30 August 2013
The Bible in Hollywood
How do you turn the epic story of the Word into a TV show? Roma Downey (pictured) - an Irish actress and producer from Northern Ireland, who played the angel Monica in hit US TV show Touched by an Angel has embarked on that challenge.
Along with her husband Mark Burnett, an Emmy-winning producer whose work includes The Voice and Celebrity Apprentice, she has produced The Bible Series.
The 10-hour mini-series has taken the world by storm, with more than 95 million viewers having seen it in the US - even beating viewing figures for The Waking Dead in its season finale.
When idea met Roma at a special screening held at the Bible Society, she gave some insight into why she and Mark set out on such a difficult challenge. "We wanted to breathe fresh visual life into a wonderful story," she said.
"With only 10 hours to tell the story, it became a question of which stories would make it into the arc of the series. What we did know from the beginning was that we wanted it to be a love story; that it was going to take us on that great epic journey that revealed God's most amazing love for us. So, from the beginning from the Fall of Adam and Eve and the separation from God, the series really became a journey of how we get back to God."
Using the latest CGI elements to make it very "of the now", according to Roma, scenes such as the parting of the Rea Sea, Jesus walking on water and battle re-enactments are brought to life - accompanied by a score of world-famous film composer Hans Zimmer.
The series has received praise from within the Church, Alpha International's Nicky Gumbel said of the Bible series: this series is stunning - superbly acted and beautifully produced. It brings the stories of the Bible to life in an extraordinary way."
Last year, the Alliance held a pre-production special screening of the series for church leaders in collaboration with Geoff Tunnicliffe, general secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance. He has said of the series: "The World Evangelical Alliance stands fully behind this incredible Bible project. It could be one of the greatest gifts provided to the global church for this and future generations."
With the show about to hit UK screens when it comes to channel 5 this autumn, there is hope that it will capture British hearts just as it has elsewhere in the world. Evidence suggests that it might. According to research by the Bible Society in 2010, 25 per cent of people said they would be more likely to engage with the Bible if it were on television.
"People are hungry for God and hungry for hope and want to have these stories presented in a modern way, in a way that they dont feel preached at or talked down to. We wanted to emotionally engage an audience so they could relate to the stories. Even though the story was written thousands of years ago, the struggles and hurts and hopes that the people had are the very same things we experience today.
"The story of the Bible is exciting and dramatic and compelling. It has the greatest characters of any book ever written. It has all the ingredients to make for wonderful TV, with heroes, villains, love and hate, loyalty, betrayal, sin, forgiveness and ultimately it is a story of redemption."