Red carpet, crackling of cameras, American actors getting out of a convertible car… On December 13, the Gaumont cinema on the Champs-Élysées in Paris experienced a preview event. But Jonathan Roumie, the star of the evening, did not hold the title role of a James bond or a superhero film: he was present in the capital to present The Chosen (“The Chosen One”), a work in which he incarnates Jesus.
Particularity of the production: it is a series of several episodes and not a film on Jesus of Nazareth, as there are already several. “The films about Jesus are centered on him, reports Hubert de Torcy, director of Saje, the series’ distribution company in France. The division into episodes makes it possible to have multiple main characters who are often archetypes with which it is much easier for the viewer to identify. “
Its format is not its only characteristic. The American series did not follow a traditional route with the partnership of a television group. To make the first episodes, the choice fell on crowdfunding. Bold idea, but crowned with success, since some 16,000 contributors raised more than $ 10 million for the first season, making the series the best-funded media project.
For Hubert de Torcy, this choice allows “Great freedom” directors, without sacrificing quality “Exceptional”. Pleasant to watch, the episodes indeed enjoy a beautiful production and special attention to the sets and costumes. Especially since, as the director of Saje underlines, on the set were present a rabbi, a Protestant teacher and a Catholic priest to watch over the details.
The team of The Chosen began streaming in 2019 through an app and subscription. And, as Katherine Warnock, the producer, tells us, this third bet, on the other hand, turned out to be too daring. Until the arrival of Covid-19 and the first confinements. “The Gospel is free, the series must be too”, would then have decreed the director, Dallas Jenkins.
“God did what only he can do, bring people together to give them hope”, enthuses the producer. Viewership numbers are skyrocketing – over 320 million views worldwide. The viewer is still invited to make a free donation at the end of each episode, enough to collect a total of five times greater than what was collected when the subscription was still in effect. And what especially to finance a second and soon a third season, each to the tune of ten million dollars.
If the application is easily accessible in France – laudatory comments in French do not dry up on the pages to download it – the series will also follow a more traditional route for its distribution. Monday, December 20, C8 must broadcast the first episodes, before a second salvo the following Monday. Secondly, Canal + Séries will take over.
These two channels are part of the Canal + group, whose program director Gérald-Brice Viret ensures that he is “Extremely honored and flattered” to broadcast The Chosen. A pledge of the importance that the group wants to give to the series, the invitation Wednesday, December 15 of the main actor Jonathan Roumie on the set of “Touche pas à mon poste”, the program of the star host Cyril Hanouna. It is rumored that Vincent Bolloré, owner of the group and claimed Catholic, would have been personally involved.
To maximize the audience for the series when it is broadcast on C8, several hundred“Ambassadors” volunteers – of all Christian denominations – were recruited across France. For those who are Catholics, word of mouth seems to spread through traditional means, via the networks of the Emmanuel community for example. “I would like to organize a broadcast in my parish”, confides Françoise, a doctor from the Parisian suburbs, seen at the preview.
As for Protestants, especially evangelicals, they are beating the recall on social networks, where they are very active. Two channels and two different targets, to achieve the same goal of making the series known and therefore making it go beyond the framework of a denominational audience.