But taking liberties with Scripture is a sure path to failure.
With everything from History Channel’s 2013 mini-series The Bible and the movie Son of God, to the current theatrical movies Risen and The Young Messiah, to soon-to-be-released pictures like Miracles From Heaven and God’s Not Dead 2, Hollywood is realizing there’s big money to be made from faith-based entertainment.
However, there have been just as many failures, from the 2014 film version of Noah (complete with stone Transformers), to the recent cancellation, after only two episodes, of ABC’s much-hyped miniseries Of Kings and Prophets, which was filled with graphic sex and violence.
In a recent article in Ad Week, screenwriter, producer, and PTC Advisory Board member Dave Alan Johnson pinpointed the difference between success and failure when it comes to faith-based entertainment: authenticity.
Changing Scripture, or treating it as a mere “story” which can be altered on a whim for dramatic effect, does not go over well with faith-based audiences. Nor does excessive violence, gore, language, and sexual content, particularly if it seems that the producer or showrunner is more interested in being “edgy” or “pushing the envelope” than he or she is in treating the Bible authentically.
“Consumers have become more discerning, and they won’t just support anything that’s touted as faith-and-family values,” Johnson says. “You have to be authentic. Hollywood has found that marketing God isn’t as easy as they thought it would be.”
If those in Hollywood were as careful and solicitous of the sensibilities of Christians as they are of those of other groups, they might find greater success when appealing to the faith audience.