Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

From presidential candidate to movie mogul. On Friday (11/22), it will be exactly five months since former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum appeared on fellow former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee‘s Fox News Channel show and announced his new job as CEO of EchoLight Studios. Friday is also the day that the The Christmas Candlethe first theatrical release of his tenure, opens in over 400 theaters nationwide.

The Christmas Candle is based on a book by bestselling author and Texas-based Oak Hills Church Pastor Max Lucado. Set in 1890, it tells the story of the fictional English village of Gladbury where legend had it that an angel would touch a single candle each Christmas, bestowing on its recipient the blessing of a miracle.  The film, BTW, marks the acting debut of singer Susan Boyle whose supporting character plays an important part in the story.

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I spoke with Rick Santorum on Monday in New York City following an advance screening of the film.

JWK: What’s it like to make the transition from politics to movie making?

RICK SANTORUM: There are a lot of similarities, frankly. The message is the same. The message is values and the importance of faith, the importance of the traditional values of this country. That’s what we’re doing. We’re making movies about faith and about the truth, the good and the beautiful. When I was in politics obviously we had a lot of other issues other than that (but) the things I talked about in politics are the things I talk about here. In that respect, it’s a shift of focus but not a different message.

JWK: How did The Christmas Candle come into your hands?

RS: I was in EchoLight as CEO for all of two months and (producer) Tom Newman came over with his team and saw that I had taken over the CEO position of EchoLight and was excited about the idea of having me involved in helping to market and distribute this movie. They showed me the movie. It was beautiful film (with) a great story. Even though I had only been in the job for two months and had never distributed a movie…I have a lot of qualities where I fall short — but courage is not one of them. I’ll charge into the line any time. So, I said “Yeah, let’s do it! We’ll figure out how we do it as we go.” It’s been a great collaborative process. Prayer and hard work are a pretty good one-two punch to get things done. 

JWK: What do you hope people take from this movie?

RS: God is with us. That’s what Christmas is, right? The Advent season (tells us) “God is coming. God is with us” This is an Advent movie about preparing for the Lord and seeing how he works in our lives. A lot of people in the movie — in fact, the main characters in the movie — didn’t (really) believe that God was present…A lot of those folks were great believers in God and miracles but didn’t live that in their lives — didn’t serve one another, weren’t a miracle to other people. So, there’s a little validation of sort of both schools of thought (in the faith vs. works debate) with the synthesis of the miracles come from God but God uses us too…He works through us.

JWK: Speaking of miracles, during your presidential campaign we all became familiar with the challenges faced by your daughter Bella. How is she doing?

RS: She is a miracle. She’s doing amazingly well. She’s five and a half years old. She has outlived every expectation from the physicians…She’s a miracle. Every time I hear that song that Susan Boyle sings at the end of the movie — “There are miracles all around” — I get choked up — because it’s true! I live that every day! I’m with one every day! It’s a great lesson.

JWK: I can see even now that you’re tearing up a bit.

RS: I’m sorry.

JWK: That’s nothing to be sorry about.

RS: I’m a softie. When you talk about my little girl, it doesn’t take much.

JWK: Is this the first movie since you’ve taken over the helm that EchoLight is releasing?

RS: It is, theatrically…We just completed a…contract releasing a movie on TV that will be announced soon. So, we have other movies that were done when I was not at the company. We’re looking at where to put those movies. Most of them are not going to be theatrical. Some will be TV. Some will be straight to DVD. Some will be just a small little platform release. We’ll find the right place for them. I hope to, in the future, make really good quality stuff that, hopefully, will be theatrical. If not, you know, then we’ll put it where it’s supposed to be.

JWK: Do you have any inclination to get into the TV series business?

RS: No, we’re not looking at television series.

JWK: There have been reports of a rough transition at EchoLight. Can you shed some light on that?

RS: One of the reasons I came in as CEO was because — as a board member — I was concerned about how things were operating. I came in there to try to get the ship going in the right direction. Toward that, we had to do some of the things that sometimes you don’t like to do or want to do but you have to — which is to bring your team in that sees the vision of the company the way you do and collaborates. Some people have a different way of doing things — and that’s fine. It may work for them. I have definitive way that I like to do things. So, we put a team together that is on the same page.

JWK: One last question — this one more in the area of politics. With all the difficulties involving Obamacare right now, are you feeling vindicated?

RS: Obamacare’s a disaster and will be. Fixing a website is not gonna fix Obamacare. There are fundamental flaws in the bill that simply won’t work in America.  It may work in a homogenous country like, you know, Belgium but it’s not gonna work in the United States because it’s just not our tradition. It’s not who we are. Do I feel vindicated? No. I feel saddened that people are gonna get hurt. They are being hurt by what’s happening here. I was hoping that I’d have the opportunity to make that case last year in the general election but didn’t quite get there.

Note: Tomorrow I’ll post my conversation with The Christmas Candle author Max Lucado.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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