Expanding Your Brand & Growing Your Faith

Expanding Your Brand & Growing Your Faith
Issue 6 // 1st Quarter // 2014 Category:Entertainment By: Tricia Despres

They told him it couldn’t be done. They said it was a waste of time. They went as far as telling the award winning producer, known for such television hits as “Survivor” and “The Voice”, that he was downright crazy to think anyone would spend their precious spare time watching a story about the greatest story ever told…especially in, God forbid, primetime.

The credits could have rolled right then and there.

But they didn’t.

Instead, alongside the beauty and talents of wife Roma Downey and despite the predictions of many, famed producer Mark Burnett pushed through the skeptics and brought the 10-hour mini-series “The Bible” to History Channel in March 2012. Over a span of five weeks, the epic production garnered an average of 15 million-plus viewers during its original airings and over 100 million viewers to date. According to 20th Century Fox, “The Bible” also ranked as the fastest-selling TV title released on home video in the last five years, and became known as the top mini-series title ever during its first week of release.

The mini-series not only attracted faith-seeking viewers in the United States, but around the world. Ratings were huge in Australia, for example, where over half of the otherwise secular nation watched. And despite much opposition, “The Bible” even aired in Hong Kong, and went straight to number one in the ratings book.

“The Bible” had reached global success.

More Than A Mini-series

Yet, it ends up that the journey of the “little mini-series that could” was just at its beginning stages, thanks to what Burnett refers to as a calling he has followed his entire life. “Some people might call it instinct and some people might call it intuition, but for us, it’s a calling,” explains Burnett during a recent interview with TwoTen Magazine. “It was a calling that basically told us that ‘The Bible’ franchise was meant to be much bigger than just the television series. We listen when we are called. Yet, trust me when I tell you that it’s not always a clear message. It’s more of a feeling, and the feeling surrounding this project was that we needed to keep pursuing ways in which we could grow what we had started, even when everyone was telling us not to. We have always listened to that feeling, and it has sent us in all different directions. It’s just the way we live both our personal and professional life.”

"Some people might call it instinct and some people might call it intuition, but for us, it’s a calling..."Mark Burnett

Indeed, the directions which “The Bible” miniseries will ultimately take will be on full display in 2014. The first element will be unveiled on February 20th, when Century Fox will release the feature film, “Son of God,” distilled from the Mark Burnett and Roma Downey-produced “The Bible” mini-series and supplemented with scenes not aired in the telecast.

“People told us that we would never be able to get a full feature film made about Jesus, and now, here it is,” says the 53 year old known for bringing a multitude of programs to life, including rating grabbers such as “Shark Tank” and the ever-popular NBC reality show “The Apprentice”. “And if you ask me, the film is even better than the series. We were shooting both the series and the film simultaneously. This is a completely fresh edit from what we included in the series. As far as I’m concerned, to be able to see it on the giant screen, in community with a few hundred people at a time, is going to be an incredible experience.”

The Bible On Tour

Further leveraging the power of the mini-series and the accompanying movie “Son of God,” “The Bible Tour,” will continue Burnett’s calling to share the word of God with an endless group of believers and non-believers. “What we really wanted to do with the stage show was to be able to give audience members an immersive live experience that they could enjoy with their families,” says Burnett, who joins once again with partners such as Downey, Word Entertainment and World Vision for the tour.

Kicking off on March 20 at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and running 16 dates through April 13, “The Bible Tour” is a two-hour live event that will feature not only award-winning artists, immersive video and stunning visual effects, but rely heavily on the power of music throughout.

“The music is one of the most important parts of the entire production,” explains Burnett of the show, which will feature music from award winning Christian artists such as Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets, Natalie Grant, Chris August, Meredith Andrews and Jason Gray. “The music ties in fully into the production and is in fact inspired by both the film and the series. These are some of the most talented and best known artists, so to have them singing an amazing selection of songs is just an amazing thing to think about.”

If that wasn’t enough, Word Entertainment released “Son of God: Music Inspired by the Epic Motion Picture” in late 2013, followed shortly thereafter by “The Bible: Music Inspired by the Epic Mini-Series” on March 12, 2014.

Shared Passion

The journey that “The Bible” franchise has been on thus far would be overwhelming to anyone. But according to Burnett, it’s even more rewarding knowing that he did it with his wife of six years by his side. “I have been telling people that our lives over the past few years have been all Jesus, all the time,” chuckles Burnett, who was once referred by Time Magazine as one of the world’s most influential people. “Roma has worked very closely with Word Entertainment, for example, tirelessly going over the music videos that will be shown throughout the live tour. But yes, the fact that we get to do all of this together as husband and wife is a wonderful thing. We are very much in love and we are very much best friends. To be able to do something such as this with someone you love is so fulfilling. It’s been a long journey of four and a half years, especially when we have continued to work on all the other shows. I consider us very favored and very blessed to be able to work on The Bible Series, whether with the film, the series or the tour.”

Throughout the journey, Burnett says that his faith has strengthened and his beliefs have evolved greatly from the times he spent as a little boy in England. “Growing up, I felt that the Bible and the word of God was a bit threatening. It was one of those things where I felt you could get struck by lightning if you stepped the wrong way. You better do this and you better do that. But as I have gotten older, I have learned that God and the Bible itself is really a love story. The entire Bible is the story of the love of God and God’s love for us. Nothing we do is going to make us lose that. Jesus came and then died for us, and was resurrected for our sins. Focusing your life on those principles helps to put everything in perspective.”

Indeed, in a career where he has produced thousands of hours of television in countries throughout the world, Burnett admits that there have been times where the nature of the entertainment business directly and indirectly challenged his beliefs. “I think we are very clear, in everything that we do, that we are Christians and that we love Jesus,” concludes Burnett. “Nothing negative has been said. I believe when you are clear, you are supported. I mean, we are a major part of pop culture, so maybe they give us a break. {Laughter} Completely immersing ourselves into the story of the Bible has been an amazing experience. It’s like swimming in a beautiful ocean of faith. Naturally, your faith grows.”

Tricia Despres

By: Tricia Despres

Tricia Despres is a Chicago-based entertainment writer whose work has appeared in publications such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Advertising Age and Country Weekly magazine. From making story deadlines to making dinner for husband Paul and girls Taylor and Amanda, Tricia leads a busy life....but is never too busy to listen to the whispers of God.

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