The Passion Project Airs Live on Palm Sunday:
A Conversation with Tyler Perry, Adam Anders, Mark Bracco, and Jacco Doornbos
By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor
Coming Palm Sunday 2016 is a one-of-a-kind live, musical event hosted by Tyler Perry in the city of New Orleans. This style of live event, originating in the Netherlands, retells the Easter story in a live production that features music adapted from well-known mainstream songs and takes place in a modern setting in a large city. This event about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ became a cultural phenomenon in the Netherlands, a very secular country, and has 20,000 live attendees and millions of live viewers every year. Now, it’s being brought to America on Palm Sunday, airing on Fox and being hosted by Tyler Perry.
Movieguide® had the pleasure to sit down with Actor/Writer/Director Tyler Perry, Adam Ander’s a Grammy Award winning music producer who’s sold more than 80 million albums, Mark Bracco of Dick Clark Productions and Jacco Doornbos’, producer of the original “Passion” event in the Netherlands.
When asked about what type of popular music was chosen, Anders responded, “this was so cool for me. I’m a pastor’s kid, and I grew up in the ministry, I married a Christian music star, Nikki Hassman, from Avalon, she sang ‘Adonai’, ‘Testify to Love’, etc. I was Steven Curtis Chapman’s bandleader, and I was growing up doing. This story obviously means so much to me, but how can I tell this story not just for believers. We want everyone to hear, not just believers. I think that is the essence of Jesus’ message, ‘I’ve come for everyone.’ So, taking these songs that are hit songs that people already know and relate to, that they’re moved by, before, prior, in a different setting, and now putting that into this incredibly powerful story… it’s unbelievable.”
Mark Bracco: “I mean some of the best moments have been early in the process when Adam (Anders) would send us songs, and we’d read the lyrics, and I’d get goosebumps. Now that we’re starting to hear demos of the actual songs it’s just like, I’m sitting in my office tearing up listening to these songs and how perfect the lyrics relate to so many scenes in the show.”
Adam: “Well, it’s lyric driven. To add to the story specifically, I have to find the lyrics that work for the scene. I can arrange a song however I need to arrange it to make it work, but we have to start with the essence, which is what we’re singing. The song I was working on last night was Calling All Angels by Train. This is the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is saying take this cup from me. Three times he goes back, and he prays again harder and harder, like ‘Calling All Angels,’ take this from me. There’s even a line in there that says: we were talking about it last night, I forget the lyric, ‘I feel like an ocean dripping from a cup’, or something. Then he’s saying, ‘I need your hand.’The original lyric is “I need a hand to build up some hope inside of me,” and he says “I need your hand to pick me up.”
Mark: “Jacco’s (Doornbos) been meeting with all the church leaders in New Orleans about ‘gathering your congregations and coming down to the park on the twentieth of March.’”
Jacco: “We felt it was really essential to have the local denominations, all over the board, engaged. Nobody owns this story, but at the same time we all own this story, and especially the churches. So it’s really great that from Evangelical to Catholic, from Methodist to Assemblies of God, everything in between, they all are really engaged, super thrilled about this coming here. I even got this morning, the message that the Archbishop approves it and is really excited, so that’s really great.”
“What we, the church in Holland have done, or what we’ve encouraged them to do, and that’s why I was in New Orleans this week as well, is they created the ‘After-Passion’, because every party has an after-party, and especially this party should have an after-party. So what happens in Holland is that churches, in any city where it’s taking place, open their doors, and they have a program where people can relax, re-enjoy what they’ve just experienced, ask questions.”
Tyler: “That’s wonderful.”
Jacco: “Yeah, really come into a relationship with others. The churches in New Orleans are really thrilled with the idea. I also got this morning the confirmation that there is now being put together a committee, all over the board, all the different denominations, and they are going to build something like that. Even more special is that even the city said, ‘This is something we would like,’ So they are going to help the churches organize that ‘After-Passion,’ because even they see the value of it.”
Question: Don’t you think that the U.S. is more religious though, than that thirty-five percent [in the Netherlands]?
Jacco: “Yes, it is, and at the same time, I’ve talked to many pastors, and many people say you would be surprised, or maybe shocked, knowing the amount of people that don’t know this story anymore.”
Question: So from a personal standpoint, why? Maybe for each of you, why is this project important to you? What’s that motivational thing inside that’s keeping you going everyday?
Tyler: “To bring the Word, the Living Word, to make it alive, to give it flesh and blood and have people see it and have great music around it, and give Millennials especially an opportunity, especially where I come from. I look at these kids all over the country, all the gang violence and the shootings and everyone’s so confused, to have this kind of light on television, I applaud Fox and Dick Clark for doing this, to have this kind of light on television is so important. There hasn’t been much balance. There’s always the other side. So for someone to be bold enough and brave enough to bring the balance in a way that it will move and encourage and inspire and change lives, I am in, one hundred percent.”
Jacco: “For me, I would grab any opportunity to bring people in contact or helping people to have an encounter with the love of the man that this story is about because that is what has been the most important in my life.”
Question: There’s been a resurgence of faith movies and Jesus being portrayed in television or in movies. What do you attribute that to?
Tyler: “I just think that people are stepping up and becoming more bold in their storytelling. I also attribute it to, if you want to look at it on a spiritual side, I just feel that, spiritually, it’s needed, and there are a lot of people like him, like myself, like us, that are saying ‘wait a minute, there’s another way to speak to this, there’s another way to address this,’ and it’s done through art and through talent. I’ve seen movies that have completely changed my entire thinking of a situation I had no understanding about. That is the power of what we do. I think that producers, Hollywood, everyone are embracing the need and the necessity. When one thing succeeds, everything else gets green lit. So I think that’s what’s happening now.”
Adam: “I think it’s also a cause and effect thing. The in thing with TV seems to be the darker you go, the more awards you win. Let’s just go dark, dark, dark. So for me, the big motivation too is, we’ve got the Light. Let’s combat that a little bit, we need to balance this out. I think people feel that. They want something else, and there is a hunger for it, I think. That’s what they’re seeing, in the ratings on these things, there is an appetite for it, and there’s a market. So hey, I think it’s a great trend.”
Jacco: “It’s great that there’s still a market for the light.”
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