‘Chosen’ creator to speak - virtually - to HU students on Thursday, April 16

Jonathan Roumie (third from left), who plays Jesus in “The Chosen,” entertains the children seated around at his table in a scene from the wedding at Cana. The crowd-funded series is available to view free of charge by downloading The Chosen app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Jonathan Roumie (third from left), who plays Jesus in “The Chosen,” entertains the children seated around at his table in a scene from the wedding at Cana. The crowd-funded series is available to view free of charge by downloading The Chosen app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Another, more inspirational wave that is sweeping not only the country but globally will be the topic of an upcoming lecture Thursday, April 16, at Huntington University.

Dallas Jenkins, the creator, producer and director of “The Chosen” will speak – virtually – to HU’s School of the Arts about the first-ever multi-season television show about the life of Jesus Christ.

The Visiting Artist Day had been planned several months ago, but the threat of the novel coronavirus outbreak and the state’s “shelter at home” order prohibited Jenkins from making the appearance in person. However, the virtual visit day will go on, featuring an artist talk/Q&A with Jenkins, a panel discussion with faculty, a panel discussion with current students and a virtual tour of the university’s celebrated Digital Media Arts facilities.

Jenkins, of Elgin, IL, is already familiar with HU’s DMA program and says he has a heart to share his experiences with those learning the profession.

“I’ve had a good relationship with Huntington since my son visited as a prospective student. He ended up attending another college, but we like the school a lot, and (Dr.) Lance Clark seems very passionate about giving his students a solid, interactive education,” Jenkins says. “I have a passion for college students as filmmakers and also as media consumers, so I’m happy to share my story and my process if it can help in any way.”

Jenkins began his career in telling stories via film while in his early 20s. He has worked with Warner Bros. Studios, been co-executive producer of “Though None Go With Me,” a Hallmark Channel feature, directed and produced a feature-length version of “Midnight Clear,” which won awards in festivals around the country, and has received a Crystal Heart Award from the Heartland Film Festival.

Jenkins’ current project, “The Chosen,” was birthed at a time in his life when his last film project had failed, he was out of work and struggling with finding his bearings.

“I went from a director with a very bright future who had finally made it in Hollywood to a director with no future,” he says in an interview posted on YouTube. “I was left home with my wife, at an extremely low point. … My wife and I were crying and praying and wondering how we could have gotten to this place.”

His story progresses from how he went from the lowest point of his life to how “The Chosen” came together after the executives of a video distribution company were moved by a short film Jenkins produced for his church.

The series depicts the life of Jesus as told through the eyes of those who interacted with him while he ministered on earth. It is also unique in that the money to pay for making “The Chosen” has been crowd-funded, becoming the largest crowd-funded film project ever. It has amassed millions of dollars from investors, merchandise sales and donations to pay for streaming the first season of the show.

Perhaps more significant than acquiring fans and donors is the spiritual impact the fledgling series has already made worldwide. The first two episodes have been available on YouTube, with a flood of viewers from multiple countries expressing everything from delight to tears, as the stories of the New Testament have unfolded from a new perspective, focused on the humanity of Christ and his followers. Jenkins had a hand in writing parts or all of each episode.

With an audience staying at home, it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a blessing in disguise to the project, after Jenkins announced this year’s first season – eight episodes – would all be available free of charge via “The Chosen” app. The response took him by surprise. Just recently, mass donations have come in to help fund a second season of the series and filming is expected to begin by the end of the year.

“Since the crisis, and our decision to make the show completely free and easy via ‘The Chosen’ app, there’s been a mini-explosion of viewership, which has also resulted in more people ‘paying it forward’ or purchasing DVDs,” Jenkins explains. “I think now that people have more time, they’re wanting to ‘binge Jesus,’ and once people see the show, they tend to become evangelists for it. The response has been incredible; lives are being changed, and even kids as young as 5 are wanting to watch it repeatedly, which shocked me because I didn’t think kids would enjoy the show.”

Jenkins will highlight the details of that experience during his talk at Huntington University.

“Dallas’ writing and directing are a true inspiration for today’s young storytellers who want to impact this world with a message of love, hope and the realities of the human condition in a fallen world,” said Dr. Lance Clark, dean of the School of the Arts.  

To learn more about this event or to RSVP, visit huntington.edu/April16.