Producers of ‘The Chosen’ speak at Biblical History Center

Published 10:30 am Saturday, September 23, 2023

On Thursday evening, the Biblical History Center in LaGrange hosted a question and answer session with Chris Juen and  Chad Gundersen, the executive producers of the hit television series “The Chosen.”

“The Chosen” is a Christian historical drama based on the life and ministry of Jesus. The acclaimed series is now streaming on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Peacock as well as other free platforms.

“We are beyond delighted to extend a warm welcome to Chris Juen and Chad Gundersen at the Biblical History Center,” said Carlos Cantu, CEO of The Biblical History Center. “Their artistic brilliance and dedication to bringing the sacred stories to the screen have left an indelible mark on the hearts of audiences everywhere.”

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Throughout his career, Juen has been involved in many films working with visual effects and animation with Sony Pictures. From The Polar Express to Spider-Man and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Juen has had his hand in Hollywood visual effects for more than two decades.

Gunderson got his start in film production while in college at the University of North Texas, where he cofounded 90 Day Films in 2000. The studio made numerous award-winning commercials, music videos and short films before Chad went out on his own in 2006. Chad then started Gunderson Entertainment where he worked alongside studios like 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate and Sony to produce multiple life-changing films.

Gunderson said that he was inspired to bring quality filmmaking to Christian entertainment. He said he meets people all the time who are surprised at how good “The Chosen” is compared to many other examples of Christian media.

“It’s funny that within the arts …  there’s this forgiveness in the faith space for poor quality things,” Gunderson said. “It kind of graded on me. I did a lot of theater in high school and never thought of it as a career. But that’s really what God laid on my heart is doing all things in excellence.”

Gunderson explained that a lot of Christian media isn’t done all that well, but it is accepted by believers because the creators meant well. He said he wanted to do Christian media but also make it entertaining.

The show was created by Dallas Jenkins, who was inspired to create a TV show about the life of Jesus, which hadn’t been done.

“There are Jesus movies. There are Jesus miniseries, where it’s maybe three or four episodes. But it’s typically, kind of red letter to red letter. It’s literally open the Bible and we’re going to read it to you. We’re going to put moving pictures to that. There was really no context or creative liberty to it. So Dallas’ vision was just that,” Gunderson said.

Gunderson made it clear that their intent is not to rewrite the Bible and “The Chosen” isn’t another translation. It’s a television show, he reiterated. There are many scenes in the show that are not directly Biblical. He said they are historically and biblically inspired, but they are fiction.

Gunderson described the non-biblical scenes as plausible, noting they aren’t going to include scenes that wouldn’t make sense in the Bible.

Gunderson said that a lot of times in Christian filmmaking, Jesus is shown as very pious, but he wasn’t always like that in the Bible.

“Jesus characters are always very pious, then you read the Bible and Jesus doesn’t seem that way. He’s playing with kids and he’s doing things and he’s laughing and he gets angry all these things,” he said noting that they wanted to show a real Jesus that includes his humanity.

Though now on many commercial platforms, “The Chosen” got its start with funding from supporters in the faith community through crowdfunding.

The show’s first season was released in 2019, fully funded by more than 16,000 people who contributed $11 million in record time, making the show the largest crowdfunded media project in history.

“The Chosen” continues to receive funding from viewers and the faith-based community through The Chosen app and the “pay-it-forward” system created by the producers set up to enable viewers to fund future episodes.