The movie producer in a collar

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No sooner had Eric Andrews arrived on the set of “The Lost Valentine,” a 2011 Hallmark Channel movie starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Betty White, when his neckwear attracted attention.

“People are looking at me, and trying to figure out who I was,” he said. “One of the actors came up and said, ‘Now, are you an extra for the wedding scene that is being shot?’”

But the Roman collar was no prop.

Andrews’ credentials as an ordained Roman Catholic priest and Hollywood producer make him a rarity in both religious and entertainment circles. The 48-year-old describes himself as too liberal for most priests and too conservative for most agents.

But three years after taking the helm of Paulist Productions, a commercially-oriented nonprofit Catholic production company behind television programs such as “Insight” and feature films like “Romero,” Andrews is reinvigorating the 53-year-old brand.

Two years ago, he hired Marybeth Sprows, a veteran of family television, away from Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment to identify and develop content for Paulist Productions. Together, Andrews and Sprows recently finalized a deal to produce films for the Gospel Music Channel TV, and another to co-produce a film based on the book “Christmas for a Dollar.”

Paulist Productions is also set to sign the rights to “Tattoos on the Heart,” an autobiographical account of the Rev. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest best known for his work with gang members in East Los Angeles. Andrews has already begun meeting with writers to help him turn the best seller into a gritty television drama like HBO’s “The Wire.”

“I don’t want to do a sappy show,” Andrews said.  “I want a show that is real. I don’t care if there is sex or violence in ‘Tattoos on the Heart’ — as long as it is not gratuitous.”

In some ways, becoming president of Paulist Productions returned Andrews to his roots. The New York native graduated from New York University Film School in 1987. He worked at The Jim Henson Company on shows like “The Muppets” before answering a call to service and joining the Paulists, a religious order that embraces media as part of its mission.

“There was always the two different strands in life,” said Andrews about his twin passions for entertainment and for serving God. “Joining the Paulist Fathers was an effort to put those together with a community that is more open-minded.”

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