Faith, Media & Culture

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

Saved by Pluto. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Mitch Davis the producer, director and co-writer (with his son Parker) of The Stray,  the very personal of how a vagabond dog named Pluto helped his family rediscover their values. The film has been screening before test audiences and David is quite happy with the reaction it has been receiving, telling me “We’ve had a lot of people respond very emotionally to the film. We had a woman in a recent screening whose husband passed away shortly before she came to see the movie and she said “This movie is healing. It has the capacity to heal” which I thought was a wonderful compliment. As the momentum starts to build we’re finding it difficult to our word of mouth screenings are bursting to capacity. We had to double the capacity of our theater in the last one we did. We had to run it in a second theater because the word  got out. And so the response has been very enthusiastic.” A sort of faith-themed LassieThe Stray opens nationwide on October 6.

The Power of Mercy. That and, when you get right down to it, we’re all pretty yearning for the same thing, is the theme of Same Kind of Different as Me starring Greg Kinnear, Renee Zelwegger, Djimon Hounsou and Jon Voight.

The movie is based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same name and inspirational true story of international art dealer Ron Hall (Kinnear) who befriends homeless Denver Moore (Hounsou) in hopes of saving his struggling marriage to his wife Debbie (Zellweger) whose dreams w lead all three of them on the journey of their lives. Same Kind of Different as Me opens nationwide October 20.

Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, a 2017 dramatic film based on his non-fiction book and one of the better faith-based films I’ve seen, is now out on DVD. It tells the story of Lee’s days  as a hard-driving journalist determined who was determined to disprove the Resurrection. In the end, he had his doubt handed to him on a silver platter. You can read my original review here.
The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has expanded its popular weekly SuperSoul programming franchise with the network’s first-ever podcast, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. The podcast podcast version of the three-time Emmy Award-winning television series SuperSoul Sunday can be found at Like the TV show, they deliver insight and inspiration from renowned thought leaders aimed at awakening viewers to their best selves so they can discover a deeper connection to the world around them.  Each week, the show features previously aired conversations between Oprah and top thinkers, authors and spiritual luminaries. The guest list includes the likes of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, HuffPo founder Arianna Huffington, Actor-comidian Tracy Morgan, author Deepak Chopra, Pastor Joel Osteen, Life coach Tony Robbins and singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette.

Industry veteran TV/literary agent Michael Van Dyck has left Paradigm after 13 years to fulfill his vision of building unique, high quality inspirational brands with broad mainstream appeal through the launch of his management/production shingle Inspired Entertainment.

 Van Dyck takes his extensive mainstream entertainment experience and work in and outside of the faith and family market to launch the new company. Pure Flix, the largest independent faith and family studio, is backing the new entity.

Inspired Entertainment, a management and production company will develop, package, and broker original mainstream and inspirational content to broadcast, cable, and streaming networks. Van Dyck will also continue to represent staff writer and director clients on current network series.

Van Dyck brings to Inspired Entertainment an impressive resume as a TV/Feature Literary agent since the early 90’s. Van Dyck will manage and direct Inspired Entertainment’s operations identifying and representing top accredited writers/ content creators, actors, and directors through long standing relationships with the artists, TV and feature lit agents, managers, and studio/network executives.

Van Dyck’s resume includes such hits as James Mano’s Dexter (Showtime), Peter Barsocchini’s High School Musical (Disney Channel), Martha Williamson’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered (Hallmark), Karen Kingsbury’s The Baxter Series (MGM), A Time to Dance, and The Bridge (Hallmark), Kirk Franklin’s Sunday Best (BET), and John Sakmar and Kerry Lenhart’s Unveiled (NBC), among others.

Crowder‘s American Prodigal has landed four nominations for the 48th Annual GMA Dove Awards, including  “Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year,” “Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year,” “Recorded Music Packaging of the Year” and “Short Form Video of the Year.” The award show will be held at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017. AMERICAN PRODIGAL hit #1 on the Christian & Gospel Album chart, #5 on Billboard’s Top Albums chart, #12 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart, #3 on the Digital Albums chart.
RCA Inspiration and Lionsgate have announced the Greenleaf Soundtrack: Volume 2 will be released on September 8, 2017. The soundtrack features music from Season 2 of the acclaimed OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network original series, Greenleaf, which stars Keith David, Lynn Whitfield and Merle Dandridge. The Greenleaf Soundtrack: Volume 2 features both emerging and iconic artists performing original songs such as Won’t He Do It (Koryn Hawthorne), Shine The Light (cast member Deborah Joy Winans) and Rise Up (Roshon Fegan) and previously released music including, 1, 2, 3 Victory (Kirk Franklin), Heaven (Mary Mary) and Better Days (Le’Andria Johnson). The soundtrack also includes a remix to The Root, the show’s title theme, performed by the legendary Mavis Staples.

Finally, Fervent Records recording artist and hit songwriter Francesca Battistelli was recently honored at a small gathering of label, industry partners, family and bandmates for her second RIAA-Certified Gold record for the Grammy-winning and No. 1 single Holy Spirit.

“What a special night! This song has been such an anchor in my own life, and I don’t think we ever expected this, but the Lord’s plans are always better than ours,” shared Francesca. “To watch this song reach so many people has been such a blessing!”

Holy Spirit, from Battistelli’s album If We’re Honest, spent an impressive 15 weeks in the No. 1 slot at Christian radio and was the No. 2 most played song of 2015 at Christian AC Radio.

Francesca is currently off the road as she writes and records for an upcoming project and awaits the arrival of her fourth child.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
John W. Kennedy is a writer/development consultant specializing in teleplays, screenplays and novelizations. He can be reached at
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