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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.

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 7/6/13

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are

  • Jeff Greenstein (WILL & GRACE) has a new agency: CAA. (So if you’re also a CAA client tell you point man you want to be part of the next package they put together for Jeff!)
  • NBC is putting together AD: BEYOND THE BIBLE, a drama mini-series about the days after Jesus’ death. (So if you’re a firnd of Mark Burnett or his lovely wife Roma Downey, time to hit one of ’em up for a writing gig.)
  • Speaking of getting your agents in motion, word is out that the search is on for a writer to adapt Declan Hill’s book The Fix for international TV. (Whoa, 2 potential UK gigs in a row. What can this portend?)
  • Jill Soloway (SIX FEET UNDER, THE UNITED STATES OF TARA) has optioned an untitled half-hour dramedy to Amazon Studios. (And what this portends is pretty clear: Amazon is continuing to make moves designed so that it will appear to be a viable playa…even though so far it’s anything but.)

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 4/29/13

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are

  • Steven Thompson (SHERLOCK, DOCTOR WHO) & Guillermo del Toro (PAN’S LABYRINTH) are writing a pilot based on Naoki Urasawa’s manga, MONSTER,  for HBO. (Yeah, it’s a great idea, made even greater in the eyes of HBO because they’re such star sucks and del Toro’s got the kind of rep they love tightening their lips around.)
  • Various web and Old Media sources say that undisclosed writers from the series MAD MEN are pitching like mad to get the go-ahead on a fictional series based on NASA during the ’60s, (Which is very appealing for several rasons, not the least of which is the rumor that astronauts in those days were wild, crazy, colorful doods who’d make perfect television characters.)
  • Blake Masters (BROTHERHOOD) is writing the pilot for LINE OF SIGHT, a drama about a National Transportation Safety Board investigator who survives a mysterious plane crash, for AMC. (Which sounds pretty damn close to UNBREAKABLE. Not that we’re making any accusations or anything…)
  • Also pitching away are producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who are shopping a follow-up to their THE BIBLE mini-series called A.D. (Burnett says he already has scripts for it, but – again – our trusty news sources ain’t talking about who the writers were/are/will be.)