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Creative Minds Behind ‘Jesus Revolution’ and ‘The Chosen’ Launch $75 Million Faith-Based Studio

Creative Minds Behind ‘Jesus Revolution’ and ‘The Chosen’ Launch $75 Million Faith-Based Studio

A successful film producer and a former Netflix executive have teamed up to create a new studio that will bring “values-driven entertainment” to a global audience.

According to a Dec. 6 news release (available below), John Erwin and Kelly Merryman Hoogstraten are launching The Wonder Project “to craft high-quality, hopeful entertainment tailored for a substantial faith and values-oriented audience.”

The pair have already raised $75 million in investment capital, according to the release.

“Here at The WONDER Project, our goal is to flood the world with hope,” Merryman Hoogstraten said in the release. “I am convinced we can make a difference by telling stories that restore hope in things worth believing in — family, community, God, and America.”

“The WONDER Project is tapping into a massive, global need. The faith and values audience is global, and the quality shows being developed will meet the long-standing and growing consumer demand,” added Ian Doody, managing partner at Powerhouse Capital, which has invested in the studio.

The release cited the success of numerous faith-based projects as evidence for the existence of a market for such entertainment.

In addition to “Jesus Revolution,” which Erwin co-directed, the release listed “the global television phenomenon, The Chosen; and films like The Passion of the Christ, Heaven is for Real, I Can Only Imagine, War Room, Miracles from Heaven, Soul Surfer, and most recently, The Sound of Freedom, among others.”

Variety noted that Erwin has something of a reputation for creating entertaining films with “shoestring budgets,” but said the investment so far in The Wonder Project should allow him to “step up the quality, scale and scope” of his work.

Then, with those higher production values in play, the group will market its projects to mainstream outlets in addition to developing their own distribution paths.

“What if we could dream a little bigger?” Erwin asked Variety rhetorically. “What if we could build a studio of our own that empowers creatives in this space with a level of freedom and resources they haven’t had before?

“We want to be partners with studios and streamers and anybody who wants to reach this audience in profound new ways. But we want to do it while building something that is independent and can last,” he added.

Erwin said he was aware of the opportunity to market faith-based content because he himself is “part of this audience,” as are his wife and four children.

“There’s an audience that I serve with the content that we make,” he told Variety. “I need more of this in my home.”

Merryman Hoogstraten expressed a similar sentiment.

“We need to create a scaled solution for the heartland, for the audience that goes to school with my kids,” Merryman Hoogstraten told Variety. “I love the idea of doing so many great stories that are values-based.

“We just want to flood the world with hope right now.”

You can read the entire news release from The Wonder Project below.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. and AUSTIN, Texas (Dec. 6, 2023)  Industry veterans from entertainment and technology have launched The WONDER Project (WP), heralding a bold transformation in values-driven entertainment. The independent studio is founded by accomplished film producer, Jon Erwin, and is overseen by former Netflix and YouTube executive, Kelly Merryman Hoogstraten. With more than $75 million raised in seed and Series A funding from industry titans Sovereign’s Capital, Lionsgate, Powerhouse Capital, United Talent Agency, and Jason Blum, among others, WP is poised to craft high-quality, hopeful entertainment tailored for a substantial faith and values-oriented audience.

The venture draws on the unique talents of faith-based entertainment pioneer, Erwin, and Merryman Hoogstraten, an executive with a proven track record of building successful online and streaming strategies at global platforms. Erwin – celebrated for hits such as the recent Jesus Revolution, American Underdog , and I Can Only Imagine – is the founder of WP and its Chief Content Officer. Merryman Hoogstraten is CEO of the ambitious new venture.

“The dream of The WONDER Project is to create a trusted brand that serves the faith and values audience globally with movies and TV shows they didn’t know were possible,” Erwin said. We will achieve this by giving the creatives dedicated to this audience (including myself) a level of freedom and resources they’ve never had before. This level of talent combined with the power of the stories we are developing is really inspiring! I can’t wait for the audience to experience the things we are working on.”

“I believe entertainment sits upstream from culture,” said Merryman Hoogstraten. “And today, the world needs a way to find common ground again. Here at The WONDER Project, our goal is to flood the world with hope. I am convinced we can make a difference by telling stories that restore hope in things worth believing in – family, community, God, and America. We will do this at scale for a global audience that seeks faith and values-driven entertainment. And we will give the audience a brand they can call their own.”

In addition to Erwin’s success with Jesus Revolution and the triumphs of other creators with whom WP will soon announce alliances, this venture will build upon the success of numerous film and TV shows that have played to this audience over the past 20 years, including the global television phenomenon, The Chosen; and films like The Passion of the Christ, Heaven is for Real, I Can Only Imagine, War Room, Miracles from Heaven, Soul Surfer, and most recently, The Sound of Freedom, among others.

These projects’ accomplishments are a testament to the hunger for such storytelling; however, the mainstream, legacy entertainment industry has been inconsistent in its backing of values-centric films and TV shows, leaving an opportunity for WP to fill the demand from this global audience. Investors have recognized the potential, placing substantial capital behind The WP’s strategy to create enduring entertainment that will make audiences feel a sense of wonder.

One of the most critical WP creative alliances is with Dallas Jenkins, creator of The Chosen. Jenkins serves as a special advisor to WP, as well as a large shareholder, and will be an executive producer on some of The WP’s content.

“There’s nothing quite like the power of an affinity audience that is underserved with programming options,” said Jason Blum, an investor for The WP. “I look forward to the many high-quality stories this talented team will curate and produce for the faith and values-based audience across the globe over the coming years.”

Considering the enormous global potential of the faith and value-based audience – there are more than 2.4 billion Christians globally and many more identifying as religious or spiritual – The WP offers a significant opportunity for its partners and stakeholders. Research has indicated that viewers prioritize quality and authenticity, and this well-capitalized venture is gearing up to raise the standard in this domain.

“The WONDER Project is tapping into a massive, global need. The faith and values audience is global, and the quality shows being developed will meet the long-standing and growing consumer demand,” Powerhouse Capital’s Managing Partner Ian Doody said. “We’ve been very impressed by the team at The WONDER Project, and we’re confident in their vision for creating best-in-class programming for this vast global audience.”

Moelis & Company, LLC and NextGen Capital acted as placement agents for the Series A funding, and Eisner LLP acted as legal advisor to the company.

ABOUT THE WONDER PROJECT

Established by pioneers in the industry, The WONDER Project is a beacon for values-driven content. With a commitment to unparalleled quality and genuine narratives, WP aims to serve a global audience yearning for content that mirrors their core principles.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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