“The Quest:” UD’s Contribution of Courage on the International Stage

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A picture of promotional material for The Quest. Photo by Mary Kate Leonard

On Nov. 15, at 4:30 p.m. central time, “The Quest,” a documentary-style mini-series of five 30-minute episodes, will be debuting on Eternal Word Television Network, EWTN, at an international level. With Dr. Shannon Valenzuela as its writer and director, “The Quest” displays the University of Dallas’ spirit of fearless intellectuality in search of the Truth.

Valenzuela graduated from UD in 2000 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and classics and attended the University of Notre Dame for graduate studies. After obtaining her Ph.D. in English, she became an affiliate assistant professor of literature and screenwriting at UD. 

Though she has been writing since childhood, she became interested in science fiction screenwriting in 2016. After winning the Industry Insider Screenwriting Competition with her project “Render,” she has since gained Hollywood representation.

In January of 2020, she directed professor interviews for the third installment of video courses for Studies of Catholic Faith and Culture — a series for non-degree-seeking individuals who wish to engage with UD’s intellectual pursuits in a philosophical and literary way.

“This goes back about six years when I was serving as Dean of Constantine College. There was, expressed to me multiple times by alumni, a desire to have ongoing intellectual formation provided by the University of Dallas,” said President Jonathan Sanford, concerning the course series. “[When] I started, I built an advisory committee, and we identified some ways to provide that using online education modeling.”

After the installment had undergone final edits, the possibility arose to pitch a more condensed version to EWTN. Though the network does not usually distribute media produced by outside sources, the pitch was accepted. Thus, “The Quest” was born.

“[‘The Quest’] is really about discovering your purpose and learning how to live it with joyful courage no matter what circumstances you may find yourself in,” said Valenzuela.

Starting at the end of 2020, it took around four months for Valenzuela to write the script for the series. With Joseph Haggard, senior digital media producer in UD’s marketing and communications department, as director of photography, the project was filmed, edited and reworked into completion six months afterward. 

Clare Venegas, vice president for marketing and communications, was instrumental in its advertising, while Sanford worked a strongly supportive role as its executive producer.

They did not work alone; Haggard’s intern, junior drama and classics major Charlie Spurgin, and several other student production assistants contributed extensively to “The Quest.”

“When [‘The Quest’] was picked up by EWTN, I was very excited, especially because I worked on it,” Spurgin said. “I helped set up lights, and held the boom mic for the later shoots.”

Students at UD will receive an exclusive sneak peek of the series’ first episode on Nov. 9 at the Mall. Valenzuela, Fr. Thomas Esposito, Professor Stefan Novinski, and Spurgin will be addressing viewers at a Q&A session after the premiere.

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