Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 01/13/21

The man behind the crowdfunded episodic TV series that brings Lost-like storytelling techniques to the life of Jesus Christ. Created and directed by Dallas Jenkins, the show is a worldwide hit for VidAngel that scored over 64-million views in its first season to become the top crowdfunded media project in history.  I asked Jenkins about series’ inception and future.

JWK: Where did the concept for an episodic TV series about Jesus come to you?

Dallas Jenkins:  When I made my short film that launched all this, The Shepherd, I saw how much cool backstory we were able to explore from just one story in an episode. At the same time, I was binge-watching great shows with my wife, and I thought, “This should be done about the gospels.”

JWK: Why a weekly series and not another Jesus movie or miniseries?

DJ: You have such limited time in a movie or mini-series, so Jesus projects tend to rush through it, hopping from miracle to miracle, Bible verse to Bible verse. No character development, no backstory, little context. Think of the great shows you love to binge…it’s the characters that keep you coming back each season. The opportunity to explore the followers (and enemies) of Jesus in this way is incredible.

JWK: What sort of reaction have you received from viewers?

DJ: It’s been overwhelming. Not only the numbers, as we’re in every country in the world with tens of millions of views, but the life change we’re seeing is extraordinary.

JWK: I understand you plan on seven seasons? I would have guessed three. Why seven and do you actually have all the episodes planned?

DJ: I would hate for my favorite shows to have ended after only three seasons. We want to give it enough time to tell the complete story and explore the characters in a way that does them justice and satisfies the audience, but we also don’t want to overstay our welcome. Seven feels right, and we’ve plotted out the story accordingly.

JWK: Considering the success you have had, have you been approached by any traditional networks or streamers about carrying the show on their platforms?

DJ: A few streamers have expressed some interest, but we’re building our own platform and app and prefer the independence. They’re not passionate about a Jesus show, and we don’t need them to be.

JWK: When the show completes its run, what do you hope its legacy will be?

DJ: We want people to know the authentic Jesus better and to love him more because of the show. Not much more we can ask for than that.

JWK: Do you have any other projects in the works?

DJ: There are discussions going, yes, but right now I’m overwhelmed with Season 2 of The Chosen, so one thing at a time.

____

What’s old is new again. INSP, the faith-based cable network that has also become synonymous with featuring classic TV westerns,  has announced the exclusive television premiere of Blue Ridge. The suspenseful murder mystery is set to debut on INSP on Saturday, March 13th at 8:00 PM (ET).

“This Western-adjacent film fits perfectly with INSP’s programming,” according to Doug Butts, the network’s senior programming VP.  He adds “Our viewers are drawn to content that embodies the spirit of justice and they admire strong characters who are champions for those who can’t fight for themselves. Since these are themes that run central throughout Blue Ridge, I am confident our viewers will love this film.”

In Blue Ridge, a murder in a sleepy town at the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains refuels a longtime feud between two of the community’s most powerful families. The new sheriff, Justin Wise, finds himself in a race against time to solve the murder before ‘mountain justice’ takes over and the townspeople take the law into their own hands. Blue Ridge stars Johnathon Schaech (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, That Thing You Do!), Sarah Lancaster (Christmas in the Smokies, Everwood), and Academy Award-nominee Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves, The Green Mile).

IMHO: The trailer below suggests an unabashed 80’s/90’s-style police procedural/action drama. Think Walker, Texas Ranger (the Chuck Norris version) or Hunter.  There could actually be a market for this and it might not make a bad series.

Blue Ridge is produced by INSP Films and distributed by Imagicomm Entertainment. The film is directed by Brent Christy and produced by Gary Wheeler and Jason White.

INSP is available nationwide to more than 73 million households via Dish Network, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS , AT&T U-verse and more than 2,800 cable systems.

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

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