Variety Defends Story on ‘Noah’ Survey After Paramount Claim


Raleigh, N.C.-based ad man Chris Stone is targeting Hollywood to foster Faith Driven Consumer 'movement'

Variety is standing by its coverage of an online survey from Faith Driven Consumer about the prospects for Paramount Pictures’ biblical-themed epic “Noah” conducted by the Raleigh, N.C.-based organization.

Paramount on Tuesday issued a press release criticizing Variety‘s story about the survey as misleading. The studio asserted that the survey did not cite “Noah” specifically in asking respondents: “Are you satisfied with a biblically themed movie – designed to appeal to you – which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”

However, the Web page of the Faith Driven Consumer site where the survey was conducted was headlined “Survey: ‘Noah’ Movie Controversy” (see image below). It also featured a picture from “Noah” and a brief article about what it called “the controversy swirling around the blockbuster movie ‘Noah.’ ” The information was derived from press reports about focus group reaction to a cut of the movie. According to the survey, 98% percent of respondents said they would not be satisfied with such a movie.

The article quoted from a recent story in the Hollywood Reporter stating that the movie has been criticized by some for depicting the title character as a crazy, irrational, religious nut…fixated on modern-day problems like overpopulation and environmental degradation.”

The article ends by asking readers to respond to the survey question and “tell Hollywood executives what you think about this movie.”

Faith Driven Consumer founder Chris Stone confirms that the survey was entirely focused on “Noah.”

“That’s ridiculous…and absolutely incorrect,” Stone said in an interview about Paramount’s claim that Variety‘s report was inaccurate. “The whole thing’s about ‘Noah.’ “

Stone, 50, who owns an advertising agency in Raleigh, has cast himself as an advocate for the faith community and describes his org as a “movement” to connect consumers with brands that share their world view. He calls himself “a follower of Christ” whose motivation is to use his skills as an ad maven to further the mission of Faith Driven Consumer.

Stone has shown a knack for getting media attention during the past few months as he has ramped up the org’s activity. His advertising company, the Stone Agency, primarily does work in the secular arena for such clients as regional banks, insurance companies and automotive-related companies.

Faith Driven Consumer is a separate entity from the Stone Agency, though some of the Stone Agency staffers also do work for Faith Driven Consumer. Stone says that to date he has self-funded the activity of Faith Driven Consumer.

In December, Stone was one of the loudest voices pressuring A+E Networks to reverse its decision to suspend Phil Robertson from “Duck Dynasty” after the patriarch made disparaging comments about gays and African-Americans in a GQ magazine profile.

Stone, in an interview with Variety conducted Tuesday morning before Paramount issued its press release, made it clear that his org has its eye on Hollywood this year as the major studios prepare to release a number of Bible-based feature films. Biblical material is also hot in TV these days thanks to the success of History’s “The Bible” miniseries last March.

Stone has proven that he can generate headlines. During the “Duck Dynasty” flap, Faith Driven Consumer circulated the petition that gathered more than 250,000 signatures in a matter of days — and became a visual symbol of how outraged many of the show’s core viewers were at A+E’s decision to suspend Robertson from the program. Stone was scheduled to meet today with executives from A+E Network in Gotham in what’s a  long-planned face-to-face session following the “Duck Dynasty” flap.

But beyond generating online petitions and polls, what exactly is Faith Driven Consumer?

“Faith Driven Consumer is a mechanism to build a bridge between American brands and the faith-driven consumer community upon which commerce and engagement can occur,” Stone says.

He indicates that there may be opportunities for some kind of consulting work with Hollywood down the road, but to date he says he has never pitched any film or TV companies on his services.

Stone claims to have “hundreds of thousands” of supporters associated with Faith Driven Consumer, mostly gathered through online sources; the Faith Driven Consumer Facebook page had more than 68,400 “likes” as of Wednesday afternoon.

Faith Driven Consumer was born “in concept,” according to Stone, in 2008, but really got going in earnest on the Web and in social media last summer. Stone said he applied for non-profit status with the IRS nearly two years ago, but the application has yet to be processed.

“I don’t know if this falls into the IRS’ problems with conservative groups — I’m not making that claim,” Stone says.

The lack of response from the IRS has put him in a kind of limbo, he adds.

“In an effort to move forward I would imagine we’re going to have to file as a for-profit organization but by nature we are not designed to make money,” he said. “Most of my work at this point is building this community and engaging with people.”

He likens the potential for Faith Driven Consumer to work with brands of any sort to the kind of marketing that Hispanic media agencies do on behalf of Latino consumers.

“We have an active plan to engage the faith-driven community and expand the operation,” Stone says. “Ultimately, if somebody wants to reach out of the faith-driven community, we’re in a position to bring them understanding on that. Just as people who work for a Hispanic agency are able to reach out to the Hispanic marketplace far better than I am — I’ve heard that only 2% of the core people working in the media world would self-identify as evangelical Christian. Many people working in media have never met someone who looks like me.”

Before the “Duck Dynasty” controversy, Faith Driven Consumer issued press releases advising on “faith-friendly retailers” for back-to-school and holiday shopping. It weighed in on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and the debate over boycotts of the Chick-Fil-A fast food chain after its founder expressed his support for initiatives banning same-sex marriage.

But as generations of activists across the political spectrum have learned, nothing beats taking aim at the entertainment industry for generating headlines. The “Noah” survey question may have been akin to preaching to the choir, but Stone sees it as a valid question to ask given that Hollywood is eagerly courting Christian audiences. He acknowledges that neither he nor many, if any, of the survey respondents have had the chance to see “Noah.”

The suggestion that Stone is looking to bully Hollywood is “not true to our movement,” he says.

“Our objective is to advocate and further our community’s objectives. My life does not depend on that financially. .. If we can help a studio reach that (faith) community and it’s good for the community, that’s great. If we get paid somewhere in the process, that’s great,” he says. “But being of my world view, I cannot sell a vision for money that is not compatible with the world view that faith-driven consumers hold.”

Stone added that the community he reps has no intention of trying to dictate the nature of the content that Hollywood produces.

“The studio can make whatever they want. I’m not a shareholder in Paramount. We recognize their ability to do whatever they want,” he says. “But I’m a consumer. If they want me to engage with them, they need to do something that appeals to me. If they’re making movies for faith-driven consumers that don’t appeal to that community, that means they’ve left money on the table.”

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  1. I still can’t believe people watch Duck Dynasty and fake it seriously. So much of it is staged and scripted.

  2. Dave Andrews says:

    For those of us who actually know what a real survey is, the use of the term “survey” for this tripe is offensive. This is NOT a survey! It’s a clear and intentional manipulation which LITERALLY tells the person answering the question how to answer.

  3. It would be helpful to know if Stone has detailed exactly how many people even took this self-selecting survey. They’re meaningless as a poll, of course, but even a self-selective survey would prove pointless if, say, 50 people took it. The site’s blog usually generates just a handful of comments if any per story (with one exception that scored more than 100), a sign of a very small audience.

  4. Jeronimo says:

    The Noah story in the Bible is just a re-hash of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and umpteen other flood stories all of which predate the one in the Bible, anyway.

    So it’s a rehashed work of fiction being rehashed. Do those complaining see the irony?

  5. Arthur Greenwald says:

    With all respect, Paramount’s hair-splitting argument about whether the survey pertained to “Noah,” misses the larger point— namely that Variety’s headline and article suggested that the partisan group “Faith Driven Consumers” speaks for all faith-driven consumers (lower-case) which of course they do not.

    Worse, Variety reported the results of a non-random, single-question poll limited to that group’s membership without question or comment. The methodology and the presumably-biased sample render the poll completely meaningless.

    This follow-up defense contains background that would have been helpful in the first story, but you have still not address these fundamental shortcomings.

  6. We haven’t seen people like Stone because he is a dinosaur, like people who believe in a flat Earth, or an invisible all powerful despot who creates things and beings broken then commands them to fix themselves and do human sacrifices and or torture each other to “worship” him.

  7. Jack Malvern says:

    Whether the survey was about Noah or not, reporting on it was a worthless exercise. A poll with that kind of loaded question on a page that also contains an article stating that other people are already annoyed by Noah is not going to give a representative result even among religious conservatives. The surprise is not that 98 per cent of people who responded ‘no’, but that two per cent voted ‘yes’. I like Variety very much, but its staff (and its editor) need to go on a crash course in statistical analysis.

  8. A friend says:

    Just a thought but, if you’re gonna make a movie about Mohammed use an Islamic cleric si a consultant. Likewise for Jesus use a Christian consultant (although they never quite get the body right… He was a carpenter by trade not a poet, but the right wing seems hopelessly in love with a fem-Christ for s done reason) and Lastly, Noah… If you wanted a film about the old testament to be accurate get a Jewish scholar not the some guy who’s last big movie was black swan….. Come on Paramount- Make sense dudes!

  9. Jim Kimsey says:

    They confuse ‘faith’ w/ intolerance. Intolerance Based Consumers–a.k.a Christian reactionaries is more like it!
    Faith is personal.
    When you hear such a name, you know it’s always the Christian Right’ since there is only ONE ‘true’ faith, right?
    We must not allow such wholesale co-opting of spiritual/personal ideals by bigoted and intolerant Jesus Marketers. We do have religious freedom not be thoughtless sheep.

  10. You say: Would a Studio dare produce a Holocaust film that indicated the Jews “had it coming”? If they did…the Media trumpet would sound and the walls of the studio would come tumbling down. Enough of the double standard.

    This rhetorical statement itself is inherently a double standard. Despite infinite assertions that it is, the Bible (Old or New Testament) is not a foolproof, comprehensive, irrefutable chronicle and opus of historical facts. For one of many things, it is rather well accepted that large tracts of it were not written when it has been asserted that they were written, nor by whom. If some of its dates of origin and authors are not identified, how can the material be deemed perfect? Oh, God wrote it. Well, then, God was IN ERROR on some facts. Like camels, and place names and geography.
    On the other hand, although there is no clear consensus about the mastermind Who and the existential Why of the Holocaust, there is no question about the Where, When and What. The historical record is quite clear and voluminous, in part from the massive, extant, perfectly vetted written and photographic records generated by many of the very perpetrators of the crimes. It would be difficult for anyone to raise five bucks for a feature exploring the theme that the “Jews had it coming”, let alone millions, in any environment, since the historical record refutes any fabric of those lies and would make any such project untenable.
    The Bible is not history, not the kind that’s replete with the confirmable facts of dates, places and a timeline of events. If it is, where and when did the flood occur, and by what logic do we assess that in primitive times Noah was able to get a pair of EVERY GLOBAL SPECIES, and so forth? It’s a splendid allegory with no doubt a core of historical and narrative truth–lost in the sea of time–but potent storytelling is not fact and faithful, faith-based, faith-obsessed proclamations do not make it so. Especially when Christians lay exclusive claim to the tale but ignore that significant variations on the same tale of the Flood abound in other, and older, religions as well. Then there’s Gabriel’s trumpet. Sodom and Gomorrah. The parting of the Red Sea. And on. And on. Someone please explain these events in credible, concrete terms. No one KNOWS what really happened. Devout adherents of Mr. Stone’s Faith organization BELIEVE they know, but belief is not clearly inarguable fact. The ancient, pagan Greeks based, and risked, the entirety of their land and culture on the whims of the gods on Olympus that they were certain had mandated rituals and sacrifice. (And did so long after Noah, Moses and others lived and died.) Science and evidence has investigated Olympus and found no archaeology of deities. Were the ancient Greeks deluded? Any more than the Duck Dynasty fellows? Any less than Mel Gibson? I for one will buy a ticket for “Noah.” A rousing, fabulous, alternative and contemporary version of the myth could be much more exciting, and valuable, and closer to some universal truth, than a customary, banal rendition claiming as “fact” what is essentially, eternally unknowable.

  11. David Gerard says:

    Why would any publication stand by a story so poorly reported? Makes you wonder about every other story Variety covers.

  12. cadavra says:

    These people are nuts. They whine that Hollywood doesn’t make faith-based movies, but whenever one does get made, they begin shredding it before it’s even released. You just cannot win with them.

  13. johntshea says:

    Paramount is obviously right. You cannot validly survey anyone about a movie none of them have seen. And the questions are totally loaded, TELLING the readers that Hollywood has replaced the Biblical message and that the movie is controversial and ‘…has hit rough seas with many faith-based test audiences.’ I’m only surprised 2% disagreed.

  14. jb says:

    Why is Variety acting as the mouthpiece for a right wing Christian group?

  15. Michael Anthony says:

    “Likes” on Facebook mean nothing, in particular when it comes to companies and organizations. Religious groups are notorious for inflating numbers. And the groups answers to your questions?? Sounds like a politician caught out for inflating their support. Thus group sounds akin to the “Catholic League”. You know,the group that rattles its swords over anything that’s puts Catholics in a negative light. The “League” is basically a one nan show.

    Variety standing by its story? Sorry, but there’s too many unanswered questions. You’d have more integrity had you retracted it.

    • John says:

      Please, in my opinion this person is about the money, not so much the message. He’s created a so called faith based community (constituency) so that he can shake down the film industry, he’s looking to act as a gatekeeper that has to be bought off in order to promote Christian themed films. Think self serving Ad guy meets Jesse Jackson type organizing.

  16. johntshea says:

    So Variety gets religion? Big Deal! Variety may some day realize that both Evangelicals and Atheists are minorities in the USA. Most Americans are fairly liberal Christians.

  17. Sam says:

    Variety, I’m really not sure what you hope to gain from this survey, but it’s a ridiculous one, perhaps you just want more traffic to your site because all these right wing extremists love to post, the only thing lacking is adding something gay related– that’s a sure fire way to get hundreds of posts. I’m just surprised that you would choose to run this article before the movie has even come out. But really I question again, why it was run at all, it’s like asking the nazis if they like Jews. The polling is so limited

  18. J. Eric says:

    Since the formation of the major studios, movies have always been produced for entertainment purposes (that is, aside from box office coin). Thus, why the concern about the “accuracy” of biblical films – they are after all, entertainment. For these films to be accurate, they should have been produced as documentaries (of course Mssrs. Friese-Greene, Edison, Eastman, Kalmus, et al were not around 2,000 years ago). Of course I am fully aware that biblical films can be produced by accurately following any version of the Bible but then would this still be entertainment? Where would the human drama or comedy come from? Is there a screenwriter, director, producer or even a man/woman of the cloth who knows exactly what was said and how it was said so many centuries ago? So who’s to say what Noah was actually like as a person? Maybe he was a conspiracy theorist? Maybe he was a klutz? When I see a film about Noah, I don’t want to sit and watch some docu-drama, I want to be entertained because I already know the story. I’ve already watched the Discovery Channel’s version, now I want to see a filmmaker’s (by filmmaker, I mean a creative artist’s vision) version of this, and for that matter, any biblical picture.

  19. RobD381 says:

    This is a flood in a dinner bowl, but really guys? The question has nothing to do with Noah, despite the picture at the bottom. Most people, I would think, had no idea a movie was coming out about him. All you see is Hollywood replacing the Bible’s core message (whatever that means, since we’re really talking Old Testament here, unless it is that God is Cruel and Unforgiving, right) – whatever, HOLLYWOOD REPLACING THE BIBLE is what the right wing extremists are seeing. They have long enjoyed an uninterrupted stance that all Evil emanates from Hollywood, so of course they are incensed (doesn’t take much). Paramount and Variety should just put their posturing to bed and promote and release the movie. Let the majority of Americans (and the World now) decide whether it is a good movie or not. These misguided right wingers don’t even believe the Earth is more than 6,000 years old. Why argue with them?

  20. RobD381 says:

    This is a flood in a dinner bowl, but really guys? The question has nothing to do with Noah, despite the picture at the bottom. Most people, I would think, had no idea a movie was coming out about him. All you see is Hollywood replacing the Bible’s core message (whatever that means, since we’re really talking Old Testament here, unless it is that God is Cruel and Unforgiving, right) – whatever, HOLLYWOOD REPLACING THE BIBLE is what the right wing extremists are seeing. They have long enjoyed an uninterrupted stance that all Evil emanates from Hollywood, so of course they are incensed (doesn’t take much). Paramount and Variety should just put their posturing to bed and promote and release the movie. Let the majority of Americans (and the World now) decide whether it is a good movie or not. These misguided right wingers don’t even believe the Earth is more than 6,000 years old. Why argue with them?

  21. Writer says:

    It was a ridiculously-biased survey question, and made Variety look equally ridiculous for running it.

  22. David says:

    Cynthia, this story is beneath you, I’m sorry you were dragged into its sensationalism. On a related note, I conducted a poll that asked Variety employees if they approve of articles that replace their paper’s core reporting with stories created by the church. 98% of Variety employees said no.

  23. John Jones says:

    This is all too hilarious – any “debate” here requires the assumption that there is some portion of Christianity (or any religion) that is, at minimum, capable of being proven to be objectively true. This, of course, is entirely impossible, both from a scientific perspective, and from the perspective of believers who supplant logical support with personal faith.

    In a nutshell, none of this matters in the least.

    • Steph says:

      You’re absolutely right, John Jones!

      • Erin says:

        It’s a push poll. Period. I can’t believe you are reporting it, frankly. If you can’t parse the language of the question and find the triggers, I don’t know what to tell you. You guy should be better than this.

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