Dallas Jenkins, the creator, director, and co-writer of “The Chosen”
Dallas shares his Lemonade Stand Story with our host Charan Prabhakar.
Dallas went through some incredible peaks and valleys in order to arrive at the production of his most successful film project ever, the first multi-season series about the life of Christ and the highest crowdfunded media project of all time.
In this episode, Dallas talks about his faith and how it impacted his career.
It’s a story you won’t want to miss.
Who Is Dallas Jenkins?
Dallas Jenkins is the innovative creative behind a record-breaking, faith-based TV show, “The Chosen.” In this article, you can discover fascinating facts about his life and the incredible new project.
Dallas Jenkins is arguably one of the most interesting and fascinating American film and television directors, writers, and producers active in the industry today. Jenkins is committed in his career to creating faith-based media and his new streaming project “The Chosen” is already garnering a significant amount of attention.
An Early Love for Stories
Jenkins grew up in a Christian household that was always committed to telling and creating stories. Indeed, Jenkins’s father, Jerry Jenkins, is widely known for his own “Left Behind” books that have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. For the past few years, his son has been steadily following in his footsteps.
After graduating from the University of Northwestern–St. Paul in 1997, where he met his wife, Jenkins set up a production company with his father. Their first film “Hometown Legend” was distributed by Warner Bros in 2000.
His latest film was launched in 2017 on a production budget of $2 million. Jenkins has already seen a fantastic level of success on the market. His films are popular on streaming outlets and have attracted various notable stars, including Debby Ryan, John Ratzenberger, and Kevin Sorbo.
He has won awards, including the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival.
A Belief in Faith-Based Media
Since setting up his production company, Jenkins has always had a strong and clear belief that there is an audience and space in the market for faith-based media content. In the past, Jenkins has noted the obsession for hit TV shows like “Stranger Things” and “Game of Thrones”. With the right creativity and production values, Jenkins believes that the audience will similarly be hooked to content based around faith. This idea led to him formulating a plan for his TV project “The Chosen.”
Jenkins has numerous sources of inspiration that channel his creativity. He is an avid fan of a variety of films including “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest<” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Jenkins has also cited his father’s work as a great source of inspiration and would love to make a film based on his novel “Riven”.
Ultimately, though, Jenkins is committed to telling stories where hope and faith shine through even in the darkest hours. Jenkins believes “The Chosen” will certainly hit all the right spots with audiences around the globe.
What Is “The Chosen”?
Jenkins produced a low-budget short film in 2017 entitled “The Shepherd.” Shot on his friend’s farm in Marengo, Illinois, the short film recounts the story of the birth of Christ, told through the perspective of the shepherds. The film was a global phenomenon and went viral on social media with 15 million views worldwide.
Now, “The Shepherd” serves as the pilot episode of an ambitious multipart streaming show known as “The Chosen.” The series is intended to run for multiple seasons. The first season is already famous as one of the highest crowdfunded media projects ever proposed.
“The Chosen” was created, co-written and directed by Jenkins himself. Jenkins is hoping to completely distinguish the series from other past portrayals of Jesus. He believes that streaming over multiple episodes provides the perfect way to do this because they will be able to dig deep into who this man was and what his story was. Jenkins believes that this is key to attracting the interest of an audience as well as maintaining their attention, and he’s not alone.
After the success of “The Shepherd,” Jenkins met with social media expert Derral Eves. The two partnered for “The Chosen,” with Eves as an executive producer. Eves will work to build up an audience for the project through social media. In 2019, a total of $10.2 million from 16,000 investors had been raised for the project. Every investor received equity in the show. But more importantly, it proved that Jenkins was right. There is an eager audience for faith-based content on streaming from the right creator.
Jenkins and the other makers behind the series have lofty goals for the project. They are hoping it will be seen by more than one billion people and be streamed in every country across the globe.
The first season was released in 2019 and Season 2 is currently in the writing stages. It was launched through a mobile app free around the world as well as the VidAngel streaming platform. The series has already received universal critical acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes and has been viewed more than 20 million times in 180 countries.
It’s clear that Dallas Jenkins is poised to take faith-based media content to a whole new level.
Dallas Jenkins Podcast Transcript
Charan: Now, Dallas Jenkins is a son of celebrated “Left Behind” author, Jerry Jenkins, and he first produced the independent feature film “Hometown Legend” when he was only 25. And then he shepherded it onto distribution by Warner Bros. Now, in nearly 20 years since then, he’s directed and produced over a dozen feature and short films for companies such as Universal, Lionsgate, Pure Flix, The Hallmark Channel, and Amazon. His most recent film “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” released in theaters in 2017. He’s now the creator of the largest crowdfunded media project of all time, a multi-season series about the life of Christ entitled “The Chosen.” And it’s an amazing series. If you guys haven’t checked it out yet, please do so on VidAngel. Hope y’all enjoy this podcast.
Charan: All right. I am rolling. And I am with my friend Dallas Jenkins here, who is in Chicago right now. Is that right? Is that?
Dallas: I am indeed, the suburbs of Chicago, yes.
Charan: The suburbs of Chicago in a crazy time of life. But Dallas is an amazing human being. I’ve had the privilege of knowing him for probably a little over a year now, I would say. I’ve known of you a little bit longer than that. But folks, if you guys aren’t familiar with Dallas and his work, if you’re familiar at all with “The Chosen” series, the biblical series about the life of Christ, which is just doing extremely well on IMDB (if you look, it’s really, it’s so incredibly high). People are raving about it. Dallas is the creator of that show and he’s the writer, the director, the brainchild of it all. And honestly, I knew of Dallas because of VidAngel. I was working with VidAngel, creating my own show. And while I was doing that, they were telling me about the first show that they were going to launch their platform on, the VidAngel platform, which is “The Chosen.” And so they showed me like a 20-something-minute pilot called “The Shepherd,” I believe.
Charan: And so I saw that and it was in its rough format, too. It was, like, a rough cut. And even though it was in a rough cut—and I’ve seen plenty of rough cuts—I was so transfixed. I was like, oh my gosh, I’m so into the characters; I’m so into the story. This is amazing. And then right after that, there was a little invitation piece, I believe, by you telling people about what your plans are, your visions, and all that stuff. And anyway, I got so excited and I was like, I would love to audition for this in the future if that ever becomes a thing. And so through those means, I was able to get to know you. And it was great because we— Again, it was “The Shepherd;” that’s what I knew it from. So I kind of knew it from those beginning stages to what has happened now. But yeah, thanks, Dallas, for joining me. I know you’re a busy guy, so we’ll kind of jump in and chat. But yeah, thanks for hopping on board.
Dallas: Thanks for having me. And I appreciate the intro. And yeah, it’s fun to kind of reminisce about back when “The Chosen” was just a 20-minute short film that I had made on my friend’s farm in Illinois for my church. And what’s happened since then has been nothing short of miraculous. And I remember getting to meet you during that time. Because they knew we were looking for dark-skinned actors and whatnot. So they were like, hey, we already know someone; here’s someone you should check out. And you auditioned a couple of times. Eventually you’re going to get on the show. I know that. We just haven’t quite found the right spot.
Dallas Jenkins Talks About How He Got into Filmmaking
Charan: Hey, well, if it’s right, I will be stoked. I’ll be stoked for that. But I fully know, like, the actor side of me always wants to do stuff, but the producer side of me also knows, hey, when it’s right, it’ll be the right thing. And Dallas, I was kind of telling you this, but this podcast has shifted a little bit from what I used to normally do, and we’re going to call it the Lemonade Stand podcast and basically saying that everyone’s got their “lemonade stand” story, right? When you’re a little child and you’re creating your first business, that usually is like a lemonade stand selling lemonade. So I want to kind of go into the beginnings of your career and what prompted you to be a filmmaker to begin with. So can you kind of walk us through that whole process?
Dallas: Yeah. My father is an author and he’s the author of one of the biggest-selling series of all time, the “Left Behind” series, which was huge in the late 90s and early 2000s. And so I grew up with a storytelling gene, and my father was also a big movie buff. We were a pretty strict Christian home. So I wasn’t actually exposed to a lot of TV and movies growing up, other than sports. I was a huge sports buff, athlete. I wanted to either be an athlete when I grew up or I wanted to be, like, a sports broadcaster. So I definitely had an interest in media, but it was primarily through the lens of sports. And then I did remember when I was growing up, I would see Christian media content, and I was noticing that it always seemed to be so much different and worse than any other regular media content I saw.
Charan: For sure. Yeah.
Dallas: So I noticed that, but I didn’t think much of it. I just thought, gosh, this kind of sucks. Whenever I see stuff about Jesus or stuff about my faith, it’s few and far between, but when I do, it’s just not nearly as interesting as—
Charan: [crosstalk 00:07:09] some of the more entertaining stuff, right?
Dallas: For sure. For sure. So then when I was a freshman in high school, my dad started introducing me to classic films, because he was a big movie fan. And I saw the movie “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” when I was a freshman in high school.
Charan: Wow. Okay.
Dallas: That’s when everything changed. I remember just thinking, whatever that is, I want to do that. I want to arouse in audiences the kind of emotion that this scene in this movie and this movie overall aroused in me. And that became my focus of— I just, I want to do that. I want to tell stories and I want to make people feel something. And that was the genesis of it. And then when I was in college is when the “Left Behind” books really started to take off. There was this company out of Louisville, Kentucky, this small little company, that got the rights to the “Left Behind” books to make them into movies, and my dad said, “Well, my son is an aspiring filmmaker.” So, they gave me a job as just a low-level secretary.
Dallas: So, you talk about “lemonade stand.” It wasn’t my “lemonade stand,” but I was for sure just the person who wrote the sign and passed out the drinks. I started out on the low end of the totem pole for sure, and then over the course of a couple of years, I worked my way up, just studying and working. I looked for things in the company that weren’t being done well or gaps that they had in knowledge, and I sought to fill those gaps. I wanted to make myself valuable.
Dallas: Then, by the time that they went to actually make the movie, my father and I could tell that it wasn’t going to be the kind of movie that we wanted to see. We weren’t excited about it, and so I left, and my dad and I started our own company called Jenkins Entertainment. So, in 2000—
Dallas: Yeah, so that was finally my first official “lemonade stand.” It was our company. My dad had the means financially to finance a company like that. We weren’t huge or anything, but the “Left Behind” books were really going completely insane. I mean, millions of copies every year. So, one thing we saw when we looked around the industry, especially the independent film world—and especially the faith-based film world—was there was a lot of people talking about making movies but not a lot of people actually making them.
Dallas: So, there was a lot of “The script is in the hands of this actor” or “I’m working with this one person. We’re developing a project.” We thought, “Well, it seems like something that could allow us to stand out and allow us to just get our foot into the door and establish a footprint is to just make a movie.” So, on my very first film in 2000, it was a film called “Hometown Legend,” and it was a faith-based high school football film before that was cool. Now, since then, there’s literally been, like, ten football films, but we were the first. So, that was the good news, but the bad news was, we were probably a little bit ahead of our time. The industry was still figuring itself out, the independent world and faith-based industry. However, I was 25 years old.
Dallas: I had never even really been on a film set. I think I visited one.
Charan: So, you just did this? You just went for it?
Dallas: Yeah. We just went for it. Looking back on it, when I think of all the decisions we made, it didn’t turn out to be a perfect financial spend. I mean, over the course of its lifetime it didn’t make a profit, but we just went for it. I was 25. I visited a set of one of our producers to talk to him. That was the first movie set that I’d been on. We just did it. It was a good movie. It wasn’t a great movie, but it was a good movie. It’s still viewed, and it got picked up by Warner Bros., one of the biggest studios in the world.
Charan: That’s crazy.
Dallas: Back then, movies didn’t have distribution avenues. You couldn’t just put them on YouTube or put them on any service. Ninety percent of independent films never saw the light of day. We actually got picked up by Warner Bros., actually paid us an advance, like, a $400,000 check upfront. I mean, it was great. Movie ended up getting in most countries around the world; it was translated into multiple languages. I had a friend who was in a hotel in China who saw it when he was there. I mean, it was great. We learned a ton, obviously. I mean, I was thrown right into the fire and I didn’t actually direct that one. I produced it. I worked with a director who was around my age, so we were both just young and optimistic and just went for it.
Dallas: Then, after that, I directed a couple of short films and over the course of the next ten years, just had varying degrees of success with feature films and did a project for the Hallmark Channel. Set up a movie based on one of my dad’s books for the Hallmark Channel. So, you were asking more about how I started, and I’ve started to take too far into the story.
Charan: No. I mean, I love it, because the thing is, it’s so great to see how you went for it. I love that attitude because that’s how I’ve positioned myself as an actor as well. I was like, “No one’s just going to give me a chance.” When I first started out in the industry, I grew up in Utah, and there just wasn’t that many opportunities for Indian actors. There just wasn’t. I had to create roles for myself. I had to just put myself in things, and I volunteered a lot to act in movies for free or whatever, and it was fine. It was great, and it got me exposure. I love that attitude of just building a career that way by going for it. Even now, that’s how I do things. I like to just create a pilot and stuff because that’s how things keep going.
Dallas Jenkins Talks About Struggles
Charan: Now, part of this whole podcast, as well, is talking about some of the struggles you’ve had along the way, and I know you’ve had some fairly big successes earlier on after this first film, and then you’ve also had some pretty big lows, but it’s led you to where you’re at right now. So, can we talk a little bit about that journey as well?
Dallas: Yeah. I would say I didn’t have some big successes; I had some decent success. It was enough to make a living. It was enough to keep our company going. I was growing and our footprint was expanding, and in 2010 I did a feature film called “What If?,” which was a small, low-budget, faith-based film, but it did well. I mean, it’s made money. We still get quarterly checks for it every year. I mean, even ten years later, it’s still popular and doing well in the faith-based space, but right after I made that movie, a megachurch in Chicago hired me to move out of LA back to Chicago, where I grew up, and the goal was to make movies within that structure, to get worldwide distribution but to utilize the resources and the finances that that big church had.
Dallas: And so I did that and while I was there, it took a while to get going. And I did a couple of short films for our church’s Christmas Eve or Good Friday services that were really strong and got some attention in the church and a little bit outside the church, but then the big break happened when one of my short films for our church’s Christmas Eve service got in the hands of Jason Blum, who is one of the biggest producers in Hollywood.
Charan: He does horror movies though, doesn’t he?
Dallas: Yeah, yeah. So Blumhouse Productions is known for “Get Out”—
Charan: Yeah. In fact, I did a horror film that was kind of associated with that circle.
Dallas: Oh, yeah.
Charan: I’d rather do more Christian stuff, but you know …
Dallas: Sure, but “The Conjuring” and “Sinister.” And I mean, it was just— They were huge. And they’re known for lower-budget films that make hundreds of millions of dollars.
Dallas: And he wanted to dip his toes into the faith-based waters because he saw there was an opportunity there.
Dallas: And so he saw my short film and absolutely loved it. And there was a project that I was developing called “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” which was a project set in a church, very explicitly faith-based but funny and compelling. I really liked it. And so they liked that script. They partnered with WWE, the wrestling company, who has a film division that’s actually pretty successful.
Dallas: And they put up the money, they put up all the money for the movie. And so a horror film company, a wrestling company, and a church in Elgin, Illinois—
Charan: Amazing, I love it.
Dallas: —all combined to make this “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” And we filmed it at our church in Chicago and it went really well. And they loved the film, and then they tested the film, and it tested bigger than any of their movies that either company had ever done. Things were really looking up, and then they wanted to know what other ideas I had—they loved those. And so the plan was, I was going to be doing multiple faith-based movies for the next ten years with some of the biggest producers in Hollywood, and Walden Media got involved and Universal Studios. I mean, it was great. And I was set. I was a director with a very bright future and I had made it, which was primarily my goal. I mean, I think for years my goal was to kind of be approved by Hollywood and to kind of make it, and this was my chance. And the great thing about it was I was telling the stories of my faith, which I didn’t have to sell out to be—
Charan: Yeah, this is [crosstalk 00:17:45] what you wanted to do.
Dallas: Yeah. And it was financed by others and it was just perfect, until it came out in theaters on inauguration day in 2017 and it was a complete bomb, was lower than their lowest expectations. And within a couple hours, they were all kind of pulling out and saying, “Oh, I guess we don’t know this world. We’re going to go back to doing what we do best.”
Charan: Oh, no.
Dallas: And I went from a director with a very bright future to a director with no future in just as a matter of a couple hours. And that was—
Charan: Sorry. And I remember that you— I haven’t seen “Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” but I know that the lead that you got, wasn’t he in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”? Is that the—
Dallas: Yes. Yeah, yeah. Brett Dalton was one of the stars of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Charan: That’s right.
Dallas: He was the lead and Shawn Michaels, one of the most famous successful wrestlers of all time, was in the film and did a great job. We had a great cast. I mean, I’m very proud of the film; I still like it. It’s not perfect, but people who’ve seen it really liked it, and there just weren’t enough people who saw it. And so all of that made me very confused, because especially when things went so well leading up to it, and it seemed like God was really part of the process, part of the story.
Charan: [inaudible 00:19:06] everything right?
Dallas: So many things went perfect that when it failed, you go, “Oh, well, I guess God must not have been part of that. I guess maybe I was just wrong all along, and I guess I missed the boat on this and misread the tea leaves.” And so when I’m home alone with my wife on that Friday afternoon, we were confused, we were crying, we were devastated. I mean, just wondering. I put years into this and it felt so right and now I don’t have a future in this business as of this moment. And I didn’t know what was next. And in that moment we were kind of going our separate ways. We were praying and trying to figure out what was going on. And God just laid it very, very explicitly and powerfully on my wife’s heart. The story of the feeding of the five thousand. And then there was this phrase that she felt God was sharing with her, the phrase was, “I do impossible math.”
Dallas: And, you know, depending on your theology, depending on whether you’re a believer or not, and as to whether God lays things on your heart or speaks to you, everyone has their own personal relationship or not with God. But at the time it just seemed very clear what God was sharing with my wife. And so we went into the story of the feeding of the five thousand in the Gospels and read it again. And when Jesus— The people that he’s speaking to are hungry because he’s been talking for so long over the course of a couple of days and they’ve run out of food. All these people and disciples come to Jesus and they say, “We need to send these people home because they’re so hungry.” And he said, “No, we can’t; because they’re so hungry, they’ll faint along the way.” And so they go and they find some food and there’s a boy that has five loaves and two fish, and then Jesus miraculously multiplies it. And it goes out to these five thousand people.
Dallas: And the thing that we noticed about the story that we had never noticed before in all the hundreds of times we’ve heard that story was that Jesus wasn’t surprised by the fact that these people were hungry. And in many ways you could say he was responsible for it. He was responsible for the hunger—
Charan: For sure.
Dallas: —that led to the miracle. And so that made us feel a little bit better, like, “Okay, maybe God is in this process. We’re hungry right now; we’re starving.”
Charan: Maybe you were in the middle of it and you didn’t realize it.
Dallas: But that doesn’t mean that God is not present in it and that maybe he even caused this. And then we thought, ooh, “I do impossible math.” Ooh, Jesus fed the five thousand. Ooh, that means that the box office numbers are going to turn around in a miraculous way. And that these early returns, even though typically they predict exactly what’s going to happen, well, maybe God’s got something different in store. And that didn’t happen. The box office numbers didn’t turn around. It didn’t get better. Nothing happened that indicated that God was doing something different with the numbers. We were pretty confused, but we were content to be in this place of just waiting for God to make things clear. But it was still pretty devastating.
Dallas: That night at 4:00 in the morning, I was up doing what I do typically, and I’m guessing you’ve probably done this and many listeners or viewers have done this, especially if you’re a leader or a business owner: you do a postmortem. You analyze what went wrong. You figure out where you went wrong, because you don’t want to make the same mistake twice. So I was doing a 15-page memo, analyzing where I was at fault, where others were at fault, what I needed to do differently, what they needed to do differently. And a Facebook message popped up on my computer screen out of the blue from someone I’ve never met, just someone I talked to on Facebook maybe once a year. And it didn’t say, “Hi.” It didn’t say, “Hello.” It didn’t say, “Kurt, about your movie …” It just said, “Remember, your job is not to feed the five thousand. It’s only to provide the loaves and fish.”
Charan: Oh, my gosh.
Dallas: And I thought, wow, was my computer recording what my wife and I had been saying that day? Genuinely, I couldn’t figure out where this came from, and I said to him, “What are you doing up at four in the morning?” He says, “I’m in Romania. I’m on a different time zone. I’m visiting my brother.” And I said, “If you don’t mind my asking, before I answer or say anything, why did you tell me that?” And he said, “Oh, that wasn’t me. God just wanted me to share that with you.” And that was the moment where my life truly, truly changed. I can define who I was before that moment and who I was after because, number one, it confirmed that God was involved and present in this circumstance.
Dallas: Number two, it put me on a course to really follow this philosophy of— When that boy brought the food to Jesus, the five loaves and two fish, and Jesus accepted them as worthy, as good and healthy, as worthy of multiplication, that exchange ended for that boy. That’s all that boy was responsible for. And the disciples who went and found it, that was all they were responsible for. And so, yes, God still has us do our part, and we are still responsible to make sure that the loaves and fish are as good and healthy as they can be, that whatever we do provide, whatever’s in front of us. And then of course, when Jesus multiplied, he still had the disciples to distribute the fish and the loaves. So it’s not like we’re left out of the process, and we just sit around and wait for some big miracle. However, the exchange is complete when God accepts whatever we bring, and whatever happens after that is not up to us and it’s not our business. And so for me— I’m sorry?
Charan: You give him [inaudible 00:25:19] you let the Lord [crosstalk 00:25:20].
Dallas: Right, and you can’t be responsible for the success or failure of it if what you brought to the table— And this is true, again, even if you’re not a believer— You as an artist, many artists will tell you that you can’t control the outcome; you can just make yourself better. You can work hard. You can deliver what’s true and what’s good and what’s right and then move onto the next piece. So I was really in a place where I was willing to do that, and I would be fine if I never made another film again. I got to that place. I just wanted to be in God’s will. I wanted to make sure that whatever I did bring to the table was as good and healthy as it could be, which is what made me open-minded to doing a short film for my church’s Christmas Eve service again. And that was the one that you ended up seeing the short film about the birth of Christ and the perspective of the shepherds.
Dallas: And it sure felt like a step down from doing a big feature film with big producers. This was just a small loaf and a small fish, but I poured myself into it and—very, very long story short—it got in the hands of VidAngel streaming service, and while I was making it, I had this idea for a multi-season show about the life of Christ, which has never been done. There’s been movies and miniseries, but there’s never been a multi-season show. And they heard that idea, they saw the short film, they freaked out, and they said, “We think this could be big, but we want to raise the money through crowdfunding, “which I thought was ludicrous. Thought it would never work. I thought we’d be lucky to get a thousand dollars. Crowdfunding only works for small projects. And then the big ones that have broken the all-time crowdfunding records of $5.7 million, which was the record at the time, were done by projects with big fan bases. They had already existing IP and a crowd that was really excited.
Charan: Like a “Veronica Mars” situation.
Dallas: Right, exactly. And “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Those were the two record holders. And I had nothing. I was coming off of a career disappointment. We had no fan base, no Facebook page, no nothing. And that short film ended up going viral and leading to us shattering the all-time crowdfunding record, raising over $10 million from 19,000 people around the world. And I remember when we were sitting at the computer, my wife and I were looking at the fact that we hit that $10 million mark, and we knew that we could make season one, all eight episodes, and that it was going to be exactly what we needed and that we’d shattered the all-time crowdfunding record.
Dallas: She looked at me with tears in her eyes and like a bolt of lightning—just like what had happened a year before—she said, “I do impossible math.” Like, it was just as clear as day. God was putting it on her heart again; that’s what he meant by that. And that has been the hallmark of this whole project. I’ll skip ahead for just a second. I mean, just several months ago, we made the show completely free, completely delay-free, no restrictions, no delays, all eight episodes, completely around the world and in the middle of COVID, and we’ve generated four times, five times the income that we were before once we made it free. And that’s impossible math and that’s what’s been this whole show since the lowest moment of my career is almost assuredly responsible for what’s currently happening with the show, which has been going crazy.
Charan: Dude. My goodness. I mean, I could listen to this podcast. I mean, I am a listener. [inaudible 00:29:00]. This is unbelievable stuff because it really shows how, if you put your trust in him—and that’s my belief; that’s always been my belief as well—like, just what can actually happen, instead of trying to handle all the outcomes yourself.
Dallas: But here’s an important point to make, though, too, is a lot of times, we then mean, oh, if you really put your trust in God, big miracles will happen, and big success will finally happen. And that’s not always the case. I don’t believe that “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” that God wasn’t involved in, I wasn’t trusting God; he just had a different plan than what I thought it was. And I think that’s— The thing is, you can’t think too much about trying to feed the five thousand. You also can’t think too much about not feeding the five thousand. You can’t think, well, if God uses this and it becomes really successful, then that means that I was doing what God wanted me to do. And if it doesn’t succeed, then that means I wasn’t or that I failed in some way. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that. We have to have a different economy of what success actually means when it comes to our art.
Charan: I love that, because the thing is, if we let our definition of success be, like, monetary value, or how many people view this—am I getting more acting jobs? or are you getting more directing jobs? and things like that—if that is our definition, then prepare for disappointment, because the truth is those are our expectations. I mean, no one would have thought in 2020 the world would be shut down. Right? I remember thinking starting 2020, “This is the year, man; we’re going to do some really cool things.” I had a web series in the works. I had all these things, and who knows? Things may still happen, but the point is, God, like you said, does do “impossible math” and gosh, I mean, there’s so many aspects of this story I can keep talking about.
Dallas Jenkins Talks About the Emotional Impact of “The Chosen”
Charan: One thing I wanted to talk about real quick regarding “The Chosen” itself: When I read the scripts, because I had a chance to read them before I auditioned, I was so impressed. You’re an incredibly talented writer and I really was engaged. And I loved even seeing the episodes come out and seeing how realistic it feels. I really feel, like, a deep connection to the show, but not only do I feel it, tons and tons and tons of people around the world feel that same connection. They’re like, “Oh, my gosh, this is amazing.” So what was it about this show, or how do you feel you were able to execute on this show, that helps speak to people’s emotions? Because this ties exactly back to your vision you wanted back in ninth grade. You were able to arouse those emotions.
Dallas: Exactly. That’s a good point. It’s funny. I hadn’t fully made that connection. You talk about emotions. And I think that that’s been the key to the show, is that a lot of faith-based content and a lot of Jesus content, Bible projects, have had spiritual accuracy and spiritual resonance because they typically, especially Bible projects, are oftentimes just reenacting the Bible. The Bible has spiritual resonance, and a lot of times there’s intellectual resonance, because whether you’re hearing a sermon or you’re watching a documentary or you’re reading the Bible or whatever it is, or studying the history of that time, there can be an intellectual resonance. There’s very rarely— I can count on less than one hand the number of times that I’ve had any kind of emotional reaction to a Bible project. And most of that probably came from “The Passion of the Christ,” which focused on one, kind of singular moment.
Dallas: And they took their time on that moment, whereas most Bible projects just rush through miracle to miracle, Bible verse to Bible verse, and you don’t get a chance to connect with the people involved. You don’t get a chance to know them. So there’s no emotional resonance. And “The Chosen,” I think, is impacting people around the world. And it’s also impacting people regardless of age, regardless of gender, regardless of culture, skin color, faith tradition. I can’t think of a project like this that has united, at least in its fandom, LDS, Catholic, Jewish, Evangelical viewers. They get together and then they start arguing about theology and all the things that happened after Jesus was there. But I think it’s because of the emotional resonance. I think that when you’re seeing Jesus through the eyes of those who actually met him and were changed by him, and you- and you identify with and connect with, and we take the time to portray their struggles, both personally and in the history and culture of that time.
Dallas: Then when the impact happened. When the miracle happens when Jesus steps in, it’s not just spiritually resonant, it’s not just intellectually resonant, but it’s emotionally resonant. And it’s our hearts that typically compel us to action. And you’re seeing that just, even in the world right now with the protests or with the reactions to COVID, you can look at statistics all day long. And in fact, statistics right now don’t even really matter to either side. And people will say, “I don’t want to hear your facts and figures. I’m feeling something important right now. And I need to express it.” And emotion spurs action and emotion spurs response. And so people within the context of a Jesus show, they are finding even more spiritual resonance. And they’re reading the Bible more than ever because of their emotional response to the show. Emotions should never come at the expense of truth. And they should never come at the expense of what’s spiritually important, but they can be a guide and a propellant into what’s true, and especially, and hopefully, it’s a response to what’s true.
Charan: Yeah. Well, I know we don’t have much more time. In fact, we might even be overtime a little bit.
Dallas: We’ve got a couple minutes. It’s okay, but, yeah.
Dallas Jenkins Talks About Finding Joy
Charan: Okay. Well, I just want to kind of wrap up with a couple of thoughts or a couple of questions real quick. In regards to emotions connecting us to truth. I’m just a big proponent of truth equaling—well, I mean, I don’t know. This is kind of an interesting way of looking at it, but I find that the things that are true, like, found in the scriptures and whatnot, bring me a sense of pure joy. And for me, that joy is what connects me and holds me onto my scriptural- my beliefs in Jesus and whatnot. There is a joy that comes to it. So what has brought you joy? And especially during a time of craziness. What has brought you joy and centeredness and whatnot?
Dallas: Yeah. And I want to make sure I clarify. I think I misspoke two minutes ago when I said emotions can drive you to truth. They can. But I think it’s more important that emotions are in a reaction to truth, because I do think our emotions in a vacuum can sometimes betray us, but I think that when they are a response to truth, then that’s where true joy comes from, like you mentioned. And there’s a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is a temporary state. And right now I’m not very happy—and my wife and I talk about this—you almost feel depressed right now. I’ve never struggled with depression, but there’s just this weight, just constantly. When you wake up and you go to bed at night, there’s just this weight of the tension in society and the anger.
Dallas: And then of course, we’re coming on the heels of and still in the midst of a global pandemic. And even that has become politicized and we’re arguing about that. And I’m not happy, but I’m joyous. And what brings me joy is when I am A) in God’s will and B) when I’m doing truthful things. And I believe that this show is truthful. And I believe that my life with my family and my wife and my kids, that’s truth. I’ve spent more time than ever with my family in the last couple months. That’s brought me joy. But I can tell you that being in this place of realizing that it’s not my job to feed the five thousand—it’s only to provide the loaves and fish—is most responsible for my joy over the last three years.
Dallas: In fact, I said it— I did a piece, a Facebook post that went kind of mini-viral for a personal post. I wasn’t doing it on a big page that has millions of followers, so it didn’t go truly viral. But I just posted this on my own personal Facebook page, this kind of just, like, a couple of pages of thoughts, all in the midst of my pain of the failure of my movie. And I said, but I’m truly at peace and I truly have joy because I truly am in this place of knowing that whatever I do, as long as I’m bringing loaves and fish that are healthy and good, I’m genuinely okay with whatever happens. And that is the difference between joy and happiness. And that is what a relationship with Christ can bring you, is a sense of joy in the midst of circumstances that aren’t, that don’t feel, joyous. And a sense of peace, even when there’s chaos. And that’s what I feel like; that’s what I know that I have right now.
Charan: Yeah. Oh man. Dallas, I love that, because one of the things that I’ve been really focusing on myself is authenticity or truth, like you were saying. And for me, I found that my personal relationship with Christ is, like, the only thing that really brings me that kind of abounding joy, right? And that feeling of, hey, you know what? I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I have no idea. I have no idea how, and this future is becoming more and more uncertain. And I look at the media. I have no idea what to believe.
Charan: But at the same time, I find that this joy through Christ centers me, and it binds me down in a sense, in the best way possible, meaning I don’t have to— Even though I’m not completely happy, even though I’m very uncertain about a lot of things, at least I can have that joy with me. And as long as, like you said, you’re doing your part, not being completely responsible for five thousand, just doing what you’re meant to do, it’s unbelievable. So last question, Dallas, last question. What would you tell your younger self or the future generation?
Dallas Jenkins Talks About What He Would Tell His Younger Self
Dallas: Yeah, I think you could probably guess what that is at this point. I would say, “It’s not your job to feed the five thousand. It’s only to provide the loaves and fish.” I wish I would have heard that when I was in my twenties; it would have saved me a lot of stress. I think it just would have saved me from being a control-oriented-type person. And so right now with “The Chosen,” we’ve had a ton of success. The show is exploding. Income is coming in that’s going to allow us to finance future episodes and seasons.
Dallas: But I still don’t know where season two is going to be filmed. We don’t have all the money just yet. COVID is tough to navigate through. We don’t know exactly how we’re going to make sense of all that. And I’m totally cool. I’m totally fine with it, because I know that I’m just doing my part. And where we’re at in five years is none of my business; where we’re at in two months is none of my business. So we’ll figure that out or God will reveal that to us over the next couple of weeks. So that’s definitely what I would have told my younger self.
Charan: Yeah. And which helps you to relax a little bit, and just know that, hey, if God can help this planet spin in orbit and go around the sun, he can take care of circumstances here on Earth as well.
Dallas: Absolutely. Well said, thank you.
Charan: Awesome. Well, Dallas, thank you so much for taking the time and chatting with me. I know you’re a busy guy, but seriously, I’ve loved getting to know you. I look forward to working with you when the time is right. I love working with your producers as well. Like, I’ve had great conversations with some of your producers, are great. And yeah, you’re doing some great stuff. I really appreciate your work and God bless, man. Thanks so much for your time, OK?
Dallas: Thank you so much. We’ll do it again.
Charan: All right. Take care. We’ll see ya.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to the Lemonade Stand podcast and we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback in the reviews. And if you or someone you know has an awesome Lemonade Stand Story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.