The Chosen: A New Look at the Life of Christ

The Chosen: A New Look at the Life of Christ

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von BuseckJune 23, 202210 Minutes

CVB: Where did the seed come from for “The Chosen”?

Dallas: About two years ago, I was coming off of the biggest failure of my career, which was the box office failure of “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” I was in a position in my life spiritually where I was open to anything. I didn’t really have a certain future. God had really pressed upon my heart the feeding of the five thousand. Through speaking to my wife and me, and speaking through other people, God made it really clear that it wasn’t my job to feed the five thousand, it was only to provide the loaves and the fish. So I said, “Lord, I’m just going to be open to what comes.”

So I poured myself into this short film about the birth of Christ from the perspective of the shepherds for my church’s Christmas Eve service. That’s all it was supposed to be, just a short film for the church. While I was doing that, I came up with this idea of a multi-season video series about the life of Christ. There have been movies and there have been mini-series’, but there has never actually been a multi-season video series where you can really dig into the characters and binge-watch it like you would binge-watch any other thing.

I thought, “What a cool way to tell these stories and really enrich the experience of the life of Christ.”

I thought it was a good idea, but I kind of had it on the back burner. Then my short film was put online and on social media as a kind of ‘proof-of-concept’ test to raise money through crowd funding for this show. I thought crowd-funding was ridiculous. Video Angel, a streaming service, had this idea and I thought it was never going to work. The all-time crowd-funding record was 5.7 million and we needed more than that to do this show well. But I was kind of in this ‘loaves and fishes’ moment where I thought, “All right, it’s not my job to worry about that. I’m just going to bring the loaves and fishes.”

So we ended up shattering the all-time crowd-funding record, raising over ten million dollars from 15,000 investors around the world. We ended up producing the first four episodes, which are now available. We are currently shooting the next four episodes.

It’s been a crazy ride. The response to the first four episodes has been overwhelming. The feedback we are getting from people has been huge. It’s been a really humbling and exciting journey.

CVB: Who is working with you on the writing?

Dallas: I’ve got two co-writers, Ryan Swanson and Tyler Thompson. Neither of them have done a whole lot in Hollywood. Tyler worked with me on all the short films and vignettes that I produced when I was working at the church. Then Ryan was my wife’s high school dance date back in the day. He had some Hollywood experience, then fell off the grid a little bit as a result of some alcoholism problems. Now he’s sober and we have reconnected. Ryan is an incredible writer, so the three of us are doing all these scripts together.

CVB: I followed the developments on Facebook as you were searching for your set and location. That looked like a pretty cool experience.

Dallas: Well yeah, we didn’t know where we were going to shoot initially. We looked in Louisiana. We looked in Texas. We looked in Utah. We chose Texas, but then we had to find a location for the Sea of Galilee. Every step in this process has been an experience. We’ve never been able to get too far ahead of ourselves.

CVB: Putting the set together takes a lot of work. Tell me about that process.

Dallas: Some of our locations came from a set that was already built out in the middle of nowhere in Texas. This woman did a First Century recreation of Capernaum village and she opened it for tours. So we used that for a couple weeks. We also used a stage in Dallas, Texas for a few weeks. So we built some sets and then used what was already there.

CVB: You have the well-known actor Eric Avari playing Nicodemus in The Chosen. Tell me about the casting of this project.

Dallas: We approached this show with the attitude that Jesus is the star – and the Bible is the star. We’re not trying to use celebrities because sometimes they can be distracting in Bible movies. We just focused on getting the

best person for each part. Eric was my first choice for Nicodemus. I didn’t know he was retired. That was one surprise in that he came out of retirement to do it. He loved the script so much and was really passionate about it. So that was cool.

But all of these actors were surprises. We didn’t know any of them. All of them are young. All of them are new – these diamonds in the rough. The cool thing was just how right they were for the parts, and how wrong everyone else was. It was like God wasn’t going to make it a difficult decision for us. Each person who was cast for the project was cast within minutes of seeing them. We saw actors who were really good, but just not right for the parts. But we may be able to use them in future episodes.

CVB: Why did you choose Jonathan Roumie to play Jesus?

Dallas: I actually found him when I was casting for a short film about the crucifixion that I was doing for my church several years ago. His audition was unbelievable. When we cast him in that short film I was watching him and I said, “This is the best Jesus that I’ve ever seen.” We did several vignettes and short films together and he was just so amazing. He captured the humanity, and the warmth, and the humor that I thought Jesus embodied. He was our easy choice for the show.

CVB: What feedback are you receiving from those who have watched The Chosen?
Dallas: It’s been truly unbelievable. I’ve been in the business for twenty years and I haven’t experienced anything like this. We’ve heard from hundreds of people who have watched all the episodes multiple times.

The thing that’s been most surprising is how many parents tell us that their kids love it. I didn’t think this show was going to be for kids. But we’ve heard from people who say their 8-year-olds didn’t want to stop watching. We haven’t heard much negative feedback at all. The groundswell has been great and word of mouth is really starting to pick up.

CVB: So what is the vision for the future?

Dallas: Our hope is to keep this going for many years. As long as people are watching the episodes and supporting us, we’re going to keep doing it. We feel like we can get about six or seven seasons out of this before we get to the death and resurrection, so that’s where we want to take it.

Watch Season 1 of “The Chosen” any time on Inspiration on Demand.