A Response for The Shepherd King Casting
Here I am, bouncing along on my vacation, celebrating the graduation of my daughter, unaware of the kind of uproar the trailer for The Shepherd King is causing.
The good men over at Loor have been faithfully defending the trailer even though--and this is very important--they didn’t make it. I did. My company, Jovial Productions, produced a proof of concept trailer for a television show. I was the producer. I made the call on who to hire. I put together the team. I made the final call on casting. Loor optioned it, sight unseen, in order to raise funds so that I could produce a pilot and then a first season. They neither paid for or produced any of it.
Loor is a platform that promises to defend the freedom of the artist. This week is proof that they absolutely will. I was off worrying about how to have our first family vacation since my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease. I’ve been madly reading labels and trying to figure out how to make gluten free pancakes so that one of our family’s most beloved traditions, pancake tossing, can continue. All the while, the good men at Loor have been going to bat to defend my trailer. They have taken care of this unimportant bump in the road so that I would be able to focus on the important things. In fact, they even told me not to worry about it. For that I am truly grateful.
But then last night, I made the mistake of signing into Facebook (since I took it off of my phone when the vacation started) to read what they have told me to not worry about. Well shoo-dang, what a kerfuffle. Apparently my decision to cast a young actor that some people have taken to be of African descent upset some people. Especially since they have also identified the man cast as Goliath as a white person. And, since everything these days can be boiled down to a war of skin colors, “there is a statement being made.”
Now, in a twist of irony, the man cast as Goliath is from the Canary Islands, making him an actual African, the young man cast as David is mixed race, Samuel (who everyone was apparently ok with) is Mexican-American (I think, I never asked), and Saul was played by a Brazilian giant. And in my mind, we had an excellent cast of extremely professional actors that all played their roles well. I expect I will work with all of them again (except Goliath, whom we had to decapitate).
But for some people, our visuals did not match their imagination, and that was simply too much. They have fallen into the lie that we are in a race war and that the most important thing when retelling a story is that the right race is cast as the hero. I believe that to be a fundamental error. Skin color is not a defining feature of a person. Racism is a sin. It is a lie about the nature of the image of God. It is defining people according to what you can see rather than according to what actually sets them apart—faithfulness to their creator.
Other people are complaining that my decisions were historically inaccurate. It was Virgil who said that the Helicon would need to flow particularly strong if difficult things are to be put into verse. How much more if the Scriptures are to be put into film. Every creative choice is a risk. It was a risk to cast Denzel Washington as the Scottish King Macbeth. I mean, I’ve never seen him in a kilt. But when a story is universal, a great actor can tell the truth in that story no matter his skin color. I believe that the story of the rise and fall of King David is a truly universal story. It will not matter the skin color of the actors. A retelling is not a reenactment. We’re not making a documentary. I could repeat to you how truth works in narrative form, but I would just be repeating the argument of “The Ethics of Elfland” from Chesterton and Lewis’s Essay “On Stories.” You can trust that The Shepherd King will be a true telling of the story of King David, focusing on the throne rights of the Nation of Israel. I can tell you that it will have a purposeful historical accuracy to the story with an eye on the messianic and covenantal promises. But it will be true the way retellings are true.
I warned the guys at Loor that my production company doesn’t take race into account when casting. They were willing to take a risk on my artistic unscrupulousness. That’s what they do. They risk alongside artists. If you can’t get over the proof of concept having a multiracial cast (or that we don’t care much about your arguments that David was a redhead) because we believe that this is the world’s story of how the throne of David was established so that the King of kings and Lord of lords would have a throne from which to rule the entire human race, then fund something else. There’s plenty of excellent content.
The critic risks nothing, but you are free to level all of the criticism of me that you want. But don’t confuse Loor and Jovial Productions. I made these decisions. I stand by them. The other creators that Loor has optioned have made other content, and if there isn’t anything that you think looks great, then maybe you need to learn to lighten up and enjoy your life a bit. I think your family will appreciate it.
Loor is creating a platform to give creators freedom. If we sink the ship we give up our right to complain when the only thing left comes from the left. Loor has gone to bat for my production company, and I will go to bat for them. They really are offering freedom for you to fund what you want to see. They are offering you a chance to connect with the artists that you want to fund so that the creators that serve and bless you can continue to make the kind of content you want. If it isn’t the yet-to-be-cast Shepherd King that has recently released a proof of concept (that proves that my creative team have the skills necessary to make a pilot) then fund something else. I’m personally very excited about the lineup on Loor. I will be watching everything that gets funded.
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