For those who have asked, “How can I watch Praying the Hours?” Or for those who have commented, “I can’t wait until this comes out!” Praying the Hours is done. That means, for a film not made for conventional distribution, it’s also “out.”
Praying the Hours won’t have a red carpet premiere at the Egyptian, show up as a “new release” on your Netflix feed, or even find life on the Criterion channel—at least not any time soon. It’s going to find its way through alternative forms of exposure, through word-of-mouth, and because people looking for it will find it. Think of it this way: a handmade tamale is a perfectly beautiful thing to eat for dinner but you’re not going to get it at the McDonald’s drive-thru. You can, however, buy from a vendor at the Saturday farmer’s market, or pick up a few dozen for Christmas at the kitchen door of a local Mexican restaurant. All you need is to know where to find them.
What’s the “tamale truck” of an independent film release? Just a decade or so ago, it would have meant me (or FilmBaby, of blessed memory) mailing you a copy of a dvd. Argh. That was the decade of boxes of dvds all over my apartment. True story: our friend and then FilmBaby president, Jamie Chvotkin, used to call and ask, “How’s the furniture?” because I used the boxes as ottomans, standing desks, bedside bookstands, and coffee tables. As copies of the films sold, my apartment got bigger—until we had the $1500 to order a new run.
Those days are diminished because of YouTube and Vimeo and other streaming platforms like them. Now that we have done some strategic web building (thank you Elijah Davidson) and secured amped subscriptions to the right hosting platforms, anyone can see Praying the Hours. All you need is the right url and password—if you know where to find them. More on that in a few paragraphs, but first, “how to watch.”
How to watch 1:
Know what to expect. Be in the right mood for something meditative, something transcendent that leaves you pondering. If it’s been a challenging day at the end of a tough week, maybe it’s the night for Great British Baking Show. Praying the Hours is not an alternative for what friend-of-the-production Andrew Neel calls “Liam Neeson with a gun” movies. You wouldn’t give your kids a choice between Song of the Sea, Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, or Bo Burnham’s Inside. They’re all amazing, but they are made for different audiences. (However, don’t underestimate children—my great nieces Bea (10) and Temple (6) love the movie Praying the Hours and prefer to watch all three hours straight through. Recently, Bea casually dropped a line from the film in a family dinner conversation.) If you had a copy of David Steindl-Rast’s Music of Silence in a bookseller’s cart, it might tell you that others also bought this movie.
The film is for when you need to pay attention, to learn something new, to disagree or get upset, to remember someone dear whom you’ve lost too soon. Maybe you’ll watch and say, as one friend did, “Your film is not for people like me.” Or maybe the timing is just off. In Jeremiah 6, the weeping prophet tells us this: “This is what the LORD says, ‘stand in the crossroad and look. Ask for the ancient paths—where the good way is—and walk in it. Then you will find rest for your souls.'” If you’re in need of rest for your soul or if your group of friends are interested in the ancient paths, you’re in the right mood.
How to watch 2:
Praying the Hours is 3 hours long. For some that may feel prohibitive. Again, no judgment. As a couple of guys have warned me, “that’s a big ask.” Yes, if you’re on Hulu looking for LNWAG, it is. But it’s not if you’re planning to watch any number of challenging or out-of-the-box films made by some of history’s greatest filmmakers, because they have all made films that clock in over 3 hours. It’s not a challenge if you study or practice ancient spiritual disciplines and would find a narrative film a refreshing way in. Praying the Hours can easily be watched all at once, broken up into two parts, or eight parts. It can be watched in three acts. It could work for individual devotional time, a retreat, a conference, a film class, book clubs (without books), or on a night that one more episode of Hoarders will put your mental health in jeopardy. Instead, imagine that in a desperate effort to improve yourself after months of COVID lethargy, you have signed up for a class on ancient Abrahamic prayer traditions. Then the teacher shows up on the first night with a film: hurray!
How to watch 3:
So, back to paragraph one. One of these days, perhaps in the Fall, we’ll do a premiere or a series of small premieres. Those can be expensive and lots of work, so we’ll see if that’s feasible—or if there’s interest. There’s a good chance if you’d like to wait and view it with a group (as our editor Patrick O’Neil Duff is eager to do) that it will happen. Maybe it will show locally at some event or festival. We’ll know that soon, too. In the meantime, a beautiful 4K version is loaded right now on Vimeo. Go directly to the watch page here if you have a password or write to firstname.lastname@example.org to get one. It’s free to watch or, if you prefer, you can easily contribute to the costs of release. Simple as that, the movie is “out” for you to see. When you’re in the mood.
*This Just In: Thank you Karen, Michele, and Mari for your no-strings-attached contributions to this release process—once again, my girls have my back! (If you want to contribute to the ongoing costs of releasing Praying the Hours, you can do so here.)