The best way to tell the story of the profound mystery of the birth and life of Jesus Christ has long been a struggle for filmmakers.
How does one capture the essence of Jesus on film in an authentic way?
In the era of flashy films like “Noah” that claim to be a Bible story — but conveniently forget to mention Christ — one filmmaker is joyously taking on the task.
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The director of the faith-based films “What If…” and “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” Dallas Jenkins, is teaming up with VidAngel for his new crowdfunded streaming series “The Chosen,” and if all goes according to plan, it will become the first multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus.
The first episode, “The Shepherd” — a scene from this episode is pictured above — is now available to view on the video streaming service, and also on Facebook.
LifeZette talked with Dallas Jenkins, director of “The Chosen,” about this project, and why it’s so important to him to be true to Scripture while creating authentic backstories for some of the Bible’s most revealing characters.
“When we tell the stories of the Gospel through a melodramatic, overdone lens, we lose the humanity that way,” said Jenkins of recent epic blockbusters like “Noah” and “Exodus,” based on the Bible.
“The main difference between this project and other projects that have attempted to go outside of Scripture — I’m someone who is a passionate, Bible-believing evangelical, and I come from a family of ministers — I have zero interest in trying to reinterpret or change anything that’s in Scripture; the stories that are there speak for themselves. What I am trying to do is bring fresh light to the people that Jesus touched. To do that, you have to get into their backstory. You have to get into some of those moments in between the scripture verses.”
People are responding — the pilot episode has received over 10 million views on Facebook.
Crucial to the series are the stellar acting skills of those involved — whether they’re Christian or not. Jenkins hopes that if the actors and crew aren’t people of faith, that they’re moved to explore the material. “I embrace it. It’s an opportunity to work with people who probably don’t themselves have opportunities to be around Christians.”
He noted, “In this business, Christians are extraordinarily rare. Exposing them to Christ is part of my work. My ministry is not just the products that I make, but the people with whom I make them — that’s extremely important to me as well.”
He added, “The actor who plays the main shepherd in the pilot is not a believer. He’s a nonpracticing Jewish guy, and he brought such a subtlety to the role. What’s interesting is, when we were shooting the scene in the stable where Jesus was born, there were a couple of lines that he and the other shepherds said on their own that I didn’t write. To me they became some of the most moving lines and became the most representative of the story.”
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“‘I have to go, people must know,’ that actor said, and I didn’t write that. And 2,000 years later it is still the most meaningful thing someone could say in that moment, and made this episode even impactful. It’s the whole reason for the gospel: ‘People must know.’”
Jenkins said that many who have viewed the first episode have asked him to make sure he’s as faithful to the Scriptures in forthcoming episodes as he was in the pilot, which he finds interesting, as over half the pilot was backstory — in addition to Scripture.
“The story was told with prayer, and with faithfulness to God and His Son, and with careful historical research,” said Jenkins, “so it doesn’t at all feel like reinterpretation.”
Jenkins was guided in his research into the times Christ was born into by Rabbi Jason Sobel, a Messianic Jewish rabbi and biblical expert, and co-author, along with Kathie Lee Gifford, of the book “The Rock, the Road and the Rabbi.”
“It wasn’t just an intellectual exercise — we discussed swaddling clothes, and the olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane, but our research was that meticulous,” noted Jenkins. “It makes you realize, Jesus wasn’t just a God to the elites. He was a God for humans, speaking in ways that the people could understand, and living in a way that would have tremendous impact on the people of that time. Knowing all this makes you even more emotionally and spiritually connected.”
The series is crowdfunded — and the project needs investors. “We have passed the $4 million mark, and we are now the fourth-biggest crowdfunded media project of all time,” noted Jenkins. “And we’re not even halfway to where we’re intending to go.”
“I had a very profound spiritual impact last year when God made it clear to me that my job is not to ‘feed the 5,000,’ [Matthew 14:13-21], but to bring my loaves and fish. My loaves and fish are the writing and directing of these episodes, and what I’m asking for with this project, should people feel led, is to join me in watching Jesus feed the 5,000 with what we bring,” he said.
“We’ve gotten over 5,000 people already who have provided their loaves and fish, and we want to welcome even more.”
To learn more about this crowdfunded project, click here.
Watch Rabbi Sobel talk about “The Chosen” in the video below.