When local filmmaker John Biffar was approached to do a documentary on Pope John Paul II, he had to ask, "How do you say no to God?" What resulted is a beautifully filmed tribute to one of the most revered men in modern history, written and directed by Biffar and produced by his long-time business partner Dave Beaty. The film has been released in Poland, Italy and Brazil, and in December 2007, Biffar presented the film at the Vatican, where he had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. PBS is utilizing the film for its pledge programming and will continue to do so for the next three years.
But Pope John Paul II, A Saint for Our Times is just one of the documentaries that Biffar’s company, Dreamtime Entertainment, is currently promoting. The recently completed Queen of Swing is traveling the world with the star of the movie, 88-year-old Norma Miller.
Besides these biographies, Dreamtime Entertainment has won several awards, including those for Captiva Island, which aired on HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Encore and Starz, and Children of the Fourth World. Other productions have aired on the History Channel, the Travel Channel and more. In February 2007, Biffar also launched the Health News Network. The firm creates programs that Biffar calls "healthcare news that is edgier and cooler than what you’re used to seeing: doctors in white jackets." Currently 33 hospitals throughout Florida run the network in their waiting rooms, with customized programming for their facilities. Biffar says HNN just signed a deal that will launch the network into another 200 hospitals in 22 states.
Making healthcare hip: In addition to the healthcare programming, Biffar’s team has also developed PeaceVision, which pairs high-definition footage of beautiful places with relaxing music. "So you turn the channel and get some visual musical therapy," he says. HNN also runs "Healthcare Heroes" segments featuring celebrities and their favorite causes.
Telling others’ stories: "My approach is to let the story tell itself," Biffar says. "In the storytelling, we use music to let the story breathe. I use very little narration, and it’s really just there to act as a bridge to get to the next sound bite."
Common thread: "Most stories are all about love. That’s what I’m most interested in. The Pope’s story is easy to connect with love."
High praise: After viewing the Pope’s documentary, a friend said, "It made me want to be a better person." "It’s our finest work," Biffar says.
Upcoming projects: A biography about Mother Teresa and a film about China.