Monday, April 03, 2006
New Zondervan Project
When I presented Violet Dawn to Zondervan sales/marketing folks (about 60 people) two weeks ago, I heard of another group presenting that day. In fact, just before me, giving me a very hard act to follow. It was the Inspired by Media Group, Inc., four African American producers from Hollywood committed to “serving the faith-based and general markets by creating family-oriented products that are culturally relevant in scope.” What is this group doing with Zondervan? Producing a fully dramatized audio Bible, using African American celebrities.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in that room,” one of Z’s marketing staff told me. “They showed us a video of people taping their lines. One was actor Blair Underwood [from L.A. Law, among other things], playing Jesus on the cross. Tears running down his face—saying “Father, forgive them. It was powerful.”
Besides Underwood playing Jesus, the cast includes Denzel Washington and his wife, reading Song of Solomon. Urban gospel singer Kirk Franklin plays Paul the Apostle. Cuba Gooding, Jr. is the voice of Judas and Jonah. Robert Guillaume plays the angel in Revelation as well as Noah. Angela Bassett will read Esther. For a look at other cast members, see the Web site for the project (not yet fully activated).
“Inspired by . . . The Bible Experience” will total 70 hours, covering the entire Bible. The New Testament in CD and MP3 form will be available by September. The Old Testament will be available some time next year. The cast of over 80 will be using Zondervan’s new TNIV version.
Must all the cast members be Christians? (Such a question easily arises after The End of the Spear controversy.) The Inspired by Media Group, Inc. members decided they would not require that. “The Bible itself is God’s word,” said casting director Robi Reed. (Quoted in USA Today.) “It’s His project, His will and His purpose. If we bring in someone who doesn’t believe or whose faith is not as strong as ours, God’s plan might be that this is a way to bring them into belief.”
Zondervan has been working for some time to get the Bible into the hands of folks who may have never picked it up before. When they were approached by the Inspired by Media Group, Inc. with the idea of The Bible Experience, they felt it was a great match. Paul Caminiti, in charge of the Bible group at Z, happened to be on my flight from Grand Rapids to Boston. I caught a ride with him from airport to hotel, and we discussed The Bible Experience. It was clear from the way Paul talked that everyone at Z is very excited about this “visceral, experiential” presentation of God’s Word.
Zondervan had promised USA Today the first interview about the project. That article appeared in the Life section of the paper on March 29. A press release went out from Z on March 30. I have dutifully kept quiet until now, as Paul asked me to do. But I’m now very happy to tell you all about it. Sounds like it will be a terrific rendering of God’s word. I imagine you’ll be seeing quite a bit of marketing and publicity around release time, given all the well-recognized names involved in the project.