CM Exclusive Interview: Stephen Payne

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 12, 2017   

Producer of docudrama "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" talks about his new projects

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - The influence of a radical Marxist agitator is ruining American society and undermining the Catholic Church. 

Such is the premise of feature-length docudrama A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, which premiered on EWTN in September 2016. The film describes the life and work of Saul Alinsky (1909–72), a radical leftist in the United States who, according to some, founded modern "community organizing."

But Alinsky's legacy is not limited to radical activists and social justice warriors. His ideology has even infiltrated the Catholic Church, wounding the Body of Christ from within. For instance, Alinsky himself helped create the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), often criticized for compromising Catholic moral principles. 

The producer of A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Stephen Payne, sat down for an interview with Church Militant on Thursday. 

 

We spoke with Payne about the origins and inspiration of his documentary. "Doug Keck of EWTN came to us and said — now this is in 2014 — that he felt we really needed a film for Catholics that would help to clarify this crazy ideology of Saul Alinsky." 

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Stephen Payne, producer 

Alinsky was an atheist who had an obsessive fascination with the principles of Marxism. Alinsky-style community organizing involves smearing and demonizing a supposed oppressor, stirring up the frustration of "the masses," and using the resulting protests, chaos and even violence to pressure institutions and leaders into accepting a list of demands for 'social change.' 

But Alinsky's radical legacy is going mainstream in the Democratic Party. Stephen noted, "Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were, in a sense, devotees of him — studied his methods." 

Payne remarked that he and his team felt "that it would be important to help people see through this 'wolf' of a problem." 

Stephen and his father, Richard, founded Arcadia Films in 1991, and have had a long relationship with EWTN. When Keck spoke with them about an Alinsky exposé, Stephen said, "We decided that this was maybe one of the most important projects we would ever take on, and we felt the Lord's call to do it." 

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were, in a sense, devotees of him — studied his methods.

The film, Stephen said later, "was released on September 21, 2016," which is "right in the middle of the political season" — that is, the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. 

"In a sense, the film was designed not to be a political piece but a spiritual piece," he explained. "And, it was meant to do what politics can't do; and that is, to help people understand the moral and spiritual implications of this ideology, which really is a new form of Marxism." 

When the film debuted, Arcadia Films was stunned by the enthusiastic response. "Incredible, incredible support — the audience of EWTN embraced the film," Payne remarked. "In over two months, it was played over two dozen times. I mean, never in the history of EWTN has that ever happened!" 

Their DVD sales were also through the roof. Stephen speculates that A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing holds the record at EWTN for most copies sold. 

He said with gratitude, "People just kept wanting to see it. So it was brought back by popular demand, and it's still showing maybe once a month." 

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Saul Alinsky in 1963.

We also spoke with Stephen about Alinsky's life and writings. When Alinsky "studied criminology in his graduate work," according to Stephen, he became acquainted with the Italian mafia and learned "all the tactics of intimidation." Alinsky "attached himself to the Capone mob. In particular, the person at the time who had inherited the Capone mob was Frank Nitti. He studied under Frank." 

Owing to his encounters with gang thuggery, Alinsky's "tactics were pretty clearly Machiavellian" and had "Marxist roots." Alinsky's ideology means "you're constantly playing the rich and the poor ... the fact that others have something you want, and you have to gain power to get that, and once you have power, you can change things." 

Stephen said, "I think the biggest and the most red-nosed herring for this guy is that, for him, 'the end justifies almost any means.' He said that himself."

This "contradicts [the] moral teachings of the Church," which tell us that a good intention is not enough; the action itself must also be morally just. 

He recapped, "I think 'the ends justify the means' kind of sums it up for Saul Alinsky, in many ways." 

I'm not going to reveal the subject matter right now, but all I can say is that it's going to be a lightning rod.

Prior to the interview, Stephen had spoken about plans to expand A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing into a whole series of docudramas. We invited him to elaborate during the interview:

We've signed with EWTN to do a follow-up film on A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. We've taken the name A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing and now created a brand. So, we plan to do films going forward, one a year, [each] on a different subject, a different "wolf" — some kind of group or ideology within the society that's affecting our Catholic faith.

Regarding the next film, which might be coming out in spring of 2018, Stephen said, "I'm not going to reveal the subject matter right now, but all I can say is that it's going to be a lightning rod." 

Stephen and Richard Payne founded Arcadia Films in 1991 in Winchester, Connecticut. At the time, Stephen had years of experience in film and television production but was dismayed by the increasing vulgarity on primetime television. Stephen had what he calls a "reconversion back to the Faith." His "conscience went on fire," he says, owing to "moral problems with the kind of product these people were creating."

Stephen reached out to his parents, expressing gratitude to them: "They brought me up in the Faith. They gave me everything I needed. They even encouraged me to become a film-maker. So they are the greatest people I've ever known, my dad and my mom."

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Richard "had sold his publishing house," so he and Stephen were both looking for something new. In his previous line of work, Richard helped create a 126-volume book series, The Classics of Western Spirituality.

Stephen also spoke about his mother. "The cornerstone of my work was my mother, and she died of Parkinson's disease in 2013," he explained. He suspects that his mother is still helping him, "but in a different way" — by interceding for him in Heaven. 

Stephen spoke about Arcadia Films' first major work. "In 1994," he said, "we developed a trilogy on St. Louis de Montfort." Then he cited a few of the EWTN programs that Arcadia Films has produced. He mentioned the programs Saints Speak, Parable and Saints Alive. Saints Alive won the 2012 Gabriel Award for Best Religious Television Program in National Release. 

Earlier this year, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing won the Remi Special Jury Award for Religious Program at Worldfest Houston. The film is also showing at the Royal Starr Film Festival in the town of Royal Oak, Michigan on October 14. 

 

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