The Chosen - an Actor's View

Simon Provan (Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA)

About the presenter

Simon Provan, Associate Professor of Theatre at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, is a professional actor and voiceover artist. On stage, Simon has performed with secular and Christian theatres in New York City, Austin, and several cities in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Montana. Simon’s camera work includes a wealth of work in commercials, industrial films, television, and feature films. Most recently, he performed the lead role as August Star in both “The Author, The Star, and The Keeper,” and its sequel “Stand In the Gap,” both produced by Salty Earth Pictures. Simon was recently seen in a co-starring role on an episode of the NBC prime-time hit, “Chicago Fire.” Simon received his BA in Dramatic Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and his MFA in Acting from the University of Texas-Austin.

The Chosen, directed by Dallas Jenkins, has been dubbed the most successful creative crowd-funding campaign ever by several sources. In fact, due to the popularity of the show, each crowd-funding campaign for the series has consistently increased from the previous campaign, and for good reason. This is a show that honors Scripture, even when it leans on some poetic licensing when filling in the gaps of the events found in the gospels. Although there has been some controversy attached to the show, as a Christian I have found nothing blasphemous in the show itself and applaud all of those who have helped create such a meaningful and successful series. Speaking of the series' success, as an actor I strongly believe that The Chosen has been successful mainly because of two key elements — first, the humanness developed in every character in this series; and second, the high-production quality brought to every episode. The first part of this paper will focus on why I believe the humanity found in each character is critical in connecting with those of us living in the 21st century. The second part of this paper will discuss why high production values are of utmost importance to endeavors in media, especially those created by Christians.

First, on humanity. Being able to relate to the many people we encounter in the four gospels when reading the Bible can be difficult for a few reasons. One is simply because these people lived 2000+ years ago. The other is we don't get to know very much about their lives except for their encounters with Christ. However, Dallas Jenkins and the rest of the creative team allows us to see fully realized human beings by creating backstories for many of these biblical characters. The performing artist in me greatly appreciates how Jenkins and all the performers have brought a humanness to Jesus, the twelve original apostles (including Judas!), the Pharisees and Sadducees, and those people who came to faith in Christ after he performed a miracle ( a special shout-out to the actress who played the woman who bled for twelve years). The Christian in me appreciates this as well, as this series helps the viewer to be able to relate to all of these people on a visceral level. As such, when we return to our Scripture studies after watching even an episode of The Chosen, we can carry that new level of connection to the people of the Bible into our readings. Perhaps most importantly, by seeing the flaws and struggles of these fully-fleshed-out human beings, we are reminded that we need not be anything special to be in relationship with our Savior. We are also reminded that we need not be anything special for God to use us as His instruments. In other words, The Chosen is a reminder that God calls everyday people to do His will and His work, highlighting the truth of Ephesians 2: 10, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

What's more, this series does a wonderful job in bringing a reality to Christ's emotional life. We know from the Bible that Jesus really did experience truthful, human emotions. After all, the shortest Scripture in all of the Bible is John 11:35, "Jesus wept." We also know that Jesus experienced righteous anger as we learn in Matthew 21:12 that He overturned the tables of the sellers in the Temple. lf He experienced utter sadness and righteous anger, it would seem that he also experienced laughter, joy (His friend Lazarus coming out of the grave, anybody?), fear (Jesus praying in the garden and sweating blood, anybody?), and a number of other emotions. For believers, focusing on Jesus' divinity, which of course is important, sometimes takes us away from the fact that just as he was fully-God, he was also fully-man. Not partially man. Not a fraction of a man. Fully-man. In The Chosen, we see a Jesus who laughs with his friends, tells a joke or two, celebrates with splashing in the water, yet who also yearns for mankind to repent. By showing a greater human-side of Jesus than I can ever remember in previous portrayals of Christ, I am reminded that it wasn't just the Son-of-God that went to the cross, but it was also the fully human Son-of-Man that went to the cross, taking my sin and yours upon himself. In this respect, we must remember that He fully experienced the brutality and pain of the cross because He was indeed fully-man. What a joyful thought to know that Christ is with me in my pain because he fully understands pain! How wonderful to know that He is also there with me in my joy, my mourning, my triumphs, and my failures. Jesus is my Lord and Savior, but I must also never forget that He is my brother! Thanks to The Chosen, we are reminded of this amazing truth.

This brings me to the second part of this paper: production quality. Fair warning — stay with me through the first few paragraphs of this section. I promise you that all the discussion points you are about to read will be looped back into The Chosen. Without further ado ...

As a Christian who is also an actor, one of the most demoralizing comments to hear someone say about a project I've worked on is, "For a Christian movie, that's not bad." In full transparency, I have indeed heard those exact words directed at some of my work. Ouch! You see, though coming from a heart full of good intentions, the unintended insinuation being made here is that because the film I was in was made by a group of Christians, it need not be held to the same standards of excellence that we expect from secular art. In other words, what the speaker is truly saying is this, "If that film was from a Hollywood studio, I would have turned it off after just a couple of minutes because it was bad." By the way, this is not me seeking your pity. I whole-heartedly agreed with the inadvertent bad review spoken to me! As Christians, we must not settle for art that is "good enough" for Christian standards. We should aim and feel responsible to create works that are, by secular standards, high-quality. After all, when God created the world, He didn't settle for "good enough." No, He deemed it "good." Why would we as believers aim for anything less?

This consternation in my heart comes from embracing a notion that Madeleine L'Engle speaks about in her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. She muses, "Christian art? Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it's bad art, it's bad religion, no matter how pious the subject." (To be sure, the emphasis at the start of this quote is hers). By this she means that if we as Christians are to truly reach others with the gospel through our art, in this case media-arts, then the art of Christians needs to be just as good, if not better, than that of the secular world. I'm assuming that many of us have seen some poorly executed so-called Christian movies, plays, or cartoons (VeggieTales notwithstanding, of course!).

While these may give encouragement to believers, to those people who do not have faith in Jesus, all they see are poorly acted, poorly produced, and poorly scripted forms of art. While in the end it is all about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with these non-believers, we must do what we can to make "good art." By doing so, those who don't know Jesus might actually watch what has been produced simply because of the quality of that production. In that way, we Christians can use well-produced media to plant some seeds in an unbeliever's heart, seeds we trust the Holy Spirit will water.

This takes me back to the late 1990s, when, out of all the Contemporary Christian songs to make the mainstream Billboard 100 was Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine." Here was a well-written song that was unashamedly Christian being played all over secular radio. This was not like many other Christian songs that were hoping to crossover into the mainstream. Most of those songs avoided using the name "Jesus" and instead substituted His name with the generic pronoun "You." Such songs just ended up sounding like any other love song already airing on secular radio. In the end, these songs provided nothing new for the listener. In that respect, it was no surprise then that the song that broke through was bold in its proclamation of meeting Jesus after we leave this earth. (To be sure, there is no denying that God had a big hand in this. After all, the first time the song was aired on secular radio was on a Dallas, Texas, shock-jock morning show, which played the song on a dare and as a joke. No doubt God took that moment and used it to reach millions of people). I believe the success of that song is actually because of, rather than in spite of, its boldness and proclamation of Jesus, along with the very evident raw emotion coming through Bart Millard's voice. In other words, just as many songs in the mainstream are popular because of their boldness in proclaiming of living a party life-style, I believe people appreciated the boldness that Mercy Me had in their song. Just as many loved the mainstream grunge music of the day because of the vulnerable emotions evident in the lead singer's voice, people appreciated the vulnerability Bart Millard sang with, being able to feel his joy and celebration of meeting Jesus. High production quality, truth, raw emotion, and vulnerability — this was a song that certainly was "good art," regardless of the subject matter.

Just as there have been written many scraping-your-nails-on-the-chalkboard Christian songs, I've seen many poorly developed Christian films. I get especially irritated by those Christian films that give the false message that once Jesus is in your life, your life will be magically easier to live. Should a non-believer watch such a film and feel called to Jesus, imagine how quickly they might fall away from the faith once they realize Jesus isn't a silver bullet to fix all of our problems. The message in this case should be more along the lines of an interpretation I once read for Luke 1:37, "Faith doesn't make things easier, it makes them possible." As Christians, we need to take care with the messages we are sending to those we want to reach with the Gospel.

At this point, I have to stop myself and be reminded of the charge to "first take the plank out of [my] own eye, and then [I] will see clearly to remove the speck from [my] brother's eye." Matthew 7:5. As I've mentioned before, I've been a part of several "faith-based films." In those films, the producers were aiming for professional-level work that even the secular world would be interested in watching. God forgive us as many of our films had several issues. Either the sound was horrible, the acting (including some of my own earlier work) was sub-par, the editing left something to be desired, the costuming was amateur-level, or a combination of these things. While believers may support such work out of love, when trying to reach non-believers, those non-believers will simply turn off such insufficiently produced movies. Why should they waste two hours on a movie with low production values when there are plenty of quality-produced films at their finger-tips? Sadly, when non-believers do just that, we Christians lose a chance to preach the Gospel to a people that need to hear it. In the end, high production quality matters when it comes to reaching the lost with the power of media.

Thus, bringing us back specifically to The Chosen. Through its use of high-quality writing, acting, lighting, sets, cameras, sound equipment, special effects, and every other area of production, this is a series that is making good art. Whether or not the person watching an episode is a believer or not, judging against secular works, no one will be turning this series off due to low production values. Just as Mercy Me was bold in its pronouncement of Jesus and powerful in its lyrics, The Chosen proudly proclaims Jesus as the Savior of the world and does so through a high-quality written script, based on the four gospels, performed truthfully by first-rate actors and actresses. This incredible series also allows the actors to show truthful, vulnerable emotions, helping viewers to buy into the reality in which these characters are living.

To refer back to L'Engle, she proclaims "[Jesus] was God who told stories." This is indeed true. Jesus reached people through telling stories/parables that were provocative, thought-inducing, and heart-stirring. The Chosen is honoring Christ in His story-telling traditions. May the Holy Spirit use this series to bring many to faith and encourage those of us in the faith to continue in our daily walks with the Lord.


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Eric Bartsch (MLC) 2023-10-17 3:44:10pm
Professor Provan,

It was exciting to see your name as the writer of this article, as my sister went through WLC for her degree in film, so you may have interacted with her. I find your view on most Christian films to be refreshing, as you go beyond mentioning how poor many Christian films are and push for a qualitative change that these Gospel media projects need. Far too often faith-based efforts, such as shows or movies, are swept under the rug of “good enough for a Christian film.”

With respect to such a viewpoint, how would you suggest more movies be made of similar quality as "The Chosen" while holding to the truth of Scripture? I understand that many movies, while doctrinally sound, demonstrate subpar qualities in comparison to most modern secular movies. Qualities of any combination that you’ve listed (sound quality, acting quality, editing level, and costume design) are major hindrances in the spread of the message, as well as the overall appeal of the movie or show. "The Chosen" is a good example of alternate funding. Is this the only path that other faith films can replicate for a reasonably similar quality? Or are there other methods or ideas you would suggest with your experience?

Thank you for the time and energy that you’ve given to write this article, as well as responding to others in light of God’s Word in film from your perspective as an actor. Lord’s blessings as you continue your work as an actor.
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-10-18 12:46:16pm
Hi, Eric,

Thank you for your kind words, great questions, and support of my work. That really means a lot!

And yes! I had many great interactions with Nicole as she was also very involved in the Theatre Department productions. What a blessings she was to all of us during her time here!

In full-honesty, I'm not sure I have the answers to your great questions, but I will do my best to give some semblence of answers.

For one, not every Christian movie needs to be a Biblical story. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing a fictional story using a Biblical world-view. Just as Jesus used parables of which people of his day could relate, we can certainly use that technique in our own story-telling. The Kendrick brothers do a decent job of this, though I've certainly had my moments cringing at some of the acting and script-writing even at their movies; which generally are produced at a high-quality than most Christian films.

Point two, raising money certainly helps, but I know that isn't always possible. However, film companies should work within their budget rather than stretch things to the point that quantity overtakes quality. What I mean by that is, if you are running everything on volunteer time, then perhaps a ten-minute film is best to tackle. That way, you can produce something of quality within the time constraints of everyone's schedule. You can then shop around that 10-minute film to try to raise more money as people may see the quality of the work and want to get behind a bigger project. This is how many filmmakers in the secular world get bigger and bigger projects. No reason that has to be different in Christian filmmaking.

Finally, no matter what, all scripts should be workshopped multiple times over. A script-writer must be open to constructive critism, while also being able to discern between good advice and bad advice. In my experience, too many times script-writers trying to write a script with Scriptual truths want to get to the filming of the script immediately after writing a script. They don't take the time to hear others read it out loud, to get feedback, and then to take that feedback and do some rewrites. This happens with almost EVERY script in the secular world. Such a process only makes scripts stronger. In fact, I belong to a group of actors and screenwriters that meets in Chicago every so often that do just this. This is all secular work. I would love to know that there is a group of writers out there doing this with Christian driven scripts. (Now that I think about it, maybe that is something that I will try to start up!). Not enough Christian production companies put such workshops into practice. I think the thought is that we should trust that the Holy Spirit will do what He wants with the writer's script. I think, however, that just as strong of an argument can be made that we should trust that the Holy Spirit will put other artists in our lives to help strengthen the script!

Thank you again, Eric, for your thoughtful response. I genuinely appreciate your questions as they challenged me to pause and really think about solutions rather than just the problems. I appreciate you for the deep think!!

Cheers and blessings,
Kendra Rivera (MLC) 2023-10-17 7:59:05pm
Dear Mr. Provan,

I appreciated reading your review and reflection on the film series, The Chosen. Upon recently watching a few episodes myself, I can honestly say that I had many of your thoughts. One aspect you brought up in your paper was that The Chosen gives viewers an opportunity to “get to know” the disciples and people who interacted with Jesus in a way that reminds us we don’t need to “be anything special to be in relationship with our Savior.” I had not considered the fact that we only see these people in the Bible specifically in interactions with Christ, which can perhaps skew our understanding of them as real people.

On the same note, we see Jesus as fully man in a way that is difficult to comprehend for our twenty-first-century minds. You brought up the struggle it is for us to understand that Jesus had the same emotions we do but as a perfect God. The impact of this show is prominent, so I was wondering if this series perhaps made the Gospel not only more visual but perhaps more impactful for you. Was the message Scripture is presenting enhanced by The Chosen’s portrayal of aspects that are tricky to conceptualize ourselves?

Another point I particularly appreciated was how you stressed the importance of creating quality productions when portraying Christian themes. Not only because we are sharing the Gospel, but because it is truly an opportunity to evangelize. If we take that opportunity for granted, are not accurate to the concepts of Scripture, or overall produce poor content, we run the risk of losing a chance to witness to unbelievers. I fully believe, as I’m sure you would agree, that The Chosen succeeds in its mission of sharing and spreading the Gospel in an impactful, meaningful, and emotional way.

Thank you for your time, dedication, and talent in sharing your gifts through media. May God bless you to continue sharing the Gospel with many!
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-10-18 12:57:20pm
Dear Kendra,

Thank you for taking the time to read my lengthy discussion on THE CHOSEN and for responding to it! I very much appreciate your affirmation on my thoughts about THE CHOSEN and Christians in media-arts in general.

To answer your question, yes, my reading of Scripture is absolutely enhanced by watching THE CHOSEN. I fully admit that this especially has come true when reading the words in red. I no longer hear my own voice when reading the words Christ spoke, but I hear the voice of the actor Jonathan Roumie. Because he does such a wonderful job of portraying how intimiate Christ was with his followers, when I read the words of Christ I actually feel He is talking directly to me. I wish I could explain that on a psychological level, but for some reason not having the voice of Christ filtered through my own helps me to draw closer to Jesus in my daily life.

And again, with all these other characters having been given some backround stories, I feel closer to them as well and see myself in many of those characters. After all, isn't that part of the Bibilical message - we are all sinners, no one greater than the other. Yet we can rejoice in our forgiveness through Christ! I've always asked myself that if I lived in Biblical times, would I have believed like others did, or would I have been one of the doubters who needed to see signs to believe? While I will never know the answer for sure, what I do know is I am a believer now, but that is only because of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. This show and it's fully fleshed out characters help remind me that in the end, that is what matters!

I hope this answer makes sense, Kendra. Thank you again for your response. Blessings to you!

Rachel Moldstad 2023-10-18 6:49:10am
Hi, professor, I enjoyed your article. Do you have a favorite actor on the show at all, or a favorite scene/episode where the acting really stood out to you?
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-10-18 1:14:36pm
Thanks for responding, Rachel! While I truly feel every scene and actor in each scene is top-notch, I do have a favorite scene. The scene occurs in the most recent season. It's when Jesus is talking to James about going out to heal others. James admits his doubts about being able to heal and admits he has wonderered why he himself hasn't been healed by Jesus. Both actors in this scene are so real, so truthful, so raw. he answer Jesus gives James is something many of us need to be reminded of when going through difficult times. He says something along the lines of, "How much more amazing it will be for others to see you healing while you yourself struggle physically. You see James, they need to be healed to believe in Me. You already believe in Me. Trust me in this." Even in all of that, we see that it actually pains Jesus to not heal James, giving us that reminder that Jesus is both fully-God and fully-man. Honestly, I can watch that scene over and over and feel touched everytime. It's also a great reminder that God has a reason for every yes, every no, every not-right-now.

Rachel Moldstad 2023-10-19 8:09:16am
That was a very touching scene and definitely something many people can relate to. I like how the show surprises with aspects like that and showing the disciples' lives aren't perfect even after knowing and walking with Jesus. The difference is, that they begin to walk by faith in Him more and more.
Will Costin (MLC) 2023-10-18 3:01:56pm
Mr. Provan,

After watching many Christian movies and forms of media in my life, I appreciated your take on creating good art, that can hold up stylistically against secular art. Additionally, I loved the point you made about The Chosen team creating backstories for biblical characters, allowing us to see them as fully realized human beings. We often see a one-dimensional representation of the Apostles in Christian films, so seeing the men as real people with struggles was indeed very refreshing.

After reading your article, I had a question about the presence of art in Christian circles. It’s no shock that Christian art has been found lacking in quality, although the Roman Catholic Church has maintained a rich history of edifying beauty in its churches. How do you think The Chosen will advance the development of good art in Christian and, more specifically, Protestant circles? I feel we shy away from beautiful art because it’s a “Catholic” thing, despite it being a way to honor God in our churches.

Lastly, I would like to thank you for writing this article, specifically for including a well-thought-out analysis of the show as a Christian and actor. It’s not every day that we are able to hear what an actor has to say about a certain show or movie, so getting into your head and seeing how you view The Chosen has been enlightening. God’s blessings!
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-11-05 9:10:10pm
Thanks for reading my paper, Will! It's interesting that some Lutherans would avoid beautiful art because it's a "Catholic" thing when Luther himself championed art, especially poetry, music, and imagery (i.e. engravings).

I'm not sure how exactly THE CHOSEN willl affect Christian art moving forward, but I certainly pray it encourages believers in the media to produce good art.

God's blessings to you, too!
Alison Foxen (MLC) 2023-10-18 3:11:37pm
Mr. Provan,

I am someone who greatly admires film and acting. Whenever I watch a play or film, I take special notice of the actors and imagine what specific choices they made to portray that character. I especially appreciate how you examined the actor’s role in The Chosen. The Chosen helps engage viewers’ emotions as they watch the humanness and rawness of the disciples of Jesus unfold. This also rings true to seeing Jesus’ humanity and divinity contested side by side. The actor had to be especially careful with how he acted. He is a sinful actor trying to portray someone who is the perfect Christ.

I liked your comment on how many Christian films give “the false message that once Jesus is in your life, your life will be magically easier to live.” This is a teaching many people who claim to be Christian believe. However, your piece also got me thinking about this question: How does an artistic team properly balance the use of law and gospel while producing a Christian film? In one sense, you want your audience, both believers and nonbelievers, to understand how messed up the world is and how sinful we are. But on the other hand, the gospel should always predominate and show us God’s goodness and mercy. The Chosen, I thought, does an excellent job of balancing both. But for aspiring Christian screenwriters and producers, what thought do you have about how Christians can use media to both speak the truth while also avoiding people turning away?

Thank you for your dedication and efforts with this article. I greatly appreciated reading it, and hope it may benefit others as well. God’s blessing on your future!
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-11-05 9:36:24pm
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Alison. If I may so bold as to say, not every Christian film, song, or visual piece of art needs to have both law and gospel, or at least a "balanced" approach. I think it depends on your intended audience. Luther taught that we need to speak in the vernacular of our people. As such, with films aimed at non-believers, who may not even really understand the concept of sin, the approach will and should be different than those projects aimed at believers. A project for non-believers may focus more on the love of Christ with touching upon why that love is so importent. A project that is aimed at believers, that might be a project that can spend more time reminding us of law and then encouraging us with the gospel. And keep in mind that not every project needs to be blatant in it being a Christian project. As L'Engle also said, as Christians, we need not to spend so much energy on writing "Christian" stories, but instead accept that BECAUSE we are Christians, anything we write will have a Christian message. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien would argue the same. LORD OF THE RINGS is great example of a story that is not blatantly about Jesus; yet that series, along with THE HOBBIT, are parallels of the gospel message. I hope this answers your questions at least somewhat. Just one person's opinion, anyway.
Katie Rosenau (MLC) 2023-10-26 4:15:13pm
Dear Mr. Provan,

I appreciated reading your review and reflection on the film series, The Chosen. Upon recently watching a few episodes myself, I can honestly say that I had many of your thoughts. One aspect you brought up in your paper was that The Chosen gives viewers an opportunity to “get to know” the disciples and people who interacted with Jesus in a way that reminds us we don’t need to “be anything special to be in relationship with our Savior.” I had not considered the fact that we only see these people in the Bible specifically in interactions with Christ, which can perhaps skew our understanding of them as real people.

On the same note, we see Jesus as fully man in a way that is difficult to comprehend for our twenty-first-century minds. You brought up the struggle it is for us to understand that Jesus had the same emotions we do but as a perfect God. The impact of this show is prominent, so I was wondering if this series perhaps made the Gospel not only more visual but perhaps more impactful for you. Do you it is possible for The Chosen to enhance peoples’ ability to understand and appreciate difficult aspects of the Bible, such as Jesus being fully man and perfect?

Another point I particularly appreciated was how you stressed the importance of creating quality productions when portraying Christian themes. Not only because we are sharing the Gospel, but because it is truly an opportunity to evangelize. If we take that opportunity for granted, are not accurate to the concepts of Scripture, or overall produce poor content, we run the risk of losing a chance to witness to unbelievers. I fully believe, as I’m sure you would agree, that The Chosen succeeds in its mission of sharing and spreading the Gospel in an impactful, meaningful, and emotional way.

Thank you for your time, dedication, and talent in sharing your gifts through media. May God bless you to continue sharing the Gospel with many!
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-11-05 9:40:17pm
Thanks so much for taking time to read my paper and for your thoughtful response, Katie! In short, yes, The Chosen has absolutely enhanced my ability to understand and appreciate difficult aspects of the Bible. Just having voices and faces to go along with reading scripture (even though I know these are actors) helps me to connect with the scripture I'm reading in a deeper way. I pray other's may have the same experience. God bless you, Katie!
Greta Kopp (MLC) 2023-10-26 4:17:24pm
Mr. Provan,

I especially appreciated the point that you brought up in your article about the high-production quality of Christian films being such an important topic in today’s society. I have had a similar experience with people talking about Christian films as you have in that people have said, “For a Christian movie, that’s not bad.” In understanding that films adapting the Bible are arguably some of the most important, that should not be the attitude developed after watching them. We (the Christian community) should strive for excellence whilst adapting these Bible narratives.

I would love to hear a little more in-depth about what your experience in the Christian (and other) film industry has been. Have you ever experienced certain backlash for participating in any subpar, Christian films? I am also just curious as to why it is that Christian films seem to have so many production quality issues, is it primarily that they don’t have as high of a budget as secular movies? I also agree that “The Chosen” has done an incredible job with the production quality. It’s very refreshing to see a biblical adaptation that seems to do that aspect very well.

Thank you for the time you took to write such a detailed article considering the humanness developed within the characters and the high production quality of “The Chosen”. I hope that you continue to be connected with Christian films and that you’re able to change the way that people normally view the production quality of such movies.
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-11-05 9:46:37pm
Thanks for stopping by, Greta! ;) As far as backlash, I can't say I've really experienced backlash in that it has stopped me from getting other work. As with most artists, the biggest backlash I receive is from my own mind. I'm very rarely, if ever, pleased with my own work. I

As far as the reason for subpar quality in many Christians, my opinion is not necessarily that the budget is too low, it's that Christian media creators tend to go way beyond the budget they have. As such, they fall into the trap of being fine with "good enough" themselves.

I also invite you to look at some responses I gave above to similiar questions.

Thanks again, Greta. God bless you on all you do!
Hannah Bodden (MLC) 2023-11-02 9:24:08am
Mr. Provan,

I found your insights on Christian media very interesting– the fact that Christians’ gifts and abilities are used to glorify God and that the expectation should be the same as in secular media. Because of lower budgets and less competition pushing for a better product, we sinfully fall into the temptation of not delivering our best. In a contrasting thought, Christian media also doesn’t offer the disgust or surprise factor that Hollywood makes so much of its money from. Christian media, although often predictable and as many see, cheesy, it is clean, and can be watched with a clear conscience. The fact that Christ-based content is often at a sub-par level in comparison is due to the typically lower budgets, but I think also with the predisposition that the level will be lower, less effort is made to create spectacular Christian media. The chosen is a break from the usual level of media, and I agree that similar to the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” this show generated such great public attention because it went so against the standard. In secular media people want to be affronted, shocked, and made uncomfortable. Franz Kafka, for example was considered to be such a prolific writer because of how unsettling his pieces were. So in a modern world where Christans are far less open and bold about their faith, a high-quaility show that proclaims gospel and biblical truth is seen as shocking and almost unsettling to a broadly atheist/agnostic population.

After reading your article I wondered how you feel about the advertising of Christian media. I believe that occasionally in an attempt to further the Gospel message in media, well-done works by Christian authors, directors, and musicians advertise only to other Christians, forgetting that there is a much broader market that would also enjoy what they have created.

Thank you for your time in participating in this conference, and for using your perspective as a Christian actor to spread awareness for the lack of effort often put into Christian media.
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-11-05 10:07:57pm
Thank you so much, Greta, for taking the time to read my paper and for taking time out of your day to respond. I so much appreciate your perspective and for bringing up a great point in this disucssion. You are correct that there certainly are Christian-media projects that are wonderful for the edification of believers. I have no issue with those projects when they are openly advertised as projects meant to encourage believers to remain in the faith. The issue I'm mainly speaking to are those projects that are of lower quality yet its creators still try to advertise such projects as "good as Hollywood." We need to be more honest in the assessment of our own work.

As far as advertising to a broader market, this is not just a Christian-media problem. Media itself has grown so compartmentalized. Think about radio...back when I was younger, we had at least two stations in Milwaukee that played just about every genre of music. Now, a station is specifically rap, specifically country, specifically rock, etc., especially when you consider how heightned this is with Sirius XM radio. Same with TV. To age myself a little bit, I was part of the last generation that lived with only four to six over-the-air channels (we first got the first edition of cable when I was about 5-years old). As such, I grew up watching newer primetime shows, but also many shows that were in syndication since my parents were teenagers (The Three Stooges, the first Star Trek, I Love Lucy, the Honeymooners, Mr. Ed, Leave It To Beaver, etc). Now, especially with cable TV and Streaming, you literally have to work to find those shows, if one even knows they exist. Instead, each channel is almost it's own genre (History, Disney, ESPN, etc), so if you are one who enjoys specific types of shows, you'll only go those channels. Advertisers will then aim specific products at those specific channels as they know those products will be something those viewers will most likely be interested in. This way of advertising doesn't seem to changing soon, so I'm not sure how Christian media can easily "find" that broader market.

I genuinely appreciate you reminding us how valuable Christian-media is, even if the quality may be lower than that of what we see coming out of Hollywood studios. God bless you, Greta!
Liza Bornschlegl (MLC) 2023-11-02 9:25:07am
Mr. Provan,

I especially enjoyed reading your article because you eloquently voiced so many thoughts about the actors in The Chosen that I myself had! I appreciated the points you made about how it is so hard for us in the 21st century to relate to Biblical characters from so long ago and how The Chosen manages to make these characters so relatable and human.

One question I had after reading your article was about what it is like to portray real-life people. I’m sure, as an actor, that’s a complicated situation because you have to be someone who actually lived, and that presents another level of depth that purely fictional characters don’t have. I’m not sure whether or not you’ve ever acted as a Biblical character, but if so: what is it like portraying a real-life person from the Bible of whom we don’t have that much information? To what extent should actors and writers have freedom in building on who that character could have been, without crossing any ethical bounds of rewriting this real person’s life?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article; thank you for sharing your actor’s perspective on this well-loved show. God’s blessings on your future work and projects!
Simon Provan (WLC) 2023-11-05 10:21:15pm
Hi, Liza - Great question about the actor's work in portraying a rea life person!

I have had the honor of playing a few Biblical characters, including Cleopas in the WELS produced THE ROAD TO EMMAUS, as Jesus in a few Salty Eart Pictures productions, and other various Biblical characters.

In the case of Biblical characters, we don't always have a lot of information on these people (such as Cleopas), so in that case, I approach the role like I would any other - what is the state of all my relationsihps? What is the main thing the I want? What gets in the way of achieving that want? What tactics do I use to get around those obstacles? What are the circumstances?

Of course, with Jesus, we have a wealth of information! In the case of playing our Lord and Savior, I first and foremost must remember he is fully-man along with being fully-God. Since I can't imagine what it's like to be fully-God, I lean on the human aspect of Christ. Thus, I ask the same questions as above.

Either way, playing a Biblical character is an honor. I want to make sure that whatever I do with the character, I'm honoring what we know about that person. From there, I lean on the scriptwriter and director to help create a fully-fleshed out human being.

To answer your final question, just as we do with a stage or screen-play, honor first and foremost what is in the text. As such, with so little information on so many people in the body, we have a great deal of freedom with creating their back story. However, when doing so, the writer had best research the culture of the time, making sure that whatever world these characters are living in, the cultural norms of the time are being honored. So in shorts, start with scripture, build from what we know, then build from the culture.

I hope that helps answer your questions in some way.

Thanks for taking th time to read my paper and for your response. God bless you!