Listening In: Dallas Jenkins and Jay and Sophia Lyons


WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith. And today you’ll be listening in on conversations with film producers Dallas Jenkins—whose TV program, The Chosen, is now streaming on VidAngel—and Jay and Sophia Lyons—whose documentary on the life of Kara Tippetts is now on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

We begin today with Dallas Jenkins. Dallas Jenkins is the creator, director, and co-writer of the series The Chosen. Originally released last year on the subscription streaming service VidAngel, the producers made a bold decision a few weeks ago. They decided to make the program free. The result has been a surge in viewership and a fresh wave of critical accolades for the program. One of the more interesting aspects of this program is that it was crowdfunded, but the funders were not donors. They were investors. That was made possible through a recently passed law that allows online crowdfunding of equity capital projects. When the producers raised $10 million in early 2019, it was the largest such crowdfunding project in history. The financial and critical success of The Chosen means that a second season is now on the way. The producers are hoping to raise another $10 million for season two. As of April 28th of this year, The Chosen has been viewed over 20 million times in 180 countries. It’s currently being translated into 70 languages.

I had this conversation with Dallas Jenkins at last year’s meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in Anaheim, California.

So, Dallas, kind of a big week for you, I guess, here at NRB, right? You screened the movie this morning—not the movie—but the first episode of the show The Chosen.

DALLAS JENKINS, GUEST: Yes. So, yeah, as we speak, we’re just a couple hours away from having screened it publicly for the first time. It’s not fully finished yet. We’re still working on it. So being at NRB has been exciting because we are doing a lot of interviews and showing the show, but we’ve still got work to do. So as soon as I’m done here, I remember I’m heading over to make sure that we finish up these episodes and get them ready for release. 

SMITH: So tell me a bit about The Chosen, but also about the process for getting you here. I mean, this is episodic television, right? 

JENKINS: Yeah. So, The Chosen is the first—there’s two things about this that make it kind of interesting. One is it’s the very first multi-season show about the life of Christ. There’s been movies, there’s been many series, but there’s never actually been a multi-season show where you can really dig into the characters, get to know these characters over the course of the long haul, and really delve into the backstories and the historical and biblical context of what these characters were experiencing before, during, and after they encountered Christ. And so that’s been pretty cool. 

And that idea came about a year and a half ago. I was making a short film for my church’s Christmas Eve service. I was part of a church in Chicago and for Christmas Eve, I made a short film about the birth of Christ from the perspective of the shepherds. And while I was making it, not only was it a great experience while I was doing it, but I was thinking, this feels like the kind of thing we could do more of like, and I realized there’s never been a multi-season show about the life of Christ. And it allows us to get deep into these characters in a way that a movie can’t do. And so that idea was percolating. And that led to what is the second kind of unique thing about this project is that there’s a streaming service called Vid Angel, which is on the rise. It’s a really cool streaming service. They’re known for filtering. They enable you to watch Netflix shows or HBO shows and whatnot through their filtering software. And you can choose what you don’t want to see, or if you find anything offensive. 

Anyway, they’re getting into original content and they loved this series idea. And so they said we’re interested in it. And I got really excited. Then they said, we want to do it through crowdfunding. And I got really depressed because it’s just—crowdfunding to me was something that just didn’t work. It was usually for really small projects. The all-time crowdfunding record is $5.7 million. I said, we need more than that. I don’t know how that would ever happen, especially for a group like us where no one really knows who we are. 

SMITH: Well, let me just interrupt you there for a second. What is your budget? 

JENKINS: Well, the budget for the first eight episodes, our intention was $8 million. So $1 million per episode. Not so much that it’s going to be impossible to achieve, but not so small that it ends up kind of shortchanging the stories. And then we wanted a few, you know, a couple million more for marketing and all that, because we’re doing this outside the Hollywood system. 

So I didn’t think it would work. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I was kind of in this mindset of, you know, it’s not my job to feed the 5,000. It’s only to provide the loaves and fish. Let’s see what happens. And long story short, we ended up raising over $10 million from 16,000 people around the world, shattering the all-time crowdfunding record. And it just showed that not only is there a hunger for a show like this, but it showed me personally that, you know, God was happy where I was, which was kind of coming back outside the Hollywood system and taking a show that’s really important, and these stories that are so important and not having it in the hands of someone else, but having it in the hands of those of us who really want to be faithful to the material.

SMITH: Well, that’s an amazing—the financing part of it—is an amazing part of this story. I am curious though about the actual creative part of the story as well. Eight episodes in this first series, first season. The Bible says a lot about Jesus. It says a lot about, you know, that era in that time, but it also leaves a lot out. And so how do you make decisions both creatively, but also theologically? Cause I know you care about scripture and I know you care about the truth. How do you make those decisions so that you are not just making stuff up out of whole cloth?

JENKINS: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, it starts with—let’s just start with the first foundation, which is I’m a Bible believing evangelical. I believe the Bible is the word of God and our biblical consultants that we brought on to help. We have a messianic rabbi. We have a Catholic priest who’s a born again Catholic who believes in the scriptures as the word of God. And a New Testament professor—who’s also, again, they’re all conservative believers in the word of God. So, we start with scripture and we know—and I think this is what you’re getting at—it’s not difficult to take what’s there and apply it to the screen. It’s been done many, many times before and it’s been done well. So I don’t need to do that again alone, meaning I don’t need to do just that. That’s been done.

What we’re doing is taking these characters and taking these stories and filling in a lot of the backstory, like you said, we know that for example, Simon Peter was married. But we don’t know anything—the scriptures didn’t see fit to tell us what his married life was like when he was home. But we really want to explore that because we believe that if we can identify with and get to know these characters, then their Jesus moments and their Jesus experiences are that much more impactful. So how do we do it so that we’re not just inventing something or violating the intentions of scripture? Well, it starts with scripture first. So you go in and you read everything you can about Simon, for example, or Andrew or Matthew. And you can pick up a lot of things. You know, even in these small moments, you can pick up personality traits that are not difficult to ascertain. I mean, you can see a lot about Simon and know that he’s similar to many people that I know. He’s passionate. He’s intense. He’s at times reckless. But then when that recklessness is actually applied for good, he’s a powerful tool. So what was he like as a husband? I know people like Simon. In fact, my wife actually identifies a lot with Simon. So, when I’m writing about him coming home after a really tough day at work, desperate in his job, knowing that he’s being oppressed by the Romans, knowing that the taxes are through the roof, we’re able to figure out a lot of things. What was driving him? What made him desperate? What made him oppressed? What made him joyous? And so we’re very, very careful with it, but it’s not quite as inventing out of whole cloth, as you said, as it may seem, you know?

So as we get to know these characters before they meet Jesus, we’re drawing from the word we’re drawing from historical context, we’re drawing from the sociopolitical information that we have about that time. 

And then, yes. One of the other things that really factors into it is our own real life experience. These were human beings. And so I can’t necessarily speak intelligently to what exactly Simon went through when he came home from a long day, but I can speak to what human beings go through and that these people are like us just 2,000 years ago in a different setting. So we did it very carefully. I mean, I know that’s a long answer to your question, but we did it very carefully, but I think we did it very faithfully.

SMITH: You know, when a TV series goes on the air, they do a season or maybe they just do a few episodes and then they get picked up for a season and then a second season. But they end where it ends, right? I mean, episodic television, you can kinda end where it ends or, you know, maybe there’s a miniseries or a limited season kind of a thing. But how do you decide what goes in the first season? What goes in the second season? What goes in the third season? How do you decide if there’s even going to be a second season? Or what if there’s three seasons and you’ve told the story and it’s like, what do I do now? Do you just end it because of the way streaming works now? You can tell a story with a beginning, middle and an end, and it doesn’t have to jump the shark at some future season and keep telling the story just because there’s a market for it. 

JENKINS: Yeah. Jesus could literally jump the shark if he wanted to. That’s an interesting story point I hadn’t thought of. You could do it without a motorcycle, but leaving that aside. No. So, the only thing about what all the scenarios you described that is possible is if there isn’t a future season, just because the show doesn’t succeed, you know, people just didn’t want to watch it. So, we released it, we financed it through this crowd funding model. We release it and just not enough people download it, not enough people purchase it, not enough people subscribe to Vid Angel to watch it—

SMITH: Because that’ll be what funds the second and subsequent seasons? Because you can’t go back to the well with the crowdfunding over and over again, right? 

JENKINS: You could, but that’s—

SMITH: But that’s not what you want to do. 

JENKINS: We don’t want to do that. And also, you know, these 16,000 people who are investors, if the season one succeeds they actually benefit financially even before we do. And then it’s up to them. They can decide if we want to keep going. And obviously all of our investors want to keep going. So, if we decided to go back to the well and try to get new investors, our original investors might say, hey, listen, we don’t want to spread this out too much. We want to keep going. We’ll do it ourselves. So, that’s possible. But if it loses money and just not enough people are interested, now, our investors may say, we wanted to keep going. Please give us a chance to keep giving. But that’s going to be up to them. That’s not up to us.

However, we are operating as though this is going to last for seven seasons and we do what we call writing to the end. Meaning, we find out where we’re going first. And then we work our way backwards. So we do that over the course of the show. So we know where the show “ends.” I put that in air quotes because as Christians, we know that the ending of the short story of Jesus is actually the beginning. But we know that the last season is after he’s resurrected. We want to spend that last season after he’s resurrected. We know that the season right before that, so it would be probably season six, is his crucifixion. So, we know that’s where we’re headed. And so we can pace ourselves accordingly to get there.

So, working backwards we know season one, Now we’ve got season one to work on. We write to the end of season one. We figure out where does episode eight end? How do we want to end this show? Well, we know that we want to end season one with the launch of Jesus’s public ministry. He’s assembled his gathering. He’s assembled his disciples, and now he’s going to actually go public and kind of come out of the proverbial messianic closet and admit that he is the Messiah, which he’d been previously kind of keeping quiet. So then we work to that end. And so, you know, we plot out each of the episodes heading towards where we know season one will end, but ultimately keeping in mind where the show will end. Does that make sense?

SMITH: Yeah, you bet it does. Hey, Dallas, I want to pivot in our conversation a little bit if I could. Before we started talking on mic, you mentioned your dad—Jerry Jenkins—who many of our listeners are gonna know is a bestselling author of many, many books, tens of millions of copies, literally of his books.

JENKINS: The Left Behind series was his primary claim to fame.

SMITH: Yeah, exactly. And I’m curious, you know, in some ways I can already tell you’re your father’s son, right? You’re a storyteller and you’re using a different medium maybe than the medium that he used, at least largely. But I am curious, what’d you learn from your dad? What was it like? Did y’all have conversations about story structure around the kitchen table?

JENKINS: Yeah, well, not about story structure per se, but he is a storyteller and there’s several different things that impacted me growing up and impacted me in my career and then also specifically impacted the show. So, first of all, he was always the funniest guy in the room. He was always the one kind of holding court. When we had people over to our house, when he was going over to other people’s house, anytime I saw my dad in a group of people, he was typically the one who was the most entertaining. Humor was a big deal to him. And so humor has always been a very important part of my life. I’ve always been the class clown. I’ve always been the guy in the group who’s making jokes. And for whatever reason, I don’t know if I can explain it, but it causes you—when you have a kind of a comedic mindset, when you see the world through a humor lens, and you’re always trying to take anything and turn it into something funny—the practice of that applies to even things that you’re doing that aren’t traditionally funny. 

So, for example, this show is about the life of Christ from different perspectives. That came and was born out of the desire to tell stories, the desire to see things a little bit differently, desire to find the humor, but also to find the twist. And so my dad, just being around him all the time, he was always finding the twist. He was always finding the thing that made this a little bit surprising or a little bit different than what you’d expect, because humor also comes from surprise. I didn’t become an author, I mean, I’ve written a book and we did a devotional based on this show that I’m excited about. But I was a storyteller. He was also a movie buff. So he started introducing me to great movies when I was in high school. And so that is what started to light the fire towards, you know, visual media, which is not his wheelhouse, but it was mine for sure. So, you know, spiritually, obviously growing up in a Christian home he was an amazing father and amazing husband that impacted me. His storytelling, his humor impacted me. But yeah, he also had a love of movies and that’s where that began.

SMITH: So what was your first foray into the movies? I mean, how did you get from I watched movies with my dad as a teenager to producing a $10 million episodic television series?

JENKINS: Yeah. So, right out of college is when the Left Behind movie was being developed—so a small company out of Louisville got the rights to the Left Behind books to make them into movies. My dad let them know that I was passionate about filmmaking and was looking for an opportunity. And so they put me in at the bottom of the rung, you know, the bottom rung of the ladder. I was a secretary just for this small company in Louisville. And over the course of a few years, I worked my way up and kind of earned some favor and earned some responsibilities and some rights. 

Now, at the same time, the Left Behind series was taking off even more. Now, right around the time they were getting ready to do the movie, the Left Behind movie, my dad and I kinda got the impression that the movie wasn’t going to be kind of what we had hoped for and expected. And because the Left Behind books were doing so well, my dad now had some means for us to start kind of our own thing. And so we started our own production company in 2000. It was called Jenkins Entertainment, and we just decided to start doing stuff on our own. And so our first movie out of the gate back in 2000 was called Hometown Legend. It was a high school faith-based—it was a high school football film that was faith-based. It was before it was cool to do high school football films that were faith-based. There have been like 10 of them since then. So maybe we were ahead of the curve, but this was back, again, when the faith-based film world hadn’t really discovered itself yet. The Passion of the Christ hadn’t come out yet. But that’s kinda how I started and I’ve been doing that for 18 years and that all led to The Chosen.

SMITH: That brings to a close my conversation with Dallas Jenkins. The first season of The Chosen is streaming on the subscription service Vid Angel. The second season is already in pre-production. When we return more about movies. I’ll talk with producers Jay and Sophia Lyons. I’m Warren Smith more in a moment.

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SMITH: Jay, I’m going to start with you. Tell me how y’all found out about Kara Tippetts and what made you decide to do this movie?

JAY LYONS, GUEST: Well, honestly, it was not really on our radar. The short answer is that God led us to do this project, but the long answer would be I’m a TV producer. So that’s what I do. I work for all the major networks—MTV TLC, CBS. I do docu follows, but they’re also known as reality shows. But I’ve worked on all the good ones, I promise. But it’s actually a really fun job and I enjoy it a lot and I get to meet a lot of fascinating people. So, I had wanted to do a story that focused on the end of life issues. And I felt as a Christian person we have something to offer about that perspective. We have a different perspective than the world offers. So I thought if the story was told correctly about somebody entering the end of life and, you know, types of things like that, then it would be beautiful. So, I saw a message on Facebook—believe it or not. A friend of mine posted and said, pray for my pastor’s wife. She has cancer. And that was Kara. And that’s how we met Kara.

SMITH: Wow. So you never knew Kara until that Facebook post. How did you go from just finding out about her to deciding, okay, well, we’ve actually now got to make a movie? Because making movies ain’t easy, shall we say. It takes a long term commitment.

SOPHIA LYONS, GUEST: Well, the long answer—there’s too many coincidences or divine appointments in the story. I was leading a small group of women in my church, and we were just praying about how to be used in our lives with our skillsets. And Jay and I were actually wrestling with, do we start our own production company, because we used to be in full time Christian ministry and tour around and lead worship. And he’s now a television producer. I’m a vocal coach in Los Angeles. So we wanted to use our skill sets to do something more than just serve in church, you know? And so we had this stirring, like, what could we do and what could we do? And because my husband shared his passion for telling the end of life stories, it was kind of on my radar, too. And so when he brought up this woman, Kara Tippetts, that he saw on Facebook. We started praying in our small group for Kara Tipetts.

JAY: And basically what happened is after I reached out to her, she said that would be great. I would love to do an interview, but I was on another show at the time. And these reality shows are very time—they just, they own you. You’re on contract and I’m following with a subject and I’m always there, always on, shooting, producing. So, a few months went by and Kara was still on my mind. And I saw another Facebook post pray for my pastor’s wife, she’s not doing well. She has stage four breast cancer, and it had spread to her body. So I said to my wife, Sophia, I said, that’s the opportunity it’s gone. And she said, no, it’s not, you still need to call her. And I said, no, that would be weird. It would be inappropriate. You can’t call someone who literally has a few months to live and say, Hey, can we come shove cameras in your face? And that would just be wrong. And so I put it out of my mind, and then I just kept thinking about her. And, finally, Sophia brought me the phone one day—maybe four or five days later—and said, you need to call her. It’s God speaking to you. And I was like, no, it’s not. You know, I tried to explain it away, honestly. I mean, truthfully, I was like, you’re, you’re being weird. It’s wrong. It’s not going to work. And she said, no, it’s God telling you to call her. You can’t stop thinking of her. And so I called her, and from that moment we were off and running. So really there would be no movie without my sweet wife. 

SMITH: Well, what motivated you to be persistent? I mean, let’s stipulate for the record that it was the Holy Spirit, but was there something about that story or about what you guys had been going through that caused you to see that this was just the right story for y’all? 

SOPHIA: I think it was more so the timing that God kept pricking my husband’s heart for this particular woman. It was very unusual. It’s not like—God doesn’t speak to Jay in those ways very often. And so I knew this was a special ask from God. And so I just kept encouraging him to say, sometimes we look at the end result and we say, Oh, I want to talk to this lady Kara Tippetts because maybe we’ll do a little video for Kara to show to her kids. Or maybe we do a little video of Kara for them to show at their church. And so I think sometimes we look at the end result and say, Oh, we were not going to call her because then we’re going to have to X, Y, and Z. And so I just encourage my husband to say, sometimes God prompts you to reach out to somebody just for that phone call. Maybe Kara just needs to hear from you to let her know, encourage her in her journey. And that would be the end of the story. Maybe that was why you were supposed to call her.

JAY: But there was something much bigger going on. And similar to, in your book, what I just read about your book and how God is working, Kara’s story was just, it was its own thing. And God picked us up and said, I want you to be a part of it. So she was a mommy blogger. Kara was just a regular pastor’s wife, mommy blogger for children, just moved to Colorado. Her and her husband started the church. And then she had this cancer diagnosis and she got thrust into the national spotlight with a letter that she wrote to Brittany Maynard, who was a very controversial type subject. But the letter that she wrote was extremely loving and kind and it wasn’t necessarily what people might think it was in the media because it kind of blew up. And so then also Kara wrote a book that became a bestseller and won book of the year. So while met Kara and started to document her journey, stuff just really exploded. So God was doing something already and so when we were faithful to just kind of call her, it just went from there.

SMITH: You know, Jay, I can’t resist asking you, knowing of your background in reality television and having seen the movie myself, recognizing that there’s a certain reality TV aspect to what you did. I mean, you follow them around. You follow him into the bedroom. There was, you know, Kara and her kids laying in bed together and you’re interviewing them there. What was the same and what was different about doing that with Kara, doing that sort of thing with Kara, versus a reality television?

SOPHIA: I know what I want to say. 

JAY: Well, you go first and I’ll go.

SOPHIA: Oh, I would like to say that this wasn’t contrived. So, in a reality show, you have to kind of contrive and manufacture the scene—

JAY: Sometimes. Sometimes.

SOPHIA: Okay. Well, in general. I’m not saying that your shows you do that, but in this instance, we literally wanted to be a fly on the wall in Kara Tippetts’ home and allow God to do his thing and just pretend we weren’t even there and just ask her the questions we knew her viewers and her blog followers would want to know. And so it was a little bit different because we let things happen very organically. And if we did do any kind of contriving, it was just guiding discussions, topically.

JAY: But it was very similar. And honestly, that’s what I felt like was missing in the world of the space of culture was a docu follow or “reality show” about someone dealing with the end of life issues. And my wife says it beautifully. She says it was a Holy moment. So to see—because there’s nothing bad in any kind of medium from an artistic standpoint. And, you know, as an author, there’s nothing wrong in any medium per se. It’s whether the Prince of the world—not to get dark—but takes those mediums, whether it’s music or dance and uses them negatively. But we wanted to use it positively. So, there’s nothing bad with reality TV per se. And so when you have an amazing subject like Kara, who is so giving and kind, and has such a unique perspective that people want to hear, I thought that doing a reality, basically a reality show, an hour and a half long reality show and, you know, calling it a documentary is basically what it is. So, you hit it right on the head. I’m glad you thought that, too.

SMITH: I’m wondering, too. You said there’s nothing bad with the medium of reality shows. The one thing that maybe would be bad about it is that the subjects they pick. I mean, they pick sort of the most outlandish and outrageous people and they try to catch them doing the most outlandish and most outrageous things. Whereas you picked a woman who was very much worthy of emulation and you really kind of captured her in her sort of mundane everyday moments. 

JAY: Well, there’s a curiosity about her story. And her husband, Jason, even said that. He said people are drawn to Kara because she’s dying and they don’t know and they don’t understand. And Ann Voskamp was her mentor and was a friend of Kara’s and Ann said it well—she’s in the movie and she says this in the movie—she says, most people close off when they suffer and they don’t want people to know about it. And understandably so, but Kara did the opposite. She invited us in. So people, I think, it’s very cathartic for them to watch this. We get a lot of messages about people who are going on their own healing journey through Kara.

SOPHIA: Also, I think a lot of people who are suffering or dying tend to close the curtain. And so as friends of people who are suffering we’re just left to wonder what horrors are behind that curtain. Kara was gracious enough, also had the vision to understand that in her sharing her story in this way, that would be very unique. That so many millions of people would see that, and it would help them with their own journeys.

JAY: But let’s just be clear, Warren. You’ve seen it. It’s a heavy movie. And although there is hope and inspiration, and we wanted to show the hope and inspiration, and we made a point to that, there is joy in what Kara does. There’s jokes in there. But at the same time, it’s not an easy watch. It’s extremely raw. It’s right in her space. And she is so open. I was even shocked sometimes, and I’ve seen a lot and done a lot in my industry.

SOPHIA: But don’t you believe that that was the Holy Spirit giving her the strength to do that in that time?

JAY: Absolutely. I mean, but I’m just saying, I was shocked with some of the things that she was willing to talk about, that she would even bring up. Normally on a reality show, part of our job is to push certain buttons. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You know where the hot buttons are. But, of course, we didn’t do that with Kara because it was her story, but she brought it all up and just laid it out there.

SMITH: Well, in that spirit, I did want to ask you a question. Because I had a chance to interview her. I was in her home. I mean, did it for the podcast. It was a different setting than you guys. And I experienced that with Kara as well. She was like wide open. She was played flat out. But the other thing that I noticed, too, when I was with Kara and Jason, we weren’t rolling at one point and Kara brought up the subject of Jason remarrying after she’s gone, which y’all talk brought up. And I almost said, Oh, I’ve got to turn the recorder back on and get that, you know? And I ultimately decided not to in part because Jason at least then was so uncomfortable with the idea. And I’m just wondering about how y’all made decisions like that. It’s one thing for Kara to be open and to be willing to talk about this stuff, but you were intruding, not just in Kara’s life, who wanted to have her life intruded on, but into Jason’s life and into the kids’ lives. And how did you make decisions about, you know what, this is okay for us to record, and this doesn’t belong to us. This belongs to the family. Was that a tough decision to make?

JAY: It was. And the way that we handled that is I told Kara and Jason that if ever there’s anything that comes out and you don’t want that, then just say, Hey, I don’t want that. And you have ultimate editorial, what’s called the lion’s cut. You know, the executive cut whenever you want it. So just share openly. But if there’s something you change your mind about, know with full confidence that you have that ability and that authority because this is your story. Now, in a network show, the subjects don’t have that. They sign contracts. And once they say something on the air, you know, that’s it. 

SOPHIA: I also think that they had conversations about this privately. And so they beforehand discussed what they were comfortable discussing. And so there were no surprises. It wasn’t like, surprise, we’re going to ask you this crazy question. It wasn’t like that at all. They were very much steering the ship. We were just recording it. So, we tried to be extremely, extremely vulnerable with them in this space, just like another couple walking through that with our new friends. And sometimes, I have to be honest, it was a little excruciating because you thought I love this new couple that we get to meet. Like and now I’m going to have to say goodbye to my new favorite person. Like, she was just so warm and engaging in their home was full of joy amidst the suffering and what a unique family. So worthy of telling this story about.

SMITH: Well, they really were or really are. I mean, Jason and the kids are carrying on. Jason, of course, now has remarried as Kara I think would be delighted to know. And so it’s a sort of in some ways, a very sweet end of the story. Cancer is never a good thing. Cancer is an indication of sin and brokenness in the world, but what God has turned Kara’s story into not only in the life of that family, but also in the lives of people who’ve witnessed that story like you guys has been very, very powerful. And so I understand a lot of what you guys are saying because I experienced it myself. I also, though, want to maybe pivot in our conversation just a little bit and ask you, it’s one thing to resonate with that story, which I did, which many millions of people did. It’s another thing to put up tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to make an investment in a feature length film. How did this thing come about? How did you make it happen?

SOPHIA: Well, really, it was like God gave us a pathway with little breadcrumbs and it was one little breadcrumb at a time. And we would eat that breadcrumb and do one thing, like call Kara Tippetts. The next breadcrumb, go to Kara Tippetts house and film a little thing for their family. The next breadcrumb, Hey, this company, or a nonprofit generous giving would like some video footage. Can you do that? Next breadcrumb. Other breadcrumb, let’s go again to Kara and Jason’s house. 

JAY: It didn’t start off as a movie. And it was never that. It was only we’re going to go and visit with her. So, it kind of came in little sections. And then after she put out the trailer that we made for her that was maybe three minutes on her blog that got 300 and something thousand views in a week. And then hundreds of publications like the Washington Post and—

SOPHIA: And at that point, I remember Kara saying, wow, you know, do whatever you want with this. Let’s make this as big as you can. What can you do with this? And so we were honestly like, what can we do with this? What should we do with this? 

JAY: And that’s when we decided let’s make this into a full documentary. And that’s when we shot a few more times with her, filmed a few more times with her. And then she turned over happily, she’s like, take all my footage. I have vlogs, I have cell phone. So we took all of that and combined it. And we also had some old interviews that some members of her church had shot. And we combined all that together. So, it feels very self shot. It’s very raw and put together. My wife says it’s like a patchwork quilt. So, we put all that together and that’s what the movie is.

SMITH: Well, God bless you for that effort. I found the movie very powerful. Of course, I knew Kara and know Jason and that contributed to it. But I think anyone who even if they never met them will respond to that story. And just how solidly biblical it is. And how and how bold Kara was, for example, during that Brittany Maynard episode and standing up and getting national and international attention obviously contributed to the story—a part of the story, by the way, which y’all told really well. 

SOPHIA: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. 

JAY: That was difficult because we didn’t want it to dominate Kara’s message, but it was a part of her story and Kara was all about love, but she was also standing for the truth in love. So, one of Kara’s amazing quotes is, “Allow Jesus to love you so much that it spills onto others.” And I thought to myself, when she said it, allow Jesus to love us. And I was like, well, of course I allow it, but then I thought, but do I really? Do I have so much love in me that only God can give that it spills out onto everyone? Do I allow that? Because his love never changes. Kara has so many amazing quotes that changed my life.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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