father Stephen:  I would love to make another movie. I've been thinking of a possible prequel to Trinity's Triumph to highlight the journey of Msgr. Heck, the guiding light to our three heroes.

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SBTS: Lastly, please let me know about 5 of your favorite movies that YOU like to watch. Is there any movie that you have seen that inspired yours?
Father Stephen:  Four of my favorites are Bill Murray movies - Groundhog Day, What About Bob, St. Vincent, and Moonrise Kingdom. Rounding off the list would be The Mission. I think of Trinity's Triumph as a modern mixture of Stand By Me, Spotlight, and a 1963 film called The Cardinal.
"My ordination in Rome took place on the famous Y2K day, January 1, 2000, where I was in the first batch of priests ordained at the beginning of the millennium. Later that year, I returned to the U.S. and began my pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Newark as Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Ridgewood and at Saint Gabriel’s in Saddle River, then pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Haworth, and currently, pastor of Saint Elizabeth’s in Wyckoff. I have been a research associate (PhD in Sociology) for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown, visiting scholar at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham, and professor at our archdiocesan seminary at Seton Hall. Cardinal Tobin wrote a commentary for my most recent book, published by Oxford University Press, on U.S. Catholic Bishops, and appointed me Episcopal Vicar of Education in July 2022."