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‘God’s Not Dead’ Producer: Faith-Based Films Not ‘Niche’ Market

In his afternoon keynote presentation at today’s Purpose Summit at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, Michael Scott, managing partner of Pure Flix and producer of “God’s Not Dead,” spoke about his goal to “make faith and family films that lift the human spirit.”

“We want you to feel the victories and the values that reflect the Christian values that we represent,” Scott told the crowd during a conversation moderated by Variety associate editor Jenelle Riley.

Scott and partners David A.R. White and Russell Wolfe launched Pure Flix, headquartered in Scottsdale, Az., in 2005 with a mission to produce, distribute and acquire “Christ centered movies,” and the gamble has been successful. “God’s Not Dead” earned $9.2 million during its opening weekend in March, and has since netted $60 million  in domestic box office earnings.

Which is all to say, argued Scott, that faith-based films are not a “niche” market.

“There’s enough consumers in this space that if you drill down deep and you find the content that they’re looking for, you’re going to be hugely successful,” he said, citing recent box office juggernaut “Heaven is for Real” and also History’s “The Bible” miniseries. “We’re talking 100 million people plus. (Faith-based) people are waiting to be served content that aligns with their values.”

“Message,” not the story, proffered Scott, has to come first if a faith-based film is to curry favor within its fanbase.

“The engine that drives the train is the message,” he said. “We start with the message and build the story around it. (The) Trickiest part is how to you bring the story and message together. We’ve seen so many films with great stories but they miss their mark. You will have a success if you can wrap (the message) up in a great story. When the message and entertainment come together seamlessly, that’s when it really works.”

Pure Flix invests a good “six months” in marketing its films, which heavily increases its changes of casting the widest net in terms of capturing an audience.

“We went out and surveyed pastors and asked them what were the messages that they were interested in,” he said. “We really focused every dollar into this marketplace. We screened this movie for 10 – 15,000 pastors and community leaders to get that support and groundswell. Leaders, for the most part, won’t get on board with a film unless they see it. You need to understand this audience or you’re going to fight through this creative process all the way. You need to align yourself with people who understand what you’re going after.”

Scott promised audiences a sequel to “God’s Not Dead” and closed the session with a teaser of upcoming Pure Flix film, “Believe,” which “tackles the subject of the cross.” Production on the project – tentatively scheduled for 2015 — has not yet commenced.

“The goal is to do theatricals,” said Scott. “We will be in that three to four (movies) range each year. We need to let the consumer know what’s coming. The key is to know the market you are going after; you can’t screen too often. You’ve got to start early and know where you’re going.”

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