The Chosen Television Show Gives New Perspective of Jesus’ Life
The Chosen's first episode, The Shepherd was released Friday on Facebook.
A new kind of television show featuring the life of Jesus through the eyes of those who encountered Him is coming to VidAngel next year. VidAngel uses an innovative model in which investors from all over America can back the project. The pilot episode was released Friday on Facebook to gauge interest. As of today, more than one million dollars have been pledged.
Director Dallas Jenkins, creator of Midnight Clear, What If…, Though None Go With Me and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is the son of Jerry Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series. In an interview with The Stream, Jenkins described his new television show The Chosen as “his life’s work.”
Doing Something Different
Growing up in a Christian home, Jenkins said he’d seen “every play and movie and miniseries about Jesus,” but they all felt the same. “I’ve always thought, ‘What if? What must the disciples have been thinking at this time? What were the conversations that took place in between the moments where we hear Jesus and his disciples quoting King James versions of the Bible?'”
So he decided to do something different. He began making short films and vignettes for his church. He thought that if people could get to know the back story and humanity of the characters worship and appreciation of the story would be enhanced. “The response was so overwhelming each time that I really got excited about this Christmas story, which is my favorite of all the stories in the Bible: the arrival of Christ.”
The first episode of The Chosen is The Shepherd.
Jenkins said there are two qualities about the pilot episode that make it unique. “One, it’s real. The people, the characters, the scene, the costumes, the sets, the sweat on their faces, the dust in the air.” He added that sometimes the stories about Jesus are treated so reverentially that it’s serious and formal. “I have jokes in this. I’ve done a vignette where Jesus told a joke and it literally, single-handedly enhanced the entire piece. I have people saying to me, ‘Oh my goodness, seeing Jesus tell a joke, seeing Jesus being warm and kind and funny is so wonderful.’ And so, that’s part of it. These are real people.”
Second, this is the story of Jesus from the perspective of characters never seen before. “So, we know the story of the nativity from Mary and Joseph’s perspective, we’ve seen that portrayed before — and then the shepherds arrive. This is the opposite. This is from the shepherds’ [perspective] and all of the intricacies that they were going through, what it’s like to be outcasts in society and what it’s like to be the lowest people on the spiritual totem pole in the religious order of the day. And then they’re visited by the angels and they come across Mary and Joseph.” The shepherds, Jenkins notes, “were the first prophets in over 400 years of silence when they started telling about the arrival of the Messiah.”
VidAngel is well-known for streaming content from NetFlix, Amazon Prime and HBO with filters to make them family friendly. Now they’re getting into original scripted content. When VidAngel and Executive Producer Matthew Faraci (of Dove Channel’s Frankly Faraci) heard about The Shepherd, they were excited. “They loved it so much that I said, “You guys should hear about this other idea I have which is a full-fledged TV show, which has never been done before,” said Jenkins. They were interested.
“I love a good TV series, but there’s nothing for us, there’s nothing that families can binge watch together and there’s certainly never been anything from the time period of the Gospels,” said Jenkins. “So we all loved the idea, jumped on it, partnered, and it’s all come together pretty quickly. The Shepherd kind of accidentally became kind of a launch point and pilot for the whole series.”
The episodes are being written now. Jenkins hopes they will be released before the end of 2018. The first season is expected to have eight episodes. “It’s going to be the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the calling of the disciples and his followers,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins said that while Hollywood could do this sort of project, he wouldn’t expect them to get it right. “Hollywood is largely made up of — and largely, I say that conservatively — I’d say it’s 98 percent made up of people who don’t have a Judeo-Christian belief system. They’re not believers in Jesus. So whenever they try to tell the story of Jesus, it feels as authentic as it would be if I tried to tell the story of an atheist hero. I can’t relate to it so why would I expect to tell it honestly and authentically?” For that reason, Jenkins is making the film. But it doesn’t have the Hollywood financial backing.
“We’re not a charity, so I’m not asking people to donate to a cause,” said Jenkins. “We’re saying, instead of the usual kick-starter campaign where you donate and you get a t-shirt or tickets to the premiere, you’re investing. If this show succeeds, you succeed as well. You not only get to experience watching something you’ve wanted to see for a long time, or something you can share with the world, something that can impact people’s lives, but if you want, it can also be beneficial financially.” He added, “We’re not asking you to do something we’re not willing to do. And so we’re all kind of putting our blood, sweat, tears and cash into this thing because we want everyone to benefit.”
Just in Time for Christmas
The Shepherd will be available on Facebook for viewing the entire month of December. Not only that, Jenkins is making The Shepherd available to every church that wants to show it as part of a Christmas program. “Any church that wants to have on Christmas Eve to play in their service just needs to ask.” Interested churches may contact him on Facebook or contact VidAngel. They will receive an HD file they can use and play in their service for free.
But Jenkins, who said his faith is the foundation of his entire life, said making this television show isn’t about the money. “This isn’t, ‘Hey let me tell you a story about someone who believes in Jesus,’ this is ‘Let me tell you a story about someone who actually knew Jesus so you can know him too.’ And if this TV series gives people, Christians or otherwise, a better understanding of who Jesus was so they can know him better and make a more informed decision about whether or not they want to give their lives to him like I have, then that’s all that matters. That’s all that I want to do.”
Watch The Shepherd: