STORYTELLING AND THE FAITH-BASED MARKET – HIGHLIGHTS FROM VARIETY’S PURPOSE SUMMIT

image found at fbcontheweb.com
image found at fbcontheweb.com

By Kelly Jo Brick

Be authentic. That was a major theme of PURPOSE: The Family Entertainment and Faith-Based Summit presented by Variety, where industry leaders gathered to share their perspectives on family and faith-based entertainment. Speakers including Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, David Oyelowo and DeVon Franklin repeatedly focused on authentic storytelling and creating projects that resonate with viewers.

Faith has long been part of film and it’s no secret that there’s a large market for faith-based projects, in fact over 225 million Americans self-identify as Christians. These people are hungry for content and eager to engage through social media with those who are creating this content.

In a story-focused session, panelists further echoed that audiences don’t want to be preached to. People want to relate to what they see. Producer Cale Boyter (Same Kind of Different As Me, The SpongeBob Movie: The Sponge Out of Water) reminded attendees, “You gotta entertain people. You gotta take them on a ride. You can’t make them feel like they’re in Sunday school.”

Stories can move people in a positive direction without being heavy-handed and the overwhelming key to creating interest in a faith-based project is making sure your project is commercial. Fill your story with character, conflict, journey and triumph. Most importantly, be authentic and passionate as you do it.

David Oyelowo often found that the faith based projects coming his way often tended to be about a person who has it all together, preaching to someone who doesn’t. These stories didn’t really connect with him as a performer. Although Oyelowo did stress that, “These films work when there’s a conviction in storytelling.”

Oyelowo spoke of his upcoming thriller, Captive, as an example of how a faith-based film can, “Go to the mossy dark places where real people live, to find the light.”

Traci Blackwell, SVP Current Programs for The CW also suggested that there’s a way to tell these stories that’s not on the nose. You can mesh a broad audience with a faith-based audience. Shows like Jane the Virgin and Supernatural both have faith-related elements within the stories they tell, but they’ve also been able to connect with a wide audience base. Blackwell believes that success, “All starts with what’s on the page, the words and the characters.”

With a concentration on developing authentic stories, creators can not only reach these enthusiastically supportive audiences, but they can also continue to bring other friends and circles into the viewing experience by telling good, compelling stories.

Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey were very encouraged about the current state of the faith-based entertainment marketplace, believing there are enormous opportunities for telling good stories. Burnett encouraged those in attendance to, “Go after things. Dream Big. Be Bold. Be willing to trip over.”


Kelly Jo Brick is a Contributing Editor at TVWriter™. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.

Thinking Man Reviews: Supernatural Season Three Premiere

Another review of a recent CW series. Uh, 2007 is recent…if you’ve been in a coma since, say, 2008.

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in October 2007. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

 “Fatdrunk, and stupid is no way to go through lifeson.” Dean Vernon Bobby

The hunt is on as the Supernatural boys gear up to take on the hundreds of new demons released into the world in the Season Two Finale. And what better way to start a crusade of righteous fury then by taking on the demonic embodiment of the Seven Deadly Sins, or as the episode title not-so-cleverly suggests “The Magnificent Seven”.

We open on Sam (Jared Padalecki) reading some archaic version of Demons for Dummies, while Dean (Jensen Ackles) has some naughty-fun-times with a woman he proudly refers to as “The double mint twins”. It seems as though Dean has resigned himself to his inevitable fate having damned his soul to the underworld last season in return for saving Sam’s life. And with less then a year to go before the grim reaper comes to collect, he’s determined to have as much fun as possible. Which for Dean is a combination of random sex and demon slaughter.

They are contacted by Bobby (Jim Beaver), who says he has a lead on some possible demon activity. They head out to Lincoln Nebraska and run into Isaac and Tamara, a couple of fellow Ghostbusters investigating the same events. Sam suggests they work together but Isaac wants nothing to do with the men who allowed the gates of hell to open in the first place.

Sam, Dean and Bobby continue their investigation and discover that the Seven Deadly Sins are behind all the hoopla. For those of you who don’t know these sins include: Greed, Lust, Envy, Pride, Gluttony, Sloth and Wrath. Personally, I would include Michael Bay movies but I guess Sloth and Gluttony already have that covered.

They track the Seven to a local bar but soon realize Isaac and Tamara are already there. Unfortunately, these Demon slayers came underprepared and are quickly overpowered. Our heroes race to the rescue but are unable to save Isaac who is already dead. They save Tamara and manage to capture one of the demons before retreating.

Back at HQ they use the Devil’s Trap to isolate the demon, Envy, and bring on the Vatican water torture. They don’t really get any useful information so Tamara performs an exorcism to kill him off. Unfortunately for them, the Seven are the Marines of the underworld and never leave a man behind. Pride, Lust, and two other demons attack the Supernatural crew and things get ugly. Fortunately, they are saved by a mysterious blonde woman who jumps into the fight to help them. The demons are killed and the blonde woman disappears with no explanation for her sudden appearance. Well gang, looks like we have another mystery on our hands.

It was a solid opening for the third season of Supernatural, but probably the weakest season opener so far. I would have liked a bit more insight into the motivations behind the Seven but with two of them still out there maybe we’ll find out later in the season.

Thinking Man Rating: 7/10

Thinking Man Reviews: Nikita Season Two Finale

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in May 2012. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

“Power Mr. President. Real power.” – Percy

It was another fast paced and action packed finale for the CW’s Nikita, as her war against Division finally comes to an end and she is forced back into the life she abandoned long ago.

That’s right. Nikita (Maggie Q.) has finally defeated the wonderfully evil Percy Rose (Xander Berkeley) in the season two finale “Homecoming”. But rather than destroy the organization she hates, Nikita and the gang must take control of Division and reform its practices in order to save the lives of the Division agents led astray by both Percy and Amanda.

But how is it that Nikita came to such a precarious position?

(EDITED BY munchman TO ADD: Ooh! Ooh! I know the answer to that question. Because somebody at the CW saw the last season of ANGEL, where he takes over the Demon Law Firm that’s been the enemy for years and said, “Hey, I have a bright, fresh and new idea! What if we–” Nevermind. Sorry to interrupt.)

Well, it all started when Dr. Evil Percy called up the President and told him he had sharks satellites with freaking lasers pointed their way under his control, which he proved by blowing up a power plant. After that the Nikita crew mobilized to disarm the satellite and take it out of Percy’s hands. Nikita and Michael (Shane West) achieved this by infiltrating Division and not-so-subtly blowing up a big computer.

Problem solved. But, hey, this is Percy we’re talking about, ain’t no way he’s going down that easy. Percy calls the President again and reveals that it was all a fake out. He had convinced the President of the United States that he was shooting laser beams from outer space when all he really did was plant a bomb in the power plant. Oh Percy, you so crazy.

He also tells the president that his top man (Roan) will set off another big bang unless Percy gets immunity and a nice retirement package. Little do they know that Percy had been given membership in an international shadow organization (the Evil League of Evil I assume) that will take him to the next level of… evilness?

Meanwhile, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) and Shawn (Dillon Casey) were having trouble tracking down Roan (Rob Stewart). Inside Division Nikita was forced to protect Percy and get him out safely so he could call off the attack.

It seemed as though everything was coming up Percy. But just as they made their way to the surface, his pride and ego refused to cooperate and he turned on Nikita beating her down and threatening to kill her. Unfortunately for him, the only reason any of us are alive is because Nikita allows it. And as you might expect, she quickly turned the tables and caused him to fall to his death.

Fortunately, Alex and Shawn managed to find Roan before the bomb was set and gave him a nice one-two punch to save the day. Crisis averted. Nikita wins. Huzzah!

With Percy down and Division disarmed, the government considered killing the remaining Division agents but Nikita and company decide to take control of it themselves and hopefully return it to the principles for which it was originally created.  And with that it’s all over. Except one thing, Amanda is still out there and in the final scene we discover she has a deciphered blackbox. Season three here we come!

Season Two 

Thinking Man Rating: 15 Thumbs Up

Season Two Finale

Thinking Man Rating: 14 Thumbs Up

**Be aware the Thinking Man rating system is based on awesomeness and should be disregarded if you are not now, or have never been, awesome.**

Supernatural Season Two Finale – Recap and Review

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in May 2007. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

 “I couldn’t have done it without your pathetic, self loathing, self destructive desire to sacrifice yourself for your family.” – Azazel

After two seasons of chasing down the Yellow Eyed Demon, our ghost hunting heroes get a final showdown with their arch nemesis Azazel and all hell breaks loose, literally.

But before Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) can unleash their righteous vengeance, they have to deal with the small issue of Sam being dead. In the first half of the two part finale “All Hell Breaks Loose”, Sam is killed by a rival psychic in a demon sponsored battle to the death. With Sam down, his opponent Jake Tally (Aldis Hodge) is named the winner and is recruited to help Azazel find and open the gate to hell.

Dean is inconsolable and refuses to accept his brother’s death. Luckily for him, in the world of Supernatural being dead is only a minor inconvenience. Nothing a little deal with the devil can’t fix. Dean summons an old demon pal and offers his life for Sam’s. The demon agrees and gives him one year before coming to collect. And with that Sam is back in the game.

The two track down Azazel’s man Jake to an old cemetery where the gate to Hell is opened and the demons of the underworld rise up in all their smoky glory. The ghostbuster crew kill Jake and try to close the door but Azazel shows up and opens a can of whoop ass on Sam and Dean. But just as he is about to finish the job, our old friend John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) spirits his way out of hell and wrastles Azazel down to the ground. Dean grabs the Colt and kills the Yellow Eyed Demon bringing a close to the biggest story arc of the series so far. John gives the boys a nice nod of approval and wisps off to spy on women changing or whatever it is spirits do. And season three is set up nice and proper with an army of demons on the loose and a ghost fighting duo ready to take them on.

So what can I say about Supernatural. This was a good episode, but I keep running into the same problem with this show. The overall story arcs are fairly interesting, and there are strong episodes to be found. But so much of this show is ghost of the week filler. Not necessarily bad, but very “meh” which is sometimes worse. Perhaps season three will pick things up a bit. After all there is a demon army out there and a ticking clock on Dean’s soul. Let’s hope they take advantage.

Season 2

Thinking Man Rating: 8 Thumbs Up

Season 2 Finale

Thinking Man Rating: 13 Thumbs Up

**Be aware the Thinking Man rating system is based on awesomeness and should be disregarded if you are not now, or have never been, awesome.**

Nikita Season 2 Episode 1 – Recap and Review

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in September 2011. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

“Remember this, I did this because I care.”  Nikita

Season two of Nikita dives back into the game one month after last season’s explosive finale and all the players are back for more. But the lines have been blurred and the aptly titled “Game Change” sets off to pin our heroes against each other in a flurry of pretty people and kung-fu awesomeness.

We open on our new crime fighting duo Michael (Shane West) and Nikita (Maggie Q.) securing some funds for their continuing campaign of destruction against Division. And the key to taking them down, is the Blackbox, which contains all the naughty secrets of the rogue government agency.

However, hot on their trail is Nikita’s former partner Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), who has switched sides and is now helping Division track her down. Alex has made a deal with Division’s new leader, the ice queen herself, Amanda (Melinda Clarke). They will offer all their resources to Alex as she pursues the men who ordered her father’s death and in exchange she will use her unique insight into Nikita to help them recover the Blackbox.

Adding an extra layer of prettyboy to the equation is Sean Pierce (Dillon Casey), an Oversight representative assigned to Division to keep them in line. After all they don’t want a repeat of Percy’s (Xander Berkeley) attempted coup d’etat.

When Alex finally tracks down Nikita, Pierce sends in the troops and our heroes are pinned down with no hope of escape…

After they escape, with the help off Birkhoff’s (Aaron Stanford) remote control next level fighter drones, they enlist the help of their old friend and continue their crusade of justice.

Magneto Percy makes an appearance and we learn that he is now being held in a plastic prison in the basement of Division. From the ever present smirk on his face as he speaks to both Amanda and Alex, it’s clear he has his own plans in motion and won’t be a prisoner for long.

As the episode concludes we get a final showdown between Alex and Nikita. The two sexy spies go at it in a bare-knuckle brawl and Nikita takes the young blood to school, leaving her with a broken arm and a bullet hole in her leg. Nikita ain’t nothing to f**k with.

A great start to season two. It’s going to be interesting watching these characters in their new roles. And from the looks of it so far, season two should be filled with much of the same creative storytelling and intense action that season one brought to the table.

Thinking Man Rating: 16 Thumbs Up

**Be aware the Thinking Man rating system is based on awesomeness and should be disregarded if you are not now, or have never been, awesome.**