Growing Interest In Faith-Based Entertainment Brings Opportunity To Black Execs
With hit shows like Fix my Choir, it seems like finding faith has helped networks also find high ratings with faith-based entertainment.
According to Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 78 percent of Americans are Christians, another five percent are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or a different category of religious belief.
But even with a high percentage of people displaying spirituality, it has often been difficult to find popular faith-based shows beyond inspirational church TV like Joel Osteen Ministries or The Potter’s Touch with T.D. Jakes.
However, Holly Carter, chief executive officer and founder of Relevé Entertainment is making moves to change all that.
Carter’s multi-faceted entertainment company specializes in family and faith-based programming and is currently partnering with networks like Oxygen to bring shows like Fix My Choir, Preachers Of L.A., and Preachers Of Detroit, which premieres of Feb. 18, to mainstream media. Carter also has production credits for The Sheards, which broadcasts with BET Networks.
The reason for Carter’s preachers franchise, as well as her dedication to faith-based programming, is from her desire to bring religious content to television that both “inspires and compels” viewers.
“I have always wanted to provoke conversation and I feel that I have been called to this industry to advance the Kingdom, as well as impact culture through entertainment,” Carter says. “The best way I can do that is to show those out in our communities that are living, showing, and experiencing spirituality, and have the power to pull people in.”
Carter, who began her career in casting recreation for the tabloid show Hard Copy and later represented stars like Usher, Mary Mary and Michelle Williams, says the key to successful faith-based television is to avoid being “preachy,” while still bringing “a mix of theological knowledge and ministry” to the marketplace.
“You can’t make people afraid of the gospel. And as we build a brand surrounding faith-based programming, we remember that it is a healthy balance of inspiration, while teaching viewers a lesson without preaching. Those that watch can learn lessons through example and the experience of those that are on the show – and that’s what keeps people coming back,” Carter says.
Casimir Spencer, a Hollywood publicist, also believes that the Christian market of the film and television industry is very important. She says there are many stories to be told regarding the Christian experience, and the many different sub-cultures that exist within it.
“As humans, I think we are all inspired by stories of faith, hope, love and perseverance and these are qualities that help replenish the human spirit regardless of its attachment or non attachment to organized religion,” Spencer says.
In her 11-year career, Spencer has represented elected officials, professional athletes and organizations, and currently is the digital publicist for Los Angeles based Christian public relations firm, Grace Hill Media and has worked on films like Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Dolphin Tale 2, and Noah. As time goes on she also hopes to partner with non-profits, network television shows, and studios like Warner Bros., Paramount, Lions Gate Entertainment and Universal to focus more on Christian television and film because she said it is “a booming market.”
“There are stories out there that need to be told that come straight from a biblical sense or an inspirational story. I’m very interested in starting a studio that will focus on Christian and secular film and television or going to a firm or studio and head up a department myself that will focus on faith based programming,” Spencer says.
While there has been an absence of spiritual and religious programming in the marketplace, Spencer feels that people like Tyler Perry have found ways to integrate faith-based entertainment into mainstream culture, for the African-American audience especially.
“Tyler Perry television shows, plays, and movies are great examples of how religion has been incorporated into film and television and Tyler Perry is a pioneer in the industry for bringing a religious message back into the mainstream media and making it something people are looking for,” Spencer says. “People are developing more of a taste for it and I think there is a huge hunger for it in our communities.”
Carter agrees and said that while faith-based programming is becoming more in demand, it will not always be easy to find networks willing to broadcast for this market. But, with her faith and purpose at the forefront of her career, she is confident she can continue to get “the green light.”
“Knowing your God given purpose gives strength to keep pushing even when people are saying no. Where God guides, he provides and although things are not always what I want them to be, I know what they are destined to be. So I reach down, and pull up and have faith,” she says. “Anything worth having is worth working for and while this is a hard business to be in, I’m not afraid and I trust in God that He will work it all out.”