Largest crowd-funded television project in history builds on success
by Art Moore
The most successful crowd-funded television or film project ever, raising more than $10 million, “The Chosen,” is launching its second season on Easter Sunday.
The multi-season TV series on the life of Jesus from the perspective of his disciples is winning over a growing audience, with nearly 90 million views via “The Chosen” app.
While adhering to the biblical narrative, the series inserts dialogue and storylines and develops the characters. Producer and director Dallas Jenkins, the son of promiment evangelical author Jerry Jenkins, plans seven seasons he estimates will cost a total of $100 million.
He announced in a livestream the first episode of Season 2 will be released at 8 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.
See Jenkins’ announcement:
The show features a “pay if forward” system to cover the streaming costs, allowing anyone to view a program for free.
Jenkins said the rest of the second season is not ready. But he hopes to release each new episode as it is completed, with an average of about one per week.
Filming took place Utah and in Texas, and Jenkins said were delays because of the deep freeze, COVID protocols and some financial challenges.
He hopes filming for Season 3 will begin in August or September.
“The Chosen” can be streamed via VidAngel or the show’s app on Android and Apple. And there are videos about the show at its YouTube channel along with archives of live streams of the episodes preceded by commentary by Jenkins.
See the official trailer for season one:
See the trailer for the second season:
The first season drew a 100% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, but the actor who plays Jesus, Jonathan Roumie, said the show wants to go bigger in Season 2.
“Everything’s bigger, everything is going to look bigger,” he told Fox News. “So I think that sort of lit this subconscious fire under people’s backsides to kind of make sure that they were on their A-game – not that any of us weren’t before – but it all of a sudden just added another level like, ‘OK, let’s do this,’ and I think it just naturally challenged people to match in performance what the visuals are going to look like for the show. And the world is much bigger and more detailed and more nuanced.”
Too cool for Christian school
Jenkins’ path to creating “The Chosen” came after a major failure with a big-time Hollywood deal.
He had taken the Hollywood route, noted Colorado Springs Gazette religion editor Steve Rabey, with a “prideful attitude and a powerful disdain for the long history of cheesy evangelical movies.”
“Too few Christian films were good enough for my taste, so I was too cool for that genre,” he said.
A top Hollywood executive had asked him to do a series of faith-based movies over the next 10 years. But the first one, in 2017, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” flopped at the box office.
Jenkins explained in a 2019 interview at Northridge Church in Detroit he found himself after that failure at “an extreme low point,” crying and praying with his wife on evening.
But he said God impressed on him and his wife at that moment the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 and the idea that God “does impossible math.”
He didn’t know what that meant until, still mourning his loss, he was awakened at 4 a.m. with a message from an acquaintance.
“Remember, your job is not to feed the 5,000, it’s only to provide the loaves and the fish,” the message said.
The acquaintance knew nothing of his earlier conversation with his wife.
So Jenkins asked why he had sent the message.
The response was: “I don’t know. God just told me to tell you that.”
Jenkins said the “impossible math” issue became clear when he and some partners decided to crowdfund “The Chosen.”
He thought they would “be lucky to raise $800.”
But the campaign shattered the previous record of $5.7 million, raising a staggering $10 million from 19,000 people.
‘The show I’ve always wished I could see about Jesus’
In his interview with Rabey, Jenkins said he had seen other Jesus movies, and each has its place, but he was seeking something unique with “The Chosen.”
“I believe we’re doing something different by focusing on the humanity of Jesus and those around him,” he said.
“This isn’t a formal presentation of a bunch of white people quoting King James English. This is the show I’ve always wished I could see about Jesus. Jesus tells jokes, he laughs, he dances with his friends.”
Jenkins said he hears “from atheists, Hindis, Muslims and all different Christian denominations and faith traditions that they love the show.”
Among the glowing reviews, the National Catholic Reporter said it presents “a soundly biblical Jesus in a profoundly biblical world.”
“Jenkins and his team has succeeded in creating a ‘binge-worthy’ TV show on Jesus that is at once believable and faithful. I’ve found it be fairly friendly to Catholic sensibilities, while displaying the best of its evangelical heritage.”
Jenkins said that after his past experience he wouldn’t have been suprised if “The Chosen” had bombed.
He said the “current response, while overwhelming and exciting, is actually just the tip of what we’re hoping to achieve, which is for this show to reach a billion people around the world. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.”
“I’m just grateful to get the chance to make a show about Jesus, and I’m going to spend all my brain space making sure I don’t screw up the opportunity.”