Faith, Media & Culture

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

Touched by faith. On the heels of The Bible and Son of God, married producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are hardly resting on their laurels (which also include Touched by an Angel for her and a slew of smash-hit reality shows for him). Through their production company, LightWorkers Media is, they are currently at work promoting the Son of God soundtrack album and carefully laying the groundwork for major faith-themed productions on CBS and NBC.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Roma about the couple’s heavenly success — and what she believes it says about what audiences are searching for.

JWK: How does it feel to see Son of God become a box office hit?

ROMA DOWNEY: We are just so encouraged by the numbers. But, more importantly, by the feedback that we’ve been getting from folks who have seen the movie (and) the impact that it’s had on them. We had one beautiful story about a mother who couldn’t encourage her kids to go to church with them. They had been in resistance to attending with her but she managed to persuade her 17-year-old son to go see the movie with her and she said it was just a transformational experience for him — that he was impacted by the film, that his heart opened, he wept and it was a moment of grace. She feels that it will be a defining life-changing moment for him. You know, if that was only one story — if it was only all done for that one moment — how beautiful and how encouraging that is…

…We’re grateful for everyone who has seen the movie and has been using social media to spread the word to let people know and to encourage other people to come through Facebook and Twitter and so on because we still don’t have the huge marketing dollars of some of the other big movies that are out there. But we’re very encouraged. You know, they do an exit poll. That’s a way for the studio to understand what the responses of audiences are when they exit the theater and the poll has been overwhelmingly positive. Son of God has tested really, really high — like 91% of people strongly recommending that you see the movie. So, you know, that’s very encouraging…

…We’re just so amazed and delighted that it’s done so well. You know when we originally made the film we didn’t know that it would get distributed at all. As far and Mark and I knew, we might have been doing a couple of special events screenings here or there but we shared it with 20th Century Fox and they loved it and said “This needs to be opened big!” And, because of them, it opened in over 3000 theaters across the country.

JWK: I guess the huge ratings for your The Bible miniseries that preceded on History Channel last year it didn’t hurt.

RD: Yes, well, that’s right! You know, I think it speaks to the audience’s hunger for content like this. They’re hungry for hope. They’re hungry for connection. They’re hungry for a relationship with God. What we’re seeing is that people who believe are coming and falling in love with Jesus all over again and the people who don’t believe are coming and getting a chance to discover Him for the first time.

JWK: So tell me about the Son of God soundtrack album. What is that whole process like?

RD: Yeah, the soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous. We wanted the very best when we were putting the music together and we found the very best in Hans Zimmer…Mark and I always knew that the music for the film would be like another character and, in the creation of that, it would set a tone. It would add emotion. It brings in the beautiful, uplifting score. It’s epic. And Hans was our very first choice.

One of the soundtracks that we have loved over the years was the music from Gladiator. And on that album Hans had worked with a vocalist (named) Lisa Gerrard. I loved that sort of haunting vocal that just created a mood of melancholy. It was like a meditation at times. I said to him “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get somebody like Lisa Gerrard for this album?” And he laughed and he said “Well, why should we get somebody like Lisa Gerrard when we can get Lisa Gerrard?” And he called her and she came on board. It’s absolutely, just beautiful. As a stand-alone piece of music, it’s incredible…It’s like a meditation for me…It’s extraordinary.

We also have on there the very end credits of the film (where) we play the Mark Lowry song Mary, Did You Know? It was a song that was meaningful to me when I was shooting in Morocco. As you know, I stepped into the role of playing Mary myself and it was just a song that haunted me down there. I was humming and I went in and I looked up the lyric and, curiously, it was the very question that I was asking myself — Mary did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water? Did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters? And so we put some of the footage from the film as we were shaping a video with that song and, of course, my husband produces the hit television show The Voice and one of his judges on that show had been CeeLo Green. CeeLo saw the video coming together and said “I love that song!” And he did an absolutely beautiful version of the song which plays over the end credits in the movie. And, of course, a great sort-of remixed version of that song is on the album.

RD: So, the album is very special.

JWK: And that’s available now.

RD: Yes, absolutely.

JWK: You and your husband also have other TV projects coming. You have a miniseries called The Dovekeepers on CBS and then a follow-up to The Bible miniseries that will air on NBC called A.D.

RD: Yes, that’s correct. Really we live this period of time, this sort of first century history. Dovekeepers is set right after the fall of the temple (in) 70 A.D. and tells the story of Masada from the experience of four different women whose lives collide on the hilltop escape. It’s a beautiful book by Alice Hoffman. That will be four-hour miniseries on CBS.

JWK: Will you be acting in that?

RD: No, I don’t believe I’ll act in it. I will produce that.

JWK: When can that be expected?

RD: I think that could be on as early as spring 2015.

JWK: And the A.D. program?

RD: A.D. which is for NBC is a 12-hour series. We’re hoping will run for many years — that it will be 12 hours per year for many years. It will reset the story at the Crucifixion of Jesus. So, it’s the darkest of days, it’s the most dangerous of days for the remaining disciples. It will follow the Book of Acts but told in a way that (asks) how is it possible that the remaining 11 disciples that the early Church managed to succeed in spite of all of the political and religious oppression in those dark and dangerous days?

JWK: It will be interesting — particularly for young people — to have that story told.

RD: Absolutely. I really don’t believe that that part of our history has been told in this way before. So, I think our intention is — like we did with The Bible series and Son of God — to tell it in a way that’s emotionally connected, to tell it in a way that’s gritty and real and authentic and cool — so that a young audience is excited by it and finds it compelling and yet, at the same time, woven through it will be the history and the story of our (ancestors). It will be Biblically accurate where it uses the Book of Acts as its central spine and then a narrative will be created through that and around that.

JWK: Do you think the networks are finally getting it — that stories of faith actually have very wide appeal?

RD: Well, I think certainly that the success of The Bible series — to know that a hundred-million people showed up I think got everybody’s attention. So, you know, we’re seeing some other Biblical movies coming down the pipeline. I think it’s great. I think that our Bible is a great source of material…It has everything. You know, it has redemption. It has betrayal. It has love. It has jealousy. It has survival. You know, it’s got all of the things that would be required in the telling of a good story. And the fact that it’s our story, you know, is amazing.

JWK: One last question. Would you ever do another series — as an actor?

RD: I guess so. I have learned enough to say never say never — but I am loving this side of the camera also. We started LightWorkers Media — our production company — because I was tired of cursing the darkness and wanted to be able to light a candle. And so LightWorkers Media brought you The Bible, brought you Son of God and will bring you A.D. It’s great to be able to do what I love to do — to be able to combine it with what I believe and to do it with my own spouse has been such a blessing for me.

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

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus