Christian TV Program Producer Discusses Joel Osteen, Today's Televangelism

Television show producer and media consultant Phil Cooke recently shared that he once partnered with evangelist Joel Osteen as producers of Christian TV programming, including helping with Osteen's own broadcasts that now reach 10 million U.S. households each week.

Cooke and Osteen became close friends as well as colleagues when they worked on Pastor John Osteen's (Joel's father) prime-time TV specials. Osteen was recently interviewed by Cooke about the practical lessons he learned behind the camera that have contributed to his enormous influence in front of the camera. The interview can be read at MinistryToday

The Christian Post interviewed Cooke, who is the CEO of Cooke Pictures in Hollywood, via email about Osteen and today's TV production for evangelists.

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CP: How important is video production for today's evangelists?

Cooke: Sadly, for most TV evangelists, not very important, but it certainly should be. Although we're seeing a lot of growth when it comes to production quality, far too many Christian TV producers and content creators are still getting by with old equipment, and creating images that people aren't interested in watching. Sure, the content of the program is critical, but in a world with hundreds of radio and TV channels and nearly unlimited choices online, how we share our message is just as important as the message we share. People will simply change the channel if it's not a great looking program.

CP: What makes Joel Osteen's video broadcast unique in the way of production?

Cooke: It's interesting that Joel does pretty much the same type of program as 90% of other Christian TV producers out there. But aside from what he's preaching, what makes the program different? I would say 3 things:

1) Production Quality. His cameras and lenses are the highest quality, and it makes a real difference. You're drawn to what he's saying partly because it's just so pleasant to watch.

2) Lighting. Most people haven't a clue to the impact TV lighting makes, but it's critically important. With Joel's program, the lights aren't "blasted" across the congregation and stage. The lighting is carefully focused and dramatic, which helps create a more emotional experience.

3) Expertise. Joel has hired an extremely well-trained and professional crew. Led by people like producer and director Jon Swearingen, everyone is working at their best, and it shows. It's time we stopped trying to get away with the least money, and started investing in engaging today's culture through media. Joel has done that, and as a result, he reaches more than 10 million people a week.

CP: Have today's TV evangelists broken out of the sterotypes of past TV evangelists who might have been considered a bit "loony" in any way because of production value?

Cooke: Fortunately, most have. There are still too many people out there asking for "a $1,000 vow" or sending out trinkets that I call "Jesus Junk." But the truth is, most Christian media leaders understand that the culture has changed. We're seeing a lot more integrity and transparency out there, and that's a great thing.

CP: What makes Osteen's shows successful in terms of production?

Cooke: If I knew what makes any show successful, I'd be a rich man. I live and work in Hollywood, and the classic quote out here is "Nobody knows nothing." What makes stupid reality shows so popular? What makes great movies fail at the box office? I think the important thing is that we need to be out there in the arena. It's not about successful or unsuccessful, it's about sharing our story with the culture. I applaud anyone who's doing that, because today, the stakes are too high to give up.

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