Movie Cards: Building Better Relationships

A smart phone/tablet app featuring 40 movies that illustrate the skills needed to build better relationships

Movies are training manuals for relationships with partners, families, friends, and work colleagues. From the stories on the screen, we get insights into what to do — and what not to do — and the consequences of various choices. Movies give us opportunities to empathize with others and to feel compassion for those who are suffering. They reveal the challenges and benefits of community life. As we step into the stories and identify with the characters, we are encouraged to delve deeply into our feelings, motivations, and passions.

Because movies reveal us to ourselves, we can use movies to teach relationship skills. We have found through years of reviewing that films become what you intend them to be. If you think a movie is going to be funny, you will notice the funny parts. If you watch a movie with the intention that it will show you how to build better relationships, you will notice the parts that perform that role.


Our project will develop a smart phone/tablet app featuring a deck of 40 Movie Cards. We will choose movies that illustrate the four relationship skills identified by the 1440 Foundation:
– 10 movies on self-awareness
– 10 on authenticity
– 10 on trust
– 10 on empathy

Each movie will then be identified by a character quality associated with one of those skills. Some examples:

– Courage: Defending Your Life
– Mindfulness: The Scent of Green Papaya
– Openness: Zorba the Greek
– Sincerity: Forrest Gump
– Communication: The Music Never Stopped
– Forgiveness: An Unfinished Life
– Kindness: Grand Canyon
– Listening: Horton Hears a Who!

The “front” of the card will show the movie title, the DVD box art, and a character quality. The text on the “back” of the card will explain how the movie’s story illustrates the character quality and how cultivating that quality can lead to better relationships. Users will be given ways to “step into the story” and relate what’s happening on the screen to what’s happening in their own lives. They will also receive a “practice” for developing the character quality.

Users will be encouraged to “Share Your Relationship Movie with Your Relationships” using social media. Other links will send users to a review of the movie at, the trailer, film clips, other reviews, and purchase/queue options.


l. Some playful options will appeal to people who are open to intuitive card systems. From a display of the 40 cards, the user will choose one card or a spread of cards to discover what relationship skills to work on.
* Spread: Choose 4 cards to discover the personal qualities to bring to your relationships with Partner, Family, Friends, and Community.
* Spread: Choose 2 cards to discover your Relationships Inner Work to Do and Relationships Outer Work to Do.
* Quick Pick: What movie can help me improve my relationships today?
* Ask a Question: Type in your question and choose a Movie Card for an answer.

This way of using the Movie Cards follows in the tradition of such popular decks as the Angel Cards, Medicine Cards, and Tarot. These systems have been described as tools for self-discovery and ways to access inner guidance. The user states an intention before intuitively picking cards, then discerns how the meanings of the chosen cards apply to his/her life. Such card systems teach the skills of focusing, listening, and attention to a wider context than our immediate experience. By suggesting what character traits are operating in our lives, they indicate the possibilities available to us.

2. Choose a card from a list of movies. See what a favorite movie says about your relationships.

3. Choose from a list of statements describing feeling and other states. Get a movie prescription to address it. These matches will be made by the S&P team.

All these uses of the Movie Cards assume that relationship skills need to be developed and refined throughout our lives. We are never “done” with our relationships, and we can work on any character quality at any time. The cards are a way of choosing where to start.


By offering a new approach to choosing films, the Movie Cards apps will appeal to the general audience of film fans. With promotion and marketing, we believe the app will also be adopted in wellness settings, particularly counseling and therapy. In “Rent Two Films and Let’s Talk in the Morning: Using Popular Movies in Psychotherapy,” John W. Hesley, a psychotherapist in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and Jan G. Hesley, a marriage and family therapist, explain how they use films in the therapeutic process. The Movie Cards will give therapists carefully selected films to assign to clients and ideas on how they apply to various issues being discussed in therapy.

Many coaches, counselors, and spiritual directors already use intuitive card systems to help their clients access their inner wisdom or to give them something new to think about. We believe they will embrace this app because it shows how the popular culture can become a resource for personal growth.

The app will provide program ideas to planners of lifelong learning educational programs in congregations, community centers, and retirement residences. The ways to step into the story, discussion questions, and practices for each film will turn a “movie night” into more than just entertainment.

The app will encourage discussion of relationship issues in the workplace as colleagues talk about the movies they’ve seen and share their Movie Cards choices through social media.


This app will take advantage of a major benefits of the Internet age: the ability to find relevant content with a touch or a click. Unlike many apps that are self-contained and limited in the amount of information users can access, this one will be linked into the large Wisdom Archive at — 23,000 pages, including 4,800 film reviews, 6,000 book reviews, and 3,500 book excerpts.

A “More Practices” search query link for each character quality will take users to practices in an S&P database of more than 1,000 practices, all sourced to a book, teacher, and tradition.

A “More Content” search query will find content at on each character quality. The user will be able to explore relationships skills through reading book reviews and book excerpts, finding more films illustrating each quality, savoring inspirational quotes, reading articles, and even taking an online course.

S&P content is already tagged to such keywords as relationships, marriage and partnerships, parenting, friendship, and community, and also to character qualities such as empathy, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, patience, and wonder.


This app is unique because it is a hybrid of a movie app, a card app, and a teaching and discussion tool. Although many card deck apps are available (mostly Tarot or oracle decks) none exist using movies. Although many apps give people information on films, most focus on entertainment values; none exist that relate the movie’s stories to personal skill building.

Movies are a social medium. People enjoy talking about the films they’ve seen. Through the social media links built into this app, we will be encouraging authentic connections as people share not only what movies they are watching but also the life lessons they derive from them.


The movies will be selected by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat ( They will write the explanations of how each film can be used to develop relationship skills and they will curate the related content. The Brussats are Tomatometer Critics with 4,800 film reviews linked off the popular film portal ( Their reviews are also posted at (Internet Movie Database) and (Movie Review Query Engine). They regularly review movies at and have created more than 250 Values & Visions Film Guides for discussion groups.

The Brussats are the co-authors of the bestselling book “Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life,” which has a chapter devoted to Relationships, and “Spiritual Rx: Prescriptions for Living a Meaningful Life,” which recommends movies to illustrate 37 essential practices of the world’s religions.

An app developer will be selected once the project has been greenlighted.


$2,000 project spec and supervision by Spirituality & Practice
$8,000 editorial work by S&P
$12,000 app development
$3,000 publicity (press releases, ads)

Spirituality & Practice will do the spec and editorial work in six months. Time for app development and testing will need to be determined. We will do a publicity and ad campaign at launch of the app.

Spirituality & Practice is a project of CIStems, Inc., a 501©(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization.