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Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 11/11/22
The Parable of the Unknown Media Mogul. Even people steeped in the entertainment industry, who never miss Entertainment Tonight and who check in every day with the likes of The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The Wrap, are unlikely to know the name of PureFlix CEO Michael Scott – this despite the fact that he’s produced more than 40 movies (including several box office hits such as the God’s Not Dead franchise) and his company PureFlix (which since 2015 has operated as a part of Sony) has mounted a highly successful streaming service. During our conversation, he talks. among other things, about how PureFlix compares to Netflix and how its Christmas movies compare to those you’re apt to find on Hallmark Channel.
JWK: You have a degree in theology which is probably not the educational background of your average movie and TV industry CEO. How’d you come to PureFlix?
Michael Scott: My story starts well before PureFlix. I’m a PK, a pastor’s kid. My parents were pastors so I always grew up around (that) but I always had a passion for art and filmmaking. As you mentioned, I do have a degree in theology but I also have a degree in film and photography – and I also have a degree in cultural anthropology. So, it’s a little mix of different things.
JWK: A man of many hats.
MS: Many hats. I’m not sure how they all mix but this is where I ended up. After school I got involved in advertising. I was in advertising for 12 or 13 years. One of the most amazing things was learning everything about it and producing these big national spots – commercials, photography campaigns and all these different things. I saw the power of a 30-second commercial (and) what it could do. Whether it was a taco, a computer or a car, you could sell something, right? I mean you put this message out there for people to buy when you’re doing this. That’s incredible! I really always wanted to use my background in filmmaking and combine it with my faith. I (thought) the power of the media is so strong we need to use this and do incredible stories and incredible things for the Kingdom. That’s when I decided in ’05 to launch PureFlix.
We launched PureFlix in ’05, making movies and that quickly spun out making movies and distributing movies. We launched the streaming service and theatrical division (which) brought us to where we’re at here today. So, I’m one of the founders of it and the CEO of PureFlix. It’s been an incredible journey. What I’ve seen and what’s been so great about it is being able to see all the different people and lives that get touched through content that gets out there through these different channels. That’s been an honor to be part of.
JWK: So, you’ve met people who have been personally affected by these films?
MS: Yeah, absolutely. Each film always touches someone. The truth is I’ll probably never really know how many people were touched or what it did in their lives but the people you do run into and you see…it’s incredible…Jesus told stories in parables. He would get out there and speak and tell parables but today the modern-day parable is really movies and television. It’s storytelling and what a better way to tell an incredible story (than) through movies and visual media…I think it has a profound impact on people.
JWK: And you guys are really involved in streaming. I guess you could be described as a sort of faith-based Netflix.
MS: Yeah. I think what we offer is something that builds up the family and encourages them. They can watch thousands of movies and TV shows on any device, anytime, anywhere for one low monthly fee at PureFlix.com. We’re seeing people just flock to it and get touched.
JWK: You have several movies and TV series either on the service now or in development. Do you want to talk about any of these?
MS: We’ve got an incredible lineup coming. Christmas is a great time. It’s all about family and stuff like that. We kind of group Christmas into different weeks. We have a week on miracles, family, giving, romance, new beginnings (and) the Nativity story. We have all these different themes that we’re gonna do. We have some incredible content coming.
MS: November 22nd, right before Thanksgiving, we have the Kirk Cameron-Alex Kendrick/Kendrick Brothers movie Lifemark. (It’s) a great family movie on the power of adoption and how it transforms lives…It’s really, really good.
MS: It’s not just dramas too. One of the things that’s great about PureFlix is (the variety of genres). We have Legacy Peak. It’s an action-adventure story with Lucas Black. It’s a fun story for the whole family. It’s got the adventure. It’s got all of those different pieces.
MS: We’ve got a TV series called Saved by Grace which is (about) an angel who kinda touches different individuals’ lives through each episode.
MS: We also just did a movie called Nothing is Impossible, a basketball movie, that has a great romance story in it and really is (about) someone finding their purpose in life.
MS: So, there’s a lot of great content that we have on the service and more coming every week. So, I think (viewers) will really enjoy it as a family or as individuals.
JWK: Getting back to the Christmas movies, the genre has certainly proved popular with audiences What do you think separates a PureFlix Christmas movie from, say, a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie?
MS: You know what? Everything we do we want to make sure that it ultimately points to Jesus and ultimately draws you closer and closer to God. We try to find titles that uplift your faith. We do have a lot of family titles but (they) really have an incredible faith message to them that will really build your faith. I think that’s the key differentiator for us that makes us different from most services out there. You kinda know what you’re gonna get when you come to PureFlix.
JWK: You don’t go to the usual Hollywood sources for your content. Who do you turn to for content, who pitches to you and what are you looking for in a pitch?
MS: We have an incredible content team. We have ten people that screen all the content, license the content and help decide what originals we’re gonna make. We work with a host of producers that have made movies in this space before. We work with studios that have content in this space. So, we kind of source from anybody and everybody – but, first and foremost, we make sure the content represents the values that we’re after. Does it fit what we’re putting out there? We really screen that content to make sure that the user feels like this is gonna be a safe place and they know – whether they’re gonna watch with their family, just themselves or with their kids – they don’t have to worry about what’s on.
JWK: What do you see as the PureFlix demographic? Obviously, most of your audience is of the Christian faith – but, in terms of things like age. Hallmark Channel, for instance, I think is aimed primarily at millennial and Gen X women. Do you see your age and gender demographic being wider than that?
MS: I do. I see it all the time in our demographics for the platform. We have people that are empty nesters and grandparents that love to sit down and watch this. On the opposite end of spectrum, we have kids watching the latest Veggie Tales and cartoons and great kid shows.
MS: Then for guys we have have shows like Beckman.
MS: We’re doing a new action-adventure end times series called Revelation Road that comes out next year. We have (as I mentioned) Legacy Peak, another action-adventure title. We have Love on the Rock (and other) different content for the guys.
MS: And then we have a ton of titles, obviously, for females as well – whether it be romance or drama, a lot of great titles. And then I think there are a lot of titles where the family can get together and say “Let’s watch something fun!” and have a great experience. So, I would say our demographics span all ages across the board. We wanted to make this a destination where, no matter what age you are in your family, you can enjoy something on the platform.
JWK: You also have a sitcom that I find particularly interesting called Live+Local starring Dave Coulier which is about the workings of a faith-based morning radio show. I can really relate to that one since I used to produce such a morning show for SiriusXM. Is that available now?
MS: It is. We have that on the platform. It came out in July and you can watch six episodes of it. It’s a great series. Dave Coulier did a great job.
MS: Another series that we released around that time was Going Home.
JWK: I reviewed that and liked it. Setting a show in a hospice is a very tricky concept. I mean you need to deal with what it’s about about but without being too maudlin.
MS: Yeah – but we saw is that people really gravitated to it and said “This series spoke to us. We’ve been through this. We’ve seen this and it’s so refreshing to see these characters going through some things and see the inspiration (and) how these different situations touch different people.” It had a great impact.
JWK: So there will be a Season 2.
JWK: The PureFlix streaming service operates in partnership with Sony. How’s the relationship working out?
MS: I think it’s been a wonderful relationship. One of the things you may or may not know (is) they have one of the largest selections of faith-based entertainment out there. Think of all the Kendrick Brothers movies going back to Courageous, Fireproof, Facing the Giants and War Room, (as well as movies like) Heaven Is for Real. They have an incredible library of content so that partnership with them has been really great in bringing it together and being able to offer all of our members high quality titles and we’re continuing to make more titles and to get them out there.
JWK: How are the subscriptions going?
MS: The subscriptions are going great. We’re continuing to grow. It’s a huge market here in the United States and Canada – we’re in both – and it hasn’t stopped. One of the things that we’ve noticed is (that) the pandemic really accelerated things. I think a lot of people really started to turn more to streaming and we’ve seen that trend continue amongst this audience.
John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11