The Christian community and popular culture haven’t been on speaking terms for some time.
That, says Grace Hill Media president Jonathan Bock, needs to end.
It’s why Bock started As1, an effort to bring more quality, faith-based projects to the public while mending fences with secular Hollywood.
“There was a time in the middle of the last century when the Christian community largely decided to abandon the arts and pop culture,” Bock tells Big Hollywood. "The thinking was, 'the stuff coming out of Hollywood was a moral cesspool, we shouldn’t participate In that.' It led to, ‘let’s create our own smaller sub-culture.’”
“That’s a self-defeating proposition. It’s a little like saying, ‘political are terrible … so we’re not going to vote,’” says Bock, whose Grace Hill Media company helps market faith-based content. “Culture and life go on … in the case of culture, it did. It moved on without us and became more and more coarse.”
The new As1 is designed to offer up a clean slate and put aside old battles.
“Let’s be friends again … sap all the enmity out of the conversation,” he says.
The blueprint for success, in part, comes from looking at the past.
“There was clearly a time in history when the Church and artists had a terrific relationship. Together, they made some of the greatest art in human history,” he says. “How do we get back to that place? That’s the goal.”
Bock wants Christians to be patrons of the arts. Long ago, that meant the very rich supporting individual artists. Today, it can be as simple as regularly watching a Christian-friendly TV show or buying tickets for movies with solid values.
The group’s first creative project is the new GSN series “The American Bible Challenge,” which debuts at 8 p.m. Aug. 23. The show, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, is like a "Jeopardy" version of the Bible where teams play for various ministries and faith-based charities.
“Jeff Foxwothy, as it turns out, is a great Christian guy. He teaches a small men’s group every week in Atlanta for homeless guys,” he says.
It’s simple to point to the surprising box office success of faith-friendly films like “Fireproof,” "Soul Surfer" and “Courageous” as examples of Christian marketing clout, but Bock isn't satisfied yet.
“The stakes are so much higher now,” he says. “Some of the brightest lights in Hollywood are making Bible projects.”
Consider celebrated director Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” starring Russell Crowe and a possible Moses feature from director Steven Spielberg. Plus, Will Smith is circling a project based on Cain and Abel.
“All of these are high-dollar projects,” he says. That means if they gross what a spiritual film like “Soul Surfer” hauled in, it’s an “abject disaster.”
“We need to step up our game,” he warns.
Bock envisions these high-ticket Bible features sparking “water cooler moments that are gonna happen all over the world,” he says.
As1 has only just begun, but Bock can count on plenty of foot soldiers ready to help the new group’s mission.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of people of faith working in Hollywood, doing it quietly,” he says.
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