(Photo: Joe Alblas)
Editor's Note: In this two-part series The Christian Post takes a closer look at the success of "The Bible," a History Channel docudrama series produced by Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey. Two Christians in the entertainment industry have been quite impactful and part of a growing movement toward more quality faith-based movies coming out of Hollywood. Below is an interview with Mark Joseph, founder of MJM Entertainment Group. Part two is a discussion with Phil Cooke of Cooke Pictures.
The fact that the History Channel's "The Bible" series has reached more than 68 million viewers in just three episodes is not a fluke despite what a large majority of the Hollywood entertainment industry may be thinking, says a film developer and marketer who should know.
"If these types of numbers are true and repeatable, then the entire entertainment industry would have to be rethought, reprioritized and reorganized," producer Mark Joseph told The Christian Post. "So it will attempt to be written off as a fluke. But it's not a fluke if done properly. The audience is there."
Joseph has worked in the development and/or marketing of more than 20 films including "Ray," "Holes," "I Am David," "The Chronicles of Narnia," "Because of Winn-Dixie," "The Ultimate Gift," "Saving Sarah Cain" and others.
His effort with "The Chronicles of Narna" is chronicled in his book, The Lion, The Professor & The Movies: Narnia's Journey to the Big Screen.
In 2004, he produced the award-winning rock soundtrack for "The Passion of the Christ" featuring Lauryn Hill, P.O.D., Creed, MxPx, Blink 182, Kirk Franklin, and others.
In a column he wrote after attending a private preview screening at Burnett's home before the series began, Joseph said "it will be a good thing for American popular culture if the ratings go through the roof and TV executives, obsessed with numbers, can see just how starved average Americans are for meaningful TV, giving the couple (Burnett and Downey) opportunities to do more projects like this one."
Joseph's interview with The Christian Post via email on Friday is below.
CP: Are you getting feedback from the Hollywood entertainment industry about "The Bible" series? How is the secular part of the industry reacting?
Joseph: It's the same combination of shock and wanting to ignore it that I experienced with "The Passion." If these types of numbers are true and repeatable, then the entire entertainment industry would have to be rethought, reprioritized and reorganized. So it will attempt to be written off as a fluke. But it's not a fluke if done properly. The audience is there.
CP: What is your first response to the phenomenal viewership numbers during the first three weeks of the series?
Joseph: These are solid numbers but completely expected because the public is starved for this kind of material. When you consider the fact that many traditionalists don't have cable, and the fact that the entire series wasn't available to be previewed by key leaders, the numbers could have been even higher. But these are very good numbers.
CP: As someone who was part of the developments and/or marketing teams in Bible-themed movies such as "The Passion of the Christ" and "Chronicles of Narnia," do you think those movies were part of the groundbreaking that paved the way for this cable TV docudrama series? If so, why?
Joseph: Sure. The Passion's numbers were undeniable and for the first time accurately reflected what would happen if a film was made that captured the interests of traditionalists, was made by one of their own, and was communicated about, properly to those they admire in public life.
CP: What does the success of "The Bible" series mean to Christians within the entertainment industry?
Joseph: It means they'll have opportunities to tell these stories as only they can. As we've seen with movies like the Johnny Cash story, Amazing Grace, some of the Narnia movies and The Nativity Story, these movies are often problematic when made by people who are ignorant in their own lives about the spiritual themes associated with them. The audience understands that Mark and Roma respect the story and aren't trying to undermine the Bible. That is an important part of this success.
CP: What does this success mean to MJM Group?
Joseph: The more Hollywood understands the hopes and dreams of their customers and potential customers, the better projects will do in the ratings and the box office – and that's a win for everybody.
On the Web: http://www.markjoseph.com