In the opening episodes of The Chosen, unsurprisingly, viewers of this new series on the life of Christ are introduced to the Messiah. What is unexpected, however, is how they first encounter Jesus: through the eyes of Mary of Magdala.
And that is exactly the point of this innovative new production: to tell the story of the Gospels in a fresh, relatable way. “We made a biblical show that we wanted to see ourselves,” said executive producer Matthew Faraci ’98.
“We wanted to tell the story of the Gospels from a non-stuffy point of view,” said Faraci. “We believed that there’s an audience that wants to see this, and Hollywood is not creating content for them.”
And they have proof that their belief was spot on. The Chosen has become the No. 1 crowdfunded media project of all time, raising $11 million from 16,000 investors for the first season of production.
“When we created the series and said we were going to crowdfund it, people thought we were crazy,” he said. “But there are 52 million people in America who love this stuff. That’s a pretty big niche.”
The opening episodes are character driven. Viewers are introduced to Nicodemus, Matthew, Peter, and, of course, Mary Magdalene, among others.
Matthew is a much-hated young tax collector. Peter, a scrappy businessman, is just trying to make a living with his brother Andrew. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, is a wise teacher and upholder of the law.
With much attention to context, Faraci and co-director Dallas Jenkins created a series that is authentic to its Jewish heritage.
“This is a Jewish story that has become so universal that the Jewishness of the story has been lost,” said Faraci. “We worked hard at making the series feel authentic because that is our heart and because young people want authenticity.”
And young people are among those the team is trying to reach. The series is available for purchase on VidAngel, a streaming service that filters out obscene language, nudity, and violence from movies and TV shows but also delivers its own content, such as The Chosen and its hit series Dry Bar Comedy.
Faraci, who graduated from Calvin with majors in history and political science, never went to film school. But he was challenged at Calvin to pursue whatever came before him.
“Calvin is a special place. It’s like Cheers; everybody knows your name,” he said. “It drives you to be excellent. Your professors and peers push you to be open to ideas and to push the envelope. Calvin is what you make of it, so make the most of it.”
Faraci’s goal for the series is to reach all of the 52 million people who already have an interest in this story and then reach beyond to anyone who has never heard this story. The Chosen will also focus heavily on global distribution.
“We want to give you characters that you want to follow,” said Faraci. “Once that happens, you’ll want to know the whole story.”
To watch The Chosen or support the project, visit thechosen.tv.